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> The Stormcrow, A Superhero's Tale
post Sep 1 2019, 07:29 PM
Post #81

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From: Las Vegas

Another wonderful episode!

I liked how her broken comm made her uncomfortable – really shows that Stormcrow is a duo and that she relies on Gadget.

Speaking of Gadget, he is wise indeed and it was perfect how January struggled to recall that diesel is less flammable than gasoline and therefore much safer to work around and with. I also liked that she didn’t automatically know how to use a fire extinguisher – a great touch to highlight her youth and level of experience in some areas.

Similarly, you tantalize us with more hints that her unusual relationship with stormclouds may at some point transition to some level of control. It would certainly be handy if she could indeed make it rain sometimes. . . or cause a lightning bolt to hit a foe.

The cop’s tactful invitation for Stormcrow to leave was perfect – and wise. Fortunately, she is astute enough to know and understand that he was simply trying to regain control of his crime scene from the Stormcrow groupies.

Her closing dual but incongruous concerns about the pop bottle were absolutely perfect – not to leave any DNA and recover her darn ten cent deposit! tongue.gif

Screenshot: Buffy in Artaeum
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Darkness Eternal
post Sep 2 2019, 03:06 AM
Post #82

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From: Coldharbour

Chapter 1.4: There was plenty in this chapter that I enjoyed! What an exciting adventure so far! Gadget's/Avery's gizmo cavern seems like a futuristic bat-cave! He makes a great companion to Jan! Her recollection of battle and his data-gathering ways was both fun and informative.

'"Funny how a company doesn't get investigated when it has billion dollar contracts with the government.'
Gadget made a fine point here. Seems very convenient, doesn't it?

January, though young, is wise enough to understand that old popular saying: with great power comes great responsibility. Having powers is great, but the true test of a person is what they use those powers for, and how they use them. I can imagine one may be tempted in using their power in scenarios where, perhaps, it would have been better to exercise restraint. Its good that she's focused on the positive aspects of meditation and purging all the negativity, which no doubt can cause turmoil to spill out. Especially with a weather-wielding hero like her. Yoga was very beneficial.

Avery is, too, and he's the friend she really needs right now, especially after the battle she just had. Not only was he there to help analyze the situation but he also gave her some inspiration words of support.

Jan does seem to struggle with some thoughts many heroes do, too. I really am liking this story! Can't wait to find more about Lighthammer, as well. Great chapter!

Chapter 1.5: Wow. So Lighthammer's reason to steal the diamonds was not for something as simple as money. Its used to empower him! Somehow that makes him even more deadlier!

'January could feel the color rising in her cheeks. Fighting was not just throwing punches. It was moves and countermoves. It was playing to your strengths, concealing your weaknesses, exposing your enemy's, and exploiting them. It was like chess, just with sweat and bruises. That had been check and mate. He had completely outplayed her.' Very good observation here! I suspect the next time they meet again(assuming they do) she'll remember this well, and might turn the tables on him. Using strength and speed can only take one so far, sometimes you have to use your noggin, too.

We learn that the diamonds, despite being beautiful, are often the cause of so much misfortune and evil! Seems even the baser baddies have need of them. Seems that our Indian friend wasn't entirely a victim; he had his hands involved one way or another.

Things are picking up for sure! The story unfolds!

Chapter 1.6:

I just had to laugh. This entire chapter was very fun throughout.

"I bet Blood Raven doesn't have to make excuses to her mom when she goes out fighting evil."
laugh.gif laugh.gif Or when she's playing Call of Cthulhu

I have to echo Acadian. If the last few chapters wasn't enough, this one truly showed us that these two are nigh inseparable and fit nicely like peas in a pod. He's really helping her out, and she's making progress and getting things done!

The two employees talking about the fight was absolutely hilarious. I would have reacted just the same as she did if I heard something like that. Men will be men, right?

'Her heart was racing, her palms were sweating, and her mouth was suddenly as dry as Tatooine.'
LOVED this bit here!

Though the portly cop may have given her a brief delay, it hasn't stopped her from going forth with her plan to gain access to that room.

And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.”
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post Sep 7 2019, 04:15 PM
Post #83

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From: Between The Worlds

Renee: Gasoline is much quicker to burn and explode than diesel, or jet fuel for that matter. In WWII our Sherman tanks had gasoline engines, not diesel. One hit from a shell and the entire tank would go up in a ball of fire. They called them Zippos. In contrast every other tank made by every other country had a diesel engine.

Michigan is still ten cents. I amazes me that so few states have returnable laws. What do you people do with your empty bottles? Just throw them out? ohmy.gif
People even try to smuggle their empty bottles into Michigan to get the returns. The State govt. made some pretty stiff laws against that, because it costs businesses the return money.

Everybody records everything on their phones these days. It is like life did not exist before video to prove it happened.

The acknowledgement of her DNA being on her saliva on that bottle is a nod to the utter stupidity of so many TV and movie writers, whose characters do things like walk into homes and rob them. Not wearing gloves, or a mask. Their fingerprints would be on everything, and their faces on the homeowner's Nest cameras. You could not make it easier for police. The fact is there are cameras everywhere today, and the police can get your DNA off just a single hair that fell from your lion-like mane. If the police actually make an effort to find you, they will, unless you take extreme measures to protect your identity. That is a reality supers like January have to deal with (and we will see some ways they circumvent detection in the future).

Acadian: January is definitely not a lone wolf hero. We will often see her reaching out to others, and creating alliances, if not friendships. Lighthammer was just the beginning there. I even have some vague, really long term ideas of her creating a team from the diverse supers she unites.

We have fire extinguishers at work. They are so heavy I can barely lift one. I use them for door stops. The fire marshals love that, btw. wink.gif

January definitely has a powerful influence on the elements. Keep watching the skies!

January is still learning this super business. Her interactions with the Sterling Heights pd there was one example of that. She is getting better though, and making an effort to create those alliances.

10 cents is 10 cents! That is such a Michigan thing...

Darkness Eternal: Crow and Gadget are most definitely a partnership. They each complement the other. The Gadget Cave was fun to write about. It is a tech geek's paradise!

That will not be the last time that Jan will be outplayed by an opponent. It happens again in Chapter 4. She is still learning after all, and has a long way to go. I know you were concerned that Raven might seem really overpowered and Mary Sueish. By definition, superheros are overpowered! So this is one way I am trying to mitigate that, and show that Jan is still fallible. The same as everyone.

I loved the idea of a superhero having to deal with their mother! It is another one of those things that brings them right back down to earth, and gives us a way to relate with them.

One thing I really love about writing Jan is that with her stories set in the modern (albeit super) world, I can finally draw on all those nerdy pop culture references my real life is filled with.

January's theme song - Illusion - is very appropriate for this episode

Robert Frost - The Road Not Taken

January's Parents House

January's Parents House Aerial View

MSU is Michigan State University

U of M is University of Michigan

The Lower Peninsula of Michigan

Chapter 2.8 - Stormcrow Recycled

It was late when January turned onto her street. So late she could not stop from yawning. But she had things to do before she could go to bed. She rode past her house, and saw that the lights were still on. That meant her parents were up, which was not a good sign. Were they waiting up for her? It was not like she was fifteen any more. Not that she had ever sneaked out and went to parties or anything else teenager-like. Being trans had a wonderful way of insuring that no one ever invited you to those kinds of things. Unless you counted gaming night with Avery and the Dungeons and Dragons guys.

She glanced up at her darkened bedroom window. Somewhere in there was a soft bed with an even softer pillow. But that would have to wait. She had promises to keep, and while not miles, still a few more feet to go before she could sleep. With all deference to Robert Frost of course.

So she rode down two more houses to Avery's home. All the lights were off except those from the basement. She saw his mother's car in the driveway. So she was finally home from the hospital. She worked so many double-shifts as a nurse that January was not used to seeing it there.

"You're ok!" Avery exclaimed when January walked down into the Gadget Cave, carrying her motorcycle under one arm.

"Of course I am," January said. She opened up the storage space under the fake gas tank, and pulled out her armor. "But I think I lost the comm in the suit. The night vision too. I got hit by some serious electricity."

"That flying drone? It was the last thing I saw before the link went dead." Gadget took the cowl and began studying it. He walked back to one of his workbenches, and put it under an illuminated magnifying glass. "It took a few minutes for me to get into some security cameras to see the rest of it."

January explained what he had missed, and Gadget used a set of tweezers to pull out the burned circuitry in her cowl. She tried to stifle a yawn, but failed. Gadget told her to go home, and she took his advice. She left the motorcycle and armor with him. She walked home, and leaped up onto the roof. She did not feel like dealing with her parents right now.

She was about to pry out the screen of her window when a light washed across the street behind her. She glanced to the side, and saw that a car was coming. The last thing she needed was someone calling the police on her for breaking and entering. So she was obliged to scramble over the roof and duck behind its peak until the car passed. Having a front-facing window was definitely not ideal for superheroing.

Once it was safe, she returned to her window and jimmied it open. She tossed her pack in her closet, and laid back on her bed without even taking off her clothes. A glance at the glowing numbers on her clock revealed that it was barely past one o'clock. That was not so terribly late. But it had been a big day, and she was exhausted.

She closed her eyes and just relaxed. But strident voices immediately set her heart racing. She could not place them at first, so she rose and walked to her door. Then she realized that it was her parents arguing, though she could still not make out the words. She opened the door, and cautiously stepped into the hallway. Now their voices became clear as crystal, rising up from the ground floor.

"I can't believe you hid this from me!" her mother's voice rang out. "Really, how do you go from history professor to slinging porn online?"

"Do you know how many people bought my book about Greco-Roman Architecture? Or the Crisis of the Third Century? Or the Greek Tyrants?" Her father cried. "I made more money on my last erotica e-book than I did on all my history books combined."

"And that's how you've paid for Julian's way through Michigan? There were no student loans." Her mother's voice dripped with incredulity. "At the same time you and I have been telling Jan that we can't afford to send her to anything other than community college. She could be going to MSU right now, or U of M herself!"

"You know what student loans are like," her father contended. "Julian would be paying off the interest alone for years. It would take him at least a decade to get out from under it. So I wrote some smut to pay his way. It's not my real name on it. And it's not like you've never read anything like that before."

"That's not the point!'" her mother cried. "You have been lying to our daughter for years. You have been holding her back this entire time. And worse of all, you made me a party to it by lying to me!"

"Because I knew you'd react like this!" her father argued. "Julian deserves it. He's going to make something of his life. It isn't fair to him how August is holding him back."

"What on earth are you talking about?" her mother's voice rose with incredulity. "Jan isn't going to make something of her life? She is holding Julian back? How can you even talk like that about your children?"

"Because it's true." January barely heard her father's voice over the pounding of blood in her ears. "You know it is. August has always been a troubled boy. This pretending to be a girl is just a sad cry for attention. Just like that suicide attempt. He has to make everything about him. He's been an albatross around our necks since he was born. It's pathetic really. It's why I never made full professor. It's why I have to write all these insipid books in first place."

"An albatross? Oh, you are not going there!" her mother's voice was so loud the windows practically rattled. "Do not put your own career failings on her. On her damn it! You know full well that almost everyone teaching college never goes beyond being an adjunct. Your job is your own damn responsibility. And Julian? Most kids wish they had it so good as him. I never had the opportunities he does, neither did you, nor either of our parents!"

"Julian's last three girlfriends left him because of August." There it was again, that male name that cut so deeply to January's core. Her father just could not bear calling her by her real name, as if that would give her some sort of power over him. Simply acknowledging her gender seemed to frighten him more than facing a supervillain with an antimatter cannon. "His grade point average slipped the last two years because of him too."

"Are you crazy, is that your problem?" her mother's voice became lower, but with a sharper, harder edge. "What next, she is responsible for global warming? The fall of Rome? How about we blame Jesus dying on the cross on her too? Hell, let's just go back further and rename it January's Box instead of Pandora's, since apparently our daughter loosed every misfortune that exists in the world."

"Man up and grow a pair of damn balls," her mother growled. "Stop trying to blame someone else for your failures, or for Julian's. It's cowardly, and beneath you."

"No, everything in the world is all my fault, isn't it!" her father's voice became more strident. "I am sick and damned tired of having to bear every burden in this family. My life was pretty good until I met you. I didn't have to marry you. It's not my fault you wouldn't get the damn abortion. I could have been someone! But instead I-"

The piercing crack of skin against skin rang out.

January did not hear anything more. The pounding of her heart blotted everything else out. She ran back into her room, and slammed the door behind her. She could not think. She only knew that she had to escape. She went straight for the window, and leapt into the deluge that now poured from the sky by the bucketful.

* * *

"Where were you?" Avery's eyes nearly popped out of his head. The next thing January knew, the taller black man had her wrapped up in his arms. "We were so worried about you?"

"We?" January blinked. She stared around the empty Gadget Cave. The early morning sun slanted in through the windows placed along the driveway above. The rest of the house was silent and still. Even his mother's car was gone, as usual. It was just the two of them, like always.

"Your mother was calling and texting me all night, looking for you." Avery finally let go of her. "Did you really jump out your bedroom window?"

January nodded sheepishly, and stared down at her shoes. Like the rest of her clothing, they were completely soaked. She absentmindedly noted that it would make most people miserable. But being the Weather Witch of Warren, she was used to being rained on. It was just a normal part of life.

She allowed Avery to guide her to the couch, where she plopped down in a very unladylike pose.

"What happened?" he asked as he sat down beside her. "Have you been out all night in the rain?"

"I don't want to talk about it," January murmured. "Not now."

"Okay," Avery's voice had the caution of a person navigating through a minefield. "That bad eh?"

"I have to get out of that house," January blurted out. "I'm going to get an apartment, or rent a house. Will you come with me? Split the bills?"

"Whoa, that's sudden," Avery stared with shock. "What happened to saving money for surgery?"

"I just can't live there anymore," January reiterated.

"I... I wish I could," Avery frowned. "I'd love to have my own place. Our own place. But I can't leave my Nana. My mom's gone almost all the time at work. I have to be around to take care of her."

January nodded, but could not restrain a frown of her own. "I knew you would say that."

"Hey, why don't you dry off and change, and I'll make some breakfast," Avery offered. "Things might look a little different once you're dry and have something in your stomach. Oh, excuse me, you girls have 'tummies' don't you?"

Avery's smile was as forced as it was beautiful. January put her arms around him once more. Then she remembered that she was soaked, and was now getting him wet as well. She pulled away, and a growl squirmed from her stomach.

She went to the basement bathroom to dry off and change into some of the spare clothes she kept in the Gadget Cave for emergencies. Then she went upstairs to binge on waffles and sausage links with Avery. The news droned out of the small TV he kept on the kitchen counter. The weather came on, and the meteorologist informed everyone that while the rest of the Lower Peninsula would be enjoying a sunny spring day, the people of Warren would have to endure steady rain. At least until the Weather Witch decided to give them a break.

January had started to feel better. Now she was the reason why no cat could lay in the sun today.

"You texted my mother when I was changing didn't you," she finally said.

"Of course I did." Avery rubbed the back of his neck. "She needs to know you're ok."

January sighed. She did not want to deal with that right now. She did not want to think about last night. She needed to focus on the future. The words of her old therapist rose up in her mind.

"What are you going to do about it?"

She nearly ran into her mother when she walked out the back door. She had her motorcycle tucked under one arm, as easily as one might carry a pillow. The sight of that seemed to take all the words from her mother's mouth.

"Mom, I'm sorry," January choked out. She dropped the bike to the driveway with a weighty thump. It splashed rainwater over her feet, while her new clothes began to slowly soak through under the steady drizzle from overhead. "But I can't do this right now."

"How much did you hear?" her voice was low with equal measures of dread and sorrow.

"Enough." January pulled the ancient Bell motorcycle helmet over her head and fastened it tight. The next thing she knew her mother was holding her tight.

"Mom, I'm trying to storm off all cool and melodramatic like," January heard herself say. "It doesn't work with you hugging me."

"Ok honey," she stepped back, forcing a smile. "When you're done storming, just remember that I'll always love you, no matter what."

"I know," January said.

Edit: Added a link to January's theme music

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post Sep 7 2019, 07:17 PM
Post #84

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From: Las Vegas

Gosh, I'm learning a lot about Michigan and Detroit from this story! tongue.gif

Predictable that Jan would, after her mission, head straight for the Gadget Cave to update Avery.
"It took a few minutes for me to get into some security cameras to see the rest of it."
- - Here you ‘show’ us how brilliantly creative Gadget is. Quick thinking on his part, upon losing comm, to tap into the building security cameras.

Well, that was an argument at home she didn’t need to hear. . . . sad.gif Some powerfully effective writing there, my friend. Her father’s a real butthead. If there is a silver lining though, her mother quite shined here in Jan’s defense.

Magnificent how Jan literally ‘stormed’ off into that downpour of her own creating.

Screenshot: Buffy in Artaeum
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post Sep 9 2019, 12:16 AM
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From: Ellicott City, Maryland

We recycle. At least I do. Where I live it seems like every one does, it seems like all the houses in my neighborhood have their blue bins out on recycle day. Ha, so that is real, when people try to bring bottles into Michigan!

Thanks for explaining about diesel and gasoline. I used to work at a gas station and it's funny how little I knew about it... I was merely a cashier / office lady. I remember we did not sell diesel. mad.gif At least once a week I'd have explain this to some grouchy customer, and tell him or her to drive halfway across town to one of our competitors at the time. rolleyes.gif


Uh oh. They're fighting!

"Jan isn't going to make something of her life?" Oh yes she is. biggrin.gif

I got really uncomfortable reading their argument, but that's what happens to me in real-life too, when I hear people argue. So in other words, good job portraying their fight.

Phew. Poor January.

This post has been edited by Renee: Sep 11 2019, 07:03 PM
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post Sep 9 2019, 01:13 AM
Post #86

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From: The Smoky Mountains

But it had given her so much more confidence, knowing he was out there watching, thinking, turning things over in his head. She had not been alone, like she was now.

A lesson my A and A team are learning (slowly). Counting on someone else is not dependency or weakness; it is a way for both to be stronger.

She had never thought that fame, whatever tiny amount of it she now possessed, could make things more difficult for her as a superhero. She had just hoped that it might make people more willing to cooperate with her. But it seemed the whole super world was more complicated than she had thought.

The downside to fame that many famous people have learned to their cost- a small, but dangerous segment of their “fandom” thinks they “own” the celebrity they venerate, and worse yet, that the famous person reciprocates their feelings.

There was no sense leaving any DNA evidence laying around. She was not going to end up like Hailstorm…

Besides, there was a ten cent deposit on that bottle.

A perfect wry ending to a great after-action moment.

The fight was... terrible- and as Renee said, perfectly written. Begin to see where Julian gets his attitudes and irresponsibility....

January had started to feel better. Now she was the reason why no cat could lay in the sun today.

You manage once more to relieve the tension from before with a perfectly placed dry observation.

"Mom, I'm trying to storm off all cool and melodramatic like," January heard herself say. "It doesn't work with you hugging me."

Moms- they always know how to ruin a perfect dramatic exit...

Most excellent once again. Mrs. Treydog the Painter and I often say that good art makes you "feel." It may not always make you feel "good," but it doesn't just leave you without any particular impression, either. Your writing is most definitely good art.

The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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Darkness Eternal
post Yesterday, 01:55 AM
Post #87

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From: Coldharbour

Chapter 1.7: Heh. Good question honestly. What is it? Uniform? Outfit?

"Note to self, Fire is cool," she murmured.

Fire is definetely cool! And so are her powers.

Again I have to say just how great it is to have Gadget on her side. He's a handy man for sure! It was neat having him check the database to find out if Sub was arrested. Gave her more than enough time to find that elusive little black book.

"No wait. If he comes back and it's gone, he'll get suspicious."

This was perfect. Though its common sense, this was a good way to avoid her getting into trouble and both of them potentially being discovered later on.

Hehe, a selfie with a Trekkie is far better than an unpleasant outcome! I was happy this happened. Sure brought a smile to my face.

Great chapter!

Chapter 1.8: How great it was to see January at her house. I always find it interesting to see a character's lifestyle back home when they aren't on dangerous missions and adventures. You gave us such a great description of her house(well, her parent's house), that it was as if we were actually there with her.

That was a total Peter Parker-esque moment, sneaking in through the window to get into her room!

'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.'

Which makes her stand out. This worked well in her favor.

'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.'

tongue.gif laugh.gif
How tough it must be for January to be called something she isn't. That, and coupled with the fact of her being the 'oddball' of the family certainly can create tense situations. We get a true in-depth view on the day-to-day habits of Jan as she settles in her room and searches herself online.

"Stormcrow does not simply walk into Mordor. She leaps!"

This. Is. Pure. Gold! biggrin.gif biggrin.gif

Seems to me that Julian does gravitate toward his father Romulus a bit, doesn't he? You captured this quite well with him echoing the other. January had some very good points regarding the difference between heroes and law enforcement and their efficiency.

"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, you know, right in front of you. I love moments like these!

"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."

What a douche!

Chapter 1.9:
Her brother's less-than-inspirational words hung like a storm in our hero's mind. How terrible it must be to have a brother who doesn't have your back, and worst, discourages her with words.

'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.'

This was some great insight! Despite the weight of the world's views upon one's shoulders, they should never shed away their resolve, and remain strong despite the negative and judgmental views of others.

Jan has some major problems! Dealing with parents who have yet to see you for who you are, financial challenges, as well as personal doubts creeping in to potential sibling favoritism, all seems to be against her. The best thing she could do, though it may be hard, is remember:

'Never ever give up, no matter what.'

Oh! Something is about to go down! When Gadget calls, its urgent!

I will be back for the rest! Great story!

And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.”
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post Yesterday, 05:30 PM
Post #88

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From: Between The Worlds

Acadian: I know you were joking, but the reason I set this in Detroit is that I know this city and state so well. Right down to the Bernsteins and bottle deposits. I can bring that out in the stories in a way I could never do with a fictional setting.

Tapping into nearby security cameras is going to become a staple of Gagetology. I get a lot of that from Shadowrun, where cameras are an even larger part of life than today. The Decker (hacker) character would commonly hijack the local security cameras to wipe their shadowrunner team from them, and use them to tell the runners where the bad guys were.

The last episode was one of those really blatant displays of how January's emotions shape the local elements. As difficult it was to write the argument, being able to show Jan's feelings through the pouring rain was wonderful.

I decided to go this route with Jan's family because so many Queer people face these very same (and often much worse) issues with their own families. It is just one of those Truth in Television moments that I felt I could not ignore and still be true to reality. From a purely nuts and bolts storytelling point of view it also introduces an extra sort of conflict. Conflict is what drives all stories. Without it, things are just boring.

Renee: Wow, except in a few neighborhoods we don't have recycle bins for every house in Michigan. Just garbage cans. You have to put your paper and other recyclables aside yourself and take them to the city recycle center.

I was uncomfortable writing the argument as well. I had to break it down into individual story beats, and cover them one at a time in an analytical fashion in order to get through it.

treydog: So you would say Blood on the Moon is a story about the A-Team then? wink.gif

The darkside of modern media culture is one of the things I specifically wanted to put on display in that scene with the crowd wanting to get every closer and closer to the new media sensation.

Like I said in the past, it's ok to dislike Julian. His attitudes definitely run from his father, and are in fact amplified by the preferential treatment he has received from Romulus.

I just cannot resist those little wry observations like the ten cent deposit or cats laying in the sun. That is one of those examples of the author being reflected in what they write.

A few months ago I read the Screwfly Solution, and I commented about it on the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast's Patreon comments section. I said pretty much what you and Mrs. Dog did. Good fiction makes you feel, even if you don't particularly want to. That story was very much in mind when I wrote that fight between Jan's parents. I am sure it was not easy for Alice Sheldon to write it, because it is so emotionally brutal. She slogged through it to create an outstanding story. So I did too.

Darkness Eternal: I think selfies are now the new autograph. I don't think any fan wants anything signed anymore, do they? We all have cameras on us all the time, so we all want pics. Otherwise it did not happen after all.

Peter Parker/Spider-Man is an inspiration for these stories. Back in the 60s when the character first came out he was a big hit, precisely because he was not rich, or famous, or desired, or even cool. He was an ordinary schlub, facing ordinary problems. Someone everyone can relate to. January is a bit exotic in that she is trans and lesbian. But what I am hoping to really emphasize is just how ordinary she really is, but showcasing these ordinary issues and situations she faces in her everyday life.

Given today's Meme-centric internet culture, a Stormcrow Meme had to be in the offing. Who can resist the Sean Bean classic of walking into Mordor? I cannot watch the scene in Fellowship of the Ring without thinking of the memes.

I am digging way back to my own youth with Jan's feelings about older people. 30? Wow, what an ancient! 50! They must have rode dinosaurs to school!

Julian does indeed take a lot of his personality from his father, and from the preferential treatment he receives. Something we will see a lot more of in the future. He is indeed, a douche. Well, he's a lawyer after all. Or will be.

I used to keep a printed out copy of the Viking Code on my door when I was younger. I would always look at that whenever I left my home, especially the final part. "Never give up, no matter what."

Wilhelm Wundt

Macomb Community College (the Max Thompson Learning Media Center is the library)

The high school January lands on

The giant factory beyond 696 she lands on

Broadsword Calling Danny Boy

Wagner - The Ride Of The Valkyries

Global Titanium from the air

A closer view of the battleground

Global Titanium from the ground

Global Titanium from the ground again

Chapter 2.9 - Stormcrow Recycled

January sat in class, trying to remember who Wilhelm Wundt was, and why he was important to the history of psychology. Try as she might, all she could think about was Willy Wonka. But she had a sneaking suspicion that Oompa Loompas and chocolate were not going to be on the final exam.

Her phone vibrated in her pocket. She prayed to Freyja, the Morrigan, and any other deity who would listen that it wasn't her mother, again. She sneaked a peek at it when the professor was not looking. It turned out to be a text from Avery.

Another Robbery.

Global Titanium Inc. North of Seven Mile, between Van Dyke and Mound.

Right Now!

January bit her lip. What was she supposed to do? Blow off her Intro To Psychology class? But how could she sit there when another robot-army was on the loose? How did Blood Raven handle this kind of thing?

There never really was any question after all. She slid her phone into her pocket, and her book and notes into her backpack. She stood and walked briskly for the door. The professor turned his balding head toward her and gave her a quizzical look.

"Sorry, family emergency," she said. Then she was out the door, and looking for a secluded place to change into her armor. It turned out to be no farther away than the croaking of a crow. The black bird was perched in a cluster of trees beside the nearby library, and stared at her intently as it called out.

Thankfully the rain had stopped, but the grass was still wet when January raced across it to get under the cover of the trees. It turned out to be an ideal spot. January's elemental mantra was second nature to her now. She simply thought about it, and willed the change to happen. An instant later she was in her armor, and the tee, jeans, and fitted jacket she had been wearing were tucked safely away in her backpack.

The trees also gave her convenient cover for a leap to the roof with no one noticing. She tucked her pack away behind a row of upraised bricks in one corner. Given that it was the tallest building on the campus, no one would ever notice it. Or at least she hoped so.

She did not bother with the motorcycle. It had been too much trouble the last time. Besides, there would be traffic at this time of day. Instead she leapt high into the sky, and snapped out her wings. She remembered everything that Lighthammer had told her about the principles of flight.

"I keep forgetting that so much of this is not like flying a jet," the armored vigilante had told her. "Even a glider doesn't compare. You fly like a bird. Well, like a crow. But they flap their wings to generate thrust. I don't know how you do it. It's not even gliding. Not really. Your glide ratio is way better than any glider or wingsuit. You've got some mojo for this. You need to keep working on developing that."

She flew south across the campus, willing herself to remain in the air. She concentrated on reshaping reality, on creating a world where she could soar like any bird. Her focus, her energy, went into that. Muscle memory gained under Lighthammer's tutelage also taught her to angle her wings. She would create the most negative pressure on the upper surface, and the most positive on the lower. That would generate lift the old-fashioned way. The same as a bird did.

Be like Air. Be light, and quick, and fly.

She soared all the way across the campus before she began to lose appreciable altitude. Finally she was obliged to come down on the roof of the high school nearby. She disengaged her wings and hit it running. At the edge of the roof she leapt back up into the sky, and redeployed her wings. Then she was sailing through the sky again.

"Broadsword calling Danny Boy," she said into the brand new comm Avery had installed in her helmet the previous night.

"Got you Broadsword," Gadget's voice came back loud and clear in her ear, sounding decidedly amused. "Are Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood driving you? I see traffic backed up on Groesbeck."

"Take a look," January carefully reached up to her head, and clicked on the video unit. A moment later she crossed over I-696 and came down on the roof of a massive factory. It was so large that she could do more than run across it. She was able to take numerous horizontal leaps, covering over thirty feet in each bound. She built up speed all the while, so that when she finally launched skyward she gained more altitude than she ever had before. She cracked out her wings, and rejoiced in the view.

"Hot damn girl," Gadget's voice was soft amazement. "That is incredible."

"Okay, that's Groesbeck down to your left," he declared confidently. "Keep following it to Outer Drive, then go right. It's just before Seven Mile."

January continued her routine of leaping and gliding, and ate the miles up in the bright blue sky. She noticed a single crow ahead of her, seeming to fly in the same direction that she was. She followed it out of reflex. Soon there was another crow, and another, and she found herself part of a large murder of the birds.

January laughed out loud. The clouds were gone, both in the sky overhead, and within her heart. In spite of all the disturbing revelations of the previous night, in spite of whatever was waiting for her at the next titanium shop, this was a perfect moment. She knew that, and did her best to live in it forever. Or at least whatever passed for forever these days.

She even imagined that she heard "The Ride of the Valkyries" in her ear. Then she realized it was not in her mind. She really was hearing it.

"A little something by Wagner to go with your crow pals," Gadget's voice came in over the opera score.

The crows led her right to Global Titanium Incorporated. It was a compound of large buildings on the far side of a set of railroad tracks that ran from north to south. The complex was laid out in a rectangle, the perimeter being marked out by large, windowless buildings. A pair of structures bisected the layout about one third of the way from the south. That made it more of a figure eight, with a larger open square on the north side, and a smaller one to the south. Most of the buildings seemed to be two story sheds or warehouses, massive in size. Large doorways - big enough for multiple trucks to drive through at the same time - yawned open in them.

The center of the big open square to the north was taken up by a collection of large, open-aired storage bays. They were constructed from massive concrete blocks that looked for all the world like giant Legos. Each bay was blocked off on three sides by high walls of the white blocks, leaving one end open. Four of these bays were lined up with their open ends facing south. Another four butted up opposite them, sharing a single, center wall. Their openings faced north. That created eight enclosures in all. All were filled with metals in numerous forms. There were loose chips piled up in mounds, heaps of what looked like powder, and neatly stacked crates of packaged materials. Even more of these storage bays were spread around the edges of the courtyard, and against the sides of the massive sheds and warehouses. Everywhere January looked, there was metal. It was a Mountain Dwarf's paradise.

It was here that January saw another Frankensteinian garbage truck. Like the one from the previous night, it was made up of parts thrown together from several other trucks. The varying colors made that plain. Half the cab was green, the other half yellow, and the storage bay behind was brown and blue.

January could see several more of the humanoid robots walking from one of the large metal storage bays to the truck. They carried ingots of shining metal in their iron hands, which they loaded into the open back of the garbage truck. Smoke rose from the wreck of a semi-truck nearby, but there were no signs of any people. Whoever had been working down there must have either ran off, or be hiding.

"Whoa, what happened?" Gadget's concerned voice came over the comm. "Are you ok?"

"I'm fine," January puzzled out. "No one's even shot at me yet."

"I just lost the video," Gadget explained. "I've got nothing but haze coming through."

"Everything looks fine," January assured him. "Maybe it's just still on the fritz from the other night. I'm going on according to plan."

"That can't be," Gadget insisted. "I completely replaced all the wiring with shielded circuitry. It's immune to electrical damage, or even an EMP."

January looked for the Face-Bot, but did not see it as she approached. She took advantage of its apparent absence, and plunged down toward the garbage truck. It grew larger and larger by the second, and she had to give it her fullest concentration. Moments from hitting it, she triggered off her wings. She went into a forward roll as she fell, and hit the blacktop still moving.

She rolled under the truck. As the chassis passed by overhead, she clipped one of Gadget's contraptions to its underside. Without slowing an instant, she rolled out the other side of the truck, and sprang to her feet.

"GPS attached," she said quietly.

"Got it pinging," he said. "Just make it look good now."

One of the metal men stepped out from around the back of the garbage truck. Its hands were empty, so January imagined that it had just dropped off its load of titanium. It raised one hand toward her. Remembering how one had cut open a metal door during the previous attack, January ducked. Crimson laser light splashed through the air above her, and lanced through a storage bay across the court.

Apparently they were no longer just worker drones. Now they could fight. Someone had been doing upgrades overnight.

January dove into a forward roll, and bounced to her feet in front of the android. Her Krav Maga training came to her naturally, and she sprang up directly into the metal man's face. Her armored helmet smashed into its head, sending photoreceptors and other bits and bobs of electronics out in a shower of metal. She followed with a knee to its groin. While it lacked the usual soft spots there, the blow did send it off balance. She grabbed its shoulders with both hands and pulled them down toward her, even while she lifted her knee up into its head. That cleanly decapitated it.

January lifted the still moving body of the robot in her arms and whipped it around. She flung it at a second android that had lumbered around the back of the truck. The headless bot took it clean in the chest, and both were sent tumbling to the blacktop.

January was about to leap onto a third when the raucous cry of a crow snapped her head around. Rising over the outer wall of the compound was the Face-Bot, its twin eyes glowing with malevolence. January leaped after all, but not to attack a robot. Instead she bounded over the large collection of storage bays, and put her back to the concrete blocks that made up their walls. Twin lasers scored the air behind her. Then a moment later they gouged into the blocks that she hid behind.

"I found the Boss," January said into her comm. "He's got me pinned down."

"Good, just keep your head down," Gadget replied. "I'm trying to find a security camera to see with, but I'm having the same problem as with your suit cam. I think something's jamming all the cameras in the area."

"How can that be?" January wondered aloud.

The Face-Bot came sliding around the side of her hiding place. Thinking quickly, January leaned over into the storage bay and picked up an ingot of steel. She flung it at the Face-Bot, and hit it dead between the eyes with a loud clank! She could swear that she heard it squeal in pain, and it danced away. Before it shot out of sight, January noted with satisfaction that her missile had left a large dent in its casing.

She peeked around the corner, and ducked back as a bright red laser scored a line across the concrete wall. That had come from one of the man-bots. Their creator had definitely improved their AI. They had not been nearly so combative the other night.

"I don't know how they are doing the jamming, but they are," Gadget said. "It apparently only effects the visible light spectrum. Though it might go up into infrared and ultraviolet as well. We are talking, so it doesn't affect radio waves. This is something I'm going to have to work on. We could use this in your suit."

"Well, I don't think the man-bots are doing it," January noted. "Maybe it's in the truck, or that Face-Bot."

She picked up another steel bar, and darted around the other side of the storage bay. The coast was clear over here, so she leaped down to the end of the row of enclosures, and came around the truck from the other side. The Face-Bot was waiting for her however. She flung her steel, and it fired its lasers at the same time. The metal erupted in mid-air with a shower of molten steel. But not all of it was liquefied. Some of the solid bits continued on, and pelted the flying robot.

Once again, it squealed, and dodged back and to one side. It fired at January again, forcing her back behind the cover of the storage bays. She heard the garbage truck's engine roar to life. A moment later she heard its tires grinding over the blacktop. She peeked around the corner, and saw that the truck was rolling out the main entrance of the compound, and onto the street outside. The Face-Bot sent one last blast at her, then darted off after the vehicle.

January ran out from cover, searching for more of the metal men. Aside from the one she had decapitated, and the other one she had struck with its body, there were no sign of them. Those two were still twitching, but a vigorous application of her boot soles fixed that. She imagined that the rest had loaded themselves on board the truck along with the metal they had stolen and escaped.

"Is anyone hurt?" January called out. She turned in a circle, searching for people. "I chased them off. It's safe to come out now."

Heads began to poke out from behind open doorways and around corners. January made a quick circuit, looking into storage bays and into the warehouses. But of all the people she saw, no one had suffered more than a few scrapes and bruises. She imagined those were more from flight than actual attack. She had seen what the robots could do. Their weapons could melt steel. Humans would have been vaporized under their lasers. Thankfully, she did not see any piles of goo on the ground to suggest that had occurred.

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post Yesterday, 08:31 PM
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From: Las Vegas

With a name like Wilhelm Wundt, it is indeed hard to not conjure images of Willy Wonka and the shrink factory. tongue.gif

Wonderful how you brought up the dilemma of stay in class or cut class for a superhero mission. On the other hand, she’s getting more and more of this superheroine stuff down as she wills her armor onto herself and continues to improve her thrust generation mojo. ‘Willing’ the air to decrease pressure on the upper surface of her wings is a perfect way for Stormcrow to use her elemental superpowers to influence aerodynamics. Nicely done!

Cool! Stormcrow and Gadget now have official callsigns! And flipping her camera on earns access to her very own talking gps/nav system - with crow redundancy from her winged pals. And music even!

‘The clouds were gone, both in the sky overhead, and within her heart.’
’…this was a perfect moment. She knew that, and did her best to live in it forever.’
- - There are indeed – when things are going well - moments of pure joy when flying high performance aircraft. Helps make up for the hours of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.

Quite a landing as she hits the ground, rolls under the Frankentruck and slaps a gps tracker to its chassis. Then into quite the fight as both sides have upgraded since the last encounter. The Metaldudes with lasers and Stormcrow with her high tech steel ingots for throwing. laugh.gif

Turns out that getting a tracking device onto Frankentruck is likely to prove very helpful. And no collateral piles of goo on the ground is always a good thing.

Screenshot: Buffy in Artaeum
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