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> The Stormcrow, A Superhero's Tale
post Apr 19 2019, 11:34 PM
Post #1

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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds

About a month ago I got inspired to write a superhero character. Actually two. My original idea was what if Aela and Loria were superheroes. I worked on the idea, and with a little help from folks here, January and Avery have become fully-fleshed people in their own right. Ones whom I am really loving to write.

I learned a long time ago that when it comes writing, I need to strike when the iron is hot. So I am putting Seven Reimagined on hold for the moment, and concentrating on Stormcrow and Gadget. I will finish Seven, have no worries on that. There is only one third of the story left to go.

Like with the Seven thread, I am going to use this post for general info and a collection of resources. I'll start posting the actual stories with the next post.

Since these stories are set in the contemporary world, I am taking advantage of reality for once, by setting the stories here in Metro Detroit. Almost all the locations in the upcoming stories are real. You can actually use Google Earth to follow along. A few places are fictional, in that they are from other cities, and transplanted here to The D.

March 24 = The Conjurer summons an Abyssal during the Nain Rouge Parade. it is not anchored, and easily banished
May 4 and 5 (Saturday and Sunday) = Stormcrow Rising
May 5 = The Conjurer summons an Abyssal during Cinco De Mayo, using elemental symbols to anchor it, making it immune from banishment
May 14 and 15 (Tuesday and Wednesday) = Stormcrow Recycled
May 25 = The Conjurer summons an Abyssal during Technofest, anchoring it with an animal sacrifice
May 25 and 26 (Saturday and Sunday) = Stormcrow Burning
May 27th = Memorial Day.
May 27 - June 1 (Monday -Saturday) = Stormcrow Pride [Ferndale Pride on Saturday]
June 1 = The Conjurer summons an Abyssal during Ferndale Pride, anchoring it with a human sacrifice
June 1 - 9 = Crystal Death [Motor City Pride]
June 1 = Chad overdoes on Crystal Death at Leland City Club.
June 3 = first Crow Tales, featuring Frankenstein
June 8 = second Crow Tales, featuring This Spell For Hire. January stops the Death Dealer. Blood Raven humiliates Nazis at Motor City Pride
June 9 = Nazis on Crystal Death attack Motor City Pride
June 11 = January records interview with WNN.
June 13 = January quits working at the dojo, starts working on Artemis Argent with Rus
June 14 = January's interview is aired in its entirety, as well as in print and on WNN's website. It generates massive waves of both support and backlash against her. The same night she faces off against Gola at Eloise.

January Ward / Stormcrow (RL Georgie Stone)

January again

Avery Green / Gadget (RL Shameik Moore)

Avery again

General inspiration for Lighthammer (except most of his head is covered by a helmet)

Lighthammer (out of armor)

Blood Raven cosplay

The writer signing books

Cyborg cosplay

Carl Sagan

Metro Boomin

Gabriella Wilson

Cecilia Brækhus

Blood Raven on the rooftop

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

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

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

BlackJack (Jacob Scwartz)

Ibroham Alawar is based on RL Ibrahim Alawad

The Man Living In The Packard Plant

Sam Bernstein


Ken Hite

Fire Captain Henderson

Fire Lieutenant Randy


Hipsters (big in Detroit)

New Year's Eve In Detroit (been there, its true)

Indians Take Over Diamond Trade

Whitewater Security is based on RL Blackwater Security aka Academi

Worldwide Network News is fictional, based on HPLHS's Worldwide Wireless News


Stormcrow BattleMech

Stormcrow BattleMech Pic

A TERF is an anti-trangender feminist

The Tigers and the Old English D

The Laughing Man is an homage to Ghost In The Shell

Four Twenty

Berenstain Bears

Michigan has a 10 cent bottle return law

Broadsword Calling Danny Boy

Instagram Influencer

"I Am A Golden God!"

King Arthur 2004 Rus!

The Real Portal Games have not reached #5 yet

The Kell Hounds

Trail of Cthulhu

Daredevil's Sensory Powers



Tunguska Event

Literature and Art
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

The Theme of Alienation in Frankenstein

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Robert Frost - The Road Not Taken

Festival is a reference to The Festival, by HP Lovecraft

Anglo-Saxon Kennings

Macbeth Act5, Scene 5 (A Tale Told By An Idiot quote)

Trajan's Column

The Bayeux Tapestry

John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball

Vnv Nation - Illusion - One of January's theme songs

Two Steps From Hell - Never Back Down (Extended) - January's Fight Music

Gary Clark Jr. - If Trouble Was Money (Avery's ringtone)

The Score - Unstoppable - Avery's Theme

Two Steps From Hell - Blackheart (Extended) - Blood Raven's Theme

Blood Raven's Fight Music

Marilyn Manson - Resident Evil Soundtrack Main Theme - The Summoner's Theme

Gustav Holst - Mars - Nátthrafn's Theme

Counting Crows - Four Days

Clips of Amelie Lens' performance at the 2019 Movement Festival


Counting Crows - Mr Jones

Counting Crows - A Long December

A Google Map of all the Stormcrow locations

Macomb Community College - South Campus

Macomb Community College classroom quad, library, and parking

The Best Western Premiere of Southfield

Hotel Pic 01

Hotel Pic 02

Campus Martius

Michigan Soldier's and Sailor's Monument

U of M Law School

January's Parents House

January's Parents House Aerial View

Flint Bishop Airport

Flint Airport aerial view

Flint Airport - A closer view of the terminal and parking lot

Flint Airport - The reverse view, from a model in the airport

Flint Airport - The terminal

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

Flint Airport - The escalator that January leaps up to the second floor

Flint Airport - Gift Shop and Bookstore on the right

Flint Airport - The Food Court on the left

Flint Airport - Do Not Enter sign far down the hall

Packard Plant - The Poletown Bus Stop (well close enough to it)

Packard Plant - The Bus Stop from the air (the Hamtramck Cadillac Plant is on the right. Smaller steel mills on the left)

Packard Plant - The bridge overI-94 and the Packard Plant (beyond in the left)

Parkard Plant - The Packard Plant

Packard Plant - The Packard Plant aerial view

Packard Plant - Another aerial view

Packard Plant - A closer look from above

Packard Plant - Down on the ground

Packard Plant - Summer

Packard Plant - Winter

Packard Plant - Another building

Packard Plant - Inside

Bloomfield Hills

Fitzgerald High School

Aerial View of Source One Metals (it is the big white building at the very bottom center)

Source One Metals (from the turnaround in Mound Road)

Source One Metals (from the parking lot)

Source One Metals (from the back)

MSU is Michigan State University

U of M is University of Michigan

The Lower Peninsula of Michigan

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

Global Titanium from the air

A closer view of the battleground

Global Titanium from the ground

Global Titanium from the ground again

January's Route To The Junkman's Lair 01

January's Route To The Junkman's Lair 02

January's Route To The Junkman's Lair 03

January's Route To The Junkman's Lair 04 (Her Bus Stop before the Packard Plant)

January's Route To The Junkman's Lair 05

January's Route To The Junkman's Lair 06

Beatrice Grand Trunk Warehouse & Cold Storage Building

The Junkman's Lair, adjacent scrapyard, and City Incinerator (top)

The Junkman's Lair, adjacent scrapyard, and City Incinerator (left)

The Junkman's Lair 01

The Junkman's Lair 02

The Junkman's Lair 03

Saint Andrews Hall

Hart Plaza

Hart Plaza (seen from Jefferson at the bottom, looking toward the Detroit River at the top)

Hart Plaza - Fountain

Hart Plaza (seen from the river looking toward Jefferson Ave and downtown)

Hart Plaza (looking north from Cobo Hall at the bottom)

Hart Plaza (looking south)

The Fist of Joe Louis

The Spirit of Detroit

The Joe Louis Arena

January's Route to the Fire 1 - Cobo Hall Rooftop Parking, looking north

January's Route to the Fire 2 - Fort Washington Plaza

January's Route to the Fire 3 - Theodore Levin Courthouse

January's Route to the Fire 4 - Westin Book Cadillac Hotel

January's Route to the Fire 5 - Book Tower

January's Route to the Fire 6 - Three Stadiums

January's Route to the Fire 7 - Foxtown

January's Route to the Fire 8 - Little Caesar's Arena

January's Route to the Fire 9 - Midtown and the Flying Dutchman at the corner of Peterboro and Cass

The Flying Dutchman (RL Ghost Ship Fire)

The Flying Dutchman Interior

Detroit Receiving Hospital

Detroit Receiving Hospital picture

The Witch House

The Witch House Overhead View

Real Events
ConFusion is a real Metro-Detroit sci fi convention.

Hart Plaza - Movement Event Map

Movement Electronic Music Festival

The Movement Electronic Music Festival picture

Another Movement pic

Lululemon Fitted Jacket

Ohm's Law Shirt

Cthulhu For President

Made In Detroit Tee


Ms Marvel Tee

Real Tech
Fire 7 Tablet

Samsung Galaxy J1

Geo Storm

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Motorcycles


Picking a combination lock

Make an electric lockpick

Victory Empulse TT Review

Victory Empulse TT Pic

Victory Empulse Side View

Victory Empulse TT With Panniers

Victory Empulse TT Instrument Panel

Bell Helmet (it really is from the 1950s)

January's new Sedici Strada Carino helmet

2004 Mazda MX 5

Raven Banner Pendant

2004 Chevy Avalanche

Real Science
Ohm's Law


Hagfish Slime Armor

Solid Light

Voynich Manuscript

Vigenère Cipher

Principles of Flight

Laser Inertial Fusion Energy

Ultra Dense Deuterium



Wilhelm Wundt

Meta Tech
Stormcrow Armor ideas (but black and gray, and more of the face covered)

Another Stormcrow Armor general idea (but the real armor would not have all that hair exposed)

Winged Helmet (but Jan's would be black, and the face would be covered down to the nose)

Think of the upper right goggles area built into the winged helmet above

Stormcrow Armor Symbol

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

The Face Bot

The Face Bot again

The Face Bot rear view

Myth and Religion


Martial Arts & Gymnastics
Muay Thai - Downward Jumping Elbow

Yoga Crow Pose

Yoga Scorpion Pose

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post Apr 20 2019, 12:04 AM
Post #2

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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds

Chapter 1 - Stormcrow Rising

Early May, 2019

Book 1.1 - Stormcrow Rising

January breathed in deep, allowing the cool spring air to fill her lungs. As she did so, she visualized more than just air permeating her body. She imagined power flowing up from the earth beneath her. She pictured it moving through the concrete bench upon which she sat cross-legged, and into her flesh and bones. She exhaled, and envisioned that energy flowing out of her.

She imagined that she was a tree. Her roots drank up the power from below. She drew it up through her body, and then sent it out through her branches. Finally it fell back down to the ground her once more, like leaves dropping from a tree.

She concentrated upon her breathing, in and out. She thought of the energy, flowing through her like a crystal clear stream. It would wash her clean: of tension, of stress, of frustration, of anger, of doubt. It would leave her pure of body, heart, and spirit.

At least that was what the book by Branwen Renner said it would do. Well, sort of at least. January could not resist peeking down at the tablet that lay beside her on the bench. An Introduction to Wicca was the title page of the book she had open in her e-reader.

She shut off the tablet with one finger, and slid it into her purse. She knew she probably should not be doing energy exercises in public. It seemed like a great way to get her purse snatched. Not that the Macomb Community College south campus was a hotbed of crime. The nice, neat suburban teens and adults that occasionally walked past were far from hard core. Nor were even the fuzzy, scruffy ones. They might be killers in Sword Science Online or World of Guncraft, but hardly in the real world.

She closed her eyes and went back to the exercise. As the writer had suggested, she added her own spin on the centering ritual.

Earth give me strength, keep me grounded, protect me from harm.

Air give me quickness in body and wit. Let the weights of the world fall from me.

Water make me flexible in thought and form. Let me flow, let me crash.

Fire give me passion and energy. Let me burn bright in the night sky.

Spirit weave all together in balance. Bring me peace.

She felt small, bony feet settle on one of her shoulders. Talons dug in hard, but she did not flinch. She looked to Earth for strength, and willed her skin to toughen. She imagined it was stone, and she felt no pain from the tiny claws digging into her. A raucous caw rang out in her ear. She did not need to open her eyes to see who its author was. She knew the crows, and they knew her. She had for as long as she could remember.

She continued to slowly breathe, follow the cleansing energy exercise, and silently repeat the elemental chant in her head. Another caw came to her ears, and soon a third. She had no idea why the crows always came to visit her when she meditated. They just did, and she had to admit, it felt right. It was always a good sign when she saw or heard a crow after all. It was like they were watching out for her.

That gave her an idea. She opened her eyes and carefully drew the tablet from her purse and powered it on. She was careful to move slowly, so the crows would not be startled. She ignored the ad for World of Guncraft at the lock screen and punched in her pin. Then she went to her story notes page and began jotting things down.

For not the first time, she wished for a better tablet, with a larger screen. Or even for an actual laptop. But the Fire 7 was all she could afford. Once it had been on sale for nearly half off that is. As with everything else in her life, she just had to make do with what she could scrounge up.

All the while the crow perched upon her shoulder looked down, as if reading the screen. Then the two flanking her on the bench stepped this way and that, as if agitated by her motion.

One began a strident cawing, which the others took up a moment later. January glanced up to see a pair of hipsters walking by: plaid, man-buns, and big bushy beards. The only thing they lacked were top hats and unicycles. January wondered if those were not ironic enough anymore.

January smiled at the thought. They stared silently at her and her crow guardians. One arched an eyebrow. The crows continued their verbal assault upon the hapless hipsters until they passed through the trees that ringed the edge of the parking lot, and vanished into the campus beyond.

"Slow your roll, they're just trying to be cool and still be rebels at the same time." January said to the birds. Then she breathed more quietly: "Says the girl who will never be cool, and couldn't stop being a rebel even if she wanted to."

A car horn bleated so weakly that it sounded like it was upon the verge of reeling over and dying. She looked up to see a rusty old Geo Storm pulled up to the edge of the parking lot. Its yellow paint had clearly seen better days, and a crack ran across the bottom of the windshield. But it was quiet as a whisper, even though January knew it was not shut off.

She could not restrain a smile as she rose to her feet and slung her purse - heavy with the tablet sticking out of it - over one shoulder. The crow perched upon her other shoulder leapt into the sky, soon followed by his two comrades.

"Hasta mañana!" She waved at the departing birds and walked to the car. Opening the door, she let herself in, buckled her seatbelt, and settled her purse onto her lap.

"You know that is seriously creepy right?" January looked to the boy - no he was definitely a man these days - who sat in the driver's seat. His brown skin was smooth as silk, but broken by a patchy stubble on his chin and upper lip. Dark sunglasses covered his eyes. He wore a tee with a giant clenched fist taking up most of its surface, and the letters "R=V/I" written across the bottom.

"Hi Avery," she smiled. "What's creepy?"

"The crows you fool!" Avery exclaimed in his best Mr. T voice. "What did you think I meant, pink sweaters? The way they follow you around. That's just creepy."

"They don't follow me," January looked down at her designer imposter Clululemon fitted jacket. It was pink. But not that pink. Just enough to be pink, but not overpoweringly so. "Crows are everywhere. They are just, my friends. They come to visit me is all."

"Visit? If one of those birds sat down on my shoulder, I'd be worried. That's like, a bad omen or something."

"It's a good omen," January insisted. "Crows are always good luck for me. You know the valkyries were called krakeit, or crows, because of the coats of crow feathers they wore. And The Morrigan took the form of a crow."

"Valkyries, and what did they do again?" Avery shifted the car into gear and smoothly drove off. It never ceased to amaze January how well he could do that. Who drove a manual after all? Yet he shifted up and down through the gears without a hitch, as if he had been born with a clutch under one foot, and shifter in one hand.

"They choose who lives and dies on the battlefield," January said, "and take their souls to Freyja's hall. Well, the half that she doesn't give to Odin of course."


"Everyone dies sometime," January rolled her eyes. "Don't you want someone to be there to lead you through the darkness? A guide and guardian to see you through the worst in death, and take you to the golden halls of your ancestors?"

"My ancestors didn't live in golden halls."

"Neither did mine," January shrugged. "But Freyja does. Speaking of Freyja, you were on Grindr again weren't you?"

"What makes you say that?" January did not fail to notice the way his tone changed, or how his shoulders stiffened up.

"Besides you being an hour late to pick me up?" January raised an eyebrow with as much irony as a monocled hipster. "You're wearing one of your 'I'm a clever boy' shirts. You wanted to see if he was smart enough to know what Ohm's Law is. And do I smell cologne?"

"Yeah, sorry about that." Avery winced and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, like he always did when he was self-conscious. "We just met up for coffee is all. I sort of lost track of time."

"You don't even like coffee." January made a face.

"I know." Avery winked. His grin lit up the interior of the ancient sport compact.

"Anyway, sorry I am late."

"It's ok," January shrugged. "It gave me time to work out some ideas for a new story. I think I really have something good here."

"Aela and Loria again?" Avery asked. "Or someone new this time."

"Remember that western you dragged me off to see?" January asked.

"Fistful of Boners?" Avery suggested. "High Plains Donger?"

"The Magnificent Seven." January rolled her eyes, but had trouble suppressing a smile nonetheless. "The remake of the remake, with Denzel. Well I was thinking of that."

"I think about Denzel sometimes too," Avery said, "Yul Brenner too."

"Not that way you perv!" January laughed. "Don't you guys think of anything other than sex?"

"Stop taking your spiro and find out," Avery shot back.

"Ugh," January frowned. The very thought of not taking her anti-androgens filled her with loathing. "Anyway, I watched the original last night. Well the original of the original, the Seven Samurai."

"A classic," Avery acknowledged, "It clocks in at what, three point five hours? Tough to watch in one sitting. But pretend it's a TV show and do it an hour at a time, and its awesomeness is of the purest distillation. Kurosawa was a true master."

"Well I was thinking of using it as jumping off point..." January said. She went on to detail how the film had inspired her to write a new story with her existing characters - Aela and Loria. Desperate to pay back their student loans, they join an effort to fight off raiders. The raiders themselves were cannibals worshipping a dark goddess inspired by wendigo lore. She was even determined to find an opportunity to use the term 'tenebrous'."

Avery laughed when she was finished. "You know, I thought being a nerd made me weird, but you take it all to a whole new level girl!"

"Why thank you!" January smiled. "That is the nicest thing anyone has said to me all week."

"So you never said how your date went," January pointed out.

"It was..." Avery shrugged, and stared back at the road.

"Hot? Steamy?" January offered. "Boring? Snoozefest? He stood you up?"

"No he was there." January definitely noticed the warmth creeping into Avery's chocolate brown cheeks. Given the smoky quartz shade of his skin, he did not turn red, but she could see all the signs in how his facial muscles tensed.


"And a gentleman does not kiss and tell woman!" Avery exclaimed.

"So spill already!" January laughed. "Tell me everything! Maybe I can write it into the story. Was he an elf or a dwarf?"

"Human," Avery said, "with these abs that just don't... What am I saying? Never you mind my love life."

"Well it's not like I'll ever have one," January frowned. "I have to live it vicariously through others."

"Oh you never know," Avery said. "Some hot Viking chica might come down on her winged horse and sweep you off to adventure in a distant fantasy realm, with some epic girl-on-girl action on the side."

"That sounds great to me!" January admitted. "At this point I'd take a smelly Pict."

"Be careful what you wish for blondie..." Avery said.

"I just might get it, I know," January groused. "But the most I get now is ghosted. The exorcist gives me a discount for customer loyalty."

January pulled down the visor and flipped open the mirror built into it. Blue eyes, blond hair, she had what every girl seemed to want. Except of course for that pesky old penis tucked between her legs. No girl wanted that. At least not one attached to her. They were supposed to come attached to the boyfriend - a factory standard option with most female models.

She caught herself biting her lip, again, and stopped. She checked her teeth, to make sure there was no lipstick stuck on them. Then she did a quick scan of her makeup: eyeliner, shadow, lipstick. Nothing smeared or running.

Feeling self-conscious, she shut the mirror and pushed the visor back up against the ceiling. She knew that Avery would never make fun of her for primping. But she could not count the number of times others had ridiculed her for doing so since she transitioned back in junior high school.

"Look at the little sissy boy! Isn't he pretty!"

The words came back across the years like vengeful knives. Every one was a jab in the guts. The actual kicks and punches had healed so much quicker. The words never seemed to fade.

"You're doing it again."

January snapped back to reality. She saw that Avery pointed one finger up from the steering wheel. She followed it, and saw that the sky outside had turned slate gray.

"Don't you make it rain girl," he insisted. "Not today."

"Sorry," January stared down at her lap. For years the local meteorologists had been talking about the Weather Witch of Warren. Thankfully no one knew it was her. Except Avery of course. He knew everything. Or at least he acted like it.

If only she could control it, she could make a fortune. Drought bothering you, say no more, here comes the rain. Flooding got you down? Sunny skies and warm air on the way. Not to mention Climate Change be gone.

But the world didn't work that way. She could put her fist through a brick. She could do cartwheels off a moving car. But she couldn't do anything really useful. Not like Avery could.

"When are you going to get a car of your own?" the black man asked. "I don't mind driving you, but this is the D. You can't live without wheels here."

"Soon," January murmured. "Since I learned Muay Thai I picked up another class at the dojo teaching it."

"So how many martial arts is that?" Avery asked.

"With the Kick-Boxing and Krav Maga, that just makes three," January murmured. It hardly seemed anything at all. Here she was, about to turn twenty years old in August. She was practically an old maid, and that was all she knew about fighting. But with gymnastics, and yoga, and school, and writing, when was there ever enough time? Yet Bruce Lee had been slaying dragons at her age, and Chuck Norris had most likely wiped out entire alien civilizations.

"Oh, is that all," Avery said. He was using his sarcastic voice, the one that was supposed to cheer her up by pointing out how full of it she was whenever she was moping.

"Adin did get me a self-defense class next week at Sterling Heights High." January noted. "Maybe after that I'll have enough to start looking for a car that actually runs."

"About that, I might have something," Avery said. "I know a guy online who knows someone who's got a motorcycle they want to get rid of. Something about a DUI and not being able to drive anymore."

"A motorcycle?" January stared at her friend in disbelief. "Me? What am I, a Daughter of Anarchy?"

"A lot of female superheroes in comics ride them you know," Avery insisted. "Look at Nightgirl, and all the Preybirds. Besides, they hardly use any gas at all. So they're environmentally friendly."

"When is the last time you bought gas?" January arched an eyebrow.

"2015," Avery said. "I know what you're thinking, but I might not be able to get another cold fusion reactor going. The one in this thing was a nightmare. If I hadn't found just the right coffee filters and spring water it never would have worked."

"I still can't believe you put a fusion reactor in a Geo Storm." January raised one eyebrow. "I mean, maybe step up your game a little. I know you have the money, with all the gadgets you make for people."

"My game is up honey!" Gadget exclaimed. "My game us so up. But I need to keep a low profile. You of all people know that don't no one notice you, don't no one give you static. The last thing I need is the IRS getting up in my business. That's what got Al Capone. And what do you think the Warren Police are gonna do when they see a brother driving an Aston Martin? They'd be pulling my black ass over every fifty feet!"

"But don't you change the subject on me now," he went on. "You need to step up your own game girl. You get this bike, and you are gonna be lit. Put a pic of you on the back of that on Scissr, and you are gonna get so many swipes, there's gonna be a finger-furrow down your hips."

"Yeah, and they'll be swiping out even faster once I say the 'T-Word'." January rolled her eyes. "I swear the last one left a burn mark, she blasted off so fast."

"But I wouldn't be able to ride a bike in the winter anyway," January switched gears. "So a motorcycle is no good."

"I might be able to do something about that," Avery said. "I got this idea about molecular bonding. Sort of a glue I was thinking of, only without the actual glue. Instead it's a waveform, like sound or electromagnetism are. Turn it on, and things stick. Turn it off, they release. If I could get the timing working with the spinning of the wheels, in theory they should stick to anything, water, snow, ice, you name it."

"The side of a building?" January wondered.

"Well, yeah," Avery nodded. "That would probably work, as long as I could get enough torque out of the engine. It might be slow though, pulling against gravity like that."

"I am sure you can figure it out," January said. "Maybe you could put in a matter-antimatter engine while you are at it."

"Who do I look like, Heisenberg?" Avery stared at her like she was the insane one. "Anti-matter's expensive to create, and I'm not the Technocrat of Central Europe you know. I was thinking maybe a hydrogen fuel cell. Suzuki has the Burgman hybrid fuel cell scooter already out, using just vanilla tech. Honda filed a patent for one of their own too. I am sure I can meta one up to increase the electrical output. And everyone has battery-powered electric bikes already."

"A motorcycle…" January thought aloud. It just might work. "I would need a helmet, and what about my hair." She pulled out her phone, and tapped away at the Galaxy J1's screen.

"I could wear a braid, or a braided ponytail!" She exclaimed after seeing several examples of hairstyles ideal for helmet-wearers. "When can we look at this bike?"

"I'll set it up," Avery smiled. "Oh, and if that doesn't turn your frown upside down, take a look in the back seat."

January twisted around to look back. There on the torn upholstery was a large cardboard box, looking just as old and battered as the rest of the car. January wrestled it up between the seats, and set it on her lap. She gave Avery an expectant look.

"Well open it!" he laughed. "Unless you would rather go to ConFabulation in just jeans and a Cthulhu t-shirt?"

January opened the box, and literally squealed in fangirl delight. On top of the pile of clothes was a winged helmet, with an attached cowl that would cover the top of her face. It reminded her of the classic Viking goggle helm, or the Sutton Hoo helmet, except with wings. The real ones did not come with those, just like they did not have horns. They were clearly decorative, but drek did they look good.

Beneath the amazing helmet was a long-sleeved tunic. It was emblazoned with the image of a crow in profile, set against a white field, and surrounded by a black ring. Along with it were gauntlets, leggings, boots, and even a cape, all of the same jet black, woven fibers.

She instantly pulled the helmet over her features, and found that it left a hole in the back for her hair to spill out across her neck. It fit perfectly. In fact, it seemed to mold itself to her head. January was certain that was not just her imagination. Not given Avery's expertise with meta-tech. She tapped on it, and it felt as hard as steel.

"This is the awesomesauce on top of awesomesauce!" January cried. "It's like a jam sandwich, except without the bread. It's all jam! If you weren't gay I'd kiss you!"

"Well, you don't have to let that stop you. Just, you know, don't let any guys see it. I don't want to send out the wrong signals…" Avery kept his voice cool. No, he was not Avery now. He was Gadget - the inventor of amazing things, which by all the laws of nature should not work. But they did work. It wasn't a name he bandied about. After all, he preferred to live on the down low. So he only used that name online, with other inventors like himself. January was the only person in the real world who knew it. To their rest of their friends, he was the OG - the Original Gamer.

Then January did lean over and give him a kiss on the cheek.

She pulled on the gloves next, and was amazed at how sensitive her fingers still were with them on. It wasn't quite the same as bare skin, but it was close. For example, she could still feel the textures of the things she touched, even through the gauntlets, be it the cloth car seats, the plastic dashboard, or her faux leather handbag. She sensed more meta-engineering at work, and added that to the million other things she had to thank her inventor friend for.

"What is this material," January ran her hands along the fabric of the suit. "It isn't leather, or cloth."

"It's slime," Gadget smiled.

"It's… what?" January raised one eyebrow, and then the other. What did she have on her face?

"Ever hear of the hagfish?" Gadget asked. He went on when January shook her head. "I read that the military was experimenting with it, so I checked it out. It's a three hundred million year old fish. It's older than the dinosaurs. It excretes a slime for self-defense that suffocates predators. Well that slime can be dried out into fibers that are insanely durable. I made a few improvements on Mother Nature. It moves like cloth, but it should stop a bullet. I think. I haven't tested it though. Since, you know, my mom doesn't like guns."

"Wow, that is some slime," January bit her lip, but only for a moment. Then she decided that in spite of what it was, it was still pretty damn cool. She made a mental note to look up hagfishes when she got home. Then again, maybe she did not really want to know...

She pulled out the cape next, and ran her armored fingers along the gray interior lining. Then she turned the material over to the black outer surface.

"Check it," Gadget said with a definite note of satisfaction. "The cape is not only bullet-proof, but also fireproof, and thermal-insulating. But the pièce de résistance is that it's shape material. The gloves have built in triggers - don't use them now - that will stiffen the fabric into wings. It basically turns the entire outfit into a wingsuit."

"You mean I can fly in this!" January's eyes nearly popped out of her skull.

"No, it's a wingsuit," Gadget said carefully. "You can fall and not go splat right away. You can only glide in it. I haven't tested that either, so be careful with it. Don't go jumping off any buildings. Not just yet anyway. 'Cause there's no parachute like a regular wingsuit has."

"Wow," January breathed. "Just wow. I mean, I only wanted something for cosplay at the Con. Like a Nightgirl or Ms. Miracle costume. With something like this, I could be like, a real superhero. You didn't have to go to all this trouble."

"You are a real superhero," Avery murmured. "Even if you don't run around smiting bad guys like Blood Raven does. You deserve something as good as you are."

Now it was January's turn to blush. The sun was shining brightly outside, and it was turning out to be a wonderful day after all.

One of January's theme songs - Vnv Nation - Illusion

Macomb Community College - South Campus

Fire 7 Tablet

Samsung Galaxy J1

Hipsters (big in Detroit)

Geo Storm

Lululemon Fitted Jacket

Ohm's Law


Hagfish Slime Armor

Stormcrow Armor ideas (but black and gray, and more of the face covered)

Another Stormcrow Armor general idea (but the real armor would not have all that hair exposed)

Winged Helmet (but Jan's would be black, and the face would be covered down to the nose)

Think of the upper right goggles area built into the winged helmet above

Stormcrow Armor Symbol

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post Apr 20 2019, 02:21 PM
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Hee hee, this is awesome! She's doing meditation in public! biggrin.gif

I couldn't resist a quick search for Macomb Community College. Says it's in Michigan. Interesting.

Whoa. Geo Storm. smile.gif Whatever happened to Geo? Friend of mine had a Metro back in the '90s, that thing was so easy to park in the cramped streets of Baltimore...

What constitutes a hipster in Michigan? Last time I heard that word I lived on the west coast, where hipster meant cat eye glasses and plaid skits for women, and basically retro clothes from the '60s and '70s. cool.gif The Weezer song "Buddy Holly" explains it all, basically. Guys who look like Buddy Holly, gals who look like Mary Tyler Moore, pretty much. But i know this term changes from era to era, region to region.

"Avery... or 'Gadget' as everyone called him online..." laugh.gif


This post has been edited by Renee: Apr 20 2019, 02:45 PM
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post Apr 20 2019, 03:27 PM
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QUOTE(Renee @ Apr 20 2019, 09:21 AM) *

Hee hee, this is awesome! She's doing meditation in public! biggrin.gif

I couldn't resist a quick search for Macomb Community College. Says it's in Michigan. Interesting.

Whoa. Geo Storm. smile.gif Whatever happened to Geo? Friend of mine had a Metro back in the '90s, that thing was so easy to park in the cramped streets of Baltimore...

What constitutes a hipster in Michigan? Last time I heard that word I lived on the west coast, where hipster meant cat eye glasses and plaid skits for women, and basically retro clothes from the '60s and '70s. cool.gif The Weezer song "Buddy Holly" explains it all, basically. Guys who look like Buddy Holly, gals who look like Mary Tyler Moore, pretty much. But i know this term changes from era to era, region to region.

"Avery... or 'Gadget' as everyone called him online..." laugh.gif


Hon, Hipsters are basically the same thing these days as they were when you were on the West Coast. They have just updated it. They are kind of the modern equivalent of Mall Goths in the 90s. They want to rebel from 'normal' society, so they dress and do things 'ironically'. Like big bushy beards, wearing plaid, riding unicycles, wearing monocles, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. Basically they make a pastiche of outdated trends in an effort to be un-cool, and thusly be cool. Someone once called them "the assassins of cool".

This is a good quote from the wikipedia article I linked to above:
"In a Huffington Post article entitled "Who's a Hipster?", Julia Plevin argues that the "definition of 'hipster' remains opaque to anyone outside this self-proclaiming, highly-selective circle". She claims that the "whole point of hipsters is that they avoid labels and being labeled. However, they all dress the same and act the same and conform in their non-conformity" to an "iconic carefully created sloppy vintage look".

The whole revitalization of Detroit has brought tons of hipsters. Because once things finally started to turn around land was cheap. So hipster businesses could move in easily. (The same is true of Foodies. Tons of snobby restaurants have opened here in the last ten years). The same thing is going on in Brooklyn, NY.

A lot of people hate hipsters, which I don't really get. Probably because they look and act different. Some of them can be snobby though. I am different, so I appreciate someone making an effort to not be one of the mindless herd. But at the same time I find it amusing, because they are just trading one style of conformity for another in the end.

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post Apr 20 2019, 06:32 PM
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Oh this was a hoot! January, her crow fan club and her very own gadget-making pal. Lots of info presented in this long intro but all of it was engaging and fun to read.

Nit: ’She concentrated upon of her breathing,’ - - extraneous ‘of’?

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post Apr 22 2019, 06:17 PM
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I’m very excited to see Stormcrow so soon! (And thank you for the reassurance that Aela and Loria are not forgotten!)

Right away I love that I can infer that some things are different about January’s world without getting a history lesson. I also love that she is spending time practicing her power flow and her martial arts. In the same way we get to see her financial situation through what she wears and uses rather than just having her mention it.

Wow, it really is Stormcrow and Gadget. Avery is awesome!

Yay, I already love this story!

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post Apr 26 2019, 04:32 PM
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Renee: I went to MCC for a while, so it was my go-to community college for this story. When I look at pics of it online now, it has changed a lot. But the basic layout is still the same. I used to always park in that same lot that Avery picked January up at. The library is up a hill behind where she is sitting, and then the main classroom buildings, which are set in sort of a figure 8, with open air atriums in the center. I really liked that place. I did put in a link to it.

I still remember the Geos. That is why I went to it for a nice, cheap car that no one would think twice about.

I like the name Gadget too. It is partly inspired by Inspector Gadget of course. But mostly it is because Avery makes gadgets. It is also a simple name without the common hyperbole that so many screen names/super names have. That fits Avery to a tee, as he prefers to stay on the down low.

Acadian: At 4k words it is twice where I usually put my cutoff point for posts. But I did not see a good place to cut it up without breaking the flow of conversation. It was mostly just that conversation between characters, so I let it ride. The future posts won't be so big however.

That was an extra of, thanks for wrangling it up for me.

Grits: This first Stormcrow chapter is actually longer than the remainder of Seven Reimagined, and I knocked this out in just a few weeks. And the next Stormcrow chapter as well. So it won't be too hard to wrap up Seven. There are only a few new scenes it will need that require all new writing. Most of it will only be tinkering to fit it into the new setting.

I really loved April Daniels' Dreadnought duology. I think its only downside is that she includes a big infodump near the beginning about super history. That info was nice to have. But it was also a straight up dump of Telling. I am hoping to weave things in more subtly, over time. Heisenberg was an example here. Yes, he's that Heisenberg. I envision him as being essentially a brain in a robot body, ruling a technocracy in Central Asia (all the ...stans. RL Kazakhstan is the worlds #1 exporter of uranium I decided to change that to Central Europe, specifically Austria instead).

You cited all the things I was really hoping to illustrate with the opening. January's martial arts, her psychological/magical centering, her lack of finances, the central place Avery has in her life, plus a few little hints about the nature of the super world that she lives in. Avery himself is a lot of fun to write. He is in many ways the rational counterpoint to January's own psychologial/social issues. Which is another way to say he calls her out on her self-destructive b.s.

The whole reason I gave exact brand names for things like her tablet was that I wanted to show that she was poor. I was going to just be generic and say tablet, phone, and so on. But a Fire 7 says a lot, when it is only $50 full price. Likewise with the phone, and the fake designer jacket, etc...

Book 1.2 - Stormcrow Rising

January left the Con Suite and its all-too tempting plates of cookies, doughnuts, pancake dippers, and PBJ sandwiches. Not to mention the positively toxic - but equally delicious - hot dogs. What convention would be complete without those? Instead the apple and honeydew slices she had already munched on would have to suffice for dinner. Well, that and one of those wicked dogs of course.

Her new crow outfit had brought many stares. Whether good ones or bad ones, January could not be sure. There definitely were more people just coming up and talking to her than normal however. She guessed that was a good thing. But it still made her nervous. Being noticed always did. Usually her life became much worse when people paid attention to her.

Still, she did not regret it. All of her life she had been seeing other people cosplaying at conventions and festivals. Now she was finally getting in on the fun. It was fun too, even if it was outside of her normal comfort zone. It was like she was a different person. Not weighed down by the past. Anything seemed possible.

With a bottle of Fae Cola Ultimate in one hand, and a program sheet in the other, she ambled down the circular hallway toward the elevators. Looking down through the list of times and rooms, she found the block of events that would be starting next.

Star Trek discussion, no thanks, even though Wil Wheaton was attending. Now if it had been about The Guild… Phew, Felicia Day could certainly keep her up all night! Finger-Painting for Kids, eech! Ten year-olds with hands covered in paint were getting nowhere near her brand new corvid costume. Dungeons and Dragons, no thanks, she was not fourteen anymore. Too bad there was not a Shadowrun game though… Adventure in Short Stories, now that sounded like a discussion group right up her alley.

A loud bang made her stop short. It was very, very loud. Like thunder ringing through the corridor. A second and third roar followed, along with a muffled crash.

Those were gunshots. January had been in Detroit on New Year's Eve enough times to know the sound. If the gun had been outdoors it would have sounded like a pop. But given the noise, it was definitely inside the hotel.

A fellow Con-goer dressed in white stormtrooper armor ran past her, back toward the Con Suite. "It's a meta!" he shouted over his shoulder as he sped past. "And they've got guns!"

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

Naturally she did what they said to never do.

Air, give me speed.

She sprang forward as if shot from a cannon, covering at least ten feet with a single, horizontal bound. That nearly put her into the outer wall, since the hallway curved in a large circle. She put one hand on the wall to steady herself, reoriented, and leaped once more.

More people ran past, looking entirely non-science fictiony in their button down shirts and khakis. January briefly mused that these must be traveling business types.

Then an open door caught her eye. For a moment a bright light burst from within, only to vanish a moment later, leaving afterimages dancing before January's eyes. A loud thump came to her ears, followed by a male voice.

"Hand over the stones you bastard," it growled like a hungry tiger, "or you'll be next."

"I don't know what you're talking about," came a second man's voice, in an Indian accent so heavy you could spread curry on it. "I am just a salesman. I don't know what you are-."

January heard a meaty smack. She had been on the receiving end of enough punches to know that sound well. It was all the convincing she needed to spring through the open doorway.

She found herself in the entrance of a large suite. A kitchenette and mini-bar ran along the wall to her left. An overturned dining table, its chairs scattered away, lay nearby. A pair of couches faced one another across a coffee table deeper into the room. One had a wide hole torn through it, rupturing its stuffing like an open wound.

Two men lay on the floor. Both were alike in that they wore khakis, sport coats, and sunglasses. Guns lay on the floor nearby, and the two were as bloody as they were still. They could not have looked more like bodyguards if they had tried. A third man in a suit knelt on the floor. He was pudgy, dusky-skinned, and had long ago lost the battle to keep his hair. He wrung his hands in a panic. A bright red spot was quickly forming across one of his cheeks, and blood flowed from the side of his temple.

"Sissy-boy!" Just like that, January had traveled back in time. She was twelve years old, and two bullies pinioned her arms, while a third took his time working over her stomach and face. "Take it like a man pervert!"

The memory came and went in a fleeting instant. But it left an aftertaste of frustration, rage, and adrenaline. Outside, thunder pealed in the otherwise clear evening sky.

It was not a mere schoolyard bully who stood before her however. Instead it was a tall man wearing gleaming silver, white, and blue armor. It did not completely cover his skin, which January could see was a much deeper brown than the kneeling man. A cuirass did cover his torso, along with separate plates on his upper arms, wrists, and thighs. Gauntlets protected his hands, and boots sheathed his feet. A helmet covered his upper face and wrapped down around his jaw, leaving an open space between which left his mouth and lower cheeks bare.

He held one hand out toward the kneeling man, palm open. He turned as January entered, and brought that hand to bear upon her instead. Built into the palm of his gauntlet was a ring of metal, that encircled some form of clear crystal. A warm, white glow ignited from deep within it, and January did not need anyone to tell her it was some sort of energy weapon.

"Stay out of this, cosplay," the armored man commanded. "This is none of your business."

"It's everyone's business when a thug beats up an old man." January bared her teeth. Her fingers curled into fists of their own accord. Her eyes narrowed, and she judged the distance between them. She wondered how quickly he could fire that weapon, and how quickly she could get into range of her own, inborn armaments.

It did not take a genius like Avery to see that she was going to take a hit.

Earth give me strength, keep me grounded, protect me from harm.

She was about to pounce when she saw the old man reach into a pocket, and pull out a pistol. It was small, barely larger than his palm. He raised it to point at the armored man's back.

But the malefactor noticed her gaze shift. He twisted back to the old man, swinging blindly with his fist. The gun went off, filling the room with artificial thunder. January was not sure if it hit the armored man or not. It seemed impossible to miss at such close quarters. He did not flinch however, or slow in any way. A moment later his fist cracked across the old man's arm and shoulder, and sent him flying.

A small, black bag fell from the Indian man's pocket. Clear gemstones spilled from it like water from an overturned cup. They glittered under the ceiling lights, like a bed of stars spread out across the carpet.


Now everything became clear to January. She leaped forward, even as the thief scooped up the bag in his left hand. That was all the time she needed, and she slammed into him before he could turn back to face her. She hit him like a hurricane, and a bolt of lightning outside the windows dazzled her eyes. It was followed by a peal of thunder, as the force of her charge sent them both into the glass.

It shattered like fine china under a bull's hooves. January and the armored man tumbled through, arms and legs tangled together. The pavement rushed past January's eyes as they spun in mid-air. She heard a thrum of energy, and was aware of the thief somehow pulling away from her. Light flared from his boots, and she realized that he could fly as he rose into the sky above. But she was still falling...

"It's a wingsuit," Gadget's voice rang out in her memory. "You can fall and not go splat."

She spread her arms out to either side and hit the triggers built into both of her gloves. With a leathery crack the cape that had trailed out behind her snapped out into pair of wings. But that seemed to just make things worse. Instead of falling in a smooth arc, the wings were now catching the air unequally. That sent her into an even more chaotic tumble.

Gravity pulled at her. Every time she spun and saw the ground flash by, it was frighteningly nearer. Rain pelted her. Thunder rumbled. Lightning cracked loudly. January frantically tried to hold her body stiff and level, so that the wind could catch evenly upon the surface of the wings.

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

The wind caught her up, and her fall smoothed out into a shallow dive. Somehow she had gotten into a stable, rigid position. Now each of her wings caught the air in equal measure. She pulled her head back and arched her body. She hoped that by changing the angle of the wings, it would bring even more of their surface to bear on the wind. She told herself that it was just like gymnastics. She could be strong, and graceful, and fly through the air.

Somehow she traded speed for altitude, and soared back up. She banked hard, and saw the circular tower of the hotel rising up to her left. She almost recoiled when she saw that the armored thug was just a few feet away, flying free thanks to the bright white energy being expelled by his boots. With one hand he tucked the bag of diamonds into a pouch on his belt. His other hand reached out to her, and grabbed hold of the leading edge of one of her wings.

January tried to reach up to slap away his wrist. But her wings got in the way. Worse, the movement completely destroyed her flight profile. Air spilled from her wings. She began to skid to the left, and immediately felt herself tumbling once more. The armored robber hung on. He slowed their descent, but could not stop it.

She saw the hotel's annex loom beneath her. It was a wide, two story structure that stretched away from the central tower that she had fallen from. She realized that she was going to hit it in a matter of seconds. She did not know what that would do to the wings, or to her body if one of them caught the roof unevenly. Visions of skiers snapping their legs after catching their skis on obstacles flashed through her mind.

She was a gymnast. She knew how to land. With that in mind she hit the triggers in her gloves, and her wings collapsed back to a simple cape. It flapped up in the wind above her, with the armored man still holding a fist-full of the material.

That made them fall much faster, but January found she could control her form. An instant later they plummeted into the roof of annex. They smashed through a skylight, and crashed into a wide hallway below that ran the length of the structure. Falling glass clattered around them in shards of glittering light as they slammed into the carpeted floor. January tucked into a roll and sprang to her feet just as nimbly as if she had performed an ordinary tumbling pass, rather than fallen from fourteen stories.

The Best Western Premiere of Southfield

Hotel Pic 01

Hotel Pic 02

ConFusion is a real Metro-Detroit sci fi convention. I once went to it (or maybe it was another one) at the hotel above

New Year's Eve In Detroit (been there, its true)

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post Apr 26 2019, 06:33 PM
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’Naturally she did what they said to never do.’ - - January has plenty of courage - doubtless to help compensate for her questionable judgement. tongue.gif

And so she’s into a heart-pounding encounter! Loved her struggle to try and control those new-fangled Gadget wings as she tumbled toward the ground. Well, as they say, any landing you can walk roll away from is a good one. Seriously, it seems her martial arts training has quite benefited her.

What a fun story so far!

Edit to add a couple more thoughts -

Though I was absorbed in January's first flight lesson, I was very much aware of the other part of her name and her ability to 'not quite control' the weather as the storm was clearly reacting to Stormcrow's emotions.

With so much action in this episode, I am thankful you provided so much background into what makes January tick in the preceding episode. Her actions and thoughts flowed clearly from we already know of her. Nice job!

This post has been edited by Acadian: Apr 26 2019, 07:16 PM

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post Apr 28 2019, 11:29 PM
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Awesome, a fight and flying sequence! I thought the pace was perfect with enough description so I could picture it easily but not too much to slow things down.

The close POV and details like the Pepsi and the program sheet in January’s hands brought me right into that corridor with her. Which was very cool when she started leaping, falling, and flying!!

A comma suggestion: Instead of
"Stay out of this cosplay," the armored man commanded.

"Stay out of this, cosplay," the armored man commanded.

I read it the second way, with the armored man vastly underestimating January (and her suit).

What a fun episode!

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post May 3 2019, 09:35 PM
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Acadian: Courage + questionable judgement sounds like a requirement for all superheros... laugh.gif

We will be seeing her martial arts training front and center in this episode. The same with her gymnastics training. I have had a lot of fun writing the latter into the current and upcoming stories. She would not be January without her back flips, handstands, and stuck landings.

I am glad the sudden thunderstorm resonated. We will be seeing more bad weather in today's episode. Like her gymnastics, the weather has become part and parcel of who she is in my mind now.

Grits: I had fun working on the events in the program sheet, as well as inventing Pepsi Ultimate. I imagine the ads for the latter go something like: "Twice the calories, Twice the sodium! Twice the Taste!" biggrin.gif

I can see what you mean about the comma. The original way sounded like Lighthammer was part of a cosplay that he didn't want January joining in. The extra comma makes is clear that he is referring to her as 'cosplay' instead.

Something to listen to while you read

Book 1.3 - Stormcrow Rising

Each side of the sprawling hall was lined with huge conference rooms. Paper signs marked events, classes, panels, or other activities taking place within each. Large tables were set up along various areas of the hall itself. January instantly recognized the registration table, with its trio of middle-aged women handing out badges and information packets to conventioneers. A white-bearded man wearing a black fisherman's cap sat at another table signing books for a line of people. Other tables were piled with all manner of items for sale: novels, hats, t-shirts, cosplay outfits, you name it, someone was selling it.

There were people everywhere. Many were dressed in costumes just as elaborate as January's, if not more so. Some were of real metas such as Blood Raven, the Veil, or Heisenberg. Others were fictional characters such as Nightman or the robot from Found in Space. Still more people were in street clothes. Nerds with tees emblazoned with the chemical symbols for coffee or various sayings in binary rubbed shoulders with goths in black leather and lace. New Agers and Pagans with ankhs and pentacles stepped past button-downed mundanes. Every race and age, every kind of person, were all thrown together in the science fiction convention.

The crash had separated January from her armored opponent. He was slower to clamber to his feet, and she took advantage of that to rush back to his side. Her hand flew to his belt, and tugged out the black bag of diamonds. He had the presence of mind to catch her wrist. With her free hand, she grabbed hold of the offensive digit and willed it loose.

His other hand rose up to her face. The metal-ringed crystal set into his palm filled her vision, and she realized that it was inset with diamonds. She had started to duck when the light blasted forth and took her in the face. It felt like she had been kicked by a horse. Her head snapped back hard. Without thinking, she let the rest of her body flow with the motion, and turned it into a back flip. She felt her feet catch the armored man as she spun in midair, and heard the whoosh of air being forcefully expelled from his lungs.

"Now water can flow, or it can crash," Bruce Lee's words rose unbidden in her mind. "Be water my friend."

She landed in a crouch, and felt along her forehead with one gloved hand. She was afraid that her fingers would come back sticky with blood and brains. But apparently the hagfish slime that armored her cowl was stronger than whatever the marauder had hit her with. Unless the strength and resilience of Earth really did fill her flesh and bones. But the real world didn't actually work that way, did it? It was not like she was a real magician after all, like Blood Raven was said to be.

She blinked spots of light from her eyes, just in time to see the thief level his opened hand for another shot. Again, she was too slow, and the bright laser-like energy that sprang forth hit her hard. This time it struck her hand, sending the bag of diamonds flying away to one side.

Thunder pealed from above, and rain began to pour through the broken skylight. January and her opponent both edged toward the diamonds, eyeing one another all the while. In the meantime the conventioneers spread out to give them room. Some fled entirely, but most remained to watch, albeit from a distance. Many produced phones and began recording them. A few even had old-fashioned camcorders.

January noticed Gadget in the crowd, dressed in his own Cyborg cosplay outfit. He moved to intervene, but she shook her head ever so slightly. He was a whiz with machines, but no fighter. She could never bear it if something happened to him.

The armored man tried to follow her eye movement again, glancing quickly in the direction of her gaze. But Avery - bless him - gave no sign that he was the object of her gesture.

"It's Lighthammer!" she heard someone in the crowd exclaim.

January glanced back to Gadget. "Gray hat," he silently mouthed now that her opponent was no longer looking in his direction. He gestured with his fingers, as if they were erupting from his other palm. "Light-Based," he seemed to mime.

The armored man - Lighthammer - trained both hands upon January this time. She prayed to Air for speed. She was upon him faster than he could fire, knocking both of his hands up and away. She followed with a front kick directly into his armored gut. It was like hitting a brick wall. But she could break bricks...

He doubled over, and she instantly followed with a knee lift into his jaw. Again, his armor seemed to absorb most of the blow. He staggered back, covering up defensively with his arms in front of him. So she followed with a side kick at his ribs. This time however, an oval of light sprang up around one of his forearms, and he moved it down to block the attack. She followed with a lower kick, and he leapt up into the air to avoid it.

But he could not dodge the lightning fast jab that followed. Instead he parried with his other forearm, this one now protected by a small force field of light as well. She moved in closer, and sent a flurry of elbows and jabs at his torso and head. He blocked some, and took the rest with his armor.

Relentless, she jabbed at his face with her left and stepped closer in. That brought her close enough to slash the same elbow across his face. She twisted her entire body with the move, using all of her mass to pull the elbow through him. He blocked with a force field once more, but she could feel it shiver as he backed away.

He covered up when she made to follow with the left again, this time with a cross into his face. But that had never been her intention. Once she saw him fall for the feint, she leapt forward. She rested one hand on his shoulder for leverage, and lifted herself up into the air above him. Then she crashed down with her opposite elbow, driving it into his forehead and down across his face. Armor shattered, and half of his mask disintegrated under the blow. Blood and bits of composite armor sprayed about as she dropped to her feet.

Then a bright light filled her eyes, and she was propelled back through the air once more. Again, she moved with the blow, and landed on both feet and one hand. She slid across the carpet in that three-point stance for several feet before stopping. It felt like a tyrannosaur had hit her. But she didn't notice any real pain. She imagined that was because of the adrenaline, and the armor Gadget had so presciently built.

She focused on the elements, as ever, and looked to them for inspiration and focus. Earth would ground her with strength and resilience. Water would allow her to adapt and flow with changing events. Air would give her speed and force, like a tornado. Fire would inspire passion and vigor. Spirit would bring it all together with balance and clarity.

Now January saw a pair of hotel security guards coming through the crowd. She waved them back. There was nothing they could do against someone like Lighthammer. They weren't even real cops. They didn't have guns, or meta-tech suits like the one that Avery had made for her. They didn't have years of martial arts training. They didn't know that their will could reshape reality. But she did have those things, and she was not going to let anyone else get hurt by a laser-powered thug.

"This isn't what you think white hat," Lighthammer now spoke. "I'm not the one who covered these diamonds in blood, and I'm not looking to add more to them already."

"You sure fooled me," January snarled. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the Indian diamond trader in the crowd. He held a bloody washcloth against the side of his head with one hand. He still clutched his pistol in his other hand. But he held it down along his side, unobtrusively against one leg. No one would notice it unless they took their eyes off the meta fight.

Thunder roared, and January was the lightning that followed. Lighthammer blasted again with both of his lasers. But she broke through the eruption of solid light to plant a fist in his jaw. She followed with kicks, elbows, and punches. Again he defended with his laser shields. She tried to trip him, but he rose into the air with his light-assisted flight.

He tried to fly up out of reach, but she leapt into him. That propelled them both into the ceiling, which they skidded across before smashing into a wall. January planted her feet against it and pushed off while he fell. She performed a back flip in mid air and landed on both feet, facing him.

She tried to hit him before he could get to his feet. But he was too fast with his lasers. Again, he hit her with both palm-blasters. Her eyes filled with bright light as she went back. This time she was ready however. Rather than tumbling through the air, the solid light merely pushed her back several paces.

She smiled. She had taken his measure. She would wear him down, and defeat him.

Then he turned his glowing hands upon the crowd, and January's exultation vanished faster than a lawyer's morality. Lasers flashed bright. Thunder crashed overhead. Rain pelted the hall. January leapt fast as a tornado, and stood between the innocent conventioneers and Lighthammer's attack.

She was expecting another semi-truck to the chest. But instead she barely felt the strike. Again, she wondered if it was just the adrenaline that allowed her to shrug it off so easily.

"Just like I thought," Lighthammer jeered, "typical white hat."

She followed the motion of his hands as they rose slightly. Lasers spat once more. This time they struck the ceiling overhead, and now they hit with titanic force.

The ceiling exploded in a shower of fiberglass, plaster, wood, and steel. All of it came directly down upon January, as if Lighthammer had somehow shot it out with surgical precision. January felt herself driven to first one, then both knees as a mountain of rubble crushed down atop her. All she could do was turtle up with her hands over her head, hoping to ward off the worst of the deluge.

Somehow, she did just that. She could feel the full force of the material, especially the steel beam that drove down into her shoulder. But again, it did not really hurt, at least not that much. It was almost as if she was as solid as iron and stone herself. Of course, she wasn't after all. It was not like she was a meta herself. It was the suit that protected her.

She coughed. Her will, and Gadget's suit, could not do anything about the dust that choked her lungs. She shoved the steel beam off her, and heard it thump loudly upon the carpeted floor. Brushing off the rest of the debris, she rose back to her feet. She looked around, and saw that she had indeed been the only one struck by the wreckage. Again, she wondered if that had been Lighthammer's design. Gadget had said that he was a gray hat after all, not a Black one.

Of the villain himself, there was no sign. She imagined that he had made his escape while she was buried. He had set her up perfectly, and she had fallen for the trap, like an idiot.

"Are you ok miss?" someone asked.

"Wow, she's a real meta!" another cried.

"That was amazing!" another voice came to her ears.

People began to crowd closer now. She scanned the crowd for Avery, but there were just too many people moving in now. She could not see the Indian diamond trader either, or his valuable cargo. She hoped he and his bodyguards would be all right.

"What's your name?" A phone seemed to jam itself almost in her face. There were phones all around now, cameras lit up and pointing directly at her.

She glanced down at the crow emblazoned across the chest of her suit.

"Umm, a crow?" she wondered aloud. Thunder hammered loud in her ears. There were too many people, with too many questions. As a child she had always daydreamed about being a hero and saving the day. This was nothing like that. She didn't know if she was a hero, or if she had truly saved anything.

She was thirsty, and now her body did begin to ache. She looked up to the hole in the skylight, where the dark sky stormed overhead. She crouched down to fill her legs with power, and sprang up, through the open hole in the roof. Lightning crashed, and she was gone.

Two Steps From Hell - Never Back Down (Extended) - January's Fight Music

General inspiration for Lighthammer (except most of his head is covered by a helmet)

Blood Raven cosplay

The writer signing books

Cyborg cosplay

Solid Light

Muay Thai - Downward Jumping Elbow

January's Crow Logo

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post May 8 2019, 07:31 PM
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I’ll take your wonderful Two Steps from Hell music vid and raise you the Nordic version!

A fun ‘tour’ of the convention floor – even if only what January could convey to us during the brief seconds it took to get her bearings after her crash landing.

I’m looking for – and seeing – how the weather is indeed responding to January’s mood or feelings.

Lighthammer – we have a name for her adversary now and it makes sense.

What a fight! January’s years of martial arts training certainly paid off – as did the suit Gadget made for her.

Neat how you ‘showed’ us the use and meaning here of the terms White Hat, Gray Hat and Black Hat. That does indeed inform as to why Lighthammer extricated himself from this fight without collateral damage to bystanders once he found himself lacking for continuing to go ‘toe-to-toe’ with his angry tornado opponent.

You tease us near the end by dancing around it but not quite naming her. Better hurry though - we don't want to risk having her labeled EarthAirWaterFireGirl. tongue.gif

Finally, she who will be Stormcrow leaves the scene in a fully appropriate superheroinesque manner!

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post May 9 2019, 03:55 PM
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Whoa, she's wearing her superhero outfit in public! Well hey, why not? viking.gif Oh wait. Okay she's at a convention.

She summons the words of Bruce Lee. IS that true about the hagfish slime being able to be crafted into hardened superhero gear? laugh.gif I'll feel silly if I google that and it's not true!

Hey, what happened to Lighthammer? Did he vanish? Maybe he caused that explosion so he could slip away. Well, she shouldn't beat herself up. Not like anybody else tried to take care of that thief.

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post May 10 2019, 10:05 PM
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All: I created a Google Map of all the Stormcrow locations. It has both current, and future sites of January's adventures. In the case of real places, I included links about them.

Acadian: I love music battles, everyone wins!

I went to a sci-fi convention at that very same hotel many years ago. That is what gave me the idea for not only a convention, but to use that particular hotel. It has changed a lot since then however.

I had a lot of fun creating Lighthammer, his name, and his powers. I think he would be a fun character to play. He has a lot of potential for advancing his powers.

I mulled over several ideas for how to denote good guys from bad guys. In the end I went with Black Hats and White Hats because of how they are used in hacker culture. Gray Hats were just an obvious addition. As you noted the way Lighthammer distracted January with a threat to innocents - but one ultimately empty - really showed the color of his hat.

Earth, Wind, and Fire would be a cool name... But there would be copyright issues. Have no fears though, Stormcrow gets her moniker in today's episode.

Renee: I was working over different ways to get January out in her super outfit without her deliberately deciding to be a super. I took a lot of inspiration from Batgirl: The Year One, which had Barbara Gordon going to a policeman's costume ball dressed in a Batman-esque costume. A supervillain had the same idea, and a super smackdown ensued that set Barbara on her course to becoming Batgirl. Instead of a costume party, I went with a convention, since those are such magnets for cosplay.

That is true about the hagfish slime. It is being developed as both ballistic armor and fireproofing. I put a link to it in my first post. I put links to tons of relevant stuff at the bottom of every post. The first post in the thread also has a collection of all the links so people can easily look things up.

Lighthammer dropped the ceiling on January specifically so he could make his getaway.

Book 1.4 - Stormcrow Rising

"That was incredible!" Avery exulted. No, he was not plain old Avery, but in full Gadget mode now. "I always knew you had it in you to be a hero."

The young black man sat in his chair, which was a cross between something off the bridge of the Enterprise and an old garage from American Pickers. It had more lights and buttons and speakers than most computers. Speaking of which, he had parked his nerdcore throne in front of his computer. If such a simple term could be used to describe the water-cooled monstrosity of circuit boards, drives, chips, and cables that served as his home away from home.

The rest of the basement - The Gadget Cave as January thought of it - was similar. It was a mix of old junk that Avery had somehow rehabilitated into technological masterpieces, and modern bric-a-brac which he had pushed far beyond the thresholds of science and nature with his meta-genius. She could not even name half of the things scattered around the room, and while she was not a rocket scientist by any stretch of the imagination, she was no stranger to Carl Sagan either.

Hanging incongruously in this helter-skelter of gizmos and just plain junk was a heavy leather punching bag. If it ever had a brand name, it had long since been worn away. Or perhaps it was buried under the rolls of duct tape that crisscrossed the worn brown leather like an ancient mummy. The Blob, January mused, it could always take a hit.

"I was an idiot." January flopped down on the dilapidated couch that took up the center of the room. It was one of those hand me downs passed from one generation to another since the dawn of time. Its upholstery was so stained and faded that there was no guessing what the original color might have been. They still took bets on it however. The wooden frame was chipped and scratched. Stuffing rose like angry volcanoes from rips and tears. Naturally it was the most comfortable thing January had ever sat upon.

"Did you start smoking the devil's lettuce when I wasn't looking?" Gadget cried. His fingers danced across his keyboards (yes, there were more than one). Images filled the plethora of monitors that not only hovered over his desk, but were also scattered about the basement. All of them showed raw footage of her battle with Lighthammer, each from a different source. "Social media is lighting up over you. You are trending, even bigger than that singing cat!"

"The cat made more sense," January pulled the cowl back from her head, and rubbed her temples. "I screwed up everything from the start. I hit him so hard I took the two of us out of a fourteen story window. A plate glass window! Then it just went downhill from there."

Gadget slid his chair across the room with a kick of his feet. It did not roll, so much as hover across the floor.

"Ok, trash talk mode off." Gadget said in his serious voice. "You really were fantastic. You know that don't you? You fought a real, live, meta to a standstill. You beat him. You know that right?"

"What if he hadn't been a meta?" January bit her lip. "What if he had just been a derp in a cosplay outfit, like me? I would have killed him with that first tackle. I should have killed us both."

"Tell me about it, step by step," Gadget leaned forward. He put his elbows on his knees, and cradled his chin in his hands. It was his paying attention pose. "A good scientist experiments, records results, analyzes, and draws conclusions from the data. Give me the data."

"Well, I heard the gunshots, I guess from the two bodyguards." January took a sip of Dr Piper. Gadget never seemed to have FaeCo in his cave.

"Right, those guys." Gadget put his phone on his forearm, and it stuck there as if it was glued in place. With a tap of one finger it folded out into a full-sized computer screen, while a keyboard snapped out in front of both his hands. "I did a quick check on them on the way back from the hotel. Both are Whitewater Security."

"Those mercenaries who are always in the news about murdering people in Iraq and Afghanistan for shits and giggles?" January asked.

"The very same ones," Gadget responded. "Funny how a company doesn't get investigated when it has billion dollar contracts with the government. Anyway, one of these guys is a former Army Ranger, the other used to be a beat cop in the D for ten years. I'm not sure which is more badass."

"Well, they were out cold on the floor, and Lighthammer was smacking around that Indian guy." January frowned. Just thinking about it made her angry all over again.

"Bhavin Subramanian." Gadget's fingers tapped again, and a picture of the diamond trader popped up across the screens in the basement. "Works for the Mahta Diamond Syndicate in Amsterdam."

"Yeah, Subram- damn that is a name. I am such a racist because I can't remember how you said it. He pulled out a gun and I think he shot Lighthammer. I couldn't really tell if he hit or not. Then Hammer just smacked the guy across the room like it was nothing."

"Right, so you found two of the scariest dudes in Detroit laying out cold on the floor, while a bulletproof super sent a third guy flying," Gadget said plainly. "And you're second-guessing yourself about uncorking on said armored monstrosity?"

"I shouldn't have," January scowled. "I know how it sounds. But I have to be careful when I fight, so I don't hurt people. I mean, I could kill you right now in less time it would take for me to say it. I always have to be in control of myself. I have to stay calm, measured, and only use as much force as is really necessary. That's one reason I do yoga. It's not just about stretching. I have to purge my negativity and stay centered. It's why I'm reading up on Paganism. I can never, ever, let my temper rule me."

"You know, sometimes I forget just how cool a chick you really are," Avery smiled, and laid a warm hand on her arm. Then he straightened up, and his voice took on a more formal tone. "So what have you learned from this?"

"Learned?" January scoffed. "That I almost got a lot of people killed, including myself."

"So what are you going to do differently next time?" Gadget asked. "Like someone said in one of your stories. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. You got a lot of experience tonight. How are you going to grow from it?"

"Grow?" January still did not understand what he meant. "I am never going to do anything like that again, that is how I'm going to grow!"

"Are you crazy?" Gadget scoffed. "You were made for this. You always were. I knew it since we were kids. Why do you think I made that suit for you? That is no cosplay outfit. I wouldn't have armored it with that hagfish snot, or made the wings for just a Nightchick costume. That's why I put a crow on it. It's not a copy, it's an original. It's a hero's armor. It's your armor. Not that I think you really need it."

"Not that I need it?" January stared at the images of her now playing across the screen again. "I would have been killed without it."

"I don't think so," Gadget shook his head. He brought up a vid of her smashing Lighthammer into the ceiling, and then literally leaping off of the wall, doing a back flip, and landing on her feet. "No suit did that. That is Olympics gold medal shit. Beyond gold medal shit. Only metas can do things like that. "

Next he brought up a vid of Lighthammer hitting her with twin blasts of light, and merely shoving her back across the hall.

"The suit wasn't made to stop that," Gadget said. "Like I said, I hope it's bullet-proof. But I don't know if it'll even do that."

Finally he brought up a clip of her rising from the wreckage of the collapsed ceiling. As casually as if she were flicking off lint, January saw herself toss a steel beam off of her shoulder.

Gadget did not say a word. He just gestured at the screen. Now a live feed came up from Worldwide Network News. The camera moved to a middle-aged woman with dark hair and glasses, and a chin that nearly came to a literal point. She stood behind a long, curved desk that was covered in pictures and artwork of various superheros and villains.

"Hello world, this is Gilda Gadfly, and do I have the dish for you!" she began in a gossipy tone. A picture of January leaping out of the skylight in the hotel came up behind her, captured just as a bolt of lightning cracked across the sky overhead.

"This is a first folks. A brand new white hat has created a literal storm in Detroit. Hundreds witnessed her debut in a knock-down, drag-out battle against the vigilante Lighthammer. All of this took place in the middle of a science fiction convention of all places. Dressed in black and gray armor, the crow silhouette on her chest declares a definite corvid inspiration, if not origin. This... Stormcrow... displayed some impressive martial arts skills as she rocked Lighthammer's world."

"But how?" January pulled her feet up onto the couch as the gossipy superhero reporter continued on in the background. She wrapped her arms around her legs, while resting her head upon her knees. "I mean, I wasn't a nefarious experiment by a mad scientist. I'm not an alien baby sent from a dying world. I'm not a princess. No girl can have any agency without being a princess… I'm just... me."

"I don't know exactly how," Gadget said. "I don't know how I do all of this!" He swept his arms out across the cacophony of insane technology that littered the basement.

"We both just do it," he continued. "It's what we do with it that matters, not how. I build stuff. I always have, and I try to do it for a good cause, or at least not for a bad one. You, you have always been a hero, ever since we were little. When you came out and transitioned, I knew it then. You were a superhero, even with no powers. When you fought those bullies, well, I think we all knew you had something extra."

"Something extra," January frowned. "Why can't I just be normal, like everyone else? Why do I have to be even more of a freak?"

"Don't you ever call yourself that woman," Avery insisted. He had not raised his voice, but it had turned to iron nonetheless. "Never!"

January recoiled, and frowned even deeper.

"I'm sorry," Avery continued in a soft, measured tone. "I didn't mean to go all 'Angry Black Man' on you. But sometimes you are so thick, you just don't see how amazing you are. Not because you can do back flips off the ceiling and punch out supervillains. Because you are the bravest, stubbornest, kindest, most thoughtful person I have ever known. Myself included, which is saying quite a lot. You have always been my hero, my litmus test. Whenever I don't know what to do, whenever I feel like losing my shit, I think: 'what would Jan do?' That is all I need."

January tried not to cry. She really did. Of course she failed. The next thing she knew, Avery had his arms around her. She clung to him like a drowning woman to a life preserver. He was right. He was always right. She always had these abilities. She had just never wanted to acknowledge them. Was it because she was afraid of being even more different than she already was? Was it because she was afraid of what she might do with them, or of what she should do with them? What was right and wrong, where metahuman abilities were concerned?

Carl Sagan


Whitewater Security is based on RL Blackwater Security aka Academi

Indians Take Over Diamond Trade

Worldwide Network News is fictional, based on HPLHS's Worldwide Wireless News

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post May 11 2019, 09:10 PM
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Neat Gadget Cave! Replete with ingenious technocuriosities.

"Social media is lighting up over you. You are trending, even bigger than that singing cat!" - - Yup, Catwoman can’t hold a candle to Stormcrow!

Whitewater Security. wink.gif laugh.gif

I really like January’s concern about remaining in control of her temper/negativity and in control of her application of force. Auspicious for a superheroine to feel a deep sense of responsibility to temper her power.

Aww, what a steadfast friend Gadget is to our self-doubting SuperCrow.

Nit:’Next he brought up an vid of Lighthammer hitting her with twin blasts of light,’ - - Looks like some editing gone awry – I know you want ‘a vid’, not ‘an vid’.

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post May 17 2019, 04:41 PM
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Acadian: The Gadget Cave is a fun setting. I have a closet like that with old computer parts. I imagine that closet on steroids to get the Gadget Cave.

I couldn't resist a nod to Blackwater when it came to creating an amoral mercenary corporation.

When it comes to January's attitude toward the use of force, I am reminded of Superman. Imagine if he ever lost his temper? That would be a bad day for the planet. I think controlling your temper would be one of the hardest parts of being a super. I imagine the ones who go Black Hat tend to be the type who can't control their anger and frustrations, and end up killing people by accident. Then they are wanted for murder, and trapped in the life.

Gadget is a solid friend. In many ways he is the epitome of cool. Though we will eventually see that his life is not all that it is cracked up to be either.

Book 1.5 - Stormcrow Rising

"Now enough with the existentialism," Gadget said as she finally pulled away. "The first battle is over, and the game is afoot. It's time we plot our next move."

"Our next move?" January wondered aloud. "Shouldn't we..."

She let the words die on her lips. Let the authorities handle it? She had learned what good they were when she was expelled for fighting back against the bullies in school. When she wasn't even allowed to use the bathroom, like all the other kids. Gadget was right. They had these abilities. They had to use them.

"First things first," January reached down into one of the pouches on her utility belt, and pulled out her convention badge. "Is this going to be all over the internet? I kept it tucked away most of the time, but not all the time."

"It only says 'Jan' on the badge, so even if someone remembers it, that's not a big giveaway." Gadget set off in flurry of typing. "But I can whittle down those odds a bit. There, neither you nor I were ever registered with the convention. So at least there's no paper trail leading to either of us."

She rose to her feet, and walked over to his computer station. "I hope that is good enough," she frowned. "I don't want to end up like Hailstorm."

"No one wants to end up like Hailstorm," Gadget breathed. "Here, I just set up a bot to continually search for any instances of your name being used in conjunction with Stormcrow. That will give me a heads up if anything does leak."

January nodded. This superhero business was new to her. But it was certainly not new to the world. Ever since Grognard and the Red Baron had fought in World War I, metas had been front page news. Their identities had always been carefully hidden secrets, for good reason. After what had happened to Hailstorm…

"What do we know about this Lighthammer?" She pulled her mind from ancient history to current events. "He had lasers, but they didn't burn like I thought a laser is supposed to. It was like he was hitting me with a truck. Like... well... a hammer."

"It's solid light." Gadget slid back across the room to his computers. "It was just theoretical. But with metas, theory becomes reality every day. He can project it from his hands. He can use it to fly. He can even form small force fields with it."

"Now it's all making more sense," January nodded. "His gauntlets had these little emitters in them. Or maybe that's not the right word. Maybe they're focusers. They're filled with diamonds. I think he sends his light through them, and it amps his powers."

"So that is why he would want to steal more," Gadget breathed. "It's not for the money. It's more power. He could put them in his boots to fly better, or in his arms to make stronger shields."

"So what do we know about him?" January asked. "You knew his name right off. I've never heard of him."

"He's a Gray Hat," Gadget said. He brought up a series of pictures and articles about Lighthammer on his screens. "He hasn't been around for long. He fights bad guys: smugglers, drug-dealers, even a few Black Hats. He's not picky about whether they die or not, and takes their money to finance himself. Not shy about fighting cops either, though he hasn't killed any of them. He seems to try to avoid hurting civvies though. That makes it kind of strange that he would try to shoot those people at the end of your fight."

"He was never going to hurt them," January shook her head. "The shots he fired at them were so underpowered they wouldn't have ruffled their hair. I guess that was just in case I didn't jump in front of the shot. He played me. He wanted me standing in exactly that spot, because he knew he could drop the ceiling on me there, and only on me."

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.

"Don't beat yourself up about it," Gadget never took his eyes from his screen. "He's been doing this longer than you have."

Gadget was right, Lighthammer had already done the beating up. Now that the fight was long over, whatever it was that gave January strength and some measure of invulnerability was gone. She ached where those bolts of hard light had struck her. But it did not really bother her much either. She had felt worse after her first serious gymnastics workout.

"He said something about blood on the diamonds," January reflected. "I was too caught up in the fighting at the time. But now I wonder if he meant something else?"

"As in blood diamonds?" Gadget murmured. He pulled the diamond trader back up again, and began opening window after window about the old man. It all flew by so fast that January could not keep up with all the information spilling across the screens. But somehow Gadget seemed to absorb it all like a digital sponge.

"According to the airlines, he's been taking regular flights between the Central African Republic, Antwerp, Surat, and a whole bunch of US cities - Detroit, Philly, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, and others."

"Surat?" January asked.

"It's in India." Gadget brought it up on Googol, and both images and articles on the city filled one screen after the other. "Large city on the Tapi River. Commercial center for textiles. Ooh, they have a fancy new cable-stayed bridge too, very chic. Oh wait, here we go. Ninety percent of the world's diamonds are polished in the city."

"I thought the diamond trade was all Jewish?" January scratched her head.

"Well, according to this article not anymore," Gadget's fingers flew and more text scrolled past his screens. "The Indians took it over a few years back. They have big extended families that do all the work cheaper. So they send the rough diamonds to them in Surat for processing. Then they sell them on the international market. The main offices are still in Antwerp. This one Mahta bigshot is a Baron in Belgium!"

"Sounds like a bad rap song," January murmured. "Bigshot Baron of Belgium..."

"Metro Boomin could put the beats behind that to make it a masterpiece..." Gadget laughed.

"So let me guess, the Central African Republic has a problem with conflict diamonds?" January became serious again.

"Oh snap does it..." Gadget sighed as he looked from one screen to another. Between the text were pictures of warlords, child-soldiers, and all-too thin people toiling under the watchful gaze of armed men. "One of the poorest countries in the world, civil war, ethnic cleansing, and diamonds. As you can guess, the diamonds don't make things better. They just make all the horror profitable."

"So he buys blood diamonds in Africa, takes them back to his family in India for polishing, then brings them here to sell." January frowned. She had fought for this man. She had risked her life for him. "Lighthammer had been in the right all along. I was the bad guy."

"No," Avery said firmly. "Busting into a hotel room, beating the crap out of people, and robbing them is not in the right. You did what any decent person would do."

"So what are we going to do about this guy?" January fumed. "We can't let him get away with it. I helped him. I've got to stop him."

"Well just beating him up isn't going to solve anything." Gadget mused. "We need some kind of proof that those are conflict diamonds."

"Can't you tell just by looking at them?" January said. "Don't they have a serial number or something engraved on the diamond?"

"According to what I am reading, not all diamonds do." Gadget filled more screens with information. "Only those graded by the Gemological Institute of America are like that."

"But his diamonds are coming from Africa." Jan observed. "Even the legit ones from there won't have that."

"Hmmm, this says the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was created by the UN to validate diamonds from all over the world. If it's been through the process, it's shipped out in a sealed container and has a certificate to say it's legal."

"Well there was no sealed container," Jan recalled, "just a bag. Anyway, he'll probably just say that Lighthammer destroyed the certificate."

"Yeah, but he's a businessman. So he has to have some kind of spreadsheet," Gadget reasoned. "He needs a way of tracking what he buys and what he sells. Otherwise he has no idea if he's making money or losing it."

"Or if any of his own people are ripping him off." January said. "So his phone then?"

"I've got that covered." Gadget got up and went rummaging through a drawer full of junk. With a bark of triumph he pulled out a palm-sized gizmo of buttons, knobs, and lights. "I did some experimenting on this last year. It's a Kingfish. It's based on the Stingray tracking devices that the military and cops use. It will completely clone every phone in ten feet. All data in just a minute."

"So I put this in my pocket, get within ten feet, and boom, we have him!" January smiled. "So where is he?"

"The police probably have him for questioning," Gadget thought aloud. "They love questioning. It gives them an excuse to sit around doing nothing."

"I can walk into the police station no problem." January could not believe she had just said that. A transgender person just walking into a police station. She might as well have said that she would walk into the lion enclosure at the zoo. But neither thought filled her with trepidation. Not anymore. "But how do I get close enough to him? They're going to have him back in an interrogation room, or some high muckety-muck's office."

"Hmmm," Gadget rubbed his chin thoughtfully. He went back to his computer and set to typing again.

January stared at Subramanian's picture, willing it to tell her his secrets. As if a picture on a computer screen could suddenly talk.

"You know, he doesn't look like someone who's exactly on the bleeding edge of technology," she thought aloud. "He's an old timer. He doesn't strike me as someone that would trust computers, or the internet, or smartphones."

"Probably like my Nana," Gadget said. "Can't even use a VCR..."

"What's a VCR?" January asked innocently. Gadget mimed slapping her, and she smiled.

"You think he's got something physical, like an old time ledger?" Gadget said seriously. "Practically prehistoric. But you might be right."

"He'd have to keep it close to him," January deduced. "But the police would have taken it after they searched the room."

"Unless he hid it somewhere," Gadget said. "He had plenty of time before the cops showed up."

"All right, head back over there and look, and I'll see what I can dig up on this end." He stood once more, and went to a battered old dresser that was half-buried under a tidal wave of junk. Fighting one drawer open, he produced a gold mine of decidedly advanced equipment, starting with an ultra-thin rappelling line.

"No need for a claw, it uses my molecular bonding technique, well, it will once I get it working," he explained.

An encrypted phone miniaturized down to an earbud came with it, an electric lock pick made from a toothbrush, a few smoke grenades, and of course the phone cloner. January was glad for the utility belt he had added to her armor. Otherwise she would have needed a pack to carry it all!

"Umm, unless I am going to take the bus, you are going to have to drive me," January pointed out.

"You can just take the Geo," Gadget said. He began to rummage around in his pockets until January brought him up short.

"And who is going to drive it?" she asked. "It's a stick shift."

"Oh, right," Gadget winced. "I guess I am coming with you, in the mobile command center."

Solid Light

Surat, India

Central African Republic

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

Metro Boomin

Stingray Phone Tracker

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post May 17 2019, 09:54 PM
Post #16

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From: Las Vegas

What a fun episode, as the plot thickens with more info on the dirty diamonds.

The Gadget cave still has me smiling, but now it’s off in the Gadgetmobile to drop off January – fully ladened with gadgets - for some ledger snooping and perhaps cell phone cloning. Hopefully.

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post May 24 2019, 07:07 PM
Post #17

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From: Ellicott City, Maryland

There's a Beverly Hills in Michigan!

I used to watch the original Batman when I was a kid, Batgirl and Catwoman were couple of my faves.

Lol moments: "nerdcore throne" ... "Its upholstery was so stained and faded that there was no guessing what the original color might have been. They still took bets on it however." ... "His fingers danced across his keyboards (yes, there were more than one)" .... ". "It was his paying attention pose. "

.. I give up! Half the chapter 1.4 has me cracking up.

"You know, sometimes I forget just how cool a chick you really are," Avery smiled, and laid a warm hand on her arm. Then he straightened up, and his voice took on a more formal tone.

Ah. MmmHmmm. *whistles*

Aww, I love 1.4's end. In general I love the dynamics between Gadget and January.

I put links to tons of relevant stuff at the bottom of every post. The first post in the thread also has a collection of all the links so people can easily look things up

Oh okay. Sorry, I don't always check links (only have so much time, so I spend most it reading the story itself). I had a feeling the hagfish thing might be based on something real though. I'll try to check links in the future before I ask questions.

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post May 24 2019, 10:18 PM
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From: Between The Worlds

Acadian: Now we know that things were not quite as simple as they seemed in the hotel battle.

Gadget is a fun character to write. He's just as super as January, but in a very different way.

Renee: We do have a Beverly Hills. In spite of the name, it is nothing like the one in California however. It is just an ordinary little 'burb. The rich place to live in Metro-Detroit is Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham (the latter always pronounced with an over the top snobbish English accent).

It is always fun to write when Avery and January get together. They both really come out of their respective shells and shine like polished gold. They are even more fun to write than Aela and Loria.

Book 1.6 - Stormcrow Rising

The trip back to the hotel passed in relative silence. January did not know what to say. This morning she had been a - relatively - normal girl. Now it felt like she was living in a different world. Was she really a meta? Or was she just lucky? Was she really going to continue this… investigation? The smart thing would be to call the police, and let them handle it.

As if the police had ever handled anything that didn't involve sprinkles and jelly filling…

No, she had mucked everything up with Subramanian and Lighthammer. She had to make things right.

She almost jumped through the roof when her phone rang. Her normal phone that is, not the slick, meta-tech communicator that Gadget had wizarded up. She glanced down at the name that glowed on the Galaxy J1's screen. She bit her lip, knowing that she had to answer, but wishing she did not have to at just this moment.

"Mom?" she finally said after swiping to connect.

She braced herself to weather the barrage of questions that came storming from the speaker of her phone. "Of course I'm fine. No, I didn't see any of it. Avery and I were in this really intense session of Call of Cthulhu. We didn't even find out until afterward. Yes I've seen it's all over social media. No I don't know when I'll be home. Yes I'll be careful."

"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.

"You never know," Avery said, "she must have been nineteen once too."

"That was probably so long ago they had rotary phones," January mused.

"You know about them?" Avery smiled.

"It saw it in a documentary about the Stone Age." January kept a straight face. "The Neanderthals used to throw them in front of mammoths. The mammoths would be so confused trying to turn that dial thing with their trunks that the cavemen could sneak up on them and attack them with their spears. Scientifically proven fact."

"Um, I think they were an early interface for telecommunication…" Avery said.

"I believe my version is much more plausible," January insisted.

By then they had exited I-696 and gotten onto Northwestern Highway, only to take the first exit from that onto Telegraph. Southfield's roads were a Gordian Knot that not even Alexander could have undone, and sadly cutting them in half was just not an option.

In moments they rolled up to the hotel. Its cylindrical glass tower rose high into the night sky. Jutting off to one side was the two story adjunct of the building, where most of the convention was taking place. Gadget barely found a place to park in the surrounding lots, and January noticed several news vans and police cars parked at the curbs.

Gadget began unfolding his suite of monitors and keyboards as January got out of the car. Clad in the sci-fi disguise of a pair of cargo pants and Cthulhu For President shirt, January slipped into the hotel without drawing a second glance. She was relieved when she walked past police, reporters, and convention-goers, and none paid her a second glance. It struck her as ironic that whether on a secret mission, or just in normal life, her thoughts on being noticed were exactly the same. Then again, normal life was like a secret mission for her. One where anonymity was safety.

The elevator to the fourteenth floor was slower than a Hutt on molasses. After what seemed like a thousand years it finally got there. She impatiently stepped into the hallway that ringed the tower. But she found the door to Subramanian's suite barred by yellow tape, and guarded by a police officer. She walked by nonchalantly, and headed in the direction of the Con Suite. Once out of sight she ducked into a restroom instead. Checking to make sure the stalls were empty first, she contacted Gadget.

"The police are at the door," she said, "but I have an idea that might get me in. I'll need your help though."

"I'm in the hotel's system," his voice came through her earpiece. "Lay it on me."

"Where are the housekeeping offices?" she asked. "If I can get a uniform…"

"You can pretend to be the maid and walk right in," Gadget said. "I have it, basement level. The door will be open when you get there."

January was half tempted to jump out the window rather than face another interminable elevator ride. But she did not know if her powers - if she really even possessed such things - would allow her to survive the fall. She did not have her suit on, so that would be of no help. She wondered if Gadget could find a way to miniaturize it, maybe fit it into a fake lipstick tube? She did not see how she could wear it under her regular clothes, like they did in the comic books. Where would she put the boots? Let alone the cape?

In time she was back down, and with a few directions from Gadget she found the door to the basement. As he promised, the badge reader turned green as she stepped up, and she heard an audible click as the door unlocked. Taking a ramp down, she smelled soap in the suddenly humid air, and guessed that the laundry was somewhere nearby. She stepped through an intersection of two hallways, but was brought up short by Gadget.

"Hold up," he said in a tense voice. "Step aside and turn around."

January did so without a second thought, stepping into one of the side hallways. Loud voices came from the corridor that she had been about to continue down, followed by the clatter of hard-soled shoes on the floor. She pulled out her phone and pretended to be listening to it. A moment later the two employees walked by behind her, talking about the super battle that had taken place earlier.

"I saw it all," a male voice exclaimed. "That Stormcrow chick was tight, you know what I'm saying?"

"Girl superheroes?" a different male voice responded. "No way. She's probably just some real super's piece."

"You see Jack, that's why girls don't want to talk to you," the first voice faded away into the distance. "This may shock you, but that kind of…"

The sound of a door shutting muted the rest of the conversation. January put away her phone and rolled her eyes. It was so nice to be reminded that misogyny was alive and well.

"Okay, you're in the clear," Gadget's voice said in her ear. "You've got the whole floor to yourself now. Lockers are down and to the left."

She followed her partner's directions. Was Gadget her partner now? Were they really superheroes? That was an idea that would take some getting used to. In any case, he was right, as he always was. After several storerooms and an office, she came to a large locker room and shower. She searched through the rows of lockers to make sure she really was alone. Then she turned to the door, and remembered the security cameras mounted in the ceiling out in the hallway beyond.

"Are they going to look at their video tomorrow and see me come in here?" she asked.

"Nope," Gadget said smugly. "Not a single camera has recorded you since we parked."

"Good, because this isn't going to be exactly legal." January picked a locker and sized up the combination lock that sealed it. The electronic lockpick that Gadget had given her would not work on this type of lock. It had to be a padlock for that.

But if she really was a meta. If she really had powers. A simple lock would be no problem.

Earth give me strength.

She took the shackle in her fingers, and snapped the steel in half as easily as if it was a toothpick.

January stared at the broken metal loop of the combination lock in her fingers. That had really happened. It had really come apart. Solid steel. At least, that is what she imagined that such locks were made of. Maybe she really was a meta after all? Beyond just making the weather awful.

Inside were several pairs of white shirts, dark pants, and vests. She held one up to herself, and saw that it was about four inches too short. She put the hotel uniform back with a sigh, and moved to the next locker.

This time Gadget stopped her before she could snap the lock. Instead he coached her through a process of pulling on the shackle until it was taut and twisting the dial in one direction or another until it stopped each time. He did some sort of arcane math, and spat out the combination. January was not surprised when it worked. He was always good at that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, the next uniform was too long. Feeling a little like Goldilocks, she tried a third locker, and finally hit struck gold. This time she found a maid's dress within, and had no difficulty slipping into it. That is when she realized that there were no shoes, or hose to go with it.

She reached into her purse and pulled out the extra nylons she always kept there, just in case of runs. She at least had that covered. She would just have to make due with her sneakers, and hope no one thought they looked strange. Feeling very domestic, January found a cart loaded with cleaning supplies and headed out.

Gadget stopped her as she passed the office. At his direction, she went inside and borrowed a housekeeping keycard. Then she headed back up to the fourteenth floor.

Her legs drew a few stares from the hotel guests on the way up, but no one said a word to her. She pushed her cart into the hallway and stopped for a moment to compose herself. Her heart was racing, her palms were sweating, and her mouth was suddenly as dry as Tatooine.

"Be cool," Gadget said softly in her ear. "You can handle this. You are just here to clean the room."

She imagined that the sky had gone cloudy again outside. She thought back to her book on Wicca, and the energy exercise she had been practicing that very same morning. Was it really only this morning? It seemed like a thousand years ago.

She blocked out that thought, and instead visualized herself as a tree. She felt herself planted firmly on the carpet, sending roots deep down into the ground below. She breathed in slowly, and pulled energy up through her imaginary roots. She felt that power flow through her body, washing her clean like a cool mountain stream. She breathed out, and felt that power flow out of her virtual branches, only to drip back down into the ground once more.

Earth give me strength, keep me grounded, protect me from harm.

Air give me quickness in body and wit. Let the weights of the world fall from me.

Water make me flexible in thought and form. Let me flow, let me crash.

Fire give me passion and energy. Let me burn bright in the night sky.

Spirit weave all together in balance. Give me peace.

She opened her eyes once more, and strode down the hall like she owned it. She did not pause when she came to the door with the policeman. Instead she reached out with her pilfered key card to open it, and only stopped when the patrolman stepped in her way.

"Sorry miss," the older man shook his head. "No one allowed."

"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. The ones who felt like the entire world existed only to wait upon them. She twirled one finger around a lock of her hair for added effect. "I have to do my job too, or I'll get in trouble."

"What was your name?" the cop asked.

January's heart stopped. All of her cool, calm, and collectedness vanished faster than ethics in the White House. She stared back at the gray-haired man like he had fallen from Mars.

"Gabriella Wilson," Gadget whispered in her ear.

"Gabrielle," January parroted him, "Wilson. I've only been working here for two weeks, and I can't look like I'm a slacker. Now I don't know what you're doing up here, and I don't care. I just need to clean this room."

"Not tonight honey," the policeman declared. "If your boss complains, tell him to take it up with the Southfield PD."

"She won't like that." January bit her lip.

"Yeah well, you're breaking my heart missy." The patrolman was as obstinate as a usb stick that refused to fit into its port, no matter how many times you flipped it over. "But I got my orders, and my orders are no one goes in."

January made a loud huff, turned her cart around, and stomped down the hallway. "Great, Paul Blart just foiled me," she whispered.

"We need to get a look in that room," Gadget said. "Maybe I can fake a call from his captain to pull him off."

"Don't," January insisted. "I have another idea. I'll be back out in a minute."

With that January returned her purloined cleaning supplies and uniform. Before leaving, she stopped at the first locker she had broken into and left a few dollars for a new lock. Heroes were not supposed to go around destroying things after all, not even locks, certainly not those belonging to innocent people.

Samsung Galaxy J1

Cthulhu For President

Picking a combination lock

Make an electric lockpick

Gabriella Wilson

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post May 25 2019, 06:41 PM
Post #19

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From: Las Vegas

This was a wonderful episode that sleuthed the story along nicely. What really stood out to me, however, was the clever/fun dialogue and observations January included. Such as:

"The Neanderthals used to throw them in front of mammoths. The mammoths would be so confused trying to turn that dial thing with their trunks that the cavemen could sneak up on them and attack them with their spears. Scientifically proven fact."

’She did not have her suit on, so that would be of no help. She wondered if Gadget could find a way to miniaturize it, maybe fit it into a fake lipstick tube?’

’The patrolman was as obstinate as a usb stick that refused to fit into its port, no matter how many times you flipped it over.’

This episode also really showed us that, just as January mentioned, AveryGadget and JanuaryStormcrow really are partners in this superhero business.

And finally, a beautifully telling tidbit that says much about January’s character:
’Before leaving, she stopped at the first locker she had broken into and left a few dollars for a new lock.’

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post Jun 1 2019, 05:09 PM
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From: Between The Worlds

Acadian: Working in the pop culture references is one of the fun things about writing this particular fic, as opposed to the Aela or Teresa stories, which lack such coolness as rotary phones and usb cables. smile.gif

Likewise, while it may appear to some that Stormcrow is a lone wolf crow, in reality this is very much a team effort. She would not get very far without her partner.

Whenever I am watching a super movie or tv show, it always annoys me when the heroes - who are supposed to be good guys - go around wrecking cars, houses and other things. That is people's stuff. In some cases their livelihoods. Heroes should be preventing destruction, not causing it. While a broken lock is pretty minor in the scheme of things, January is keenly aware that she wants to improve people's lives, not make them worse.

Book 1.7 - Stormcrow Rising

She made her way back to the car, and dove into the back seat. There she began to wriggle out of her clothes and into her costume. Should she call it a costume? That sounded silly, like something you wore to a Halloween party. Was it a uniform? armor? colors? She had to decide what it deserved to be called.

"This is always so much easier in movies and comics," she murmured as she fought with her cargo pants.

"You know, some metas have a power that lets them change faster," Gadget said. His eyes remained carefully glued to his computer screens as January undressed. "Maybe you could look into that?"

"I think I forgot to pick that at character creation," January said as she picked up one boot. With no heels and a thick tread, Gadget had clearly made them to be functional, rather than for show. It was something which her feet were eminently grateful for.

She wondered what would even make changing quickly possible. What did she know that she could use that way? Air lent her quickness and agility, among other things. At least that is what Branwen Renner said in her book about Wicca. Would that help her change faster? No, Fire was the key. Fire was the symbol for transformation. That was a phenomena near and dear to her heart after all. Could she use Fire to change?

Fire give me passion and energy. Transform me in the night sky.

Just like that, she had both boots on, along with her gloves, leggings, the torso armor, helm, and cape. January blinked. It had happened just like magic...

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

"What's that? Don't go setting my car on fire now." Gadget glanced back, and did a double-take. "That was fast. You just started."

"I just finished," she said. "Looks like I had few experience points to spend."

"Like I said, you have always been super," Gadget smiled.

"Wish me luck," January smiled back at him. Stepping from the car, she hunched over and skulked through the parking lot, staying behind the cars to remain out of sight. When no one was looking, she took a deep breath and invoked Air. Then she leapt up into the sky with all the strength she could muster. She extended her arms to either side as she rose into the sky, and hit the twin triggers in her gauntlets. Her cape snapped out into wings, instantly catching the wind beneath her.

She soared over the two story annex, feeling her heart in her throat. But she was not scared, not exactly. It was more like… exhilaration. It was a rollercoaster ride. She rode it the best she could, calling for Air to coax more lift into her wings.

But even magic, if that was what it was, had its limits. She reached halfway up the tower before running out of steam. Then gravity's claws began to drag her back down. January bit her lip. She couldn't go back down and ride the elevator up in her armor. This was going to have to work.

She saw an insurance building across the street. It rose perhaps six or seven stories, just a little lower than her current height. January twisted her body and canted her head in that direction. Air spilled from one of her wings, and she felt herself start to tumble. It reminded her of her first time gliding, after she had gone out the window with Lighthammer. She had completely lost control then because she had not kept her wings level.

She fought the panic that rose up within her, and concentrated on her form. She kept her body rigid, and dipped one arm down slightly, while raising the other. She could feel the lift decrease on one side of her body, and increase on the other. She found herself banking in the same direction as her lowered wing. Once she was oriented toward the insurance building, she straightened out her arms. Her flight leveled once more, and she soared across the road.

If anyone in the passing cars below saw her in the night sky, they made no sign. January had heard that no one ever thought to look up. She hoped that was true in this case.

She came down toward the roof of the glass and steel office building, and realized that she had no idea how to land. It was not like she had ever done it before after all. Crashing through skylights did not really count. She thought of her elemental chant, and let it calm her racing brain. She would do what she must.

The gravel on the roof came rushing up fast. But January breathed easy, and just before her feet touched, she triggered her wings. They instantly lost their shape, and flapped out behind her as an ordinary cape. She hit feet first, tucked into a forward roll, and sprang back up. It was no different from a thousand tumbling passes she had performed.

Except of course that she had just flown across the street!

January allowed herself a brief smile. Was it ok for this to be fun? Just a little bit? She hoped so, because it was.

Taking a few moments to breathe, she centered herself again before turning to face the hotel. Then once more she leapt up into the night sky. This time she waited longer to trigger the wings, until it felt like she was at the top of her jump. Then she was gliding back across the busy street, toward the tall cylinder of the hotel.

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

She felt a strong gust of air rising up along the side of the hotel. It gave her just enough lift to put her over the top floor. Before she could sail across the other side, she disengaged her wings and dropped to her feet.

She was just about to congratulate herself for how much better she was getting at this, when she crashed into an air-conditioning unit growing from the rooftop. Her legs stopped instantly as they slammed into the steel. But her upper body kept going. She pinwheeled forward through the air, and sailed across the machinery. Thanks to years of gymnastics, she was able to pull her arms and legs in, and turn the disastrous landing into a forward roll, or sorts. Finally she dropped to the rooftop in a crouch, and came to a halt.

She really hoped that no one had seen that.

She rose to her feet, gingerly testing her arms and legs. That could have been a really good way to break something. But thankfully her training, or the hagfish armor, had saved her from serious harm. She was not even sure if she had any bumps or bruises. She would have to wait and see when the night was over, and she changed out of the armor.

The rooftop around her was a nest of machinery. January imagined most to be air conditioning units of some kind, while other metal structures must have been vents. Some of the equipment was completely beyond her however. She walked to the edge of the roof, and traced its curve to the broken window of Subramanian's room.

She spent a moment just taking in the view. The expressways rose up to the north, noisy concrete serpents lifted up on gigantic pylons. Telegraph road was another bright snake gliding by underfoot, while smaller serpents led this way and that in the darkness all around. She could see people walking into and out of the parking lot below, and even picked out Gadget's yellow Geo Storm. She also noted that the skylight that she had fallen through in her battle with Lighthammer had already been covered up in plastic sheeting.

She was fourteen stories up, without a window or a rail between her and oblivion. She breathed in the night air, and felt more alive than she ever had in her life.

She pushed that aside. She had work to do, a mess to clean up, made of her own mistakes.

Rummaging through her utility belt, she found the rappelling line that Gadget had mentioned. The one whose molecular bonding did not quite work yet. She wrapped it around a length of sturdy pipe and tied what she hoped was a strong knot. Tossing the other end out over the roof edge, she took hold of it with both hands, and made her way down.

Since Subramanian's room was on the top floor, she did not have to go far. It was dark inside, with the only light coming from the crack under the door to the hallway. January hung beside the broken window, and wondered how she was going to get inside. She tried reaching out with one hand, but there was nothing but broken glass to grab hold of. Putting one toe forward, she again found nothing to lever the rest of her body against.

Then she smiled, and put both feet against the solid pane of glass beside the hole. She squatted down against the window, then pushed out. She swung out away from the tower and leaned to one side. In a moment her momentum peaked, then reversed, and pulled her back toward the building. Only now she found herself in front of the broken window as she pitched forward. She swung inside as easily as from a theme park zip line. Once within she pulled up her rappelling line, and coiled it up on a chair near the broken window.

Avoiding the few pieces of broken glass inside the room, she began her search. Keenly aware of the cop outside, she was careful not to make noise. At least she tried to be careful not to make noise. She must have succeeded, because he never came inside.

Gadget whispered in her ear to try the night sight mode in her cowl. She grinned. He thought of everything. She fiddled with the armor plate around her eyes, and suddenly the room bloomed into brilliant blue-white illumination. With the room lit as bright as day, she commenced her search. She looked in every drawer, and even pulled them out to look for things taped to their undersides. She had seen that in a dozen detective shows. She checked under the cushions, lifted the furniture to check their undersides, scanned the closets, the mattress and bedding, everything she could find. Even the inside of the toilet tank met her scrutiny. But there was no sign of anything.

"If it was here, the cops found it," January breathed softly. "Have they arrested him?"

"Let me see," Gadget hummed. Plastic keys clattered in January's ear as he typed away.

While he was busy January took hold of the rappelling line and swung back out into empty space. She was fourteen stories up, with just a thin line between her and the concrete below. It was literally no sweat at all for her to climb back up to the roof. In fact, it was easier than anything she had ever done in gym class.

"Subramanian's still at the cop shop," Gadget finally said. "But he's not under arrest. So my guess is that they didn't find anything incriminating."

"So where is his account book?" January wondered aloud. She coiled up the line, and stuffed it back into one of the pouches on her belt. "Wait a minute, he came down from his room during the fight. Can you look at the hotel security cameras? Go back and see if he stopped anywhere after leaving his room."

"Right," Gadget murmured. "That's it! He stopped in the public bathroom on the fourteenth floor. There's no cameras in there, so I can't see what he did."

"Did he have a ledger with him?"

"No way to tell," Gadget said. "He could have it tucked under his shirt."

"The bathrooms were on the inside of the floor, so no access from the windows," January recalled. "I can come back down, change again, and come back up."

"Frak it." She walked across the roof to stare at an access door. "Just open this door for me."

It clicked open a moment later, and she made her way down a short staircase to small landing. Another door from that put her back into the main hallway that circled the tower. She went in the opposite direction from where the cop stood guard, and avoided eye contact with the one person she passed. Moving quickly, she entered the men's room, and began her search.

"Hey, you don't belong here!" a male voice cried.

"Tell my junior high school," January shook her head at the Klingon using one of the urinals. Thankfully the narrow partitions to either side of the fixtures shielded his bat'leth from view. "They told me I had to use the men's room. I wasn't allowed to use the women's until high school."

Ignoring the convention-goer, she went into the stalls and checked behind the toilets, then in the tanks. Floating in the third one she found a small black book, tightly wrapped in plastic.

"Got it," January said. She carefully unwrapped it, and opened the zip lock seal. Skimming through the book, she saw words and numbers in even columns, but none of it made any sense to her. "This has to be it, but I think it's in code."

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

"Is there anything this suit doesn't have?" January wondered as she followed his instructions. Holding the open book up to her face, she hoped he could see well enough to make out the characters.

"Yeah, that's a code," Gadget breathed, "maybe a substitution. I'll have to study it."

"All right, I'll be right back."

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

"You want me to leave it?" January said incredulously. "After all I went through to find this?"

"Yeah, but let's make a copy of it first."

After taking the time to carefully scan over every page of the document, January wrapped it back up and slipped it back into its hiding spot. She found the Klingon waiting for her when she left the stall. For a moment she was afraid he was going to cause an uproar. But it turned out he recognized her from her earlier battle with Lighthammer. Instead she posed with him for a selfie in the mirror.

The world was such a strange place, January marveled, sometimes even stranger than she was.

With no further science fiction entanglements, January made her way back to the roof, and leapt off into space. She practiced banking with her wings, and turned several wide circles around the hotel's tower. She slowly lost altitude as she went, until she gently dropped to the earth beside Gadget's car.

She dove into the back seat and went over her Fire invocation in her head. Then taking a deep breath, she began to change back into her normal clothes. A second later her Stormcrow armor was neatly folded up in her lap, and she was back in her cargo pants and Cthulhu tee.

With no further science fiction entanglements, January made her way back to the roof, and leapt off into space. Gravity tugged at her, but her wings deflected its invasive embrace. It felt like she was floating through space when January banked to one side, and began to turn around the hotel's high tower. The ground steadily rose up to meet her, yet all the while she felt that liberating sensation of being unchained from the earth, of being truly free.

She aimed herself toward Gadget's yellow Geo hatchback. Now the pavement was coming up fast. She triggered off her wings, and they transformed back into an ordinary cape. Too late, she discovered that she was still too high off the ground. She plummeted, the final dozen feet, and hit the parking lot hard.

She let her knees crumple up out of reflex, and turned all of that momentum into a forward roll. She darted forward, and pushed against the concrete with her hands. That sent her bouncing back up to her feet in a handspring, with the energy of her fall finally dissipated.

January turned to Avery's yellow Geo, and crossed the twenty or so feet to it with a single leap. She dove into the back seat and went over her Fire invocation in her head. Then taking a deep breath, she began to change back into her normal clothes. A second later her Stormcrow armor was neatly folded up in her lap, and she was back in her cargo pants and Cthulhu tee.

"So why didn't we take the ledger?" she asked.

Gadget blinked, and for a moment just stared mutely at her suddenly changed attire.

"That is going to take a little getting used to," he finally said. "But I was thinking, if we take the ledger and turn it over to the cops, Subramanian can say it's a fake that we made. We need to set things up so they find it on him, and can decode it."

"Can you decode it?"

"I can try," Gadget said. "It's not the Voynich Manuscript after all, how hard can it be? This might take a while though, so I'll drop you at your place."

* * *


Voynich Manuscript

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- Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 30th November 2022 - 05:54 AM