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> The Stormcrow, A Superhero's Tale
Grits
post Jul 12 2019, 12:28 PM
Post #41


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Catching up with January and Avery has been quite exciting! Thank you for sharing the google map. I’ve enjoyed checking out the locations. Everything I know about Detroit I’ve learned reading Stormcrow! tongue.gif

Ah, there’s the other side of the Lighthammer fight. I liked seeing January’s concern over collateral damage and reminders to herself to stay under emotional control.

Ha, I know someone who wears a Cthulhu 2020 shirt and cargo pants! You picked an excellent nerd uniform. biggrin.gif I love how January’s education and interests come through in her thoughts, like “dry as Tatooine” and bat’leth.

I love how the bathroom scene turned into a selfie-with-meta. The bathroom has been such a battleground for January.

If she gets her plain white furniture from IKEA, January’s bedroom looks a lot like my (same age) daughter’s. The scene with her family did exactly what it was supposed to do for providing background information, perfectly smooth. Also it made real that January is indeed her age and subject to family life. A lot of fictional teenagers moan about their parents but never seem to have any restrictions in the story. Having to smuggle her meta-suit into her room while the internet blew up with videos of her was awesome!

I love the flying parts. January’s skills seem to be reasonable for her abilities, and she’s noticeably growing into them. The same for her Wicca stuff. We see her meditating and thinking about what she should do, so when something like the quick-change or the murder of crows happens it makes sense.

Links: I prefer them at the top or bottom. If they’re in the text I go ahead and click them all first anyway so that I don’t interrupt the flow when I’m reading. I love the links! The only one that hasn’t worked for me is the Cthulhu for President shirt, and I sat across from one on Wednesday so I can guess what that looks like. biggrin.gif

My favorite part of the airport sequence is the exchange between Crowgirl and Lightguy at the end. What an exit with the crows as the sun emerges! Whoop!!


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SubRosa
post Jul 13 2019, 05:08 PM
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Acadian: This two part fight forced me to think creatively when it came to how the bad guys were going to be defeated. January was not going to be able to win on sheer force of hands and feet and elbows. She was going to have to find ways to work around their invulnerable defenses (from the front). I was very satisfied with how it turned out, because again, it meant she won because she outsmarted them, not outfought them.

I was inspired by the teamwork in the fight scenes in this video when it came to scripting out Crowgirl and Lightguy's teamwork at the end of the fight. I wanted that back and forth guarding one another's backs.

We live in a capitalist society, so in the end everything revolves around money. Naturally the lure of all those diamonds was going to be strong on anyone who picked them up. It was what turned Subramanian into a Black Hat after all. So January had to be tempted, because so many of her struggles in life come down to money, and not having it.

Keep your eyes peeled, because in this epilogue to the chapter January will begin working toward cultivating a relationship with the police. She can see the difference between how the police and 'authorities' treat White Hats vs Gray Hats. She realizes how much having a good relationship with them can help her, and how having a bad one can hinder her. So creating an alliance with the police is definitely high on her list of things to do.


treydog: You just hit upon what I think is the most murky and yet most realistic facet of superheroing. What are the ethics of profiting from being a super? The easy way around it is to make your protagonist filthy rich like Batman or Iron Man. But the people like Spiderman who have to actually earn a living tend to be the ones people most identify with. Because they have pay the rent just like us.

That gets us down to money in the world of capes. Is it wrong for a super to take the loot from criminals and use it to finance their operations, to buy dinner with? If they do, aren't they ultimately profiting from their evildoing? Selling drugs, kidnapping, murders, etc... But on the flip side, is it really right to expect superheros to need a day job just so they can get through life? Shouldn't they be spending all their time out fighting crime, or training to be better supers? We don't expect firefighters or police or emts to do their jobs for free. So why should we expect supers to?

There is no real easy answer to this. April Daniel's duology Dreadnought and Sovereign (I had to plug them, they were not only outstanding, but a major inspiration for me to write this) introduces the idea that supers who have official recognition also receive a stipend. This comes from the level of civil government that sanctions them - citys, states, and federal. So Des Moines might have their own official cape on the city payroll, whose job it is to protect just the city. But they have no authority in say St. Louis. While the Sentinels in Chicago are authorized all across the Midwestern states, but not on the federal level.

I really like this idea, as it makes sense in a world that supers have been a part of for some time. I am also keeping the need for secret identities, partly because it is just the shtick of being a superhero. But also because of reality. When the Columbian government went after Pablo Escobar, he murdered the families of every detective who investigated him. So pretty soon no one wanted to pursue him. When it comes to people who can bend steel bars and shoot fireballs, attacking them in their weakest area - their loved ones - is just pure pragmatism.

I have hinted at this with a former super named Hailstorm whom I have name-dropped a few times. His identity was publicized by a newspaper. All of his loved ones were promptly murdered. He spent his final days in an insane asylum, never even finding out who did it. The reporter who wrote the story committed suicide. That created an unspoken pact between the press and supers, in that they would not publicize personal info on capes, even when they discovered it by accident. State and Federal laws were also enacted afterward protecting the identities of supers who had official recognition.

I will be getting more into this as January's ultimate goal is to gain official sanction herself. Because of that she knows that she needs to be a White Hat, and keep her public perception positive.


Grits: Grits is back!

I picked Detroit because I know this place better than anywhere else. I know all the neighborhoods, in a way that just looking at a map won't tell you. (That is an issue I am now grappling with in using Colonial Boston as a setting sad.gif ). I realize that no one else reading this will have that knowledge. But hopefully some of it will shine through in my writing. I definitely want to make use of the city as a character, which is why I am putting in specific street names and city names. I will also be using local festivals and events to add more to that city personality. I have a whole list of things I can work in (if I can manage it).

Jan is definitely a White Hat, though sometimes her anger and frustrations tempt her not to be. She knows deep down that she has no right to do this super thing, if she is only doing it for her own ego.

I have a Cthulhu tee! So January's nerd outfit was very easy to put together.

I think January got her plain white furniture from Meijier, which is the same as the IKEA stuff, only cheaper. I spent a lot of time working on what her living space would look like. I even googled teenage girl bedrooms to get ideas. All of which I ignored because of the pink overload. In the end I based it off her picture - pale white overall, but with a few splashes of red color.

Her living arrangements and family life will play a central role in future chapters. Down to her biggest arch enemy being one of her ancestors, and her super mentor and teacher being another ancestor. I was strongly motivated by the new Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), who is so superbly done. Her family is a huge part of her life and stories. I want to tap into that grounding element as well, both for good and ill.

January will continue to grow into her abilities as the story goes on. I have a whole set of things mapped out that she will be developing, including wings. Meeting her mentor will be a big part of that of course, as it will really open up her mind to the possibilities of what she can do.

I never thought of putting links at that top! That sounds perfect, I will start doing that. Sadly, I don't think I have any for this episode.



I do have a link! A TERF is an anti-trangender feminist



Chapter 1.13 - Stormcrow Rising

"In the top story today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took custody of alleged conflict diamond smuggler Bhavin Subramanian in Flint, Michigan. Originally making the arrest was Michigan State Police trooper Emilia Mercado, who was injured by a gunshot during the altercation in which Subramanian was captured."

"Of course our friends on social media all saw it happen live, as dozens of bystanders streamed the event as it unfolded. Here we can see new Metro Detroit sensation - Stormcrow - as she shields two men from gunfire. It can be clearly seen that she was struck in the back at least twice in the process. Yet she still jumped into the fray that had erupted between the notorious vigilante Lighthammer and Subramanian's bodyguards."

"And jumped is the word all right, in this video shared with us by one of our viewers, Stormcrow defeats one of the bodyguard's energy shield by literally leaping into the ceiling with him, driving his unprotected back into the quite immovable object. I hope the Sentinels are watching in Chicago, because it looks like they now have some competition for the title of the Midwest's premier superheroes."

"Subramanian's bodyguards were briefly detained as well, but were later released. All claim to have no knowledge of their patron's smuggling operation. Whitewater Security - which employs the men, also publicly stated that they in no way endorse or support the smuggling of conflict diamonds, and had no knowledge that Subramanian was involved in any illegal activities when he contracted their services."

January's smile turned to a frown as she listened to the coda to the story coming over Worldwide Network News. She was not surprised that the mercenaries would find a way to weasel out of their guilt. Whitewater Security was worth billions. They could afford the best attorneys money could buy. January was sure they had grown quite richer from Subramanian's conflict diamonds. Now they were going to get away with it.

The news anchors droned on to relate a similar repudiation of Subramanian from the diamond syndicate that had employed him up until a few hours ago. January wondered if they truly had no knowledge of the smuggling as well. Or had they been in on it too? How many documents were being shredded right now? How many tracks were being erased?

Still, it at least looked like Subramanian himself would go down for the crime. That was something. That would fix what she had messed up. She hoped.

There was still one more loose end. One not so easily repaired. January held her breath and walked into the hospital room where Emilia Mercado lay.

The arm that she had been shot in was now bound up in a cast. Already it was covered with writing in numerous colors and handwriting styles. Her wavy black hair spilled down across her shoulders, and her previously olive-toned skin now looked pale. January hoped that was just from the lights.

She looked tired. But her eyes were open, and watched the news on the television hanging from the ceiling. They moved to January as she entered the room, and widened slightly.

"Visiting hours are over chica," she said coolly. Again, January admired her grit.

"I know," January responded, "I was waiting for your family and friends to leave."

"I suppose I should thank you," Emilia said. "You pulled me out of the line of fire. You pulled that slug out of my arm too. You saved people's lives today."

"You don't have to thank me." January bit her lip as she walked nearer. "To be honest, I was just trying to fix the mistakes I made last night. I'm sorry you had to get hurt in the process."

January stared at the arm in the cast.

"I came to see how you are doing. I'm sorry I couldn't stop that shotgun from hitting you."

"How could you have?" Emilia scrunched her brows in confusion. "It was a ricochet. The gun wasn't even pointed at me to begin with."

"I know, but I need to do better than that," January said.

"Don't we all," the state trooper sighed.

"I was afraid…" January faltered, staring at the cast on her arm. "I was afraid you might… lose your arm."

"I almost did," she replied. "If it had been full force I would have. But they say the slug lost most of its velocity on Lighthammer's force field. So it only broke my arm. I was lucky, getting shot can be a lot worse."

"Does it hurt?" January wondered.

"Not with the drugs they are giving me," the state trooper laughed.

"Have you been shot before?" January asked. She already knew the answer of course. Gadget had gone through her background with a fine-toothed search bot. But she was trying to build a relationship. That did not start by telling someone you were snooping into their history. Granted, it probably did not start by doing the snooping in the first place either…

"No, never," Emilia answered. "It's funny, I never got a scratch in Iraq. But I go to the airport, the safest place you think you could be, and I get shot. By another vet of all people."

"The world's a mysterious place," January said. "Well, at least they will give you a few days off work."

"I was already on vacation!" Emilia exclaimed. "I was picking up my folks. They flew out from New York to see me. And this happens. What about you though? I saw you get shot on the TV."

"Just a few bumps and bruises," January said dismissively. "I've gotten worse in Krav Maga class."

"That's some class."

"My instructor is a bear," January smiled.

"So are you going to keep doing this?" Emilia became serious once more. "This super thing?"

"I honestly don't know," January said. "I made mistakes, I know that. I almost killed myself just flying into the terminal. But I think I did something good. Something good for people. If I can learn, if I can keep doing better, shouldn't I? Don't I have an obligation to?"

"You really are young aren't you?" Emilia narrowed her eyes as she studied January more closely. "I didn't realize it earlier. Are you still in your teens?"

"Are you going to get all ageist on me now?" January prickled. If there was anything that got on her nerves, besides the whole transphobia thing, it was being automatically discounted and ignored because she was only a teen.

"I'm not reading you," the olive-skinned woman explained. "That is the hip thing to say these days right? Or is it throwing shade? I was only twenty when I joined the Army. But there was a lot I didn't know then. About the world, and about myself. Sometimes it takes time just living to learn who you really are, and what you need to do with your life."

"I've lived a lot since I came out and transitioned." January took a chance, and threw that out there. She had to find out sooner or later, and better sooner in this case. "Being trans made me take a long, hard look at who I was. It made me stop lying to myself just to fit in and be how I was 'supposed' to be."

"You're transgender?" the state trooper looked honestly surprised. "I never imagined. I mean your voice is a little lower, but other than that…"

The state trooper's voice trailed off. Her eyes went up and down over January's armored frame, as if she was seeing her for the first time.

January resisted the urge to bite her lip again. She braced herself for the TERF tirade that she was sure would come. Because after all, why wouldn't it? That was just how the world worked.

"Well good on you chica," Emilia finally said. "I'll bet coming out was harder than taking those bullets. It was for me, when I told my family I was a lesbian."

January was not surprised by the revelation. Emilia's discharge papers said "homosexual activity" right at the top. But she knew from personal experience that hearing someone say it directly to you meant something.

"How did that go?" January stared at the crucifix that laid upon the tray table beside her bed. That was never a good sign. Gadget's digging had found that she was a Puerto Rican born in the Bronx. That sounded incredibly Catholic to her. Did that also mean incredibly phobic as well?

"Coming out was not nearly as a bad as I thought it would be," Emilia smiled again. "Sometimes we don't give the people we love enough credit. Of course with as many brothers and sisters and cousins as I have, we have everything in my family. There's an atheist, a vegetarian, a vegan, a communist, and a witch. One of my younger sisters, well siblings, is now non-binary in fact. Another one's even a Republican, if you can imagine that. Thanksgiving dinner is always exciting."

January feigned shock, and could not help but to laugh. Maybe she was creating a relationship after all?


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Renee
post Jul 13 2019, 06:34 PM
Post #43


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Lighthammer has force fields! That's cheating!

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


Hee hee awesome.

Oh yikes. She had to do some spontaneous surgery. Yikes.

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


Hmm... ."I'll be back?" Naah.

............ "Make my day, punk?" Lol no way.


........... "Cats come when they feel like it, not when they're told." Hee hee that's close I guess.



I love the conversation between Lighthammer and January. "I did research on you...." "I did research on you too!" spoken through gritted teeth in my imagination.

Hey I didn't see that coming, that resolution between superheroes. Twists and turns, m'lady, twists and turns.

Okay, what about this: "Am I a bird? Am I a plane? Oh hell no, I'm the Stormcrow!" Hmm... wink.gif

This post has been edited by Renee: Jul 13 2019, 10:18 PM
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Acadian
post Jul 13 2019, 07:46 PM
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It just struck when you referred to January as Jan in your comments what a perfect nickname for her. I see now another advantage of her name change. After all, Auggie would be a terrible nickname for Metro Detroit's new sensation. wink.gif

I love the plays on naming WNN and Whitewater Security. Oh, and ‘fine toothed bot’ was pretty clever as well.

Though her experiences have on balance not been positive with others about being trans, I chuckled over the irony of January silently prejudging cops and Catholics by assessing the odds of a Catholic cop prejudging her. That said, she has been kicked around and prejudged plenty of times so her angst and self-preservation instincts are very understandable. Life is so complicated, isn’t it? tongue.gif

January is indeed reaching out and it is brave of her to do so. I do hope the two women can become friends. Our superheroine is rapidly growing in many ways and it is a joy to follow her journey.

This post has been edited by Acadian: Jul 13 2019, 07:49 PM


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SubRosa
post Jul 13 2019, 11:56 PM
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As an editorial note, given that I have decided to move away from the Case of Charles Dexter Ward background for January's family history, I have changed the name of the author of the Wicca book January was reading in the first episode.


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treydog
post Jul 15 2019, 12:19 AM
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A nice bit of calm after the Stormcrow (sorry). But seeing Jan building bridges and making amends is an excellent insight into who she wants to be. Speaking of- had to quote this-

QUOTE
But she was trying to build a relationship. That did not start by telling someone you were snooping into their history. Granted, it probably did not start by doing the snooping in the first place either…


That gave me a smile.

Side note- still looking at early Boston. Did find a history of Beacon Hill that pointed out it actually did have a "beacon fire" on one of the original three peaks (which were later flattened to build upscale houses).

linkage here


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SubRosa
post Jul 15 2019, 02:50 AM
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QUOTE(treydog @ Jul 14 2019, 07:19 PM) *

Side note- still looking at early Boston. Did find a history of Beacon Hill that pointed out it actually did have a "beacon fire" on one of the original three peaks (which were later flattened to build upscale houses).

linkage here

Thanks for the link. I did dig up that there was a beacon up there on the eponymous hill. But not that there were three hills. Nor that they were cut down later! I had noted that it was right beside the common. I have been wondering how long the Common was used for horse and cattle grazing. The Revolutionary War era maps I see still show a big empty spot where the Common is. So I guess it was still grazing land then?

I also noted in an old map from 1732 or so that a lot of the area north and west of Beacon hill was used for rope-making, with lots of these long streets that were specifically for stretching out long ropes along. So they were not for people living there. But when I look at maps from the 1770s there are new streets there, which makes me think the rope layers no longer used those spots. Or maybe they did?

I think if I really want more info I am going to have to just buckle down and make a trip to the library and go hunt through the stacks. The internet has so spoiled me that I just don't think of doing that anymore.


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SubRosa
post Jul 17 2019, 02:03 AM
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I bought Boston in the American Revolution: A Town Versus an Empire by Brooke Barbier today. Thankfully it has much of what I was looking for in its first few pages. I still have to actually read it. Hopefully there will be more good info.


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Grits
post Jul 17 2019, 03:28 AM
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Excellent shirt! I’m a fan, even if Freya does not look impressed. biggrin.gif

“fine-toothed search bot” laugh.gif

Detroit does come alive in Jan’s story, it’s definitely more than a backdrop. I wonder if there is a historically accurate TV show or movie set during colonial times that could give you some inspiration for Boston. Maybe something about John Adams. You could build a framework of facts from research and then flavor it with what you know about the times. Oh! I bet there is criticism online that points out the flaws in TV shows and movies, which could be a backwards source of accurate information. Just an idea.

I loved the careful getting-to-know-you between Emilia and Jan. It felt very natural. The hospital setting and Emilia’s injuries underscored that January really is different and the risk of hurting people during super-antics is high. To me that makes the big fights more real. I’m not very familiar with superhero stories, so it’s good for me to see how things work in the story world.


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Renee
post Jul 17 2019, 03:40 PM
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QUOTE(Grits @ Jul 16 2019, 10:28 PM) *

“fine-toothed search bot” laugh.gif


Ha ha I liked that one too.

QUOTE
"No, never," Emilia answered. "It's funny, I never got a scratch in Iraq. But I go to the airport, the safest place you think you could be, and I get shot. By another vet of all people."


Yes, very true. So many soldiers barely get a scratch during active duty, then they come back here and have to deal with some real battles, right on their home streets.

Is there a lot of homophobia in Michigan? I suppose in central Maryland we're at a minimum these days. I simply never hear of anything negative in this regard. I had a friend who came out a couple years ago, and although most of his family was shocked, a lot of his friends who were not in-the-know simply shrugged it off. "Yeah, I could tell," one girlfriend of mine said. "Can you pass the sugar?" .. like the matter was immediately dropped as a curiosity, not much more.

And thanks for explaining about Michigan accents. smile.gif Yes, we say soda down here too, but my old boss was from Michigan and he'd say "pop."

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SubRosa
post Jul 20 2019, 05:06 PM
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Renee: Lighthammer's not a cheater! laugh.gif He's an energy projector. An energy sheath/shield for defense is pretty standard fare for those types. Since he uses Solid Light in particular, a force field was perfect for him. Right now his force fields are small, as he is new to this. But they will improve over time. (This is what happens when you play Marvel Superheroes and Champions, you look at all supers in terms of how their powers fit together).

I liked writing the talk between Lightguy and Stormgirl very much too. There is some definite conflict there, which January is not shy about backing down from. But the fact they are both willing to talk also shows us something about their characters. If you recall, Lighthammer didn't fire on January first during their initial confrontation. He told her to get lost, and then she took them both out the window. Even then, he tried to grab her in mid air to keep her from falling to her death. Really, January was the aggressor (with good reason to be of course). This willingness to cooperate with others leaves a door open between him and January, which I intend to use in the future.

I think I get more bigotry on the internet than I get here in flesh and blood Michigan. That is not to say that it is not rife in Michigan. Until the Supreme Court overturned it, Michigan had an amendment to the state constitution not only banning same-sex marriage, but also any form of civil union or shared benefits between same-sex partners. That was of course voted for and passed by the people of Michigan by an overwhelming majority. It is also the reason I don't do tabletop RPGs anymore. There is always one person in every group who forces everyone to choose between them and me.

Really though, it is more of a generational thing. Younger people don't bat an eye. Then the older you go, the more likelihood there is for hostility. My mother cried when I came out (and not cried in a good way). My brother didn't care less ("Yeah, I know") is all he said. My father said he though I was brave. It's a whole gamut.

Of course it is called Pop! Soda is what you bake with silly! laugh.gif


Acadian: When I was looking over the name she would pick for herself, the fact that January shortens to Jan was definitely something I considered (along with January being the first month of the year, being similar to the Two-Headed god Janus, and the same name as January Jones). Jan works as a good nickname. I don't use it except in dialogue, as I want to keep a certain level of formality to my writing. And I think she thinks of herself more as January than as Jan. But she knows people are going to call her Jan, and it's a nickname she does not mind.

Worldwide Network News was inspired by the The HP Lovecraft Historical Society. In their Dark Adventure radio theater shows, they have a fictional radio news station called Worldwide Wireless News. I just took it forward in time from the 20s and updated the name. But I still imagine it is the same company.

Sadly, January's reaction to the crucifix was taken straight from my life. I have had to learn to always be on my guard whenever I see one, because I don't know how the wearer is going to treat me. Sometimes it is the same as anyone else, other times, not. I always have to be ready for the latter. That is just the unfortunate reality that people like January and I live in.


treydog: Now that she has committed to this super life, January has a clear idea of who she needs to be. She has not worked out all the kinks yet, or put the Buffy Doctrine down on paper. But she has a clear goal in her head of the person she wants to be. Reaching out to Emilia is part of that. She knows she needs the police on her side if she is going to be successful as a cape. That means forging relationships. Emilia was the obvious first.


Grits: Freya is way to busy being impressed by "Outside!" to pay attention to a nerd like her mother. laugh.gif

I will be working in more Detroit personality in today's episode in fact. Later in this chapter we will have a couple cases where we can fly along with January and see more of the city as well.

I did try watching John Adams again, since I get it free on Prime. I tried once before, but could not get into it. Sadly, I could not keep interested for too long this time either. It's the inaccuracies! Unfortunately for me, all the nits I see about the show are about actual events (like who was where at what time), or about things like officers having the wrong buttons on their uniforms, or enlisted men holding their rifles the wrong way on their shoulder. No one really had anything to say about the portrayal of life in general. But the good thing is I am almost finished reading the book I bought a few days ago, and it has been very helpful.

If you want to get more familiar with superheros I highly recommend the new run of Ms. Marvel with Kamala Khan as the protagonist. It is a great entry point, as it has a very well written main character. It is not just about her punching things, but navigating her life. Likewise with the (now) older Batgirl of Burnside era comics (Batgirl New 52 #35 and up) and her Rebirth era issues. The artwork is not that great. I guess they don't spend money making the girl comics. But the writing is excellent.

Of course I also recommend the two books by April Daniels that I keep flogging. They are what made me think I could actually write a superhero story in prose (as opposed to how we normally see them in comic or movie form).



This Episode's Links:

Oshun

Erzulie

Made In Detroit Tee


You can follow along with January's walk. Start at the Poletown Bus Stop

The Poletown Bus Stop (well close enough to it)

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

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


The Packard Plant

The Packard Plant aerial view

Another aerial view

A closer look from above

Down on the ground

Summer

Winter

Another building

Inside


The Man Living In The Packard Plant


Principles of Flight

The Tigers and the Old English D






Chapter 2.1 - Stormcrow Recycled

Mid May 2019


"Hey girl, that's a really cute jacket you got on."

January looked up from the book she was reading on her phone. Standing in the aisle of the bus was an African Goddess. Perhaps she was Oshun? However, Erzulie was a strong possibility as well. She was tall and slender, with a curly mane that spilled from her shoulders like an indigo waterfall. She was dressed in a tight leather jacket, and even tighter skinny jeans that glittered with rhinestones. Her silky skin was dark cocoa, and her eyes soft almonds that gleamed in the morning sun.

"Umm, thanks," January glanced down at the soft pink fitted jacket that she wore over a "Made In Detroit" tee.

"That's like, a Lululemon right?" Oshun asked.

"I wish," January smiled wryly. "I can't afford one of those. It's a Clululemon, same as my leggings. Not even half the price."

"Now that's what I was thinking," the Goddess said as she sat down beside January, who was obliged to scoot over to make more room for the other girl. "I was thinking 'there is a girl who doesn't waste good money'."

"Um, I guess," January murmured. She did not understand why the Goddess was even talking to her. She must have been incredibly bored. Or maybe it felt like a safer bet than sitting anywhere near the four gang-banger wannabes in the back, or the old lady knitting socks the next seat over, or the woman with two sneezing kids in front.

"Oh you got some nice legs on you too, don't you girl?" To emphasize her words, the African Goddess put one hand on January's leg, and gently slid it along the soft fabric of her black leggings. January had to admit, it felt good. Better than good. Her touch was practically electric. "I bet you work out, don't you?"

"Yeah," January fumbled for words. "I do gymnastics."

January stared down at her boots. What on earth was this African Goddess doing talking to her? Was this some kind of butter-up before she tried selling her something? Was all this some kind of punked video? Was the other woman trying to pick her pocket? If so, she was going to be very disappointed. There had to be some reason for the attention, but January could not imagine what it could be.

The Goddess continued talking, and fawning over her. It made January more and more nervous, waiting for the other shoe to drop. She was relieved when the bus finally reached the Poletown stop. She lifted her backpack, and squeezed past the Goddess to get into the aisle and off the bus. Afterward, she immediately felt for her phone and her wallet. But nothing was missing from her purse, pack, or her pockets.

January could still remember how warm her hand had been, when it had gently slid across her leg. She could still feel it there, softly caressing her. That was not something she would soon forget…

January fought the urge to blush. She pulled her pack across her shoulders, and walked down the street. To her right a row of trees partially screened the looming colossus of the Hamtramck Assembly plant. Across Mount Elliott Street to her left were smaller steel plants, and a towering white building with no signs at all, or even windows.

January imagined that if she could get up on that roof, she could get a lot of air under her wings. She would have to change first. But that would be easy enough, given that her armor was in the pack across her shoulders. But a public street was not the place for changing clothes, not even as fast she could do it.

She made her way down the sidewalk, with only a few cars occasionally whipping past. One honked its horn at her, but she had no idea why. It was not like she was walking in the street or anything. She crossed a dilapidated bridge over I-94, and found herself standing in front of a gas station. The tall smokestack of the city incinerator rose up in the distance to her right. But she turned left instead, putting her back to it. She followed the service drive along the side of the freeway, past a big warehouse with semi-trucks parked outside.

She came upon a dilapidated railroad track, and turned right to follow it south. To her left was a parking lot fenced off with razor wire, with some sort of industrial building beyond. The sharp edges of the wire glinted in the sunlight, and the links of the fence were still shiny. That, and the handful of trucks and cars in the lot, told her that this was a place still in business. Though she could not guess what that business might be.

She ignored it, and headed down the railroad line. A thin bank of trees began on the far side of the tracks. She crossed over and ventured into the greenery. It was a nice, quiet spot, screened from any prying eyes that might be following her.

She closed her eyes and concentrated on her Fire meditation.

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

An instant later she was clad from head to toe in her Stormcrow armor, and her regular clothes were tucked safely away in her backpack. She leapt up onto the bough of a stout oak, and looped one of the pack's shoulder straps through its branches. That would keep anyone from finding it, let alone stealing it.

She knew that she could have just taken the pack with her. But she did not want anyone seeing her wearing it with the armor. They might take pictures, then they might see her in her ordinary life wearing the same backpack, and put two and two together. It was paranoia, to be sure. But that did not mean there were not people truly out to get her. Everyone knew what had happened to Hailstorm after all. She was not going to end up like him.

She dropped to the earth below, and stepped out of the greenery and into a street that paralleled the trees and train tracks. Beyond rose the sprawling ruins of the old Packard Automotive Plant. One massive building after another rose like a line of rotted teeth in a blighted jaw. They reminded January of a row of megalithic dominos. Push on one, and all them would probably collapse one after the other.

Not one building retained a single door or window. Broken cinderblocks, cracked bricks, and other detritus were piled up everywhere. Yet nowhere was there anything of value. No iron or steel. No wiring. Certainly no copper pipes. The only remaining life was in the graffiti that splashed the decrepit walls, and the trees and brush that rose from some of the rooftops.

It made January think of pictures she had seen of cities bombed to ruins in World War II. Except no bombs had ever fallen here. No wars had marred this spot. It had been neglect, abandonment, and decay that had writ the doom of the Packard plant, just as it had done to most of Detroit's once-mighty industries.

She found the man she was looking for soon enough, standing on the roof of one of the taller buildings and gazing out over the edge. His blue, white, and silver armor glowed softly. He stood arms akimbo, in one of those classic superhero poses. Then he rose slowly into the air, a plume of white light erupting from each of his boots. January wondered if he practiced that in front of a mirror.

She leapt up to the roof of the nearest building. From there she jumped again to the top of a taller ruin across the alley. By the time she made it there he had jetted over, and hovered in mid-air beyond the edge of the roof.

"You're late," Lighthammer groused.

"Blame the bus," January shrugged her shoulders. "I got here as soon as I could."

"The bus…" Lighthammer shook his head. "Really Crowgirl? You're taking the bus?"

"This ain't Chicago or New York Lightguy," January countered. "It's not like we have a subway, or an elevated, or any real mass transit here."

"You know, I'm working a mission. Probably sometime next week," he said. "An extra hand wouldn't hurt. Your end would probably be 50k, if things go well."

"And how many people would I have to kill?" Now it was January's turn to rest her hands on her hips.

"Don't think of them as people," Lighthammer shook his head and waved one hand from side to side for emphasis. "It makes things easier."

"I can't do that," January shook her head. "I can't live my life the way you do."

"You too good for me White Hat?" There was no mistaking the challenge in his voice.

"I didn't say that," January insisted. "Everything I do is always being watched, measured, studied, by people yearning to vilify me. Not only me, but everyone else like me. I don't have the luxury of ever doing anything wrong. I have to be perfect, all the time, now more than ever."

"Sounds like an impossible way to live," the armored man said softly.

"That's what my therapist said, back when I used to see her," January shrugged. "But I'm not here to stretch out on your couch Doctor Hammer."

"A'ight," Lighthammer nodded. "I used the extra time to get ready. Step into my classroom."

He waved for her to follow, and flew back to the building he had originally been standing upon. But he did not return to the roof. Instead he nimbly zipped down through a wide aperture in the floor beneath it.

January leapt after him. She hit the triggers built into her gauntlets, and her cape snapped out into a pair of wings. She followed his path, just barely gliding through the gaping maw that had once been a window. Once inside she hit her triggers again, and her wings collapsed back into a cape. She hit the ground with speed, tucked into a forward roll, and bounced back to her feet.

She found that Lighthammer had indeed been busy. On one otherwise bare wall he had spray painted several diagrams. One was of an airplane with arrows pointed out from it in all directions. Another was the side view of a wing, with dotted lines to denote what looked like the flow of air across it. He also had several bullet points spelled out, which he began going over.

"Okay, flight is governed by a set of four principles," he said. "Lift, Weight (or gravity), Thrust, and Drag."

He pointed to the graphic of the airplane, and January noted that each of those principles was spelled out beside an arrow showing which direction it moved the plane. Lift for the up arrow, Thrust for the forward arrow, and so on. She listened with rapt attention as he went over each, and explained how they affected flying. For example Lift was created by lower pressure created on the upper surface of a wing, compared to the higher pressure on the underside of the same wing. As the name said, that caused it to be lifted upward.

After spending some time on such book learning, Lighthammer led her out the window and back into the sky. Here they put his lessons to practical use as January glided along, with him beside her to coach her on angling her wings, and her body, to make the most of each.

January could not stop herself from smiling. It was not that she did not take it seriously. She certainly did. It was just such undeniable fun that there was no containing it. There were no morals or ethics to consider. No uncertain future to angst over. No one to insult her. There was nothing to worry about at all, except falling to her death on the broken concrete a hundred feet below.

"We got company Crowgirl," Lighthammer's voice erased the smile from her lips. "Four o'clock."

January had to spend a moment working out what direction that was. Finally she craned her head back and to the right to see a skinny old man with white-hair and a beard standing on one of the abandoned rooftops. He wore a blue sweater that said: "God in the 313". He raised one hand to shade his eyes as he stared at them. A pair of dogs circled him, wagging their tails joyfully.

"Don't worry about him," January replied. "He just lives here. He won't bother us."

"He lives here?" the armored vigilante said. "Is he mental or something?"

"This is Detroit," January explained. "We are all mental here. All the sane people left decades ago."

"If he calls the police, it'll be more than a bother," Lighthammer warned.

"He won't," January replied confidently. "Like I said, this is Detroit. No one here calls the police. They know there's no point."

"Such cynicism in one so young," Lighthammer clucked. "I respect that."

January laughed. It would be funnier if it had not been so true.

"So what's the 313 he's got on his shirt?" Lighthammer wondered. "Is that some kind of gang you got around here?"

"It's the area code for Detroit," January explained. "Go past 8 Mile and into the 'burbs and it turns to 586 and 248."

"Uh huh," Lighthammer nodded.

"So if you're in the 313, you're in the D." January went on.

"The D?" Lighthammer asked. "Oh, you mean Detroit."

"The D is something we say here," January explained. "It's from the Old English D the Tigers have on their hats."

"The Tigers I know," Lighthammer nodded. "I saw them play the Indians down at Progressive Field with…"

The vigilante's words trailed off, and January guessed that he was about to say someone's name. She did not press him for more. Now she remembered that they were not just two ordinary people hanging out and talking. They were capes, and they had secret identities to protect, even from one another. Especially from one another.

It was a sobering thought. Did this barrier exist between all metas? She knew that they might be allies at the moment, when they each had something the other needed. But that could change in the future. Would she always have to think so strategically with everyone she met from now on?

They returned to their original rooftop. Now it was January's turn to become the teacher. She began with the most basic moves of Krav Maga. First she demonstrated them. Then she worked Lighthammer through each, repositioning his hands, arms, and body, until he could perform the attacks and counters flawlessly.

Still, her thoughts kept drifting back to the African Goddess' hand on her leg…


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treydog
post Jul 20 2019, 07:15 PM
Post #52


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Joined: 13-February 05
From: The Smoky Mountains



The thing (okay ONE thing) I like about this story is the excellent incorporation of "mundane" into "meta". The pictures most definitely help with that! But this is the part that so many shows (or even movies) and books miss out on- the characters are "human" first, with "super" as an aspect of their humanity. So they have lives and emotions and problems and everything else that goes with the "Homo" part- all of which can be complicated (rather than "fixed") by the "Superiorous". Being able to "leap tall buildings" does not relieve one of the need for sleep or to do laundry, for that matter.

And the location-specific parts add so much to the story, especially the industrial and urban decay. Since the first car I remember riding in was a Studebaker, I admit to having a particular nostalgia for Packards....

Flight lessons in exchange for fight lessons- and January continuing to define and refine her code... excellent.

And the ever-present adolescent (and post-adolescent) struggle over- does this person like ME- for ME? Or is it some kind of joke or game? All of which is even worse for our protagonist because of her dysmorphia.

Wonderfully written and a true treat to read.


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Acadian
post Jul 20 2019, 09:35 PM
Post #53


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From: Las Vegas



The bus ride and encounter did a couple of things very smoothly. It reinforced the existence of mundane aspects in the lives of superheroes – especially new, young ones. In the face of attention from another woman, January somewhat awkwardly clung to her streetwise suspicions rather than seriously considering that another woman could be attracted to her. A rather endearing vulnerability actually. Hopefully, this African Goddess gave January a self-confidence boost in that area.

Happily for our superheroine, this vulnerability does not seem to extend to other areas, for she is certainly quick of word, wit and confidence when it comes to dealing with Lightguy. I love the idea of exchanging flight lessons for fight lessons. She is wise to build such an alliance, as Lighthammer does seem to have some redeeming qualities and clearly respects her as well.

Lastly, the entire episode was nicely furnished with bits of history and local flavor of Detroit.


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Renee
post Jul 21 2019, 02:12 AM
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I think I want an African Goddess next to me, if I ever ride the bus again.

I like that they don't know each others' identities. And it's so obvious Lighthammer comes from some where else. In fact he seems quite out of touch with everyday humans.

QUOTE
Then he rose slowly into the air, a plume of white light erupting from each of his boots. January wondered if he practiced that in front of a mirror.


(bolded text) laugh.gif

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Grits
post Today, 01:10 AM
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From: The Gold Coast



Not Cthululemon? tongue.gif Good idea to stash the backpack. I like that January’s natural suspicion over the gorgeous bus girl gets another layer of concern over protecting her identity. She has a lot to consider when someone gets friendly, unfortunately.

The Packard plant description was awesome, I love the comparison to bombed-out buildings. There’s a lot to infer about growing up in an area with that kind of industrial decay that doesn’t have to be spelled out.

QUOTE
"Don't think of them as people," Lighthammer shook his head and waved one hand from side to side for emphasis. "It makes things easier."

"I can't do that," January shook her head. "I can't live my life the way you do."

And here is a great divide between the two capes. (Not sure if they’re both supposed to be shaking their heads?)

Lighthammer’s flight moves are impressive. Flight school sounds as fun as January reports it was!



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