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SubRosa
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.



People
January Ward / Stormcrow (RL Georgie Stone)

January again

Avery Green / Gadget (RL Shameik Moore)

Avery again

Blood Raven cosplay

The writer signing books

Cyborg cosplay

Carl Sagan

Metro Boomin

Gabriella Wilson

Gina Carano

Cecilia Brækhus

Blood Raven

Blood Raven

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)

Ibroham Alawar is based on RL Ibrahim Alawad

The Man Living In The Packard Plant

Sam Bernstein

Archimedes

Ken Hite

Fire Captain

Fire Lieutenant


Society
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

Bat'leth

John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball

The Nine Noble Virtues

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

Shoggoth

Xenomorph



Literature
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



Music
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 theme and ringtone)

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

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

Gustav Holst - Mars - Nátthrafn's Theme

Wagner - The Ride Of The Valkyries

Orbital



Places
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



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

Clips of Amelie Lens' performance at the 2019 Movement Festival




Clothes
Lululemon Fitted Jacket

Ohm's Law Shirt

Cthulhu For President

Made In Detroit Tee

Karategi



Real Tech
Fire 7 Tablet

Samsung Galaxy J1

Geo Storm

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Motorcycles

Cosmos

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





Real Science
Ohm's Law

Hagfish

Hagfish Slime Armor

Solid Light

Voynich Manuscript

Vigenère Cipher

Principles of Flight

Laser Inertial Fusion Energy

Ultra Dense Deuterium

Plasma

Tesseract

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)

Stormcrow Armor Symbol

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

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
Oshun

Erzulie



Martial Arts & Gymnastics
Muay Thai - Downward Jumping Elbow

Yoga Crow Pose

Yoga Scorpion Pose

SubRosa
Chapter 1 - Stormcrow Rising


Early May, 2019


Chapter 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 Ann 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.

"Give them a break," January said to the birds. "They're just trying to be cool and still be rebels at the same time."

"Says the girl who will never be cool, and couldn't stop being a rebel if she tried," she breathed more quietly.

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 chocolate 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."

"Exactly."

"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 his neck 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 model," January said. "Aela and Loria are fresh out of university. They join up with five other mercs to fight off the raiders attacking a farming village."

"They were bandits," Avery observed.

"I know they were bandits," January said, "but raiders sounds better. It's more... menacing. Besides these raiders are cannibals."

"Now we're talkin'!"

"And their leader is the champion of a dark, alien goddess. I even have a name for her already - Manaha. She's based on the Native American Wendigo lore. Somewhere in here I've got to use the word 'tenebrous'."

Avery laughed again. "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 his dark skin, he did not turn red, but she could see all the signs in how his facial muscles tensed.

"And..."

"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 an orc?"

"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 hot 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 - or Gadget as everyone called him online- 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 Global Warming 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," Gadget 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," Gadget 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 one super-sexy honey. 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?" Gadget stared at her like she was the insane one. "Anti-matter's expensive to create, and I'm not the Technocrat of Central Asia 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 cowl that would cover most of her head, leaving only the mouth and chin exposed. Beneath was a long-sleeved tunic emblazoned with the image of a crow in profile, surrounded by a black ring. Along with it were gauntlets, pants, boots, and even a cape.

She instantly pulled the cowl 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 Gadget'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." Gadget kept his voice cool. But January could hear the sense of gratification in his tone. "Just, you know, don't let any guys see it. I don't want to send out the wrong signals…"

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," Avery smiled.

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

"Ever hear of the hagfish?" Avery 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

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)

Stormcrow Armor Symbol
Renee
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

Awesome.
SubRosa
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

Awesome.

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.
Acadian
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’?
Grits
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!
SubRosa
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).

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...



Chapter 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 Pepsi 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 Pepsi 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, almond-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.

Diamonds!

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)
Acadian
’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!

Grits
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.

Perhaps
"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!

SubRosa
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


Chapter 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 super!" 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
Acadian
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!
Renee
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.

SubRosa
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.




Chapter 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 Pepper. Gadget never seemed to have Pepsi 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 didn't say a word. He just gestured at the screen. Now a live feed came up from Worldwide Network News. A pair of talking heads began relating the story of the meta battle in the hotel. They flashed to a still picture of her leaping out of the window at the very end, as a bolt of lightning lit the sky behind her.

"Stormcrow is what they are calling her," one of the announcers declared, "and she has lit up the city of Detroit tonight with her exploits against the infamous vigilante Lighthammer."

"But how?" January pulled her feet up onto the couch as the news anchors droned 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

Cosmos

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
Acadian
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’.
SubRosa
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.



Chapter 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. And here is a virus that will automatically erase everything with that combination."

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 a lot 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 level 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 transgendered 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
Acadian
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.
Renee
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.

QUOTE
"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.

QUOTE
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.




SubRosa
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.




Chapter 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 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
Acadian
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.’
SubRosa
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.




Chapter 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 Ann Tillinghast 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, cowl, 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 gently dropped to her feet. She was getting better at this.

The rooftop 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 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."

"F' 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.

"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."

* * *




Bat'leth

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

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

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


Nit: ‘While was busy January took hold of the rappelling line…’ - - Looks like you're missing a 'he' or 'Gadget' after 'While'.
SubRosa
Acadian: One fun thing about writing January and Avery is that I get to use all sorts of gaming terminology.

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

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

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



Chapter 1.8 - Stormcrow Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage
Truth
Honor
Fidelity
Discipline
Hospitality
Self Reliance
Industriousness
Perseverance


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

Never ever give up, no matter what.

January smiled faintly. She had been a viking today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What do you mean?" January asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

January's Parents House

January's Parents House Aerial View

John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball

Gina Carano

Cecilia Brækhus

The Nine Noble Virtues

Campus Martius

Michigan Soldier's and Sailor's Monument

Stormcrow BattleMech

Stormcrow BattleMech Pic

U of M Law School

Blood Raven

Blood Raven

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

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

Julian Ward (January's brother) (RL Gabriel Mann)
Acadian
Clever how she got her Crowsuit into the house.
’As if a larcenous squirrel might have made off with it.’ - - Whew, good thing mALX doesn’t live in Detroit. tongue.gif

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

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

So a Stormcycle is in the cards it seems. I expect Gadget will apply a fair number of mods.
Uleni Athram
A superheroine who actually knows her Marty Arties? Muay "OOOOWWWEEEEEEEEE" Thai at that?


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


laugh.gif

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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



Chapter 1.9 - Stormcrow Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We aren't-"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Gary Clark Jr. - If Trouble Was Money

Latest Olympic ruling on transgender athletes

Cost of U of M Law School
Acadian
January shows us plenty of raw emotion in this powerful episode.

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

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

Nice touch revealing how January used to be August!

Batman had the bat light that Commissioner Gordon would put up into the sky when it was time for the caped crusader to spring into action. Gadget has his own special ringtone as a call to action for the Stromcrow!
SubRosa
Acadian: That was a very intense episode, that gives us a glimpse into the turmoil inside January. Everything about her eventually ties back to her gender dysphoria - being a nerd to escape from the 'normal' world, being a fighter, her need to stand against bullies, her ability to feel empathy for others (especially those not born 'perfect').

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

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

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

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



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


Chapter 1.10 - Stormcrow Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Vigenère Cipher

Ibroham Alawar is based on RL Ibrahim Alawad

Flint Bishop Airport

Flint Airport aerial view

A closer view of the terminal and parking lot

The reverse view, from a model in the airport

The terminal

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

The escalator that January leaps up
Acadian
Nice job here, setting the scene and stakes for what seems likely to be an exciting encounter as Avery races the duo to the airport in the Gadgetmobile.

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


Nits?
’Some paused to shout and point at her, and the murder of crows that proceeded {preceded?} her.’
'He wore a t-shirt with an American flag brightly emblazoned across the front, ad {and?} tribal tattoos crowded the length of his exposed arms.’
treydog
The way you weave “existing” tech in with possible future-tech, as well as just enough supernatural/maybe-it-exists-mundanes-just-don't-know-about-it elements is great. It reminds me of the way Stephen King's best work managed to draw me in- he would build a “regular” world, and get the reader nodding along, “yes, I can 'see' that.” And then- “here, let's add just a little something extra- and you were already completely involved.

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


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

Second post- one escaped extra word note:

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


Extra “the” after “like”.

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

QUOTE
he had parked his nerdcore throne


Just perfect!

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

"The cat made more sense,"


Love it!

QUOTE
"So what have you learned from this?"


Sensei Avery?

QUOTE
No girl can have any agency without being a princess


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

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

QUOTE
the mobile command center.


Another perfect turn of phrase

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


And Athlain wishes that was true....

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

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


blink.gif

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

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

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

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


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

And now- I am caught up. Darn it. What a ride it has been!
Renee
QUOTE
Mr. Xiang said that the super battle at the hotel was definitely trending. Apparently everyone was using #stormcrow to post their pictures and videos.


Nice.

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

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


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

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


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


Sure, I will.

Two more chapters to catch up.....

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


Awww. sad.gif

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


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

What will happen next?
SubRosa
Acadian: This will be the crescendo of the chapter. Just 3 episodes left, including today's.

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


treydog: Thee-Dog's in the house!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Chapter 1.11 - Stormcrow Rising

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

Gift Shop and Bookstore on the right

The Food Court on the left

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

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

Do Not Enter sign far down the hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armor-Piercing Shotgun Slug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carotid Slap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes - "A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone."
Acadian
Despite the superhero tech, you rendered everything clearly and easy to follow during this heart-pounding fight. Stormcrow’s carotid slap was pretty cool and very effective!

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


Nit? ’Instead he replied with body shot.’ - - Do you want an ‘a’ before body shot?
treydog
Most excellent fight scene! And again, very happy with the mingling of tech and "powers". And the quote made me smile.
SubRosa
Ooops, I forgot to add some links. I went back and put in some pictures of the second floor of the airport, where the fighting takes place.

Also, is it better this way, with the links to interesting things placed within the text? Or is it better with them all at the bottom?
Acadian
Thanks for the additional links and update.

I wrestled with the same question for my fic regarding screenshots and ultimately concluded that putting them all at the end of the episode worked better for me. Though having links inserted right where they match the content is more 'responsive', I find it slightly more 'disruptive' to the reading flow. smile.gif
treydog
I tend to agree. While on the one hand, it is fun to "see" in real time- it also happens to be bad for my "ohhhh shiny!" impulse- and thus breaks the immersion.

With links or notes at the bottom- I can either click an re-read- OR click first to familiarize and THEN read. My 1/2 Septim anyway... (would that make it a "Martin"?")
SubRosa
Acadian: That Carotid Slap was something I filed away for future use when I was doing my Krav Maga research a few months ago. I was not originally going to use it in this fight. But it made its way back in the mix after I made some tweaks a few weeks ago. What I have really enjoyed writing in this fight is January's gymnastic skills, which have been a key component to defeating the mercenaries.

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

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


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

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



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



Chapter 1.12 - Stormcrow Rising

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

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

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

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

"Lighthammer, duck!" January shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

For Non-Nerds, the inspiration for Lighthammer's Qui Gon Jin comment
Acadian
Another intense fight! It was very neat how Stormcrow grabbed that guy’s shield and drove them both hard up into the ceiling so her foe’s unprotected back took the blow. The unspoken cooperation between White and Gray hats during the fight was very effective in showing us a lot about both of them.

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

Her momentary hesitation once she had the diamond fortune in her hand reinforced that she is human, but we never doubted her choice to pass the bag to the state trooper. Despite the interwebz precautions mentioned by Stormcrow to preclude any dishonest shenanigans by the police, her decision to turn over the diamonds displayed some necessary growth. Stormcrow is realizing she has to work with, support and trust the police if she’s going to continue as a White Hat superheroine. That is a notable step given her history of unhelpful encounters with authorities.
treydog
A most enthralling fight! Then there is the deeper struggle- the contest between Lighthammer's "do what is right for me" versus January's belief that there is a larger "right and wrong." And yet, LH is admirable even in his cynicism- he acts because others refuse to do so- or are purely acting from self-interest.

Most excellent, Sensei SubRosa.
Grits
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!!
SubRosa
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?
Renee
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
Acadian
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.
SubRosa
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.
treydog
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
SubRosa
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.
SubRosa
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.
Grits
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.
Renee
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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