From May 20 through June 3rd, there is to be no discussion of US politics. All existing threads on the subject will be closed. People can start new ones once the hiatus is over. See the thread in Trouble Tickets for more info.
The sun was already behind the mountains by the time she got through customs. The breeze drifted to a lazy crawl.
Kesang Green stood outside the airport and looked along the coast to Hammer Bay. The coastal road already sparkled with slow-moving car lights. She shrugged and hailed a cab.
A yellow Tata Indicia darted between the charter buses and stopped in front of her with a brief, precise squeal of its tires. The car predated the century and needed a new paint job, but there wasn't so much as a ding on it.
The driver was a slender white woman in her mid forties wearing a flowing mass of blue linen. With an ease and grace permitted only by a lack of seat belt, she leaned over the backs of the front seats to smile at Green. She had delicate features, something only emphasized by her hairless head. The elaborate tattoo on her forehead, though, a sideways third eye backed by a golden nine-pointed star, seized Green's gaze.
"Where can I take you?" the driver said with the not-quite-Australian Old Genoshan accent. When Green looked down, the woman's unperturbed eyes were the same blue as the one in her tattoo. The loose costume jewelry bracelets on her arm were the same hue as the gold wedding ring she wore. Her face and tattoo matched the image on the ID picture on her dashboard.
Green returned the smile. "The Genosha Grand, please."
The driver nodded, and the car shot out of the parking spot. "That shouldn't take long," she said, not bothering to turn forward or even touch the steering wheel. "Traffic over the bridge into Hammer Bay is always faster than it looks. You're American, right?"
Green watched the car weave among fuel trucks and UPS semis, then slip out onto the shoulder to pass a slow-moving mass of cars, then opted to look back at the driver. "Right. From Los Angeles."
"I though so!" the driver said happily, resting her chin on her arm. "First time in Genosha?"
"Is it that obvious?" Green asked.
"A little. The suit, mainly," she said, waving her fingers at Green's black jacket and slacks. "We don't really do dress codes, here, so repeat visitors usually go casual so not to stick out so much. Not that it's too bad to stick out. We like Americans! So much of the new generation has American roots, and then there's the thirtieth anniversary coming up."
* * *
The fish-faced Deputy Minister grunted, then looked up from his desk through his long, black hair. One eye was a vivid red-purple, the other an electric yellow with green highlights. His scales were striped with those same colors in broad, wavy bands. He wore a simple black jumpsuit with no jewelry.
"Ah, another American agent, come to Genosha to track down the latest mutant terrorist we're harboring. Are you at least a mutant, unlike the last one?" he asked irritably, with a mild northern English accent.
Green wordlessly held up one hand, and an oddly dim blue-white flame appeared around it.
The man sighed. "'Yes' would have been enough, I wasn't requesting that you perform, Agent...."
"Green. Special Agent Kesang Green," she said, offering her FBi identification for his brief glance.
"Ah. Such a typically unusual name for a black American woman," he said, rolling his eyes.
Green looked at him with an expert lack of expression. "Only for the ones with a Tibetan mother," she said blandly.
The Deputy Minister grunted. "All details when the only real races are 'human' and 'mutant'." He held out his hand. "What terrible menace have you lost and decided to come look for here?"
She handed him a folder, saying, "33 Degree."
The Deputy Minister froze for just an instant before taking the folder. "So," he said, his smirk tight, "you're not even chasing a real fugitive, but instead that myth you Yanks came up with?" His hand clutched the folder tightly before he set it down before him on his desk.
"That file contains all evidence for 33 Degree's existence cleared for release to foreign powers," Green said. "We have no exact track of the suspect's travels, but we think he or she has been in Genosha for the last two months."
The Deputy Minister flipped at random though the file. "And why, pray tell, do you think the untraceable ghost story of the intelligence community is here in Genosha? Do you think," he started, hesitating for a tiny fraction of a second before saying, "he or she is our asset?""
Green smiled to him for the first time. "Not at all, Deputy Minister. 33 Degree simply grew up here."
It was the Deputy Minister's turn to look expressionlessly at her, before grunting dismissively. "We will cooperate with you, Agent Green, but we won't be wasting resources on wild goose chases."
* * *
The Mutate Liberation Monument sat at one end of Hammer Bay's largest park. It was simple as these went, a semi-circle of life-sized statues of those who'd died in 1990 "for mutant freedom". Ten of the statues were marble, depicting hairless children and young teenagers in jumpsuits, each with a number tattooed onto their forehead. Their names were carved at their feet; Lois Buhalis, Robert Harras, Glynis Oliver, etc.
As Green walked along the statues, the faces became younger and the figures shorter, until she reached the statue of the youngest one lost. This one was made of basalt edged with brass, and its design was an impressionist attempt at a cartoon of a person, especially compared to the classical design of the other statues.
It was really a very good likeness, at least judging by pictures Green had seen on the memorial wall at the Summers Academy.
Warlock of the New Mutants was carved at the figure's feet.
She stood silently for a few minutes, eyes wandering over the statues, then made her way toward the nearest Underground station. She pulled a notebook out of her pocket and flipped through it.
At that moment, she had the disturbing sensation of someone else looking through her eyes.
Green stopped and cleared her throat as she put the notebook back in her pocket.
That's pretty sensitive for a non-telepath. You've trained.
Green stepped off the sidewalk, staring into space.
No, I can still get in, even through those basic mental guards. I'm not a random teep.
She looked around. Blue-skinned mother with a matching child on her shoulders, stony-faced bald Indian man heading toward the Memorial, short black man in sunglasses and neon jumpsuit—
You won't pick me out. Let me look through the leads you were planning on following. Hmm.
—balding older white man in sunglasses and simple cap giving her a puzzled look, a woman of indeterminate age with short, dark hair and a loose, figure-obscuring dress walking directly away in no particular hurry—
Just the slightest sensation of a jolt of adrenaline fed back through the contact.
Well, that's a first.
Green followed, breaking into a quick walk as the woman a block ahead of her did the same. She barely took her eyes off the woman as she crossed the street.
What I find interesting is that you know you can't catch me...but you're going to try.
"You never know until you try," Green said to the air, grinning to herself. She worked down the gap while not quite breaking into a run. Not until the woman ahead took the stair down to the underground.
Good luck. The mental contact broke off.
Green finally did break into a run, weaving around a tall gelatinous woman and pushing between two teenage girls in bright unitards. She made it onto the stairwell before the woman reached the bottom, and she threaded her way past the slower walkers to catch up.
She was thirty feet away from the train the woman stepped onto when the warning chimes finished. Her hands slapped against the doors as they closed.
The woman looked back at her though the door. White skin, large, opaque sunglasses, black chin-length hair that was certainly a wig. She could be any of millions of women.
Green mouthed one word, not even saying it out loud.
The woman did nothing. The train's brakes hissed, and then she reached up and raised her sunglasses. Wide blue eyes met Agent Green's eyes as the train pulled away.
OOC:Kesange Green was a squib at the Summers Academy. Her light-emission power is under her full control, but it's not terribly useful or powerful. She became a damn fine investigator, though, and joined the FBI.
There was one bakery in Hammer Bay that had the most perfect croissants in Genosha. Everyone who worked in the bakery knew it and felt real pride in that fact, especially their founder. Gérard had worked in Paris bakeries before moving to Genosha in the 1980s, when things seemed good.
He'd stayed in Genosha when things had gotten disturbing because he'd married, and his Genoshan wife wouldn't leave. He'd stayed when things had gotten terrifying and unpredictable and many had fled. He'd almost convinced his wife to leave when Magneto came and seized power. They'd both been afraid at that point, especially when the island was declared a mutant nation.
But, despite being two baseline humans as more and mutants came to the island, they never quite decided to leave. Almost nobody minded a classique human who smiled and baked for them. Their daughter met a handsome young man who could mold cold metal like clay, and their grandchildren were all les mutants. Times since had been good.
Ah, but Gérard was daydreaming while this woman in front of him held out her cash. In this particular mood, she reminded him, just in the way she held the money and smiled, of this young girl who'd always come by in mornings before school. What was her name...
The woman's smile turned a bit wistful, but Gérard took no note as the gentlest of touches kept his thought from finishing and eased the old memory away from his conscious mind.
* * *
The woman was strolling through the government district when fear spiked through a particular, loathsome mind. She fetched his memories for the context.
"33 Degree," the visiting FBI agent said.
She smiled slightly. That jumpy little man had a fine poker-face. The American wouldn't notice his reaction. She was no telepath; nobody let telepaths near his office, anymore.
And yet, the American surely did notice his reaction. Somewhat interesting.
"Not at all, Deputy Minister. 33 Degree simply grew up here."
The woman's eyes widened behind her dark, obscuring glasses, and not because of the suppressed panic of the piggish old intelligence officer.
This was very interesting, actually.
* * *
She walked toward the Ministry as the American came out of it. Behind her glasses, she looked the other woman over as they passed. Tall, with very short hair. A lovely, broad nose, yes, but the shape of her eyes and of her high cheekbones were obvious Asian heritage to anyone less of an idiot than the Deputy Minister.
Pretty brown eyes, too.
All of these were somewhat distracting details, so she filed them away and brushed at the American's surface thoughts to see her immediate plans. The Memorial after lunch? So be it...
* * *
At a street-crossing, she saw a vision of a little boy running out into traffic and into the path of a garbage truck. She flinched, trying to will that image out of her inner eye even as she looked back to see that same little boy running up.
He didn't register the crosswalk sign, the crowd of people waiting, or his older sister yelling after him. He just wanted to see his mother at her office.
The woman caught him. "Careful, now!" she chided the little boy as the garbage truck passed behind her. "That sign means 'Don't Walk'..."
* * *
As the woman ate a sandwich in a little place across from Memorial Park, she leafed through the newspaper. More saber-rattling from Russia toward an increasingly stable Ukraine, but observers didn't think it would amount to anything. (It wouldn't. It never would, not after the note she'd puppetted a guard into leaving on the Russian president's desk the very day he'd meant to start planning an invasion.) More debate in the United States about superhuman prisoners and their rights and how unresolved an issue it was. (It wasn't, especially with what their president was arranging right at this moment.) More argument about the validity of the files claimed to have been taken from the archives of the Canadian government's Department K. (Completely valid, of course; she never leaked fakes.)
There as a familiar beat in the background. The woman looked up with a grin, cocking her head to not quite hear the words of the song playing. But she could remember them.
I'm the real WMD
I'm your number one public enemy
I'm the one, your runaway slave
I'm the one, the one who got away
More than half her life ago, she'd stolen a name from a song that spoke to her one night as a lonely girl in school. This was before she'd grown up and joined Genoshan intelligence. There, she'd chosen another name. But, four years ago, after she'd left a short and profane resignation letter and walked out of the Ministry of Intelligence, disappearing completely off their radar? This very song had spoken to her.
Cameras that track me
They try to entrap me
Through shadows I creep
'Cause I know exactly
The knowledge you keep
I'm the word on the street
I've got nothing to lose
The whole world to gain,
Slipped out of your noose
Now I'm running your game
The woman felt the wave of surface emotions from Kesang in the park. Not just from the statues of the murdered children, but from the alien's statue. To Kesang, the alien had been someone her teachers and mentors had known. Someone people had remembered and reminisced about.
The woman took a deep breath, giving her target privacy. It never paid to dig too much into other peoples' hearts. There was something dirty to it, even if you saw the most innocent things. Maybe especially then.
She was here for facts. Who Kesang was meeting with, what connections she had made. Then, she'd deal with those faces. She'd disappear again, never seeing the FBI agent again.
She grimaced. She wasn't certain why. But Kesang was reaching for her notebook. The woman shook away the thought and gently tapped her visual cortex.
At which point, Kesang noticed her.
That's pretty sensitive for a non-telepath. You've trained, she sent. It was trickier when they noticed, but not a huge challenge. No, I can still get in, even through those basic mental guards. I'm not a random teep.
Alright, that may have been a bit bitchy to say to Kesang...the American. She was not on a first-name basis with this woman. But she knew the American wasn't anything like the people she'd worked with or worked against, before. She had a heart the woman could only think of as "good".
You won't pick me out. Let me look through the leads you were planning on following. Hmm.
The desired information didn't leap into the American's surface thoughts, and neither did they slide into the layers just under the surface of her mind. The Summers Academy apparently taught proper mental blocking technique. She'd have to really press to get past them. Mentally pin the American to a board and dissect her knowledge. It wouldn't hurt, not really, but nobody enjoyed being mentally probed that way. She'd done it before. She could do it right now...
She didn't though. She couldn't do that to Kesang. Other people had deserved the indignity of having their secrets torn away, but not her.
Time to leave, then. The woman turned away from the park and crossed the street, oddly sad.
She felt Kesang's eyes fell on her, and that startled her. Not unpleasantly, though. Not at all.
At realizing Kesang had caught the edge of that thrill, she thought, Well, that's a first.
The woman was very distracted by all of this. She saw herself running into several people and used those visions to neatly sidestep them as if she'd not been caught in thoughts. As Kesang caught up, she saw herself making missteps that would let the pretty American woman catch her. She didn't make those missteps, though she caught herself hesitating.
Maybe it was the novelty of such a disciplined, alert pursuer? The clarity of her thoughts? That she was clever enough to figure out where "33 Degree" had come from? That if Kesang caught her, she could trust she wouldn't be harmed? At least, not by her...
Maybe it was just that Kesang took her job seriously, but she still enjoyed it. She was having fun.
They both were having fun with this little pursuit.
What I find interesting is that you know you can't catch me...but you're going to try.
You never know until you try.
She fought down a laugh. Good luck, she said, forcing herself to withdraw. Forcing herself to pull up the visions of possibilities. To see which way she could turn and be cornered. Which trains Kesang would have time to step on and pull out her handcuffs.
It wasn't hard to find the path that ended with Kesang on the other side of the doors. The easy triumph faded as she realized she'd never see this American again.
And then Kesang silently mouthed one word the woman hadn't seen coming. A question she had to know.
Ellie Phimister looked back at Kesang and didn't see her arrest. Didn't see a hit team coming through a window. Didn't see any of the things her power ever warned her of.
She saw being alone, like she had been for too many years. She saw nobody ever knowing who she was, never understanding her.
She lifted her glasses, meeting Kesang's eyes. Feeling the recognition from old photographs Kesang had pored over, biographies she's painstakingly timelined.
* * *
Kesang Green's phone rang. Unknown number.
"Agent Green," she said.
"How was your trip back from Genosha?" asked an unfamiliar woman's voice. She had an accent that was not quite Australian.
OOC:Ellie Phimister was born in Genosha and developed telepathic and precognitive abilities. Once, she went by the codename "Negasonic Teenage Warhead", but she changed that when she started her career in Genosha's Ministry of Intelligence. After she left the Ministry and completely disappeared at age 32, a figure signing their communiques only as 33 Degree started finding secrets that world leaders would rather not be shared or threatened to share...
OOC: And yes, the fish-faced Deputy Minister has a good idea who "33 Degree" is. It does him no good, even when Ellie is in Genosha.
A Very Bad Morning Part Ten | San Francisco, Dr. Richard's lab, 2019
OOC:Previously: The Hulk Virus rages throughout the US. Quarantines are enforced, but the virus spreads. The military and super-organizations struggle to keep up, but Dr. Reed Richards (presumed dead) and the WCA (West Coast Avengers) are able to stay one step ahead of the outbreaks.
Every year, on March 7th, Ty Johnson, formerly Cloak, goes to the same corner in Koreatown. He dances in a sad ritual from sunup to sundown.
The young woman formerly known as Shi Min, The Personator, stalks Las Vegas, unseen. She searches out an artificial sun hovering in the desert.
Meanwhile, João Desforra, The Rider, leads a cult in the Bronx that spreads throughout the Northeast.
And Aisha Ghatak, Preta, is a zed, a power eradicator. She used to be friends with Shi Min, but no longer remembers her. After The Civil War, she works as a mercenary. For now, she works for The Rider, João. To those with powers, she has no face and is blindingly white. Dr. Richards finds it hard to hold his form, and has hidden from the world, and from Ben Grimm, since a terrible battle 'killed' Sue and Johnny Storm.
Dr. RIchards is a blob.
Anok Siddig (also known as Praxis) tries not to look at him. Her former best friend, Caprice Heard, doesn’t look at her, or at Dr. ‘Blob’ Richards.
The three of them are in Dr. Richards’ lab. His Jacosta Mark XLIV, named Visionarie, brings them coffee. A mocha cortado for Caprice; a black eye for Anok, and a dirty chai for Dr. Richards. He’s explained, over and over, that they are going into their subconscious. And they are going together. Which is unfortunate, because Caprice fucking despises Anok, and they haven’t talked in years.
Dr. Richards assumes an approximation of his old head and ‘smiles’ at them, which sends shivers down Anok’s spine. His head rests on a thick tentacle-like tendril, and its mouth isn’t moving right. Instead, Dr. Richards is talking through a gross orifice that neither woman wants to see. Another group of tendrils and orifices handle the tea.
As Anok puts on her hazmat suit, Dr. Richards pats her on the shoulder with a cartoon hand at the end of another tendril. She guesses this is his version of empathy. Anok places the combination safety helmet and tweaked out Cerebro on her head.
The force bubble opens and Anok walks inside. It’s been years since she’s talked to, or hell, even seen, Caprice. Caprice has green skin now, and Mr. Snuggles, who must be pretty damn old, sits in her lap. How is that hygienic? Caprice glares at her with open contempt. Damn, she misses her so badly. And she misses Grace. How did things go so wrong? Oh yeah, she had an affair with Grace while they were engaged. And… And Grace is dead.
Caprice stares with barely concealed hatred, and eventually Anok looks at the ground.
Dr. Richards extends his tendrils through the force bubble, using force gloves, and attaches a thick coil of wires to Anok’s helmet. The cable leads to a squat, but massive round machine.
Caprice puts on her helmet, also with a braid of wires that leads inside the machine.They lie down on two stainless steel beds and the machine whirrs to life, loudly, thumping periodically. It pulls them inside into a tight confined space. And seemingly within seconds, the machine, and the lab, evaporate in a psychedelic light show, and Anok and Caprice are in their street clothes, in some other realm. And the world shimmers and warps, and they are in a loud club. In Vegas. And are younger.
Anok (Praxis): “What are we looking for, Doc?”
Dr. Richards: “Like I said, there were four, maybe five of you in Vegas.”
Caprice: “There was only three of us, Doc. My fiancé. Myself. And my supposedly best friend.”
The three young women are dancing in a crowded club. As they talk, subtitles float before them. They are screaming to be heard, and are generally gossiping.
Caprice: “This must be your dream. You always watched too many fucking foreign films.”
The three of them are nearly grinding on each other. They’re laughing. They’re spilling their drinks as they dance. A few men surround them, trying to dance with them, but they are a unit. They are inseparable.
Dr. Richards: “Look at the crowd around you. Something is wrong. Something is off. Go deeper.”
And the scene shifts. They are in a room— a dorm room— small and cluttered and lined with posters, books, and garbage. They are watching a show. And Anok is getting her nails painted. And Anok looks down and the woman painting her nails has no face! And she's blazingly white! The woman is in underwear which also blazingly white. [In real life, Anok screams!] In the dream, Anok continues to gossip with the ghostly white no-face woman in blazingly white underwear.
Anok: “Oh my god, it’s the Zed!”
Clarice: “The what?”
Anok: “She’s a power nullifier! She was at The Rider’s compound!”
Clarice: “You saw João again?”
Anok: “I was on a mission. We’re not dating again.”
Clarice: “Did the fat man send you?”
Anok: “That man isn’t fat, and he’s the president. He is supposed to serve the public, and we definitely serve the public—”
Dr. Richards: “Ladies. I’m sorry. Stay focused.”
Anok: “Wait, what happened to the zed?”
And the scene shifts. They are back in Vegas. All three girls are getting ready to go out. It is the fateful night.
Clarice: “Oh god. This is when we were attacked.”
They listen to the deafening explosions outside. The door buckles as the entire building groans and shifts. They’re stuck. They run into the bathroom, huddling, terrified. Their cell phones aren’t working. And they hear an explosion and the bathroom door slams open!
Clarice: “God, we’re so lucky we didn’t die.”
They stare, helplessly, as a battle rages outside. The entire wall to the outside is gone, along with most of the floor and celing. The drop ceiling of the bathroom starts to crumble, so they carefully move into the hall between the bathroom and the living room. Grace pulls a gun out of her purse. Anok and Caprice are shocked. When did Grace get a gun? And suddenly they hear a banging on the wall. Someone is trying to smash through. Grace clicks off the safety. Anok rips the towel bar off of the wall.
Anok is screaming, “We will kill you, motherfucker!”
And the other girls are screaming similar threats. And then they hear, from the other side of the wall, “Aisha?” And all three of them start screaming.
Anok: “Wait… Who is Aisha?”
Dr. Richards: “Aisha Ghatak. The ‘zed.’ Your close friend. But what’s more important, right now, is who was yelling?”
Anok: “It’s that Wakanda guy!”
Dr. Richards: “No, it was a woman’s voice. The ‘Wakanda Guy’ was brought to you four directly. By a woman. Presumably a close friend.”
And the wall ruptures and through the cloud of debris emerges a black man’s handsome round face. A smiling version of the “Here’s Johnny!” scene from The Shining. [The Wakanda Guy is Adisa Abeikemi, who is now in space with Rocket Raccoon. -ed] And the Fourth Woman –Aisha, or the zed– hits Adisa, the Wakanda Guy, over the head with a lamp. To Anok, the young woman shimmers between a young Indian looking woman and the terrifying zed with no face and in blazing white. Clarice just sees a young woman.
Clarice: “Who is that?”
Dr. Richards: “I will explain everything, but more importantly, as I suspected, there was someone else there. You were five friends that day. And now the world only remembers three. Hrrm… Anok, we're going to have to contact the Summer Academy and Director Gyrich. We need an omega level telepath.”
Clarice: “What does this have to do with The Hulk Virus?”
Dr. Richards: “Everything.”
OOC:Anok Siddig is also known as Praxis, and has become one of the leading supers. She leads the WCA (West Coast Avengers). Also, she slept with her best friend's fiancé. The fiancé is dead, and her best friend hasn't talked to her until today.
And again, that was a great dual story, Eric. And a fantastically drawn Genosha. Interested to see how (or if?) you're going to tie them together. Also, Dr. Richards is in dire need of an omega level telepath.
And beachnik, my crew are going to push Dr. Richards to reunite with Ben Grimm. Now they are both monsters.
, I know you're slammed with work, but I think there's more here than just me who want to find out what's going on with the new Punisher! (And President Fisk is pretty intertwined with a bunch of drafts.)