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[Archive] With This Ring (Young Justice SI) (Story Only)

Discussion in 'Story Archive' started by Mr Zoat, Jan 30, 2019.

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  1. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th March 2002
    00:38 GMT -7


    Jade backs up further, a shock baton appearing in her left hand and a crossbow pistol in her right. But there isn't any particular surprise in her expression. Her life to date hasn't encouraged or rewarded trust and she certainly wasn't putting any faith in me at this point in our working relationship. To be fair, I don't trust her either, which is why none of my employees know why we're here.

    "Hey, what the hell are you-"

    There's an arrowhead next to my head-

    "-doing?!"

    -as the battered canisters leak brown sludge over the floor of Mr Edge's vault. Liquids don't really compress that well but they do conduct blast waves. Thank you, Hollywood Science. I could shoot it again, but at this point-.

    The mud begins purposively pouring out of the canisters, collecting into thick strands which writhe and twist around one another before merging into a unified mass.

    The arrow lowers.

    "The.. hell..?"

    I lower the Gravity Rod and step forward as arms, legs and the outline of a face begin to appear.

    "Mister Hagen? Are you compos mentis?"

    I don't look, but I suspect that Roy is frowning as he reorientates his arrow. "Hagen. Clayface?"

    "Not my greatest role." Mr Hagen mimes cracking a neck he no longer possesses, then lumbers around to look at the canisters. "How long was I in there?"

    "About four years, I'm afraid."

    He turns back to the four of us, eyes -such as he has- properly focusing on me for the first time.

    "Edge?"

    "Will be spending some significant time explaining himself to the Federal Bureau of Investigation once we anonymously drop him off."

    He thinks about that for a moment.

    "You some kind of superhero?"

    "I prefer to think of myself-."

    "Heh. Supervillain, then."

    "Not really." I hold up the Rod. "Barely know how to use it." I indicate Roy with my right thumb. "He's a superhero. She's-" I look around and nod at Barbara. "-a former supervillain and she-" I nod at Jade. "-issss..." I raise my eyebrows. "Former supervillain?"

    She shrugs.

    I turn back to Mr Hagen.

    "Former supervillain. I, Mister Hagen, am in the business of locating people who have -for whatever reason- made some rather unfortunate choices, but whom I think might be amenable to making better ones in future."

    "Uh-huh."

    I reach down with my right hand, unclip a chemical flask and hold it out to him.

    "MP Forty. I understand it helps you pull yourself into shape."

    He looks at it hungrily. "It does more than that. It makes me feel human again. What do you want for it?"

    I shake my head. "Nothing. First taste is free."

    "Heh." He reaches forward with his left hand and takes it from me. "And the second taste?"

    I shrug. "You need to show me that you're serious about reforming. I can arrange for you to continue receiving doses while you're in prison-"

    "Ah, I already don't like this plan."

    "-and for a legal team who will keep the time you'll serve to an absolute minimum. Doctor Bates is already working for me-."

    He frowns. "Stella? She's still..?"

    "Invested in your wellbeing? Yes. Her work has enough other applications that that I've been able to justify setting her up in a laboratory, and I'm happy for her to also work on a long-term fix for you."

    "If I play ball."

    "If you play ball."

    He holds up his right arm and turns his hand into a morning star.

    "And if I don't?"

    "I don't intend to stop you." I step aside, leaving a clear aisle towards the vault's exit. "You're free to go."

    He lumbers past us and sticks his head out through the door. "That sounds better. Where are we, anyway?"

    "A small island in the South Pacific." He stills, then turns back to me. "I won't stop you from leaving… But if we don’t come to terms then I won't help you to leave."

    He lumbers back, growing larger as he does so. Though his combat abilities are… Disturbing, he is restricted by conservation of mass. While he can whip out his arms to tens of metres long they're not particularly strong when he does that, which is why he makes dense patches in the shape of bludgeoning or melee weapons when he wants to seriously hurt someone.

    I fold my arms across my chest and wait patiently.

    "Not Arkham. Not Blackgate. Someplace… Nice. I think I want to take up gardening."

    "I don't have the authority to negotiate, but… I'll see what I can do. Avoiding Arkham should be simple enough; whatever else you are you're clearly not insane."

    "Guess that'll have to do." He shifts his right hand back into a hand, twists the top off the flask and downs the contents. Then he tosses it back towards the canisters which contained him. "How are we getting off this rock?"

    "Submarine."

    He closes his eyes and groans.

    "Submarine. Why did it have to be a submarine?"

    "The island's too small for an airplane big enough to carry you and I don't own a helicopter big enough to carry you. Cheshire, would you be so good as to lead the way out?"

    She stows her pistol bow, makes brief eye contact with Roy and then turns away, heading cautiously down the corridor towards the exit. Mr Hagen regards me for a moment, then turns away to lumber after her.

    "Clayface."

    "Arsenal, I don't like using their-" I make fleeting eye contact with Barbara, who looks away. "-nom de infamies. I think it encourages them to think of themselves as criminals and nothing else. Will you stay here until the navy arrives?"

    "Yeah, no problem." He nods. "Good trip."

    Barbara and I follow Mr Hagen towards the front door, the sky outside… Glowing red for some reason? Flares? Did we miss someone, or is the navy early? That could be a little awkward if-.

    "Acquisition successful. Locating local variant 'Peter Wynne'."

    What the hell is-?

    Mr Hagen smiles as he looks back at me.

    "Guess I'm getting out-"

    He shrinks, assuming my form.

    "-after all. Thanks for the jail-."

    A giant blue.. hand reaches down and grabs him, pulling him up into the air.

    "Acquisition successful."



    "What?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  2. Threadmarks: Jungle Gym
    Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    Jungle Gym

    15th March
    20:46 GMT -5


    I walk-.

    "What-"

    I wince-.

    "-the-"

    Raquel grabs me by the right arm and pulls me around.

    "-fuck?!"

    "There's no point whispering. She'll hear us perfectly well if she concentrates."

    "What the fuck?"

    "Her culture has engineered a visceral revulsion at the idea of underemployment, she wanted a job and-."

    "A Nazi?!"

    "You know Canis is worse, right?"

    She grimaces, shaking her head. "He's not a Nazi, he's just a.. weird.. art.. guy."

    "Did you..? Miss the bit where he mentioned leading Apokoliptian armies? You've read the files on Apokolips, what did you think they were doing?"

    "Fighting a war?"

    I don't laugh, even though that statement is ridiculous.

    "The area around Apokolips is called 'The Waste', because whenever anyone tries settling there Apokoliptian armies go out, kill everyone and destroy everything. Canis personally led at least one campaign of outright extermination and sees nothing wrong with having done so, so, compared to that, the activities of someone who has mostly done the same sort of work as us but in the service of a far less pleasant society is less evil."

    "So she is evil."

    "Well that's an interesting philosophical-."

    "Paul."

    "No, it is! Let's assume that as a fully indoctrinated National Socialist-"

    "Nazi."

    "-she sees absolutely nothing wrong with killing someone from one of their scapegoat groups. However, as a result of frantic genocidal purging before her birth she's never met one. Jews are extinct, gypsies are extinct-."

    She raises her eyebrows. "Niggers are extinct."

    "Actually, no, but I got the impression that Kaldur was the first black person she'd ever spoken to. The point is, though she would take part in a genocide if asked, she never has. Likewise, she hasn't ferreted disabled people out of hiding to send them to the camps because there aren't any. She hasn't had the opportunity to do the evil she'd be willing to do. What she's actually done is crime fighting and disaster relief. So is she evil-"

    "Yes."

    "-or a good person working for an evil state?"

    "Okay, kinda both. An evil person working for an evil state."

    "You know she did dinner-" Raquel grimaces. "-tonight, right? Look… Why do we arrest people?"

    "Yeah, I don't think Little Miss-"

    "She's thirty nine."

    "-Mz Nazi is gunna go join the Belle Reve Crew."

    "Of course not. She hasn't committed a crime here yet."

    Um. Except arguably wearing that red 's' symbol in Germany, where a very similar symbol was banned as part of post-war denazification and hasn't been unbanned. But fortunately America has much more broadly-phrased free speech laws.

    "But we perform arrests rather than summary executions-"

    "Because we're not Nazis."

    "-because we try to rehabilitate people, Miss Breaking-and-Entering. We support a system in which people who break the rules are placed in confinement and gradually re-socialised. That is what I would like us to do for Angelika."

    "I'm cool with confining the bitch."

    "You… Ah, you.. mouthing off to her might be a bit of a hard test of her willingness to play along right now."

    "Well excuse me, masser!"

    I frown. "Oh, don't even. I'm not asking you to calm down a little because you're black, I'm asking you to do it because, firstly, her seeing you as a rational person undermines what she's been taught about black people, and second, because it means that if I've horribly misjudged the situation she's less likely to kill you."

    "Oh, ah'm not going near her without my kinetic barrier-."

    "She has heat vision."

    She frowns. "Superboy didn't have heat vision."

    "It's a different form of hybridisation. She can't match Superman's peak output but it'll still incinerate you."

    She stands there for a moment with a decidedly disgruntled expression on her face.

    "Oh that's a great way to introduce her to the team."

    "Not… What I wanted to lead with. But I don’t need to tell you not to make rude jokes about Darkseid in front of Canis despite the fact that-."

    "Worse, yeah, I get it."

    "If you want to see what true evil looks like I've got a few thousand hours' worth of recordings from Vega you can go through. Mid-firefight cannibalism is a high point, and the Citadelian slave-cages match anything the Nazis managed. Or heck, you ever watched a cowboys versus Indians film?"

    "Yeah, but I never cheered the cavalry. Spotted that one."

    "What tribes used to live where Dakota City is now? You live there, work there, and I don't see you calling for the city to be demolished."

    "I wouldn'a invaded their land and killed them. She would."

    "Okay, look: you don't have to have anything to do with her. I'd appreciate it if you'd help, because at the moment you're one of two black people she's been introduced to and I think you disprove Nazi propaganda pretty hard."

    "Gee, thanks."

    "You're welcome. But you don't have to, and she's probably only going to be here for a week or two anyway."

    She sighs angrily.

    "What's Superman sayin' about this, anyway?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  3. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    16th March
    07:01 GMT -5


    M'gann tilts her head to the side slightly as Angelika leads the Earth's other kryptonians and half-kryptonians through what looks like tai-chi. The motions don't exactly correspond to those of tai-chi, but humans and kryptonians have the same points of articulation so there's a degree of similarity.

    "Overgirl knows Torquasm-Rao?"

    "She might look young, but she is five years older than Superman." I watch as she corrects his form, changing the angle of his outstretched left arm. "And Overman's seventy four. He's had plenty of time to study it."

    And a brief discussion of what it actually does made me very glad that we're not planning on fighting Overman anytime soon. From what Overman, Overgirl and Earth 10's magicians can work out, it essentially gives the user greater control of their innate energy fields. Which would mean that while Overman might be a physical duplicate of Superman, his training would make him in effect significantly stronger and tougher. And that's before getting into the really unusual things that are supposed to be possible with it.

    Fortunately, no one of Earth 10 had access to an actual master of either Torquasm-Rao or Torquasm-Vo. They've essentially been trying to recreate it from surviving records with the aid of personal experimentation. I suppose that if I were looking for one I'd try-.

    Overgirl doesn't know about Daxam. Which is one of two places where there might actually be a surviving master, along with the Phantom Zone. Or if not an actual master then at least an inheritor of the tradition.

    Ms Lane takes a slurp of her coffee.

    "Okay, you wanna give me the background on this?"

    "Obvious question: how does someone with super strength learn how to fight?"

    She nods. "I've seen how Superman goes through training robots. So this is kryptonian fight club?"

    "No, you-. Superman's kryptonian physiology, his strength, toughness and speed, make it very hard for him to improve his skill level. A human martial artist can go to any gym or dojo and find people to train with. Someone as powerful as him? He's got maybe two dozen people on the planet he can train at anything like full power with. And out of all of them.. only Diana is much use as a trainer."

    I had thought that Adom would be able to help there, but it turns out that he hasn't ever had to train a fighter in his weight class before either. Which makes sense: the other Ancients came pre-trained, Shiruta wasn't a brawler, and… As he said, he never had a family to share his power with before. He said that he would be happy to have training bouts with Superman, but even someone as clumsy as Clark Kent can only explain away so many bruises.

    "Though Superman's doing better than some. The best Hugo Danner could come up with during World War One was to have himself dropped onto enemy positions by plane. When he fought the All-Star Squadron, Atom beat him pretty easily, because Atom had fought plenty of people in his weight class while Hugo hadn't."

    "Wasn't he a boxer?"

    I nod. "An amateur, but he was pretty good at it. Though… Honestly? Reading the reports it doesn't sound like he was all that good at it either. Super strength and toughness change so many assumptions about what will hurt someone and what won't, you can't just transfer what you learn without super strength over."

    Or we'd just dose Superman with gold kryptonite and train him like that.

    "If she's five years older than him, how come she looks so young?"

    Um.

    "Have you and Superman talked about your long term future?"

    There's a certain something in her eyes as she understands my implication.

    "Oh. So she just hasn't physically aged."

    "No, she-. Well, I assume that she has, as I don't have earlier scans to work from. But she is aging now. Just not at the same rate a human would."

    Which considering how she was made is pretty darn lucky.

    Ms Lane turns to M'gann.

    "How does that work out with you and Superboy?"

    "Um… I'm not really sure? Martians usually live longer than humans, but…" She shakes her head. "No one knows what Kon's life expectancy is. If he lives as long as humans do… Well, that's still a long time. And if he lives longer then great!" She smiles a little.

    And doesn't mention the third possibility: that something goes wrong with all the exotic effects operating on Kon's body and his lifespan is shorter. That shouldn't happen. I've studied his biology and had the G-Lusca check him over as far as they can. As far as we can tell nothing like that should happen, but kryptonian energy fields aren't well understood. Jor-El… Might be able to make him entirely kryptonian, but that would involve radically altering who he is. Lex Luthor genes make you think rather differently to Kal-El genes, not to mention all of the other minor changes.

    No, I'm… Just being paranoid. If nothing else, earning Helios' favour has probably made him a low-end arcane life form, and if that's happened then conventional biology is much less important.

    "And how about children?"

    M'gann purples faintly. "I… There are… Things I could do with shapeshifting. They're kinda advanced-" Ms Lane's eyebrows are slightly raised and I'm not using empathic vision on M'gann right now. "-but that's not something we're worrying about right now."

    "Are you asking for any particular reason?"

    "Kids don't read newspapers, Match is single and working out with his shirt off." I bow my head slightly and raise my eyebrows. "I'm not proud of it, but Superman having a new workout routine isn't exactly breaking news. This is going in 'Lifestyle', if Perry even uses it."

    "Just another new kryptonian?"

    She nods. "One was big news, two was news. Three is a production line."

    "She comes from a parallel universe."

    "Had one of those last year. You got into a fight with him." She looks mildly curious. "Is the House of El crest different in her universe?"

    "No, and she operates under the name 'Overgirl', so it wouldn't really fit."

    "It's not an 'S'. The kryptonian glyph for 'hope' just looks kinda like one."

    "Yes, I… Yes, I know."

    "And that's… Germanic? Sun, or victory? I suppose either works for a kryptonian. Is there any reason she doesn't use the regular one?"

    "Yes, and you'll be free to ask her about it."

    "Does she know it's half what the SS used to use? Because even if she doesn't plan on sticking around, she might wanna consider changing it."

    "I believe that she is aware, but she's been wearing it for a long time, as has her mentor. Overman feels much less connection to his Kryptonian heritage than Superman. I would be surprised if she followed your advice."

    Ms Lane shrugs. "She can take the heat from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League if she wants to."

    It's completely inappropriate, but I can't help but smile. And Ms Lane looks a little too curious at my reaction.

    "Um." I clear my throat. "You ever thought about getting superpowers yourself?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  4. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    17th March
    18:11 GMT -6

    Harleen regards me dispassionately for a moment, then turns back to the barkeep.

    "Next one's a double."

    "So-."

    "Bh!"

    Keeping her attention on the barkeep as he pours her drink, she raises her left hand towards me.

    Alright then.

    I wait patiently as the barkeep finishes pouring and puts the glass down in front of Harleen. She picks it up with her right hand and raises it to her lips. And drinks.

    "Aren't y-?"

    "Bh!"

    And down the whiskey goes. She then puts the glass back down on the bar, but… Her hand hasn't gone down yet. So I keep waiting.

    Harleen closes her eyes, breathes in and then holds it. One, two, three and out slowly.

    Then she lowers her left hand and turns towards me.

    "Okay."

    "Okay."

    "So on Earth 10, the Nahzis rule the woruld."

    "Various far right groups rule the world, with the German National Socialists being paramount amongst them. Directly ruling a world using a relatively small population base is actually quite difficult."

    Not that has stopped all sorts of people from trying. Hah, thought the person from Britain.

    "So everyone's a Nahzi, they're just ain't all Joiman."

    "There's a range of political opinion, but ethnocentrism is a fairly common thread."

    "Okay. Okay. So… Do I need t'go in hidin'?"

    "I.. wouldn't think so?"

    "You do know I'm Jewish, don't yah?"

    I frown. "Should you be drinking on a Friday evening?"

    "Ah, yeyah? Why-?" She shakes her head. "I ain't practisin', but I don' think Nazis care 'bowd that."

    "You know those ridiculously racist Second World War era caricatures of Jews? With the hook nose and-." She nods. "That's what she thinks Jews literally look like. So you wouldn't need to hide even if she wasn't being overseen by a Justice League member or affiliate twenty-four seven."

    "Rilly? Did the Nazis kill awll the smawt people too?"

    "No, but they needed to maintain faith in their ideals, so they didn't ease up on the propaganda after their extermination campaign ended. 'This is what our enemies looked like, accept it, don't question it'. Which is why I came to-."

    "To me, because you think I know how to convince her nat to be a Nahzi."

    "She's not doing badly. Considering. She's managed civil conversations with homosexuals and black people. She's upset but not irrational about the realisation that her mother-figure is probably homosexual as well, and doesn't plan on informing her country's authorities. But she's-."

    "She's makin' exceptions and feelin' weird abowd it, not reassessin' her fundamental worldview."

    I nod.

    "Which is obviously a problem, because she might be able to get away with the-. N-word, she-."

    "Which n-word'?"

    "The.. five letter one?" She nods. "Because she's foreign and it hasn't acquired the derogatory association in some countries that it has in America, but she also calls some people 'sub-human'."

    "Yeyeah."

    "So any advice you've got on how to handle her would be much appreciated."

    "It ain't rilly my field. She ain't crazy. She ain't even a criminal." A tiny frown and a tiny shudder. "She thinks she ain't a criminal. I know you know bowd how maladjusted mosta the people in Belle Reve are."

    "Yes."

    "An' she ain't."

    "I know." I look away for a moment. "'Individuals aren’t naturally paid-up members of the human race, except biologically. They need to be bounced around by the Brownian motion of society, which is a mechanism by which human beings constantly remind one another that they are... Well... Human beings.'"

    "That a quote?"

    "Terry Pratchett. As far as I can tell he was never born here."

    "Clevah." She picks up her glass and taps the edge of the base against the surface of the bar a couple of times. "She's used tah fittin' in with awal the other Nahzis. If she ain't deliberately tryin' to keep to herself, she'll pro'bly come around gradually without rilly meanin' to."

    I nod slowly. "Because she doesn't see herself as part of a criminal minority, so she hasn't developed the psychic defences they need to maintain their egos when they resist the herd."

    "'Herd', huh?"

    "Animals form herds for sound evolutionary reasons. They learn how to behave from all of the other animals around them. I didn't mean it as an insult. And in this case it should be helpful."

    "Unless she internalises bein' an outsidah."

    "So I've got to persuade a group of superheroes to be nice to a self-identifying National Socialist. I mean I… Think they understand what I'm trying to do, but if she acts out in front of a camera it's going to massively undermine Justice League credibility."

    "And you ain't got no one you can share Overgirl-babysittin' duty with."

    "No, Kid Flash has a sort of horrified fascination with her. In the short term… On the practical side, I'm more worried about her acting on differences in rules of engagement. Policing works more or less the same on her Earth, but 'threats to the state' are met by lethal force by default."

    "And if a threat comes from someone she thinks is 'subhuman', she ain't gunna hold back none."

    "Not… Reliably."

    "Okay, well, there's a few things you could do…"
     
  5. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    09:24 GMT -5


    Eyes move around the room, Tula and Garth shrugging at those which alight on them. Robert looks thoughtful, but he ends up looking at me as well.

    I shake my head.

    "I don't think it's wendigos. They're not exactly subtle, and you need a very particular cannibalistic ritual to give someone the ability to turn into one. As far as I know, there were only ever a handful of Canadian tribes who knew how to do it, and they weren't exactly popular with their neighbours. It's never been confirmed as happening in the United States, let alone South America."

    Beryl raises her eyebrows. "Werewolf?"

    "Less unlikely, but…" I use my ring to bring up some of the pictures Batman handed us as part of the Brazilian government's request for help. "Look at this. Werewolves will kill people and eat them, but-."

    Richard nods. "They wouldn't make a point of tearing up a building site. You think there's an economic motive."

    "It could be a werewolf going to the site and then deliberately changing, or some other sort of shapeshifter, or some other sort of augmented strength. They're not too far from places we know Bane was selling Venom, for example. Or the site workers are in on it and it's just people with hammers and patience."

    Seriously. Wendigos? I'm surprised the Cattle Rancher's Association has even heard of those.

    Beryl presses another button and brings up the company's financial information.

    "Insurance fraud is another option. And mafia debt collection's always popular."

    I nod, looking around the circle. "Is it alright if Squire and I take this one? I already know the Brazilian superhero Fire-."

    Wallace frowns. "So why isn't she handling this? Or some other Brazilian superhero? Or their police?"

    Richard smiles. "Don't want a trip to Brazil, KF?"

    "No one got hurt." He shrugs. "Criminal damage isn't exactly high priority."

    "No, but it's low risk enough to be used for training, which is… Sort of the point."

    Roy snorts dismissively, shaking his head.

    Kaldur looks at him. "You believe there is another motive?"

    "The Cattle Rancher's Association owns Brazil's UN Ambassador. It's easier for them to put in a request to the Justice League than it is to get their own police to deal with it."

    I half-smile.

    "Plus, we're cheaper."

    Though Wallace does have a point. Beatriz might not want it because she's on bad terms with the ranchers, and they might not want her because she shoots things with fire and she can only control her primary fires. If she sets anything else on fire it burns normally. But that still leaves a number of publically-active superheroes and plenty of private security specialists. Fabiao was right on the money there. The Cattle Rancher's Association has a lot of wealthy members who wouldn't be slow about bringing that level of force in to deal with augmented protestors.

    Are we..? Really that easy to get hold of? I mean, if it was something that we were needed to deal with then I wouldn't have a problem, but this.. could result in a lot of trivial stuff being dumped on us. Or on the League.

    Kaldur nods, making eye contact with me. "The mission is yours."

    Beryl calls up a holographic roster, and moves her emblem and mine into the 'Brazil' column. Kaldur dismisses the images of the Brazil assignment and calls up a new set.

    "West Africa. An armed group has been attacking isolated villages. There are reports that they are led by an albino, and have access to extremely advanced weaponry."

    There's no picture to go with it, but the description came from people who escaped from different attacks and had no opportunity to compare their stories. The only African albino I remember from DC is that one animal man villain, who…

    I look around at the assortment of demigods who are now part of the team.

    Frankly, just about any of us could beat without too much trouble due to having much more raw power than Vixen or Mr Baker. And while Africa's big, there aren’t that many places where you can hide a penis tank. Tracking him down might be slightly difficult. Stopping him won't be. And while it would be interesting to see where he's getting his equipment from, that's hardly critical either. Actually, the only thing I know that's not included in the briefing report is that he has that animal-trait copying sidekick, and… The same thing applies. Whatever magics are in her mask are either too weak to be useful to me or too weird for me to be comfortable with studying them.

    M'gann calls up a map and highlights the locations attacked.

    "That's a pretty big area. The Bio-Ship would be best for scouting this out covertly."

    Canis brings up a topographical map and studies it for a moment.

    "If we visit one of the Lowlie hovels-" Raquel glances at me and then looks away. "-Brut may well be able to track them by scent."

    Amon briefly raises his right hand. "I would also like to participate. In his first life, my brother gave these lands his protection, and I think it would please him if I continued his work."

    And he's fast enough that operating away from a Lantern won't prevent him relocating, and he's tough enough to serve as the team's lead brawler if it comes to it.

    "Agreed." Kaldur nods, and Beryl makes the assignments. "Next, the Question has requested assistance in bringing down a Hub City crime lord."

    Artemis frowns. "Isn't he.. kinda…" She hesitates for a moment. "Crazy?"

    "He's the second sanest street shaman I know."

    Tula nods. "Shaman like that open themselves to the spiritual presence of the places and peoples around them. That usually leaves them a little disconnected from society."

    Garth nods as well. "Which is why hardly anyone in Atlantis studies that branch of magic."

    Kaldur smiles faintly. "Do either of you wish to observe a practitioner at work?"

    Two small head-shakes from them, but Robert perks up slightly. "I wouldn't mind."

    The remaining unassigned senior members of the team do the eye-dance for a moment, before Artemis nods. "I'll take it. Be nice to see somewhere worse than Gotham."

    Richard jerks his head back in mock offence.

    "Hey! We're only, like, fifteenth on the US murder rates lists this year."

    "You barely chart on the international list."

    Because let's get a sense of perspective. We have more superheroes in this room than most countries have in total. We really shouldn't be spending all our time in a country that can manage most things perfectly well without us.

    "Next." The holograms shift again. "The Russian government have reported that they have a lead on the disappearance of Christina Molotova."

    Wallace blinks. "I hadn't realised they were still looking."

    Leonid's face remains perfectly stoical. "Russia is a big and empty place. Finding someone who can move as fast as she can is not easy."

    "Okay, great." Wallace turns to Kaldur. "This one's mine."

    Leonid nods. "It may be best if I go with him. To avoid miscommunication."

    "Agreed." Their icons move on the chart. "Next…"
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  6. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    11:02 GMT -5


    Raquel and I fly upwards towards the top of Mount Justice.

    "I'm a.. little surprised that you wanted to join me on this one."

    Raquel lands a moment before me and takes a quick peek inside the grove to see if Euanthe is in residence before turning back to me.

    "Ah ain't gunna let the fact that I'm pissed at you get in the way of a mission."

    "Right, but, with the greatest respect-" I walk past her into the grove, taking a moment to admire the unseasonal growth which blocks out both sight and sound of the town below. "-your skill set isn't essential to the mission. You could have taken one of the others."

    "You didn't have to accept me."

    "I already had an analyst and a magic-user. I didn't need to make room for anyone else." Though since this will almost certainly be below my level… "I'm perfectly happy to let you take the lead in combat if you like."

    She frowns in curiosity. "Why?"

    "You need the experience more than I do."

    "Gee, thanks."

    "I'll be happy to take you to Vega next time I visit if you want to prove me wrong."

    "The place with three different empires who are worse than the Nazis."

    "Not any more. But I could see that you wanted to take the Africa mission." Her right hand goes to her ward. "I can do facial analysis as well. It's not as if I'm going to be offended if you deny me your company."

    "Okay, two reasons. This whole thing with Nazigirl got me thinking about indigenous rights. That's what this is about, right?"

    "Could be. Could be a lot of things. I'd be surprised if it had nothing to do with that. Though it might just be that locals wanted to cut down the forest for grazing instead."

    "So that's why I wanna go. I wanna see what that looks like in places where it's still happening, not just where it happened hundreds of years ago."

    I nod. "Okay. What's the other reason?"

    "You're gonna take Nazigirl, aren't you."

    "I… Was planning on asking her if Superman could spare her from Metropolis."

    "So there we go. Ah'm gonna be right there. If she mouths off, I'll see it. And if she doesn't…" She shrugs sarcastically. "Then maybe ah've got her all wrong."

    "I think it's a little early to expect any major behavioural changes, but I appreciate that you're at least giving her the rope with which to hang herself. Euanthe?!"

    "And Treegirl."

    "Treewoman. Not that she calls herself that. I'm not sure how old she is, but the closest I got to a straight answer suggests at least three thousand."

    "'cause she remembers the Amazons arriving on Themyscira."

    I nod. "Just so, well spotted. Euanth-."

    The leaves-. I step back as I realise that they've formed a face.

    "I didn't know you could do that."

    The face sort of smiles, then splits in two as Euanthe emerges from the middle. She isn't in full spiky-bane-of-demons mode, but the soft bark-like faux-clothing she used to wear has been replaced by thicker antediluvian armour.

    "Pavlos. Have you found another demon for me to destroy utterly, to burn their leaves and choke the life from root and stem?"

    "Not this time, I'm afraid. I've got a mission in the Amazon rainforest and I'd appreciate your help."

    "Amazon."

    "South of here, below where the land narrows. Lots of trees, but fewer than there used to be."

    She looks sad, staring at nothing I can discern. "There are fewer trees than there used to be everywhere."

    "We could just show her a map."

    "Dryads aren't good with spatial directions. Land doesn't register with them in the way that plants do. Euanthe, if I touch a plant when I get there, can you track me that way?"

    "No. Plant senses-" She holds her arms up to her chest and strokes the armour of her right forearm with her bare left hand. "-are not so acute as mammal senses."

    "How about if I take control of one of the local plan-?"

    And.. now I'm enveloped in… Not vines. Bark. Um.

    "No." Euanthe leans forward to glare at my face, which is the one part of my body still exposed to the outside. "Do not do it."

    "I'm still not clear why you find it so upsetting."

    "I make plants work like plants doing what I want. You make plants work like animals doing what you want. It is not the same."

    I…

    Dimly remember something like that happening in Swamp Thing. He accidentally… Or was it Tefé? They accidentally reformatted a portion of the Green into a plant-based city, and Swamp Thing minus Alec Holland tore it apart. I'm not exactly sure what the problem with that is, but then… I suppose… I'm not a plant.

    Now I'm.. slightly curious what would happen if I touched Euanthe like that. She has far more control than I do; she could prevent any unpleasant side effects…

    "Could you give me a sprout or something that you could track?"

    "You will not touch it with your red green-touch?"

    "Not if you don’t want me to."

    She blinks twice then steps back as the bark around me decays into mulch, with the exception of a single fragment which lands in her outstretched right hand and is rapidly transmuted into a seed pod. She holds it up to her face to study it intensely, then passes it over to me.

    "Plant this in good soil and provide it with water, and I will attend to you."

    Dryads don't have the best sense of time either, but she'll probably show up some time that day at least.

    "Thank you, will do. How's Doctor Isley getting along?"

    Euanthe smiles. "She will make a good druid. She earnestly wishes to grow in the green, not for red growth but for the wonder of it. And her connection is pure, not twisted as the one her false teacher made."

    "Glad to hear it." I hold the seed up. "I'll seed you when we arrive."

    "Yes."

    I nod politely, then lead Raquel out of the grove.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  7. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    13:43 GMT -3


    Beryl beams from the back of her construct-pegasus as she continues her review of the evidence which the Cattle Rancher's Ass-. Sorry, the Brazilian government, sent to the Justice League. Garth appears quite happy to make do with his kinetic belt. He's competent enough, but with the massive amount of extra magic-related reading and practice he's had to do as we encouraged him to throw out the entire Conservatory of Sorcery curriculum to retrain on the fly hasn't allowed him the time to get really good with it.

    Raquel is ignoring Angelika, who is shooting her the occasional discomported glance. I know that she knows why Raquel is here. I suspect that she heard everything Raquel not so subtly said about her…

    Private word?

    I fly a little closer and stick an orange sphere construct around us.

    "Have you ever visited Brazil before?"

    Her eyes flick around the interior of the bubble before she turns them upon me.

    "Yes, it is a popular holiday destination for Germans on Earth Ten. But… It is nicer. There are no slums. The industrial build-up is far better planned."

    "Slums happen whenever industrialisation happens and people migrate from the countryside to the cities."

    "Not in countries governed by National Socialists. On my world, there was a government program to build high-rise accommodation for the incoming labourers. Not the best homes, perhaps, but better than those… Mouldy shacks."

    "I'm… Sure they've got something in the works."

    "Unchecked capitalism is harmful to the people. And to itself, ultimately." She shakes her head. "Brazil was not involved in fighting during the Second World War here any more than it was on my world. There is no good reason for it to be like this. I think that the Jews have infiltrated their government."

    "That's a… Bit of a non sequitur." Quick check… "Also, no."

    "No Jews?"

    "Very few."

    "They don't have to have direct control. Even-."

    "Angelika, stop. The only person who controls the world economy is Demetrios Prokopios and he's Hellenist. If you wish to convince me otherwise then please provide me with a detailed analysis of global financial transactions for the past eighty years sorted by ethnic group and a very sound argument."

    "I-. Okay, I will work on it. Why are we in a bubble?"

    "Angelika, you just tried to say -with no evidence- that Jews are the reason why Brazil has slums."

    She blinks, then her eyes switch from Raquel to Beryl.

    "The Atlantean cannot be a Jew. Is the negro?"

    "No, but that's beside the point. Remember what I said about being meritocratic?" She nods cautiously. "Part of that is having evidence when you accuse people of things, as a person's capacities can only be properly assessed when you have an accurate picture of their individual achievements. The more you slander -and it is slander if you can't back it up- groups of people, the less willing they will be to cooperate with you. And if you cause that situation to happen then the one dragging down the group performance is you. Is that your aim?"

    "It-. No. I am committed to our work."

    I smile. "Good." I stop smiling. "So knock it off."

    "Are any of them-?"

    "And if they've earned their place on the team or the League, why would it matter? I know that you checked what I said about Jews earning an Iron Cross. What did you find?"

    "It was as you said."

    "And why do you think that was?"

    She doesn't reply.

    "Because there's two basic possibilities. Either they were roughly as courageous as everyone else fighting in the war, or there's been a truly colossal cover-up including faking a hundred years' worth of documents. Tell me."

    "I.. suspect that it.. was courage."

    "Glad to hear-" I look around as a green-flame-wreathed Beatriz reaches our group, falling in next to Raquel. "-it. Oh, one other thing. I know that it's purely descriptive where you're from, but in America it's not considered polite to refer to black people as 'negros'."

    She frowns. "Why? It is literally Spanish for 'black'. You call them black."

    "Some words acquire resonances separate from their literal meaning. For example, to me, Ignatius is just a name."

    "Hah!"

    Outside the bubble, Raquel lets out a bark of laughter while Beatriz glares at me and.. Angelika. Beatriz, whose grandfather was a fascist hatchetman and tried to get her to join the Brazilian Integralist Party. Who would have preferred their last Emperor to stay in charge or for Hugo Danner to have taken over than what actually happened to happen.

    "Alright, I'm going to go and talk to Fire. Please make polite, non-racial conversation with Squire until we arrive."

    She nods and I drop the shield, the two of us peeling away in opposite directions.

    "Fire, thank you-."

    "Why the Hell did-" I erect a new soundproof bubble. "-you pick up a Nazi?!"

    "There wasn't anyone to hand in greater need of rehabilitation."

    "That-. Okay, yes, that is certainly true."

    "And it would have been better if I'd been more specific about who would be joining us, but I didn't make the connection between your.. personal experiences and her until a moment ago."

    Raquel frowns. "Brazil has Nazis?"

    "Everywhere has Nazis. In Brazil, they ran the country for twenty years with the support of the American government."

    "'cause of the Cold War, right."

    "Fire, I'm perfectly happy for you to shout at me-."

    "No, I'm annoyed at you, but you are trying to help her. I want to shout at her."

    "Alright, after-."

    "Hey!" Raquel frowns. "How come she gets to shout at her?"

    "Because she's unlikely to meet Overgirl again, whereas you might have to work with her again. I'm not against a little invective being directed at her, but if that's all she's getting then she's more likely to close out external influences and that's an outcome I'm trying to avoid. But getting back to the actual mission: Fire, what can you tell us about the locals?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  8. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    14:21 GMT -3


    "Hm."

    Beryl carefully studies the damage to the cab of one of the log-hauling lorries, and I take a moment to scan the metal and transmit a representation of the stress pattern into her computer. I'm letting her acquire evidence and eavesdrop while her pattern recognition abilities really get to work trying to work out what people aren't sharing.

    And… I'll admit, I am treating this like a training mission. For the rest of my squad. I'm not using empathic vision on the workers or site overseer or even the manager who is heading towards me at a scurry-walk.

    The forest here is in the early stage of being cleared. There's a dirt road to a.. slightly better maintained dirt road, and a small cleared area for the lorries to turn around in. Outwards from that there are a great many tree stumps, cut through just above ground height. Clearing those out will come later, hopefully after they've made some sort of arrangement to keep the soil from being washed-.

    No, no, that's not going to happen, is it?

    Angelika is on overwatch duty. Beatriz and Raquel headed off to the nearest town to see if they could pick up any information, because when Beatriz wants something from a person she can be beguiling in a way she.. never bothered to be with me. And Raquel wants to learn something about what life is actually like in this part of the world, a goal I fully support. Garth is attempting an aura reading from the apparent entry point, but… If it actually was a magic creature he'd have found something almost immediately.

    "Orange Lantern!"

    I smile at the manager, descending through the air to land just in front of him. Cotton trousers rather than jeans, and.. a little overweight. His employee file says that he started with the company doing clearance work himself, but whatever muscle he built up swinging a chainsaw has long since been subsumed by middle age.

    I smile pleasantly and take the offered hand. "Mister Souza."

    "I didn't think that the Justice League was actually going to send anyone."

    "It's a slow-peril day. And I do like getting on top of these things before anyone dies."

    "Thank you."

    Small wafts of fear, but it's all… Failure to deliver penalties and danger to his crew. I'm not seeing any sign that he's worried about us. Which means that if there's any kind of put-up job going on that he almost certainly isn't part of it. Which is nice.

    "So, if you could please summarise events for me?"

    I've repeatedly read the actual briefing document, but Batman expects us to check things for ourselves. And Mr Souza certainly hasn't read the briefing documents and almost certainly also didn't read the briefing document's grandfather, which would have been prepared by someone in Corporate or Public Relations. And because of that, he probably isn't certain what the 'official line' is. The route of enquiry I'm supposed to be encouraged to follow.

    Another Discworld quote… No, I can't remember it well enough to quote it. Samuel Vimes said… Something about police work. That you poked around and asked sensible questions but in your heart of hearts you just hoped that the guilty party's nerve would break and they'd give themselves away. No one with any sense would attack a site with either myself or Overgirl present. Even just having an increased security presence might well intimidate a potential attacker; not necessarily because they couldn't outfight it, but because they wouldn't be able to do so without identifying themselves. And superheroes they couldn't identify would mean that they'd have to at least consider that they might lose the fight.

    "It was… Two days ago. We start work at dawn, so the damage wasn't immediately obvious, you know? Then Pablo -he's the truck supervisor- told me that some of the trucks had been vandalised." He shrugs. "That could be a lot of things. We're too far away from anywhere for it to be drunks, but I've had environmental protestors on sites before. But they don't just rip engines apart. So I thought maybe it exploded or something? But there wasn't any burning, and then the other workers started reporting the rest of the damage."

    I nod.

    "Do you have any security on site?"

    "There's a checkpoint down the road, but that's mostly for making sure that people are at work when they're supposed to be." He shrugs, shaking his head. "That's about it. No one lives around here."

    "No tribes?"

    He shakes his head. "No, if we were anywhere near a tribal reserve or whatever, we'd have some armed guards. We haven't had any kind of complaints or anything like that."

    And while I'm not a perfect lie detector… I'd say that he's probably telling the truth. Still…

    "No complaints?"

    He face-shrugs. "Sure, some, there's always some, but nothing special. This just came out of nowhere."

    "Were any people injured?"

    "One guy cut his hand on broken metal. Oh, directly? No. We pretty much shut down during the night. It's too dangerous when we can't see what we're doing, and it's a pain setting up floodlights somewhere like this."

    Bad roads. They have to move people and equipment in and the wood out without turning them into a quagmire. March is a reasonable temperature… Still too hot for me, but not bad for Brazil. But it's also pretty darn wet. Add in generators, lights, fuel for the generators… Yeah. They could only do it if they at the very least dumped stone chips to give the road some sort of surface, and the added cost would be significant.

    Which… Ah. Getting replacement people would be easy, up to a point. If everyone died then the fear would keep replacements away, but one or two deaths? Not really an issue. Getting replacement machinery is difficult. They can't have broken machines blocking the site, which means they need to get another truck up here to drag it away-. Unless they're planning on asking me to do it. So is whoever did this planning on delaying work? It won't stop, but if they need to slow it down until something else happens…

    Nothing much happening in Brazil's political calendar. Certainly nothing of immediate relevance. At least, that I can see as an outsider. If we get stumped here I can head over there and find an insider to pump for information. Nothing special economically. So, geography? Someone or something-?

    "Had anything changed recently? Were you moving onto a new area?"

    "We cut trees where there are trees. Sure, we were moving up, but we're always moving up. We didn't pass any.. obvious barrier or marker. I mean, not that I noticed."

    Again, no obvious sign of dishonesty.

    "Alright, thank you. My team and I will keep looking around, and I'll let you know when we have something."

    "Do you know..? How long this is going to take?"

    "Not really. If it's just a matter of tracking down one malcontent then I doubt that we'll still be here this evening. If something more complicated is going on then it'll take longer."

    "Like..?"

    "If the damage was caused by manifested forest spirits then it could take years and radically change the Brazilian economy."

    "But you can deal with it, right?"

    "Yes, but… We're here to prevent harm to people, not to support any one economic policy. If all logging had to stop tomorrow, then as long as you're given time to evacuate then our job is done."

    "Oh."

    I nod and smile again.

    "Excuse me."
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
  9. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    12:39 GMT -5


    "How is she getting on?"

    On the other side of the living room Cassandra and Barda are playing Ludo. I think. Board games don’t appear to have been a major part of either of their childhoods, Barda lacks the patience for abstract instructions and we're still not totally sure if Cassandra can read. Dice are being rolled and pieces are being moved, but-.

    Scott smiles fondly at his adopted daughter. "She's much better at engaging with us directly, now. She still tries to hide if we creep up on her, but other than that…"

    Cassandra looks around, and… She doesn't smile as she sees me, but there's a sign of recognition in her eyes and she doesn't tense up.

    I smile and kneel down, fingers ready for signing.

    "Hello Quiet Girl. How are you?"

    Not hurt not hungry not tired.

    "Do you like it here with Escape Man and Big Woman?"

    Escape Man hide escape.

    I frown interrogatively at Scott, who looks a little guilty.

    "The first time she saw me do my escapology act, she didn't realise that it was a trick. She tried tearing the stage apart to get me out."

    "Escape Man is very good at escaping."

    Barda scowls at me over her daughter's head. "You're ruining my concentration. Don't you have a check-up to get to?"

    I nod as I stand and let Scott lead the way to his science basement.

    "You decided not to Awaken her?"

    "Given how messed up her development's been already, we didn't want to risk making things worse."

    I nod as he opens the door for me, then I walk in and take my accustomed position on the scanning bed. Scott plugs his Mother Box into the head of the bed and a moment later-

    Ping!

    -we're done. And from the look on his face it isn't good news. I… Get a decidedly unsettled feeling starting up in my stomach.

    "So… Not getting a lolly, then."

    Scott shrugs, and makes an effort to smile.

    "You can have a lolly if you want."

    I nod. "Yeah, that makes it less fun. I'm… Guessing that using the Anti-Life fragment against my alter ego wasn't a good idea."

    "Whether it was a good idea or not isn't the point." He sighs. "The good news is that the cage I built is still mostly there. It's a bit looser, but as long as you don't try using it again the fragment isn't going to get free."

    "What will the effect on me be?"

    "Have you noticed anything?"

    I think for a moment.

    "No. But then.. I'm not sure I would."

    "You're the longest surviving living Anti-Life vessel other than Darkseid. Everything Mother Box learns from you is new. I'm actually a little surprised that Metron hasn't turned up to take a look at you."

    "Would it help if he did?"

    "Ah… I doubt it. He might not have seen another vessel last this long before, but he hasn't seen one having a complete breakdown before either."

    I purse my lips, then raise my eyebrows.

    "'Complete breakdown'."

    "The Anti-Life Equation fragment is… Merging, with the interior of the cage."

    Oh.

    "I.. don't know exactly what that means. But if I had to guess-."

    "It's inserting itself into all of the emotions we used to make the cage, and will gradually… Corrupt them?"

    "Either that, or adapting so that it will be able to affect people with a strong emotional reason to believe that life isn't always painful."

    "I.. don't suppose that you've had any luck working out how to get rid of it, have you?"

    He looks down, exhaling sharply through his nose. "Your father or mine?" "Tyranny or Monarchy?"

    "No." "Neither."

    "I know that asking Darkseid isn't a good idea, but Highfather-."

    "Dumped you on Apokolips. Fuck him."

    "As the one who got dumped, I've got a whole lot more reason to be mad at him than you do. And while I don't have any great desire to speak to him… He could fix you."

    "He could blast me to the Source Wall with his staff."

    "That's why I'm not insisting." He leans back against the laboratory wall behind him. "Bottom line? I don't think you're in immediate danger, but this is only going to get worse."

    "Yeah."

    "It's gradual, but it's ongoing." He shakes his head. "I can't tell when it's going to change you.. radically, or if we'll even notice." I nod solemnly. "Do you have some other way of dealing with this?"

    "Ponies."

    "Sunset Shimmer's people?"

    "Yes. They have… Arcane weapons for dealing with… Things like this. I'd thought about getting them to take a look at me anyway, but if the damage is ongoing… I need to prioritise it."

    "Your best hope for a cure is… Getting blasted.. by.. pony-magic?"

    "Yes. Their knowledge of thaumaturgy is basic to say the least, but the background magic level on their world is so high that high end artefacts just sort of.. turn up."

    "And you don't think they'll have any side effects?"

    "It's more that I don't think those side effects will be worse than the Anti-Life Equation." I shrug. "I'm pretty sure that Sunset could undo petrification, I have boom tubes in case of banishment and if it strips me of my other power as well and.. turns me back into my adolescent form…" I shrug again. "That should only take me a few months to fix. I wasn't planning any heavy combat in that time anyway."

    "That's… Surprisingly trusting of you."

    "Scott, they're.. ponies. I've heard Sunset tell a lot of stories about her people, and I can't see them responding to my desire to cleanse myself of an Anti-Life fragment negatively."

    "You know that the Anti-Life Equation isn't the only way to mentally change one of us with magic, right?"

    "I'll survive becoming the New God of Cultural Victory. The universe won't survive Darkseid getting the Anti-Life Equation."

    "And what are you planning on doing if he turns up to find out what happened to it?"

    "Get the ponies to shoot him."

    "After you come back."

    "Depends on what he does." I shrug. "He can destroy the Earth whenever he wants. You know that, I know that, the League knows that. If I do destroy a fragment and if he does destroy the Earth in retaliation… The universe still comes out ahead. Or maybe the preparations I've made so far are enough." "Anything we do could set him off and I refuse to live in fear."

    "Then I guess the ponies are your best shot." He quietly snorts with amusement at the idea. "Make sure your Mother Box monitors the whole thing. If this works… This could change everything about how Apokolips and New Genesis deal with each other."

    "If Apokolips can be purified by pony magic, that still leaves hundreds of billions of Lowlies to relocate and a planetary civilisation to rebuild. But… Yeah, it would be an improvement." I stroll past him and pull on the door handle. "So fingers and hooves crossed."
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  10. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    14:44 GMT -3


    "…low level." Garth shakes his head. "There was no trace of magic being focused on a particular task. As far as I can tell, the magic systems of this forest are undisturbed."

    I nod. I suspected, but it's always worth checking.

    "Okay, good work."

    Raquel shrugs. "What if they're.. hiding it, or something?"

    Garth lets out a mildly pained exhalation. "There are many ways to hide with magic. It's taken me this long to be confident of my answer because I've been using the countermeasures for all of them." His eyes dart to the side for a moment. "The counters I can perform. Countering attempts to directly detect something with magic is simple, but the person casting it will know that they are being countered and therefore roughly where their target is. And any use of magic disrupts the-"

    He takes a moment to assess the likely magic-competency of the people he's talking to.

    "-background flows, in a way which can be detected later. I don't know this forest well, but I could not detect any significant disruption."

    "What if they're just.. really good at hiding?"

    "Then you need someone else. I do not-. I am not complaining, but these are not spells an Atlantean battlemage would ordinarily study in detail until they were studying for their mastery exam. I am not proficient enough to undo the work of someone who has studied hiding magics for their entire life."

    "And we don't expect you to. Overgirl, see anything interesting?"

    She hesitates for a moment, perhaps a little surprised that I'm asking her.

    "There are no inexplicable sources of electromagnetism or sound. I cannot see anyone unusual through the trees. There is nothing hidden underground." She shrugs. "I have nothing to offer."

    I nod.

    "Rocket? Fire?"

    Beatriz doesn't look particularly enthusiastic.

    "Some people complaining about the disruption. Some people complaining about what the company pays. No real information about anyone who might have done it."

    "No one unhappy with the work being done?"

    Raquel shakes her head. "They were mostly happy about the jobs. One chick said she hoped that once the farm was built they'd sort out the area's power network. A couple people complained about what they were doing to the roads, but that was it. No one wants this stopped."

    I nod. "Thank you both-."

    "So?" Raquel puts her hands on her hips.

    "So?"

    "You gunna tell us what it is?"

    I give my head a small shake. "I don't know."

    "'cause you were sayin' this was a training mission."

    "Oh, I could crank up my empathic vision and learn all sorts of things, but I think Squire has something she-."

    "You don't know where we are, do you?"

    Beryl's grinning.

    "I know the grid reference, the longitude and latitude. Why?"

    "Oh, given how much you went on about him, I thought you knew. Anyway, the damage was probably done with super strength. It matches damage patterns of other examples of super strength damage on record, rather than tools or super-sharp claws. No big footprints, so they're probably normal-sized. And they got their strength from the Danner Formula."

    I frown. "Too much damage for Venom?"

    "No. Danner blood clots differently. Once I worked out how that bloke cut his hand there was some blood that didn't fit, so I took a closer look."

    "That was just.. steel, though. A Danner enhancile should be able to tear up steel as much as they like without getting a cut."

    "Some of the saws here are tungsten carbide."

    Uhhh… Tungsten carbide blade, if they hit it hard enough… Might pierce their skin… The blade would get the worst of it.

    "It's possible. Did you find any fragments?"

    "No." She shrugs. "Maybe they got cut somewhere else then came here? Look."

    She pulls a slide out of her computer and holds it up. Scan…

    "That's the Danner formula alright. Well found. What do you think our follow-up should be?"

    "Dawn Warrior survived Hugo Danner's coup, right?" I nod. He's a long-serving Brazilian superhero who was part of Hugo's 'army', and he mostly took the job after Hugo lost because he didn't know what else to do with his life. "We could ask him. Can't be many people who know how to make it."

    "The All-Star Squadron recovered his records. He might have showed the local tribes the process, but they wouldn't have had any sort of scientific education outside what he taught them. And I can't think of any reason why Luthor would have involved himself in this."

    "How about Doctor Munro?"

    I.. nod. "He was here, and he knows how to make the formula. But he said that he didn't know that there were other enhanciles…"

    Huh.

    "Think of something?"

    "I never… Exactly asked him if he knew the formula himself before he went to work for Luthor. He might just have volunteered to let Luthor reverse-engineer it from his blood and tissues. I know that he knows the formula now..."

    Raquel frowns. "Wait, so Luthor started making a super formula and you didn't check where he got it?"

    "I… No, I didn't. It didn't seem important. And there's no reason for him to be doing field trials in the middle of Brazil when he could get plenty of volunteers just about anywhere."

    No obvious reason for Dr Munro to randomly empower people either. And I don't think that his eagerness at the idea of meeting others like himself was feigned. That wouldn't make sense if he had been doling the stuff out himself. Of course, someone could have gotten hold of a sample of his blood while he was here… Or semen, if Hugo somehow managed to transmit it sexually as Dr Munro thought.

    I think that I need to find that out.

    "Alright, next step. Fire, do you know Dawn Warrior?"

    She wiggles her head from side to side.

    "A little. We've worked together, but we're not close."

    I nod. "Overgirl, you and I are going to talk to Doctor Arnold Munro. Squire, you and Fire go and speak to Dawn Warrior. We need to know if he knows about any other Danner enhanciles around the place. Tempest, take Beryl's blood sample and try and track the owner."

    "I.. don' t think I can do that. It's too old, now."

    "Give it a try, or try identifying the alchemy in the Formula and track that. If you can't, then you can't. Rocket, stay here as security. A Danner enhancile could kill everyone here if they felt the need."

    Her eyes dart to Angelika for a moment, then she nods.

    "Squire, Fire, I'll drop you off."
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  11. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    19th March
    23:22 GMT +5:30


    "…that he was in South America during the War." Angelika smiles excitedly as we look down at the Valmiki facility. "I had no idea that he had a son!"

    "How did your government know about him? He wasn't anything like as visible during the First World War as superheroes were during the Second."

    "Aunty Gerri's grandfather met Professor Abednego Danner at a conference organised by the American Breeders' Association. That was where he received a sample of his formula."

    "Does Germania have a lot of Danner enhanciles?"

    "No, hardly any. Just Aunty Gerri and Imperial Cross. The Professor… Some of his claims seemed a little… Strange. Of course, now we know that he knew exactly what he was talking about, but… There were some very strange people drawn to the National Socialist cause in the early days."



    She's not wrong.

    "It wasn't until after the Great War that he heard about Hugo's strength from the soldiers who survived his attacks. He had the vial, so he gave it to his pregnant daughter."

    "He didn't try to replicate it?"

    "Yes, of course, when he found out that it worked. But Professor Danner was dead and mass spectroscopy did not exist yet. He wasn't even certain that the vial he had would still work, and he couldn't risk the chemical experiments he would need to perform to try and work out what was in it."

    I suppose that makes sense.

    "What was Squire saying about the location?"

    I bow my head slightly.

    "When the All-Star Squadron fought Hugo Danner's Children of Dawn, that area is.. more or less where the last fight took place. Dying super strong children fanatically throwing themselves at war veteran superheroes." I snort quietly. "I'm not surprised that the Squadron broke up after that."

    "Why were they dying?"

    "No resistance to European diseases. They got infected as soon as they left the jungle, then it was just a.. countdown."

    "That is-."

    I narrow my eyes slightly. "I really hope that you're not about to say-."

    "I know that disease resistance comes from your ancestors having prior exposure, not from any greater destiny. But choosing a people who kept themselves isolated as his subjects was very poor planning. If he had recruited from the cities or other civilised areas he would not have had that problem."

    True, I suppose. I wonder why he did it?

    "What happened to him on your Earth?"

    "He attempted to take over the country, but they were allied to the Confederated States of America. Axis Amerika intervened in defence of the Brazilian government and Great Horned Owl killed him with poisonous gas. It wasn't until after his body had been destroyed that they discovered his identity. We could not reverse engineer the Formula from his remains either."

    "Or from your aunt?"

    "No. Which is odd, but-" She shakes her head. "-I am not a chemist. How hard is it to reverse engineer?"

    "I don't know. I used Hugo's own records." I start flying towards the facility entrance. "Come on, we shouldn't keep him waiting."

    Doctor Munro waves at me as we fly closer, frowning mildly as he takes in Overgirl.

    "Orange Lantern and… Overgirl?" She nods as she lands. "Paul, you remember Doctor Niang?"

    The woman whom I initially thought was LexCorp's plant turned out to be a noted Chinese researcher they headhunted, and she accepted the job largely for a fresh start after her divorce. I haven't had all that much to do with her, but the steadily growing violet strands suggest that Doctor Munro and her have a great deal to do with one another.

    I shake her right hand.

    "A pleasure to see you again."

    "Likewise."

    Dr Munro smiles curiously. "So what's this about?"

    "We have reason to believe that there's a formerly unknown Danner enhancile active in Brazil. They appear to have taken exception to the actions of a logging company."

    "If so, that's.. hardly surprising. My father spent a lot of time working with several tribes deep in the Amazon. It was always unlikely that.. ev-." He winces, and Dr Niang looks at him with concern. "That.. everyone he worked with died. There'd been.. expeditions into the jungle before. Some would have had some exposure."

    "And… There's no delicate way to put this, but you said that you might have inherited it-."

    "No-. No, that-." He shakes his head emphatically. "There wasn't-. Ah-."

    "That's fine. I just wanted to check."

    Dr Niang puts her right hand on his left shoulder. I.. hadn't realised how distressing he'd find the idea. "Might the survivors from amongst the people Hugo Danner augmented have had their own children?"

    "It's certainly possible. There are no publically acknowledged children of Danner enhanciles other than..- " I gesture to Dr Munro with my right hand. "-Doctor Munro, but then there aren't that many known Danner enhanciles. We really don't know what it does to fertility or virility."

    "Aunty Gerri has never conceived." I turn to Angelika. "Though I.. suppose that she probably hasn't tried."

    "In.. any case, any tribal groups probably aren't going to want to talk to me about one of the Children of Dawn attacking a logging camp. You, on the other hand-."

    "I-. I don't-. I didn't.. even go deep inside the jungle, just the.. farms that were already up and running."

    "Yes, but you're Hugo Danner's son. They're going to be a lot more willing to talk to their god's son than they are me."

    "And… What do you want out of it?"

    "I'd like some sort of reassurance that there won't be any further attacks. And.. to organise some sort of negotiation. Once random acts of violence are off the table my job is over."

    He gazes blankly at me for a moment, then turns to Dr Niang. They look at each other for a moment, then he nods.

    "Okay. I guess I.. should try talking to them. To stop making things worse. You wanna go now?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  12. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    14:58 GMT -3


    Dr Munro looks around the logging camp.

    "I… Never saw this.. part of the records."

    "This part? I thought that you researched your father's activity thoroughly."

    "Up to his arrest, yes. After that…"

    I nod sympathetically. "Blue Lantern showed me the pictures of Sons of Dawn, and their autopsy reports. I suppose that you wouldn't have learned that much about him or the formula by reading about the clean up."

    "No. I should, though. I might have learned more about how to avoid his mistakes."

    I smile. "Why, are you planning on taking over a country-?"

    He snaps his head in my direction. "God, no."

    "Sorry, I was just trying to-."

    "No, no, you meant it as a joke. I… My father… They revered him, you know? And he'd have known them from… Before they were born. Every couple he gave the formula to, he was the only man in the villages who knew anything about modern medicine. And…" He sighs. "You know how much they all looked up to him."

    I nod.

    "I hadn't realised that you would take it quite this much to heart."

    He shrugs. "I guess I see too much of myself in him not to. What do you think he should have done differently?"

    "Depends what his objective was. Going back to America and setting up there would have avoided the fatal flaw he encountered. And if he went back to visit your mother then he clearly had the ability to go back. But I suppose that would have risked the American government acquiring the Formula."

    "Would that have been so bad?"

    "Not sure-. No, it would have been. The first generation would have reached adulthood at the same time you did, in the fifties. If America had gotten mass recruitable Danner enhanciles during the Cold War, they'd have made as many as they could and… They couldn't have reliably hidden it. They'd have arm-twisted as many of those people into the military as possible. I… Think that would have caused a nuclear war."

    And given the nuclear weapons in use at the time…

    Danner enhanciles would be able to survive near misses, and the likelihood of a nuclear winter gets overstated, but long-range bombers would still destroy cities. And the longer they waited, the more devastating it would get. On.. the other hand, given the distances involved, a platoon of Danner enhanciles that kept moving and spread out could have destroyed most of the Soviet Union's manufacturing capacity, given supplies and enough time. The only real counterstrategy would be mining their own factories.

    Europe would be doomed, but I think the US would win without being crippled itself. Which… Means that there was a good chance that they would go for it.

    Up until the Russians got the Garrick Formula, then everyone would be doomed. Though… In that situation, would Mr Garrick have kept it to himself?

    "I think so too. Did you know they had the theory for nuclear weapons in the Great War?"

    "Yes, though I don't know if Hugo would have known that. And no one could have predicted exactly how they affected the strategic situation."

    "He-." He takes a moment. "No, I suppose he couldn't. But he wasn't exactly Ben Salmon. He saw the whole of the Great War, and rather than turn his back on fighting he decided another war was the way to go." Dr Munro shakes his head. "I.. think the only reason he didn't start up in America was because his abilities hadn't ever been well-received there."

    "And he probably wasn't all that fond of Germany, so they're out. What would be the ideal? Somewhere with access to medicine, but where he could still dominate the local people."

    "Domin-? He didn't take over the tribes."

    "No, but he'd have to be sure that his enhanciles would follow his lead. Otherwise they'd just default to being loyal to their own government and.. probably cause a war. Social isolation would help with that, otherwise… He'd have to have an in with a new government, somewhere that would willingly offer him virtual autonomy. I… Think that a colony in Africa might have been best, but... It would really depend on exactly what he wanted."

    "I always thought it was 'more people like him'."

    "That's what it looked like, but… Okay, he takes over Brazil, and… Restores democracy-."

    "No, he'd have to deal with.. a lot of things first."

    "Okay, so he runs things as fairly as he can, breaks up opposing power blocks semi-legally, gets elected and starts dishing out the Formula to everyone. Every nation that can immediately grabs it and gives it to everyone they can. Nothing much happens for a decade or two, then… Every country that's been able to go into mass production steamrollers every country that can't. Germany… The far right probably has an edge, but there's a good chance that the country just tears itself apart. The British Empire flat out annexes China and… Splits the Middle East with France as a better alternative to going to war against them. Only now there's no way for a local resistance movement to fight their supersoldiers. I.. don't.. think Britain would go to war against the Soviet Union just because they really hate Communism and knew that their supersoldier strength advantage wouldn't last, but I can't rule it out."

    "Brazil's a nicer place to live with a good man running it and their neighbours get enough enhanciles of their own that they don't start wars of conquest after Hugo leaves office. Hugo himself would be revered as the man who saved Brazilian democracy and could do whatever he wanted with his time. Since he's not aging and plenty of women would be as strong as him… Have a family? Act as a political advisor to his successors?"

    "You..? Think it would always lead to war? Across the world?"

    "People leverage their advantages. Particularly if they know that their rivals are trying to catch up with them. The Soviet Union would struggle to go into Danner formula production as quickly as the other world powers but could easily overrun Europe when they did. Britain wouldn't want to risk sharing it with their new Chinese subjects so they'd have to go early."

    I shrug.

    "Chemical industries become a key strategic resource while projectile weapons are increasingly sidelined. Any poison that can kill Danner enhanciles goes into mass production, and the remaining empires are very careful about which of their citizens and subjects are loyal enough to be trusted with it. I don't imagine that superheroes remain independent, because there are too many people with powers for them to seem 'special'. And some of them flat out couldn't compete with Danner enhanciles."

    Dr Munro bows his head. "Maybe it's just as well he lost."

    "Impossible to say. So, the nearest people we could talk to-."

    "Squire to Orange Lantern."

    I raise my ring to my head.

    "Orange Lantern here. Doctor Munro has agreed to assist us."

    "Dawn Warrior has as well. As long as we agree to keep things confidential."

    "'Don't tell the Brazilians' confidential or 'don't tell Batman' confidential?"

    Not that I mind either way, I just need to know in advance.

    "Don't tell the Brazilians."

    "Then that's fine. One moment." I look over to where Tempest is sitting cross-legged on the ground, his eyes closed and his tattoos glowing. "Tempest, any luck?"

    He opens his eyes and shakes his head.

    "Okay, stay where you are. We'll come to you."
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  13. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    15:04 GMT -3


    "You sure Nazigirl's alright lookin' after a bunch of brown people?"

    "Apparently, Overman was very clear about insisting that she follow local rules where reasonably practical. And the government of Germania hasn't bothered purging-."

    "Yeah yeah, they're the super friendly kinda mass murderers."

    Dr Munro looks increasingly concerned.

    "No, they're just surprisingly realistic about the logistics."

    We land in the courtyard at the front of the apartment building where Dawn Warrior lives, and Raquel presses the buzzer.

    "I'm sorry, I think I missed something. Nazi?"

    "Overgirl comes from a parallel universe where the fascists won the Second World War using alien technology. We're trying-"

    "You're trying."

    "-to talk her around and so's Superman, actually."

    Winning quite a lot of points from me there, actually. Not that he's likely to ever use them without prompting. Can't be because I Dannered Lois…

    There's a beep and the door unlocks, prompting the three of us to walk through the small and unmanned lobby into the lift.

    Dawn Warrior is a superhero, but with no secret identity… He lives in the sort of apartment that he used to get paid to protect. His protection jobs these days are rather better paying, and his schedule is a lot more flexible. He volunteers with the police, and him being able to resolve situations without needing to open fire himself has kept the number of police-related fatalities noticeably lower than other Brazilian cities of comparable size. It's a… Different way of doing things.

    "You…" Dr Munro looks a little awkward. I suppose that he did get the 'Nazi' thing sprung on him. Hoping that Raquel wouldn't tell people about that was a little too hopeful. "Got.. trained by Green-. Ah, the original Green Lantern, right?"

    "If I got trained by the original Green Lantern I'd be millions of years old." I smile at Dr Munro as the lift comes to a halt. "But yes, the one who used to be in the Justice Society."

    "And the All-Star Squadron."

    "Yes. He stayed for the whole cleanup here and wrote his resignation letter on the way home."

    Raquel frowns. "He didn't stop being a superhero, though."

    "He cut down his hours a lot. He still won't look at the pictures."

    Dr Munro nods as I knock on Dawn Warrior's door. "I know how he feels."

    Beatriz opens the door and I lead the way inside. Dawn Warrior himself is sitting in his living area, wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt. He raises his right hand and lazily waves it.

    "Orange Lantern and god!"

    His eyes widen in shock as he gets a clear look at Dr Munro.

    "Ah…" Dr Munro bows his head slightly. "No. No, though… Some of your parents' people thought that my father was one."

    Dawn Warrior stands up, clearly shaken by the resemblance. "You look… So much like him."

    Dr Munro nods. "Good job my mother's husband never met him. So, can you tell us what's going on?"

    Dawn Warrior's still staring at him, clearly not quite crediting that he's meeting his creator's son.

    "No. But I can get in contact with the people who can. My tribe -and the others your father tried to help- are very cautious about contact with the outside." He smiles. "Did you know that my grandfather was the first of my people to meet him, Hugo Danner?"

    "I… Didn't. How did it happen?"

    "They were keeping watch over some archaeological expedition, when one of them -your father- decided to climb to the top of a mountain during a storm. He was hit by lightning, fell to the ground… And then got up again." Dawn Warrior grins. "And then he started laughing."

    Raquel tilts her head to the right.

    "What's so funny about being struck by lightning?"

    "Hugo Danner the Man-God came to Brazil to get away from everyone who had rejected him in his own country. He climbed the mountain to ask God for advice… And his answer was lightning! Boom!"

    He chuckles, and… Yes, I can see why Hugo might have found very black humour in that.

    Beryl frowns. "Why did he call himself 'Man-God'?"

    "He didn't. Ah, he said he was just a man, but they had seen him do things only gods could do! Yes, yes, a woman who can set herself on green fire, and-" He gestures to us. "-a man with an alien ring… But all our tribe had was herbalists and a little weak magic. We had never seen a metahuman like him before. They said he was a god, he said he was a man… So they compromised on Man-God."

    "I've got to ask: how many other enhanciles like you are there?"

    "I'm not exactly sure. Making the 'potion of the gods' isn't easy in the jungle-."

    "What?" / "I beg your pardon?"

    "What?" Dawn Warrior shrugs. "Hugo Danner made that stuff in the jungle. We lost his equipment when the American soldiers stole it, but the modern world being what it is, it wasn't hard to get more. And he never hid the process from us."

    Dr Munro gapes, and I'm.. not far behind. That's a lot of years and a lot of Danner enhanciles.

    "Roughly..? How many..?"

    "Couple hundred? It's not just our tribe now. When it got real obvious that the government was going to sell the whole forest, people-. Eh, you know how it works. Pregnant women volunteered."

    "And you.. kept it quiet?"

    "After we started dying of diseases, the survivors went deep into the jungle to get away. It's hard to make vaccines which people like me can use. But it can be done."

    "So… What was the plan, here? Why are you telling us?"

    "The plan was to protect our territory from loggers, ranchers and the Brazilian government with the threat of violence. I don't know why someone attacked this logging camp early. It was supposed to be a couple of days of overwhelming force, then send me to Brasília to negotiate. Probably some kid being stupid."

    He shrugs.

    "So what do you want to do?"

    "You're.. not at all concerned that we might stop you?"

    "Not really, and if you try to?" He shrugs again. "How? The Justice League won't approve of you just killing everyone. You could try arresting everyone, but the government has nowhere to put us. Plus… There are a lot of us, now. No, I think that since you are here, it is best that we go and talk to my tribe and maybe start with the negotiations."

    He smiles and gestures to his door.

    "You gonna come?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
  14. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    15:09 GMT -3


    "Would you pardon us for a moment, please?"

    Dawn Warrior hesitates at the door, then shrugs.

    "Sure. Take me a couple hours to get home without you flying me."

    I nod, smile, then make eye contact with my colleagues. "Team meeting."

    Beatriz, Beryl and Raquel approach. Dr Munro takes a step towards me as well, then reconsiders and heads over to talk to Dawn Warrior. Once they're within convenient confab distance I stick an orange shield around us and make it as opaque as I can.

    Raquel exhales heavily. "So. That happened."

    I nod. "It does simplify things quite a lot."

    "Ah. How?"

    Beryl looks at me curiously, but nods. "Because if enough people get involved, it's not exactly a crime anymore."

    "Pr-etty sure it is."

    "No, it's a political protest. And since we're crime fighters and it's not our job to preserve the integrity of Brazil's borders, our job is completed once we confirm that the attack on the logging site was done as part of that."

    "Seriously?"

    "I'm not saying we should just leave, but technically… Yeah. Brazil as a country is descended from the Portuguese colony which conquered the area. These people are descendants of the people who were here first. If they choose not to recognise Brazil's claim to their land… That's not exactly a crime."

    Even if we're looking at a rerun of Hugo Danner's original putsch attempt, with Sons and Daughters of Dawn who aren't vulnerable to disease and are at least ten times more numerous than their grandparents' generation. Against a Brazilian military which hasn't improved by anything like the same degree.

    "It's not a crime because the thing at issue is who has the authority to make things a crime within a given territory. Civil wars are only a crime if you lose."

    Raquel nods. "Most a' the guys who lost the American Civil War got let off. An' I get where you're comin' from. Don’t think Mister 'Fair Play' Terrific woulda tried enforcin' segregation back in the sixties. Or Indian Reservations."

    I nod. "As I told Kaldur when he asked me what I'd do if Atlantis had a civil war… Unless one side commits an atrocity, it isn't our job to back one side or another."

    Beatriz doesn't look entirely sanguine about that statement.

    "So you don't care about Brazil having a civil war."

    "It's not that I don't care, it's just… There are, what, eight..?"

    I look at Beryl.

    "Does Rhelasia count?"

    "Not if there hasn't been any shelling this week."

    "Twelve."

    "Twelve ongoing insurgencies or flat out civil wars in the world right now. And I'd rather there wasn't, but stopping them isn't my job. And unless the Security Council rewrites the Justice League's charter, it's not their job either. Because..?" I raise my eyebrows.

    Beryl shrugs. "No one really wants powerful superheroes deciding that they can tell governments they're not allowed to have wars anymore." Raquel opens her mouth. "Except all of the people living wherever the war is happening. And probably most of the people doing the fighting."

    "So we just go talk to them, and if they want to start a war we just tell them that's fine?"

    "No, we try and persuade them not to, and we try to persuade the Brazilian government to offer a compromise, but we aren't obliged to help either side until the other one starts committing war crimes. And Dawn Warrior seemed pretty certain they weren't planning on going beyond property damage, at least to start with."

    Beatriz gives her head a small shake. "And then what happens?"

    "A few hundred Danner enhanciles can smash anything Brazil can throw at them that isn't a jet aircraft, but they can't hold territory and probably can't run a government. I doubt that they're going to try conquering the rest of the country. They're getting support from other tribes so they won't be exiling them, and there aren't all that many other people in the jungle. If the Brazilian army attacks them, risk to civilians is minimal. The risk to civilians would come if they attacked a Brazilian city, and then… What are they attacking? Government buildings? Military bases? They're relying on superstrength, not guns. They're not where the collateral damage will be coming from. Though, in the spirit of the Spanish Civil War, if anyone here wants to back either side..?"

    Raquel shakes her head. Beryl shrugs.

    "How, exactly?"

    I raise my eyebrows at Beatriz.

    "You're a Brazilian citizen, so you have a personal stake in this that we don't. So if you've got a plan on how to stop-."

    "I can't stop a hundred Children of Dawn!" She exhales sharply, then shakes her head. "Let's just go and see what they want."

    "Good show. Orange Lantern to…" I should really send a message to Garth, but if he's in the middle of a ritual… "Overgirl."

    "Overgirl here."

    "We're going to see Dawn Warrior's tribe. We're not expecting anyone to attack your location. Will keep you updated."

    "Understood."

    I dismiss the barrier and head towards-

    "…or nine? I don't get back often, and we're pretty spread out…"

    Dawn Warrior shrugs, then turns to us.

    "You ready to go?"

    "Yes, all ready." I create a map construct. "Where are we heading?"

    He points… That's a long way from anywhere.

    "I can't guarantee that no one will be able to track me when I take us there."

    "And do what?"

    "Airstrike?"

    "Can you keep watch?"

    "While we're there, yes. But it's extremely unlikely that we'll provide direct assistance."

    He shrugs. "When we move, we all move. Don't worry."

    "Alright then." I tag everyone with a filament. "Transition in two, one."
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020
  15. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    12:12 GMT -6


    I sit in my chair in the dining room, staring pensively at the far wall. Sunset crosses my field of vision, her eyes splitting their time between her tablet and the sandwich cupboard. She makes it halfway there before noticing me, and three quarters before she processes my expression.

    "Grayven?"

    "Talk to me… About Harmony."

    She blinks, looks me over, and then puts her tablet down on the sideboard and folds her arms across her chest.

    "Did.. something go wrong?"

    "It's going wrong. Not an emergency yet-."

    "The Anti-Life fragment. You want to-." She shakes her head. "Grayven, that was a worst case scenario plan. Even if there is some way to channel Equestria's entire magic field into you, and even if you could survive that, I don’t know if it would do anything to the fragment. We don’t have things like that in Equestria."

    I nod, not really focusing on her.

    "Tell me about Harmony."

    "It's…" She makes a vague circling motion with her right hand. "It's usually when I started tuning Celestia out."

    "Oh. Um, in that case, how's the portal coming?"

    "The terminus rerouting's all set and I've got it set up to open a year after I arrived. Keeping it open this time should be pretty easy." She looks away for a moment. "I.. do remember some of what she said. I…" She shrugs. "What do you..? Need to know?"

    "What is it? Is it just a theology, or is there some underlying truth to it?"

    Her eyes widen.

    "Are you dying?"

    I frown. "No, almost certainly not. Why?"

    "'What is Harmony?' 'Is it real?' Those are dying pony questions, Grayven!"

    "Heh." I manage a small smile and bow my head slightly. "No, not dying. It's possible that I'll go insane and become Darkseid's willing thrall, but it's unlikely that I'll die. So."

    Sunset looks a combination of relieved and irritated, but masters herself, pulls out a chair and sits down on it.

    "Harmony is something… How ponies live when they're completely virtuous. How Equestrian society would work… The 'utopian' version, rather than the real version we actually live in. But it's also… When ponies work together-. When ponies who know each other work together on something with their magic, they can do… More. Even if their special talents don’t directly relate to the thing they're doing, and even if they aren't directly working on the same thing."

    "Interesting."

    And not at all how it works on Apokolips. Apokoliptian New Gods serving the same master could buff one another, but only if their natures and that of their master were similar. A couple of basket-weaving New Gods working for DeSaad couldn't get any sort of boost from one another. If anything, they'd probably make worse baskets and then be made to fight to the death with them.

    "And… If they'd known each other a long time, the effect was even more pronounced."

    "If they were friends."

    "I couldn't quantify friendship." She blinks, her gaze growing a little distant. "I mean, I suppose I could quantify it in terms of exactly how much their output was boosted… But it.. could just mean that they've learned to instinctively harmonise their magic when they work near each other. I'd have had to find ponies who'd worked together for years and still didn’t like each other in order to check, and I'd still have needed them to self-report."

    "Is that why you didn't?"

    She looks at me like I've said something a little dumb, then brightens up. "Hey guys, I'm Sunset Shimmer. I'm trying to study the effects of combining magics. Which of your co-workers don’t you like?"

    "Are ponies too friendly for you to get any subjects?"

    "Either that, or they just didn't want to admit it. And that was about the time Celestia told me to move on to something else." She snorts. "Just when I was getting somewhere. Like always."

    "I'd have thought that she would have wanted you to study Harmony."

    "She got the impression that I was going to study it by learning to be more 'harmonious' myself. Ah…" She looks at me awkwardly, then looks away again.

    "What?"

    "Thanks. For… Y'know, everything. Taking me in. Setting up my lab. Stuff like that."

    I slide my chair back, stand and walk around the table to her. Then I bend down and spread my arms out.

    "Hug?"

    She furtively looks around, then leans towards me and puts her arms around my chest.

    Aw.

    Then she pulls back and waves her right index finger at me.

    "This didn't happen."

    I nod. "Of course."

    I rise to my feet and walk back around the table to my seat. "So. Harmony?"

    "Like I said, Celestia told me to stop studying it. I guess… Over a sufficiently large area, if everyone synchronised their magic… But I don't know whether it's additive or multiplicative. And there are plenty of tail hole ponies so there's no way that everyone's contributing."

    I regard her levelly for a-.

    "Yes, I know I was one of them. I've got some ponies I… Need to… Need to be polite to. When I get back. It's just… Not having to deal with Celestia's horse apples all the time, I'm a lot less… Tense."

    "You don't have to go-."

    "No! No, I… I know you said I should just.. cut her out, but she was a huge part of my life and I… Want to-. I want her to see what I've done and just-! Admit she was wrong. That she didn't.. know? Ugh."

    "I hope that it provides you with the catharsis you're looking for."

    "Thanks." She thinks for a moment. "Harmony… There might be a way to focus it and purge the Anti-Life fragment, but… I don't think anypony in Equestria is going to be able to do it for you."

    "No?"

    "I tried studying it, remember? There wasn't anything written down that was any use, and Equestrian thaumaturgy is far less advanced than what Atlantis has."

    "You don't think Celestia might have some sort of friendship-powered superweapon hidden away somewhere?"

    "I hope not."

    "Oh? Why's that?"

    "Because I'd have wanted to study it. If a weapon like that existed and I'd seen it, that would mean that she'd been on to something with her whole 'friendship'.. thing."

    "Yes, which-."

    "And she'd have known that and still chose not to show me anyway. If I knew there was something like that laying around I'd have made friends just so I could study it. If that actually happened then after I ascend then I'm going to buck her in the face twice."
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  16. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    15:19 GMT -3


    Of course, the downside of everyone having superpowers-

    There's a splintering sound as a young woman crushes the base of the trunk of a young tree with her bare hands.

    -is that they can get away with rejecting technology. I don't think much of tribal society. It's something everyone starts with and which advanced civilisations grow out of. But if the Accala spread out across the area they might try and claim at a population density that would be sustainable… They'll never need tools, let alone science or technology. They can outrun cars now. Tear down trees with no need for chainsaws. As long as they can make the Danner formula they don't even have a use for draught animals. Not that they-.

    Or do they?

    "Dawn Warrior?" He turns back from the local he was talking to, who runs off to find someone senior. "Do your people farm?"

    "My tribe don't, but some of our allies do. We know how to, but we were worried that planting areas would give us away on aerial photographs." He looks away, frowning at Beryl as she moves her arm computer's camera around. "What are you doing?"

    "I want some photos." She smiles brightly. "I've never been to the Amazon Rainforest before."

    "Ah, okay."

    "I thought it was Australian tribes who thought cameras steal your souls when they take pictures."

    "Ah… It could be. But we get…" He shrugs. "The jungle is warm and damp, so we don't usually wear all that much. Sometimes, the tourists-."

    "I'm not taking 'private time' material." She lowers her computer and makes a show of turning off the camera. "Really."

    "Okay." He raises his hands in mock surrender. "Sorry."

    Though I see why they might get that sort of attention. Everyone I've seen so far is a Danner enhancile. Tribal people generally don't get that fat due to the fact that their lifestyles involve constant physical exercise and don't involve a lot of refined sugar, but they don't usually get as overtly muscular as civilised athletes do. But while the Danner formula doesn't make you huge it does make you muscular. And it keeps you in your physical prime. So there are a lot of healthy-looking young-looking men and women around who aren't used to seeing white people and probably haven't seen a superhero other than Dawn Warrior before.

    And as a result they're taking a break from their usual routine to wander over and stare at us.

    Dr Munro-. Ring, translator off.

    Compliance.

    Dr Munro is talking to them in their native language, which is provoking a little surprise. A couple of children are daring one another to touch Beatriz's fire, which… Hm, it shouldn't be hot enough to burn a Danner enhancile, not unless she puts a lot of effort into it. Beryl is-. Beryl has noticed Beatriz's unease and is trying to distract them with her computer. Raquel actually is checking people out-.

    "Hey… Orange."

    "Yes, Rocket?"

    "You can just dose anyone with that stuff, right?"

    "Yes, that's correct. Interested?"

    "I dunno." She's staring at one youth-. Who could be old enough to be her father for all we know. He spots her interest, smiles with extreme self-confidence and flexes a little. "How hard is it to hide it?"

    "No idea. But no one's spotted that Kon has super strength and Superman went through Junior School, High School and college without anyone spotting that he did. So it can't be that hard."

    "And the downside's that I have to eat an extra egg every day?"

    "And you can't use other forms of augmentation. And it will probably try regenerating your piercings."

    Her right hand goes to the collection of hoops piercing her right ear. "Oh."

    "That's what bothers you? Given how much exposure you've had to Terminan technology, I'd have thought-."

    The crowd parts, and a trio of older people walk through the crowd. Dawn Warrior immediately walks over to them and starts talking-.

    Ring, translation.

    Compliance.

    "…investigating one of us attacking a logging camp."

    A grey-haired woman who… Perhaps her mother just didn't want to have the formula? I'd be astonished if she actually predated Hugo's arrival in the jungle. She gives her head a dismissive shake.

    "We have not yet begun. You know this."

    "They tested blood found at the site. Danner formula, and there are only a handful of us outside of Brazil."

    One of the old men half-turns and whispers something to a stern-looking enhancile standing next to him, who turns around and takes off -metaphorically- at speed. The old man then turns to Dawn Warrior.

    "It will take some time to be sure. These people…" He looks at us. "They are here to stop us?"

    "No. They want to find out exactly what we want, and then negotiate with the government for us. They will make that part easier."

    "I think that making our initial attack a statement of intent would have a greater effect. But since they are here, we may-." He blinks, looking past me. "May well-."

    He brushes off his minders and strides past me, walking up to Dr Munro and staring in amazement. Dawn Warrior goes after him.

    "No, Elder. It's not him. That's his son, Doctor Arnold Munro."

    Dr Munro somewhat sheepishly nods his head. I suppose that the younger people he was talking to would have never met Hugo Danner, and they probably wouldn't have had a picture of him either. The resemblance would only be obvious to people who were around when he was.

    "Actually…" Beryl turns away from the children and brings up an image of an old… report of some kind. "That's not."

    What?

    Dr Munro turns to her with a frown, his neck curving slightly as he tries to read her screen from the wrong side.

    "Doctor Arnold Munro died in nineteen seventy four. In Brazil, doing veterinary work on isolated farms. Which is probably why he got buried without anyone notifying his family, because the people who found the body didn't know who he was and didn't know where he came from."

    She smiles at Dr M-. The man who apparently isn't Dr Munro.

    "Pretty good choice of fake ID, really. I had to check a whole load of forms manually, and it wasn't as if he wrote an itinerary. Took bloody ages."

    "How did you-?"

    "You're not the only Lantern on the team any more. Arisia needs more friends."

    The impostor nods, and I'm trying to work out where he could have gotten a shot of the Danner formula from. Or rather, his mother. I suppose there's no reason why Hugo couldn't have given it to someone outside of his tribal allies. Oh, please tell me that Lex didn't clone him.

    Beryl smiles smugly as she turns off her computer.

    "So why don't you tell everyone who you really are?"

    The impostor shrugs.

    "At this point, why wouldn't I?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  17. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th September 2010
    02:13 GMT +8


    A smile to the few remaining cameras, a polite nod to the usher holding open the car door and then step inside the limousine. The door is closed a moment later and the driver begins the journey back to the airfield.

    Hm.

    Mercy presses a button and the windows tint, preventing lip readers from recording their words. The barrier between the passenger compartment and the driver is already in place and Mercy will have already checked for listening devices in a car which hasn't been left alone for even a minute.

    Still. This isn't home territory, and with superheroes -even unusually helpful ones- on site one could never be too careful.

    He gives Mercy a small nod, and she opens a laptop.

    "Hugo Danner. Born, eighteen ninety six in Colorado to Abednego and Matilda Danner. Only child-."

    He raises his right hand slightly and she stops. No need for his full biography at the moment, though he'll need to absorb the entire thing later.

    "The first recorded demonstration of his superhuman abilities was when his French Foreign Legion unit was deployed during the First World War. A fully loaded munitions train they were unloading was struck by German artillery and exploded. He was the only survivor. He was believed to be seriously injured and was transported to a field hospital, but he recovered within a day."

    Rapid regeneration was interesting -and possibly very profitable- but that wasn't what Orange Lantern had claimed for him. If the train had been fully loaded… He didn't know what 'fully loaded' meant for a World War One munitions train. It would be in the full brief. Certainly, it would represent a significant level of force.

    But enough to injure a kryptonian? That was harder to say with any confidence. He had considered attempting to lure the alien into a large quantity of conventional explosives, but given its estimated toughness based on data gained from weaker attacks it turned out to be impractical. The alien had an acute sense of smell, and there were limits to how much explosive could be manufactured and transported without leaving potentially incriminating records.

    "His commanding officer noted that he was shot repeatedly but was never injured."

    German rifles and machine guns of that era had a muzzle velocity of just under 3000 feet per second. Given the prevalence of static defences on the western front, he would have to be able to absorb repeated hits in quick succession. Whatever gave him his resilience didn't need to recharge, or if it did it was strong enough that the recharge wasn't noticeable when confronted with mainstream weapons of that era.

    "He was also noted as being strong enough to pulverise German bunkers made with concrete and steel."

    That was more significant. The human body wasn't designed to bring that level of force to bear, which meant that not only was he strong enough to do that, he was strong enough to do that repeatedly and inefficiently. And resilient enough to do so without being injured. Orange Lantern might still be exaggerating about his peak performance, but this was certainly worth investigating further.

    "His next noteworthy action occurs in nineteen fifty two, when he attempted a coup against the government of Brazil with the aid of a group of enhanced tribesmen. They defeated the Brazilian military in every engagement before being defeated by a combination of diseases and the All-Star Squadron."

    The All-Star Squadron. The American government's attempt to bring the country's anarchic superhero population under government control. He remembered noting that the organisation failed after they used their powered operatives in what was clearly a military role to support a morally dubious ally, but since he had no interest in improving superhero-related legislation at this stage he hadn't ever learned the specifics.

    Physical regeneration, but not disease immunity. Useful, with an available control mechanism.

    "In the aftermath of the coup's defeat he was taken into custody by the Brazilian government."

    He waits a moment, but Mercy remains silent.

    Unusual.

    "I take it that they executed him."

    "I haven't been able to locate Brazil's records of what they did with the survivors. Since it involves their intelligence agency-."

    He nods, once. While he's not averse to using certain third party agencies to perform research on his behalf, in-house research above a certain level of risk requires his direct approval. It's a trade-off in deniability and control, and he had been burned by inadequate contractors before. Though his alliance with Ra's al Ghul has made control... Slightly less of an issue.

    "Were there any survivors?"

    "Yes. The one most easily contacted is Beto Accala. He's-" She turns the screen to face him. "-seventy two."

    The garish costume suggests that he's operating as a superhero, but the face… He'd have guessed that the man was less than half of his actual age. No wrinkles or grey hair, not even a receding hairline. That had applications beyond security. If it actually was the result of a serum of some sort and this 'Beto Accala' wasn't simply Hugo Danner's natural son.

    Though even if he was, the opportunities for studying how his body worked…

    "Make polite conventional enquiries with our friends in Brazil. I would be quite interested in learning what became of Mister Danner."

    'Quite interested' being code for a specific level of financial and legal risk. Given the changes which Brazil had undergone in the intervening period it was unlikely that their intelligence apparatus would react too strongly to an investigation into a foreign criminal who was disappeared in the fifties, but it would be best to smooth things over quickly if they did. He wasn't worried about his personal safety, but such people could become unprofitably distracting when not pacified.

    Mercy nods. "And Orange Lantern?"

    Orange Lantern indeed. He'd have to check -and he would- but he couldn't call to mind any Green Lantern demonstrating quite that level of control or power before. It would be too much to hope for future cooperation…

    "Have our people assemble a file on him."

    The other matter he raised -while interesting- would be rather harder to investigate than a dead expatriate. The.. 'ally' who knew most about it was far too erratic and as for other contacts… There were a few magicians of note amongst America's supervillain community, but most were far too unstable and unpredictable to be useful assets.

    "Magic research is definitely an area which is ripe for LexCorp to explore. I will simply have to ask our allies whether or not they can recommend a project lead."

    11th September 2010
    13:27 GMT -3


    "No, that's quite alright, Governor, I understand completely."

    His freshly pressed suit made him stand out like an alien creature amongst the filth and squalor of the… Prison. It wasn't surprising to learn that Brazil maintained a prison for inmates that it didn’t want to admit to holding. He glanced left and right, the cameras in his glasses picking up faces for analysis later.

    What was surprising was that they had been looking for a face-saving way to send one inmate home, since between one round of prosecution-dodging document-shredding and another his details appeared to have been entirely lost. They had no idea why he was here at all, and amongst the current generation of Brazilian politicians the fear of the consequences if America found out than they were holding an American citizen were far greater than the fear of whatever he did to be sent here.

    "And you will not have any trouble with the repatriation?"

    "Oh, no. Clearly, this was the fault of someone from Brazil's period of military rule. And I'm sure that I can talk the State Department into seeing that."

    If it ever came to their attention, which was unlikely.

    "I will see to it that this lost soul receives appropriate counselling and care."

    "That is very generous of you, Mister Luthor."

    "Oh, please." He stops, waiting until one of the jailers opens the impressively sturdy metal door into the heavily-reinforced cell. "Call me Lex. And I'm about to go into the cell, so I'm going to have to call you back."

    He hangs up, handing the phone to Mercy as he walks through the door. It's dark inside; no windows and little light from the barred arrowslits in the corridor. The smell is… Not as bad as it could be. He suspects that the jailers cleaned it out a little before he arrived. But the man sitting in the corner with his head bowed and his face curtained by his long and tangled hair is clearly in dire need of a bath.

    He gets a little closer and crouches down in front of him, careful not to get too close or let any part of his suit touch the floor.

    "Hello. My name is Lex Luthor. And I'm here to take you home."

    Then he stands and steps aside and the man hardly struggles at all as his jailers manhandle him out.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  18. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    Another day
    And another and another and another


    The light was.. getting brighter.

    The light hurt a little, but the pain was as distant as everything… Else. And then… Water? He thought that he remembered… Water. Rain. He remembers being wet.

    A.. pulling at his face. That meant something, or… Had meant something, but the ideas weren't coming together.

    Just sink back…

    "…real number on this guy's head, Mister Luthor."

    "But you can help him."

    "I can snap him out of it, but I wouldn't know where to even begin to fix this guy's problems."

    "Mr. Praxis, if I'm unable to capitalise on the opportunities you provide me… Well, that's my problem."

    "Your money. This'll only take a second, then… A couple of minutes for him to figure himself out. Then assuming he doesn't just fall back into it, he'll be able to talk."

    "Proceed."

    **Knock knock.**

    And colors so bright they sear his eyes and his mind the tiny sounds of cloth against leather feeling so much louder than they should be and his skin feels clean and-.

    No. No no no-.

    "Mister Danner."

    One man, blond hair tied back into a ponytail, stands from where he had been kneeling to his right. Sitting.. across from him, is a… Another man. White, bald. Wearing a suit. Next to him, a woman. Secretary? Blouse, jacket, skirt. The room… Office? Living room?

    "Mister Danner?"

    He should… Say something, but… He tries to remember last time he.. spoke to anyone.

    "Mhuh?"

    The bald man appears to take this in his stride.

    "Not too bad, considering how long you were in there. I've taken the liberty of having you washed, shaved and dressed. I don't think that the conditions of your prison-"

    Prison?

    "-did much good for your state of mind."

    He mentally floundered, images and barely remembered sensations. Explosions, he remembers explosions, and… Mud? And chains and.. a.. prison? Yes, a prison. Why was he in a prison?

    "I can see that you're having a little trouble processing this. Do you remember your name?"

    "Drnnr. Dan. Ner."

    The bald man s-smiles.

    "Yes. Hugo Danner. You're presently in the United States of America, in the city of Metropolis."

    America.. was.. home? He remembered the flag, at… High school? And outside the houses of a lot of his neighbors.

    "You were in Brazil, when I found you. Do you remember why?"

    Shouting, people.. hitting him, but not getting hurt. Sadness and irritation, and-. He'd tried to help them and they'd accused him of-.

    "To-. Get away. People didn't..."

    "Yes." The bald man picks up a file and leafs through it. "I understand that society had a difficult time adjusting to your abilities. Of course, that was rather a long time ago now."

    How long ago was..? He looked away from the bald man, focusing on the carpeted floor. He remembered… He left America to.. go to France, for the War. He joined the French Foreign Legion to get away, and… The other soldiers liked him in a way that.. people he knew in America never had. But they died, they all… He didn’t. They weren't as tough as him. Then he went back to America but it was still just as bad, then… He left again. Took a job assisting an archeological expedition. Then-.

    OhGodthechildren!

    "Ah. I see that you're remembering-."

    "They all died, because I-!"

    "No. No." What? "Oh, quite a few did, but some survived the exposure to the outside world, and others simply retreated back into the jungle without being infected. I'm sure that if they'd known where you were they would have attempted to rescue you, but the Brazilian government didn't advertise it."

    They-? They weren't-?

    Olowin, he remembers when Olowin was born. He remembers holding him, playing with him, the sheer joy of being able to play with someone who wouldn't die if he threw a ball too hard. He remembers his first hunt, his growing infatuation with Awendea, sitting with him as he listened intently to stories about the Great War. He remembers the boy being knocked flat by an anti-tank round and laughing it off. And-and he remembers-.

    "I… Understand that you were trying to share your abilities with other people. I very much share that desire."

    Flashes of blue and green and red, dozens of other Americans, people with powers like he had powers, all.. sent to stop him. Why? Didn't they understand how Brazil worked, how the rich treated the common people? Why didn't they want to share the powers that elevated them?

    He'd thought that he couldn't get on with people because he was too different. But he couldn't get on with people who were like him either. And those he could…

    He remembered the coughs. The vomiting. The.. wounds that didn't heal because all their bodies could do was hold themselves together. The starvation that happened when they healed injuries but couldn't keep down the food necessary to replenish themselves.

    "Mister Danner?"

    "Why?" He raises his eyes, looking directly at the bald man. "Why do you want to share this?"

    "Because I believe that everyone should try to better themselves. And ensure that their children have better lives than they had. Hugo, I'm all too aware of the difficulties you had… You were the first of your kind, the first person like you in the world. You… Had it rough, but those who came after you benefited from your experience. People told their children about the things they'd seen you do, and that… That's part of why when the first generation of superheroes appeared they were accepted. You changed people's idea of what a man might accomplish. And… Yes, you had setbacks, and made more than a few mistakes. Because the situation was as new for you as it was for everyone else. And because you were so often forced to do things on your own."

    "Hugo, I want to help." The bald man leaned forward. "I want to help you recreate your father's formula. I want to help you use the best of modern technology to find out exactly what went wrong and how to fix it, so that the next generation of Children of Dawn grow up strong and healthy. I've-."

    "It won't work. For you. It.. doesn't work on adults."

    "I know." The bald man… Luthor? Nods solemnly. "I'm not doing this to benefit myself. I'm doing this for the betterment of future generations of humankind. Will you help me?"

    18th March
    15:23 GMT -3


    He shrugged. It was going to come out eventually anyway.

    "I'm Hugo Danner."
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2020
  19. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    15:23 GMT -3


    Well sugar.

    The old-looking people drop to their knees, followed by Dawn Warrior and the.. people I assume are the older enhanciles. The younger children stop what they're doing and look around in confusion, but the younger adults realise who this man is a moment later and join their elders-

    "No, no, don't-"

    -in kneeling.

    "-do that, please. I don't deserve it." Mr Danner kneels down next to the Elder who went to speak with him. "Cauã, your sons died because of me. I.. watched them-."

    "My sons died for our people. The natives of the Amazon have fought for centuries against those who occupy our lands. Why should I be angry with you for being more successful than anyone before you?"

    Mr Danner can't meet his eyes, tears trickling down his cheeks.

    "No one fought beside you who was not willing to die."

    "They shouldn't have had to! I led the Accala to war because I didn't think anything could stop us! I wanted-. I wanted everything to be over by.. Christmas."

    "You always told us that you were not a god. The fact that you failed to foresee what none of us foresaw will not make me blame you. But see!" He rises to his feet and puts his right hand on Mr Danner's shoulder, pushing him to look at the tribespeople surrounding them. "We are stronger now than ever! There is no one here who is not immune to the diseases which killed their great uncles and aunts!"

    Mr Danner looks around, and there's no excitement or hope in his face. I think.. maybe I should step in now.

    "Elder Cauã, I am Orange Lantern." Cauã turns to look at me, his expression guarded. "I'd like to avoid open conflict between your people and the Brazilian government. Do you have a list of demands I could pass on to them, so that we could try negotiating first?"

    "Lantern?"

    I hold out my left hand and call my personal lantern out of subspace.

    "Yes."

    "Like the Green Lantern?"

    "Same.. sort of idea, yes."

    His eyes narrow. "Why would we negotiate with you?"

    "Because the Brazilian government will probably listen to me, which gives you a chance to resolve things without anyone dying."

    "We are not afraid to die for our people, for our lands."

    "And I can see that. But while you have a lot of power here, it isn't enough to fight the entire world. The Brazilian government will attempt to convince other nations that you are a threat to them as well, and so get their support for fighting you. The best way to prevent them being successful in doing that is to attempt to negotiate before you start fighting, and to be very clear with everyone exactly what you are fighting for."

    Ring, message to Fabiana Holguin. Message: Hugo Danner is alive and has a superhuman army. Interested in interviews?

    Message sent.

    "Hm." He looks over to the other Elders as the tribe gets back to its collective feet. "Man-God?"

    "I don't want any more of our people to die. We should try talking to them first. And if that doesn't work… I'll start the fighting personally."

    Elder Cauã smiles.

    "Thank you, Man-God." The other two Elders nod. "Very well, then. Lantern, come with us. We will show you our map room."

    He walks back to the other Elders, only a small nudge being needed to make Mr Danner join them. For a moment I consider flying after them, but… I don't think that sort of display of power would help. Particularly if all the people of his generation bear as much of a grudge against Alan as he does.

    I go after them and my team forms up around me, the crowd spreading out to let us pass. I shift so that Beryl is next to me, then give her a dubious look.

    "Any special reason you chose to share that little bit of information now?"

    She gives me a dubious look back. "You didn't know?"

    "It sounded a little fishy, but I never investigated it in any detail."

    "Oh."

    "What?"

    She looks a little guilty. "I thought you were covering for him. Since he was working for Luthor."

    "No, I didn't think that his identity was so crucially important that I needed to pry into it. So why did you announce it?"

    "He was being pretty clear that he didn't want there to be a fight. I thought they'd be more likely to listen to Hugo Danner than Arnold Munro."

    I nod. "Quite possibly. And from the colours I was seeing, it might be better for him as well. But if there is any problem arising from the fact that the man who led the last attack is publically leading this one-."

    "I'll be-" She nods. "-taking the lead."

    "Glad we're on the same wavelength."

    We arrive at a collection of wooden buildings, and the Elders enter a long hut. Some tribes build their houses in the trees, but looking around it appears that the Accala prefer building on the ground. That might be tradition, or it might be an adaptation to excitable young enhanciles wanting to skip the whole 'climbing' thing and just jump back home and the damage that results from lacking a basic understanding of physics. No concrete or metal and not a lot of stone. They could mine stone easily enough, but I suppose this isn't the area for it.

    I take a moment to wave a rune stone around, but this part of the world doesn't have much of a reputation for sophisticated magic use and Hugo Danner being here didn't encourage them in that direction. I suppose that bringing in a Native American-friendly shaman or two might help provoke some development of improved arcane techniques…

    I enter the room, which appears to be their planning area. Several maps of varying levels of detail are laid out on a large central table, and there's another smaller table with seats around it set up a short distance away. Hugo's already studying the whole-country map while Elder Cauã looks at me and gestures to it.

    "Here, Orange Lantern, is what we want."

    I approach, and what they want… Appears to be virtually all of the country, save for the most heavily populated coastal cities. A lot of it hasn't been densely forested for over a century. This isn't keeping the jungle as it is, this is full-on reforesting on a scale that no advanced nation has ever performed.

    And it's not just Brazil that's on the chopping block. There isn't going to be all that much left of Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia or Peru, and Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana will cease to exist.

    "That's a hard sell. What are you planning on doing with the people living there?"

    "They can keep living there. But there will be no more of these cattle farms. No more of their industry. We will tear it all down and restore our jungle. If they cannot live with that then they can leave."

    I look around. The other Elders nod, and Dawn Warrior doesn't exactly seem perturbed by the announcement. Hugo on the other hand has his satellite phone out and is.. trying to call up demographic data on the regions they're planning on clearing. Yeah, that's… It might be possible for the areas they're talking about to continue feeding themselves, but there aren't going to be any exports.. or imports. No motor vehicles, because there won't be any petrol coming in. Tribes like the Accala don't use things like that so don’t care, but even some of the more civilised tribes…

    I.. suppose a strong opening position is generally considered to be the way to go in negotiations.

    "I will relay this to the Brazilian government and return with their response. Good day."
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2020
  20. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    15:55 GMT -3


    The Brazilian Minister for National Integration is pacing, his somewhat panicked eyes occasionally glancing at the map I've placed on the desk of the room we were eventually shown into. I suppose you can't give an emergency appointment with a cabinet minister to just any Justice League affiliate who flies up to the ministry building and asks for one. They'd never get anything-

    "This is insane!"

    -done.

    "Unreasonable, perhaps. Insane, no."

    "We would have to evacuate millions of people!" I nod. "They're expecting us to tear up billions of dollars of government and private property!"

    "I believe that they're happy to take care of that themselves."

    I haven't told him about the demands that they're planning on making of the other countries, but I'm sure that he's intelligent enough to guess.

    "They're tearing down everything the people of Brazil have built! People won't want to stay there when there are no schools, no water and they have to.. hunt for their food! Where do they think they're going to go?!"

    "I think their answer would be 'back to Portugal'."

    "I don't come from Portugal! I've never even been to Portugal! And neither do most of the people they're planning to throw out of their homes!"

    "They're not directly threatening anyone. From what they told me, they're happy for anyone who lives there to stay. Ideally, from their point of view, a few map lines will move."

    "Yes, few robbers start a fight if you just give them everything they want!" He stops pacing. "When is the Justice League getting here?"

    "They're not. I mean, you can appeal to them directly, but by default this is covered by the 'internal political affairs' restriction on their charter."

    He stares at me, his eyes growing a little vacant as he tries to remember the exact wording. And he sags slightly as he realises that I'm probably right.

    "Who is leading this?"

    "As far as I saw, a group of Accala tribal elders. Though there's a good chance that they'll defer to Hugo Danner now that he's back with them."

    "Hugo D-? If it's really him then he's a wanted fugitive!"

    "I'm… Afraid not. Basically, your security services lost track of which prison was holding him, and… The Governor of Goiás signed a legitimate medical release for a catatonic American prisoner of unknown identity a little over a year ago. I don't think he ever got a proper trial, either. You could try arguing it, but three members of the Justice League were here during his original putsch attempt as part of the All-Star Squadron.. and… I don't think they'll be enthusiastic."

    I should have noticed the coincidental timing of Diana's return to Themyscira before now, but she never mentioned Brazil when I asked about it. I suppose that it might not have been the main reason for her. Back when the Amazons were living on the Greek mainland disease would have been a much bigger part of warfare than it is now, so it's likely that the stories she got growing up made her someone more inured to seeing it.

    "Then how-?"

    The doors to the conference room burst open as civil servants, senior military officers and about a third of the Brazilian cabinet swarm in. Including-.

    "Mister President-."

    "Miguel, what the fuck is going on?"

    The bewildered President of the Federative Republic of Brazil stares at the Minister, then at the map, then back to the Minister. I note that while the gaggle of governmentarians contains all of those I would expect to be present during a military crisis, quite a few look like they were pulled away from other tasks and had to run here. Uniforms are dishevelled, untucked or unbuttoned and there's a decent amount of perspiration and panting.

    At least they're taking this seriously.

    "One of the deep jungle tribes has been giving its people super strength for the last fifty years and they're threatening… Everything."

    "Can they do it?" He looks around as people begin taking seats in order of seniority. "Can they just.. take this?"

    The senior general looks at me. "'Super strong' as in they all use something like Venom, or is it more like Superman?"

    "Like Hugo Danner. They're far stronger than someone using Venom would be."

    "Mm. How many?"

    "Hundreds. Essentially, their whole population except for the very oldest are augmented."

    "Then… Yes, Mister President. They can. And striking against them would be difficult."

    The President grimaces, then takes the position at the head of the table.

    "The Justice League?"

    National Integration shakes his head. "Internal Brazilian political matter."

    "Orange Lantern."

    "Mister President?"

    "What would it take for the Orange Lantern Corps to assist us?"

    That's-. Would Dox..? LEGION is going to be recruiting, but… Even if the entire population of Brazil signed up, it still wouldn't be worth the level of force we'd need.

    "The Orange Lantern Corps will shortly be going to war with an alien empire. I doubt that moving any Lanterns here is worth our time and I suspect that my superior would be more interested in acquiring the Accalas' support than yours."

    "And they really want…" He gestures to the map. "All this?"

    "I have no further information on their demands of the Brazilian government."

    "Yeah." Beryl nods. "They do."

    "Even…" He shakes his head. "We.. could grant a greater degree of tribal self-governance…"

    "I…" I shake my head. "Don't.. think that's going to be anything like enough, but if you want that to be your initial counteroffer I'm willing to relay it. However, I would caution you that they don't get involved in government negotiations ever and a sufficiently poor counteroffer might result in them deciding to abandon negotiations and attack at once."

    "Attacking what exactly?"

    "Any military or government target they can reach, and they can outrun any ground vehicle and don't need roads."

    "I… Can't provide an immediate answer. We will need to discuss this."

    "Certainly. Would you like me to wait, or will you contact me when you're ready?"

    "Are they going to attack now?"

    "I don't believe so, but… Mister President, they don't need logistics. They can get food for a few hundred people easily just about anywhere and they'll be attacking with their bare hands. They don't need build-up time, they just need a 'go' signal."

    "Stay in Brasília for four hours. We will have an initial counteroffer for you at that time."
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2020
  21. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    16:22 GMT -3


    "…about the size of it, sirs."

    "Danner." Alan looks solemn and… Old. Not literally old, but.. there's a quality of… Visually apparent depth of experience I've seen on supernaturally old young-looking people a few times, and he's doing it now. "There's someone I never thought I'd run into again."

    Diana doesn't look exactly excited at the prospect either, but she isn't looking quite so dour about it.

    "Do you require our aid?"

    Behind the screen, Beryl makes exaggerated nodding gestures. Raquel hesitates, then pulls a face and nods too.

    "I don't know. Wonder Woman, you're probably a better diplomat than me, but you were here during the Accalas' first attack and I doubt that they'll be glad to see you. You could try moderating the response of the Brazilian government while I handle the Accala…"

    "I'll be there in half an hour."

    "Thank you."

    Her screen blanks out, while Alan shrugs.

    "I can come along as well, but you're right: they won't be pleased to see me, and I… Gave a Brazilian ambassador a piece of my mind a couple of years after it happened."

    "I doubt that anyone here remembers it."

    "You're probably right. You don't think we can make a fight of it?"

    "They don’t appear to use magic to a significant degree. If it really came to it I could probably make them not want to attack, but that's the sort of.. wide area mind control sort of thing I don't really want to do."

    "You'd rather just let them fight it out?"

    "You'd rather I mind control everyone who disagrees with me?"

    "No, but you could just… Calm them down a little."

    "I can't calm them down at all. I'd be removing their desire to fight, or giving them an obsession with diplomatic solutions. It wouldn't solve anything unless I left it on. This isn't some temporary desire that might fade if they thought about what they're doing for a little while; this has been the focus of their culture since the fifties. There's more room for negotiation in how the Accala deal with the areas that they take."

    "They really want to tear everything up?"

    "I don't think they've thought it through in that level of detail. At the moment it's just 'government equals enemy'."

    "So what's your next step?"

    "Once the government give me their counteroffer… I think we should probably try and complete the original mission. We still don’t know who it was that attacked the logging camp, and that actually is a crime if the Elders didn't sign off on it."

    Alan manages a small smile. "But they might still argue over jurisdiction."

    Hm… Possibly. And if it is a member of the tribe then I don't think that handing them over to the Brazilian police would be sensible. But at least I can tell them who it was. If they can't exercise authority over the territory they claim then that isn't precisely my problem either.

    Though since we're on the subject of Danner enhanciles…

    "Donner said that Professor Danner was handing his formula out to people he met at research conferences. I'd always suspected, but… Ubermensch, do you think he was a Danner enhancile?"

    "The Axis Amerika fellow? He.. might have been. His folks sure moved in the right circles."

    "What happened to him? League records just say that he was held on treason charges."

    "I.. don't know. I always assumed they found a way to kill him. Danner people still need air, don't they?" I nod. "But I can't say I checked. You think he's alive and in Brazil?"

    "It's more likely that it was one of the Accala jumping the gun, but I want to bear all reasonably probable alternatives in mind. I'll let you know how it goes."

    "Okay." Alan nods. "Good luck."

    I hang up and look at my colleagues. Beatriz is busy trying to contact the entirety of Brazil's superhero population and they're not exactly well organised. I suspect that she'll also be contacting the metahuman security companies, though if she doesn't they'll almost certainly hear about it from their employees. There are probably enough metahumans in Brazil to outnumber the Accala, but… Not all metahumans are created equal. I researched most of them when I was looking for potential League recruits. Most of their abilities are relatively minor, and they're employed more for status than utility. Even the ones who are a bit more useful are mostly far less dangerous than Danner enhanciles. Post-upgrade, Beatriz is.. certainly top tier, if not the most dangerous overall.

    "So-?"

    Beryl looks mildly pensive. "Regional autonomy, with a guaranteed moratorium on further deforestation."

    "How much autonomy?"

    Beryl shrugs. "They’ll control everything except foreign policy. Which they don't care about."

    "Do you think that the government even can prevent deforestation?"

    "They can prevent it happening legally, and let the Accala carry out enforcement. Which spreads the Accala right out and makes it hard for them to do anything else."

    That will probably result in a lot of dead manual labourers. I gesture to her arm computer with her right hand.

    "Have you guesstimated the borders they'll suggest as well?"

    She activates the hologram screen.

    "Something like this. They won't want to give up major towns or roads, but they know that they're going to have to offer something outside the edge of the jungle."

    "Do you think that the Accala will accept it?"

    "No. But it will probably stop them attacking. Today."

    "I suppose that's the most we can hope for. So, Rocket: natives fighting back against colonial oppression, or mindless thuggery by backwards primitives?"

    "Fuck you."

    "You'll have to clear that with my girlf-."

    "It's not either. Yeah, the government pretty much just ignores the natives 'cause it can, but they don't need to wreck everything to stop it. An' even if a lot of the people living in the area they want are mostly descended from natives rather than the.. Portuguese or whoever, they've been living out of the jungle so long they probably don't know how to or want to know how to." She pulls a face. "And no."

    Beryl snerks.

    "You're right, it wouldn't work, the piercings are a-."

    Incoming message.

    "Excuse me." I raise my left hand to my ear. "Yes?"

    "Yes, I want to meet him."

    "Pick you up in about an hour."
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2020
  22. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    17:02 GMT -3


    I smile at the young-looking captain the Brazilian government is dispatching to confirm the Accalas' claims.

    "What did you do to get lumbered with this job?"

    The captain -Davi Serra- remains po-faced.

    "I studied traditional languages and culture in university. And part of my family still lives in the countryside. I want to try to explain why remaining part of Brazil is good for them."

    "Best of luck. You'll experience a moment of disorientation, but there shouldn't be any other side-effects. If you feel anything, let me know at once."

    He nods, I attach a filament and the universe flickers. Since I don't think letting the Brazilian government know exactly where the Accala are at the moment is a good idea, we appear under the canopy. I look at Captain Serra just in case, but he gives his head a small shake and waves my concerns off. I nod, then lower us to the jungle floor, the locals keeping back slightly but watching with interest.

    "They do not interact much with outsiders."

    "Some of them do. Most don't."

    "If they are still vulnerable to disease-."

    "No, but that sort of thing leaves a mark."

    I descend to the jungle floor and remove my filament. The locals have noticed that Captain Serra isn't a superhero, and the looks he's getting are a good deal less friendly.

    "Do they speak Portuguese?"

    Ring?

    "At least some of them do. Hugo Danner certainly didn't speak much Tupi when he got here."

    I lead the way towards the hut, where… There's a queue, and inside Hugo is taking the time to meet his people in turn.

    "…aged a day."

    A woman who could be anywhere between twenty and eighty smiles, nodding.

    "I am a great grandmother now, Man-God."

    Hugo shakes his head. "How do you manage to take the injection? No needle would pierce your skin. A knife wouldn't work…"

    She holds up her right forefinger, whose fingernail looks rather sharp.

    "The potion of the gods can enter the body anywhere. Our bodies can break our bodies. I prepare and administer it."

    "That's-." He notices me. "Ah, I'm sorry, I need to talk to Orange Lantern again."

    She looks around, eyeing me warily for a moment before returning her attention to Hugo. "You will eat with us this evening? All of my children love my stories about you."

    He nods, actually smiling. "I'd like that."

    She leaves the hut, and Captain Serra and I walk past the queue. I awkwardly wave as the people in the queue look at me.

    "Sorry."

    The woman Hugo was talking to gives us a glare as she leaves, then it's just us and the man himself. And everyone queuing outside and a group of people I assume are other Elders talking off to one side.

    "Mr Danner, this is Captain Serra."

    Hugo gets up and offers Captain Serra his right hand.

    "Captain. Are you alright in English? My Portuguese is a little rusty."

    "Mister Danner." He takes his hand. "English is fine. Did you know that they still teach your coup attempt in the Academy?"

    "Oh? I can't think why. We defeated ourselves."

    "Yes, but you killed a significant number of Brazilian soldiers first. I believe that the exercise is intended to teach us how to handle unwinnable engagements."

    "I hope everyone in the military who's advising the Brazilian government took that class."

    "Yes, but there are always people who think it could have been won if they were in command. Focused anti-tank guns or chlorine gas."

    "I've spent most of the time since I got out of prison testing exactly what people like me can do. We're too fast for the sort of anti-tank guns they had back then to make much difference. Gas can kill us, but if it doesn't then our lungs heal. Modern weapons are a bit different, but the defending army would have its work cut out. But… You're not here to negotiate. No offense meant…"

    "No, they would not send a captain for that. I am here to confirm your claims concerning the military force of the Accala. If you really have as many people as Orange Lantern has told my superiors that you have. And if they are really as strong as he says."

    Hugo looks at me, and I take twelve iron bars out of subspace and float one over to Captain Serra.

    "If you'd care to check..?"

    He tries twisting it, then bangs it against the table. Then he takes his knife out and tries scratching it. He nods, and comes closer and picks another rod at random to subject to the same tests. Then he nods again and passes them both back to me.

    Hugo gets up, and they both follow me outside. I pass one bar to Hugo, and he grabs it with both hands and twists it without all that much visible effort.

    A couple of small children clap excitedly, and I make momentary eye contact with their adult escorts for affirmation and then reward them with a bar each. The elder child has a little trouble, but manages to bend it into a 'U' shape. The younger's hands are sufficiently small that they're having trouble gripping it properly, but when they squeeze and grip they leave visible impressions in the metal. Right before it pops out of her grip and hits another girl in the head.

    The other girl's head moves a little under the impact-

    "Sorry! Sorry!"

    -but she clearly isn't hurt and only a little annoyed.

    "Be careful!"

    I recover the metal bars. "Would you like to select some others at random?"

    "I don't think that you are lying, but I need to get an idea of the Accala's numbers as well."

    Hugo nods. "I can show you around a little. But don't go too far away from me. They all know you're coming, but… This is a community, not an army. They don't have that sort of discipline."

    "I'll stay with you. I don't want to get ripped apart."

    "Then I'll leave the two of you together while I visit Caracas. Excuse me."

    The universe flickers as I appear outside Ms Holguin's office, then I wave through the window at her.

    "Ready to go?"

    She nods, grabbing her equipment and dashing out of the office. A few moments later I land as she exits the building.

    "Is this for real?"

    "Very much so, but I'm hopeful that we can avoid open conflict. Ready?"

    She nods, and the universe flickers again.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2020
  23. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    17:13 GMT -3


    Mr Souza smiles nervously at me, his eyes slowly shifting to the Accala tribe members who accompanied me.

    "So… Do you know who did it?"

    One of the young men looks away, before having his right shoulder grabbed and shaken by his mother.

    "I did."

    "And…" Mr Souza looks at me. "Is he under arrest?"

    "No, because there's a bit of a civil war going on, and I'm afraid that the ongoing activity of people like yourself-" He frowns and shakes his head in bewilderment. "-has been a contributing factor in causing it."

    "Ah… Civil war? Since… When?"

    "A couple of hours ago. Since the Accala are negotiating with the government, this-" I gesture to the group with my right hand. "-group aren't going to take any further action against you and yours, but if negotiations fall through they're going to chase everyone off and destroy your machinery."

    The frown is becoming more irritated than confused.

    "Five people?"

    "Does the name 'Hugo Danner' sound familiar?" He shakes his head. I shrug, turn towards the prematurely emancipating young man and nod at the wrecked truck. "A demonstration's probably best."

    The young man walks confidently towards the truck, ignoring the lumberers who have started gathering around. These are physically active men in their prime, or only a little beyond it. And the tribespeople look strong, but the workers can see that they've got completely overwhelming numbers on their side. In the normal run of things… I imagine that quite a lot of confrontations like this don't get back to the police.

    I make eye contact with Overgirl, then nod upwards. She hesitates for a moment, then flies upwards into position to catch-.

    The young man picks up the truck's tow bar and keeps lifting, the truck ending up front end down. People start backing away as he gets a better grip on the frame and heaves-.

    The truck spins through the air for about twenty metres before Overgirl catches it, absorbing the momentum and then flying it back to the ground. It's even more worse for wear now, but it was pretty much a write-off anyway.

    "Ohhh…"

    Mr Souza's eyes widen a little, and there's a small but definite backing off amongst the crowd. They're not fleeing, but they certainly aren't going to try administering a punishment beating anytime soon.

    "They're all that strong."

    Mr Souza's still looking at the truck.

    "Oh. And you're not arresting them?"

    "No. The core of their complaint against the Brazilian government is that they're letting people like you do things like this-."

    "We have.. permits. This is not an illegal operation."

    "That's… That's rather the problem, yes. If it was illegal then they'd probably punish you themselves. But the government allows it which means that the government is the problem. The young man there wasn't supposed to do this yet. Their original plan was to give it a few more years and then wreck every piece of machinery and chase the people out. But it turns out that this is a site of historical significance for them and he got a little angry about it."

    Which is a lie. They actually get one of the substances they use for their jungle chemistry version of the Danner formula here, but the Accala don't appear to realise that I can overhear them from just about any distance and I don't want them to. I also don't want to give the Brazilian government any information which might encourage them to try fighting this out. Not being able to make more enhanciles wouldn't do anything about the ones they already have, and they could almost certainly source the materials from somewhere else.

    "Are they going to attack us?"

    "Probably not. But I suspect that you're going to get a telephone call before too long telling you to pack up and leave, and… You might want to anticipate the order, because if negotiations with the government break down they're going to smash through here on their way to Brasilia."

    "Aren't you…" He wiggles his right forefinger around in a circle. "Supposed to stop things like that?"

    "Giving you a completely accurate answer to that requires… A fairly lengthy lecture on political and social philosophy. Short version?" He nods. "Both the Brazilian government and the Accala have sufficiently unclean hands that I'm not moved to help either. Sometimes people can't talk out their disagreements and -barring a superior power making a ruling- that just leaves them fighting to settle the issue instead."

    "Aren't the Justice League a superior power? I mean…"

    "Do you want the Justice League ruling the planet? Do you believe that they're so inherently wonderful that they should be able to tell anyone to do whatever they want, and everyone should just go along with that?"

    "No, but they're stronger-."

    "Yes, and if the Accala try killing civilians or the government starts trying to nuke the Amazon, they'll step in. But as things stand there's no obvious reason to pick one side over the other. And in either case our work here is done." I turn back to the group of Accala who accompanied me. "Do you want a lift back, or-?"

    The family's matriarch shakes her head as they turn and-. They don't leap away like Kon used to, or try running at full strength and get their legs stuck in the ground. But they do run with enough force to shake the ground, and move with enough speed to get out of sight almost immediately.

    "I.. should.. go and make some calls…"

    I nod. "That would be wise. I don't think that the Brazilian government is telling anyone anything yet."

    Ms Holguin's breaking news piece should be up soon, though hers isn't exactly a major international news outlet. It might take a while to get picked up more widely. Mr Souza waves his right arm in the general direction of his workers as he walks away, and Garth and Angelika approach as the crowd disperses.

    "Civil war?" Garth looks concerned. "If.. that's true, I need to speak with King Orin."

    "Only if I'm planning to pick a side, and I'm not. We'll be serving as neutral third party go-betweens, unless fighting starts in which case we'll be leaving. Wonder Woman is handling negotiations, which means that our job here is over."

    He nods. "How are they so strong?"

    "The Danner formula." Angelika looks intrigued. "The jungle people are still using it."

    "Yes." I frown, and I nearly say 'no offence, but', but then I remember who I'm talking to. "I'm surprised that doesn't bother you."

    "The jungle people are racially inferior to Aryans, but the Portuguese have made themselves mongrels. That is worse."

    Right…

    "I'll drop you both off in Brasilia, then head back to the Accalas' villiage. Our mission's over, but Wonder Woman might still want you."

    They both nod, and just before the camp vanishes I see the workers beginning to pack up in a hurry.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2020
  24. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    18th March
    17:41 GMT -5


    "Recognized, Orange Lantern, B zero six."

    No civil war today, at least.

    The Accala weren't exactly impressed by the government's first offer, but they didn't dismiss it out of hand either. Diana was hopeful that they'd eventually be able to reach some kind of settlement and I could see how much Hugo wanted one. I hadn't realised exactly how poor the soil in the Amazon was until he delivered an off the cuff lecture on the subject. The Accala themselves aren't experts on jungle management; they may have been a few generations ago but they haven't been able to use those skills since the putsch and they've sort of fallen out of the collective consciousness. But some of the tribes they've had dealings with do and they're willing to learn if that's what it takes.

    I walk across the hangar -no bioship yet- and head up the steps to the kitchen. Of course, the best thing to do would be to recruit the entire tribe into the.. jungle rangers, or whatever the Brazilians call them. Make them part of a federal law enforcement body so that they can enforce the current laws, and pass a piece of legislation recognising the tribal lands as actually belonging to the tribes. But I doubt that the Accala want to be bound to an institution that they hate and I doubt that the government want to invite in people who just metaphorically cattle prodded them in the genitals.

    "…complain about, but I had thought there would be more fighting."

    I can hear Garth through the door, and I suppose that's a fair observation. He was stuck at the logging camp trying magic he didn't know and waiting for something to happen.

    As I walk through the door I see Beryl flash him a grin.

    "You could always go and visit the Accala if you wanted. They'd probably be happy to spar with you. Or the Brazilians. Their soldiers need lots of experience fighting metahumans."

    "Reports all done?"

    Garth nods while Beryl shrugs.

    "Sure, but I'm pretty sure that Batman's already getting on top of this one."

    "…rises at four o'clock…"

    Angelika enters the kitchen area from the other side, Wallace helping her with the bags. He nods as he sees me.

    "Hey, Oh El. South America still in one piece?"

    "For now."

    He and Angelika put their bags on the table and Angelika starts rooting through them. She notices me watching and smiles.

    "Kid Flash said that Central City had good German food stores and I was inspired. I thought that I would cook today?"

    I shrug. "Fine with me. Should be an interesting change of pace."

    She smiles and pulls out a bag of.. some sort of pasta balls. "Ideally, this would all be made from scratch, but this is all good quality. Perhaps, tomorrow, I could do something more involved?"

    Ah… Is..? I don’t think there's anyone on the team who would point blank refuse to eat something she cooked, and.. she.. hasn't refused to have anything to do with the non-Caucasian members of the team. I had planned on us visiting a high crime city and making it a low crime city, but I suppose that we can settle for medium crime.

    "I'm sure that-" Whose turn-? Oh.. gosh yes. "-Canis won't mind skipping his turn."

    Apokoliptian food culture doesn't do much to recommend the place. Though he has backed away from his initial idea of having an elimination tournament for would-be diners to prove that they are worthy of being fed, his… Ideas about flavour and texture combinations would make Heston Blumenthal say 'that's a bit out there'.

    Scott Free said that it's better than Barda's efforts, but he has fairly low standards.

    I look around as Angelika begins to pull out roasting tins.

    "Raquel not here?"

    "No." Wallace flops down on the settee. "She wanted to talk to Icon about the whole 'natives versus settlers' thing."

    I nod. I suppose he was around while that was still a significant political issue in America.

    "How was Russia?"

    "I… Don’t know..?" I frown, and he shakes his head. "I mean, the mission went… Fine. We found Christina, she'd joined this… Cult…"

    I walk through the kitchen and sit down across from him.

    "What sort of cult?"

    "They.. kinda.. worship this guy called Savitar."

    I nod. "The Hindu deity?"

    "No, a metahuman with superspeed who named himself after the god. Or wants to be the god. But I think we might have got played by the Russians."

    "How?"

    He shuffles in his seat slightly. "We found Savitar's cult-. One of his cults, and the leader could use full on superspeed. I think he was the guy from that Russian army base, the one who got away." I nod. "They had some kind of mystic energy transfer thing. They put it on Christina to give their guys enhanced speed. Not full superspeed, but they did a number on the soldiers the Russians sent with us."

    "Did they get away?"

    "No, once I talked Christina down their speed vanished right away. But the problem is that we found out there's a whole bunch more places like that and some of the cultists have super speed. So now the Russians want to make more speedsters."

    "Which they could do anyway." He looks dubious. "Couldn't they?"

    "Yeeeeeaaaagh… They could, but they never got the full formula from Jay Garrick and they haven't done much testing to try and fix what they did get."

    I take a moment to remember my own early experiments with it. Also, poor Speedy.

    "So they want the full formula?"

    He nods. "And any work we've done with it since. And, yeah, they say they're not gunna use it to make a super speed army, and… They probably won't, because they didn't do that when Stalin was running the place and he wasn't exactly averse to human experimentation. But if we give it to the Russians… Why aren't we giving it to anyone else?"

    "How about just agreeing to give a dose to a certain number of applicants?"

    "Yeah, but they could probably reverse engineer it from their blood."

    "Why not give them the Blitzen formula instead?"

    We both look around, Wallace craning his neck slightly to look over the back of the settee. "Huh?"

    Angelika keeps putting mustard on some raw meat.

    "Aunty Geri's.. friend, Blitzen. She developed a formula which gives enhanced speed to the person who takes it. It does not make her so fast as the Flash, but it makes her faster than a normal person. If these cultists do not have the same level of speed as the Flash, then the Russians do not need the same level of speed."

    "Huh." Wallace frowns. "Could they reverse engineer it from their blood?"

    "I do not think so. You could ask her."

    "Yeah, I will."

    "Shame there isn't a short term version of the formula, really."

    "Yeeeeahh…" Wallace looks thoughtful. "Ac.. tually…" He gets off the settee. "I.. think I know how to make one."
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020
  25. Threadmarks: Equestrian Girls
    Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    Equestrian Girls

    1st April
    22:17 GMT -6


    "So…"

    I lean back slightly and fold my arms across my chest as Miss Shimmer cringes, eyes darting left and right as her brain frantically tries to come up with a justification for what just happened.

    "How did the trip home go?"

    She brings her fists up to just underneath her chin and grins slightly manically. "Funny story."

    "Oh do tell."

    "Okay, so-." She shakes her fists, then blinks at them-. Ah, she's forgotten to open them, reverting to her hoof-use mannerism. She takes a breath and focuses on her fingers, forcing them to uncurl. "So, the portal opened again, and I used the gems to switch the anchor point to here-."

    "Yes, I was here for that."

    "I just wanna go through it all in order, okay?"

    I raise my eyebrows, sigh, then nod.

    "So I anchored it, made sure that it wasn't going to close on me again, and then I went through. It was night time there, and the mirror was still in the same place as it was a year ago."

    She hesitates, her mouth twitching a little. Ah. Yes. That probably means that no one bothered looking for you or even tried to work out where you'd gone. Uncertain whether to hug her or not, I settle for patting her limply on the right shoulder with my left hand. She reaches across with her left hand to lay it on top of mine for a moment, then pushes mine off.

    "And they'd.. locked the door. And hadn't changed the lock. Took me a moment or two to get used to using unicorn magic again, but the lock wasn't any harder to pick than it was last time I did it. It was dark outside, so I headed for my room, dodging the guards-."

    "Why?"

    "I didn't have time to bring all my stuff with me when I came here the first time. I wanted to see whether to not it was still there."

    "No, why did you dodge the guards?"

    She squirms.

    "Seeeee… Yeah, that… I.. might.. possibly..? Have left out a thing or two about… Y'know… It's a funny story, actually. Y'see-."

    "Miss Shimmer, just tell me." This Is An Order.

    "Ikindagotbanishedforlookingatevilmagicbooks."

    I take a moment to parse that. "Books that were themselves inherently malicious, or regular books that contained potentially harmful spells?"

    "Ah… Both? One of them was talking to me, trying to get me to raise an army of demon zombies." She frowns. "And I think it was written in blood."

    "Doesn't blood make really bad ink?"

    "… Magic? Anyway, I was really just trying to find information on the mirror, and that wasn't even a dark magic artefact."

    I frown. "Then why did they put it in the dark magic sect-?"

    "Can I just finish?" I nod. "So one of the librarians ran to tell Celestia, and she turned up and I… Said some things I.. probably shouldn't have. And.. she had the guards escort me out of the palace and you'd think she'd really have, heh, learned by now that two pegasus guards against a magic expert wasn't a remotely fair fight-."

    I nod. "You beat up the guards."

    "Stunning spells are perfectly safe, in moderation. And then I came through the mirror and had the most disorientating ten minutes of my life. So I didn't think asking the guards for directions was a good idea in case they remembered me, despite the head trauma. And I couldn't just.. run for it because I needed to come back through the mirror afterwards."

    "Okay, that actually sounds reasonable. Then what?"

    "I got there, and… It wasn't the same. I just sort of… When I walked in I was so surprised that I didn’t realise that there was a pony in my bed. Or… Her bed, I guess. I was just.. looking around in a daze, and she woke up and I panicked."

    I nod slowly, then turn my attention to where the young woman I assume is the human form of Twilight Sparkle is chained to a chair.

    "'Panicked'."

    "Mpmf!"

    "She was making a noise in a palace full of guards and Celestia! And I knew a spell for tying ponies up really quickly-"

    I look at the ball gag and raise my eyebrows.

    "-and it was a really instructive book! And so I used that, but I couldn't risk staying there and I couldn't let her tell anyone I was there. So I brought her back."

    She gulps.

    "So… You thought that bringing her back, from a civilisation that undoubtedly has all sorts of magic-based tracking techniques, was a better way to handle the situation than pretending that you were a maid?"

    "I wasn't wearing a maid uniform."

    "And she would have seen that in the dark how?"

    "I-." She looks away again. "Okay. Yes. That probably would have been a better plan."

    I sigh. "Okay, right, not the best way to handle things, but given that you were exiled anyway we can probably still fix this."

    "How?"

    "I go through, carry the portal to somewhere outside Canterlot and we go from there. No guards and no Celestia until we're ready. Okay?"

    "I.. guess… But what about-" She looks at Ms Sparkle. "-her?"

    "Well, assuming that she's adapting to her human body just as well as you did, she won't be able to move, pick things up, use magic or speak any local languages. So she isn't really a security risk." I walk over and kneel down in front of her. "I'm going to take the gag off now. I realise that this is a very unpleasant situation for you, and I intend to return you to Equestria just as soon as we can without compromising our objectives."

    "Mhra?"

    I smile. "Just so. Hold still a moment." I reach forward and undo the gag preventing Miss Sparkle from speaking. "I'm very sorry about this." I pull the gag from her mouth and hand it to Miss Shimmer, who takes it, notes the saliva and puts it down on the workbench before wiping her hands on her trousers.

    "Who are you? Where am I? What's going on? Why am I a monkey-? No, that's not right. No tail. Some kind of ape? But my hind limbs don't seem to have any grasping capacity? Maybe if I take these boots off-." Her chains rattle slightly. "Oh."

    "My name is Grayven, you're presently in the Challenger Mountain facility on another world accessible through Starswirl's mirror. It appears to turn ponies who enter from your side into an example of the dominant local sophont species: humans. Humans are a type of ape adapted for the savannah. As such, they have hair on the top of their head to act as a sunshade but not anywhere else as they generally need to lose heat rather than retain it. As they spent more time walking on their hind legs and not climbing trees they lost the grasping capacity but gained land speed."

    "Oh. So what other species are there-. Wait, another world?"

    "Yes, but don't worry, the portal's staying open this time. I'm going to nip through now, and all being well we'll be returning you within the next hour. Miss Shimmer-."

    "But another world!" Twilight beams excitedly, quite ignoring the chains. "That's amazing! I mean, I know Starswirl the Bearded wrote all kinds of fascinating spells, but I've never heard of one like this."

    Miss Shimmer rolls her eyes. "Yeah, Celestia puts anything not friendship-related in the restricted-do-not-read-on-pain-of-banishment section. How about I give you a tour while Grayven hides the mirror?"

    "Um." Miss Sparkle tries to move in the chains again. "That would be-." Miss Shimmer raises her right hand and clicks her fingers, a sympathetic effect causing the chains to unlock. "How did you do that?"

    "You girls have fun while I'm away."

    I stride towards the tape outline marking out this side of the mirror. How hard can being a pony be?
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
  26. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    1st April 2012
    22:22 GMT -6


    Okay, clearly this was.. built for.. someone smaller than.. me-.

    Ah. Okay, head through-.

    Whow.

    Whow.

    I pull my head back for a moment and blink as my visual field readjusts. I knew that normal ponies have side-mounted eyes to better watch for predators, but Equestrian ponies… They're not side-mounted, but the visual field is a noticeably different shape. And there's no.. 'gap' between being here and being there. Your body changes as you go through what appears to be a two dimensional membrane. Circe could.. probably explain how the mirror makes blood flow synchronise despite the differences in body shape and volume, but a precise explanation isn't necessary for my purpose.

    Behind me, Sunset tries to help Twilight up while Twilight… She's trying to stand on her toes.

    Ah, the memories.

    I lean forward once more, my upper body passing through the portal and mydon'tmovethemdon'tmovethem. My forehooves resting on the upper tier of the small dais it stands on. Don’t move them. It feels like I'm putting my bodyweight on the tips of my middle fingers, and while I'm strong and tough enough to actually do that it's.. a weird feeling. My sense of balance isn't usually-.

    Where have my rings gone? Sinestro, are you still there?

    Yes… Lantern Grayven. Apparently I'm being dragged into this farce as well.

    Where did-? I flick my ears, and half-turn my whoew long neck so I can see myself in the mirror's surface. My yellow power ring is now a yellow power earring, hanging from my right ear like a cow's ear tag. Turn my head the other way and, yes, same with my orange ring. Piercings? I hate piercings. I regard it as a weirdly socially acceptable form of self-harm, why couldn't they go over my horn or-

    I have a horn!

    -something? Ah, never mind. Right, I can still feel my humanoid lower half, just need to take.. one step.. forwards…

    I lift my right forehoof up, move it forwards and gently lower it onto the next step down. It's not quite like walking on my middle finger; all the other fingers are tiny vestigial things on the.. back somewhere, so they're not in the way. I push down in a sort of lopsided press-up as I try to get used to the movement. Okay, I think I should be able to manage a slow walk without falling on my face. Left forehoof.. up.. and down. Progress. Normal back right le-.

    I'm too wide.

    Oh, right. Celestia's tall but anorexically thin. I'm.. probably either a scaled-up regular pony shape, or scaled-up Snowflake-shape.

    Um.

    Gruh.

    I try twisting my hips in a way pony hips are.. apparently, not designed to do. But the mirror's frame appears to be extremely resilient, so if I push off my left leg and reach forward with my forehooves-.

    Ahfuck-!

    Ugh. I'm through. On the floor in the middle of a storeroom and that probably made enough noise that even the guards of Canterlot couldn't have missed it. Lying on my right side. Flank. Whatever an equine's side is called.



    I'm a pony now.

    I crane my neck to get a look at my whole body in the mirror. Gray fur, eyes.. pretty much the same. My full body armour is now full body barding, though it doesn't cover my forehooves. Have to bring gloves next time I come through. But what the heck is up with my horn? It's curved and.. smooth, without the spiral I remember from My Little Pony. No idea what's going on there. And wings! I have-.

    Oh fiddlesticks, how do I move them?

    Um. Yes. Yes? Kind of? I'm just twitching the muscles in my shoulders and back in the hope that one of them connects to-.

    Huh-ah?

    And now I'm on my back. Turns out that my wings are as strong as the rest of me. And while I sort of got a feel for the muscles involved, I don't think I'm going to be doing any flying for the foreseeable future.

    You are aware that-?

    Yes, yes, I know I could fly by ring. But despite a few questionable decisions I don't honestly believe that Celestia is stupid. There are probably all sorts of magic-detection spells on her capital, and even more on her palace. And I'm pretty sure that they'd-

    I squirm and roll onto my side.

    -register yellow and orange power rings as some sort of dark magic. I'm not here for a fight.

    An intelligent observation, Lantern. But without a ring, how do you intend to move the mirror?

    Boom tube, probably. Mother Box?

    Ping.

    Okay, let me know when you've adjusted. And if you can't, I'll just have to grab it and run.

    Another squirm and I'm lying on my… Underside? Gentle flex of the membranous wings now stapled to my spine to check they're working, good. Middle finger middle finger push, and back.. right middle toe..? Yep, okay, good. Back left middle toe and push…

    Ah…

    Arch my feet and push with my legs and up I go. Hah! Okay, door's over there, should still be unlocked from where Sunset picked it… Yuuuaaah… Alright, I'm probably not stable enough -hah!- to open it by hoof… Ugh, mouth it is, then. I'm immune to disease, as long as I don't lick it I'll be fine.

    Okay. Walking… Slowly. Hoof hoof hoof hoof. Hoof hoof hoof hoof. Still a little odd, but I'm getting the hang of it. Walking… Walking… And we're there. And-. Oh, it's just a handle. I mean, I can see the keyhole, but once the lock's open you just.. push. Why do a species who don't have hands have handles like this? Am I supposed to push it with my hoof? No, never mind, my hoof's clean, I'm not going to scuff the paint.

    And push

    The door opens out onto a red-carpeted, lilac-painted corridor. The corridor is.. weirdly tall, with stained glass windows going from just below the height of my shoulders to near the ceiling. Hanging between the windows are simple… Tapestries? Banners? Showing stylised images of equines surrounded by the usual heraldic filler. It appears to be night, and the corridor is illuminated by wall-mounted sconces and candle-studded candelabras. Hm. No electrification yet? I suppose a palace this old wouldn't really be designed for it, and they would probably be better off waiting until they can implement it to a standard quality.

    I carefully walk up to the closest window to try to get an idea of where the exit is likely to be. No electric lighting means quadrangles and courtyards to let the light in, though… I don't think an equivalent European palace would be quite this profligate in its use of glass. I can… There's another section of palace that way, over which I can just about see some of the taller buildings of part of Canterlot before the city stops. I really hope that it isn't like the hazardously built mess in the animated series, because if so I'm not going to spend a moment longer here than I have to. I'd survive the fall but it isn't as if I'd enjoy hearing everyone else die.

    I turn back to the corridor. So… That way. Main entrance should be in front of me somewhere, but there's got to be a tradesman's entrance or something not too far away. As long as I'm careful, I should-.

    "Who are you?"



    Rats.

    I turn to see-. Oh, it's two adorable little foals in mock-guard armour! How sweet! They've even got the little lantern-on-a-pole thing. Someone put a lot of effort into that costume. And yes, situational awareness, but it's not like I can move fast enough to hide. And they're clearly terrified of me. That won't do at all. I lean down slightly and smile at them in an attempt to calm them.

    "Hello, children. Why don't you run back to your parents and forget I was here?"

    "Y-. Y-."

    "Look, I'm not here to hurt anyone. I'll just be on my way, and-" I shrug, and-. And I'm momentarily lifted into the air as my wings flap. "-then-." The two foals flee for the stairs at the far end of the corridor.



    Okay, I need to be somewhere else now.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020
  27. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    1st April 2012
    22:29 GMT -6


    Um.

    I look around.

    But where? The shortest route would be out of the window. I'm not trusting my natural flying ability, or…

    I look at my hooves again.

    Or the aero-discs which now only cover half of my feet. Legs. Are they still arms-? No, no, doesn't matter. Okay. I turn-.

    Ah.

    I fall onto my side, roll onto my stomach and then… Cautiously… Rise back onto my hooves. O-kay. Head back into the room with the mirror, don't run, don't run. Just walk. Good. Good. Shoulder the door open, grab the mirror with a packing crate construct and lift-.

    The crate makes it about two inches off the floor before the bottom of the crate breaks and the mirror thuds back onto the floor.

    Sinestro? It didn't look that heavy.

    I'm a little puzzled myself, Lantern Grayven. You should be capable of lifting an object of that weight.

    Is it enchanted to resist that sort of manipulation?

    Not so far as I can tell. Try creating another construct.

    I try making a coilgun construct-. I can clearly see through it!

    As I feared. After all Miss Shimmer's talk of 'friendship', I had wondered if there might be some manner of mental compulsion pushing her people in a communitarian direction. And I may be right. Something external is weakening your constructs. I suspect magic.

    Huh. Pretty clever. Like Father's Anti-Life broadcasters, only for harmony. Or… Not? That sort of thing is pretty evil.

    It might only trigger in response to direct arcane opposition. And it might be generated by the local equoids themselves. Miss Shimmer did explain at length that they have widespread arcane abilities.

    I hope so.

    This time the shipping crate is orange, and my detestation at the concept of external control makes it glow all the brighter.

    Because I really don't want this to be Evilquestria. I'm not good at psychological horror. If ponies are pony-shaped monsters, I… Think I'd just smash things until the situation was resolved.

    The crate is holding together this time, which is a little odd given that orange is one step further from the centre of the spectrum than yellow, but… Fine. No one knows how Wilsonian magic and power rings interact. I don't know why they'd oppose fear and not avarice… Or maybe it's the 'inspire fear' mechanism the magic is suppressing? Something for Sunset to study.

    I back out-.

    And now I'm on my haunches. At least I didn't fall over completely this time. Although… Lean forwards, press down with middle toes… Yes! Now walk. Carefully. Backwards… Yes. And float the mirror out. Yes, getting somewhere! So, out the window or try to find another-.

    "Halt, villein!"

    The force of the shout slams the construct into my face, breaking it and depositing the mirror on the floor! Ow. I'm back on my haunches again and… Someone's shouting. I lean to the left to peek around the mirror-.

    "Thy vile habits-"

    I duck back as near hurricane force winds blast down the corridor.

    "-and depravations shall-"

    I duck back.

    "-not besmirch the peace of Our night!"

    I peek out again. And.. that's Princess Luna. Black peytral with crescent moon decoration, black tiara, silver hoof boot things. Shouting really loudly, wings flared to make her look bigger, head slightly lowered to either aim her horn or charge and gore me as her mane billows in a non-existent wind.

    I think the top of her head might come up to my shoulder.

    I want to hug her and pet her and squeeze her and brush her mane and call her Lulu.

    I blink, and give my head a small shake. "Not a villein."

    "Still thy ophidian tongue, oh scurrilous leasing-monger!"

    "No, seriously. 'Villein' means 'peasant'. I think you mean 'villain', meaning 'criminally inclined'."

    She blinks, pulling her head back a little. Then she narrows her eyes. "I knowst not how thou hast transcended thine tenebrous state, Sombra, but thy maliferous campaign of abydocomy ends here!"

    "I don’t even know what that-."

    I duck back behind the mirror as a brilliant blue bolt flies from her horn! It blasts through the air just in front of my rapidly recalled muzzle, impacting the wall behind me and leaving a scorch mark burned into the paint. It just burns.. paint? That's.. nothing like strong enough to hurt me. Unless it's a targeting beam she can amp up once-

    "Cease thy craven hiding and face me, churl!"

    -she has a lock or something.

    "That doesn't sound like a good idea to me!"

    Because you're Princess Luna. I mean, come on.

    "For all thine manifold wickednesses,-"

    I hear galloping hooves.

    "-in the name of the moon We shall punish you!"

    I look up to see Luna perform a wing-assisted leap over Starswirl's mirror, glaring down at me as she aims her horn in my direction!

    "Princess, I think there's been-."

    I roll right as the beam slams down through the carpet and into the stonework beneath!

    "For Equestria!"

    Alright then.

    A yellow pneumatic clamp grabs her around the flanks to her momentary astonishment, then speeds her towards the ground. There's a flare of blue from her horn as she shatters the construct, turning the hurtle into a stagger as she absorbs the energy. I generate a construct rounders bat and swing it at her horn, only for it to bounce off a blue shield and fade out of existence.

    Okay.

    Back on my feet, I charge her, middle toe middle finger thumb fuck!

    I trip, forward roll and just about manage to flick Luna on the muzzle with my tail as she takes aim for another shot. She cancels and goes for a double forehoof stomp at my exposed chest instead, which.. my armour absorbs. Realising her mistake, she tries to flap her wings to get away but I reach up with all four hooves and wrap them around her! She flaps anyway haphazardly lifting us off the ground. I swing my weight to the left and her eyes widen as she loses control and we crash into a wall! As we hit the ground she wraps her hooves around me as well and-.

    Ow! She bit me!
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020
  28. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    1st April 2012
    22:33 GMT -6


    Right on the-! Flipping-! Neck!

    I retaliate with a weak headbutt, but she's already leaning out of easy range in an attempt to bring her horn to bear! I wrench us left, causing us to roll, floor, corridor and ceiling flashing past as I go above and then below her! As she goes down the impact of her head against the floor breaks her concentration and her horn goes out. Rallying, she waits until she's above me once more and then pulls back at a sharper angle to fuck!

    I just about get my head in position to awkwardly parry her attempted horn-stab, the smooth surface of my horn causing her face-spear to slide along it rather than locking. Our equine faces slam together, the muscles of our necks straining as we each try to push the other's head back! Ah, horse diaphragm should be there… I shift my hind legs up her body and squeeze! She grunts as I compress her lungs then flaps her wings, lifting us both into the air once more. I flap my own and ow, okay, mistake! She wiggles enough to bite the membrane of the left wing and it turns out that it's pretty vulnerable. I'm not sure whether my New God resilience just got replaced by alicornism or her bite is just that strong but-. Her neck's exposed! Carotid artery is there and I-.

    That's a hoof. I don’t have hands, because I'm a pony.

    It's surprisingly easy to forg-.

    Waagh!

    Oof.

    The middle of her body might have been better for squeezing, but it wasn't quite so good for holding on. With my right forehoof off as well, one uneven flap was enough to fling us apart. I wiggle back into a lying position and then-.

    Shield!

    Luna's war beam.. splashes off my weak.. construct.. barrier..? Huh? I was getting ready to dodge out of the way, but it looks like I can take it. Sinestro, any ideas?

    Perhaps her arcane abilities are limited to specific fields, and those do not include direct-

    Luna ceases her assault, spreading her wings and floating in the air as a blue shimmer surrounds her body. I rise to my hooves, maintaining my barrier as I do so.

    -war magics? Or possibly those-

    The blue light intensifies, and as it dims I see that Luna has moved to her second stage.

    -guards you dismissed earlier have spread their fear to the rest of the garrison?

    Those were g-?

    Luna thaumokinetically thrusts her spear at me, the tip effortlessly piercing my construct as I sidestep-. As I fall over to avoid it. Okay, construct to keep myself vertical as Luna recalls her spear. Draw my sword or not? Since this appears to be a low power interpretation version of Equestria, the daiklave -let alone the Sword of the Fallen- could probably kill her. And that armour doesn't look like it's up to taking serious hits.

    Plus, I've.. had to reforge it after every significant fight I've used it in...

    She floats her spear just behind her head, which isn't actually a sensible place to hold a spear. A javelin maybe, but with a spear she should be advancing, using her superior reach combined with small thrusts to force me back. Or… Maybe she's not sure whether or not it actually will pierce my armour and she doesn't want to risk getting back within grabbing range.

    I grin.

    "Is that a spear, or are you just pleased to see me?"

    "We hath never been less pleased to see any being, thou dew-beating-"

    She thrusts again to emphasise her point. Aim, aim-

    "-clodomite!"

    -and flap!

    I hurtle past her spear, the left side of the blade lightly grazing the armour of my criniere. Luna's eyes widen as I slam into her chest to chest, knocking her into the ceiling -ugh- and then landing on her as we fall to the floor.

    "Ough."

    There's a clatter as she loses her arcane grip on the spear, and it looks like her armour is designed to prevent piercing damage and not blunt trauma. But she's only dazed for a moment, her-. Ow, that's my nose you midget-horse! Right! I grapple her again and roll us down the corridor from which she originally approached, trying her to make her impacts against the hard floor just a little heavier than mine. The look of frustration on her face is…

    "Heh."

    I'm wrestling a pony princess in a castle full of tiny garish horse people.

    "Heh."

    Luna gets annoyed enough at my amusement that she flat out headbutts me again, but she can't get that much force behind the blow. She takes a moment to stare at me, then I press my forehead into hers, forcing the back of her head to the floor-.

    "Grayven, what are you doing?"

    Luna and I both look around-. Sunset and Twilight are standing just this side of the mirror. Sunset appears puzzled, while Twilight is genuinely concerned.

    Luna flexes, flipping me onto my back as her horn glows once more.

    "Stand away, citizen!"

    "Who are you?"

    Luna's head jerks in Sunset's direction, clearly irritated. Though I'm not sure how much of that is with me and how much with the pony who couldn't know who she is due to having been on Earth since before she returned. Sunset spots her wings, frowns, then turns to Twilight and spots hers. Her frown turns into a glare, most likely aimed at the absent Princess Celestia.

    "And why is everyone an alicorn now?"

    "HaHAAhaha!"

    "Hm." Twilight rubs her jaw with her right forehoof. "While it's an exaggeration to say that everypony is an alicorn, the population of alicorns has increased by one hundred percent since you left."

    Sunset twitches, while Luna's horn glows as she recalls her sp-. I swing my head, banging my horn against hers, an action which causes her spell to fail and the spear to clatter once more to the floor.

    "Ah… Mister Grayven? Why are you fighting Princess Luna?"

    "She started i-hiheehahaha-t."

    "Mine sister's 'prentice, explain thyself!"

    "Prin-. Luna, you're shouting again."

    "We hath goodly reason!"

    Sunset turns her glare my way. "Grayven, what did you do to Princess Shouty?"

    "I was just walking!"

    "Who is this 'Graven' of whom thou speakst?"

    "That's me." I raise my right forehoof and wave it in her face. "Hi."

    She blinks. "Thou art not the fiend, Sombra?"

    I give my head a little shake. "Don't even know who that is."

    Alright, I do, but it's not as if he made much of an impression.

    "Ah." She slumps slightly. "Then We fear that We may have-. No! Thou wert still attempting the scurrilous theft of Starswirl's Mirror! Explain thyself at once!"

    "I'm from the other side, and I'm here to complain about you using my world as a dumping ground for dangerous relics and creatures." I crane my neck upwards towards her, smiling. "Which way to your complaints department?"
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020
  29. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    1st April 2012
    22:36 GMT -6


    Luna looks down at me with an expression of bafflement on her face, then turns her head toward Twilight.

    "Twilight Sparkle, who are these ponies?"

    "They-."

    "I'm Sunset Shimmer, Celestia's last student. The one before Twilight." Sunset snorts at the absent solar demigoddess. "Unless she's had others she didn't bother telling anyone about?"

    Twilight's ears perk up. "You were-? I didn't-." She frowns. "Why didn't Celestia ever tell me about you?"

    I can't help but look at Luna. And not just because having a powerful female lying on me after a period of physical exertion is causing me to become more than a little aroused under my armour. I'm surprised that she hasn't gotten off yet, actually. Maybe I'm comfortable? Or maybe it's a pony thing.

    Sunset clenches her jaw. "I don't know."

    "Hey, Luna?" She looks down at me and I give her a friendly smile. "Could you either get off… Or wriggle a bit more? I'm good either way…"

    "Ah. We apologise." I feel her wiggling, and for a confused moment I think she's actually going for Option 2, which might be awkward. Then she gives her wings a brief flap, rising off me and landing on the floor next to me.

    Um. How do I get upright? No, no, stop thinking like a pony. Ring, give me a push.

    By your command.

    A construct piston appears and shoves me, causing me to roll onto my stomach. And getting up feels a little easier this time. I think I'm getting the hang of being a quadruped.

    "Why did you ask Us to 'wriggle more'?"

    "I'll tell you when you're older."

    "-is she, anyway?" Sunset's looking at Twilight as she jabs her right forehoof at Luna, who doesn't exactly look impressed about being referred to in the third pony.

    "We are Princess Luna, Princess of Equestria and Alicorn of the Night."

    Sunset turns to face her. She doesn't appear to be irritated with Luna, just a bit put out about the whole situation. "And where did you come from?"

    Luna takes a step towards Sunset, clearly not entirely up to speed. Possibly not understanding why she's getting this level of backchat from a peasant. "We were banished to the moon for a millennium. We hath only returned these last fourteen months."

    Sunset snorts, but this time with amusement rather than anger. "Oh, did you try reading a history book too?"

    "What dost thou mean?"

    Twilight blinks in confusion. "What?"

    Sunset shakes her head and rolls her eyes. "I stopped being Celestia's student when I got banished for reading 'Canterlot Castle: A History'. Volume Two."

    Twilight Sparkle sits down hard and starts to visibly sweat. "Princess Celestia b-b-b-banished you?"

    Luna's eyes harden. "If thou wert banished then why hast thou returned?"

    "Because I got banished for reading a history book! For trying to get an education and constantly being held back by her."

    "Okay." I stride forward and put a restraining hoof across Sunset's chest. "Time out, my little pony. Deep breath." I get a small scowl again, but she closes her eyes for a moment and actually does take a deep breath. "Deep breath. The anger powers the engine; it doesn't turn the steering wheel."

    She turns her head away. "I'm… Fffffine."

    I lean down. "Does somepony need a hug?"

    And the glare's back. "Does somepony need a buck to the snout?"

    "Dunno. Never had a snout before." I look up -though still somewhat down, she's quite a bit shorter than me- at the off-balance Luna. "Hi there. We got off on the wrong foot. My name's Grayven."

    She looks me over, her eyes pausing momentarily on my wings and horn. "We have never met an alicorn stallion. And We are curious how you came to be in a place you claim was used by Equestria for the dumping of 'dangerous relics and creatures' when you so resemble a manifested umbrum."

    "Alicorn stallion? No no no. Present appearances notwithstanding. Starswirl's Mirror transforms you when you pass through it. I don't usually look like this. This is-" I look down at my ponified chest. "-its best attempt to interpret my nature in pony terms." I pause for a moment. "Or it's just messing with me. Could go either way. I get the impression that Starswirl was kind of an arse."

    Luna doesn't appear to appreciate me insulting him. "Starswirl was a great scholar and a hero of Equestria."

    "He also dumped problem individuals and magic items through a portal to another world. My world. It was too long ago for me to have good records on how many people died as a result of his unwillingness to deal with his problems himself rather than pawning them off on someone else, but it wasn't a small number. Be grateful I'm only calling him an arse."

    "People died?"

    "Those sirens who mind-controlled people into fighting each other? Following the myths, they rampaged around the world for a few hundred years before Prince Jon Haraldson slew them. The people on the other side of the mirror can use magic, but there aren't many with a high enough level of skill to cope with creatures like that."

    Luna bows her head slightly. I think? With the long neck and the normal angle of equine faces it's a little difficult to parse the gesture. "In that case, We apologise on behalf of Equestria. We shall take back anyone or anything which Starswirl sent through to ensure that it no longer endangers your people."

    "Nah." I shake my head. "We've pretty much dealt with them now, and you would not believe how much studying those relics has taught Sunset about how your magic works." I smile down at Sunset, raise my right forehoof, and lightly pat-.

    "Get-" She bats my hoof away. "-off m-."

    She blinks.

    "Wait. Fourteen months?"

    "Yes, our-."

    "What year is it?"

    Luna pauses a moment, clearly unaccustomed to being interrupted like this. "In the modern parlance, it is one thousand and one of the Celestia Era."

    Sunset's eyes widen. "That's over fifteen years in the future-."

    My eyes widen too as Sunset and I stare at each other.

    "Fifteen to one time ratio-."

    "Yes, I can count." She turns to face the mirror. "Ah…" Orange light surrounds her horn. "Okay, stabilising the link.. should…"

    Twilight looks from her to me. "What's going on?"

    "By our reckoning Sunset Shimmer came to Earth a year ago. But it's been over fifteen years here. That means that time moves at different rates on each side of the portal. Which is fine for a visit, but it could be a bit of a nuisance for longer stays."

    "But it's not a problem-problem. You're immortal and I'm going to be. Having fifteen minutes pass here for every one there won't adversely affect either of us." Sunset bows her head, a lance of orange magic striking the mirror and spreading around its frame. "But this should make it easier to change in the future."

    "Wait." Twilight stares at the mirror and then at Sunset. "You just… Changed the spells on Starswirl's Mirror? That's…"

    Sunset tosses her mane. "Yeah, I'm pretty good at magic. But-."

    "Fifteen to one! That means-!" Her horn glows for a moment, then she sighs with relief. "Oh good, I'm not too late."

    "Twilight Sparkle." I think we've expended Luna's patience. "To what do you refer?"

    She looks at Luna and puts on a ridiculous fake smile. "Nothing! And.. I.. just need to visit the train station really quickly for no reason. Back soon!"

    She vanishes in a flare of purple.

    "So apparently Celestia makes crazy mares princesses now." Sunset turns to Luna. "Why did she make her an alicorn?"

    "Mine Sister doth not-."

    "Sister?" Sunset sits down hard in shock. "Celestia didn't tell me she had a sister!"

    Luna huffs and rolls her eyes. "Sister decided that expunging Us from the historical record would act to preserve Our good name."

    "But the only night-related alicorn I remember reading about is-."

    "Yes." Luna ruffles her wings slightly. "We were Nightmare Moon. Twice we attempted to bring about an era of eternal night and twice we were thwarted."

    I smile. "Look on the bright side: you're really bad at evil."

    Her eyes briefly alight on me. "We are uncertain that that is a beatitude."

    I shr-. Oh. Ponies can't shrug. "Would you rather be highly skilled at evil? Because if so, I know some people?"

    "Nightmare Moon." Sunset doesn't look as if she believes it. "Foal-or-candy-eating Nightmare Moon. And that was Celestia trying to preserve your reputation."

    "Not all of Sister's plans bear their intended fruit. Something I believe thou hast experienced for thineself. Tell me, did Sister ever tell you of the Elements of Harmony?"
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020
  30. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    1st April 2012
    22:48 GMT -6


    "Elements of Harmony."

    Sunset and I look down from a near-empty viewing gallery as the late train to Canterlot approaches.

    "That's why Celestia was so fixated on me making friends. She wanted me to turn Nightmare Moon back into Luna, like Twilight did. And… Probably end up becoming an alicorn like she did."

    "Probably."

    "I don't… If she'd just told me, I'd have-."

    "You'd never have learned to do it for yourself. You'd just have blundered into it copying someone else's work. Like Twilight has."

    "I… Guess."

    Hm. Change the topic. I nod towards the tracks.

    "Do you know why it's called the Friendship Express?"

    "What?" She blinks, and shakes her head. "No..? They were still building it when I left." She turns her head in the direction of the train now pulling into Canterlot Central Station. "Though I can't say that I'm surprised. Celestia clearly thinks that friendship is the solution to everything, including trains."

    "I was a little surprised that there's only a single line."

    "It's because the city's on a mountain. Creating room for a second track was going to be so expensive that they decided to just merge the tracks at Saddle Lake."

    "That's a crash waiting to happen."

    "It's probably only temporary. I wasn't really paying attention-" I see the purple dot I know to be Twilight Sparkle appear in a flash of purple and trot over to five other dots. Good. "-because the trains use next to no magic and that's pretty much all I was interested in."

    I stare at her, eyes wide. "No. Really?"

    She turns her head back toward me and rolls her eyes. I grin, and she gives her mane a toss in irritation. "So? Why do you want to meet them?"

    "What's my biggest problem?"

    "Darkseid. And…" I see it in her expression as understanding dawns. "He's a big, unfriendly, disharmonious evildoer. Do you.. really think that the Elements of Harmony can defeat h-"

    "What have I said about the word 'defeat'?"

    "-im?" She sags slightly. "That imprecisely worded descriptions are no one's friend." She frowns in puzzlement. "So what do you actually want?"

    "I'm not in any position to be fussy. Apokolips doesn't have a moon, but they can banish him to.. wherever it was Uncle Drax ended up if they like. Or turn him to stone. Or… Make him non-evil. I'd take them killing him, but I don't actually want that specifically."

    "I'm.. not sure…" Sunset looks like an atheist who has just learned that angels are real and is now trying to calculate how many could fit on a pinhead. "Going to Apokolips might be a little bit dangerous-."

    "Obviously. But there's something eminently Apokoliptian right here that we can test it on!"

    "You-? Your Anti-Life fragment. You want them to shoot you?"

    I nod. "I was a little worried that the Elements rewrote the target's mind when their purge function was used, but after speaking to Luna I'm prepared to accept that they don't. So… Yeah. I'm the best choice of test subject."

    "I suppose that makes sense. And… It… Might work. But I'm not sure that-"

    Mother Box, boom tube.

    Ping.

    "-it works on things that aren't a real-"

    BOOM!

    "-threat noGrayvenno!"

    I stride out onto the station platform, the Element bearer herd just in front of me and staring ponies all around. And I shut down the boom tube even as Sunset lunges for it.

    Rainbow Dash has crouched slightly, sizing me up for her forthcoming assault. Pinkie Pie looks more puzzled than anything, her head slowly rotating clockwise and I'm going to stop watching in case it keeps going. Applejack is standing nearly still, but is taking the time to loosen her muscles in case of hostilities. Rarity is blinking in surprise, her gaze already moving to my armour. Twilight is frowning, probably trying to work out why I'm here rather than just waiting for them at the palace.

    Wait, wasn’t there another one a moment ago? Ring, locate-. Ah, that's where Fluttershy disappeared to, hiding behind the luggage trolley.

    Right, can't actually do magic, but if I focus my desire to crush and destroy through my horn… There we go, purple bubbles of evil! I flare my wings, and the rubberneckers either flee or seek cover.

    "BAWHAHAHA! I am Grayven, Alicorn of Conquest! I'm going to take over Equestria and when I do, I'm going to ban flying, cakes, apples, clothes, books and-" I jump, misjudge and have to activate my aero-discs to avoid falling on my face. With their help I land next to the cowering Fluttershy, crouching down so that my head is level with hers. "-bunny rabbits."

    "Ee!"

    She scrambles away from me, wings flaring in an instinctive attempt to make her look bigger than she actually is.

    I leap to my hooves! "AND THE ONLY THING THAT CAN STOP ME IS THE ELEMENTS OF-"

    Rainbow Dash's forehooves hit me in the chin and I barely feel it. The mare herself wasn't ready for me to remain standing and she grunts in pain as she's knocked off her intended flight path.

    "-HARMONY!"

    A loop of rope drops over my head and tightens around my neck. Applejack pulls at the far end of the lasso, and slides across the floor towards me as I anchor myself in place.

    Wait. They're not wearing their elements, or… Check… Carrying them. Blast.

    "BUT THEY ARE IN PONYVILLE, FAR FROM HERE! AND IN THEIR ABSENCE -the absence of the El-e-ments of Har-mon-y- I AM INVIOLATE!"

    Rarity's eye widen. "Twilight! We don’t have the Elements-!"

    "AT ANY TIME WITHIN THE NEXT-" Eyes staring, I check the arrivals and departures blackboard. Alright, only one track so it’s the same train that leaves that goes back… "-THREE HOURS-" I turn back to the herd. "-BEFORE MY SPELL IS COMPLETE, THE ELEMENTS OF HARMONY CAN STOP ME! AT ANY TIME AT ALL. THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN FOR ME IS SOMEONE GOING RIGHT NOW TO FETCH THE ELEMENTS OF HARMONY AND BLASTING ME WITH THEM!"

    Pinkie Pie narrows her eyes at me suspiciously. "Wait a minute. That's exactly how long it would take us to take a train to Ponyville, visit the library and then take a train back to Canterlot!"

    "THE ONE FLAW IN MY PLAN!"

    She beams. "That's really convenient! I wish all our bad guys were like you!"

    "YOU'RE WELCOME! IT'S NICE TO BE APPRECIATED!"

    Twilight moves her head from Pinkie to me and back again. "But the Elements of Harmony aren't in the library. We had to put them back in the Tree of Harmony-"

    The what?

    "-to stop the Plunderseed Vines."

    Right… How long would it take to get from Ponyville to… Wherever that 'Tree of Harmony' thing is..? And the next train… Ah… Roughly…

    "THREE HOURS AND THE TWO FURTHER HOURS THE SPELL NEEDS TO FULLY TAKE EFFECT!"

    "Wait." Rainbow Dash suddenly looks suspicious. "I think you want to be blasted with the Elements! Like it's your big master plan and you need them to make it work!"

    "NO! BEING HIT BY THE ELEMENTS OF HARMONY -THE ONE THING TO WHICH I AM VULNERABLE- IS NOT PART OF A DIABOLICAL MASTER PLAN AT ALL!"

    "That's exactly what a diabolical master planner would say!"

    "Then YES, I WANT YOU TO HIT ME WITH THE ELEMENTS OF HARMONY! TO PROVE THAT I AM MORE POWERFUL THAN HARMONY! I DEMAND THAT YOU BRING THEM HERE!"

    She glare at me. "We're not gunna bring them here just because you tell us to!"

    "YOU WON'T BRING THEM HERE WHEN I TELL YOU NOT TO AND YOU WON'T BRING THEM HERE WHEN I TELL YOU TO! WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO MAKE YOU BRING THEM HERE?!"

    Twilight sits on her haunches and gesticulates with her forehooves. "We literally can't bring them here."

    What?

    "WHY NOT?"
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2020
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