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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
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  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
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  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 at 6:57 AM
  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 at 6:58 AM
  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 at 6:58 AM
  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 at 7:01 AM
  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 at 10:41 PM
  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 at 7:02 AM
  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 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 20, 2020 at 1:19 PM
  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 LexCorps' 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 21, 2020 at 7:09 AM
  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 complete 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 22, 2020 at 2:37 PM
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