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  1. Time: March 31st, 1999. Late evening. Place: Hanover Institute of Technology, Freedom City, USA "Red team, how’s it going, over," the walkie-talkie crackled. "Three down, von to go," Viktor Archeville replied as his two cohorts stood by. Rose and Jenet were both very nervous, and very excited, not only at what they were about to do but with whom they were doing it. "Everyding is set dere, over?" "Yeah, landing pad is clear," Steve replied, "and the dampers are in place." He looked to Veronica and Ted, and both nodded back. “Blue Team out.†The "landing pad" the Blue Team referred to was the roof of the five-story Panettiere Memorial Library, an area not meant to receive airborne vehicles. But it was not an aircraft that was expected to arrive: it was Provost Michael Moses’ car. To that end, kinetic dampers had been set up over the entire roof. At Provost Moses’ car in the Administrative Building’s parking lot, the Read Team worked to make that happen, by setting up wormhole generators around the car. If their calculations were correct, the four beacons set on the pavement would open a portal under the car, large enough for it to fall through, appearing in the air a few inches above the roof of the building and landing there. The kinetic dampers would deflect much of the force of the impact, preventing the car from crashing through the roof. The prank had been the idea of Steve Nighton, a financial whiz, but he wanted to do so in a way that showcased the advanced science of HIT’s students, which he himself lacked. He had covertly asked others for assistance, and got the aid of Jenet Kyln (a cybernetics expert from San Francisco, who was as fiery as her red hair), Veronica Hawkes (another businesswoman with a stunning knack for PR and spin), and Ted Lineman (a lighthearted scientific omnidisciplinarian). Steve was shocked with Viktor approached him about the project; Steve had wanted to ask the odd German student, but never knew quite how to do so. Viktor had learned of it by overhearing some snippets from Ted, and was interested; he brought along his girlfriend of the past two weeks, Rose Morganite (a Chicago native studying manufacturing efficiency). Viktor had come up with the wormhole idea, but Ted pointed out the need for the kinetic dampers. Their team names were taken from redshift and blue shift, the phenomenon which caused a source of light to appear redder when it moves away from an observer, or bluer when it moves towards an observer. "You sure this is gonna work, Vic?," Rose asked. She knew Viktor would have already made up his mind by know on whether or not to go ahead, but she also knew he often needed an outside voice to make him slow down and see things. "If he drove a respectable car, like an Audi, or even a Bimmer, I vould take a bit more care," Archeville replied. He looked up from the toaster-sized generator he was adjusting, to the Provost's car, to Jenet who was monitoring the other three generators, then to Rose, and smirked. "But since our esteemed Provost drives a Renault Clio, I am less inclined to care if it gets roughed up in transit." Archeville set the last generator in place, and it and the other three began to a cycle of blinking. "Blue Team, come in, ve are ready for transport. Over." "Blue Team here, we are ready to receive," the walkie-talkie crackled, "Over." "Den stand back!," he shouted; the force of his words alone made Jenet jump back. Archeville pressed a button on one of the generators, then leaped back to be well clear of the vehicle. The cycling lights of the four generators spun faster and faster, and a bubble of light blue energy grew out of them to engulf the car. Sparks and then bolts of blue lightning leaped off the bubble, scorching but not severely damaging nearby vehicles and structures. The bubble then appeared to abruptly collapse in on itself, vanishing with a loud POP! Viktor, Rose and Jenet all cheered and jumped for joy, and Rose gave Viktor a quick kiss. Before he got too into it, the walkie-talkie crackled to life. "Red Leader! Red Leader, this is Blue Team! You almost took Ted's head off, and we've got a part of the parking lot's asphalt here... but we did it, the car is here! And in one piece!"
  2. 3 or 4 years ago, April Fool’s Day; early morning at the Prophet Mansion: James slowly and gently closed the door, breathing a sigh of relief. He looked around the door carefully, making sure that no sign of his little ‘trick’ could be seen. Satisfied, he slumped his shoulders in exhaustion as he quickly walked down the corridor. Sure, didn’t seem to need much sleep anymore but that was relatively new. And he’d been up all night arranging this little practical joke. He finally got his room, the smallest and most removed room in the entire place. It was in the basement unsurprisingly. Getting there, he flopped down onto his bed, reviewing the plan in his head one last time. It had taken him weeks and weeks to quietly collect whipped cream and keep it hidden, not mention relatively fresh. Then, filling hundreds and hundred of balloons with it and leaving them out long enough for the cream to go bad had been a real trick. It wasn’t like they left him unattended for long. Or that they didn’t search his room regularly. Well, he couldn’t prove the last one, but he suspected it. The actual placing all of them outside the various doors was easy by comparison as was rigging them to pop/explode when the door was opened. Now, hopefully when his ‘loving family’ **scoff scoff** opened their doors in the morning, they’d be treating with one heck of a stinky bath. He just had to make sure he was somewhere far from there when it happened. Which brought him to his second plan. He reached over and picked up a set of shiny keys off the dresser and smiled. He thought his Uncle’s car was pretty cool but had never been allowed near the thing shockingly enough. But now…now was the time for a test spin. After another moment, he got up and stretched. He’d never get out of the house without being noticed. It was a minor miracle he hadn’t been noticed setting up his little ‘prank’. But as he’d recently discovered, he had new abilities to help. He concentrated and a moment later he appeared in the large garage, staggering a little. He was still getting used to that. He moved over to his Uncle’s prized car. A beautifully restored red and white muscle car. A Chevelle. Very nice. He twirled the keys in his hand as he approached the car, grinning. He crouched down and placed a little something under the car before getting in the driver’s seat. Starting the car up, he slowly backed out. Where the car had been was now empty, save a tiny matchbox replica that is. He was just gonna drive it around a little, and then park it somewhere else. It’d drive his Uncle nuts to see just the little toy car and go looking. And what could go wrong with James just driving it around a little?
  3. It was a beautiful day outside, much too nice a day to be so ridiculously busy. But April weddings brought April flowers, and April flowers were Stesha's stock-in-trade at the moment. The bride in this case had way more money than sense, wanting to give flowers to every female guest at her huge wedding, but they aimed to please at Flowers by Design. Making up five dozen tussy-mussies wasn't exactly Stesha's idea of a great artistic or creative endeavor, but it had to be done, and quickly. She looked up at the clock. Nine A.M. She'd be done by three, probably, hopefully. Time seemed to be speeding by as she worked. Maybe she was losing her touch, she thought worriedly. She'd never meant to let the hero work be more than a sideline, something to do because it was fun and interesting. Now not only was it far more dangerous than she'd ever thought, but it was eating up tons of time as well. As it turned out, danger didn't always happen at night or on holidays, and it really, really liked to show up right when she was prepping for weddings. Her boss wasn't happy with her, but Stesha's undeniable talent for turning out amazing flowers had kept her job safe so far. But was the hero work eroding her skills, too? Maybe she wasn't as good a florist, now that she was spending so much time making plants attack things instead of making them beautiful... She tied another three tussy-mussies, looked at the clock again. Nine forty-five? Her jaw dropped. How could time be getting away from her like this? She wasn't anywhere near on the schedule she should be on, and damned if she was going to beg for help. Almost as if summoned, her coworker Amy stuck her head in the door. "Hey Stesha, how's the bouquet-a-thon coming? Haven't been hearing much progress from in here," she said cheerfully. "You're not falling behind, are you?" A frown creased Stesha's usually pleasant face. "I'm just fine," she promised, "there's just a lot of work to do. How much noise do you expect, anyway?" Amy laughed. "All right, just checking. Call if you need some help!" A little desperate now, Stesha looked around at the seemingly acres of pink and white roses left to be prepared and tied. Closing her eyes, she unleashed concentrated desperation into the plants, which cooperated by helpfully dropping all their thorns. There, that should help. Relieved, Stesha went back to work, tying as fast as she possibly could, even as thoughts kept crowding her head. Maybe she would end up having to give up one or the other of her vocations, but how could she choose now? Not only did she love being a florist, but it was what paid her bills, not to mention what she put on her tax forms. She loved helping people, and being with her friends, and making a difference, but she knew she couldn't only do hero work, she'd be homeless within months. With another five extremely rapid bouquets done, she made the mistake of looking at the clock again, and nearly fainted. "Eleven o'clock?" she croaked. "No way! No way!" She still had four dozen left to do! Stesha went to work with feverish intensity, pushing all other thoughts from her mind. Amy stuck her head back in the door and watched her silently for a moment, grinning. "You look busy," she commented laconically. Stesha responded with an uncharacteristically rude comment, making Amy laugh. "Guess time flies when you're having fun." "Since when are we having fun?" Stesha muttered, sweat beading on her brow. She was never going to get these done, and that would be the end of her job, and where would she be then? "Oh, I dunno, sometime," Amy drawled. "Speaking of time, if you've got your phone handy, you should check the time. And the date." She sauntered out, laughing, even as Stesha dove in her pocket for her cell phone and flipped it open. _Eight_ forty-five am... on April 1. Her gaze flew up to the clock, which had advanced another ten minutes in the few moments she'd been talking to Amy. "AMY!" she yelled, standing up from her stool. "April fooooooools..." Amy caroled back from the other prep room, still laughing. With a growl, Stesha sat down and began tying tussy-mussies again. She still had to get the damn things finished, but oh, there would be a reckoning. Stesha concentrated on that idea for the three hours it took her to finish the rest of the mini-bouquets, and finally had her answer. Revenge was sweet indeed when she heard Amy shriek from the other room and saw her come racing in. "Green!" Amy shouted. "All my roses are bright green! It looks like a Saint Patrick's Day parade in there, and I've got a baby shower first thing in the morning! You did this, didn't you?" "Me?" Stesha asked, all wide eyed innocence. "I've been in here the whole _time,_ remember?" Grinning, she went back to her work with a happy heart.
  4. Those books. Those movies. You've all read about them, you've all seen previews for them, even if you think the writer is an incompetent hack. Horror fans all over the world have condemned Her writing as just petty, stupid teenage romance that takes the terror out of some of the legendary monsters of worldwide folklore. But you've never really stopped to think about them, have you? Who'd have an interest in promoting a series of books that depict murderous, blood-soaked monsters as perfect lovers and the ideal soulmates for weepy teenage girls? That's right Us. I used to hate that writer too, and how embarrassingly cliched and pathetic she made us look. Until I started talking to people; especially until I started talking to superheroes. Jokes about glitter and Edward used to annoy me, you know? They really did. Until I started thinking about what it really meant. Let me start by saying a few words about what I am. I am the damned undead; a soul rejected by God that walks the Earth by night to feast on the blood of the living. I am a juggernaut of my kind, barely affected by the worst of our weaknesses, with only the power of faith to repel me and the Sun, that damnable sun overhead weakening a few of my abilities. There are no doors that can stand against me, no eyes that can see me, even of people with superpowers and super-science. And I should know, I've tested them all. I think about killing people not because I hate them, not because I fear them, but because when my mind wanders I think they might taste really good. Make no mistake. I've made a choice, an ethical decision, to put aside what I am to build a better world for my people and my city. Through great good luck and what I hope is good example, I've persuaded a dozen of my kind in this town to put aside what they are so they can keep what humanity they have. But I have no illusions about what I'm clinging to here, and no illusions about the thing I am at the core of my being. I'm a husband, a father, a superhero, and I am not a man. I am a thing that hunts and feeds on men. I've done it. And though I regret the killing now, there were times when I enjoyed it very much. But no one really cares. I mean sure, Stesha despises me for what I did to her before my control was better, and Taylor's not happy about the times I fed on her, and Ace is certainly keeping a watchful eye on me. Dark Star's kind of pissed too,. But everyone else? It's all jokes about those books and that hero, about glitter and sparkling. And I go on being what I am, doing what I do, and no one really seems to give a damn. All because somebody, somewhere, had the best idea in the history of anything. How do you make people let vampires into their lives, their home, their world? Get the humans to laugh at us first. April Fool's.
  5. North Bay Yacht Club. April 1st, 2010 7:03 pm Estelle has been attending charity events since she'd been in the womb; family legend stated she once kicked so hard at a fundraising dinner that Warren Buffet dropped his fork. But this was her first time she'd ever hosted the annual Freedom City April Fool's Masque, and she'd seen it as a wonderful opportunity to have a little fun. It was typical for the host or hostess to present a skit, monologue or other entertainment, and the blonde scientist-turned-superheroine had gone all out. She only hoped she'd be asked back. She'd sent her one invitation to Viktor Archeville, but she'd been too busy setting things up to notice if he'd made it; as busy as he was, she knew better than to take it personally if he didn't attend. After the audience had enjoyed a few rounds of drinks and some sinful hors d' oeuvres, Estelle took the stage to enthusiastic applause; she looked very elegant in her powder-blue ball gown and heels, her signature locks coiled into an impressive arrangement on top of her head, with several diamond-encrusted combs on loan from Harry Winston tucked into a number of spots. She wore a black domino mask, which felt rather ironic considering unlike most heroes she normally didn't disguise her identity. "Ladies and gentlemen, madames et monsieurs, if I may have your attention please." She held up a small index card and cleared her throat, as if to make a dramatic recitation. "Would the owner of the 2009 Carver Sojourn please move your vessel? You're blocking the caterer's barge. Thank you." This led to a round of polite chuckles and smattering of applause. She bowed to both sides of the room as she grinned. "And I thank you again. As many of you know, I am Dr. Estelle de Havilland; a Harvard graduate, organic chemist and a fellow at ASTRO Labs. I was also born into money, so to be perfectly honest, I have probably attended more charity events than most people have enjoyed hot meals. I say this not in shame, nor in my defense, but more in the way of a pre-emptive apology." As she continued to speak, her hair began to unwind, revealing a number of odd items hidden within its mass, including a fairly complete makeup bag and a small compact. Estelle continued, seemingly oblivious to the confused murmurs of the crowd. "When I was asked to host the Masque, I was determined that I would bring something fresh to the table, something we haven't seen before. I'm fairly sure I've succeeded, but all of you will be the final judges." As she spoke, several cotton balls held by thin golden strands began to remove her classy make-up, while another set began to apply a wide variety of garish colors, including a bright red slash of rouge on either cheek. Now fairly tarted up, she looked offstage and gave a little nod. "I hope that any offense that our performance yields tonight will not impact your generosity of spirit, or far more importantly, your checkbooks." A well-groomed valet approached from stage left, bearing a cherry red Gibson SG, which the blonde heroine accepted with a smile, and in return, she handed him all her jewelry for safe keeping. At this point the crowd was alternately intrigued, concerned and offended, more or less split along age lines. Just before she put the strap over her shoulder, she used her hair to unzip and step out of her ballgown, revealing her old Knox School uniform underneath which now barely fit her, in the best possible way; this elicited a fairly vocal response from the crowd, mostly positive, thank God. Stelle plugged in, praying that the pre-dinner sound check would be enough; she did a few tentative strums, gave a thumbs up to the sound guy, and then the curtains behind her parted, revealing the other four members of 'Naughti Girlz', the 80s metal cover band Estelle, her sister Sunny and their three best friends founded back in high school. They hadn't played together in over ten years, but Sunny handled all the phone calls and somehow made it happen; she was even able to have an old artist friend put together a large banner with their name in angry silver and black glitter to hang from the rafters. Dr. de Havilland shook her head vigorously, and her hair all at once went all frizzy Dee Snider. Soliel de Havilland-King, mother of two and married to a State Department diplomat assigned to Japan, stepped forward cradling her massive Rickenbacker bass and grinned like an idiot. And Tippy Claremont, a highly-paid corporate tax attorney who owned a five-bedroom house in the Hamptons (since the divorce, anyway), leaped forward to grab the mic. "Are you guys ready to rock?" The crowd (well, most of them) responded enthusiastically. "Then let's hit it!" Stelle ripped into the opening licks of 'Thunderstruck', and they were off; technically AC/DC wasn't part of their normal repertoire, but Estelle had insisted she had to play at least a little Angus for her sake. They kept the set list fairly short, partly because they didn't want to drive out everyone over fifty, but also because they were all a bit older than they used to be, and many of them had kids. And truth to tell, they were never all that great to begin with, but what they lacked in skill they more than made up for in enthusiasm and sassy sex appeal. The players: Theresa 'Tippy' Claremont - lead vocals Yvonne 'Vonny' Brookhurst - guitar, vocals Estelle de Havilland - lead guitar Soliel 'Sunny' de Havilland-King - bass, vocals Carol Ann 'Dizzy' Desmond -drums The set: Thunderstuck We're Not Gonna Take It Panama Cum On Feel The Noize For Estelle, this was heaven; to let go so completely and so publically was not something that came easily to her, but having her big sister there made it all right and so much fun. Standing back to back as they played like rock stars, just like they did in Sunny’s room when their parents stayed out late, she felt like a kid again, and a weight she didn’t even know she was carrying lifted off her shoulders. On her last solo, Stelle spun her head ‘round and ‘round, whipping her magnificent golden hair into a downright dangerous helicopter effect that thrilled the crowd and pretty much terrified her bandmates, though they needn’t have worried; her hair never did anything she didn’t want it to, and it was way too much fun to pass up. By the time they were done, the yacht club ballroom had gone insane; there was dancing, leaping about, a few torn gowns and a lot of alcohol consumed. And Stelle and the girls had helped raise a lot of money for cancer research. And backstage, there were a lot of hugs and Facebook invites. Collapsed in a chair, her mass of hair drenched in sweat for the first time ever, Gossamer could only smile Yep, I love being a superhero.
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