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GM

 

December 10th, 2018, 4.54 AM

Star Island Space Control Center, Atlantic Ocean, USA

 

All around the heroes, the Space Control Center buzzed with activity. People rushing by in uniforms of every shade, shouts, the rattle and roar of machinery, the feel of the floor and air vibrating with the sheer noise passing through them. Above was a clear, chill Atlantic sky, a few stars twinkling despite the blazing lights of the offshore aerospace facility.

 

Over the base's cacophony, a voice cut through.

 

"...And that's where we're at. Thanks to the cooperation of these two, we have a lock on Blackstar's most likely location by tracking the signature of his Shadow Bands. Faster-than-light approach in a Pegasus should let you get close to the base without raising the alarm, and if our readings and the information from his followers is accurate, his castle should be minimally-staffed."

 

To his credit, USAF Col. Randall Austin didn't look enviously at the sleek navy blue spaceplane taxiing into the launch sling. The flickering decade and change had thickened the man a shade around the waistline, and the grey in his hair fair outnumbered the thickets of coarse black, but the last hour and a half of explaining a lot of information clearly and concisely proved his mind was as sharp as ever. 

 

"If you can apprehend Blackstar, that would be great. But if you learn how he and his followers are transporting to Earth without the Lighthouse detecting them, that's far more important. Now, are there any questions before takeoff?" Behind his glasses, Randall beamed hopefully.

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Veronica Danger

 

"No, I think I am good."  Came a response from Veronica Danger to the Colonel's question.  The Danger scion was dressed in a loose fitting vacuum suit, under which she wore her more typical attire.  She had a pack filled with various survival gear and other equipment handy, and her necklaces of the small silver charms she carried around were tucked into one of the outer pouches of the vacuum suit.

 

The teenage Danger was almost bursting with anticipation, as she looked up at the sleek Pegasus space plane that she had gotten access to with some help from Uncle Ace.  Over the last couple of months since the incident at S.T.A.R. Labs, Veronica had gotten in several hours behind the sick of a Pegasus in preparation for this expedition to track down Blackstar.  Now she was looking forward to taking the high-performance craft up into space to track down the intergalactic criminal. 

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Echohead

 

Tentatively, Echohead put up his hand. 

 

Good golly! SPACE! in a SPACESHIP!

 

It was like a childhood dream. Except...

 

SPACE KILLS YOU!

 

Yes, except for that part. Like, travelling through hard vaccuum. He gulped. 

 

"Yes Sir Mister Randall. I mean, we all want to track down Black Star and bring him to Justice! No question!" he said, trying to firm his voice despite a wobbling throat and a weak chin. "Except space is a bit ah....dangerous. I haven't been in space before...." he gulped. 

 

"Could I ...ah...borrow your brain?" he said. "I mean...not take it out of your skull. Or eat it. I mean...can I copy it psychically into here?" he asked pointing at his skull. 

 

He could have just done it. But he preferred asking permission. It always seemed polite. 

 

"Not a total copy. I just want to copy your skills and experience! Like, how to repair a warp drive or something" he blubbered, wondering if warp drives were real....

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The Forever Boy

 

Pan was ecstatic. He was only barely keeping himself contained, as he looked at the Pegasus. He was floating a few inches off the ground, unable to keep his eyes of the spacecraft, even as Mr. Austin explained things to them. He was dressed in the loose fitting vacuum suit he had been supplied with, his uniform underneath, including his mask. It might be silly to wear in space, but it wasn't like he wore it to conceal his identity in the first place.

 

This was so exciting. he had never been to space before! Not here on Earth, not back on Neverworld! He had honestly never even thought to try! Maybe he could fly in space! Maybe he couldn't! But actually getting to go out there like this, together with Veronica, Alex and Echohead? Awesome!

 

He positively beamed at the question about questions. He had so many! "How fast will the Pegasus go? Do you mind if we bring souvenirs back? Is there bathrooms on the Pegasus? Will we hit any stars on the way?" He could keep going, but he had to stop for air, and to give Mr. Austin a chance to reply.

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Alex had no memories of the entire affair beyond the duo of extra terrestials appearing and in what felt like a blink of his eyes being held in forever boys lap.

 

The events as relayed to him sounded about right for what he would do and what tended to happen when things got weird around him (as they were want to do quite often)

 

So here he stood with a blank space in his mind but otherwise unperturbed.

 

"Wait, those two co-operated with us?" He piped up when the floor was opened to questions.

 

"Whats our angle on making them talk and can we rely on what they say?"

 

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Veronica Danger

 

Veronica could not help but smile at Pan's excitement about their upcoming trip into space.  She certainly had similar feelings herself.

 

"I can field a few of those questions."  She replied with a small nod to Colonel Austin.  Looking back to Pan, she continued, "in the atmosphere, the Pegasus can achieve about Mach 1.3, which is around a thousand miles per hour.  Once we get out into space, we can use its FTL drives, and achieve much, much higher speeds."

 

"And, yes, there are restrooms aboard the Pegasus, and no, other than our own sun, we would have to go a loooong way off course to get anywhere near any of the other stars.  And I have no intention of letting that happen."

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GM

 

"Hell, kid, you sure know your stuff!" The Center's director looked pleasantly surprised at Veronica's wide experience. "Glad the old bird's in such good hands. And speaking of hands, Agent Echohead, by all means, I place my brain in yours. Not always been a desk jockey, used to go into space, have adventures." Randall shook his head with a rueful smile "Anyway, take what you need."

 

"I got to talk with the aliens after AEGIS disarmed their Shadow Bands. They're easy to get going if you're friendly and know how to listen," Randall indicated the party to the loading ramp, walking them to and up into the Pegasus, "Porpoise and Eagle were helpful, but..." Randall paused for a second, one foot hovering over the spaceplane's floor, frowning a little to himself. 

 

Blinking himself out of the brief trance, Randall quirked an apologetic look at the group before leading the way through the craft's interior. Alien technology and Terres aerospace design melded beautifully, the comfortable, solid furnishings braced and arranged according to a faintly asymmetrical idea of aesthetics. The controls occupied only a small part of the instruments surrounding the pilot's chair. 

 

"They believe in Blackstar. That's the nearest I can explain it. They told me everything, how to track his signature, what its source of power is, defences on the Castle Starshell, when he would be alone. They're confident you can't beat him. That's why I'm saying again that if you can avoid him, do."

 

Randall shrugged. "Souvenirs, though, sure bring back anything you want. 'pparently all Shadow Bands draw from this thing called the 'Nightstone'. We've asked around and got in contact with that ring-slinger, Cobalt Templar, claims it's in his custody. Those two you met at ASTRO Labs claim it's another thing with the same name, which I think is pretty likely. Anyway, if you can bring it back we'd love to have it."

 

As he spoke, the man swung easily into the pilot's chair to punch at a few buttons and tap a few sliders. Satisfied, he jumped lightly out and gestured to Veronica and the seat. "Get comfy Ms. Danger, everything's adjustable, but it's set for a guy of my size right now. This, that and these are where I'd want to start." He pointed at a few of the controls under 'Ergonomics', the majority involving body parts Veronica was pretty sure she didn't have.

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"Thank you, Veronica!" Pan looked in wonder at his classmate and friend. She knew so much about this! And they would get to go so fast! Faster than he had ever traveled before!

 

He followed Col. Austin as he led them up to the ship, still marveling at every single sight along the way. Moving around the room as he colonel told them about the Porpoise and Eagle, and what they had told them, Pan gave pause for a moment. If Blackstar was that powerful, then staying out the way would probably be for the best, yes, but he also kind of wanted to see him. And besides, they were quite formidable in their own right, were they not? But, stealth could be the smarter play, and if Col. Austin believed to be the case, then he would follow that rule, for now. After all, he got to go to space!

 

He did a mock salute when Col. Austin responded to his question of souvenirs. "I shall bring back whatever seems interesting that I can find!" The Nightstone, then? Oh, that could be interesting to borrow. Would probably annoy this Blackstar fellow greatly, too.

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Echohead

 

Echohead gently stepped into Randall's head and, like a psychic photocopier, moved the echo into his head (appropriately enough, given his name). He felt the wealth of scientific and practical knowledge full his neurones. Although he was still seized by the realisation that this was SPACE! and all the horrible things hard vaccuum did to a body. 

 

...he wouldn't be piloting the ship, that was for sure. Even he might know how to, technically, his hands would be shaking too hard...

 

He got into the ship trying hard not too think about all the new things he had learned. But still, he found his palms sweaty, and his forehead doubly so. 

 

"Lets just get there without dying" he said, crossing his chest and gazing to the heavens in prayer. 

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Veronica Danger

 

Veronica smiled back to Pan's response and Colonel Austin's compliment.  The teen then focused on listening to the Colonel's explanation of the interrogation of the two alien criminals and their reasons for being willing to cooperate and provide information.  While she knew a bit about Blackstar and his reputation, if Veroncia was concerned about Porpoise or Eagle's confidence they would not be able to beat Blackstar, she did not show it.

 

When Colonel Austin made some initial adjustments to the Pegasus' controls and then offered her the pilot’s seat, Veronica did not hesitate to take her place in the chair.  "Thank you, but I am familiar with the ergonomic controls."  She replied with a warm smile as she quickly adjusted to the seat to a comfortable configuration, buckled herself in and focused back on the controls in front of her and started running through the pre-flight checklist.

 

"Better ask any last questions of Colonel Austin and find yourselves a seat to get strapped down in."  Veronica said to the others.  "Once the Colonel disembarks, we are going to be beginning our launch sequence."

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Ego seemed like as good a reason as any but it just didn't sit right with alex, if they were so beneath blackstar's notice why did they lead them to him?

 

Still no need to worry or whine about all he could do now was try and keep himself ready for what may come.

 

"Clunked and clicked." He chimed refering of course to the charming sound of the belt locking into its moorings

 

"Lets do it to it."

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GM

 

"Well, guess that's my cue." Despite his easy smile and his efforts to keep it discreet, it was hard to miss the wistful glance Col. Austin passed over the Pegasus' interior. Nodding to the each of the small party, Randall stepped quickly out of the spaceplane, adding his voice to the chatter blaring out over the launch-site. Cables detached, platforms scurried back into the recesses, people in hard hats and high-vis vests rolled banks of reverse-engineered alien instruments off the blaring orange stripe extending acoss the runway.

 

The Pegasus had been a mainstay of Freedom League and A.S.T.R.O. Labs' extraterrestrial activity for over a decade, mostly confined to the relatively-close reaches of the local solar system. The opening of the wormhole orbiting Pluto, however, and the resulting increase in alien activity, had demanded a rapid change. 

 

One of the first was how Pegasi launched. Instead of the slow, traditional takeoffs common to Terres aircraft, a magnetic catapult had been devised for quick and efficient travel out of Earth's atmosphere. Alternatives were already being considered for the future, as the sheer scale of the wormhole's paradigm shift sunk in.

 

That was fairly far from the minds of the four scouts, however. Their craft was gently set in its tray, tilting them away from the familiar and aiming them into the sky. Aglitter with stars though it was, Agent Echohead wasn't alone in at least some recognition of the vastness waiting for them.

 

Then, underneath the craft, a current raged to life. Veronica had already set the spaceplane for launch mode, softening the impact, but everyone felt it.

 

It was like a large, firm hand had torn them from the Earth and flung them, arrow-like, up into the night.

 

 

To be continued in, 

 

AN UNCIVILIZED AGE

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