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MBCE

Power Gauging -- Pompadour

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The Albright Institute had recently opened thier doors to all the citizens of Freedom City as a place to test the limits of those born different from others.

Since their announcement months ago, a steady stream of applicants had slowly trickled through the doors. Today brought Brett Mason to their doors.

Inside the main lobby there was a receptionist behind a desk that smiled warmly at Brett as he entered. "Welcome to the Albright Insititue. How may I help you?"

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Pompadour crosses the lobby, while removing his sunglasses in a dramatic, slow-motion gesture. When he finally reaches the desk, he favours the receptionist with a big, pearly white smile. He folds his sunglasses away, and tucks them into his jacket.

"Yes, I believe you can help me. I have an appointment for Power Gauging? My name is Brett Mason, but you may have me listed as... Pompadour."

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The receptionist pulls out a clipboard with an application that she hands to him. "Yes. If you could feel out this form, we'll get you started right away."

Designation:

Origin:

Power source:

Please Describe your Abilities in detail:

Any Known Weaknesses:

Do you use your powers actively in Freedom City? Yes No

If yes, in what way?


After the application was finished, Brett was shown to a large room with a man in a white lab coat.

"Ah, good day. I'm Dr. Charles Williams. I'll be administering your tests today."

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Pompadour nodded to the woman, and took the clip-board. Settling into a chair, he picked up and uncapped the pen with a tendril of hair. He skimmed the questions with a hmmmm.

Designation:

Pompadour

Origin:

Super Science - Experimental Make-over Technology

Power source:

As above

Please Describe your Abilities in detail:

Hair -I can use it like tentacles, and it's really strong and durable.

Super Strength and Toughness -Not sure how much.

Super Attraction -People seem to really, really like me. If I concentrate, I can make people near me feel different emotions, or the attraction more intensely.

Any Known Weaknesses:

None

Do you use your powers actively in Freedom City? Yes No Sort of?

If yes, in what way?

I'm thinking about using my powers to act as a super hero, and I have already stumbled into a few situations where I was able to use them as a good samaritan.

Finishing the paperwork, Pompadour follows the receptionists direction to the testing area. He shakes the Doctor's hand, then passes him the clip-board. "Pleased to meet'cha Doc. I'm Pompadour."

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The doctor quickly explains the tests to Pomadour.

"Let me explain how the tests will proceed. YOu will be given five stages that test different aspects of your abilities. Each stage will be made up of four parts of progressively difficult tasks. You'll be given 3 attempts to complete a task before you must proceed to the next task. Once you have attempted all four tasks of a stage, you will be given time to refresh yourself and regain your strength. After a short rest, we'll begin the next stage of tests. Any questions?"

Dr. Williamson answered Pompadour as workers began to set up for the first battery of tests.


Once the workers had signalled their readieness, Dr. Williamson explained to his subject his tasks.

"The first stage will be used to determine your fight powress with your hair. You have three chances to grab each of the four targets. Once grabbed, you must hold on to it for a few seconds. If you are unable to hit the target, you will then move on to the next target. Each of the targets have varying levels of profenciency so it should give us an accurate reading of your abilities. Good Luck"

Pompadour can see four humanoid robots had been placed in the room. The first steps forward and begins a series of evasive manuevers.

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Lengths of Pompadour's hair uncoiled and began to undulate in the room. Snaky tendrils rapidly closed with the first flying mechanoid, wrapping it in tight coils and pulling it out of the air. His hair wrapped up the target decisively, depositing a hog-tied bundle on the floor of the gymnasium.

After releasing the first drone, Pompadour watched the 2nd one begin it's maneuvers. His first attempt to entangle the target was over-extended, and he found himself sprawled on the floor in a tangle of his own hair. Rolling to his feet, and straightening out his hair, he slung some tendrils at the target as it was passing overhead, but still disoriented from his tumble, he was off target. Taking a deep breath and pausing a moment to judge the movement of the drone, Pompadour's third attempt snared it out of the air. The target struggled to free itself, but the twisting, pulling grasp of Pompadour's hair finally dropped it to the floor of the gym.

Pompadour revised his strategy. He knew that just about anything he could touch with his hair, his hair could stick to. When the third drone started it's maneuvers, Pompadour smacked it dead center of its chest. However, he didn't have quite enough 'stick' and the drone pulled free. His followup strike was equally accurate, and he managed to follow-up with additional grasping tendrils before the drone could pull free. It too, found itself flat on its back on the gymnasium floor.

The fourth drone was the fastest and most erratic in it's movements. Despite his increased concentration, and attempts to predict the target's flight path... his hair-strikes were always wide of the mark. After his third failed attempt, Pompadour reeled his hair in, with a look of disgust on his face.

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Dr. Williamson took notes on Pompadour's progress. Fasinating! Your hair is like an extention of your body. It has tremendous strength as well as fine control. Incredible."

Works come out and clean up the area as Pompadour is led to a table full of refreshments. A very comfortable chair is also given to him for his use.


Dr. Williamson looked over at the testing area and nodded his head. He turned and looked over at Pompadour and gestured for him to prepare himself.

"We're all set for your next stage of tests. This group will test your ability to defend yourself. The test is simple enough. Just don't let the drones touch your body. You have three attempts to avoid contact. As your hair seems to be your main power, you can use it to block the drones. All we ask is that you don't attack the drones. This is a test of your defensive capabilities, not your offense. Good luck."

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Pompadour walked out into the middle of the room, and signaled that he was ready. The first drone floated towards him at a seemingly leisurely pace. Pompadour backed away from it, and when it lunged, twisted to the side evading its attack. Pomp noticed that his hair wanted naturally to react to the attack, to lash out and deflect it. When the drone buzzed around and came in for a 2nd attempt, he let his hair "go with it." The tendril of hair slapped aside the robot's attack. Allowing his hair to reach full extension, when the drone made its third attempt, he batted it away with his hair before it even came close.

From the trial documents he had read, Pompadour knew that as Sinister Pompadour, he was a dangerous and skilled combatant; if only he could rely on those instincts now. Pompadour tried to "relax" or, at least to allow his hair to do what it naturally wanted. When the second drone came at him, he used his hands and body to deflect and evade the attacks... and allowed his hair to extend to deflect the attacks, and move him out of harms way. The second drone buzzed away, defeated.

The third drone was supposed to have all the speed and precision of a Special Forces operative, Green Beret, Ninja... Pompadour tensed, ready for the inevitable hit. Despite using all his defensive tricks, the drone slipped inside his defenses and tapped him on the chest. He thought that perhaps distance was the key, and again extended his hair. This time, when the drone moved in to attack him, he counter attacked, slapping it away.

The final drone might not be Centurion, but it was supposed to be at least a Captain Wonder. He readied for the incoming attack, moved to the right to follow the drone, only to be outpaced. The drone tapped him fast and hard from the left side. Again, he extended his hair tendrils, trying to slap the drone out of the air before it could connect. His hair moved slightly slower than a striking cobra... and the drone moved slightly faster, tagging him in the chest. On the drones third, and final pass, Pompadour swung his hair at the drone... almost half-heartedly, but when the drone zipped inside his hair's faux-block, he stiff-armed it with his hands, preventing contact.

He turned to look at Dr. Williamson, "Does that mean I pass?"

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Dr. Williamson shook his head. "This is not a pass fail test. It is rather a test of your limitations so that you can have a better understanding of your own capabilities."

Again a table was layed out with refreshments for him to use while the room was set up for the next set of tests. As he rested, Pompadour could see a machine being set up. It wasn'T long until the machine was in place and the doctor was calling him over.

"This next test will be to test your strength. A simple Tug-of-war situation will be simulated. As you pull on the cord, an opposing pressure will be working against you. You have three attempts to overcome each of the four settings. We'll be looking for at least two wins on each setting to eliminate the luck factor. Good Luck."

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For the first time, Pompadour availed himself to the refreshment table. The first glass of water, he chugged. He tossed the empty plastic cup into the waste basket with a satisfied aaaaaaaaaaaah! followed by a raucous belch. The second glass was poured into his hair... which seemed to merely absorb the fluid. Finally, Pompadour tucked into a third glass of water, drinking it at a more sedate pace while nibbling a sugar cookie.

Brushing the sugar off his hands, he listens to the Doctor's instructions while eying the "tug-o-war" machine. "Alright, Doc! Let's do this."

Pomp settled his feet into position, and gripped the tow cable. His hair lashes out with a whip-crack, forming a three-point anchor behind him, as well as wrapping around the cable. The first stage gives him little difficulty. Starting out strong, he keeps the power indicator in the green easily. It dips briefly into the yellow before he redoubles his efforts and drags it back up into the green.

Stage Two begins, and Pompadour lets out a big breath and locks in his grip. Again, he starts out strong keeping the indicator in the green easily... but it dips into the yellow... and continues to drop. As the Indicator touches the red-line, Pompadour screams out "Nyear-aaarrrggh!" Tendons stretch in his neck and arms, as he manfully drags the indicator solidly back into the green.

Pompadour takes a few minutes to massage his arms and neck before settling himself in for Stage Three. The indicator starts green, but in tiny skips and large leaps descends into the yellow, and finally into the red. Pompadour frowns, and shrugs... motions for Stage Four to continue. Perhaps not unexpectedly, a massive "tearing" sound is heard, as Pompadour's hair is pulled free of the ground it was sticking too. A split second later, the tow-cable has completely retracted, and Pompadour is hanging in the air from the pulling apparatus. He drops down to the ground with a rueful laugh. "Yeah... I sort of figured that last one was gonna be a bit too much for me."

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Dr Williamson took notes on the results. "So there is a limit as to how much strength you can exert. Fascinating. Please rest. It looks like you could use it."

The doctor walks Pompadour to the refreshment table. Workers begin dismantling the machine and preparing for the next stage of tests.

"Tell me, Pompadour. Why do you want to act as a superhero here in Freedom City? There must be over fifty paranormals that operate in the city alone. You'd be just another one of the masses here."

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Pompadour allowed himself to be lead over to the refreshment table, stripping off his T-Shirt as he goes. One of the techs, apparently a female one, lets out an appreciative whistle. Pompadour pours two glasses of water over himself, causing more feminine murmurs from the squad of techs. Pompadour picks up a stack of sugar cookies, and begins to munch on them, while considering the Doctor (who is busy frowning at the techs).

"I don't know that I'd say I am intending to be a hero. That might be putting the cart before the horse. Right now, I'm just looking to see if I got the goods." Pompadour is going through the cookies fairly rapidly now. The appreciative tech seems to have gotten her mind back on business, and the murmuring has ceased. "I mean, I know I have super powers, but I don't know if that means I can afford to get lippy to someone pointing a gun at me. I'd like to know where I'm at before I rush into anything."

"My agent actually suggested it to me last week. She figures being a Superhero will raise my profile, which is the best free marketing available. I haven't actually said aye or nay yet, but maybe that doesn't matter. In the last two weeks, I've fought a Thunder God and a half-dozen demons. I think, maybe, having super powers draws trouble to a person. If there's a test you can devise to measure that effect, I'd take it."

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"Unfortunately, we don't have a test like that," the Dr. says with a look at his workers. His eyes brighten slightly as a thought hits him.

"It seems you have an unatural affect on people. Your next test will be the use of your attraction. Simply put, I want you to change the attitudes and emotions of the subjects before you. We'll measure the amount of time and power it takes to get a reaction. Good Luck."

A group of people are brought out and sat on benches in four seperate groups. They wait with emtionless faces for Pompadour's presence.

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Ah. Here was a power he was confident in.

He sauntered up to the first group, and as he began to talk to them about the horrors of gingivitis, they began to shift uncomfortably... one lad began to run his fingers over his gums in a worried fashion. Finally, the vast majority of the group fell on their knees, promising to brush, floss, see the dentist and pray to the Tooth Fairy. click "17 Seconds!" Dr. Williams called out.

Pompadour frowned as he headed to the next group. 17 seconds? That doesn't sound very good. I usually work a lot faster than that. He stopped in front of the next group, turned on his heel to face them, and leveled his finger at them. "Drugs are bad, m'kay?" The group of techs started from his pointed, accusing finger, then scrambled to their feet and bolted. "4 seconds!" Tha's right. Who da man?

Pompadour was already concentrating furiously as he approached the third group. He noticed that they seemed to be all women. When he came to a full stop, he merely raised his eyebrow slightly. The combined weight of the women drove him to the floor almost instantly. He turned his power off immediately, but he could already hear two of the women fighting over his shirt, which seemed to be missing. "uh... 1 second?" The good Doctor didn't seem entirely sure.

There was a brief pause while someone ran down to the gift shop to find Pompadour an Albright Institute T-shirt. Pompadour eyed the last bunch. They seemed a surly, stoic bunch, and predominantly male. This calls for a speech! After pulling on the T-Shirt, Pompadour walked over to face the final group. Striking a pose, he began to orate, right from the diaphragm.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation," a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Pompadour turned to the Doctor, who was misty-eyed himself. "I called it at 22 seconds, but I didn't want to interrupt you... and thank you."

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The room is quickly cleared as Pompadour is given time to rest. The final stage of tests were about to begin and from the look at the prepartions, it was going to be the most dangerous of all.

"This last stage of tests will test your ability to withstand pain. You will be exposed to various conditions that will test the limits of your resilience. Our top medical staff will be on hand to help if things go wrong so do not fear. This is a controlled experiment and we will stop if it seems things seem to be too much for you. Good luck."

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Pompadour eyed the contraption the team rolled out with a certain amount of trepidation.

"Ok, so you're telling me that I'm supposed to stand inside that ball-thing..."

Dr. Williams nodded.

"and that it spins in random directions at varying speeds..."

Dr. Williams nodded.

"and that lightning will be zapping me from the wall continuously..."

Dr. Williams nodded.

"while sub-sonic commands try and break my Will to continue."

Dr. Williams nodded.

"and as the different stages progress, everything will increase in intensity."

Dr. Williams nodded.

"Alright then. Let's get this party started!"

Techs helped Pompadour into the rolling-core of the machine. One of the techs, a petite, freckled red-head tucked a slip of paper into his pocket. And... my first phone-number of the day. I wonder if this is the wolf-whistler from before? Once the glass dome was sealed, Pompadour signaled that he was ready.

A white indicator light came on, and the ball started to move. Red lightning flickered from the ball, causing the hair on his arms to stand up... the hair on his head was indifferent to mere lightning. The electricity didn't bother him, and his feet were able to keep up with the shifting of the ball. A dull ache formed in the back of his head, but he ignored that too, it was probably the sub-sonics. After about a minute (30 seconds, if he had actually had a stop watch), the 2nd indicator light flicked on, a Green one.

The pace of the ball picked up, and presumably the intensity of the lightning was also increased. The head-ache Pompadour was developing didn't go away, nor did it really increase. Bouncing around in his super-science hamster ball didn't seem so bad, although he was starting to think the refreshment table sounded like a good idea. But then, he zigged when he should have zagged. He caught his foot going the wrong way, and took a spill in the rolling ball. He bounced around inside the ball for a few more seconds, perhaps until the stage came to a close. The ball stopped, and the lightning shut off.

"Are you alright in there?" Dr. Williams voice came from a speaker set inside the dome.

Pompadour gave a thumbs up. "Yeah, just lost my footing. I'm OK to keep going."

The Ball started to move again, and the lightning flicked on. The indicator light was white, but it switched rapidly to green. The intensity increased to match. The light only stayed green for a few seconds before flickering to a hateful yellow. Although one might think that being hit with bursts of scary red lightning would be the hardest part of the testing, Pompadour had virtually no issues with it. Despite the rapidity and randomness of the balls movements, he managed to maintain his footing... but he found himself clutching at his head, and whispering prayers he hadn't said in over a decade. Finally the ball came to a stop.

"Are you alright in there?" Dr. Williams voice came again from a speaker set inside the dome.

Pompadour dropped to his knees "no" was all he said.

The dome was popped off, and went skittering across the gym floor as part of some sort of emergency detachment. Techs poured into the apparatus, and manfully hauled him out of there. An oxygen mask was slapped over his face, and a pulse-oximeter was clipped to one of his fingers. Much medical related chaos ensued. After a while, Pompadour was feeling well enough to sit up, and hold onto a cold glass of water which he sipped from sparingly.

Dr. Williams approached "Did you want to attempt the final stage?"

Pompadour just shook his head.

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Dr. Williamson nodde dhis understanding. What the young mand had just went through must have put a strain on him.

"Well, that's the last of them. It seems you are in very good shape, Pompadour. YOur hair has the potential to be a very powerful tool that I'm sure you'll learn to apply with the utmost discretion. If you do decide to move on to using your talents to save people, I'm sure you'll do a fine job. With enough time and training, you may even manage to impress the Freedom League enough to apply for their try outs."

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"Wow... that's a pretty high endorsement. Is there some sort of print out I can browse?"

Pompadour mills around, finishing up paperwork, chatting about test results, and such. It was such an unusual experience, he couldn't quite accept that it was all over. He began to sense that the Doctor was trying to maneuver him out the door. Not that they were trying to get rid of him, just that this is valuable testing space, and someone else was scheduled to be using it soon.

As Pompadour gathered up the last of his effects, the cute red-head ran up to him, with a manila envelope full of test results. "Here are your results, Pomp" giggle "...if I can call you that. And you can call me... anytime."

...perhaps the day wasn't over yet, after all.

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