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The skies above Freedom roiled with dark grey clouds, distant thunder rumbling ominously. As the city's residents listened below, the booming grew louder and more distinct, and flashes of light appeared just above the stormy curtain.

 

Suddenly, a sleek form burst through the clouds, the roar of engines and the ozone smell of heavy laser fire filtering down to the city streets. Long and narrow, with broad fins jutting from the rear at ninety degree angles, the gleaming vessel was soon joined by a second craft, made of darker materials and bristling with weapons.

 

The pursuing spaceship fired, white-blue light arcing out from multiple points to strike the smaller ship. It shuddered, electricity surging across its surface, then began to plummet with dangerous speed. The ground shook as it crash landed just outside of Parkside, near Lantern Hill. It’s attack followed, hovering above its victim.

Edited by Gizmo

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Despite the weather, Jack of all Blades had been patrolling the northeast edge of the West End when the fantastic vessels appeared overhead. Even as the first ship began its descent, the swordsman was leaping from rooftop to rooftop towards the site of its inevitable collision.

He reached the clearing just in time to watch one of a good dozen massive, hunched creatures with russet hides and protruding tusks and wielding dangerous looking staffs dispatch a man with deep, aquamarine skin and defiant red eyes. The smaller alien collapsed to the ground, joining a handful of others around the boarding ramp to the felled craft. It’s sole remaining defender, a bright blue woman with long, shock white hair and small antennae, cried out in anguish and unleashed a blast of the potent electricity rippling across her upper torso.

Jack didn’t have the first hint of an idea what was going on, but on his planet, twelve to one odds was no way to treat a lady. Forming a lightning blade from the ample static in the stormy air, he charged forward with a raucous laugh.

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The rain was not bothersome to Physicus; within his dry, climate-controlled armor, it didn't matter whether he was in a drizzle or a hurricane. There was something peaceful in the rush of falling water, and in the way the clouds above softened the light that fell on the city. He calmly trudged along the road down from Lantern Hill, eyes alert for any sign of lawbreakers. There were definite disadvantages in having no vehicles and no transportation powers in a large city, but at least he'd quickly learned the shortcuts and dangerous back alleys that were accessible only by foot. Humming an old Khaladi ballad that would seem totally out of tune to any Earthling that chanced to hear it, he was considering heading back to his haunts in the West End; as usual, the hill was pretty quiet.

Then came a sound that tore the tranquility asunder, a sound he recognized all too easily. It was the discharge of starship weapons, and these specific weapons were used by only one species he knew of. An earsplitting *crashsmashblam* followed, and the ground shook a bit with the impact. Physicus broke into a full-out run toward the source of the sound, rounding two corners with dangerous speed and nearly smashing into an elderly woman making her slow way home beneath an umbrella. He called an apology over his shoulder, narrowly missed an ornamental tree, and still didn't slow. At last he skidded to a halt and beheld a scene out of his nightmares. He had been right. A good twelve Broan warriors stood not far beyond an unmistakably Broan starship, busily working at cutting down members of a blue-skinned alien race he didn't recognize.

With vivid memories of his own arrival on Earth flowing through his mind, Physicus strode forward openly, allowing his helmet to become transparent (though raindrops still halted above his head as though stopped by empty air). The light that existed beneath the clouds reflected off of his wet metallic battlesuit, making it shimmer even more than usual. His handsome face was contorted with fury, and he shouted with a deep, booming voice as he raised the hands that contained his powerful kinetic projectors. "Foul, despicable Broan! Here is your true adversary! I spit on you. Come and do battle, cowards!"

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If she took notice of those rushing to her aid, the blue-skinned woman was too focused on her very survival to acknowledge them in any way. With a scream of inarticulate rage, she thrust her arms akimbo and the electricity surging across her upper torso leapt forward to envelop her body. Her features obscured by the white hot glow of her roiling lightning sheath, she balled a fist and swung wildly at her nearest attacker. Grief and desperation proved no match for a well trained warrior, as the Broan soldier sidestepped the punch neatly. Even so, those closest to the electrified woman took a half step backward, their target suddenly less attractive.

The aliens standing further from the downed vessel seemed content to let their fellows deal with the last of the opposition, when hurled insults caused them to turn about. The Broan's tusked faces curled in anger at Physicus' words, but at least one of them showed dawning recognition. "Khaladi scum! The Empire's record will be cleansed of your taint!" Though he spoke no Earthly tongue, all present understood him easily. A full third of the forces in the clearing readied their harbinger staffs to face this new challenger. As they did, a defiant laugh turned another four away from their mission as a different electricity-wielding foe charged toward them, sparking sword held aloft.

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It wasn't often that Dr. Estelle de Havilland was truly and deeply bored; as a scientist, she found the world a fascinating place, and could stand transfixed for minutes at a time watching the formation of crystals under a microscope. But today she found herself between projects and feeling more or less useless as she half-heartedly finished typing up her labs notes. With a sigh, she idly glanced out her rain-streaked window, feeling like a child who couldn't go out to play.

But suddenly, there was a light in the sky, and a sound that rattled the windows of her lab; Estelle leaped out of her chair and ran to the window, and found herself gaping in awe at the sight.

"Another spacecraft! Could it be related to the earlier landing?"

She ran back to her PC, saved her Word doc, and hurriedly took off her lab coat and kicked off her shoes. Just then Rudy Langstrom wandered into the lab, eyes fixed on his clipboard just before one of Estelle's whizzed past him.

"Dr. de Havilland, you need to sign off on- whoah!" His eyes lit up as he yelled over his shoulder back out into the hall. "Guys, she's doing it again!"

"Doing what again?" called a familar voice from outside.

"The thing, the changing thing!"

The beautiful blonde scientist looked heavenward as she rolled up her sleeve, revealing the high-tech bracer that covered her left forearm; it had many functions, including communications, chemical analysis and a computer link, but right now she flipped up a clear plastic cover and slapped the large red button below. In a flash, billions of tiny nanomachines oozed out of the bracer's reservoir, spreading up her arm and across her body as they converted her blouse, skirt and even ambient moisture into her sleek blue and silver bodysuit.

Rudy sighed happily as he hung on the door frame. "I love my job."

Norm Sivana, the shorter and heavier of the two technicians, came panting into the room, cluching his chest. "Lemme see, lemme see...oh, I missed it!"

Now fully suited up and ready for anything, Gossamer strode to the window and activated a hidden latch, which slid the glass open, letting a good bit of the storm in; she stepped onto the ledge, pausing briefly to shake her head and smile at the FAR boys.

"Gentlemen, do try and grow up." ;)

And with that, she leaped out the window, her long glorious hair billowing out behind her to slow her fall; the two techs ran to the window to marvel at her descent. Norm pumped his fist in the air.

"ASTRO Labs rules!"

With a confidence she'd never once have imagined, Gossamer swung into action, her hair effortlessly grasping flagpoles, streetlights and rain-slick gargoyles as she rapidly made her way west.

"Think I should catch the train..."

Her last swing brought her up to the monorail with a graceful arc, and she nimbly landed on top of a westbound car, riding it in a low crouch.


Soon Gossamer found herself at the edge of the crash site, and several things looked familiar about the scene; thankfully one of them was the human space traveller from the barge, though she was still too far away to identify any of the others present.

Well at least we have an expert on hand.

One vessel was down and it appeared two races were in violent conflict; not wanting to jump into the fray blind, the scientist held back for just a moment, trying to seperate friend from foe.

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Arrowhawk came out of the shadows, slowing from his outright sprint to the crash site. However, despite the fact he was running as fast as a trained athelete, the Broan still hadn't heard his splashing footsteps. His cloak and hood dripped from the downpour, yet he showed no discomfort as his red eyes fixed themselves upon the alien invaders.

One hand came from under his cloak clutching a deadly-looking composite bow, the other clutching a bundle of arrows with blunted tips. Looks like a lot of aliens. Maybe a full squad. And 'only' two capes seem to be tackling them. Easy.

Arrowhawk took aim and rapidly started firing arrows at the group of aliens surrounding the electric-wielding woman.

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The sudden volley of arrows seemed to come out of nowhere to the surprised Broan soldiers. Two of Arrowhawk's blunted projectiles bounced harmlessly off of the aliens' golden armor, but one warrior caught a missile directly to the back of his head, causing his to stumble forward is pain, while the forth shot collided painfully with an unprotected elbow.

"Inferior worms!" bellowed one of the unscathed attackers. "The cowards attempt an ambush! You cannot prevail!"

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Trading taunts with the Broan was only the beginning; Physicus was eager to trade blows with his old and much-hated enemies, and on some level he knew he was being more eager than he should be under his code to prevent harm. Still, he wasn't going to kill the Broan, just make them regret showing their ugly faces near his home and save the woman they were menacing. He could probably instill such fear in them that they would turn tail and run, but he didn't want to give them the chance to spread out through the population. No, he was going to take them down the old-fashioned way; one at a time, and with overwhelming force. His kinetic projectors silently vibrated as they charged up, and he took careful aim at the closest of the Broan in the group confronting him.

None of the other heroes mattered; this was his grudge match, and he would see it settled, blow by blow. His lip curled with hatred and disgust; his face was an almost villainous mask in which only the desire for revenge could be read. "It is you who will be cleansed from the galaxy, murderers!" All was still and terribly silent, but the kinetic bolt flew with deadly accuracy at his enemies...

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The blast caught one of the Broans hard in his stomach, knocking the warrior onto his back. His fellow soldiers rounded on the prince with snarls.

Nearby, Jack of all Blades wove effortlessly past the group of aliens closest to him. "I gotta ask, why does anybody up there still think coming to Earth is good idea?" the fencer quipped as he tumbled under a swinging halberd and flipped through the air to position himself between the Broan's and the downed vessel. "The collective track record for alien invaders around here? Not great." A quick slash of his electrical blade passed easily though the defenses of one oh his opponents, who bellowed as he convulsed from the shock.

In front of the starship's boarding ramp, the Broan's who had shrugged off Arrowhawk's assault swung their staves with violent energy, looking to finish off the last of the crew. The white-haired woman, crackling with energy, evaded their blows and prepared to return them in kind. The Broan standing next to the soldier Physicus had felled slapped a hand against a button on his heavy bracer. "The pirates have allied themselves with the Khaladi prince! It was a trap!" As he did so, his two remaining fellows charged forward. The first attack appeared sloppy, but the armored hero realized too late that it was merely herding him into the second blow. His foe's staff connected solidly with the prince's side.

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Atlas had been on patrol when he had heard the loud explosion and saw the craft crash into Parkside. "Fricken aliens." After a few hurried steps, Atlas took off far into the air. Within seconds he was hurtling towards Parkside, and he managed to land between the two crafts with a rather impressive thud. He had no idea who or what these aliens were, but the other heroes were smacking them around and that meant diplomacy was way out the window by this point. Good that made things simple.

"Vrong planet!" snarled Atlas menacingly as he advanced upon the Broan warriors. But he didn't even get close enough to take a swing, he just clapped his hands together and the Broan were assaulted by a massive shockwave, the raindrops being converted into veritable bullets.

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Altlas' mighty shockwave ripped across the clearing, sending rain along with loose sticks and dirt flying forward. It struck the Broan signaling for reinforcements first, knocking the mighty alien warrior off of his feet and slamming into the recipient of Physicus' kinetic blast. The pair of the them tumbled through the air towards the arrow-shaped vessel. Seeing them coming, one soldier slammed his staff into the ground steadying himself, while his compatriot was too busy nursing a bump caused by Arrowhawk's precise aim. He too was caught up in the Russian's blast, and the trio of Broans crashed against the hull of the ship before landing in a painful pile.

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It was now readily apparent who the offending party was in this encounter, and the white-haired woman looked liked she could use a little help; swinging into the fray, Gossamer landed near the strange visitor.

"I don't know if you can understand me, but welcome to Earth, where we hit violent pigmen in the face!" :D

And so saying, she shot a thick golden tentacle at one of the Broan threatening the woman.

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Gossamer's hair flew forward like a blonde battering ram, smashing against the Broan's armor. Startled, he batted the mobile lock away with his staff. "This is madness!" he bellowed to his comrade."I told you we should never have followed them to this system!"

"Your final mistake, friendkiller!" cried the alien woman in an oddly lilting accent as she gathered blue-white electricity around her. The air around her crackled with power, growing brighter and brighter until it was difficult to look at at. Without warning, she released the ball lightning at her closest foe, the effects exploding outward to encompass much of the clearing. The already battered Broan's howled in pain.

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Arrowhawk strode confidently across the clearing, towards the pile of Broan stunned by lightning. Reaching down, he grabbed the unconscious one and pressed a pointed arrow against its thick neck. "ALIENS! My name is Arrowhawk, and this is my city. Surrender, and you can live. Keep fighting? I kill your comrade here, then execute each last one of you. Do I make myself clear?" Dear God, please don't call my bluff... His face belied his thoughts as the red eyes stared in an angry death glare.

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Those Broan still in possession of their wits paused in mid-battle, the tusk-filled expressions unreadable to the human heroes. After a long moment, one of them choked out an unfamiliar curse and slapped a panel on his bracer. "The pirates are all but dead, the mission is accomplished! Regroup!" One by one, the alien soldiers disappeared in a red and gold spiral of lights. Their ship hovered for a moment longer above the clearing, then disappeared into the overcast sky.

The blue skinned woman howled after them. "Fearcowards!" As the Broan ship rose above the clouds, the electricity surrounding her dwindled then disappeared, and she collapsed to her knees next to the body of her fallen shipmate. Her fingers hesitantly brushed his azure cheek, as tears quietly etched lines down her own face.

The locals composed themselves, then gathered around her, offering a moment of respectful silence. The thunderclouds finally decided to open up, and rain fell softly all about them. It was Jack of all Blades who broke the hush first. "I... we're very sorry for your loss," he said simply. The words felt saccharine in his mouth, but his tone conveyed a simple sincerity.

The alien woman looked up, tears mixing with rain water. "Crewfriends... crewfamily... The Broanfoes, they use an electromagnetic weapon. Cripples shipsystems for a few cycles... surgekills most organics, too," she explained quietly. "My people, Tempestborn, are immune, but..." Her face contorted with grief. "We have failed!"

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Arrowhawk tightened his grasp as he saw the Broan teleport away. "Not without answers," he snarled, but it wasn't enough. His hands clenched upon thin air as his captive vanished in the gold light. "DAMMIT!" He hurled his arrow into the mud and cracked it underneath his boot. He stood and watched as the woman cried over her fallen friend.

I caused other people to be in this situation. Grieving over dead friends and family. I screwed up. This... this time I can fix it. "We go after them," stated Arrowhawk quietly, pulling his cloak around him to keep the rain off. "We catch them and bring them to justice."

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"Oof!" The Broan staff smashed into Zakitaj's side, a lance of pain and a sound that he remembered all too clearly. Other heroes were arriving; he didn't care. One of his foes was down; now he was going to make the others wish they'd never set foot on Earth. Raising his face, now contorted with both rage and pain, he lifted his hands to shoot another mighty bolt into the one that had hit him. And yet the tusked aliens were in full retreat, and before his projectors were recharged they were gone into the sky. "Finish what you've started, beasts!" His cries bounced pointlessly off of the hull of the fleeing starship, leaving him to stand below with a hollow feeling in his gut.

Awareness of the larger situation surged back to him, and his twisted countenance softened into one that was pale and sorrowful. The Broan had taken someone else's loved ones, and from right under his nose. Had he been faster, he could have spared this alien woman the pain he himself had felt not so long ago, but he had failed. Her wail meshed with his feelings, and it felt like a tremendous weight had fallen onto him; the pain of the Broan staff was nothing compared to the angry helplessness that now invaded his gut. He looked up at the man with the bow upon hearing his pronouncement; he didn't even know him, but he'd never agreed with anyone more in his entire life.

"Yes. We will."

He could see in the other man's eyes that he, too, understood. Whether the others would... that remained to be seen. Realizing that he had been single-minded and lacking in courtesy, he approached the Tempestborn woman and, when she had had time to mourn, gently extended an armored hand. It was what life was about, he had discovered; learning to get back on your feet, even when it seemed that nothing was left, though he would more than understand if she didn't see it that way. Still, he had to make the offer. If they were going to set things right, as much as they could be set right, they would need her help.

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As sad as the alien visitor's loss made her, Gossamer was extremely intrigued by the thought of pursing the perpetrators into space, and the many wonders she would no doubt see there.

"I will join you as well; though I'm not the vengeful sort, justice has not been served this day, and I will help in anyway I can. Let me make a phone call to square things away with my employers, and I'll be ready to depart."

She pulled her cellphone out of its docking station on her data bracer and placed a call to ASTRO to quickly put her affairs in order.

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After a moment, the alien woman accepted Physicus' hand as he helped her to her feet. Her expression conveyed wrestling with a great dilemma, with responsibility winning out over her personal vendetta. "...no. Broanfoes will pay," she promised, clenching a fist as electricity crackled between her antennae briefly, "but I must oathhonor our mission first."

She gestured to the ship behind her. "The Flareriders are... were... it is difficult to truthtell. Some called us pirates, but we did much good on many planetworlds. The Lor Republic hirepaid us as... privateers." Pushing up the left sleeve of her navy blue jumpsuit, she tapped a button on the bracer on her wrist. A small hologram appeared from the device, depicting a dark skinned girl in flowing robes, not quite into her teens. "This is Iana Th'emme; she is royalborn, high-castedaughter to the monarchy."

"A princess," Jack of all Blades supplied, listening intently.

The Flarerider nodded. "Yes. A tencycle ago, she was abducted. The Republic is led by the Senate, but many are longloyal to the old families.". She shook her head sadly. "Her ransom could sparkfire a civil war, or worse. " Another tap of her bracer changed the image to that of a tentacle-faced visage well known on Earth. "The Lor believe Krak-En Vas is responsible, and who better to catchtrack a pirate than other pirates?" The corner of her mouth almost twitched up into a smile. "The Broanfoes wish the... princess for themselves, and set a cowardambush."

She looked to each of the heroes. "I must rescue Iana. I cannot ask new allyfriends to join me -"

Stooping to gingerly pick up the body of the fallen Flarerider captain, Jack interrupted her. "You don't have to. As a buddy of mine would say, saddle up. I'm Jack of all Blades, but my, uh, 'allyfriends' call me Jack."

Seeing that the rest of the locals were no less willing to lend their aid, a faint smile touched the Tempestian's lips. "I am Myshel Czak, pilot of the Flarerider. I am in your oathdebt, all of you."

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Zakitaj listened quietly to the woman's tale. This "Lorr Republic" was known to him; the first Physicus had passed through it on his journey into the stars, but he had found that interstellar politics were no more to his liking than the terrestrial version. Krak-En Vas was also a name he had been taught. Though Physicus was a street-level hero who had never tangled with the likes of the so-called "Captain Kraken", he had heard stories of those who had battled the alien pirate, and knew him to be fearsome indeed. Kidnapping young royalty seemed like the sort of thing he would enjoy. The young girl's image reminded the prince of himself, though he hoped she was not so haughty and arrogant as he had been at her age.

Of course, he had been determined to involve himself the moment he learned that the Broan were interested. He hadn't had nearly enough revenge yet, and if his enemies wanted this princess, he was going to make sure they didn't stand a chance of taking her. Besides, as the de facto leader of the Khaladi people, he was still technically a force in the galaxy's politics, however minor; earning the trust and gratitude of the Lorr could be valuable to his people. And then he heard the super beside him reveal his name, and he was certain he was going with this privateer.

"Jack of all Blades," he said, smiling ruefully. "I have heard much of your skill in my time here; if only we met under better circumstances." Mona had complimented Jack when speaking to him, and if he had her respect and was embarking on this mission, that was good enough for Zak. Turning to Myshel, he spoke again. "I am Prince Zakitaj, once of Khalados, and I know what it is to lose allyfriends and crewfamily to the Broan. Though I am one of this world's protectors now, I will gladly help you to finish your mission; I remember that my place was once among the stars."

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"Ze name's Atlas." said the giant, inclining his head to the crowd. He did not speak of the woman's grief, he did not know the slightest thing about this woman, including what her culture practiced during a period of mourning. "I don't know anyzing about zese aliens, but I do know right from vrong. I vill help you get ze princess back."

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"Sorry, Mario...Yeah, I'm in too. It's... the right thing to do." Arrowhawk rubbed at his forehead. Dammit, I hate it when all the superhero 'hijinks' start. Occult nasties, mafia super-tech, that's OKish. Space? Well, c'mon!

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Jack gave the prince a bemused nod. Apparently my reputation precedes me, he mused. With a bit more surprise, he realized, Apparently I have a reputation.

Myshel gave both the swordsman and Zakitaj a wry look. "There is no need to samespeak. The Flarerider has a softmild telepathic field that translates all languagewords," she explained, gesturing to her ship. The alien woman shrugged. "Tempesttalk just translates poorly."

Introductions were made, and the group boarded the sleek vessel. Inside, the Flarerider had the sleek corridors and computer touch screens of the Enterprise mixed with the obviously jury rigged bare wires and components of the Millennium Falcon, all of it prominently featuring what looked like rich, dark wood paneling. Myshel led the group to the bridge, passing a pair of ladders which led to weapon emplacements on the top and bottom of the ship, respectively.

At the head of the vessel, a panoramic screen simulated the view outside. Control stations displayed messages indicating rebooted systems at Myshel took a seat to the front left of the bridge, a pair of control sticks extending from the desk in front of her. Electricity rippled down the the Tempestian's arms as she gripped the controls with the ease of the supremely competent. She looked over her shoulder at the Earth heroes as though it were an afterthought, saying, "You may wish to bracesteady." With a shudder, the ship rose off of the ground and slowly rotated to point its nose upward. A flick of the pilot's wrist sent the Flarerider rocketing through the clouds, into the upper atmosphere and beyond.

Holding onto the edge of a nearby console, Jack was distracted from thanking whatever technology was compensating for the tremendous strain of gravity they should have been feeling by the field of stars which opened up before them of the screen. "Well hot damn," he breathed softly.

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Atlas boards the ship like everyone else, but you soon notice he's not nearly as tall as he was a moment ago. He winds up looking like a Psuedo that's been hitting the gym. He stares around the ship, with huge eyes almost like he's trying to take as much of it in as he can in case it disappears when he closes his eyes.

Other than bending his knees slightly when the ship takes off, he doesn't pay it much attention. He was too transfixed on the windows as the sky turned to stars. "" says Atlas breathlessly in Russian. The realization hits him and his knees feel weak. He sits down, trying to breath normally, but he's still got a giddy smile plastered all over his face.

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Everything was happening so fast; less than an hour ago, Estelle de Havilland was working in her lab, and now she had just left the earth's atmosphere. Her hair had anchored onto several points in the cabin to brace her against the acceleration, which was clearly reduced through some sort of amazing technology. Once they were free, her golden tresses drifted loose like shimmering smoke.

""

Gossamer smiled and spoke in Russian (with a slight English accent) as she sat beside the red-skinned hero. "

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