Jump to content

Recommended Posts

June 5, 2014
Namibia

 

The private hunting reserve had been hidden carefully by the Crime League - or rather, by Orion, the League's huntsman. For a substantial cash infusion, or a 'favor to be named later', League members, supervillains, criminals, or simply the unscrupulous rich (which often fell into the earlier categories, depending on how you felt about it) could come to southwest Africa and hunt creatures as they saw fit. This could mean endangered animals like gorillas and elephants, exotic alien animals taken from far-away planets by the Crime League's stellar allies, or even extinct animals reconstructed in laboratories like the dodo or the Tasmanian Tiger. But a foolhardy guest had actually gone so far as to post pictures to the Deep Web, pictures which wound up falling into the hands of science heroes who had first tracked its location, then alerted the Freedom League, who had closed in with all the force they could muster. Orion had been defeated by Bowman in a daring bow-against-rifle duel, Blackstar had been beaten by Captain Thunder, and the day was saved...

 

But what to do with all the animals? The League was on the case, but the story had gone beyond the League. It had become an international story in the last few days, one that had attracted significant media attention. UNISON had sent a team whose members included one of UNISON's most famous employees; Edge, the American superhero-turned-humanitarian, while the Discovery Channel (taking advantage of their connections with the League) had sent a documenary crew including Paige Cline, part of a dynamic duo of super-hosts that was unfortunately seperated today by something as mundane as a parent-teacher conference and the need to chaperone a field trip to Cleveland.

 

The compound, located in the high desert, was built like an old-style English manor house (albeit with all the latest amenities) - the animals were in emergency housing in the shade thrown together by the League and especially by the UNISON team (thanks to Mark Lucas' special abilities), and an unusually pensive Edge was still there as the others went about their work. Mark had never really had pets growing up, and even though he knew this menagerie was made up of wild animals (some of whom would probably need to be put down), he was trying to fight the urge to take them all home with him. Instead he contended himself with volunteering, and so was currently in a rocking chair, nursing a baby wild boar that had mostly fallen asleep with its little mouth around the bottle.

Share this post


Link to post

Velocity made her way across the grounds of compound that had been the Crime League's underground hunting reserve, a means of providing a steady stream of income for the supervillain group.  The goggles the young Freedom Leaguer wore provided her with a steady stream of everything around her, her superspeed allowing her to take in and process the rapid stream of information that would nauseate a normal person.  But right now she was feeling a bit nauseated herself, but from the thought of what used to take place here to the animals that were the prey. 

 

She had not been part of the team that had helped kick the Crime League out, but she was part of the group sent to help in the cleanup along with the other groups present.  Of course, that meant she was missing the parent-teacher conferences for Lawrence at the Nicholson School, leaving Robert to have to navigate that alone.  The old-style English manor house that was at the center of the compound further reminded the heroine of her fiancé, looking very much like his family home in the English countryside.

 

Velocity had no idea what they were going to be able to do with all of these animals, some of which were rather dangerous and in some cases, not even from this planet.  She hoped some of the other experts that were had arrived to help try to address the situation would come up with some good answers.

Share this post


Link to post

As the Freedom League representative on the scene, Velocity certainly had plenty to do. The Namibian government (which lacked a native superhero, thanks to the years they'd spent as a South African satrapy) was playing the situation cooly, and it wasn't hard to figure out why. Hefty bribes (and intimidation) had persuaded the Namibia Defense Force and park rangers to look the other way about this place for too many years. The troops who had secured the site's perimeter, or rather their masters back in Windhoek, might have been able to make some stink about international law and the presence of the Freedom League - if it hadn't been for the national embarrassment they'd have faced. Not all the locals were their enemy, though, in fact many of the civilians working around the facility were from various zoos, aquariums, and other sanctuaries from Namibia and neighboring nations. There were forms to sign, repatriations to approve, guests to greet, and all in all it was a good thing she had super-speed, even if nobody else did! 

 

For his part, when he'd put the baby boar to sleep, Edge headed out for some quick mass transit. "Velocity," he said with a nod, falling in step with her as he joined her outside. While some UNISON agents might have caused jurisdictional trouble with the League, the American superhero hadn't gotten in Velocity's way during their work there. "Don't mind me, I'm just taking these guys back to Tibet." He walked over to a small pen full of bear cubs, the Tibetan blue bears resting in groggy sedation for the trip to the Lhasa Zoo where they'd be reunited with their subspecies. "How's it going?" he asked her as he traced out his signature on the smart pad the bear's attendant handed him. 

Share this post


Link to post

Velocity turned her head to look at Edge as the UNISON agent came up alongside her with a greeting, although she had already seen him thanks to her goggles.  "Good afternoon Edge."  The yellow clad speedster said with a smile as they came to a halt next to the cage of Tibetan blue bears. 

 

"Things are going about as well as can be expected right now, though mainly my job here right now is to fill out paperwork and oversee things.  You and the numerous other volunteers are the ones figuring out what needs to be done and then taking care of it."

Share this post


Link to post

"Okay guys, why don't we set up in front of the cage here, get the transport shots, and then do an on-camera piece?" Paige Cline walked up with her film crew, a SuperCrime! baseball cap shading her skin from the harsh sun. "Frank, is the sun going to be a problem?" 

 

"Not for the next hour or so," Frank assured her, checking the reading on the lux meter David the cameraman was carrying. "Just keep the boom high, Kelsey, I don't want to see shadows in the shot." 

 

"Or for a monkey to grab your windsock," David chimed in teasingly. Kelsey gave him a look, but obligingly raised the boom mike a few degrees higher. 

 

"Okay, good." Paige nodded to her crew, then turned to Edge and Velocity with a bright professional smile for the two younger heroes. "I understand you're about to move these bears, Edge? Do you mind if we film, maybe get a little description of what you're both doing?" 

Share this post


Link to post

"Well, we wouldn't be here without the Freedom League," said Edge immediately, with the respect a son of Freedom City should have for the world's premiere superteam. "Someday maybe we'll have a UN team that can intervene in these things, but for now you're the first line of defense." Mark was a proud member of the Liberty League, of course, but they tended to be the first line of defense against other sorts of crises. "And somebody has to fill out the paperwork, right? Otherwise how would the heroing get done?" Knowing paperwork, regulations, and other fine details, was a skill Mark did not have, but one he respected in others. 

 

Edge lit up as if Hologram had flipped a switch somewhere on his person. His voice reflecting the gravity of the situation but the relief everyone felt that now that the heroes were there, he said "Sure, go ahead. These little guys are called Tibetan blue bears, Ursus arctos pruinosus," he ticked off the Latin syllables on his fingers. "They're a brown bear sub-species that lives high in the mountain peaks and snowfields of Tibet. They're supposed to be a basis for myths about the Yeti. We're not sure how the Crime League got their hands on these guys, but we know they need to go home. What I'm going to do is take them to the Norbulingka Zoo in Lhasa, so scientists there can study them and figure out where they belong. Back in a few!" 

 

The UN hero disappeared in a flash of inky, swirling imagery that would no doubt look very good on the Discovery Channel's cameras. A few seconds later came a distant ROAR from one of the nearby outbuildings, one that (from the map issued to the visitors) had been repurposed into holding the animals that were probably not rehomeable. The roar came again just as Edge reappeared - and with it a telepathic message that only the group's psion could hear. 

 

<Kill me and be done with it, you miserable bare-faced bastards!>

Share this post


Link to post

Velocity gave Edge a smile as he mentioned the possibility of UNISON someday fielding a primary response team, trying not to think about her past experience working with another team of UNISON superpowered agents that had turned traitor during the mission.  "Well, we would certainly welcome the help."  She replied, before turning to regard the approaching Hologram and her film crew.

 

The Freedom League member stood back slightly, as Hologram focused on Edge and what he was doing.  But when the UNISON superagent reappeared and the loud ROAR echoed across the estate, the speedster glanced over in the direction of the noise.

"That does not sound good.  I had better go make sure everything is okay."  And then she was gone in a blur of yellow.

Share this post


Link to post

Paige sucked in a breath as the telepathic message slammed into her mind, her head automatically whipping around towards the source. "What the hell?" she asked aloud. Almost without thinking, she began jogging towards the outbuilding and was outpaced in fractions of a second by Velocity. "What are they keeping in there?" she demanded of everyone and no one. "I thought all the Crime League prisoners had been remanded?" 

 

"They have been!" Frank chimed in, falling in beside her with the crew stringing along behind him. "Second unit collected footage this morning. We were told that only the animals are still on premises." He looked concerned, both for the potential mystery and for the heart attacks the insurance guys were going to have if the SuperCrime crew got into another dangerous situation so soon after the last one. "Are you picking up someone else?"

 

"I don't know," Paige admitted. "I got a definite coherent thought, someone is enraged, someone is trapped. I can't tell more from here." 

Share this post


Link to post

Velocity was, as per normal, the first on the scene - and what a scene it was! A massive gorilla, bulking as tall as a man and much wider, had torn out one of the bars of his cage, or rather his cell if you counted it by size, and hurled it across the room hard enough to bury it in wood. The terrified keepers were hastily fumbling for a tranquilizer gun, but it was hard to tell if the darts would do any good. The gorilla was thickly muscled and very large, much bigger than any natural wild gorilla should have been, his white fur matted and his body covered in old scars. Her light-speed brain told her the story of who she was dealing with almost immediately - 'Gargantua', captured in east Africa some ten years earlier, was one of the most dangerous animals there. It had actually killed two men, both of them unpowered staffers, and was so ferocious it had been a favored item of sport for the real hunters like Orion, so ferocious that it had been resuscitated to allow the hunts to go on. 

 

Eyes mad with fury, Gargantua shoved a giant arm through the gap and reached for the lock on his cell door, its breath slow and guttural as it locked eyes with Velocity. 

Share this post


Link to post

Having taken in the scene quickly, Velocity kept herself facing Gargantua, though she was still taking in everything going on around her as well.  She held out one hand towards the keepers that were present and trying to ready the tranquilizer.  "Forget that."  She stated evenly.  "Just slowly back out of here and get clear.  I will handled things from here."

 

How exactly she was going to do that she was not sure.  Gargantua was dangerous, to be sure, but then given what all had happened to him since his capture, it was not a big surprise.  She hated the thought of possibly having to harm the ape, but knew she could not let him hurt anyone here in his rage.

 

For the moment, she waited to see if he continued to try to escape, or settled down.

Share this post


Link to post

The keeper showed a remarkable ability to listen to the nice superheroine and beat feet, just remembering to take the time to stow his gun before he zipped out the door to get backup.

 

Edge teleported in a few seconds later, but followed the lead of the Freedom Leaguer on the scene and kept his distance. Lacking Velocity's familiarity with the situation (and knowing that, frankly, the gorilla was not a threat to either of them, much less the two of them together), he picked up the clipboard left behind the attendant long enough to familiarize himself with the unfortunate ape's case. "Oh, geez!" Stricken with empathy, he held up his hands and said soothingly, "Hey man, it's cool, it's cool. We're not going to make you stay in that stupid thing much longer. There are some primate reserves in South America that can give you all the space you need to run in." Gargantua did not look mollified, despite Mark's soothing words, but at least now he was focused on the blue and gold-clad hero rather than trying to escape. 

 

<Come closer, you jackassical little primate, and I will make the space I need to run in through your ribs! You think you can fool me with your lies!?!> The thought blasted clear into Hologram's head as she and her producer arrived on the scene. 

Share this post


Link to post

Paige skidded to a halt just inside the door, staring uncomprehendingly for a moment at the sight before her. It took another swipe from the gorilla's giant hand for the puzzle pieces to slide into place. "Edge, Velocity, get back!" she called. "And don't hurt him!" For her own part, she edged forward carefully, staying well away from those long, scarred arms. "Keep the camera on," she told Frank, "but stay way back." 

 

Leaving her slightly winded crew behind, Paige took another few steps forward. ~I can hear you,~ she sent telepathically to the enraged simian. ~Can you hear me? We're here to help you.~ 

 

"He's sentient," she murmured under her breath to the other heroes. "And telepathic. He's broadcasting. He's so angry..." 

Share this post


Link to post

Gargantua stopped in its, no, his struggles and stared balefully at Hologram, wrapping gnarled fingers around the bars of his cell. It was clear he understood her thoughts, and perhaps her words as well, and he had definitely lost all interest in Edge at this moment. <You are not the first who has been able to talk to me, woman,> he thought, hostility rough in his mental voice, hard armor grown over old pain like the scars that covered his body. <They have played the game of releasing me, then hunting me, before, and though I have repaid them for it in blood you might be doing the same thing! If you have come to let me out, open the lock!> He pointed with a gnarled, cracked finger to the lock that held him in. <Let me stand freely among you and then we will see what help it is that can be given.> 

Share this post


Link to post

Velocity remained calm as Edge appeared, thankful that the UNISON agent remained calm himself and waited to see what was going to happen.  She was not encouraged when the ape remained angry despite his attempts to sooth it.  "Be careful Edge, it does not look any happier."  She said.

 

Then Hologram arrived with her camera man close behind.  "I was not planning on hurt…" the speedster had begun to answer when the other heroine mentioned that that ape was telepathic and communicating with her.  "From what I have read, he has every reason to be angry."  She replied, staying a short distance away, hoping Hologram would be able to get through to the ape and clam it.

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post

Paige turned and motioned to her camera crew to leave the building entirely; they didn't look pleased about it, but headed for the door. "If this goes south, a little timely assistance would be appreciated," she murmured to Velocity, sotto voce, before retrieving the key from its metal hook on the wall. She walked slowly to the cage, keeping her eyes on the giant ape. ~I want to help you,~ she assured him again, ~but you have to help me help you. Show them that it's safe for us to free you.~ 

 

She put the key in the lock, the well-oiled tumblers turning easily and silently. Leaving the key in the lock, Paige pulled the door open, stepping aside to let the massive simian walk out on his own. "It's okay," she said aloud to everyone. "Everything's okay." 

Share this post


Link to post

Gargantua slowly knuckle-walked out of his enclosure, and without pause headed in a slow, deliberate way straight for the door. With a glance at Hologram and Velocity, Edge let the gorilla go through and stand on the sandy soil outside - Hologram's film crew giving way as the gorilla stood in the sunshine, shading his eyes with his hand as he looked up at the clear blue sky overhead. <To see the Sun, and not hear them at my back...> When Gargantua turned back to the heroes, there were tears in his massive eyes. <It has been many years since that day. I have heard them speak of enemies who seek to hold them in pens as well.> With the word came images of torture and abuse brushing against Hologram's mind, less an attack and more an unconscious upswelling of memory. <Are you them? Are they in cages as well?> 

Share this post


Link to post

"I'll be ready if needed." Velocity softly spoke back to Hologram as the older heroine moved over to retrieve the key for the ape’s cage and unlocked it.

The speedster tensed ever so slightly as the ape exited the cage, but became a bit more relaxed as it slowly and deliberately moved towards the exit and then stopped once it was out in the sunlight, seeming to enjoy the experience for a few moments. She was surprised to see the tears in the creature’s eyes when it looked back at her and the other heroes. Once again she felt a surge of sympathy for the large ape, though still remained ready just in case it became hostile.

"Is it 'saying' anything else?" She asked Hologram.

Share this post


Link to post

Paige quietly repeated the words she was hearing for the benefit of the other heroes, then continued speaking aloud even as she projected mentally towards the freed simian. "The men who kept you in a cage have all been captured," she told him, projecting quick images of what little she'd seen of the arrests and detentions. "They're being taken to an underground prison to await trial. They should be locked up for a very long time." 

 

Turning, she gestured to her colleagues. "This is Edge and Velocity. They're superheroes, and they're responsible for putting villains like the Crime League into cages. My name is Paige Cline, and this is my camera crew. We're here to document what happened, so people will know. What's your name?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Gargantua told his story, and a grim one it was as Paige translated it for the other heroes and the cameras alike. Gargantua <that is the closest you could come to my name> had been held captive for some ten years, most of it right here in Namibia. <I heard the conversation from my cage - the one called Orion won me in a game of poker from...him.> A native of the remote Pacific island nation of Gorilla Island, Gargantua as a young gorilla had heard stories of a job opportunity in French Polynesia, which had turned out to be a chance to be a personal assistant to the Crime League's prime primate - the sinister Dr. Simian. <As a child I had a tumor removed from my throat,> said the psychic ape as he brushed his massive hands against his neck, <and since then I have been unable to speak any but the primal Gorilla language.> He growled at the memory. <When Simian, that man-in-ape-clothing, learned I was a 'cripple', he had me caged as a defective member of my own species. I have not seen him here since.> 

 

Meanwhile, Velocity's Freedom League communicator was signaling insistently - when she spoke, it was Captain Thunder on the line. "Velocity," he said, as usual beginning without preamble, "check your six, because you'll have company in about thirty seconds. The Lighthouse just picked up a major energy discharge in Gorilla Island, and Daedalus thinks it's coming your way. It looks like someone there's using a surplus Lor matter teleporter - and they're moving either a small city; or a small army, right into your part of Namibia." 

Share this post


Link to post

Velocity had been listening when her communicator interrupted with a warning from Captain Thunder.  "Thanks Cap, I am on it."  The speedster replied quickly as she glanced over at the other two heroes.

 

"Edge, Hologram, we have likely incoming.  The Lighthouse has picked up a massive energy discharge from Gorilla island of all places, what appears to be a Lor matter teleporter, and whatever its sending is headed our way."  She states, her body starting to gear up to start moving.  "I am going to get everyone moving toward the main house and the shelter there, just in case.  Be right back."

 

With that, the speedster was gone in a blur of yellow, zipping around to the various volunteers on the grounds and getting them running towards the main house at their best speeds...

 

Share this post


Link to post

Paige tensed at this new looming threat, looking first to her crew. "You heard her, guys, time to get back to the house. Something nasty could be headed this way." 

 

Dave the cameraman cocked an eyebrow at her. "If we're back at the house, how are we supposed to film it?" he pointed out with a grin. "We can run with these things if we've got to, we've proved that a few times." 

 

"I appreciate the enthusiasm, but the insurance guys are gonna have kittens if they see you standing there while some kind of army comes bearing down on us. House!" It took a little goading from Frank, but the crew began jogging towards the house, Dave ostentatiously walking backwards to keep his focus on the action as long as possible. Paige ignored him, turning to Gargantua.

 

 ~There is something coming this way using a matter transporter,~ she projected, tossing in a brief image of what a matter transporter was and did. ~You must head towards the main house, where the humans are gathering. Stay with my camera crew and follow them if they move to another safe place. We'll protect you.~ Or Edge and Velocity would do the protecting, but it was close enough. Paige closed her eyes and extended her senses, trying to track whatever was bearing down on them. 

Share this post


Link to post

Say what you like about teleporting gorillas, they aren't exactly subtle, mused Edge as the party from Gorilla Island arrived. A glowing circle in the middle of the hunting lodge complex gradually came into focus like adjusting the dials on a set of binoculars - then the circle itself rippled with fractal lines and patterns too fast for Mark to follow, a glorious show indeed for Hologram's show and Velocity's eyes alike. Of course, the arrival of the emissaries - a half-dozen gorillas of both genders, dressed in the elaborate finery of traditional Gorilla Island nobility, was deadly serious. The leader, a muscular silverback with an alert posture and flashing eyes, loped towards the main house and sought out the first super-looking person he could find - which in this case happened to be the Freedom League member on the scene. "I am Lord Harridan of Gorilla Island, and I have come for our captured citizen! Where are you holding him?" 

 

Still linked to Gargantua's mind, Hologram could feel the gorilla's fear and hope at the sight of other talking apes (well, besides humans, anyway!), even as her crew continued to film the rare encounter with the semi-reclusive gorilla government. Years of abandonment had made him curse his own people for ages, and the sight of other gorillas filled him with wonder and dread at the same moment. <I have not heard an ape's voice speak in an age. They would give me the animal-gorillas of this continent and expect me to mate with them, and I...are these real?> he asked Paige.

 

"Hang on," said Edge suddenly, looking over at Velocity as the UN hero stood in support of the Freedom League agent on the scene. "Wasn't there supposed to be a whole army beaming in?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Velocity was a bit surprised as only a half dozen gorillas appeared, as opposed to the army Deadalus had predicted.  But she stayed alert, focusing her attention on the silverback that came loping over to approach her.  She took a half step forward as he addressed her and replied.  "Greetings Lord Harridan, I am Velocity, a member of the Freedom League.  Your captured citizen, Gargantua is well and safe inside, having been freed from his imprisonment by criminal humans.  We had only just established a means of communicating with him before you arrival." 

 

As Edge spoke up beside her, the speedster was wondering the same thing.  Either the matter transport they were using was extremely inefficient, or there were more out there, using some sort of invisibility.  This would hardly be the first time Velocity had encountered invisible opponents, so she let herself begin operating at full speed, taking fractions of a second to carefully review the constant stream of images her goggles were providing from around her.  In particular, the speedster was looking for any sign of dust or dirt being kicked up, grass being trampled, or any other indication there were numerous invisible gorillas out there.

Share this post


Link to post

It didn't take Velocity long to realize she was surrounded! What grass there was was rustling menacingly in a wind that did not blow, and distinct gorilla-sized footprints had formed at several places on the dry, sandy soil elsewhere. If those movements meant what she thought they meant, there had to be dozens, or more, gorillas of unknown provenance in their immediate area - and spreading out! "Where are you holding him? And those criminals who have so abused our citizen, do they live?" demanded Harridan, giving Velocity and Edge both a distinctly suspicious eye. This was not a friendly gorilla, even if he had to look up from well-below eye level to glare at the two heroes. "Have you given them the final justice that kidnappers and cannibals deserve? We have heard of the barbarous arts your criminals practice on our citizens!" 

Share this post


Link to post

Velocity was not very encouraged by the fact that numerous invisible gorillas (at least she assumed they were gorillas) were surrounding her and Edge.  She continued to keep a close eye on what was going on around her, thanks to her goggles full three hundred and sixty degree vision, while continuing to remain facing Harridan and at least appearing to give him her full attention.

 

"As I just said, your captured citizen is inside the main house, he was released after we began communicating with him."  The speedster replied to one of Harridan's questions.  "As for the Crime League members involved in this, they are currently imprisoned and each has a long list of crimes for which they are wanted in a number of countries around the world.  If your government wishes to add charges against them, I am sure international authorities would be willing to hear a petition."

 

"But first, why don't you have your invisible companions show themselves instead of surrounding us."  The speedster then added.  "So we can talk openly and honestly, instead of me thinking you are not really interested in talking."  She hoped that was enough warning for Edge, and Hologram back with Gargantua, and in the meantime, she kept a close eye on the area around her for any trace of sudden movement toward her, Edge or the house, ready to act if needed.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...