Jump to content

Recommended Posts

April 24, 2015 

Lantern Hill 

The McCay Bridge, one of the oldest in Freedom City and the furthest upriver, got little use by the second decade of the 21st century. The traffic that the 19th century builder had hoped to capture had gone south to Freedom City proper in the years before Lantern Hill and Freedom merged together - and even Route 6 which runs through this part of town and over the Wading had gained a real bridge back in the 1940s during its initial construction. In need of repair, the McCay had long since been closed to truck traffic and was primarily used by commuters going back and forth between Hanover and Lantern Hill. 

On the night of the 24th of April, Monsoon sat on one of the brick towers of the McCay and looked out at the water below, feeling the distant pressure of its movements. She'd grown up on an island filled with water and so Freedom City's amount of rivers had been pleasantly familiar - albeit sometimes unpleasantly cold. She could stand the bottom of the sea as befit a daughter of Typhoon, but the waters around Freedom City were cool this time of year! In summer-time, when the sun's rays warmed even the bottom of the river, then things were comfortable. She checked her smartwatch, wondering if her partner for the evening was going to arrive on time or not.

She'd only met Travis Hunter a few times but had respected the drive that had remained in the old man - and respected him more when she'd seen the grief his death had brought Mark. Maybe she'd never had a grandfather, but she knew the obligations that came with family - and the grief that came when it was taken away. Not for the first time that evening, she thought of Socotra. 

Share this post


Link to post

Five minutes past their agreed upon meeting time, a faint twanging noise announced the arrival of Monsoon's companion for the evening. Wander ran up the bridge cables as though they were a balance beam six inches off the ground, not bothering with the handholds until the very top where it was too steep to do anything but climb. She looked tired, which was fairly rare in a woman who could sleep once every three days and be no worse for it, but her face was drawn and her lips pursed tight and she didn't look as though she wanted to talk about it. "Monsoon," she greeted tonelessly, not aggressive but with no real enthusiasm. "Sorry I'm late. You ready?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Nina was intimately aware of the death in Erin's family. After all, she'd been at Mark's side when the early-morning call had come from the Hunter mansion about the death of Travis Hunter. She'd missed the old man whose strength and courage she'd respected (and who had helped tend to her mother), and she knew people well enough to know what a blow this must have been to the younger generation of Hunters. 'It had been Mark who'd suggested she get back on her planned patrol with Wander at the last Liberty League meeting; and if not for Erin's own agreement, she might have walked away from the idea for a while. But if Erin had come out, there was certainly no backing down now. "Yes, I'm ready," she agreed, rising to her feet, checking to make sure her sword was still strapped to her back. She sounded a little more subdued than usual herself, automatically matching Erin's tone. "Thank you for coming out," she finally said. "I've been looking forward to a night's patrol with an expert in the city's ways." 

Share this post


Link to post

Erin nodded. "Patrol's still got to be done, criminals don't just take a break because... of anything." She leapt from the tower to the road bed, waited for Nina to join her in her own way, then set off in an easy jog half as fast as the cars that passed them on the bridge. "You've been out patrolling with Edge, right?" she asked conversationally, her breathing not even sped up from when she'd been standing still. "He's lived in the city all his life, got some of the rhythms down pretty good. But patrolling with him isn't like regular patrolling. If something is going to happen in town on any given night when he's out, it just happens in front of him, because that's his power. The rest of us have to go looking. I got a tip that somebody might be trying to rob a tech warehouse in Hanover tonight, was planning on going over to check it out." 

Share this post


Link to post

Monsoon leaped from the bridge and fell fast for a long moment before catching herself on the way down, flying along above Wander's head at a speed that matched a few of the slowest cars on the bridge - the small number that seemed to be rubbernecking at the sight of two passing superheroines. A non-driver herself, Nina didn't make the connection. She was exerting herself, but didn't look like she was about to strain anything, either. "Patrolling with Edge means we fight pitiful insects who fall before I can so much as hit them, or giant insects trying to lay waste to the city," she agreed. Come to think of it, Mark had mentioned the thing with the giant locusts in Cairo at the last League meeting. "It can be challenging." She pushed herself as they went, weaving back and forth between suspension cables, until they reached street-level on the other side. They were right at the edge of Hanover proper, so close to the actual edge of town that research labs and computer shops had given way to warehouses and blue-collar homes. Even Hanover had its working-class neighborhoods. 

Edited by Avenger Assembled

Share this post


Link to post

"I haven't patrolled with Edge since high school, really," Wander commented, "but that sounds about right. That luck controlling thing can be really useful in a fight, but it tends to weird up everyday life some. At least he's eased up with the 'I'm gonna get as high in the sky as I can and expect that one of my friends is just gonna be there to catch me' thing. She shook her head at the remembered antics, almost smiling for a moment before it fell away. "How's his mom doing? I haven't seen her in a long time, but I see the comics at the store pretty regularly. She okay?" 

Share this post


Link to post

"Martha is doing well - her story with the Zultasian invasion of Ryeneck was nominated for an industry award. And she cooks Socotran meals every night we come over." Nina smiled at that, indulgently, the way one does at the eccentricities of a favorite relative. "She's not very good," she added in a confidential confession, "but she tries. She keeps trying to call my mother to learn more Socotran recipes, but...of course she's very busy." Nina fell silent at that for a while as they made their way down the Hanover street. "Was everything resolved successfully with your dopplegangers? Mark told me it was a personal story and I should ask you, but that I shouldn't ask much because it was a very personal story, and that...well, he went on like that." 

Share this post


Link to post

Erin hesitated. "We came to... an understanding," she finally said. "My doppelganger from Earth Prime and I will never really get along, but she's not a bad person. Just a normal person, and neither of us is ever going to understand each other. And Jessie is too damaged to really fight with, not without feeling like a bully. So there was no fighting, and we had cocoa together, and... it was okay." She sighed, taking to the rooftops as they entered Hanover's tech-centric industrial district, the lights of ArcheTech gleaming half a mile away. "There's not much of a story to it, really. I'm not from Earth Prime, I come from an alternate dimension where the Terminus unleashed hell and the heroes couldn't stop it. I was evacuated to Earth Prime and lived with that Erin in Seattle and her family for a little while before I came to Claremont. Jessie is the version of me who got abducted to Anti-Earth instead of rescued to Prime. We found her by accident and retrieved her a few years ago, but she's pretty messed up. It's just a lot of us to be living in one reality." 

Share this post


Link to post

"I'm familiar with the multiverse," said Nina quickly. "I learned about it as a child from my father, and of course Mark has told me all about Young Freedom's visits to alternate realities." She debated hinting around the question if Erin had slept with her cross-gendered dimensional counterpart as well, but decided she didn't know Erin well enough to ask that question - and it seemed unlikely anyway if she had had so many troubles with alternate versions of herself. "I was taught that there are worlds where one is a queen and worlds where one is a slave, and so the only wisdom is to worry about this one. But two extra versions of yourself would make that very difficult. Have you thought about coloring your hair, the way Jessie does?"  

Share this post


Link to post

Erin raised a hand to her hair automatically, then lowered it, seeming annoyed with herself. "Might if I lived in the same time zone as the other Erin, but I like my hair the way it is. She and I look a lot less alike than we used to anyway, she didn't grow like I did, hasn't got any of the muscles. Jessie and I look more alike, and she decided she wanted to be a blonde. Which doesn't  suit our coloring at all, but whatever. Never ran into any universes where I was a queen, but I ran into one where I was a guy, and a couple where I was dating Mark, so, you know, things can get really, really weird out there." 

Share this post


Link to post

"Wait, what?" Nina was, for a moment, at a loss for words, the expression on her half-obscured face showing how she was trying to put that baffling scenario together. "That...is surprising. I would not have pictured the two of you as a couple." Sheltered though her upbringing had been, Nina had no concerns about the idea that her boyfriend had friends who were women. The only threat Erin has for me is a sound thrashing - which is a true threat for all of that. "And Mark knew about these dimensions and your romances there? Hmm. Normally he has been very open about that sort of thing." She grinned. "I will have to ask him tomorrow about these secrets in other dimensions. He's in Wakhanistan, building a base for the UN peacekeepers there."   

Share this post


Link to post

"Yeah, we were both equally traumatized by it." Now Erin did smile, just a little bit. "Though one of the dimensions was like twenty-five years ahead of us into the future, and apparently we'd been divorced for years, and the other one I kind of got the feeling that it was partially just for publicity. So maybe it makes a little more sense that way, I don't know." She shrugged. "Definitely more universes where I wound up with Trevor, and I'm happy about that. I think he is too, he was really weirded out by the one where he had a kid with Sage, I mean Blue Fox, cause she's like his sister. That was the same one where Mark and I hooked up and had a kid and divorced, it was a seriously messed up universe." Maybe it was nerves, or maybe it was the absence of other teammates talking, maybe it was just the stress of a bad week, but Erin seemed unusually loquacious tonight. "We're getting close," she told Nina. "If my tip was right, we've got about fifteen minutes till they show up." 

Share this post


Link to post

It was easy enough for both Wander and Monsoon to make their way onto the roof, where the high curves of the warehouse's sign kept them sheltered from view at street level without betraying their location to the people on the ground. "Mark has talked about children someday." she finally said, the cool dryness in her voice not sounding happy with the prospect. "So I suppose some things stay the same from universe to universe. I suppose you saw little of me; there can't be many universes where I was assigned a particularly beautiful escort on my flight to Freedom City." It was cool on the rooftop, and cool enough that evening that the only people on the street had a reason to be there - criminal or otherwise. Settling down, she looked over at Erin and asked, "Your civilian work, security for the science company - do you enjoy that?"  

Share this post


Link to post

"I didn't see any alternate versions of you," Erin admitted, "but my interdimensional travel has gone way down in the past couple of years. And when I do go, it hasn't been to close copies of Earth Prime. Some of the universes I went to, could be you just hadn't met yet." She shrugged, settled herself into an easy slouch against a chimney. "Yeah, I like working for HAX pretty well. The pay and benefits are good, and the people I work with are okay. Sometimes the work is boring or annoying, but I guess that's why they pay people to do it, right?" She looked over at Nina. "You're a senior like Trevor, right? You graduate next month?" 

Share this post


Link to post

"I do," Nina agreed. "My paper on Omar ibn Said has been published by the college journal," she added with a note of pride. Erin vaguely remembered Mark talking about Nina pursuing a degree in history. "...and Mark has offered to find me a job after that. He says they can always use an Arabic translator at UNISON." That part of the conversation seemed to make her tense and she rose to her feet, cracking her spine beneath the shelter of the overhanging sign. "Why do you work?" she asked Erin suddenly. "You are a superhero by trade - and even though your country does not pay all but a select few, your lover is one of the wealthiest men in Freedom City. You would never have to lift a finger outside of combat if you desired." 

Share this post


Link to post

Erin shrugged and debated putting Nina off with some vague platitude about the value of work, how everyone needed something to do, even the wealthy, but then she reconsidered. Nina was on the team now, and it had been a very long time since she'd had a close teammates relationship with another girl. She and Eve had been on Young Freedom together till they graduated, of course, but Eve's reserve was such that despite Erin's liking for her, it had been hard to strike up a close friendship. Nina had a lot of rough edges, but it did kind of feel to Erin like she really wanted to know something about Erin's life. So she answered with as much honesty as she could.

"When I came to Earth Prime, I had basically nothing. A few worthless keepsakes and two sets of clothes that they ended up burning to avoid the chance of contamination. I was fifteen and had no identity, I had no choice but to live on charity. First the Freedom League, then the White family who you saw in Seattle, then the endowment at Claremont. I had enough, but barely enough, clothes, toiletries, school supplies, the basics I needed to get by. My friends would've helped me, but it's embarrassing to be so poor, and I hated it. I managed to pick up some odd jobs, working on Alex's computer project, babysitting a vampire kid, started making enough money to pay for a little of my own stuff. I met Trevor, started dating him eventually, but it didn't change anything. I didn't want to have to ask him for anything or have him realize how tight the money was, because it was something he never even had to think about, while I was wondering if I was going to be living in my truck after graduation. I could've told him I needed help, he absolutely would've told me to move in, but I needed to prove to myself that I could get by, that whatever Trevor and I had going was real, and not even a little bit of it was because I was poor and homeless otherwise and couldn't make it on my own."

She shifted her stance, leaned her other shoulder against the chimney for awhile. "So I did it, I went out and found a job and an apartment, got myself some okay furniture and lived there for more than a year, taking care of myself and Charlie. I banked whatever I didn't have to spend, and I proved to myself that I didn't need Trevor or anybody just to get by, and that if I had to I could do it on my own. So then I was ready to move in with him, and that was good because I really prefer that to living on my own anyway. But I like my job, and I like knowing that I have it, even if I don't really need it. I need it for myself." 

Share this post


Link to post

For a moment, Erin thought the door she'd opened with Nina wouldn't be passed through - before the princess herself spoke. "I...I was going to get married next year," she admitted, a look of wry humor on her face. "My father had the man all picked out for me; the homosexual son of a Lebanese arms merchant who wanted a tie with the family of Typhoon. It would all be easy enough - he would have his proof he was no deviant, I would be free to do as I liked, and the families would be tied together." Her smile faded. "I told Mark after we started dating. He said that was stupid, and he's right. But it was all I really knew how to do when I came to this country." 

Share this post


Link to post

"So I take it that's not what you want anymore," Erin hazarded. "Not just the being a beard for a Lebanese arms merchant thing, but the only knowing how to be a princess thing. Mark makes a good salary with UNISON," she commented idly. "He's not rich, but it's not like you'd ever do without anything important if you decided you didn't want to work. You could do your own thing, maybe do more school if you wanted, maybe take up some good causes. You could stay home and have kids if that's what you'd rather do, or be a daytime hero, full-time it. Lots of options." She took another glance over the side of the roof, but it was still quiet. 

Share this post


Link to post

"I don't want to have children," said Nina with a firm shake of her head. "...not for many years yet. Too many of my sisters married when they were eighteen, nineteen, and went off to bind their lives around their husbands. I wouldn't even have servants to take care of them here," she added reflectively. "I've never even seen how it would be done...the men breaking in here, do you know who they are?" she asked. "Are they terrorists, criminals, gangsters?" She smiled thinly. "Before I came here, my father warned me that the civilians of Freedom City were nothing but drug-addled criminals and that I should spurn their company with as much force as I spurned their heroes." 

Share this post


Link to post

Erin shook her head. "The tip was pretty vague, but I suspect garden-variety thieves, maybe with a few extra technological doo-dads. There's a lot of valuable tech stored in warehouses in Hanover, prototypes and extra equipment for the big labs and consulting firms, but they protect it pretty well with layers of extra security. If there's anything worth having in that warehouse, they're probably gonna need a few extra tricks to get at it. Or it could be a bad tip and a waste of our time, but that's how it goes." She shrugged vaguely. "One of my extradimensional doubles had a kid by the time she was my age," she commented, voice calm but a little hollow. "I thought about how terrible that would be, how I wouldn't have been able to do all the things I do now. But if I had in this timeline, Travis would've had a chance to meet his great-grandchild." She pursed her lips and was quiet a moment. "If we do ever have kids now, and experience says that's a real good probability, they won't have any living grands or great-grands who really give a damn about them." 

Share this post


Link to post

"My mother doesn't like me very much," confessed Nina, matching Erin's secret fear with her own. And why not? They were both immigrants in their own way; both people dealing with a family left...changed. "She's grateful that Mark and I saved her life," she went on cooly, as if describing an enemy's cunning battle stratagem, "and she said she'll always love me for who I am. But she doesn't really mean it. She's spent so long running from my father, then fighting him, that she looks at me, the way I talk, the way I carry myself, my personality, and sees the daughter of Typhoon. She told me that herself. She's a very rational woman for someone who was willing to die a martyr." She smiled thinly. "And you've met my father and my brothers and sisters." She ticked off another point on her finger. "Mark's father died, and I don't think Martha will ever truly recover from that. Every family is broken in its own way." 

Edited by Avenger Assembled

Share this post


Link to post

"I guess that's true," Erin admitted. "And sometimes family is more what you make of it. The people who care about you, instead of who's related to you. My teammates are more family to me than the people in Seattle who are my biological relatives. If one of them were to die I would feel... well, I'd feel horrible because they're young and shouldn't have died, and because it brings up all kinds of old issues, but I wouldn't feel the same-" She hesitated, trying to put it into words. "The sad emptiness I feel because Travis is gone. He wasn't my responsibility and I didn't need him to take care of me, so when I think about him I just feel so damn sorry he's not here anymore." It wasn't clear whether she was talking to Nina at all there, or just talking, but after a moment she looked back at the hydrokinetic. "You got a weird hand dealt to you as far as your family. But you can make new family." 

Share this post


Link to post

Nina frowned at Erin's words, bristling at the criticism of her family. "My family turned Socotra from an island of goatherds and fishermen to a global power," she shot back. "When all the world stood against us, we flourished." Seeming to catch herself, she softened slightly, her father's face flashing before her mind "...but I-" Luckily for Nina's pride, at that moment their discussion was interrupted by the sudden arrival of their quarry, or at least very suspicious. A black van, labeled with the markings of a local utility company, turned down the street, heading straight for the warehouse they were occupying. The van didn't slow down in the slightest as it got close to the doors, and in fact sped up! A moment before either Monsoon or Wander could react, the van hit the metal doors at the front of the warehouse and soundlessly disappeared inside. 

Share this post


Link to post

"Well... that's new," Wander commented dryly,  cocking her head as she studied the door the van had driven through. "What'll the criminals think up next?" She leapt down from the roof and approached the doors, being careful to keep an eye out for any more activity from the criminals. She placed her hand flat against the door but it was solid, metal, exactly how a garage door was supposed to feel. "Looks like we'll have to find our own way in." She looked around and spotted a small window high on the wall, more a glorified vent than anything to look out, but wide enough to accommodate a couple female bodies without much excess body fat. Bouncing on her heels, where each bounce lifted her five feet in the air, Wander punched through the glass of the window and cleared the shards, shaking blood and glass of her hand even as the small bits of torn skin knit themselves together. "Need a boost?" she asked Monsoon. 

Share this post


Link to post

Nina hmmed, briefly confused by Wander's strategy. A moment later she realized why Erin was being so discreet - of course they couldn't simply barge in without Mark's ability to repair property damage behind them! The local businessmen could be _so_ angry about a little damage to their little possessions in the course of superheroing. By way of response, she levitated herself up to the window, the veins standing out in her eyes the only sign of the effort it took. "I was about to say the same thing to you," she offered, but she was smart enough not to actually offer to pick up the incredibly mobile heroine. There was no point in embarrassing herself! 

Monsoon let Wander take point as they headed through the window, a reasonable enough move given which one of them was bulletproof. Inside the darkened warehouse, a group of half-a-dozen figures with nightvision gear were moving among the stacked crates of high technology, sorting through them with a handheld scanning device - and then whirling to look right at them, With their cover blown, and since Wander hadn't bothered with a stealthy approach, Nina took this opportunity to shout, "FOOLS! WANDER AND MONSOON ARE HERE TO CRUSH YOUR CRIMINAL SCHEMES - PERMANENTLY!" She really did have a theatrical voice; her call reaching the far reaches of the big warehouse. 

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...