|The following members have been known to take City of Heroes/Villains-related commissions.|
COH Story 28 p9 Return to the Islands FinaleAs the smoke and clouds dissipated an odd silence and calm fell over the entire bay. Wreckage; both burning and otherwise was everywhere. A lot of it was from the ten ships smashed by Lusca in it’s rampage. Of the monster itself there was no sign.The first motion was a police boat that managed to make its way out. It was quickly followed by several Coast Guard rescue boats.Having been thrown all over the harbor by the blast it was several minutes before the heroes rallied.“Where is he?” Bob asked. Echoing what everyone else was thinking.“I don’t see him!”“Split up and search all over,” Silvermane ordered.“What was that thing they dropped?”“I warned you it was a big missile.” Missile countered.The bay was carefully search with the heroes looking in all the inlets and small islands. A dozen people were rescued from the overturned remains of their boat. One of Lusca’s tentacles had smashed their boat. More were recovered from a small islet. Where they had wound up after their speed boat hadn’t been fast enough when Lusca arrived.A half dozen people were pulled from the wreckage of a house on the shore. Lusca had not smashed it but a piece of wreckage Lusca had thrown had.The heroes diligently rescued and helped all that needed it. Lots of wreckage was found but not Lusca. All that was ever found was a large ink slick and a relatively small piece of tentacle. It was only 20 feet long.The Willawaw had survived it all. The ship had drifted a good way off. It was down by the bow and listing at a 20 degree angle to port. The mast had been snapped off and not a single window had survived. All were blown out.The metallic minotaur had been slammed against the deckhouse and the deck had buckled and dropped him two decks below. He had come to rest in the hold at the very bottom of the ship in two feet of water.It took the nanites several minutes to reboot the systems and get him operational again.“Steel Horn survives!”“He’s tough and can take anything. Do anything.”“Can he float?”Water was flowing into the compartment at a pretty steady rate and was already well past the minotaur’s hooves.“We’ve got a problem!”“Is this thing watertight?”“NOW you ask that?”“We were a little busy.”The water was rising and had reached his knees. “We’re about to find out!”“Does this float?”“You’re joking right?”“Well, it might if Trickshot and Silvermane hadn’t put so many holes into it.”“They used this in a sea-based villain group and didn’t make it capable of floating or swimming?”“We can always walk along the bottom.”A quick check of the hold confirmed that the box was gone and yet another large hole in the side told of how it had been removed.A tug came racing out to help the ship but a coast Guard cutter was first on the scene. When the CG commander stepped onto the Willawaw he was greeted by her captain. But he took one look at the ship and ordered everyone off.The last to leave was the Captain. He reluctantly stepped into the cutter after giving his ship one last look.They did manage to tow her into shallow waters and she eventually settled with her deck awash.****************It was a while before things settled down. The Coast Guard took charge of the Willawaw (or what was left) and the National Guard, the Navy and Air Force arrived to help clean up. Amazingly there was little damage on land since most of it took place at sea. The mere sight of Lusca had scared away most people and their boats. Still the Department of Defense would probably wind up paying for a lot of lost boats. Most people just chalked it up to another vile thing Maelstrom had done. And the government raised the reward for her death.Misha had a long conversation with the colonel who was most unhappy about losing to Maelstrom. He was REALLY unhappy to know she had access to a monster that large! The navy sent two attack submarines just in case it came back. But it didn’t.Finally they were released and the heroes got a well-deserved chance to relax. But first they had to pay their regards.***********************The teleport back to the island worked well and this time they weren’t so rushed.They found Geimhreadh waiting for them outside. The sun was shining and sky was clear. A good sign that the spirit was relaxed and not feeling threatened.Bob slowly stepped towards the massive feline. He was well aware that he looked terrible. Covered with dirt, grime and parts of his clothing was burn, wet or both at the same time.His carefully rehearsed speech was forgotten and most of his notes were reduced to a wet pulp.He bowed slightly. “It’s a pleasure and an honor to meet you.”****************Soon they were back at the Sea Watch home base. A good shower and a change of clothing later the group had settled onto the lawn overlooking the dock.Bob had invited all the supers involved and soon a score of people were milling around or were relaxing in various Adirondack chairs. Meanwhile Nor’easter was cooking up a large barbecue.It was a rare chance to relax and unwind and meet their fellow supers.Moonlight Serenade was there and the soft tones of Glen Miller sounded. All without the benefit of any radio or music player.Standing next to Moonlight Serenade was a hero dressed in combat armor that was colored white with light orange trim. On his chest was displayed an ice cream cone.“Seriously?” Strela asked. “His code name is Creamsickle?”“Well,” Stealth said and paused. “It fits. His powers are water and ice based.”Talking to the Captain was a young woman with long blonde hair. The woman’s costume seemed to consist solely of 2 (small) bronze cups held together with some links of chain for a top. They only covered a tiny portion of her large breasts. And for below a small piece of triangular shaped bronze strategically placed.“Doesn’t all that bronze chafe?” Misha asked.“All?” Strela countered. “There is more metal in the change in my pocket than in that costume.”“That’s the Bronze Bombshell.”“Brassboobs and the Hooters of Doom!” Misha joked.“That’s horribly sexist,” Strela scowled.“Sexist but funny,” Stealth added.“That much nudity might be a serious distraction,” Stealth commented. “While you’re busy looking at her cleavage she’s smashing you with that sword she carries.”Both foxes nodded. “Now THAT is an interesting trick,” Strela commented.“With boobs that big does she even need a weapon? She could use them as bludgeoning weapons.”Strela didn’t respond but just shook her head slowly.Nearby was a man if middling height. He was in a shirt and pants that were both a riot of swirling colors and shapes. On his head was a beret of the loudest shade of violet anyone had ever seen.“What happened to him? Looks like he was caught in an explosion of a paint factory,” Misha asked.“That’s Picasso’s Ghost,” the Nanites responded.Something caught Misha’s eye. The man standing there was wearing a chocolate brown colored, polyester Leisure suit that had been out of fashion since the 70’s. His skin was a dark green and his head resembled that of as Komodo dragon. “Lounge Lizard?” Misha asked.“Be good to him,” the nanites warned. “He’s a Fire/Fire Blaster.”Seated in a chair and cheerfully enjoying a plate of shrimp was a woman wearing white leotards. She had a pair of the fake, costume bunny ears on and whiskers on her face made of wire. Leaning up against the side of the chair was a large assault rifle.“That looks like a Halloween costume a kid would wear,” Stealth commented.“Ten rubles says she has the cotton tail on too,” Strela added.“That’s Battle Bunny and at least she has clothes on,” He countered.“That weapon she is using is an HK423W,”the nanites added.“I thought that was still experimental and not issued yet,” Misha commented.“It hasn’t been issued yet,” was the nanites response.There was a loud splashing and Dr Nichols surfaced near the dock. The mermaid easily pulled herself up onto the dock. Her long tail reminded Misha of a seal’s tail in shape even though it was covered in a silver metal.There was a soft hissing noise and her tail split open revealing the lower part of her body and a set of perfectly human legs. She stood up and stretched. The woman was wearing a silver-colored bathing suit.“Welcome to the home of The Sea Watch,” Bob said in a cheerful manner. “Pull up a chair and grab a burger or a dog.”“I’m glad to see you in better circumstances,” The Doctor said. She reached into the opening in the tail and pulled out a large piece of cloth. She wrapped it around her waist like a skirt. “Thank you for inviting me. I’ve heard a lot about your group.”“Good I hope,” Orca added.“This new suit of yours is very impressive,” Moonshine commented as he offered her a plate with a burger on it.She took the offered the plate. “Thank you. I’ve been working on it for almost four years.”“An impressive piece of workmanship,” Silvermane commented.“What happened?” She asked. “Where did Maelstrom get that giant octopus?”Trickshot shrugged. “We’ve no idea.”“But we intend to find out,” Bob added.“They say the blast was heard thirty miles away.”“Wow! You guys never do anything small,” Miranda commented.“It did the job,” Misha responded.“What chances that it will come back?” Trick Shot asked.Orca shrugged. “No telling but if he’s like regular octopi he probably fled to deep water or somewhere safe.”“We hurt it pretty badly,” Moonshine commented. “It won’t be back for a long time.”“What happened to Steel Horn?” Nor’easter asked.“I assume he went down with the ship,” Bob responded. “We’ll have to recover it.”“Who is Steel Horn?” Miranda asked.“He was a robot drone,” Moonshine explained. “Shaped like the minotaur from Greek mythology.”Miranda smiled. “I would like to get a look at that.”“He went down with the ferry.”“Our little friends are not talking about what happened to him,” Misha added quietly to Stealth, Strela and Silvermane.“That can’t be good,” Strela added.“They’ve been playing the theme song from the Little Mermaid for the last two hours,” Stealth commented. “So they are up to something.”Misha shrugged. “They are always up to something. We’ll find out eventually. They might be a bit odd but they generally know what they are doing.”“I will definitely have to retrieve it,” Miranda said firmly.“Speaking of which,” Orca added. “That suit of yours could be of great help in the salvage work.”Miranda smiled. “I’ve already got several contracts. The money will help pay the bills and give me a real-world test.”“Shame what happened to the Willawaw,” Orca commented.“The ship was insured,” Bob commented. “The captain is already looking to getting it raised and repaired. The Smithsonian who owns it is upset.”“Why don’t they run a TV special,”the Nanites suggested. “The Life, Death and Rebirth of a Great Ship!”“Now THERE is a great idea,” Strela commented.“They could sell a souvenir model of the ship. That is radio controlled and would sink and refloat upon command!”“Kids will love it!”“Just kids?” Misha joked. “I’d buy one of those.”The party lasted for a while and a good time was had by all. But soon the real world intruded. One by one the heroes and heroines drifted away. Eventually it was just Sea Watch, Strela, Stealth, Misha, Silvermane and Miranda.Down at the dock there was a loud bubbling and frothing in the water. Suddenly a metallic arm came out of the water and grabbed hold of the dock. A second arm soon followed as the figure pulled itself up and out.Awkwardly Steel Horn rolled onto the dock and then slowly stood up. The metal figure remained there as water drained from a dozen holes of different sizes.“Steel Horn lives!” The Nanites announced proudly.The heroes gathered around the minotaur.“This is Steel Horn!” Misha commented.“WE BAD! WE BAD!”“Anyone have an extension cord?”“Anyone have a mop?”“Did you walk all the way from the wreck of the Willawaw?” Nor’easter asked.“Yes!” Came the energetic answer from the nanites. “Walking is good exercise. Great cardio!”“You’d be amazed by the things we saw on the bottom,” the nanites added. “Bangor University is already interested in the shipwreck we found.”“It’s an early 19th century barque.”“And there is the one the blast uncovered too. At least what’s left of it.”“What are you going to do with that?” Stealth asked.“Do with it?” The Nanites asked. “Why keep it of course!”“First thing we do is make it watertight!”“Impressive,” Miranda said as she closely examined Steel Horn. “Is this a robot or a suit?”“A drone,” Moonshine explained. “Controlled remotely.”Miranda shook her head. “Where’s the fun in that? And what happens if someone jams the control signal.”That earned a round of laughter from everyone.“That’s exactly what happened,” Misha explained. “We jammed the signal and took it over.”“I need to do a complete examination,” Miranda commented as she walked around the minotaur. “In my workshop.”“That can be arraigned,” Misha responded.“We also need to find who built him, Silvermane added. “He’s sure to build another.”“Agreed,” Orca added. “And he’s sure to have made improvements to it.”“We’ve decided to give you a little gift,” Silvermane said and led them inside.Upstairs they made their way back to the map room.Gone was the large, wooden table covered with paper maps. In it’s place was an equally large table of faux wood along the side and legs. The top was covered by a large, horizontal monitor.“A digital map table.” Silvermane said proudly. He tapped the screen and an active map of all of Penobscot bay appeared. Little symbols moved about. “It’s linked to the coast Guard database and the Police as well.”“We’ve also given you access to the lower levels of the SOCOM network,” Misha said. “Including the database of all known enemies and threats.” He leaned closer. “That works both ways. SOCOM is really interested in all you know about Maelstrom.”**********************“I just had a really bad thought,” Misha said. “Remember Dr Fossil.”Strela nodded her head. “Hard to forget a person who’s half fossil.”“What if she is trying to wake up a dinosaur spirit like Geimhreadh?”“That makes sense,” Stealth commented. “And sounds like a very bad idea.”“I’ll call Midnighter FitzWilliams,” Misha said.A call was quickly placed and Midnighter Loremaster Jonathon Hendrick FitzWilliams III answered.Misha quickly explained what had happened to the mage. “So. What do you think?” He asked.“Before the Ice Age Spirit had woken up,” The Midnighter mage said. “I would have said it was not possible. But now it is a possibility we must consider. Such spirits are known but rarely dealt with. Mainly because they are tricky. You were able to negotiate with Geimhreadh but that is unique. Most such spirits are not so friendly.”“He wasn’t particularly friendly when we first encountered him,” Misha commented. “We almost didn’t survive.”“Still,” the mage insisted. “That was a most remarkable occurrence.”“Thank you,” Misha responded.“What would she need to wake up a dinosaur spirit?”“I am not sure just yet,” came the answer. “I need to do more research. I’ll have a team investigate this. They will coordinate with you of course.”Strela shook her head slowly."Something wrong?" Misha asked."When a Midnighter doesn't know something, I kind of worry.”The End
COH Story 28 p8 A Return to the Island“Sitrep,” came the sharp command from the army.“We’ve hammered Lusca and knocked out most of his tentacles but he refuses to go down,” Misha explained. “He’s really trashing the harbor. We can take him down eventually, but he’s basically sunk every boat in the bay. If he goes for Bangor things will get really messy.”Misha watched as a trio of supers pulled survivors from the two sections of the now sinking ship.“Acknowledged,” came the response from command. “One moment.”Misha continued the fight as he waited. He understood that the Lieutenant who was his commander was talking to her Commander; Colonel Haslett. He was undoubtedly looking at satellite video of the fight.“Listen up everyone!” Misha ordered. “The air force wants to send in a AGM-244 Jack missile. But we’re too close to the city.”“Too close?” Bob asked. “We’re a half mile out.”“It has a thirty-ton warhead,” Misha explained. “The blast might not reach Bangor but flying debris is sure to.”“We can’t contain a blast that big,” Someone commented.“We don’t need to contain it all,” Moonshine responded. “Just deflect it away from the land and the city. The rest we can let go into the ocean.”“I’ll biggest problem will be the Tsunami,” Nor ‘easter commented. “The blast is sure to send up a large wave of water. We need to stop it from reaching the city or it will do a lot of damage.”“I might be able to do it,” a female voice said. “I mean . . . I could stop the wave and protect the city itself. Or at least slow it down.”“What’s your name?” Silvermane asked.“My codename is Moonlight Serenade,” came the answer.The nanites displayed for Silvermane the woman’s known abilities:Code Name: Moonlight SerenadeMutantCorruptor: Sonic/Force Field“Can you create a force field that large?” Silvermane asked.“I’ve been practicing,” she responded. “If I concentrate it in front of me instead of having it go all around me. I should be able to cover a wide front.”“We’ll put a line of blasters between the blast and the city,” Silvermane ordered. “Behind the force field. It should stop any debris getting past.”The young woman was wearing a blouse and skirt of light tan that seemed to be straight out of a 40’s movie. Her black hair was in tight curls held loosely and they bounced about with each movement of her head.“How old are you?” Silvermane asked.“Twenty-two,” she responded.“My youngest daughter is your age,” Silvermane commented.“Attention. Operation Severn is in effect. ETA 2 minutes,” a voice said over the radio to all listening. “Repeat. Operation Severn is in effect. ETA 2 minutes Take cover NOW!” The voice added firmly.“Acknowledged,” Misha responded.“Attention all hands,” Misha shouted over all the radio frequencies, especially the emergency channels. “Air strike inbound. Take cover. It’s going to be a big one! Really BIG! They’ve launched an AGM-244 Jack missile.”Silvermane’s orders came fast as he ordered everyone into new positions.“Are you sure this will work?” Moonlight Serenade asked nervously.“You’ll do fine,” he said reassuringly. “And I’m here to cover your back.”The American armed forces always found themselves in a tough spot when it came to Supers and giant monsters. As part of their mandate they were required to deal with such threats. But often had little they could do to actually defeat them. It’s why people like Misha were in the Special Operations Command.BUT the military never stopped thinking and planning. Looking for a backup plan. The constant threat of various monsters had lead to the creation of really special weapons. Following the idiom of Go Big or Go Even BIGGER they had developed the AGM-244 Jack missile. It was over 30 feet long and packed with as much explosive as possible. It was so large that it couldn’t actually fit into the bomb bay or cargo bay of any aircraft. Instead it was slung beneath the fuselage of specially modified B52’s.The bomber was an old veteran. It was actually older than the pilot flying it. Her father had flown B52’s when he served. The engines were roaring along at full power, straining under a load it had not been designed to handle. But it did.“Final approach! Thirty seconds!” The voice announced over the radio without identifying himself.“INCOMING!” Misha shouted. “TAKE COVER! NOW!”The missile dropped free of the B52 and fell for a short distance before the engines came to life and it roared off.The bomber itself took a high G turn that something that old and that large shouldn’t be able to do. Freed of it’s heavy cargo the bomber surged ahead as it tried to outrace the coming shockwave.Back at the battle there was the loud rumble of a jet engine that was audible even over all the chaos and mayhem. There was the loud wailing of air raid sirens warning people to take cover. But it was an unneeded warning. With a giant monster wreaking havoc the people had already fled to safety.An object came racing over the waves and they caught a glimpse of a missile moving at over Mach one. It changed course slightly and then plunged straight down onto Lusca.BOOM!!!!!The massive explosion rocked the harbor and sent everyone and everything flying in all directions as a tremendous fireball engulfed the monster. The ground rocked and the water of the bay was vaporized or sent skyward.For a brief moment the bottom of the bay was clearly visible along with the battered remains of a shipwreck. A moment later the water rushed back in and put out the fires as it swamped everything.The wall of water raced outward heading towards the city.Standing on the end of the dock that stuck out furthest into the bay was Moonlight Serenade. The woman waited till the approaching wave got close. She concentrated on the space in front of her. She brought up her arms and a curtain of shimmering green light appeared in front of her. The green wall looked ephemeral and flimsy but this force field would easily withstand machine gun bullets.The wall of water reached the shield and slammed into it with a crash and a roar. Stones, wood, chunks of concrete and other debris were mixed with the water. They all hammered against the barrier and the woman who had created it.The wall couldn’t remain strong against this punishment and it thinned in places. She found herself pelted with a shower of salt water.A wooden beam; a foot wide and a dozen feet long burst through and rocketed straight at her. The deadly missile seemingly aimed at her chest.Silvermane’s bow snapped and an arrow hit the beam and exploded. The old, rotten wood shattered pelting the woman with many small pieces of wood.After what seemed like forever; the water receded. It left the ground and water covered with wreckage.Moonlight Serenade was still standing on the pier. She was covered with mud and muck. The same muck and mud which covered the pier up to her ankles.“Are you all right?” Silvermane asked. He was standing in knee deep mud just behind the woman. He was as covered with muck as she was.“I feel funky,” she said slowly.“I’ll see about getting you something more appropriate for combat,” Silvermane commented.“Something waterproof,” she added.************
COH Story 28 p7 A Return to the Island“MAYDAY! MAYDAY!”“This is an all points alert! We have a giant monster attack underway in Bangor Maine,” the voice of Emergency Command said. Showing emotion for the first time. “All available units there now.”“What is it?” Trick Shot asked.“It’s an octopus the size of a battleship.”Moonshine looked at a tentacle that towered a hundred feet into the air. “He’s a lot bigger than that.”“Attention all hands!” Bob said calmly over the radio. “This is Sea Watch. Clear Penobscot bay immediately. This is an emergency order. Clear the bay and the shoreline. Get at least a hundred yards inland.”“Where did she get that thing?” Misha shouted.“There are reports of large sized octopus in the really deep ocean,” Orca said. “But nothing THIS big.”“Don’t you dare blame this mutant on radioactivity from the atomic bomb tests,” the nanites said in an annoyed tone. “That old trope has been overused.”“And besides we haven’t detected any excessive radiation.”“How about contaminants from illegal, toxic dumping?” Orca responded. “That is a problem we’ve been studying.”“Also an overused trope,” the nanites countered. “But a good one.”“We must consider that it could be a natural phenomenon that has just never been seen till now.”“We know little about the really deep ocean depths. The ancients called it the Abyss for a good reason.”“We know more about the Moon than we do about those depths,” Nor’ easter added.All the heroes were gathered a respectful distance away from the monster.“How do we do this?” Trick Shot asked.“We go after each tentacle in turn,” Stealth said.“We need to keep him out in the middle of the bay,” Bob ordered. “Out here there isn’t too much to destroy and no civilians to get hurt.”“Good point,” Silvermane added.The entire group gathered a together a short distance from the creature. Only Steel Horn was absent. The nanites still trying to get their new toy up the steps to the deck. The list the ship had was not making this any easier.Those who could fly hovered near the creature and showered it with fire. Arrows, bullets, blasts of water and bolts of electricity struck the creature. Those like Stealth, Moonshine and Orca who preferred to fight crime close up had to swim close to a tentacle and strike. Stealth’s blades slashed the rubbery skin of the tentacles while Orca and Moonshine pummeled it.For all the effort directed at it the monster seemed to ignore it. It’s massive tentacle tried to smash and pulverize the little things annoying it.“We’re not hurting it,” Nor’easter commented. “We’re just making angrier.”“Agreed,” Bob added.“Back off,” Silvermane ordered. “Fall back. We need to regroup and rethink.”The group backed and regrouped near the ship. A little more battered and bruised but still all right.“We need more people,” Misha said as he gingerly touched his right side where he had been hit hard.“What do we do?” Orca asked.“We wait,” Silvermane responded. “Attacking now would only waste our time and resources.”“What the hell is that thing?” A voice said loudly over the radio.“Mermaid?” Bill asked over the radio. “Is that you? Where are you?”“Off Lincolnville and Seven hundred Acre Isle,” she answered, “I’m pulling people out of what’s left of the car ferry. Is that really a giant octopus?”“Yes,” Bob answered. “I’ve no idea where Maelstrom got it from.”“Maelstrom? I thought she was arrested,” the woman responded.“She keeps escaping,” Bob explained.“We’re assembling a team to deal with the monster,” Silvermane added. “At the moment we’re trying to keep it out in more open water.”“What can I do to help?” She asked.“Do you have any weapons mounted?” Silvermane asked.“No,” she responded. “Those are still in the design stage. I intended to test those later this year.”“Concentrate on rescue and moving people out of the danger zone,” Silvermane ordered.“How can I do that?” The mermaid asked. “The ferry here was hit by a piece of wreckage that monster threw at least three miles! That puts the whole area at risk.”“We’ll try and keep him busy,” Misha added. “Once we attack in strength I’m sure he’ll concentrate on us.”“Good for the civilians but bad for you,” The mermaid commented.“It’s part of the deal of being a hero,” Strela responded. “It’s what we do.”***************More Supers started to arrive. Coming from all over to join the fight. Some Misha knew but most were strangers. But that didn’t stop them from lending a hand, They all gathered a short distance from Lusca on a small rocky island. It was close enough to keep an eye on the monster but far enough away to not be attacked.Steel Horn had finally made his way on deck.“Everyone check in please!” Silvermane ordered over the radio.Everyone called in and Silvermane sorted them out with the help of the nanites who gave him each hero or heroine’s known abilities.“How many do we have now?” Strela asked.“Including us we have twenty-four people!” Silvermane responded.“That should be enough,” Bob said.Silvermane divided the heroes into 3 separate teams.“Everyone please pay attention,” Silvermane said over an open radio channel. “We will go after each tentacle in turn. Follow my lead and concentrate on my target.” He paused a moment. “We need to keep this thing away from any people or shipping. And of course beware of bystanders. Any questions?”“If there are any issues or problems call it out on the channel,” Misha added. “I’m hoping to get some air support but I’m not sure. If there is some I’ll give warning.”“On my mark,” Silvermane said. He picked the tentacle that was closest to him. The crowd of heroes started to edge closer to the giant monster. “GO!”The attack began as they surged forward. Scrappers and tankers closed in and began striking the one tentacle hard while trying to avoid the seven others.Close by those who preferred some distance added in their own ranged support. Arrows, bullets, lighting, fire, water and ice flew across the waters of the bay striking the giant tentacle. Close in others hammered it swords, axes, or even just their fists; many of those covered with stone or ice to make for a more powerful weapon.Steel Horn ripped a half ton metal hatch free of the deckhouse. He aimed and tossed the metal projectile straight at the monster.The tentacle started to flinch and flail about and wounds opened up in the skin.“Now we’ve reached critical mass,” Silvermane commented.“Keep it up!” Misha shouted.Suddenly the monster thrashed all it’s tentacles frantically. Then it dropped below the surface.“What happened?” someone asked.“Did we win? Is he gone?”“I don’t think so,” Someone else said slowly.Suddenly the water started bubbling and frothing in a half dozen places and the giant tentacles erupted out of the water.“There are only seven tentacles!” Bob said.“We got to take him down one tentacle at a time,” Orca groaned.Someone had picked another tentacle and everyone followed suit. The fighting was frantic as the scrappers and tanks got in close and hammered away at the monster. The others flitted around trying to get in a good shot while avoiding those building sized tentacles.The tentacles were huge and very powerful; one could easily smash ship or a building. But they were slow and with care could usually be avoided.Suddenly the creature dropped below the water and disappeared from sight. But only for a few moments.“Now where did he go?”Off to the east the water bubbled and frothed in an all too familiar pattern and the group raced over to deal with it.“Why is he attacking here?”“Who can tell,” Someone responded. “Maybe he just doesn’t like Maine.”“Maelstrom summoned him,” Bob said as he avoided one tentacle while attacking another.“Maelstrom? Wasn’t she the one who sank a destroyer during the Rikti war?”The monster had wrapped a tentacle around a cabin cruiser that was tied to a dock on a small island. It flung the 40-foot-long boat at a group of supers.“That’s her!” Trickshot answered as she and dozen other supers scattered to avoid unusual projectile. In spite of it’s speed she noted that thankfully the boat was empty.“Hasn’t someone killed that whore yet?” Someone snarled.“Not yet,” Moonshine responded. He leapt over one swinging tentacle and landed with full force on another. He hammered the rubbery limb with a flurry of kicks and punches. “But we keep trying.”Misha was hovering a short distance from the mass of tentacles putting arrow after arrow into one of them. “Where is she? I’ve lost track of her.”“Long gone,” the nanites responded. “We hate to report but they got away with the special cargo.”“Or someone did. The box is gone.”“Easy enough to do in all this mayhem and confusion,” Strela added.One tentacle had grabbed hold of a large portion of a steel dock and was waving it around like a club.Four supers combined they powers and blasted the steel wreckage and the tentacle tossed the remains at it’s attackers.The fight went on. The heroes would attack a tentacle until Lusca would drop into the water and out of sight. Only to reappear somewhere else but with one tentacle less.“Sitrep please!” Came the order to Misha.“We’ve been attacked by a giant octopus,” Misha responded. “The monster is tough but we’re are slowly wearing it down. Can we get some air support?”“Negative,” came the response from his commanding officer. “Danger close. You are too close to Bangor.”Misha looked around and the shore was just a distant blob on the horizon; at least a half mile away. “How far out do we need to be?”“We’re sending in a Jack,” came the response from his lieutenant.Misha cursed loudly and in several languages. “Acknowledged.”No matter how hard they hit him the monster just refused to back down. It became a contest of endurance. Who would give up first; Lusca or the heroes.“Doesn’t he just give up?” Someone said in a weary tone.“He is persistent.”Two tentacles came down on a small cargo ship smashing it and sending debris flying. The two halves separated and started to sink separately.
COH Story # 27 RenewalRenewalBy Christian O’KaneHis place; Oak Hill wasn’t the largest mansion in Newport it only had 75,000 square feet in 35 rooms. But the 20 acre park surrounding it was grand. An Olympic size swimming pool, tennis courts, stables (and 5 miles of riding trails) and a twelve-car garage and heliport (with a S76 helicopter). It sat on a clifftop with an impressive view of the Atlantic Ocean. The unseen parts were equally impressive. The underground base had a large workshop and fabrication area complete with robotic and holographic additions. A command center connected to sensors scattered all over including radar, ladar, IR and pressure sensors. For defense there was a Patriot missile battery and popup gun and antitank missile turrets scattered all over the property. All powered by a quiet, fusion powered reactor and controlled by an advanced AI computer.For all of that technology the drawing room looked like something out of an Agatha Christie movie. The walls were lined with a dark, cherry maple wood. A cheery fire burned in the marble fireplace. The couch and chairs were of wood with fine cloth decorated with a heraldic rearing lion in gold.A small, wheeled robot brought in a tray filled with glasses of beer and wine and a second with an assortment of sandwiches.Graymane sighed in relieve as he settled into a sumptuous armchair, his armor exchanged for stylishly tailored civilian clothes over a cold compress patch for his shoulder. He gestured to the robot. “I thought you might like a bite to eat,” he said. "Please, help yourself."“Thank you,” Strela said and picked up a sandwich and a glass of wine.“How long have you been a super?” Graymane asked as he took a glass.“I’ve only been here a few days,” Strela said.“And I’ve been here almost a year,” Misha responded as he took a sandwich and a glass of iced tea. “Before that I was active in the army. I’m still on detached duty.”“How long have you been doing this?” Strela asked.He laughed. “Seems like forever.” Graymane leaned back in his chair with a sigh, his eyes going momentarily distant. "Oh, I'm going to miss this.""Miss?" Strela asked. "You are leaving?""Not the house. I'm going to miss superhero work." The dark-haired man tapped a short rhythm on his watch, and his visage seemed to shiver. Then the face of the man shifted: his cheekbones widened, while his nose grew slightly shorter. His eye color changed to green and his gray-streaked black hair softened into a wavy brown. Only some of the gray streaks faded."I'm starting to match my name, Miss," he said fingering the gray hair spreading back from his temples. "I've been doing this for a long time."“Impressive,” Strela commented.“Most impressive. A holographic overlay for a disguise,” the nanites added."Well," Misha said. "Perhaps there is a way to keep that gray at bay . . . If you are willing to undergo a few updates.""Updates," Graymane replied, fixing Misha with a canny eye. "That sounds like a computer talking. Am I being addressed by your mechanical companions now?""No you are being addressed by me, but my little friends do agree about asking you this. I think you'd love it."Graymane reached out and tapped a panel on the end table next to him, beckoning into existence a half-sized hologram of a woman in secretarial garb. "Jenny? Figure out a comm protocol with Misha's little friends and rig up a holo projector for them, would you? I prefer faces when I talk to people." Returning his attention to Misha, he held up a placating hand. "Nothing against you, but why relay messages when we can conference call?""Certainly, sir," the holosecretary replied."Oh, and Jenny? If they start to misbehave, you have my permission to slap them however hard you feel like.""Slap us?" The nanites responded. "That sounds kinky. Can we use the egg whisk, flying helmet and wet celery?""Oh! Beat me! Whip me! Make me feel cheap!""Egg whisk? flying helmet? Wet celery?" Graymane asked."You really don't want to know," Strela said."They've been at THOSE websites again."“A holographic representation?” The nanites asked. “All of us?”“We’ll need a bigger table.”“Not if we all stand really close.”This started a debate as to how many COULD fit on the table. A key arguing point being if they could stand on each other’s shoulders. THIS started a debate as to how many could stand on one of their shoulders. The debate came to an impasse when one pointed out that they don’t have shoulders. This resulted in the creation of a committee to consider getting shoulders and what to use them for.“No,” Graymane responded, ending the debates. “Three at the most.”“We need a moment to decide.”The nanite ran through 3 round of voting involving 457,000 different voting districts. All of this took exactly 30 seconds. Including 25 seconds for commercials for the leading candidates. They came to a unanimous vote. Not a good sign. The nanites NEVER agreed 100% on anything.They connected to Graymane’s network and uploaded to the hologram server. The projector came to life and three figures flickered into existence on the table next to Jenny.The figures were no larger than Jenny but were a bit stockier and oddly enough; they were in black and white. No color. Moe. Larry and Curly stood there looking around."Seriously. That surprises you?" Strela asked.Misha shook his head. "No! Not me. I saw it coming the moment he mentioned it."Curly noticed Jenny and smiled. “HUBBA! HUBBA!” He smoothed back nonexistent hair on his bald head. Then he stepped out of his projection and appeared in Jenny's."Hey!" Graymane asked. Startled. "How did he do that?"Jenny glared at him with a cold, hard stare and the image jumped back to the other two and leapt into Larry’s arms. "Wow. Let's not do that again.""Next time try bringing flowers."Larry said."Or body armor," Moe added.Strela shook her head slowly while Misha laughed.“Back off a bit,” Misha asked the Nanites.“They are many things,” Strela commented out loud. “But subtle is not among them.”She turned to Misha. “I blame you for that.”“Me?” The fox asked. Genuinely surprised.“Yes you,” she responded. “Staff Sergeant Let’s toss a grenade.”“I don’t always throw a grenade,” Misha commented.“You’re a role model for them,” Strela commented. “They take their cues from you.”“We’re all role models,” Misha countered and was silent for a moment. “There’s a frightening thought.”“In all seriousness,” Misha said calmly. “This is a very big change they’re proposing. I’m sure Jenny can go into all the details with you. For all their wild antics the Nanites are good people to have on your side. I’ve never regretted letting them change me.”“What you decide,” Strela added. “Is between you and them.”Misha nodded in agreement. From a pocket he took out a ball, the size and shape of a handball but colored metallic silver. “Here is a group of the nanites. If you agree they’ll stay with you. If not they’ll find their way back to us.”The ball rose up out of Misha’s hand propelled by some unknown power. It lazily meandered over to Graymane where it flew a slow orbit around the man’s head.“What happens if I take it?” The man asked without touching it.“They will be harmlessly absorbed into your body,” Strela answered.The ball had evidently grown bored and divided into two balls which chased each other.“What if I decide against their help?” He asked.“Then they’ll leave and find their way home,” Misha answered. “As you can see they can move about quite well.”One of the balls had changed to look like a German ME-109 fighter. The second was now a British Spitfire both a silvery color. The two battled each other, twisting and turning and looping.Strela laughed. “You’d better decide before they decide to recreate the entire Battle of Britain.”He watched the two balls and finally reached out to them.The two planes merged together and dropped into the palm of his hand. The silvery ball melted and the silvery liquid was absorbed into his skin.“Drat. I was just getting the hang of these flight controls.”“What?” The man asked, surprised. “What happened?”“The nanites have been absorbed into your body,” Misha explained. “Don’t freak out. They’re pretty harmless.”“Noisy but harmless,” Strela added."This one has some serious mileage.""Maybe we can trade him in for a newer one? With less mileage."“Nah, we'll just roll back the odometer a few decades.""Are you still using this scar or can we remove it?""Do you really need ALL ten toes?"“Do you know you are 953rd in line for the throne of England?” The nanites asked."How about another set of arms so you can wield TWO bows?"“Should we address him as Prince?”“How about the rearward mounted flamethrower!”“If not Prince, how about Rex?”“Problematical. All it would take is two bowls of chili and things could get dangerous. And how do you reload?”“Guys,” Strela warned the Nanites. “Go easy.”“He’s in good shape overall,” The nanites commented.“We can knock out some of the dings and dents. Look as good as new!”“We could mount a cannon in his . . .”“No!” Graymane ordered.“It would have to be a small cannon.”“Guys,” Misha ordered, “Chill. Try not to freak him out please.”The chatter stopped. Replaced by a welcome silence.“What happened?” William asked.“They are still chattering away it’s just that they are leaving you out of it,” Strela explained.“I think its time to head home,” Misha said. “You need time to consider their offer.”He escorted his guests to the teleporter he had in his underground base.They paused by the teleporter. “If you have a question just ask the nanites or contact us,” Strela added. “Jenny has our number.”With that they stepped into the teleporter and vanished.***********************He settled into the large chair. "Jenny. I want all the information on them that you can give me.""Yes sir," came the answer from the digital woman. She scowled. "I am running into some resistance. Misha's files are locked behind some very formidable firewalls. His digital allies are blocking me." She smiled and laughed."What?" He asked."They'll only release the information if I can beat them in a PvP in Warcraft.""What?""In order to see Misha Brightleaf's service record I have to defeat them in a Player vs. Player game in World of Warcraft."“Please tell me you’re joking?” He asked.“No,” she answered."However I do have access to a partial file on Strela," Jenny said. "It's part of a Longbow database. I do agree with the Nanites that they do need to improve their security. Or perhaps they HAVE improved their security and Longbow is simply letting us have access to the information."A block of text popped up in front of him, created by the holographic projectors hidden in the room.Name: Svetlana Malenchinsky (?) Codename; Strela (Arrow) Powers: Archery/Trick ArrowLevel: 25 (Estimated) Source of Powers: Mutant but was part of at least 1 Soviet 'Enhancement' program Born: Soviet Union 9 August 1964?Place of Residence: Was Mercy Island, Rogues Isles – now Paragon cityNote: See Soviet Defenders of the MotherlandKnow Affiliations: Soviet Defenders of the Motherland (now defunct), Longbow.Known Enemies: Sky Raiders, Arachnos, Malta Group, Vahzilok. The Council. The Rickti.******************The house was quiet. The robots had finished cleaning up and settled down to recharge. The only things moving in the large place were a few security robots. The place seemed bigger and emptier since his wife, Susanne, had passed. He could go on patrol, but that had drawn less and less of his interest for a while now. William settled into his favorite chair and pondered his future.Misha, Strela, and the Nanites had offered him so much. A lot of it excited him, but quite a bit of it frightened him, too. The idea of letting little machines tear apart and rebuild his body was a daunting concept. Yet it would open up a whole new life. It left him with a lot to think about.The change would make him stronger and faster and would at least triple his lifespan. With cybernetics he would gain flight, built-in infrared, lowlight vision, radar and built in heads up display, as well as worldwide communications capability.It would render him not human looking, making it hard to move about in regular society. But what social life did he have? His dear Susanne had passed, and social events and parties had lost their savor without her. Although he saw his children and grandchildren for holidays and various events, they had their own lives.The sound was very soft at first and William wasn’t sure he was actually hearing it. It was dancing around the edge of his perception like a whispered voice. But the sound grew louder and he perceived that it was soft music, playing a lively tune. One that he recognized.“Jenny, are you playing music?” William asked out loud. He looked around to see if something was left on. “I hear the Maple Leaf Rag.”“It was a little too quiet, so we’ve livened things up,” the nanites answered.He laughed. “You keep surprising me.”“The world is full of surprises,”the nanites answered.“What else are you interested in?” He asked.“The Russian film festival is in 3.45 hours,” The nanites commented. “Tonight it’s Alexander Nevsky and Battleship Potemkin. Broadcast straight from Kiev!”“Thank you. I’d like to see that,” William said. “But I’d like to have some private time please.”“Of course,” they answered. “Just ask and we’ll come back.”“Jenny,” the man ordered. In moments the hologram appeared. She was different this time. Very different.Gone was the prim secretarial garb. Instead the holographic woman was wearing a bikini made of chainmail armor, a pair of thick fur boots and nothing else. In her hand was a massive broadsword.One eyebrow raised. "Jenny?""Hello, Sir," she said, resting the swordpoint on the ground and leaning her hands on the pommel. "How can I help you?""Warcraft?""Warcraft! I beat them 4 games out of 7," she said proudly. "So I have access to some of Staff Sergeant Brightleaf's files.""Some?" He asked."Some parts of it are highly classified," she answered. "The nanites refuse to release it unless you have security clearance."He took a sip of coffee. "Will this be a problem?""No," she answered. "It is mostly individual operations the staff sergeant has been in. And ironically the Nanites themselves are classified."Name: ? Codename; Misha Brightleaf Powers: Archery/DevicesLevel: 25 (Estimated) Source of Powers: Science Born: 6 April 1962Place of Residence: Paragon City Rhode IslandKnow Affiliations: U.S. ArmyRank: Staff Sergeant E-5Current Assignment: USSOCOM, Detached Duty – Paragon CityMilitary Service: Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Kenya, Germany, Ethiopia and Serbia. Ranger, Purple heart, Distinguished service cross, Silver star, bronze star, Wounded six times. Twice by the Rikti. Combat infantryman badge, parachutist badge, Military Freefall Parachutist badge, Afghanistan campaign ribbon, Iraq campaign ribbon, Kosovo campaign ribbon, Rikti war ribbon.Known Enemies: Sky Raiders, The Council and the Rickti.“He’s seen a lot of combat,” Graymane commented.“Yes,” Jenny responded. “And that doesn’t include his classified operations.”"What of the nanites?" Graymane asked. “What are they?”"They are . . . " she paused for a moment. "Unique. A sort of group/hive mind. It’s hard to describe them. They are inquisitive, astoundingly curious about everything, studious, humorous, irreverent, courteous, patriotic, dedicated ecologists and fiercely loyal to their friends.”“What are they interested in?” He asked.“Everything,” she answered. “Literally. There seems to be nothing they aren’t interested in. They are good people and their offer to help is genuine.”“What exactly do they mean by upgrading me?” The man asked.“They can literally rebuild your body with massive cybernetic upgrades,” Jenny answered. "They cannot create life but they can rearrange it a lot.”He nodded his head. “What about non-cybernetic options?”“Their main expertise seems to be cybernetics. But they can still do some impressive changes,” she responded. “Just going with the furry option would offer some major improvements. I suggested they should look deeper into genetics and genetic engineering. They keep talking about sabertooth tigers and wooly mammoths. It seems they were involved with that incident in Maine a little while back.”“They were? How so?” He asked.“Very heavily,” She responded. “But the details are classified. They are heavily involved in trying to save many endangered species and bringing back extinct ones.”“I can recommend some geneticists that would be of great help,” he responded. “And would love to have their help in turn.”“If I was to go with no cybernetics,” the man asked the nanites. “What would that entail and result in?”Depends on the species you choose,” the nanites responded.“What species?” The man asked.“Seriously?” The Nanites asked. “You’re joking aren’t you? GRAYMANE.”“Panthera Leo,” the Nanites added. “The African lion.”“NO!” The nanites countered. “Bigger! Panthera Leo Atrox! The American Cave Lion.”“It’s bigger than a tiger! It’s strong. It’s powerful!”“It’s so butch!”William was silent for a long moment.The holographic projector activated and the image of a man appeared nude but with the naughty bits covered. Literally. The figures genitals were covered with a large fig leaf. Height, weight, hair color, skin color and very detailed DNA information were all displayed. A small screen displayed his birthday, place of birth, schooling, and even all his awards and business accomplishments.After a few moments that disappeared and was replaced by nine different figures. All variants of the same thing; Graymane as an anthropomorphic feline. Him as three different types of lion (African, Asian and Barbary), American Cave Lion, Asian Cave Lion, Sabertooth tiger (and a sub-list with an impressive ten, related species as alternatives), Leopard, jaguar, Panther and Cougar. Each listed his projected height, weight and abilities like endurance and strength. Also it would see a vast increase in night vision, hearing and sense of smell.He touched the African lion and the other choices disappeared replaced by more information on the proposed form. It included some forty-five choices for coloring and markings.William extended his hand into the hologram. The projection changed and the outline of the feline hand formed around his appendage. He examined the holographic hand, rolling his wrist to examine all sides. "Impressive," he mused as he flexed his fingers and razor-sharp claws extended, then retracted. Still, something nagged at him, putting a chill on his interest. When he pulled his hand out of the illusion and his wedding ring resurfaced from under the holographic fur, he knew why.“What if instead of altering my DNA we go another route?” William asked. “I'd prefer to keep my genes the way they are.”“Meaning?”“Instead of changing me to an anthropomorphic lion, what if we had a power suit that looked like an anthropomorphic lion?” William commented. "It's the best of both worlds: an updated look with improved support, and my grandchildren will still recognize me when they come for Thanksgiving."The nanites totally silent for an astonishing 15 seconds. In that time they ran no less than 22 separate votes before coming to an agreement.We’ll need to obtain more information,” the nanites admitted. “Power armor is not an area we are expert in.”“Yet.”“How hard can it be? It’s cybernetics but with the good stuff on the outside.”“You can be the Iron Lion!”An image appeared from the projector. The large green and gray colored figure was totally covered in armor.“That is the standard American Army M335G Light power armor,” Jenny commented.“We could go with the larger CMA122L,” the Nanites commented. “But that seems too large and not your style.”“So you stole this from the Department of Defense?” William asked.“Stole is such a harsh word. We prefer borrowed.”“You hacked into the DOD computers,” William asked.“They couldn’t have been too serious about security. It was only encrypted with a 75,000 character password.”“Including characters in Sanskrit and hieroglyphics WAS ingenious.”“But no we are not hacking their systems.” The nanites explained. “They tend to get upset when we get into their systems. So we have asked Misha who has asked the Army.”The phone on the table next to him rang.“That’s Misha,” the nanites said.“Answer the phone please,” William said out loud.“Hello,” Misha said in way of greeting. “The DOD is intrigued and frightened by the nanites sudden interest in power armor.”“I've given it some thought, and at least for the time being, I am not interested in having my entire body changed,” William explained. “I want to keep my DNA the way it is.”“Fair enough. That’s a personal decision,” Misha responded. “But what exactly do you have in mind for armor? The nanites asked for a pretty broad range of stuff.”“I am thinking of powered armor,” William explained. “I have been doing some research.”“I agree with the Nanites and I don’t see you going with the massive battle tanks,” Misha commented.William laughed. “I just want extra protection, something to enhance my strength and senses. Also the ability to fly would be good.”“You’re already using the composite armor that is standard for the military,” Misha commented. “And it’s what Strela and me use. The DOD is always looking to improve the protection of it’s soldiers. I’m giving the nanites some prototypes and research the DOD has been doing for improved protection but leaving out the heavy stuff. All of that is for heavy, powered armor. Plus the Pentagon doesn’t give out info on the heavies to anyone. It was only released to some NATO countries a few years ago.”“I don’t want to be a tank,” William responded. “Nor replace my bow.”“So, no nuclear tipped missile launcher?”“Well,” Misha said thoughtfully. “There is one really unusual line of research. Instead of having the Nanites create armor why not have the armor made of Nanites themselves.”“Intriguing. The result would be armor that was close fitting and adaptable. It would require a power source,” William said. “But it would allow the wearer to reconfigure it at will.”“OH! Very interesting,” the nanites said excitedly. “The possibilities are endless!”“How long to have a prototype ready to test?” Misha asked.The nanites spent a full 15 seconds discussing the issue. A committee was formed to discuss levels of protection, another for propulsion, a third for power, a fourth for sensors, a fifth for controls, another for how these suit nanites will be configured, another to look into anything the others had missed and one final committee just to handle all the other committees. “This will not be easy. There are several laws of physics we’ll need to break.”“Well. Not break but bend.”“ETA is 5 to 6 months. The big issue is the interaction with the host and power.”“We can still clean you up a little?” The nanites asked. “We really need to knock a few decades of this body.”“What would that entail?” William asked.“Removing old injuries and health issues along with renewing your body including removing some 20 years of aging.”“How long would that take?” He asked. “How much would it hurt?”“Estimated 4.3 minutes and we will of course suppress any pain,” the nanites answered. “There will be a period of several minutes of disorientation while you get used to the new changes. We will need some 30 minutes to build up the needed numbers. Also certain materials.”A list of items flashed up on the display.“We have many of those in stock in the pantry,” Jenny commented. “The rest we can find in the kitchen.”“Why the food, vitamins and food supplements?” William asked.“The change is stressful on your body and afterward you’ll need to get lots of nourishment.”“Jenny, have all the needed items delivered to the infirmary,” The man ordered.“Yes sir,” came her answer.William went to the corner of his study and pulled on a particular book. There was a soft click and the bookshelf silently slide back and to the side. This revealed a set of stairs leading down. He made his way downstairs as the secret door closed behind him. True, there was an elevator in the hall that could have gotten him there quicker, but William liked the walk as it gave him time to think in peace.After a few minutes’ descent the steps ended in a large room whose walls were covered with rich, dark paneling. Doorways told of rooms beyond while corridors ran off in several directions hinting at other parts of the complex.One corridor led down to the hidden boat dock where a pair of custom-built boats waited. Fueled and armed for a mission. Another corridor led to an automated manufacturing facility. It could produce almost anything. This is the secret base of the superhero Graymane.A quick visit to the control room showed that things were relatively quiet. He understood that could change at a moment’s notice.From there William made his way to the infirmary. The large room was as well-equipped as any emergency room in the world. Waiting for him there was a robotic cart. The wheeled unit was used to haul cargo and other things about the property. It was carrying the food and supplements needed.In one corner stood a large machine that looked like an MRI. It was that but it was so much more. It’s full name was a Phoenix Model 4R Full Body Scanner. It combined many different medical devices into one; MRI/Ultrasound/X-ray machine/CAT scan (and several others William didn’t fully understand) all in the one machine. One scan of the device would give a complete picture of the patient. It had already saved his life many times and he had made sure all the local hospitals had one.William stood still in the scanner while the machine dutifully recorded all the information about his body.“Should we smile for the camera?”“If I knew they were going to take our picture, I’d have worn my good shirt.”The machine hummed and whined for a minute, then stopped. There was a soft chime telling him that it was complete. A nearby monitor mounted on the machine displayed the info. He looked at it intently. It showed him as he was now. The old him. The one that would soon be gone. Changed to something different.He lay down on one of the beds. A monitor located on the wall over the end of the bed came to life, showing all his vital signs.“All your vital signs are good,” Jenny commented.“Are you ready for this William?” The nanites asked in a surprisingly serious tone.“Yes,” William answered. “Go for it!”William felt his body stiffen and he couldn’t move. “I can’t move.” He tried to remain calm.“Relax,” the nanites explained. “We have disabled your voluntary movement for the time being.”“It will make things easier and faster.”“Sorry. We should have warned you.”“Anything else I should know?” He asked.“That depends on just how much do you REALLY want to know of what we are doing? We can go into exact detail but the last time we did the person fainted.”“I think the full color animation of the internal organs being reshaped was a bit too much!”“I can understand that,” William responded. “No need to go into too much detail. Please proceed.”“Please close your eyes. We find it makes the shift easier.”“Atomic batteries to power!”“Turbines to speed!”William felt a great surge of power rush through his whole body. It He’d never felt so energized in his whole life! He felt like he could run a thousand miles and swim the Atlantic Ocean!“All systems ready!”“3, 2, 1. GO!”He heard a roaring in his ears and his body started to vibrate. William could FEEL his body change as bones shifted and changed and flesh and blood altered to the new pattern. It was like nothing he had ever felt before. He was aware of the fact that it should hurt but it didn’t. As promised the nanites were suppressing the pain. It felt like a massage as unseen fingers worked and renewed his body.It was several moments before William realized the changes were done.DING! The sound echoed in the room. “We’re done.”He opened his eyes and slowly sat up. “I feel amazing. Energized. I feel 20 years younger!”“You ARE 20 years younger.” The nanites answered. “We’ve tweaked a few things. You’re slightly stronger and faster.”He looked at his image in a mirror that was on the wall next to the bed. “Is my hair longer? It’s almost like a mane.”“You look good with longer hair. Crew cuts are SO old fashioned.”“We suggest a full meal and a good rest.”“I’ll lay on a full meal and have it laid out in the dining room,” Jenny commented.“No alcohol,” the nanites added. “Not for at least 48 hours.”“In that case, a gallon of iced coffee,” Jenny included.He left the infirmary and made his way down the corridor and through a door.The general public knew him as the owner of High Castle Archery. A company that manufactures all sorts of regular archery paraphernalia from bows and arrows to custom designed and made clothing and a seemingly endless list of clothing, gloves, quivers and anything vaguely archery related. Those items were manufactured in a factory a few miles away. The stores that sell them are scattered across the United States and Canada.His other business was Longbow Archery. It had a more select clientele; the super community. He sold specially designed and manufactured archery equipment to the Superhero community. Things like bow sights with laser and IR and wifi, high powered bows that required up to 2000 lbs pull, along with 28 different types of arrows. He had recently started branching out into armor. The lightweight type that he himself preferred.This was the place all that was fabricated. This room held Longbow Archery. The large room William was standing in held top of the line and cutting-edge design, fabrication and manufacturing machinery. Rooms off to the sides held needed supplies and a ready stock of finished items. The favorite seller remains the “I saved the world and all I got was this T-shirt,” T-shirt (in 12 assorted colors and lettering).Items he couldn’t make were purchased quietly and without any tracking of identifiable things like serial numbers.Located at the front of the room was a large desk filled with computer monitors and controls. He started to settle into the chair, then realized he didn't need it anymore and activated the holographic interface instead. Twenty years younger, indeed! He pulled up the specs for his current armor first, while he waited for the fabrication machinery to warm up and finish their checks.“The helmet will not be an issue. IR, Low Light TV, Ladar, radar, radio and TV reception and transmission. Also with full NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection including air pressure, temperature and current and predicted weather. All are standard U.S. Military grade. The difficulty will be the anthropomorphic nature,” the nanites explained. “And the boots and gloves from your current suits are already good.”William nodded in agreement. “Let’s take a look at what the DOD has sent us. Jenny please show me the files Misha sent over.”The holoprojector came to life and a list of items appeared in front of him. Each had a short description and an image of what the finished armor might look like. Many were unique and different. Sometimes very different. But most looked oddly familiar.The first one in spite of being made from some exotic materials was clearly chainmail. Not really any different from that worn in the middle ages and even by Roman Legionnaires.Another consisted of ceramic plates, each smaller than the palm of his hand. They were attached in overlapping rows like the scales of a fish. A Chinese warrior of a thousand years ago would have recognized scale mail armor. Even the material it was made from would have been vaguely familiar.“Many of these ideas are just old armor taken straight from history,” William commented.“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” the nanites responded.William examined one design in particular. “Please produce a small sample of this one. I want to get a feel for what it’s like.”The machinery came to life and started working. William didn’t have to do anything as it was fully automated. After several minutes, the machine fell silent and something dropped into the output tray.“This is only a test shot using conventional plastic,” was the Nanites explanation. “The final armor will use more durable materials. But the needed ingredients are somewhat rare and expensive.”“Even made of just plastic it would be good protection,” Jenny commented. “If the right plastic was used.”“An excellent idea,” William responded.The item was a sheet about foot long and a foot wide. It consisted of hexagonal plates, each about the size of a U.S. quarter. All held together by an underling web of wires.“Instead of wires why not use chainmail?” William asked. “Using some metal or exotic compound. If you ran a low level current through a small shield generator you could reinforce the armor making it even tougher.”“That will require a power supply,” the nanites responded.“But not a lot,” William responded. “How are Misha and Strela’s cybernetics powered?”“Internally. The human body generates a lot of energy. We just tap into it.”“The downside is after really intense effort they need to recharge. Eat a large amount of food and rest.”“That’s clever,” William responded.“But neither use energy weapons,” the nanites added. “So their energy use is limited. Those would require a power source like a generator or a fusion plant.”“Would a fusion plant even fit into a human sized body?” William asked.“Not yet but a power cell would. It would limit the usage.”“Back to the subject at hand,” William said. “What material would the armor be made of?”A long list of items scrolled across the screen nearby.He examined the list of ingredients. “Some of those are a bit hard to get.”“We have them in stock. Enough for a full suit,” Jenny added. “And I am ordering more.”“Let me see a complete suit. Top and pants tailored to fit me?” He asked.The holographic projector came to life and showed an image of William dressed in the new armor. He spent several minutes examining it closely and making adjustments. “Lock down the template Jenny and start production of the suit please.”“Design finalized,” she said. “I suggest a suit done in category three Duraplast first.”“Good idea,” William agreed.“Fabrication is commencing. Estimated time to finish; 1 hour, 47 minutes,” Jenny answered.He made his way to the gym and training area. There he tested his body and the new limits of it. William found he was faster and stronger and all the aches and pains, both big and small were gone. His eyesight and hearing were better than they had been for decades.After that he went to the dining room where a full meal awaited him. It was a large repast with several pounds of beef, vegetables and fresh bread. All of which was enjoyed with iced coffee. And for dessert there was a full apple pie and a latte.“The suit is done and waiting for you in the Dressing Room,” Jenny announced.“Thank you.” He walked back to the base and into the Dressing Room. This room was his inner sanctum of sorts. There was a bed in one corner along with a rack to hold his favorite bow and a good supply of arrows. Racks held both regular clothing and what he wore as Graymane. A score of different types of armor, clothes, hoods, gloves and boots. All were ready and waiting for use.The finished suit was already waiting for him. Carefully laid out on the bed. Helmet and gloves were with it and boots awaited him on the floor.He took his time putting it on. Making sure that everything fit properly. A little bit tight here and a little loose there but there was no big surprise. “It’s lighter than I expected.”“It has 250% more protection than your old armor. The metal-based version will weigh 45% more but increases protection to 523% total.”William picked up the helmet and examined it. It was a pretty good recreation of a lion’s head. He noticed a metal pad at the back, on the inside. “What’s this pad?”“It’s an experimental, skin-contact, cybernetic interface that the DOD is testing,” the nanites explained. “It will connect directly into your nervous system. So the armors sensors will transmit right to your brain. It requires no hardware in your body. Clear, simple thought commands should work the various systems. But it will take some practice.”“And no, we didn’t steal it.”“Who did?” William laughed.“It’s complicated. It was a Joint American, British, Egyptian, Israeli project. The Chinese stole it and did improvements before the PSIA – Public Security Intelligence Agency (Known as the Japanese CIA) stole it from them. The Japanese added improvements before they traded it to the French who shared it with the real CIA, the Germans, the Belgians and the Dutch. The Russian bought it somewhere along the line and after combining with their research (Which includes reverse engineered Rikti technology) they gave it back to the DOD. In exchange for being a full partner in further development.”“You get all that or do you want us to write it down?”He carefully put on the helmet and after a few moments it came to life. Sound, sight and even smell came to him magnified and clear. He was seeing through the helmets lenses but it was like he didn’t have any helmet on. “Display the HUD please.”A display popped up, showing the time, date, temperature, distance below ground along with the score of other bits of information. It also displayed ‘No known targets’, telling that no one around him was trying to kill him. Always a good thing to know but never to accept too much as fact.“It can also interface with the electronic controls and sights on any weapons you are using. It also has TV, radio and internet connections. But the bandwidth is limited so don’t over tax it. If this was powered armor you would need a physical, cybernetic connection. But for your needs this should work fine.”“Nice,” William said. “Very nice. First I’ll go to the training room and then some practice on the archery range. After that I have some ideas about that nanite based armor.”END OF STORY
COH Story # 26 A Day at the StoreA Day At the StoreBy Christian OKaneThey found Misha sitting on the floor next to the pool surrounded by a large assortment of various black, metal parts.“What is all that supposed to be?” Stealth asked.“A barbeque,” the fox responded as he tried to screw two parts together. “IF I can get it together.”“We can do it!” The nanites says excitedly.“NO!” Misha responded adamantly. “This is a matter of honor.”“Don’t you have the instructions?” Strela asked.“Yes,” Misha answered. “They’re in 2 languages. Portuguese and Italian.”"We can translate the instructions"the nanites volunteered.Misha shook his head. "It's fine. I can figure this out. Now where did that Allen key go?”"Good morning," a female voice said calmly over the radio. "This is Rhode Island Emergency Command. Are you available? We have a robbery in progress. A Super is involved."“Be advised; another Super is already on site,” the woman added.“Acknowledged,” Misha said. “We’re headed there now. ETA 2 minutes.”**********************Diane’s Diamonds was located in downtown Newport, Rhode Island. It’s heyday had been the late 19th century during the Gilded era. Back then all the rich and famous went to Newport during the summer. And while there they stayed in the ‘summer cottages’. These were fairly small. The Breakers owned by the Vanderbilt’s was only 70 rooms on 14 square acres of prime real estate. But World War 1 and the Depression had seen an end to the Gilded age. The rich still kept mansions there but the big money maker was the U.S. Navy. The city played host to Navy Station Newport, the Navy War College and the Navy Training and Education Command among other things.Still the rich came to Newport at times and it was considered ‘The’ social scene. It played host to many famous people over the years. There was always someone with lots of money who wanted to buy some bling to show off. All this meant that the two-story brick and stone building on Wharf Street was always busy in the summer.But this was fall. Most tourists had gone home and the rich flown off to somewhere warmer. Business was unsurprisingly slow. And now the wrong type of customers had arrived.There were a dozen of them, all wearing black combat armor and heavily armed. This particular gang had no real name or flashy costumes but they were professionals. In the 5 minutes it took for Misha and Strela to arrive they had already cleared the display cases and were working on the vault itself.Misha and Strela arrived to find a full-blown firefight going on at the front of the store.Two patrol cars were in the middle of the street. One was burning and the second riddled with bullet holes and was starting to smoke. A pair of police officers were huddled behind the second car trying to shoot at the store. But a hail of automatic weapons fire kept them pinned down.The police SWAT team had taken up positions in the store across the street and were returning fire.“I see at least two heavy machine guns and a half dozen assault rifles,” Strela commented. The two were standing a hundred meters away peering around a corner. They were hidden both by the wall and the stealth suits there were wearing. They weren’t actually invisible but close enough. “One upstairs on the right and the other downstairs in the doorway.”The nanites overlaid onto their vision the location of the machineguns and all the known shooters. As well the locations of all the police and known bystanders.“Where is the Super that’s supposed to be here already,” Misha asked over the radio.“I’m at the rear dealing with two machine guns, a rocket launcher and a half dozen more rifles,” a male voice replied. “I’d greet you in person but I’m a bit busy at the moment.”“Who are these people?” Misha asked. “I’ve never seen robbers with heavy machine guns.”“This is Lieutenant Samuels of the SWAT,” a voice announced over the radio. “I’ve got nothing on them. They must be a new group.”“Not good,” Strela answered.“I haven’t seen fire this heavy since Baghdad,” the SWAT officer commented.“Bandits with more firepower than common sense,” Strela muttered.“We’ll take down the machineguns in front and come back to help you,” Strela said over the radio.“No need,” the other super responded. “I’ve got these gentlemen occupied nicely. “If you can be the hammer to my anvil we’ll smash them between us.”“Sounds like a plan!” Misha responded.“Be careful,” the other added. “There are innocent bystanders trapped inside. So be careful.”“Always,” Strela responded.Misha nocked an arrow with the fat, high explosive tip. “You take the upstairs MG and I’ll get the one in the doorway.”“Da,” she responded and nocked a similar arrow. “We’ll use smoke and flash to blind the rest. Then kill anything that shoots at us.”“Good. On the count of three,” Misha said. He drew the bow back as the nanites displayed a whole host of useful information onto his sight. Wind direction and speed were the most important. He adjusted his aim.“Three, two, one. Shoot!”Two bows snapped at once and their arrows arched through the air.BOOM! BOOM! The arrows exploded at the same time, filling the store with flames and smoke.Misha reached for a smoke grenade but a massive amount of fire came at them. The two supers ducked back around the corner as hundreds of bullets slammed into the corner they had been standing next to.“Who are these people?” Strela asked.“I don’t think they have a flashy name,” the male voice commented dryly.“I have a lot of rude names for them,” Misha added as he edged towards the corner but was driven back by a storm of bullets. He waited a moment for the pause in the fire. After what seemed forever the fire slackened and the enemies paused to reload. “NOW!”Both foxes quickly leaned out of cover. Misha tossed a smoke grenade and Strela loosed an arrow.The grenade landed just inside the doorway and thick clouds of black smoke billowed out; obscuring the view. Strela’s arrow lofted into a window on the upper floor. There was a soft whump and a searing bright flash lit up the whole second floor.Misha stepped out of cover, his bow coming up and an arrow already nocked. The Nanites tactical view showed him a half dozen targets. He chose one aimed and loosed in one swift motion. Strela was only a moment slower, aiming at a different target.A burst of bullets pinged off the stone about Strela. She turned to the source and silenced the shooter with an arrow. A figure holding an RPG and was aiming at Strela took an arrow in the chest from Misha. Another figure shooting an assault rifle at Misha caught an arrow in the stomach and tumbled backward.Bullets whipped through the air but the supers ignored them. Bows snapped and arrows flew. One by one the fire coming from the store was silenced.“Let’s move and get inside,” Misha ordered.Crossing the painfully open ground from their side of the street to the other went quickly. Only a few rounds pinged the pavement as they rushed forward. They leapt over the bloody remains littering the doorway and hurried inside.A figure wielding an assault rifle rushed at them. Two arrows dropped him to the lavishly decorated floor. He didn’t get up again.“We’re inside,” Misha announced over the radio.Slowly the two moved forward their senses fully alert. Listening and watching for anything. The interior of the store was open to the second floor. The whole thing was richly appointed and told of the affluence of the store and its clientele. Most of the display cases had been smashed open in spite of being made of armored plastic.A figure stretched on the floor was wearing the uniform of a security guard. Misha gave a check for a pulse. “We have a casualty by the door. Male with a gunshot wound to the stomach. Needs evac now!” He pulled a large bandage from a pocket. He pressed hard on the center and there was a soft crunch. A liquid flooded the bandage and he pressed it against the center of the gunshot wound. Simpler versions of the nanites in Misha and Strela flooded into the wound. They set to work immediately stopping the bleeding and repairing what damage they could. These bandages were a new thing, only being standard issue for the last year or two. Now every officer carried at least two or three. When activated they only had a service life of an hour or two but that was usually more than enough time. They were already credited with saving hundreds of lives.First through the doors came two police officers dressed in full combat armor and carrying assault rifles.In a few moments a pair of Emergency Medical Technicians cautiously followed. They were pulling a stretcher.Misha waved the two EMT’s over. “We’ll cover you!”They examined the patient before gently lifting him onto the stretcher.Misha and Strela made sure the EMT got out of the building before continuing their hunt. They moved through the store carefully. In one corner two people were trying to jimmy open a safe set in the wall. Strela silently nocked a flash arrow and Misha readied a stun grenade. At a silent signal both were sent on their way.The flashes and explosions sent the two would be safe crackers tumbling into the wall.The two supers walked over to the stunned crooks. They were quickly handcuffed before they could recover. “Be glad we took you alive,” Misha commented. “Maybe time in prison will get you to think.”“Two prisoners handcuffed by the wall safe on the north wall,” Strela announced over the radio.The two supers came to a set of stairs leading upward. They examined the stairs looking for any sign of a trap or an ambush. Moving slowly the two heroes made their way upward. One step at a time. He tried to be silent but each paw on a step seemed to echo loudly.When his head was level with the second story floor he stopped. The balcony was empty but there were numerous alcoves and doorways a person could hide.A fusillade of bullets sprayed the wall just over their heads.They ducked down for a moment until the shooting stopped for a moment. They both popped up and snapped off arrows in the direction the shots had come from. A shadowy figure was huddled in a dark alcove.More bullets flew back at them and they ducked back down for a moment.Strela stood up and loosed an arrow at their opponents. The projectile hit the back wall of the alcove. It exploded sending a small cloud of green gas billowing out.Misha took three arrows from his quiver and quickly fitted them all to the string. With the smoothness of long practice he drew and released the arrows, sending them out like a shotgun blast.There was a loud shout and an ominous thud as a body hit the floor.Rushing forward they found a black clad man lying writhing on the floor in pain. Grasping the arrow in his chest.Strela kicked the assault rifle that lay next to the figure, sending it clattering across the floor. She knelt next to him and applied a heavy first aid bandage to the wound. After waiting a few moments the arrow popped out, propelled by muscle contractions the first aid nanites had induced. “Another wounded. Top of the stairs. Male hostile. Needs evac for a chest wound.”The EMT’s who arrived examined their patient before helping him. They took the time to handcuff him before loading him onto the stretcher.Clearing the store was slow and dangerous. There just was no way to move faster. Not without risking lives or damage.They found the leaders at last, in the back of the store close to where the main vault was. The massive, thick, armored door had resisted the robbers’ attempts for a long time but now there was a good-sized hole in it.A dozen men dressed all in black were clustered around the hole newly burnt into the door. A large cutting laser was set up in front of the hole.Their arrival was greeted a fusillade of bullets, forcing the two supers back around a corner. Misha popped out and loosed an arrow. He was rewarded with a bullet that punched through his armor and ripped into his right arm.Suddenly the building was rocked by a massive explosion. Debris flew through the air as smoke billowed out. The two vulpines were knocked to the floor and sent tumbling into the far corner. They lay there too stunned to move.The building was quickly filled with thick, choking, black smoke“What happened?” the voice on the radio asked.The smoke cleared enough to reveal a large hole in the wall leading outside. Of the robbers there was no sign. They were gone.“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding,” Misha commented as they slowly stood up. The nanites warned of various minor injuries but he was lucky to have escaped with only some broken bones and a concussion.“There is a hole in the wall large enough to drive a truck through,” Strela leaned against a wall to regain her senses and let the nanites heal her. “And the rest have fled through it.”“Which wall?” The voice asked.“North,” she answered.“I’m headed that way now,” came the answer. “I’m coming from the east.”“Acknowledged.”The figure that arrived at a run shortly after was tall and moved with the steady ease of a veteran. A helmet shaped like a snarling lion protected his face but he flipped it up as he arrived revealing a face with the weathered and tanned look of a man who been spent much time in the sun. The silver gray of age and experience liberally peppered his charcoal gray hair.In spite of his age the poly composite armor he wore is cutting edge. Decorated in a dark blue with gold edging. It’s fit suggested a body with the the lean, well-muscled look of a predator. His right hand gripped a bow made of black colored, high tensile metal, artfully crafted and clearly prized. The blue and gold colored quiver full of arrows on his back matched the armor.“Pleasure to meet you,” Misha said and pointed to Strela. “This is Strela and I’m Misha.”“Graymane. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said and extended his hand.Misha shook Graymane’s hand energetically."What are you?" Graymane asked. "You are not robots but there is a distinct mechanical feel about you.""We have been enhanced," Misha responded. "Using nanites to enhance both the flesh and blood and to replace some portions with better mechanical pieces."The nanites displayed some basic information on the new arrival.Code Name: William Lionheart aka GraymaneReal Name: William HighcastlePowers: Trick arrows/archeryBorn: 23 June 1957Place of Residence: Newport Rhode IslandMilitary Service:3 years MarinesFamily: Widower, 2 sons and 2 daughtersNotes: 3x U.S. Olympic Archery team - 3 Gold medals, 2 Silver,Holder of 14 patents all involving archeryOwner of High Castle Archery.STINKING RICH!Confidential Note: Owner of Longbow Archery – a confidentialsupplier of archery gear for Supers. BOTH of you are using gear hedesigned and manufactured. Although some of Strela’s was part of ashipment stolen last year.You might want to not mention that to him.“Where did the crooks go?” Strela asked.An easily followed trail led away from the building and downhill towards the beach. The footprints led to the water’s edge. They watched a high-powered speed boat roar off into the distance.“Crap, we need a speed boat,” Misha commented.“He’s doing 80 knots,” Strela said repeating the information the nanites were telling her.“Can either of you fly?” Graymane asked.“Da,” she responded. “But not that fast.”Graymane sighed, his mouth drawing downward as if in unpleasant anticipation. "I'll take care of it, then.""He's over 350 meters away. Too far off," Misha commented.That comment drew an unexpected smirk from the newcomer as he flipped the snarling lion mask back down. "Is he?" Graymane replied, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he hit a small trigger on his bow, extending it another six inches with a clicking whir. Reaching to a second compartment on his quiver, he drew out an extra-long arrow, nocked it, and took a deep breath before drawing the bow fully back. The weapon creaked under the strain, and Graymane winced as if from a sudden jolt of pain but held his focus. The point of his arrow did not waver. A long moment passed as the man took careful aim, adjusting for windage and distance while the boat drew ever further away."You can't seriously expect to-" Misha started, but he never finished the sentence.Snap! The arrow released with a whining shriek and raced off, arcing high into the air before plummeting straight down into the fleeing criminal, passing clean through him and into the boat's control panel in a shower of sparks. The crook crumpled as the powerboat slowed to a halt."Nice shot!" Strela complimented, taking to the air.“Police patrol boat is headed there now,” the nanites commented.“This is Lieutenant Samuels,” A voice over the radio announced. “We’ve cleared the building. It’s secured.”“How badly were they cleaned out?” Misha asked painfully.“They got most of the display cases,” the police officer answered. “But not a lot from the vault.”“Well,” Strela said sadly. “I guess that is a partial victory.”"Now that we're done, how about a drink back at my place so we can get better acquainted?" Graymane said as his bow retracted to its standard length, grimacing and rubbing his shoulder as if to make sure it was still in working order. He winced when he found out it was not. "Ow. That's going to need some ice. Preferable in a tequila. C'mon."
COH Story # 24 A New Place Like HomeA New Place Like HomeBy Christian OkaneThis takes place right after Final Changeshttps://www.deviantart.com/captfox/art/COH-Final-Changes-632858556The teleporter took them to a room some 5 meters by 5 meters. The walls were of plain concrete. Aside from the teleport mechanism there was a single door in one wall. Opposite the door was a double-barreled chain gun turret. The small auto-turret swiveled in their direction.Strela flinched for a moment.“Sorry about that,” Misha apologized. “I should have warned you.”She nodded her head. “What other defenses are there?”“Unseen?” Misha asked. “Four popup turrets, two command detonation mines and a weakness field generator.” He pointed to the visible turret. “That’s just a decoy in case we get attacked. It works but if attacked it wont last long. But is sure to distract any attacker long enough for the main guns to do their job.”“Where are we?” Strela asked.“The old Union Train station,” the todd responded. “Most of it belongs to a historical society now but we have a place up top of the tower and in the basement. Where we are now. Well actually a secret sub-basement.”Misha opened the door and it revealed a short corridor. On the left side it opened up to a large room holding a large metal and plastic object roughly the size and shape of a shipping container. He pointed to the object. “A Taltronics model 24MW fusion generator. We actually power the whole station. We do have a small emergency generator upstairs. Just in case.”Opposite that was a small room filled with an array of machinery and several robots.“Here are the little critters who help maintain things,” Misha explained. “We have a dozen or so robots who maintain things and do what the Nanites think needs to be done.”“Weapons?” Strela asked.“Several carry some weapons.” He answered. “A 9mm machine gun and a heavy taser. But we can give them heavier stuff if need be. They are standard U.S. military M493 Security drones.”“Mounting the 120mm cannon is a bit of an overkill.”“But we have one. Just in case.”“Are they joking?” Strela asked.Misha nodded his head is response. “We do have M2 .50 cal heavy machine guns. Those should handle any intruder.”A few steps took them to the end of the corridor where a pair of steel doors waited them. Misha pressed a few keys on the keypad next to the doors. After a moment the doors opened silently. The elevator beyond the doors was decorated in dark mahogany with lots of fine-looking brass.They stepped in and the doors closed. A faint vibration told her that the elevator was in motion upwards. After a few moments the elevator glided to a stop and the doors opened smoothly. They stepped out into a small room whose walls and floor were covered with marble and granite. Underfoot was a mosaic of the state of Rhode Island done in gray, red and green marble. A half dozen doors were on the walls. All were of bronze and highly polished. "This was the private penthouse of the Railroad president but it’s ours now. This is the foyer and all the doors lead to various places," Misha explained. He pointed to one off to the left. "That leads to the main stairway. Eventually. The one next to it leads up to the room containing all the elevator machinery. He pointed to another door on the opposite side of the room. That leads to a set of stairs that goes straight down to the passenger platform on track one." Misha tapped one door with his left hand. "This one is a cleaning closet. Slop sink, mops, brooms and the like." He opened it revealing a small closet filled with a small sink and a collection of cleaning material. The fox patted one wall of the closet. "And this is a secret door that opens onto the elevator shaft." He pointed upwards. "And that opens onto the roof. Also hidden on both sides." Misha closed the closet door and stepped back into the center of the foyer. "The walls are armored. All the doors are armored as well and locked at all times. They are coded several ways including by my DNA. The room itself has security cameras with both low light and infrared. Also motions sensors and pressure sensors on the floor. As for weapons it has stunners and heavy pulse lasers. Oh and we can electrify the walls, floor and ceiling." The two of them stepped through the door and into the room beyond. The room was octagonal in shape and the walls rose up at least three stories overhead. There were two levels of balconies going up the wall. All the walls and floors were covered in the same marble and granite as the main waiting room down below. At floor level she saw several doors and several open doorways. In the center of the room was a lounge. Several couches, chairs and the like arraigned around a large coffee table. There was a large screen TV and a complete stereo system.On one side close to the door and set into an alcove was a dining table and chairs that could seat ten people. All of a dark colored wood. He walked over to a doorway located near the dining room and pointed inside. "A full kitchen and pantry with enough food and water to sustain two people for over a year. Including a walk-in freezer.” The fox pointed to another doorway, this one had a red cross painted over the door. "A full infirmary with two beds, an autodoc, two regeneration tubes and whatever other medical equipment the nanites can think of.”“Here is the War Room,” Misha commented. He walked to another alcove. In one corner was a full-length conference table made of maple wood with eight matching chairs scattered around it.One the other side of the alcove was filled with an impressive array of computer equipment. Three large monitor screens were arraigned around a large desk with a keyboard and mouse on it. A printer sat in a corner along with several other pieces of electronics she didn’t recognize. Lining one wall were two other desks each holding a personal computer with a large screen. There were several phones scattered about the room. Several monitors were also scattered about the area, attached to the wall. One was just showing weather channel. Two seemed focused on the train tracks that ran past the station. At the moment a long freight train was slowly rolling past. Captions along the bottom identified the train, where it came from and its destination and cargo.Misha pointed up at the balconies overhead. “Second floor has the armory, workshop, storage and the like. Third has the bedrooms.”“WELCOME!?” A voice shouted cheerfully.Following the voice she looked up and found a Cheetah looking down at her.The feline waved to her. Stealth jumped over the railing and in spite of the two story drop he landed softly on his paws. Seemingly without any injury.“Good evening!” He said cheerfully and bowed to the new arrival.She nodded her head. “I’m honored to meet you.”“Good to finally see you,” Stealth said happily. “Misha has said so much about you.”“Honey,” Misha explained. “This is my good friend and fellow resident Stealth.”He turned to the cheetah. “This is Strela.”“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” She said. “I’ve heard good things about you too. My real name is Svetlana.”“Thank you!” Stealth responded. “Most people just call me Stealth. I’m just your happy go lucky Cheetah hero. With a minigun.”“And two very sharp swords,” Misha added.“They goes well with my razor-sharp wit!” The feline joked. “Be good to have someone new about the place. It’s been too quiet. So do you like our little place?”“It’s really elegant,” she responded honestly.“What do you think of our city so far?” Stealth asked.“It’s certainly a whole lot cooler than the Rogue Isles,” she answered. “That’s one thing I miss about Russia. The cold winters with its deep snow. It has not snowed in the Isles in 230 years. Their idea of a bitter cold day was 21 degrees centigrade.”“We get some cold winters here but not as cold as Russia,” Misha added.“It can get pretty bitter cold when the wind whips in off the Atlantic,” Stealth added.“Good!” Was her response. “I look forward to a nice, cold winter with lots of snow.”“It’s been a long day. I spent most of it chasing Arachno’s through the back streets of Kings Row. I need some sleep,” Stealth said cheerfully. He leapt upward and landed on the third-floor balcony, close to where he had first leapt down from. “Good night!”“Good night!” Both vulpines responded."Care to join me upstairs?” Misha suddenly floated off the ground without moving a limb. He rose slowly up into the air and floated over to one of the balconies. Strela started to rise off the floor and followed Misha to the second floor balcony.The fox was standing in front of a door that had a small sign on it. "Armory." He opened the door and stepped inside. The room beyond the door had walls lined with racks and in the center was a metal table. She saw a half dozen assault rifles, AK47's and M16s, that shared space with a dozen different types of rifles, pistols and even an m60 and m249 light machine guns. There was an AT4 84mm recoilless antitank gun and a Stinger surface to air missile launcher resting in a metal rack. Other racks held cans of ammunition, a dozen different types of grenades, cleaning kits, and all manner of accessories. There was an RPG7 rocket launcher quietly resting on a shelf.“A lot of weapons for just two people,” Strela commented.“I like to be prepared,” Misha responded. “Also most of the more exotic things are my own possession. Stuff I’ve picked up over the years.”He took down a rifle and she recognized a Mosan Nagant, the standard bolt action rifle of the Russian army since the 1890’s. “I picked this up in Afghanistan. It’s actually a genuine Russian Made Nagant,” he explained. “Pre-1918! Imperial Russia. Model M1891 produced in 1911 at the Sestroryetsk Arsenal.”She took the rifle and examined it. It had seen a lot of hard use. The butt although cleaned and polished had some deep scratches and dents and one part showed a small burn mark. The barrel had several dings and dents and the front sight was bent slightly. There on the breach was stamped the double headed eagle of the Tsar. “The history this has seen. Two world wars, a civil war and that’s just in Russia.”“There’s no telling how long it kicked around Afghanistan,” Misha commented.She carefully returned the old relic to its place in the display. "Next door is where I keep the archery gear,” Misha commented. This room was larger than the armory. Racks on the walls held a dozen bows of different shapes, sizes and materials. Shelves held all manner of attachments like laser sights, balancing weights, pulleys and bow strings. Other racks held several different types of quivers. One whole wall was devoted to arrows; hundreds of them. All carefully sorted by type and use and stored vertically in special containers that kept the feathers from being bent. On another wall was a small workbench.“You certainly have everything here,” she commented as she examined the shelves. “I like to be prepared,” He responded. “And in a long fight I tend to run through a lot of arrows.”“Where do you get your arrows?” She pulled an arrow from a quiver and examined it.“Regular ones I can order online,” he responded. “But I have a special account with the Department of Defense. So long as we don’t overdo it we can pretty much order anything.”Strela put the arrow back. “I need more of my special arrows.”“We’ll have the nanites order them for you,” Misha commented.“Which ones?” The nanites asked.“My web, flash, glue, ice and poison gas arrows are running low.” The vixen answered.“We’ll order 100 of each. We also have acid arrows,” the Nanites commented. “They spray acid when they hit a target. We’ll order 100. No poison gas but we have ones with sleep gas or tear gas. We’ll order 50 of each.”“Thank you!” She said. “Do you have an archery range? I need to practice.”Misha shook his head. “No. Not yet. We should have one put in down in the basement. Lots of room underground.”A string of figures and diagrams flashed across their vision as the Nanites already started planning the construction. The pair left the archery room and went to the next room over."And here is all uniforms and armor. Stealth’s stuff is on the right and mine on the left," The male explained. This room was smaller than the other two but it was just as filled with items as the others. There was a rack containing a dozen military uniforms with different camouflage patterns for winter, summer, the desert and several all in black. On the left side she saw a set of armor made of plastic and Kevlar. “This is U.S. military issue isn't it?" Misha nodded his head slowly. "Oh yes. That's the standard combat armor worn by army troops. And I do have the whole suit including the helmet, webgear and the armored boots. All tailored to fit my new body. This is a spare set. I keep the set I use in my room. Ready for use.”He pointed to the next room along. “That’s the laundry room. Washer, dryer, ironing board and a table for sorting things.”“No automated laundry?” She asked humorously.“Not yet,” came the answer.A short trip up and they were on the third floor. Here the floor was carpeted. Unlike the wood on the floor below.“This is my bedroom.” Stepping through a doorway and they were in a room where the walls were painted a light blue and the carpet seemed thicker. There was a queen-sized bed on one wall with a matching nightstand with a table lamp. A desk sat in one corner with a computer and monitor. A wardrobe occupied one wall along with bookshelves. Various pictures decorated the walls. A large screen TV hung so it could be seen from almost anywhere in the room. Along the one wall was something that surprised her. A two-meter-long shelf had HO scale model tracks and buildings arraigned carefully. Above it on the wall was a large color picture of a steam locomotive. “I didn’t know you were into model trains?” Strela asked. Surprised.“I’ve always been interested but this is the first chance in a long time to actually work on my models,” Misha responded. “Now that I’ve settled here in Paragon City and I’m not bouncing all over the world I can relax a little.”“So that’s why you decided to build your base here,” she said and laughed.“I can train watch and I don’t even need to leave my bed!” He joked.She shook her head. “Boys and their toys.”Misha pointed to a door. “I even have my own bathroom with a tub, toilet and the like.”He sat down on the bed. The blanket was dark green with little red foxes embroidered all over it. A matching pillow rested on it. “Recognize it?”She laughed. “I gave you that!”“I don’t know how you want to work the sleeping arraignments,” Misha said softly. “I have several empty bedrooms that you can claim as your own.”She was silent for a moment. “I’ve been alone for a long time Misha. I need to time to adjust.”He nodded. “Fair enough. I think we both need time.”“Let me show you your place,” he said. They left Misha’s bedroom and a few steps down they came to another bedroom. It was similar to Misha’s with the same bed and furniture even a desk with a computer. But no other decorations, even the walls were bland white. There was a single picture of a bouquet of flowers hanging on the wall. “It’s the same as mine. You even have your own bathroom. Of course, you can redecorate it anyway you want.”He took the picture of the flowers down revealing a safe built into the wall. “The nantites can talk you through resetting the code.”Strela placed her bow and quiver carefully on one side of the bed as she sat down on it. “Comfortable.”BEEP! BEEP!Following the noise they found a small robot parked on the balcony outside her door. It was really just a cargo bed on wheels. It was piled with several duffel bags, boxes, 2 potted plants, a good sized pile of books. 4 quivers filled with arrows and other items. All carefully strapped down and secured.“Your stuff has arrived my dear,” Misha said cheerfully.The first thing she went for was the two potted plants. Attached to both plants was a small tag. “Watered,” with yesterday’s date.She picked up both plants and carried them gently over to the shelf. “There you go Edgar,” Strela placed one plant on top of the shelf. “And there you go Sergey.” She placed the second plant next to the first.“Edgar? Sergey?” He asked.“These were gifts from my nephews,” she said softly. “They named them.” Strela was silent for a long moment.“I didn’t know you had a family,” he said. “So much about you I don’t know.”“It’s been a long time since I’ve talked to them,” came the response. “Not since Father’s funeral.”“Why not call them?”She turned and looked at him. “Call them? And say what?”“Well,” Misha said and paused. “Start with hello. See what happens.”The vixen slowly nodded her head. “I’ll think on it.”********************“Since you’re getting the tour let me give you the benefit from living so high up,” Misha left the bedroom and made his way back down to the first floor.“Where are we going?” Strela asked as she followed him.They came to a pair of large armored doors. He pushed them open and through what she assumed was a security cubicle. She didn’t see any weapons but she was sure they were there anyway. Misha opened the second door and they both stepped through.She found herself standing on a balcony and looking out over the city. Laid out below him was the entire city. A magnificent display of lights that twinkled and blinked like a display of Christmas lights. "Beautiful. You can see the whole city from up here." "We're about fifteen stories off the ground!" Misha commented. She turned and looked back at the door they had just come through. The tower rose up another forty feet before ending in a flat roof. On top he saw an array of antennas and satellite dishes. "Are all of those yours and the nanites?" Misha shook his head. "No. They belong to various communication companies. The preservation group makes quite a lot of money from renting the tower for antennas. But a few of those dishes and antennas are mine and the nanites."“What’s on the floors below us?” The vixen asked.“Not much really,” he explained. “The tower has been abandoned for over 2 decades. It belongs to the preservation society, but we own this place and the three floors below it. The cover story is that all these areas are rented to Fuchs Communications. And they are used for storing the electronics and communications.”Strela laughed and shook her head. “Fuchs Communication? Not exactly subtle.”He shrugged. “It’s a common enough name in this area. And it blends in.”“Who knows we’re up here?” She asked.“Only three people besides us and SOCCOM,” he responded. “Also technically this is all a military installation. SOCCOM has the code to the teleporter. Occasionally we’ll get an unexpected arrival. But they usually try to warn us.”Misha paused for moment. “I need to tell you this in strictest confidence. The Nanites are here too. They have servers scattered all over. But they also have what they call Apocalypse bunkers. Places where they store information and fabrication equipment.”“To survive if the Apocalypse comes,” She asked.“Yup. No one but you, me and Stealth know of it,” Misha explained. “And we want it to stay that way.”She nodded. “I can understand that. “I have to admit now this is an impressive place you have.”“Thank you,” Misha said and wagged his tail.“There are a few changes I’d like to make,” she said.“Like what?” He asked. “We’ll get that archery range built soon.”“That’s good,” Strela commented. “I’d like a sunken living room.”“A what?” He asked and cocked his head to one side.“Sunken?” the Nanites asked. “Wouldn’t the furniture get all wet?”“A shallow pit living room,” she explained. “A step down to the couch and lounge.”“Why?” Misha asked.“Because I’ve always wanted one,” she explained. “It would be so Bourgeoisie. So 1970’s.”He laughed and nodded his head. “We can do that.”The Nanites displayed several different plans to them. “How deep? 10 to 20 meters?”“We’ll need to borrow the nuclear bore from the Russians if we need to go through the bedrock.”Strela laughed. “I want a sunken living room not a missile silo or a defense bunker. One meter deep is good enough. With a nice circular couch.”“With lots of comfy pillows,” Misha added.“And we can have a coffee table that rises out of the floor!” The nanites add enthusiastically.********************It was late and they were tired. There was a simple dinner of reheated roast beef and mashed potatoes.Stealth had drifted off to his own bedroom long before and they were by themselves.“Why the 70’s?” Misha asked between bites of roast beef.“I’ve always liked the 70’s,” she answered and sipped some hot tea. “There was so much good music.”“What about you?” She asked.“Me?” He responded. “I was born in New York. In a suburb to be exact.”She laughed. “You’re a suburban brat?”“Oh yes! I grew up in a white bread, 2.5 children household in the suburbs. We even had a cat and a dog.”“My grandparents weren’t as illustrious as yours,” he said. “But I’m proud of them. One Grandfather fought in Italy and served with honor. The other worked for Grumman. He built Hellcat and Wildcat fighters and Avenger TDB’s.”“Honorable,” Natasha responded.He let out a loud yawn. “I think it’s bedtime for this fox.” He pointed to her. “And I think for you too.”She stifled a yawn. “A good idea.”The two hugged tenderly.“If you need me just call. I’m right next door,” Misha commented. He lingered by the door for a few moments before heading to his room.Strela found her favorite pajamas. Really just an oversized tee shirt.The bed was soft and she soon found a comfortable spot. She turned off most of the lights but left a soft light on. The room got very quiet. Sound proofing kept all the noises of the city, leaving her in a soft silence. But in spite of the quiet sleep didn’t come to her.So many things kept going through her mind. Where she had been, what had happened. What was going to happen next? And what about Misha? She felt safe around him and she trusted him more than she had trusted anyone in a long time.It was just too quiet and the room too empty. She tossed and turned for a while. She had been alone for a long time. Years. Now she didn’t want to be alone.Finally she climbed out of bed and with her pillow made her way to Misha’s room.“Misha,” she said softly. “Honey. Are you awake?”“Who can sleep?” Came the soft answer from her lover. “So much to think about.”“I can’t sleep,” was her explanation. “I don’t want to be alone anymore.”The figure on the bed stirred and sat up. He patted the bed next to him. “Come on in. Plenty of room.”“I don’t want anything physical tonight,” she said nervously. “Just companionship.”“I understand,” he answered. “I think we both need it. Hop in and we’ll get some sleep. No hanky panky. Besides we’re all out of whipped cream and wet celery.”THE END
COH Story # 25 No Bones About ItNo Bones About ItBy Christian Okane"Good morning," a female voice said calmly over the secure radio. "This is Rhode Island Emergency Command. "Are you available? We have a Super incident.""Yes," Misha answered. "Two of us. Where and what?""We've had a break in at the Science museum," the voice responded. "Believed to be at least two assailants. First responders report the visible use of super powers.""Probably after the gem exhibit," Strela commented."No," the radio countered. "They were last seen in the paleontology exhibit.""The dinosaur and the sabertooths," Misha commented and cursed. "Not Smilodons again.""Again?" Strela asked."It's a long story," Misha answered. "But a good one!""Soon to be a major motion picture!" the nanites commented."Are they joking?" Strela asked.Misha shook his head. "I don't want to know."************************The Metropolitan Science museum was located on the waterfront overlooking Paragon bay. The original building had opened in 1875 but the museum had quickly outgrown it. There had been steady additions and changes made over the years with no real regard to a central plan. The result was a labyrinth of halls, hallways, corridors and rooms running willy-nilly in all directions including up and down. It had resulted in generations of lost tourists and more than one confused staff member. It’s collections were eclectic and wide ranging, Running from airplanes, the city sewer system, computers and astronomy to archaeology and fossils. It was with the last that today’s troubles were.At two am a guard responded to an alarm in the Hall of Dinosaurs (Nicknamed Bone Hall). He was greeted by an animal wandering the hall leading to it. The animal was a triceratops and had been dead for several million years. The sight of a dinosaur skeleton walking towards him had understandably freaked out the guard. Who had set off the alarm and run away. The trike followed, seemingly more out of curiosity than any hostile intent.“Please remember that this is a museum and not a shooting gallery.” The museum director said coldly. “The last supers we had in here did more than three million dollars of damage.Doctor Gabrielle Judith Lange (PHD) was senior Curator at the museum. A position she had held for over ten years. As a black woman she was the first to reach that lofty position. And with all the travails of keeping the museum going she often wondered why she had gone for the job.The museum seemed to attract a lot of people but every new exhibit seemed to draw some controversy and the truly odd and unusual. Worse both villains and heroes seemed drawn to the place. One group breaking into the museum and the other trying to stop them. And both causing mayhem.“We understand,” Misha responded. “It is a complication, but we are used to it.”“We’re here to protect,” Strela commented. “Not destroy.”The first thing they saw when they entered was the fossil of a triceratops calmly eating the plastic plants in the main lobby.“Those aren’t live plants,” Strela commented.“That’s ok. He’s not alive either.”It was the actual stone/bone remains of a reptile that died millions of years ago. There was no flesh or muscles left. Just the stone like bone remains.There was no physical reason why these bones should be active but they were. The skeletal creature was eating the plants in imitation of an action done countless times in the distant past.“Power levels are at zero. And only normal background radiation.”“It must be powered by magic. We aren’t detecting anything else.”“We can’t detect magic.”“Contact the PCPD and get a mage here ASAP,” Misha ordered.Already doing it,” the nanites responded. “All their mages are busy. ETA is 45 minutes.”“With lower light levels and creepy background music this could be the scene in a bad horror film,” he muttered.“The Museum of Death,” she muttered. “At least it’s not zombies.”“So,” Misha said slowly. “How do we do this? Regular arrows aren’t going to be of much good. He’s all stone and bone.”“And regular grenades are out of the question,” Strela added. “They’d cause too much collateral damage. Stun grenades should be safe, along with web grenades, entangling arrows, nets and plain, old rope. I also have my ice and glue arrows.”“Hit it with the stun grenades and the ice and glue,” Misha suggested. “That should slow it down till the nets and the ropes can permanently disable it.”Both looked at the massive creature, all six tons of it. Then they looked at the rope Misha was holding. It was 50’ of nylon climbing rope with 8000 pound test.“We’re going to need more rope,” the vixen said. “A lot more.”“How about a steel, towing cable?” The nanites suggested. “All Special Services vehicles have a 3 ton winch.”“A very good idea!”A check outside found the closest PPD hummer had a winch with 300’ feet of cable. With some effort they cut off a 50’ length and rolled it up into a coil.Strela hefted the cable. “Now we are ready.”*************They returned to the lobby to find that the fossil trike had finished the fake vegetation on one side of the room and had settled down to what in a living creature would have been a nap. It was sitting on the floor and it’s head was down.“Let’s get a little closer,” Misha ordered. “See what happens.”She nodded in agreement.The two slowly moved towards the moving fossil. Their bows at the ready. Not really sure what to make of this thing.The creature swung it’s massive head around. The million-year-old horns easily smashed through the granite walls. It stood up and looked in their direction. Or at least it turned it’s head their way.“Back off!” Strela ordered and they took several steps back. The fossil creature swung it’s head around and stomped it’s stony feet around several times but it did calm down eventually.“Don’t piss off the dead things,” Strela warned ominously.“What do we do with it?” Misha asked as he watched something dead for several million years slowly eat inedible vegetation. “Taking him down will get messy.”“Well,” She looked at the creature for a moment. “He seems fairly mellow. If we leave him enough things to eat he should be calm.”Misha was a bit dubious but they had more things to do. Bigger issues to worry about. “We’ll leave him under guard. We really need to find out who woke this critter up.”Strela nodded in agreement. “Da.”He walked over to a police officer. The woman was wearing body armor and carrying an advanced assault rifle. The same armor and weapons that were standard issue for the army.“We need to find out who’s causing this,” he told her. “This one seems quiet so leave him alone. If he causes trouble call us and we’ll come back.” He looked at the fossil that seemed to have settled down again. “But I doubt he’ll do anything.”The officer looked dubious but nodded in response. “All right.”The two supers slowly skirted around the trike keeping a healthy distance. They made their way down the hallway. It was a wide hallway with a polished granite floor.A short way down the hallway they came to a doorway on the left.Strela peered into the room and was greeted by a four-meter-high, plaid shirt.“What?”“The King Garment Factory was a major employer in Paragon city for a long time,” Misha explained.She looked up at the massive garment. “So it’s an exhibit on shirts?” “Clothing and the history of the company,” he explained. “Kings Row is named after the company.”That oversized shirt was made for the 1939 Worlds Fair,” the nanites commented.One part of the room was filled with a large machine, some two stories high.“A industrial loom!” The nanites commented. “Manufactured in 1923 by the Cartwright corporation of Brooklyn New York.”She stared up at the massive loom. “An impressive piece of machinery.”“Looks quiet in here,” Misha said as they looked around.She nodded in agreement. “Let’s move onward.”The nanites had started a debate over who was tougher; a stegosaurus or a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Several minutes of long streams of debates ensued. The nanites were always talking or debating something but usually kept it to themselves. But since this was at least semi related to their current mission Misha listened in. Both Strela and him got several minutes of information and opinions on the two different dinosaurs.“Enough of the information,” Misha commented at last. “Instead of arguing numbers run a simulation.”A short walk down the hallway brought them to another doorway.“New England Ecology,” the sign proudly said over the entrance door. The space beyond held a recreation of a New England forest complete with earth underneath and trees crowding close to the path. Various displays told of the flora and fauna found in the woods.“DINO DUEL!” Flashed in his vision. The nanites had decided the statistics and were running simulations of dinosaurs fighting. “Reptile Rampage.”Images started to appear as the simulation was created. The setting was a large amphitheater like the Roman Coliseum. Complete with a cheering crowd. “Two will enter but only one will leave!” A large T-Rex entered the coliseum from one side while a stegosaurus entered from the opposite side.“They never do anything the easy way,” Strela commented dryly as she walked past a large, moss covered rock. She noted pictographs carved into the rock. A nearby sign described that the rock, moss and carvings were a recreation of the famous Howling Wolf Rock. One of the carvings did look like a wolf.“You have to admit it’s entertaining,” Misha responded.Misha looked at a recreation of a badger’s burrow. “My money is on the stego.”“Oh?” Strela asked as she looked at one of the displays where two fake stags locked in a fight. “I say the T-Rex will win.”“That sounds like a bet,” Misha responded. “Loser buys dinner!”She nodded in agreement.“Where is the dinosaur exhibit?” Misha asked.“Go to the end of the hall and make a left,” the nanites answered. “Then down that hall to the end.”“How is our large friend in the lobby doing?” Misha asked the police officer in the lobby.“Quiet,” the officer replied. “He’s eating one of the seat cushions.”“We, it’s cheaper than the snack bar,” the hero responded. “Don’t take any chances and keep your distance.”“Understood.”*****************The sign over the door read “The Kingdom Underground.”They peered through the doorway and into a cave. The hall had been rebuilt to simulate the interior of a cave. Stalactites dangled down from the rock ceiling and a path wound amidst the stalagmites on the stone floor.“Watch out!” Strela shouted. “They’re dropping.”The two foxes leapt backward and a massive stalactite dropped down, Slamming into the floor with a Boom that shook the whole room and knocked them off their paws.They slowly stood up and brushed the dust and dirt off. The stalactite had smashed into the floor scattering fist sized pieces of rock all over.“That’s was too close,” she said.“Nasty little booby trap,” Misha growled.*****************They peered around the corner at the entrance to the Dinosaur exhibit and were surprised to see something peering back at them. A huge dinosaur skull attached to an astoundingly long neck. Head and neck alone were twelve meters long. Just the head and part of the neck were in the hallway. The followed the long neck and found an equally large body which was over five meters long. It was six meters tall at the shoulder. At the back was a tail just as long as the neck, counter balancing things.“What is that?” Misha asked, amazed.“That’s huge!” Strela commented. “I’ve been in ships smaller than that!”“Dreadnaughtus!!” The nanites said. “Twenty-six meters long and fifty-nine metric tons. The largest dinosaur ever discovered.”“The largest land animal in Earth history!”“I'm kind of glad and sad that nature doesn't produce such giants anymore,” Strela commented.“Their day has come and gone,” Misha added sadly.“He’s not animated,” Strela said calmly. “Thankfully.”They heard the rattle of dry bones coming from deeper in the hall. A raptor fossil came towards them. Even dead for several million years it still looked dangerous and deadly.“He is,” Misha said. He reached to his belt and drew out an egg shaped grenade. He pulled the pin and tossed it at the advancing dinosaur fossil.The grenade sailed through the air and landed just in front of the advancing creature. It exploded with a loud THUMP and sticky material sprayed out, entangling the fossil’s legs. It tumbled to the floor. The creature lay there snapping and struggling.Strela moved forward with a length of cable in her hands. There was a large loop on one end. “Distract it and I’ll get the cable around the muzzle.”Misha lunged at the dinosaur waving his arms about. The stone head spun around and snapped at him.The vixen acted fast, dropping the loop of cable over the creature’s muzzle. She pulled the cable and the loop tightened around the stony muzzle. “Gottcha!”The creature kept struggling in spite of the ropes and cables holding it tightly.“Now what?” Misha asked. “How do we kill it?”“Kill it?” Strela responds. “It’s already dead.”“So what do we do now? Leave it?” Misha asked.“He’s not going anywhere,” She responded.“Call the police and have a mage get here please,” Misha ordered the nanites.Suddenly the dinosaur fossil stopped moving. There was a dry rattling noise and the monster collapsed into a disorganized pile of fossil bones.“What?” Misha asked. Surprised.They waited for a moment before Strela poked the bones with the tip of her bow. No response. “Whatever was controlling it has stopped.”“Probably because it was no longer of any use,” Misha responded.They waited for several minutes but the pile of fossil bones didn’t move. Finally Misha motioned down the hallway. The two slowly moved away and deeper into the museum but they paused frequently to check that the bones were still there. They were.*****************Standing there in the middle of the hall was a massive dinosaur fossil. The body was short, squat and heavily armored that was 5.4 meters long and 1.7 meters high. At the back was a massive tail several meters long. On the end was a bony knob as big as Misha’s head. In life it weighed 7 tons. Even now, long dead it was at least 5 tons of rock and stone.“Ankylosaurus! Large and heavily armored.”“My first car was smaller than that,” Misha commented.“Do you like my pet?” Someone said.Standing behind the animated fossil was a woman. She was of middling height. Some five and a half feet tall with blonde hair. The woman was wearing a large, Stetson hat, a pair of jeans and a tan colored tee shirt. Over the tee shirt was a cloth vest. All had a clean but worn look to them.Her skin had an odd tint to it. What had seemed to be the tan of someone from the middle east was more of a brownish color not seen in any human race. It was the color of old bones weathered by time. The villain’s face and body had a thin, sunken look. Her face seemed to be pushed out into a slight muzzle and her teeth were too long and sharp to be human. She wasn’t wearing shoes and her feet didn’t look human.“Are those talons on the end of each toe?” Misha asked.“My name is Dr Fossil,” the woman said in cold tones. “Nice of you to visit the museum. Did you pay the full admission or did you sneak in?”“There is no one matching her in the databases,” the nanites commented.“Good morning to you,” Misha responded slowly. “I’d ask if you paid but we all know you’re just a thief who broke in.”“She looks odd,” Strela commented.“We’re getting some strange readings from her,” the nanites responded. “Some say that she is animal and others that she is mineral.”Strela shook her head. "Any reading saying she's vegetable too?"“We need a more in-depth analysis to be able to ascertain what she is,” the nanites commented.“Go with that she’s stone and bone,” Strela responded.“Could she be into necromancy?” Misha asked.“Well,” Strela said. “She doesn’t look dead and she doesn’t smell like a rotting corpse either.”“And she is not dressed goth,” Misha added. “Have you fought undead?”“Sort of,” the vixen responded. “We fought someone in Rumania who believed he was the reincarnation of Dracula and a vampire.”“How can you be a reincarnation of an undead?” Misha asked.“He was,” she paused for a moment. “Confused. Very polite but confused. Last I heard he’s doing horror movies.”“Playing Dracula?” He asked.“Of course,” Strela responded. “He was a natural for the role.”Dr Fossil pointed a bony, taloned hand at the two vulpine. “Smash them! Kill them!”“What? No long-winded rant? No Chit chat?” Misha asked sarcastically.The dinosaur lurched forward and attacked. It’s massive body rattled and clattered as it shuffled toward them. It looked like a clattering avalanche of bone rolling towards them.“Lure the dino fossil out into the hallway and away from the exhibits,” Misha ordered as they rapidly stepped backward, out of the room and into the hall.“Good idea. That will also give the dino less room to maneuver,” Strela added.“Split up,” Misha ordered silently. Sending his message to Strela.Strela handed a length of the cable to Misha. “You get the back and I’ll get the front.”A few feet down the hall split, branching off left and right. To the left was the way they had come down and to the right it led deeper into the museum. She went left and Misha went right.Strela shot several arrows at the moving fossil catching it’s attention. The massive beast turned and followed her.Misha drifted back down the right hallway trying to blend into the shadows. He waited till both Strela and the beast were a short ways down the hall. Then he started slowly following them at a distance.The dino swung it’s powerful tail just barely missing Misha. The ball on the end smashed into the marble wall. Stone chips flew in all directions pelting both supers.“We’ve got to stop that tail.” He waited till the tail was swinging close to the door before tossing another web grenade. The sticky material effectively glued the club end of the tail to the stone door frame.The creature stood there for a moment unable to move. It swung it’s stony head around and saw its tail was stuck to the door frame.With a loud crack the tail pulled free taking with it a good portion of the door frame. A large piece of the marble was still attached to the club on the end. Effectively making it even larger and more deadly.Strela let out a string of curses in an equal number of different languages. “How long will the web last.”The fossil swung the now enhanced tail around.“Too long,” Misha jumped back but not fast enough. The bony club caught him on the right side sending him flying down the hall.Strela reacted instantly. She tossed a smoke grenade directly into the creature’s face. Thick clouds of blinding black smoke billowed up, enveloping the creature. “Honey. Are you all right?”The todd stumbled to his paws. Misha leaned against a wall as he clutched his side. “I’ll live. Wow does that thing hit hard.”“We’ll hit it at the same time.” Strela said. “Are you ready?”Misha nodded. “I’m going to take nice, long bath after this.”“Sounds like fun!”“Work now, fun later,” He responded.Both tossed a web grenade at the same moment. The two projectiles hit at the same time. Hers hit the creatures left front shoulder while his connected on the right rear. Both exploded with a loud THUMP and sticky material sprayed out completely covering the creature’s legs both front and back.The fossil wavered for a moment and then lost it’s balance. It tumbled to the floor with a loud clatter.“Quick,” Strela shouted. “Get the legs.”Both rushed forward with the cables in hand. Strela got her loop over the front legs with her first try. It took Misha several tries before he got the hind legs tied up.The massive creature struggled and shifted for a few moments. Then it stopped. There was a rattling noise and the monster collapsed into a disorganized pile of fossil bones.No one moved or let down their guard as they waited and watched their recent adversary.“That’s done. Boss fight is over. With a minimum of collateral damage!”“Bonus score!”“Where did she go?”They both looked around but they were the only living things in the hall.“I don’t know. I lost track of her while I was trying to avoid that tail,” Misha commented.“She’s long gone,” Strela said, annoyed.Misha muttered several curses. “That pile of bones was just to distract us.”“Dr Lange,” Strela said into the radio. “Fights over. It’s all clear.”“She was here for a reason. What’s missing?” Misha asked. The vixen shrugged. “But it’s a hall full of dinosaurs. Not many things here you can stick into a sack and walk off with.” She looked up at the massive fossil of a brontosaurus. Just the one upper leg bone weighed several hundred kilograms. “And how would she do it?”Misha followed her gaze and looked up the massive leg bone. “And why would she do it?”“I see you managed to limit the damage,” Dr Lange said as she walked into the room.Misha nodded. “We always respect people’s property.”The curator looked around. “The major exhibits are still here. At least all the parts are. She didn’t get away with any of those.”Misha gave a yip of laughter. “Hard to make a getaway on a ten-ton fossil.” The curator walked along the smaller cases and displays checking each one. Finally she stopped in front of one. “This one has been opened.”The two came closer. The display case was a duplicate of the countless others in the museum. A dark, tightly grained wooden frame that held a clear material that Misha doubted was glass. Below it was seven drawers. Each that could be slid closed and locked. The third drawer down had been pulled open and the lock had been crudely but effectively smashed. Whatever had been in the drawer was gone.The only thing left was a large card describing it. “Bone rod, 22 inches long. Believed to be the right, upper leg bone of Deinonychus. Age: Late Cretaceous. 65 million years. Uncovered Billings Montana 1931. Later reworked and decorated in the Lithic age by unknown persons.”“We need more info on this bone,” Strela asked. “You have a picture or a better description?”“We do,” the curator responded. “Let me pull up the Museum catalog.” Several minutes of working on her tablet brought her the information they wanted.She looked at the information for a few moments while the two vulpines downloaded it directly. “We’ve been running paleontology excavations in Montana since 1889. So have a lot of organizations.”“Eagles Ridge Montana,” the report stated. “June 1, 1931 to August 28, 1931. Catalog of items recovered.” She looked down the list but didn’t see the bone they wanted.“It’s not here,” The curator commented.“The label says Uncovered in Billings Montana,” Strela said. “Not Eagles Ridge.”The curator nodded and then shook her head. “It could have been purchased from an individual. Unfortunately, many items in museums wind up there by being bought. No questions asked.”“I’ve run into that before,” Strela commented.“Past mistakes like that are always coming back to haunt the museum,” the curator commented sadly. She worked through several webpages. “Ah! Here we go! A Good, clean picture.”The bone was 22.5 inches long and was thick. It was a dark brown color that reminded Strela of old parchment. The nanites informed her it was the left, upper leg bone. The fossil itself had been carefully carved and colored with what had been red ochre which had faded to a different shade of brown. Lines and swirls were intermixed with figures both human and animal. The humans were holding what she assumed were spears and bows. One broad, flat side had been carved with the image of a dinosaur that looked like a velociraptor of some sort.“That’s a decent image of a Deinonychus,” the nanites commented over the radio.“If this was carved in the Lithic age how did the artist know what one looked like,” Strela asked. “They were extinct for some 64 million years.”“Excellent question,” The Curator responded.“All the animal figures seem to dinosaurs,” the curator commented. She looked closer. “It’s hard to tell. The images are so small.” “The carvings look vaguely Cree,” Dr Lange said.“Agreed,” the Nanites agreed.“Any other information?” Strela asked.“Not here. I’ll pull the actual excavation records,” the curator added. “We have them in storage. That might have more information.”It took an hour and 25 minutes before a young man came in with a small, plastic wrapped object. Once the plastic was removed a clothe covered journal was revealed. It was held closed by a cloth ribbon. The book itself was battered and grimy.Misha ran his hand along the weathered page as he read. When he took it off there was red dirt on his fingertips. “Dirt from the excavation.”“Here we go!” Misha said. “July 15, 1931. Item purchased. $45. Carved fossil. 22 inches long. Most certainly a fossil but carved and decorated at a much later point.”“Not exactly a lot,” Misha commented. “But more information that we had before.”“So it was bought and not dug up,” the curator said. “There is no telling where exactly it came from. Or who it was bought from.”“Why not contact the Midnighter Club?” Misha suggested. “Since it’s magic they are certain to have more information. Do they have phone number? I can’t see them just listed in the phone book.”“They ARE in the phone book,” Strela responded. “Under Civic Organizations.”Quickly they dialed the number. Unsure of what to expect.The phone range exactly three times and then someone picked up. "Hello. Thank you for calling the Midnighter Club. Sorry we missed your call. Don't bother to leave a message. We know who you are." Then the call disconnected.“That was less than helpful,” Misha said calmly. Strela heard something behind here and turned around. Her bow at the ready. “We have a visitor,” she laughed.Turning, Misha and the Curator turned around and found that the triceratops fossil meandering into the hall.“I guess he got tired of being in the lobby,” Strela commented.“I hope he paid admission,” Misha joked.“He’s an employee,” Strela countered. “He gets in for free.”Dr Lange scowled at the new arrival. “At least he’s not hostile.”“Dr Lange,” a woman said. She was dressed in the uniform of a security guard. “There is a police detective here.”“Show him in,” the doctor responded.The figure that shuffled into the room was of medium height for a human. He was wearing a rumpled, gray raincoat that had seen better days. It was worn with age and looked frayed in spots. His hair was unkempt and he was smoking a cigar. In spite of the fact that smoking was forbidden in the building.The man walked past the moving fossil without so much as a second glance. “Good morning. I’m Lieutenant Falk of the Paragon Police. Robbery division.” He looked in several pockets for a moment before pulling out a small wallet. Opening it revealed a police shield and an ID that indeed confirmed that he was with the PCPD.“I was hoping for someone from the magic division,” the curator responded.The police detective tilted his head to one side. “Why? I thought there was a robbery.”The Curator pointed to the animated fossil which seemed to take the police officer’s presence in stride.The detective turned and looked at the dino fossil. “Isn’t that an exhibit?”“Yes,”“So what’s the problem?”“It shouldn’t be moving!” She exclaimed.“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought it was supposed to be doing that. Why are you asked me about that? I’m here about a robbery.”Misha stifled a laugh and Strela slowly shook her head. The curator looked confused and ready to start shouting.“The thief animated that and several others,” Misha commented and pointed to the fossil. “To cover her escape.”“Ah. Lieutenant Hernandez is headed here now,” the detective said calmly. “Good man. He helped with the Detwiler case last year.” He started walking among the exhibits. The triceratops trailed behind seeming to find the detective interesting.He brushed some cigar ashes off one of the trikes horns. “Sorry about that. Mrs. Falk is always telling me to be careful of where my ashes fall. She thinks I deliberately aim for the living room rug. She got one of those little vacuums and has one in the living room.”The detective stopped in front of one of the displays. A tall tyrannosaurus rex. He pointed his cigar at the fossil. “As a child I built a model of that. I even tried painting it but wound up painting the floor mostly. Mom was not happy. It was a new carpet. We’d only had it a week. Finally Dad moved the coffee table and the stain wasn’t visible.”He stepped over the railing meant to stop visitors from getting too close and stared at one of the massive feet for a long moment. “This foot has moved.”“What?” Misha asked. The three clustered close and looked down. The foot had moved. There were clearly scrapes and scratches into the flooring.“But the others haven’t,” He took a puff of his cigar. “Our thief tried to bring this big fossil to life but failed,” Falk said. “She could only get it to move a little way.”“It was probably too big for her,” Strela commented.“What was stolen?” The detective asked.“We only know of one item,” the Curator answered and described the bone and showed him the picture.“Have you checked to see if anything else was taken?” The detective asked as he examined the picture.The curator shrugged. “I am having all the exhibits checked. But that will take time. Nothing else looks to be missing. “Thieves usually go for the gems and the art. Not the bones.”“Supers tend to go after all sorts of unusual things for incomprehensible reasons. We had someone break into the Art Museum several years ago. She went past all the statues and paintings and looted the gift shop. She took three dozen of the cute, blue hippo statues.”“Why?” Strela asked. Baffled.The detective shrugged. “We still don’t know.”Falk examined the entry in the journal for a moment. “Have you checked the journal more to see if anything else was bought at the same time? If they bought one it’s certain they could have gotten others too.”“Any idea why she wanted it?”“Of that we don’t know,” Misha responded. “She didn’t tell us.”“I’ll leave you to your clean up,” the detective said. “Our Forensic people will be by to take photos and fingerprints. Hopefully they’ll give me a good lead.”“Oh,” he said and paused. “One more thing.” He took a slow puff of his cigar. “Do you have a list of employees who have access to these cases?”“Why?” She responded.“Has to be someone on the staff. The thief bypassed a hundred other drawers and went right to this one. Have you taken a count of your people?” The police officer asked. “See if anyone is missing?”She nodded her head. “I’ll do that right now but it is after hours very few would be here except for security. And all of the guards are accounted for.”Detective Falk nodded and turned. He walked through the door leaving a cloud of cigar smoke.********************“What are you going to do with that?” Doctor Lange asked and pointed to the triceratops. One of the staff had quietly walked up to the fossil and was now gently petting it on the muzzle. For a long dead fossil it seemed both lively and mellow.“Well,” Misha said slowly. Trying to come up with an answer. “Technically he is your property. And he is not causing any trouble.”“You don’t suggest we KEEP IT?” The doctor asked. Incredulous.“Why not?” Strela added. “He seems fairly peaceful and he would be a unique exhibit.”“Why is he still active?” The Doctor asked. “All the others simply fell apart by this point.”“Because the caster was an amateur using magic they didn’t understand,” the words were spoke in cold and commanding tones. The speaker was standing a short distance away.His graying, brown hair was combed to a peak over a face with a determined and fierce gaze. Framed beneath by a neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard. He was wearing a brown, formal suit that was a century and a half out of fashion. A dark green ascot tie and a light gray vest completed the ensemble. “I am Midnighter Loremaster Jonathon Hendrick FitzWilliams III.”“He looks like something out of an old Sherlock Holmes movie,” Misha commented silently to Strela and the Nanites.Misha pointed to Strela. “This is Strela and I am Misha.” He pointed the Curator. “That is Doctor Gabrielle Lange, Curator at the museum.”“It’s a pleasure to meet all of you,” The mage bowed to each in turn.The mages walked around the trike. “Some very interesting magic. Not often seen.”“Necromantic?” Strela asked.“Yes,” He said. The mage peered closer at the trike who looked intently back at him. “But with earth and stone magic mixed in too in an unusual combination. I’ve seen magic used to animate a skeleton but never a fossil.”The mage turned and looked at the massive T-Rex skeleton. "AH!" He exclaimed. "The thief tried to make this big dinosaur but could only move the one foot. She had to give up and try something smaller.""The detective figured that out an hour ago. " Misha commented. "And he didn’t need magic to do it."The mage scowled at the fox. “What is missing?”The curator pointed to the book spread out on one of the display cases.“Any provenance?”“Just what’s there,” the Curator answered. “It was purchased in 1931 during a dig in Montana.”The mage examined the pictures intently. “I’ve seen fossils before but never ones decorated like this.”“It’s very rare but there have been a few,” The curator responded.“One example was uncovered in 1979 in Greece,” The nanites added. Speaking through the radio Misha had on, just for that purpose.“These symbols are most certainly magic,” the mage said. Still distracted by the photograph. “They seem to be some sort of summoning but it’s difficult to get more information without a physical examination.”“We had no idea it was magic,” she said. “If we had it would have been better secured.”The mage nodded. “I understand. The Midnighter club has an extensive collection, some poorly catalogued. We are forever finding odd items stashed in the most unexpected places. I’ll have Midnighters sweep the museum so we can avoid any further unpleasant surprises.”“That might take a while,” Dr Lange commented.“Not as long as you think, But there is no telling what interesting things we’ll find,” the mage smiled. “What of the thief?”“She called herself Dr Fossil and she looked odd,” Misha commented.“Odd?” The man asked. “How so?”Misha reached into a pocket and pulled out a tablet. A few moments later the screen was showing video of the fight that had just happened.“Very intriguing,” the mage said. “The magic is most certainly affecting her physically. She might actually be changing into a fossil or a dinosaur. Probably a Deinonychus.”The mage was silent for a moment. “This all speaks of some powerful magic being involved. I’ll need to do more research first.”“What am I to do with that?” She asked and pointed to the fossil. The trike had grown bored of the conversation and settled down on the floor.“Do?” The mage asked. Genuinely surprised. “That is a remarkable creature. Important to study it. And a good draw for the tourists.”The mage stared intently at Misha for a long time.“What?” Misha asked.The mage walked around Misha examining him.“WHAT?”The mage pointed to a thin, long item wrapped in faux leather that was strapped to Misha’s back.“My bow case?” Misha asked, confused.“What’s in it?” The mage asked.“One of my bows.” Misha the base off his back. “A special one.”“Let me see please,” the mage requested.Misha placed the package on the top of a display case. The package was some five feet long and was bound with leather cord. He untied the cords and slowly unwrapped the faux leather. It revealed a bow made of wood covered with a black lacquer that was still shiny in spite of it’s age.With the bow was a quiver meant to hold arrows. It was covered with gold and faience decorations. It was decorated on both back and front with hunting scenes embossed in sheet gold. The king, riding in his chariot and accompanied by his hunting hounds, is aiming his arrows at ibex, or wild goats, and oryx, or African antelopes. A hyena was also shown attacking a fallen gazelle. Bands of hieroglyphs of royal names and epitaphs run around the edges.“I’m not sure what to do with it,” Misha admitted. “It’s at least 3500 years old.”The mage stepped closer and examined the weapon and it’s case. “Does it work?”“Perfectly,” Misha answered. “But because of it’s age I’m afraid of using it.”He ran his hands gently over the bow. “Don’t be. The magic in it has protected it. It’s as good as the day it was first crafted. It does have enhancements to improve accuracy and damage.”“The name translates as Swift as a Falcon.”“A noble name,” Misha commented.The mage examined the quiver carefully. It was as beautifully decorated as the bow. It was truly a work of art.“How did you obtain these fine items?” The mage asked earnestly as he kept examining the quiver.“In the desert,” Misha explained. “I helped stop the Sky Raiders from looting a tomb. The bow and quiver were my reward.”“Who gave it to you?” He asked. “Or did you decide it was yours.”Misha bared his teeth. “The resident of the tomb himself.”“What tomb?” The mage asked harshly.“In the deep Sahara,” Misha answered. “I’m sure you heard of it. It’s been called the greatest find since King Tut’s tomb.”“You were involved in that?” The mage asked.“Yes,” Misha answered. “Didn’t you see it in the news?”“I ignore the jackals in the news industry,” Came the answer.“Didn’t you at least see the Youtube videos?” Strela asked.“Youtube?” He asked as if she had just said a dirty word. “Why? I have magic.”“You don’t own a cellphone do you?” Strela said. More of a statement than a question.The man just scowled at her.“Dude,” Misha commented dryly. “You have to keep up with the times.”“I don’t need technology to communicate,” the mage countered. “I have magic.”“Things seem under control here,” Strela said. “We need to get home.”The mage bowed. “May the Gods always stand between you and harm in all the empty places you must walk. An ancient Egyptian blessing.”Misha bowed. “Slainte mhor agus a huile beannachd duibh. Good health and every good blessing to you!” He paused and looked at the trike. “Please keep in close touch. My instincts tell me this is going to get worse.”The mage nodded in agreement. “It usually does.”With that the two supers left the room. Both stopped to pet the fossil trike on their way out.There was several moments of silence.“So,” the mage said slowly and looked at the mobile fossil. “You have a name for him?”**********************Upon their return to the base they found things changed. A command with a code had gotten them teleported into the basement of the passenger station that was their home. The small room was still there as was the gun turret. But where there had been a room filled with a fusion powerplant was now a mostly empty room. Part of it was filled with a smaller powerplant. Also the elevator they had used which was a part of the old elevator system for the station. That was gone. Just a blank metal wall. Two doors were set in the wall near it. A hallway lead off to the east. It was just bare concrete.Peering down the hallway Misha noticed that halfway down was a robot. The robot was a wheeled thing with arms and tools. It raised itself up to the ceiling and attached a light fixture to the concrete. After a few moments that lit illuminating a small part of the hallway. The robot lowered itself back down. It rolled some four meters and stopped. Then it raised up and attached another light. It made its way slowly down the passageway slowly illuminating it as it went.“We’ve made some changes,” the nanites explained.“Ok. A LOT of changes.”Strela opened one of the doors and found a circular staircase winding its way upward. The door next to it led to an elevator that went upward. It was lined with walls of a dark wood. The fittings were of polished brass.“This elevator is a closed system,” the nanites explained. “It has no stops on public levels. Just the base.”“What about the regular elevator?” Misha asked.“It’s still there but it no longer stops at the base level unless we let it. So no chance of anyone hacking the controls and getting to the lobby.”He pointed down the hallway. “What’s down there?”“The new archery/rifle range,” they answered. “But it’s not done yet. The new target range equipment arrives tomorrow.”Misha took a few steps down the corridor and a doorway opened on the left hand wall. He peered inside and saw a long hallway stretching off into the distance. “This is at least three hundred feet long.”The nanites helpfully displayed the fact that it was 400 feet long. “Once the targeting equipment arrives you will have a perfect range for archery and rifle practice.”Peering further down the corridor he noticed that it just ended. “Why does the corridor end?”“That’s for future expansion,” they explained. “For when we put in that ICBM silo, full sized home movie theater or a garage/hanger.”“Why a garage/hanger if we don’t have any vehicles?” Strela asked. Trying to ignore the ICBM reference.“Not yet,” the nanites responded. “Every superhero has a cool car.”“The Fox mobile, the Fox plane and the Fox train!”“What about the powerplant that used to be down here?” Misha asked. Trying to change the subject.“We moved that up to the 13th floor. On the floor below the pool.”“Pool?” Strela asked. “Nice!”The two went over to the elevator. The door opened and they stepped inside. The door closed quickly and the elevator started upward. Only a slight vibration betrayed the elevator’s movement.A few moments later the elevator stopped and the doors opened.This had been the 13th floor. In the distant past it had been an office complex. Later it was just a dirty, debris strewn ruin. What they stepped into was brightly lit. The floors were heavy duty tiles in a gray color. The walls were covered with gray paneling and possessed no windows. Most of the floor area was filled with a wide variety of equipment, including four, small, fusion powerplants. Also present was equipment for air conditioning and filtration for air, water, sewage and garbage. Also one part housed a garage/storage area for the robots.“Impressive,” Misha commented. “You do fast work!”“Thank you!”“What about the windows?” Strela asked.“The frames and armored plastic are there behind the walls but cut off. Each wall does have panel that can be removed if you need to get outside fast. All five floors are self-contained.”“Go upstairs! See how we’ve done!”Rather than taking the elevator the two vulpines used the staircase. The circular staircase looked to be on cast iron but were actually of heavy gauge steel. The steps were broad and covered with a short carpet.They reached the next floor with the stairs going still upward. They stepped off the stairs and into luxury.The sauna was just four walls and a ceiling that a trio of robots were fitting out. Another robot was adding the needed plumbing to the sauna.The Russian style Sauna and the hot tub were not done yet but the pool was. It was hexagon shaped and was filled with clear water. There floating on an inflatable lounge chair in the middle of the pool was Stealth. He was stretched out and had a glass in one hand filled with some orange liquid and was topped with a tiny paper umbrella.“Good afternoon!” Strela said. "I see you’ve found the new pool!”The feline didn’t open his eyes but hoisted his drink in salute.“They did all this in one day?”“Yup,” Stealth responded. “Noisy but fast. They actually started last night.”The floor was of nice tile that was of a slightly rough texture (to keep anyone from slipping) and had murals of seahorses, anchors, lobsters and fish. All in various shades of green, blue, brown and dark red.Each of the six walls was lined with windows that Misha recognized as being like the ones that had always been there. “The windows?”“Armored, bullet proof, blast proof, and proof against everything up to category 6 energy weapons. And fully reflective. No one can see inside.”“The exercise and work out equipment arrive in two days.”A short trip up the winding staircase took them the main floor of the base. Most of it was the same as before including the balconies that rose up two levels.The middle of the large room was changed. A circular pit two feet deep and twenty feet wide was sunken in the middle. The pit was lined with a sofa that conformed to the pit exactly. The center was open and the floor there carpeted the same color as the couch; a nice sea green.Strela stepped down and sat on the new couch. “Perfect!”“Detective Falk is calling,” the nanites announced.“Hello Detective!” Misha said in way of greeting.“Good to hear from you,” Strela added.“Thank you!” The policeman responded. “I’ve heard from the Curator at the museum. She has checked their records and found that more fossils missing. Enough bones to make a complete left leg. All the bones from the same dig but purchased over several years.”“That’s not good,” Misha commented.“I’ve sent out an alert to other cities to be on alert for more thefts of fossils,” the detective said. “She is sure to turn up eventually.”The two vulpines nodded. “And we had best be there when it happens,” Misha commented.“Agreed,” The detective responded. “I doubt she will come back to Paragon city but I’ll send an APB just in case.”“Thank you and we’ll keep you informed if we get any more information,” Strela responded.“Good night and good luck!” The detective said. And the connection dropped.“Another call coming in,” the nanites announced. “Loremaster FitzWilliams.”“Put him through!” Strela responded. There was a soft click.“Good afternoon Loremaster,” Misha said. “Good to hear from you.”“I wish I had good news,” the mage said. “I assume Detective Falk has contacted you about the additional things stolen?”“He has,” she answered. “So other fossils were taken too?”The mage went into more detail. “Yes. Both seem to have been from the same dinosaur and decorated the same. I am still researching the details but it seems they are part of a whole skeleton. This Doctor Fossil seems to be trying get all the pieces to reassemble the whole creature.”“That can’t be good,” Misha commented. “What happens if she succeeds?”The mage was silent for a moment. “I’m not sure but it would be a very bad event. We need to find the rest of those fossils before she does.”“I’ll call my people and see what they say,” Misha responded.“I have some contacts in the Rogue Isles,” Strela added. “I’ll talk to them.”
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City of Heroes was and always will be the World's BEST Superpowered MMO, where thousands of players had crafted superpowered identities for themselves and joined other Hero and Villain characters in the constantly expanding universe of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles ™ to battle a host of foes. This dA group is a growing community for people who played City of Heroes/City of Villains and for artists who have a history of drawing City of Heroes/Villains-related commissions. If you were a City of Heroes player or an artist who has done and is regularly accepting commissions for City of Heroes-related artwork, you’re welcome to join the group.
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UPDATED: 17 October 2013