Night Thrasher--Mysterious weapon against crime! Kymaera--Hybrid Atlantean!
Nova--The Human Rocket! Speedball--Bouncing bundle of energy!
Rage--Urban Avenger! Turbo--The human torpedo!
Hindsight--Cyber geek! Timeslip--Time bender!
Together they are the next generation in super team excitement!
[ St. Joseph's Cemetery. Long Island, New York. ]
It had been a few days since the funeral of Michael Jeffries. Speedball remembered it well. And here he found himself standing over the gravestone that marked where Mike's body had been buried. Not as Speedball, because too many people would be asking questions about who Mike really was if they saw Speedball walking around his grave, but as Robbie Baldwin. He couldn't help but think back to the first time he met Mike, back when that syrupy black darkforce gunk had washed over Manhattan. Mike was playing Turbo, and Robbie remembered him as not much more than a dork. He never really shook that impression of Mike either, even after Mike had begun to hang around more after his counterpart, Mickey Musashi, also Turbo (they shared the costume and helmet), officially joined.
It was strange explaining what had happened to Mike to the Jeffries family, why there was suddenly this lifeless pile of dead tissue that resembled their son lying in their living room. Robbie had been there when Mickey tried to tell them, for support. She couldn't really say it was some alien creature that had sucked the life out of him so that it could impersonate him. They'd take that a little hard. So she'd told them that Mike had been keeping some sort of secret about how he had contracted a very strange disease and had gone to a medical clinic only to find out that the disease was unheard of and incurable. They hardly bought that, but what other rational explanation could there be? Certainly not aliens.
Robbie looked down at the grave, at the words etched out in cracked, imperfect stone. 'Son. Brother. Hero.' These were three words that, to Robbie, summed Mike up nicely. Mickey fought to have the word 'hero' included on the gravestone. Nobody else would understand the hidden meaning behind that word. But to the ones who knew him, they knew what it meant.
And that led to the here and now, and Robbie standing and thinking back. He came here mostly because this sort of thing worried him. He never really thought much about death until that incident, but it was a big part of the superhero biz. Mike wasn't really a friend to Robbie the way the others were, but he found himself coming here anyway. Just this once. If for nothing else than to say goodbye. And something Mickey had told him about Mike's grave was something he could finally feel: Robbie could sense Mike standing right there beside him, leaning comfortably on his shoulder with one arm, looking at the gravestone in appreciation.
[ Meanwhile, in a cleverly concealed high-tech laboratory in Manhattan... ]
The Thinker sat at his chair, his hands meeting only at fingertips that were spread in front of his mouth. This was the only room in the whole house that looked relatively normal, if not messy. It was his den. And in his den he stared out into the night sky through a window that overlooked a street. It was this room that he forbade Primus, his android assistant, to enter when the curtains weren't blocking the window. He drew a deep breath and felt the warm air against his hands.
They were late. By almost six-and-a-half minutes. It was just like kids to be so irresponsible. But he had to keep reminding himself that sometimes the world just didn't operate inside his tight schedule.
He had watched the battle between the New Warriors and Volx, not much surprised by the outcome. He knew that Michael Jeffries, the one who had found the Torpedo costume, was killed by Volx, who posed as a member of his family. Volx sought the Torpedo costume, for it was an immense weapon. As Jeffries, Volx trailed the costume to the New Warriors' Crash Pad headquarters, where she revealed herself after having acquired the costume. She escaped in Smartship Friday. She was later found, and the New Warriors had to shoot Friday out of the sky to stop her. Volx died during that battle when Night Thrasher stabbed her with a blade through her head, but not after her weapon, the neoneutralizer had temporarily stolen each of the New Warriors' powers, and possibly permanently stolen Timeslip's. This neoneutralizer was supposed to rob each human of his or her super powers, making Earth ripe for conquest. And that's why the Thinker needed it: to cure his nephew.
A knock at the door! Not so much a knock than someone putting his leg through it and bashing it open. The door slammed against the wall with enough force to pull it off its hinges, but thankfully it didn't. The Thinker rose from his chair and calmly closed the blinds. He couldn't really have people seeing his guests traipsing around his house.
"Guests are here," he heard Primus call from an adjacent room.
The guests pounded their way into the Thinker's den. Surprisingly neither was wearing his costume, but then again, why would they? The Thinker knew their identities, anyway. The last time they were here, they had their costumes on, but they also had a blue-skinned, six-foot Atlantean with them. This time they could be a little more inconspicuous.
Both were tall. The larger one stood about a good foot taller than the other did, about six feet and a few inches tall. Behind him he dragged a huge contraption that hardly even fit through the hall. It was almost cylindrical, and was scratching up his wooden flooring. The huge one knocked over a table with a vase sitting on it as he walked past, and the vase shattered into more pieces than the Thinker cared to count when it hit the floor.
"My grandmother owned that vase," the Thinker said with much disdain.
"It was nice," Elvin Haliday, the one dragging the huge contraption ruthlessly across the floor, said.
"We're here," Dwayne Taylor spoke as they both stopped, having reached the Thinker.
"I can see that," the Thinker responded. "Where have you been?"
"On our way," Dwayne said. "Here's your neoneutralizer." He stepped aside and motioned to behind him with a sweep of his hands.
The Thinker looked at the contraption. "It looks smaller than what I've seen on my video screens. I assume this is the mechanism that neutralizes powers stripped from its casing."
"It's not exactly somethin' you can fit into the trunk of a car," Elvin said.
"I'm not complaining, just observing," the Thinker responded. "How did you get it here?"
Elvin hoisted his shoulder up and motioned at the neoneutralizer with his head, indicating he'd dragged it the whole way. "How else?"
"Of course," the Thinker replied. So much for being inconspicuous. "Waking the neighbours?"
"In this city, that would be--" Elvin interrupted himself by breaking out into a loud fit of laughter.
The Thinker watched him, puzzled, before asking, "What happened to him?"
"He still can't get over that 'Uncle Thinker' thing," Dwayne responded. "But enough of this. We came with what you needed. Now how can we trust you won't end up neutralizing the whole planet like Volx tried?"
"Trust," The Thinker said aloud. "You want trust." He looked up at Dwayne, not surprised at the question. In fact, he should have anticipated it. But Night Thrasher was right. There was a certain amount of trust that was needed in this situation. And after all the New Warriors had done to help him in getting this neoneutralizer, maybe a little bit of trust was allowable. It could help to soften them up, to give them back that youthful exuberance they needed in order to accept his nephew David if the neoneutralizer, for some reason, didn't neutralize everything. So no Keith Dramn, no Ken Hirt, just trust.
He extended his hand in a friendly manner and said, "My name is Harold Richter."
[ The Crash Pad training room. ]
Hindsight hit a padded wall and fell to the ground with a thump, the wind knocked out of him almost entirely. He was wearing the Torpedo suit, and in the few days since first putting it on, he hadn't improved a bit. He picked himself up with weak hands, surprised at how much energy was required when using the Torpedo suit. Most of it was needed just to get up after hitting something huge and hard, like a wall or Rage (thankfully he hadn't done that twice).
"This is hard," he said as he dusted the costume off.
"I told you it would be," Mickey replied. Mickey was the usual wearer of the Torpedo suit, but had agreed to share it with Hindsight. "Some people need a lot of practice."
"I'm a bit tired, " Hindsight replied. "I'm going to hit the showers. " He began removing the costume, first the helmet, then the bodysuit. Underneath he wore his regular costume, a red jumpsuit with yellow markings. He left the Torpedo suit on a bench nearby. "You want to give it a go for a bit?"
"No!" Mickey replied, rather louder than she had expected it to come out.
"Okay then," Hindsight responded before making his way to the shower room. He was gone.
And that left Mickey in the training room alone. With the costume. She looked over to it, and actually approached it, looking down into the eyepiece of the mask. The black body suit trailed away from the mask in a downward direction. And all she could think of when looking at the costume was how Volx, posing as Michael Jeffries, had put it on and turned toward the team with evil in her eyes, how her jagged teeth grew out, wearing a devilish grin. Her tongue slithered across her lips. Mickey couldn't bring herself to put the armour back on after having seen what she thought was her friend metamorphose into that beast.
She quickly turned away from the armour and swiped at it blindly with one arm. She hit the helmet and it fell off the bench and clanged onto the floor. She walked out quickly, without giving the armour a second look.
[ Somewhere off the coast of Manhattan. ]
Richard Rider stood on the edge of a ferry, looking out at the waves. He liked to look down and see the white, rushing water ripple out in disturbed semicircles from the motor as it pushed the boat forward. Next to him stood his teammate Kymaera, covered up as much as possible so that no one would recognize her as something other than human. She felt hot and dehydrated, a bit weakened, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. Even just the wind off the water energized her, probably in nothing more than a psychological way, but it helped.
In one hand, Rich held a golden-coloured urn that glinted as the sunlight caught it. The urn contained the ashes of Garthan Saal, a fellow Xandarian who had been killed in combat with Volx. He felt weird about this. He had hated Saal up until a few days ago when he turned out to be one of the good guys. He jumped onto Volx when he thought Earth's future looked grim and died because of that, but not before passing the Nova force back into Rich. But what was even weirder was that, when he went to Reed Richards and asked him to burn Saal's body and Richards asked if he wanted the ashes sent into space, Rich knew that Saal would rather rest on the planet he died protecting.
Kymaera took a step forward. The pink shawl and sunglasses covering her face and head made her sweat a little, but it was important that no one see her blue skin. "You ready?" she asked, knowing fully that he wasn't.
"I've never done this before," Rich replied. "I mean, spreading ashes. How do you do it? Just let it go?"
"I've never done it, either," replied Kymaera. "All the people I've known have been buried at sea. I think you open it up and let the ashes blow out."
"Isn't that a bit simple?"
"Suffering shad, not everything has to be so complicated."
"Okay, okay, I'll just do it." He twisted the urn open and, closing his eyes, slowly tipped it until the ashes began pouring out. They were suddenly caught in the wind and spread out like a swarm of bees over an open field. Rich opened his eyes and shook the last remaining specks out.
"There," Kymaera said. "That wasn't so hard now, was it?"
Rich thought for a while. And a smile crept onto his face. "No, actually. It wasn't."
"Good," Kymaera replied. "Now just sit down and enjoy the ride."
Rich sat back in a wooden chair, and Kymaera sat next to him. And, for the first time in a very long time, Rich felt comfortable knowing that he was the only Nova, and that now, more than ever, there was work to be done back on Xandar.
[ Meanwhile, in the upper west side apartment of the Power family.... ]
"They blasted Friday?" Julie Power asked.
"Yeah, they did," Alex replied, the eldest of the Power kids. For days, his siblings had been bugging him about what had happened that night he'd been gone and not told them where he was. The truth was he'd been in space, but he didn't want to tell them. He'd waited until now, keeping back from them what the New Warriors had done. He knew it was Justice who'd moved his mini-pod out of the way, but what he did mirrored what the rest of them had felt needed to be done: blast Friday to smithereens in order to kill Volx. And now they were sitting in a room in their apartment, almost unfurnished except for a green couch against one wall and a desk against the opposite one. Curtains spread and fell over a window behind the couch. Katie, the youngest of the four, was out with their parents.
"Why didn't you tell us this until now?" Julie asked. She was the second oldest.
"I don't know. I just didn't want you to be upset with me."
"You didn't ride back with them, did you?" Jack, the third of the four kids asked.
"How else could I get back?" Alex replied. "Friday wasn't up to flying yet, and I didn't even know where we'd landed? All I knew is that there was snow! I had to leave Friday there all alone until he could repair himself enough to get home!"
"You messed up again, big brother," Jack huffed as he ran out of the room.
Both Alex and Julie watched as he ran out. When he left Julie turned to Alex and asked, "Are you still with them?"
"No," he replied. "I told them I quit. That I was angry about what happened to Friday."
"What did they say about that?"
"Justice said he was sorry I felt that way, but that they did what they had to do. If they hadn't, nobody knows what would have happened to the world."
"Let them be sorry, then," Julie said. "They deserve it for blasting Friday."
"He's okay now. It took a few days, but he's back to hiding in the river now that he's plugged all the leaks."
"It doesn't matter. They did what they did and they need to be sorry."
"What do you mean, Julie?"
She didn't answer right away. She just bit her upper lip in thought.
[ In Harlem, in a small apartment building... ]
There was a knock at the door, three quick, steady raps that seemed as if they shook the whole house. "Coming!" Dahlia Flores called out, hoping the person on the other side of the door had heard her. She took a peek through the peephole embedded in her door and saw Elvin, dressed like a normal person, on the other side. It was a little bit late and she was in her housecoat, but she was really happy to see him. She yanked the door open and exclaimed, "Hi!"
"Hi, Dahlia," he greeted. "How's Shanice?"
"She's doing fine. She's asleep right now. What are you doing here?" she asked, really trying not to sound like she wasn't happy he was here.
"Uh," Elvin stammered, searching for the right words. His heart was beating a mile a minute, it seemed, and it felt uncomfortable in his chest. "I have something to tell you. About how old I really am."
[ The New Warriors' Crash Pad, in Manhattan... ]
The New Warriors were gathered together, all except for Rage, who couldn't be there. He said he had something important to do and left it at that. Speedball bounced over the large, oval conference table in the middle of the room and snatched at the last doughnut. He bounced back into his seat and began chewing hungrily. It was weird eating in Speedball form, the food chunks bouncing all over the inside of his mouth, but it was cool. And the chewing experience had nothing on the swallowing experience! He looked to his left to Timeslip, his powerless teammate, and saw that she, too, was hungry. So he tore off a chunk and offered it to her. She accepted.
Situated around the table were Night Thrasher (at the head), Kymaera, Nova, Speedball, Timeslip, Justice, Firestar, Hindsight, and Turbo. Everyone was in suit with the exception of Turbo.
Night Thrasher stood up and silenced the crowd in front of him by putting up a hand. "It's time we get down to business," he spoke through the voice synthesizer in his helmet. "Rage won't be joining us today. He has something to take care of. I've only asked the core members to be here, so Chord, Sprocket, Dagger, and Darkhawk won't be joining us. So we're all here."
"Okay, so what's the meeting about this time?" Nova asked as he leaned back in his chair.
"Leadership," he replied. "I know that my being on this team doesn't automatically make me leader, and I know that there are some of you who probably still have an attitude toward me, so making me leader wouldn't make you followers. So I've decided to open the floor. " He paused for a second and looked around at the rest of the team. "Who do you want to be leader?"
"I nominate myself," Speedball replied as he stood up from his chair, putting on a goofy grin and pointing at himself. Timeslip grabbed him and hoisted him back down onto his seat.
"I don't think it should be me," Nova said. "I just got my powers back this past week.... An' Nita just got back from underwater. I think it should be Vance. (Sorry, Toothpick.)" Nova's long hair swayed as he glanced over at Speedball.
"I agree," Kymaera added. "Even though I've been missing the whole time you've been leading, you haven't killed anybody. And that means you're good."
Justice gave a kind of sheepish grin on his face and looked over at Firestar before looking back to the rest. He addressed the crowd by panning his face across the room, and began, "Actually, Angel and I came to tell you all something. And now that we finally have you all in one place, we can. In light of our recent engagement, we've decided that it'd be best for us to step out for a while. We're not sure how long, but we need some time and space."
A shocked expression came over the group; this was something that they hadn't expected! The room was filled with short gasps for a few moments before Nova spoke. "You want to leave?"
"We think it would be best," Firestar added as she removed the visor that covered her eyes in a yellowish tint. "Even if we were to continue in the group right now, we'd be too preoccupied to give it our all. We have a lot of things to be planning for; and what with my powers making people sterile, I have more than just personal reasons for leaving. I need to find a way to make my powers less destructive."
"We'll still be around," Justice added, "but as far as being full-time members, we'll have to decline."
Kymaera walked around the table and gave Firestar a pressing hug, saying, "Then we won't hold you back."
"But that still leaves me being leader up in the air," Speedball said. He finished the last of his half doughnut.
Nova spoke up. "Then, hard as it is for me to admit it--"
"Here it comes," Speedball said smiling.
"--I think Thrashman would be our best bet."
"Didn't think it was coming," Speedball whispered, supporting his head with his arm on the table and giving a half grin and a sigh.
Night Thrasher was shocked. "Rich, you're nominating me as leader? You've always had a problem with that!"
Nova looked up at him. "No secrets, no threats, no grudges. Remember?"
Night Thrasher looked up at the rest of the table, a hopeful expression that they were re-accepting him hidden under his helmet. "What do the rest of you think?"
"You were my second choice," Speedball responded.
"I've never met you," Timeslip replied. "But I'm willing to give you a chance." Hindsight nodded in approval.
"Well, it sounds fine to me," Kymaera said. "Looks like you're in. Welcome back, Thrash."
"But I still think we should call ourselves 'The Imbeciles', 'cause I still feel like one," Nova added.
[ A few hours later... ]
"Hey, Carlton!" Mickey called out as she entered the gym. "I thought we could--" He wasn't there. She thought he would be here practicing his Turbo techniques, but he was nowhere to be found. In fact, the Torpedo costume was still lying on the bench where they'd left it earlier that day. She guessed he'd been discouraged by not getting the hang of it after the first few days so he'd left it alone for a little while.
She approached the bench and looked down at the costume, seeing the helmet staring back up at her from the floor where it had fallen. She had to force the memories of Mike turning into that beast out of her mind, had to force herself to look down at the helmet. She picked it up and looked straight into the visor as a single tear trickled down her cheek. It wasn't so much the costume with which she had a problem. She realized it was the helmet. And she had to do something about her fear.
A few minutes later, a black-clothed figure could be seen rocketing out of the roof of the Crash Pad, on its way somewhere even the figure couldn't determine. Amidst the whirring of the loud turbo boosters, the figure had to fly somewhere, anywhere she'd been when Mike was still alive. She heard Paris was nice this time of year.
[ And on the bottom floor of the Crashpad... ]
Within a room no one thought to look behind, locked with what was assumed to be Hydra defenses, a rumbling sound began....
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