April 3, 2011

"I haven't heard from Jonathan since the… accident. He's gone hermit on me. He isn't picking up his phone or answering emails. And when I went over, he wouldn't even open the door." Anasha spoke in her cool and calm tone, despite her growing worry over her friend.

"I say good riddance. I don't know how he managed to make it this long and still not get his damn powers under control," Kacia remarked flippantly. "Geena still isn't well, and Richie's neck is still that weird greenish-purple color."

"I'm fine. The doctors only want me here to make sure the stitches stick. It's not like he shish-kabobed my entire set of internal organs," Geena smiled as she spoke.

"Ever the optimist. And my neck is fine. It's all superficial bruising. The doctor even said so." Richie said, tugging at his turtle neck.

"I really don't understand why you're wearing that thing, it's just a superficial bruise," Kacia teased.

"Have you ever tried to pick up a girl with a funky colored bruise on your neck? Not exactly a sexy battle wound for a cowering Meta. Oh, right. You're married, you just have to hope your husband is in to furries," Richie said sarcastically.

Kacia's gaze turned away as though someone had just slapped her across the face. Her and her husband had a noticeable tension since her transformation. They talked at length about her using her illusion powers on him so that he saw her as she was. It was one of the big reasons she decided to come to Exobytten. Richie realized all too late how hurtful his comment was.

"I'm sorry, Kash. That was a low blow… would it helped if I scratched your ear?"

"If you touch me, you'll have one less pistol to whip," Kacia remarked in a playfully cold manner. She looked up and winked at Richie, who was taken back by her remark. Anasha began laughing hysterically at the look on Richie's face, and ended up doubled over on Geena's bed. Geena too, started to giggle at the situation before stopping due to pain.

It felt good for them to laugh. They had all been so serious and sour since the event in Anasha's house that they forgot what it was like to just be themselves. "So, this brings us back around to the big question that no one has wanted to ask since this all went down. Are we officially heroing-up?"

Richie's question had not gone unconsidered in everyone's mind since they were attacked. "I think it's safe to assume we are. You saw how well we performed together, even with two of you out of action. And with Momma Cat over there, it's gonna be hard for anyone to hurt you." Anasha said smiling at Kacia.

"Is that my code name now? Momma Cat? That's so striking fear in the heart of no-one."

"Do we register with the government, or with the JLA? They have some pretty cool resources." Geena chimed in.

"I think it's safe to assume we'll register as our own faction. We'll be our own kind of Justice League. This way we can still maintain our own decisions, but we can also still access all they have to offer in the Watchtower. We'll go together, as soon as you are able Geena." Anasha reasoned, more to herself than to anyone else.

"If they'd just give me back my damn belt, I could hero-up and I'd heal a lot faster.

"Let's just let medical science do it's job. I don't need you rupturing a kidney all over me," Richie said with a smile as they dissolved into a fit of laughter again.

Within a few days Geena was finally discharged from the hospital and able to don her belt once more. Her friends all greeted her at the entrance with flowers and balloons. Geena felt like she was flexing and old muscle putting her belt on after such a long hospital stay.

"I had forgotten what my power felt like!" she exclaimed as she twirled some rocks on the sidewalk. "So, I guess this is it. We go register as an elite fighting squad of Metas."

An awkward silence quickly settled in among the friends. No one was really sure it was what they wanted.

"We would need costumes. I think that we should consider ideas and code names as well. Once we register with the Justice League we have no idea what they might be expecting from us and we don't want to look like rookies." Anasha rapped off authoritatively, her inner Naval training surfacing.

"Uh, not to be the bubble burster here, Ana, but we sorta are rookies." Richie said, "However, I happen to know just the lady for costumes."

Everyone felt uneasy as a large smile creeped across Richie's face.

After a short taxi ride through town, they arrived at a small row of shops. Each one seemed more run-down than the last. Richie led the group to a boarded up storefront. "Here we are. Mena will be super glad for the business!"

"She doesn't expect payment does she? I'm not paying some lady for this. Can we bill the JLA?" Kacia snarled.

"I'm sure that's not how we make a good first impression. Sort of like using a boarded up store as a base of operations. That doesn't scream 'I'm-a-shady-lady'." Anasha threw out.

Geena and Kacia chuckled as Richie shot them both dirty looks. He continued to walk to the front door, ignoring his laughing cohorts. Slowly he opened door, the rusty hinges squeaking and scraping along. It seemed as though the light from outside was swallowed up by an unnatural darkness inside the store. Richie entered and seemed to vanish from sight. Geena grabbed Kacia by the arm and squeezed it tightly, fear starting to move through her mind.

"Don't worry Geena, we're all together. Nothing is impossible while we're together. Strength in numbers and all that." Kacia said softly, unsure who she was trying to reassure more. Her feline senses were still developing, but even her new vision couldn't seem to pierce the darkness in front of them. She extended her claws and slowly stepped toward the doorway.

A cold chill ran up her spine as Anasha moved past her. Small blizzards danced around her hands as she took the lead and entered into the store. Kacia and Geena took her lead and geared up for anything. Kacia could feel her senses go wild as her ears started twisting and turning at every noise, discerning for a threat no one could see. Her eyes dilated wildly attempting to adjust to the unnatural darkness. She felt Geena slip off her arm and she took a defensive pose.

Geena raised both of her hands in front of her, allowing her power to flow or to the tips of her fingers and back into her core, ready at a moments notice to unleash a rage of stones. As the small group passed the threshold they were overcome by a blinding light and the sounds and smells of a spring garden. Geena raised her hands to shield her eyes, and once she felt adjusted lowered them.

They stood in a small backyard garden, brick walls rising on either side as though they were inside of the buildings walls. Looking up, the ceiling was missing allowing natural light to pour inside on all of the plants. A small pond sat off to the left, with fish splashing about inside. A small stone path twisted down the center towards a small porch.

There sat Richie with a small woman, hunched over an old looking sewing machine as her hands deftly wove fabric together. Occasionally she would peak over her glasses at Richie, briefly, before continuing on with her craft. The three girls moved towards them slowly, confused.

"Richie, what the hell is this place?" Anasha demanded.

"Ladies this is is Meribelle. She's got a unique job and gift. I found her through Booster Gold." Richie said, remaining as still as he could. "She has the ability to look at someone with Meta powers and create a costume for them tailored to their body, fighting style, and powers. Each one is unique."

"And where does she get the fabric? It can't all be made out of that old sewing machine and that gross grey fabric." Geena stated as a matter of fact.

"Actually, Miss Know-It-All, she does. Somehow she channels her power through the machine and it transforms the fabric. I don't know the exacts, but it's how it works. The only draw is you have to sit until it's done."

The girls all watched as Meribelle deftly pulled more grey fabric from a basket at her feet as she continued to sew pieces together. The fabric looked like a storm cloud and seemed to become infused with life as it passed under the needle of her machine. It was entrancing to watch Meribelle work, and the sky never seemed to darken or move. After a long while of sitting and staring, Meribelle pulled the finished costume out from her machine. Slowly the fabric unfolded and unfurled before her, as though the individual pieces had a mind of their own. She handed the costume to Richie and with a wave of her hand a curtain moved around him creating a dressing area for him to change.

Shortly after the curtains closed they reopened revealing Richie in his new outfit. It was form fit to his body, a half cape hanging off the back. The material was still a dull, restless grey color. Confusion peppered the faces of the girls, and Richie soon realized why: his costume was still strangely colored. Meribelle walked over and smiled. "You forgot the hood."

She pulled the hood up over his head and almost instantly the costume flared to life with rich hues. The suit was mostly a deep blue with a large yellow cross on the chest. The girls were amazed. The costume seemed to match Richie exactly. It had an over the top flare, but a controlled elegance. Richie admired the work that was done and thanked Meribelle.

"The first one is free. Always. If you damage it or need repairs, that'll cost you. Who's next?" Meribelle asked with a large smile on her face.