A.N. Muhahahahaha! I actually had the basic idea for this story around the same time as A New Team but now I'm finally fleshing it out and putting it out there.
This story, like all my stories lately, is part of the Earth 42 stuff I've been writing and putting together. Of those stories, I would recommend checking out A New Team for this, as it explains a couple things you see around the end of the chapter, but it's not completely necessary.
I recommend reading it anyways though because it is the first thing in my Earth 42 universe as well, and I'm quite proud of it.
Anyways, enjoy the story!
Jack Spicer, Evil Boy Genius, frowned as he climbed out of his jet, hitting the ground with a loud thud, the noise echoing across the large and empty workshop. He groaned, simply laying on the ground for several minutes before his body protested the cold concrete. With a grunt of effort he forced himself up, grabbing the edge of a table and pulling himself upright, his body shaking for the moment.
Another Shen Gon Wu come and gone. It was almost like he didn't even matter anymore. The Xiaolin Dorks, as Jack referred to them as, had won again. He had managed to become part of the Showdown this time, but between Wuya, his former mentor, and Kimiko, the Xiaolin Dragon of Fire, he hadn't stood much of a chance, and lost his last Shen Gon Wu, the Monkey Staff.
Now he was Wuless, and the prospect of trying to steal some seemed slim, without the use of any Wu to begin with. Chase Young wouldn't even give him the time of day, despite everything he tried.
"Maybe you should stop looking for those useless trinkets and focus on something you're good at."
Jack spun around, an unfamiliar voice calling to him, holding up his hands.
"St-stay back! I'll have you know I can fight like the best of them!" Jack yelled, red eyes searching the room.
"Oh calm down if I wanted to hurt you, I would have..."
Jack frowned, lowering his hands as a figure stepped out from the shadows, grinning darkly. She was a tall teenage girl, with long black hair, orange tinted skin, and purple eyes. She wore a short black skirt and tube top, with some kind of flexible metal-like material over her shoulders, arms, midriff, and her legs, along with a pair of long black boots. A black gem sat just above her chest in the metal, and there was something...alien, about the girl.
"Who are you?" Jack frowned, narrowing his eyes, "Don't tell me you're another daughter of one of my parents' friends. Last time one of them came down here, did not end well."
Jack's look soured, recalling Katnappe. Even she beat him in fights...
The black haired girl laughed, then floated into the air suddenly, moving a little closer to Jack, "No, nothing so mundane as that. I suppose I should be disappointed that you don't know who I am, but then again your planet is so backwards."
"My...planet...?" Jack asked, raising an eyebrow, "You're...an alien?"
"Bingo!" the girl said, grinning and snapping her fingers, "I'm a Tamarian. Ever hear of the Titans?"
Jack paused, rubbing his chin, then nodded, "Yah, some goody goodies in California. Only know of them nominally, some of the Evil Villain Forum goers have run ins with them."
"Oh there's a forum?" the girl said, rubbing her eyebrow now, looking almost amused, "Just what have I been missing out on?"
She laughed dryly, Jack looking confused as the girl floated around, stopping at a wreck of a robot, peering at it. "What happened to this one?"
"Spontaneous combustion of it's fuel cell when hit with a high kinetic force," Jack answered with a shrug, "Something I need to tweak in later models, need to increase it's force absorption, along stabilizing the fuel core."
The girl turned to Jack, raising an eyebrow.
"It blew up when it got kicked," Jack simplified, "And I don't want that to happen again."
"Ah," the girl said, "With all these robots and toys, seems like you could fix that issue..."
Jack snorted, "Yah, if I had the time. Fixes like that don't happen overnight, unless I'm very lucky. I need time to make and test things, and most of the time I have to rely on prototypes. And then if they get wrecked, I have to start over in the building..."
The girl smiled slightly, floating a little closer towards Jack. The pale teenage boy found himself turning a little red. This alien girl was attractive...
"And you don't have the time because of those...Shen Gon Wu, right?" the girl asked, "They appear randomly?"
"More or less," Jack answered, "There might be some kind of pattern, but if there is neither the Xiaolin Dorks or I have been able to figure it out. Sometimes I get a week, maybe a day or two."
"And you'll fight with them bare handed?" the girl asked again, "Doesn't that seem...silly?"
"Well I'll use Wu," Jack answered with a shrug, "What else am I suppose to do?"
The girl frowned, almost glaring at Jack, "God, you are an idiot."
"Hey!" Jack yelled, "What the heck do you mean by that?"
The girl laughed, holding her head back for a few moments, then cut the laugh short, glaring hard at Jack Spicer.
"Look, I did my research before I came here. Everyone I talked to called you a loser, a wanna be, a no one. Someone not to waste their time with. But I looked a bit deeper. You do have talent, something I think would be very useful to me. You're just not focusing on it."
"And what do you mean by that?" Jack asked, folding his arms over his chest, debating on summoning his few working Jack-Bots to show this girl out.
The girl sighed, looking to the side, tapping her chin in idle thought for a moment, "Say there's a guy who's great at playing the piano. He knows he's great at it, and if he just focused on it, he could probably accomplish a lot of what he wants to do. But instead he spends his time trying to master the long jump, when everyone around him is better then him at it by ten fold. He insists he's good at the long jump, despite all evidence to the contrary."
"...I don't know how to play the piano though..." Jack said, and the black haired girl face palmed, groaning softly before looking back at Jack.
"Okay, maybe a metaphor isn't the way to go," the girl said, "You're good with machines. I could see that, even under your idiocy and stubbornness to charge at opponents much stronger then you without your best strengths. Have you ever thought of...ohhh...I don't know, building a robotic suit?"
Jack opened his mouth, holding up a finger to retort, then paused, closing his mouth and staring critically at the girl.
"Well...yah...any super evil genius worth his salt has thought about it," Jack answered with a shrug, "But there's a lot of factors. You can't just build it in pieces. You have to build it all at once. You can make an arm but you can't exert any force unless it's got something backing it so you don't wrench a socket. Then you have to build the frame, and the frame's gotta be flexible enough, but then you need to make it sturdy...Give me like half a year and I could build one I would be happy with, and then I'd need time to test it..."
"What if you had a blueprint to use, something to base it on?" the girl asked now, turning to look more at the workshop.
Jack blew out a breath, thinking quickly, "Well let's see, assuming materials aren't a problem...maybe a week? It would depend on the blueprints, and what I'd need to make. I'd want to do some tweaking, make it more of my own, you know? Say two, three weeks tops."
The girl smiled brightly, then turned to Jack, "And I've been so rude. I haven't even introduced myself yet. My name is Blackfire. Heard of me?"
"...No...?" Jack said, then flinched, fearing that the girl would hit him. Blackfire just laughed again, shaking her head.
"This is only my second visit to Earth, and my first visit was fairly low key," Blackfire said, "Unless you're subscribed to an interstellar newsletter, I doubt you'd have heard of me."
"I have a Twitter..." Jack said almost sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head.
"A what? Never mind," Blackfire said, shaking her head when Jack opened his mouth to start explaining, "I don't want to waste the brain cells. Anyways, I have a proposition for you."
"I've been burned on super villain team ups before," Jack said, frowning and crossing his arms over his chest, becoming defensive, "Besides, I have Wu to find and take."
"Yes, I saw your last battle. Lost pitifully. Do you even have any of that...Wu...left?" Blackfire asked, smirking at the red haired male.
Jack scowled, refusing to answer and just looked to the side.
"Look, you're being distracted by those trinkets," Blackfire said, "You have to play to your strengths. Didn't you have ambition before you started this whole Wu thing?"
"Well...yah..." Jack answered, rubbing his arm, "Then I got that puzzle box, there was Wuya, and the Wu started activating..."
"And you got fixated on it," Blackfire said, shaking her head, the floated until she was in front of Spicer, landing on the ground. She was taller then the boy, Jack looking up at her face and trying very hard not to look lower down. "I want to offer you a deal, Spicer. Work with me. I want to put together a team. People with talent. We can help each other. Forgot the Wu...work with me, and you'll go places...heck, if you want to later, I can help you get revenge on those enemies of yours. What do you say?"
Jack frowned, looking off to the side now. It was...tempting. He would like to get back to working on his robots, and he was out of Wu. Even his neglectful parents were beginning to wonder about the bruises and abrasions Jack came home with many times.
"Come on...you need to get out of your rut. I even know where to get those blueprints for your suit," Blackfire pressed, "Ever been to New York City?"
The red haired evil genius paused, looking thoughtful, "Iron Man? How the heck would we get those blueprints?"
"Easy," Blackfire answered, "His armor's schematics have been found. There's Stark Industries, Hammer International...probably a few back alley places too. Should be simple to steal."
Jack took a deep breath, then sighed faintly, "Alright then. I might as well give it a shot. If anything maybe those Xiaolin losers will think I've given up, and then BAM I can show back up and take them by surprise."
"That's the spirit," Blackfire smiled, holding out her hand, "We will have to recruit a few more. I want a team after all."
"Hey, just as long as I'm an equal," Jack said, shaking Blackfire's hand, wincing slightly at the girl's strength and his own bruised hand, "I've had too many team ups where I got burned..."
A figure in black moved through the halls, ducking behind a wall as a flashlight played over where he had been moments before. The security guard frowned, but shrugged and moved on. The figure in black smirked beneath his skull mask, then darted forward again, moving silently.
He stopped in front of large metal door, looking down at a keypad. He produced an odd looking card, inserting it into the slot. After a few seconds it beeped, and the door opened, Red X darted in, his hand flashing up and placing a small red X on a security camera. It sparked for a few moments, then started playing the interior of the elevator on loop, only showing it empty to anyone watching the video feed.
Red X stood inside now, tapping out a code inside the elevator, and the elevator began to move, going downwards. He jumped up now, pushing against the edges of the top of the elevator, handing there quietly as the elevator came to a stop.
The door opened and Red X braced himself, waiting for the security guards to investigate. After a few moments, nothing happened, and the door began to close on it's own. The thief frowned, then swung down, moving between the doors before they closed on him, producing a red X to throw in case of some kind of ambush.
Nothing. This was unusual, and Red X wasn't someone to think he was lucky until the job was over and done with. He stepped forward carefully, pausing when he heard a grunt. He spotted a security desk, and walked over to it. There was two men in uniform, one of them still unconscious and propped against the chair. A second was beginning to wake up. Both were tied up tightly, and Red X looked around.
So he wasn't the only one looking to find something here...
He bent down and sprayed the guard who was gaining consciousness with a red spray, knocking him back out, then straightened up slowly, mentally playing through his next steps. Whoever was here had a head start on him, but Red X was certain that they hadn't left yet.
Red X walked forward, admiring everything here. Oscorp was a very rich biotech company, and any one thing here could set him up for quite a while if he wanted to take it and sell to one of their competitors, like Biosyn.
But that wasn't why he was here. He was after a very specific item, and know he knew that so was someone else, hearing the small noises of someone working on not being heard.
A large safe was open just slightly, and Red X came to a stop just outside, pressing himself against the wall, listening carefully.
"Come to momma now, you beautiful piece of goo...You're going to make me very, very rich..." Red X heard. A girl...Interesting.
Red X took a deep breath, producing one of his Xes and waited patiently. After a few minutes the door to the safe opened, and Red X spun, bringing his X around in a quick jab, startling the white haired girl who was coming out.
A clear case containing a black sludge-like thing flew from the girl's hands, and Red X leaped forward, taking advantage of the other thief's surprise, grabbing it in mid air and landing carefully, turning.
A foot flew towards him, faster then he expected, knocking him backwards and slamming him into a hard metal wall. He kept hold of the case, looking up and smirking beneath his mask.
The white haired girl lowered her leg, smirking back. Her hair was long, and she wore a black mask along with a black cat suit, flexing her hands slightly.
"I've heard of you," Red X said, rubbing his chin, "Quite a kick, Black Cat."
"There's more where that came from if you don't hand that over," Black Cat said, her eyes darting towards the case in Red X's left hand. Red X stood up carefully, tossing the case up into the air before grabbing it as it came back down.
"Tell you what. You're quite a cute thief, and I'm smart enough to know a fight between us will probably alert security and get us both in trouble and without a paycheck between either of us," Red X said, "Let's split this, 50/50. And I'll treat you to dinner, wherever you want, out of my half."
Black Cat smiled slyly, walking forward but stopped outside of attack range for either of the two, tapping her chin, "But I was here first. I did most of the work. Make it 80/20, and I'll pay for the dinner."
"Oh ho ho," Red X said, "I think I'm in love, kitty. But those private islands to retire to don't pay for themselves. Tell you what, how much were you offered for this? 500 mil for me."
"Same here," Black Cat answered, "Don't ask me who though. A lady doesn't kiss and tell."
"Wouldn't ask you to," Red X said, tossing the black goo from one hand to the other, "But I'm not a lady. Guy named Dodgson, from Biosyn."
Black Cat looked startled now, then narrowed her eyes. "Okay then...something's up. That's who hired me..."
Red X frowned as well. The same man hired too different people to get the same object for him, without telling the other, "Well that's odd. Wonder what his game is..."
"We could find out," Black Cat said, then turned to the door, "We should get out of here, discuss specifics somewhere more appropriate."
Red X grinned, following the girl. He had no real reason to trust her, and she him, but she was cute, and even if she double crossed him, he'd have fun, and no real loss. He preferred working for himself then for someone as it was.
Red X and Black Cat froze. Neither of them had said those two words, and they glanced towards each other. Black Cat jumped upwards, latching unto the ceiling. Red X ducked behind a wall of computer data, pulling out another X.
Two security guards appeared, shining their flashlights around, nervous. They had seen what happened to the other two.
"Shit, the vault's open!" one of them said, noticing the door to the vault was ajar. He hurried forward, opening it up and peering inside.
Red X heard a hiss, and Black Cat swung down kicking the back of the security guard, forcing him into the vault. Red X jumped forward, throwing his X at the second, knocking the gun from his hand. The guard stumbled, clutching his hand now, before reaching for his radio.
Red X threw another X, this one embedding itself into the radio, causing sparks and destroying it. He darted at the man, punching him hard in the gut and forcing him to double over, before spinning around and slamming his elbow into the back of his head, knocking him to the ground, down and out.
He looked up, seeing Black Cat cracking the case of the radio of the other guard, having finished him off and stepping out of the vault.
"Just leave 'em, we should get out now, before they notice these guy's absences," Black Cat said, "Besides, they probably called in those other two guards earlier."
"Right...here, hold tight to me kitty," Red X said, stepping forward and putting an arm around Black Cat, who raised an eyebrow at him.
"A little forward there, don't you think? You haven't even bought me that dinner yet," the white haired girl chuckled, as Red X pressed a button on his belt.
"Just keeps your arms and legs inside at all times and enjoy the ride, babe," Red X smirked, as he and Black Cat suddenly vanished, disappearing into thin air.
Black Cat stumbled on the rooftop, falling to her hands and knees and breathing deeply, closing her eyes and sucking in air, trembling.
"Sorry about that," Red X said, "It can be a little difficult, with your first time and all. I'll try to take it slower, if you want."
"I'm fine," Black Cat said, pushing herself up and shaking her hair out slightly, "I got to say though, that's one nifty trick for a getaway...now that we're out of danger..."
Her eyes looked towards the capsule on Red X's belt, hooked there earlier. The black goop in it moved, pressing against it's confines, wanting to get out.
Red X pulled it off his belt, then tossed it to Black Cat, the girl catching it and staring at him, frowning at his gesture.
"I may be a thief, but I'm a gentleman," Red X said, "You were there first. Besides, I'd rather not deal with some guy who offers money to two different thieves. Something wrong about that."
"...I have to agree," Black Cat said, peering at the creature in the capsule, "I was paid to capture this thing a bit ago. But Spider-Man somehow got a hold of it..."
She narrowed her eyes when she spoke the hero's name, clenching the capsule tightly.
"What the hero do to get you mad at him?" Red X asked, scratching his chin. "Or would you rather not talk about it?"
"It's...personal..." Black Cat said, "Let's leave it at that."
Red X opened his mouth to say something, then stopped, deciding that a smart-alek remark would not be the wisest thing to say at this point in time. Instead he just shrugged.
"It's dropped. Now then, why don't we-"
Red X stopped abruptly, turning suddenly and pulling out an X, spinning to the side and narrowing his eyes at a figure who was sitting on a nearby billboard.
"Hey don't mind me," Spider-Man said, "I was just webbing by and notice you two. Figured I'd stop by and say hello to some fellow rooftops denizens."
"Leave us, Spidey," Black Cat scowled, "I still haven't forgiven you."
Spider-Man frowned, jumping from the sign and landing lightly on the rooftop, "Look, I just want to know what's happening. I've been hearing about some thefts recently, and, well..."
He trailed off, knowing it would be obvious.
"Look boy scout, you can go crawl back to your web," Red X said, "Maybe you've caught yourself dinner by now."
"Ouch," Spider-Man said, miming an injury in his side, "That hurt buddy, and here I am just trying to...to..."
Spider-Man trailed off, seeing the capsule in Black Cat's hand, the black goop inside it reacting to it's first host's presence, trying vainly to get out.
"Oh no...no...not that...not the Symbiote...Where did you find that?" Spider-Man said, taking a few steps back, eyes widening, "You shouldn't have that!"
Spider-Man held up his hand, shooting web at the capsule now. Black Cat jumped back, avoiding the sticky substance, scowling at the red and blue suited hero.
"Found it just lying around," Red X answered, throwing several Xes at Spider-Man, one of them expanding to try and capture Spider-Man. The arachnid themed hero leaped into the air, avoiding the Xes and shot more web. Red X disappeared from view, reappearing ten feet to the side, the web missing him.
Spider-Man landed on the ground, crossing his arms and shooting web at Black Cat and Red X now.
"Listen to me, that thing's dangerous, it has to be destroyed!" Spider-Man said, "Trust me, please!"
"I'm never trusting you again, Spider-Man!" Black Cat yelled, jumping to avoid the web, darting at him and swiping with her claws, the symbiote hooked to her belt now. Spider-Man danced backwards, barely avoiding the claws.
Spider-Man suddenly jumped to the side, avoiding several Xes that embedded themselves in the ground where he was. Red X landed next to Black Cat, glancing towards her.
"We could warp out of here again, if you want," Red X suggested, "Though it seems like you have some anger to work out here."
Black Cat hesitated, glancing towards her fellow thief. The smart thing to do would be to escape...but she really wanted to punch Spider-Man.
Red X froze, turning as he heard a new voice, finding himself tackled by a green figure wearing a red hood. The two wrestled for a few moments, before Red X forced him off, the figure hitting the roof and picking himself up.
"Hey there TT," Spider-Man said, nodding to Turtle Titan, who grinned, nodding back. "Thought you couldn't patrol tonight."
"I, uhhh, snuck out," Michelangelo said, rubbing the back of his head, "Don't tell Splinter or the others."
"Your secret is safe with me...Besides, I'm glad you're here. We need to get that capsule from them," Spider-Man said, pointing to the Symbiote trapped in the capsule on Black Cat's belt.
"Gotcha!" Turtle Titan grinned, producing a nunchuck, spinning it around. "We Titans got to stick together..."
"A giant...turtle?" Red X said, "And I thought Jump City was weird."
He shrugged, then produced a few more Xes, ready to fight. Black Cat shifted her feet as well, glaring at the two heroes.
Spider-Man and Turtle Titan leaped forward, Michelangelo swinging his nunchucks at Red X, who blocked them with one of his Xes, darting to the side and bringing his foot around, slamming it into Turtle Titan's back, the turtle stumbling forward but otherwise unharmed, thanks to his hard shell.
Spider-Man shot several webs at Black Cat, then cried out in triumph, hooking the capsule and pulling it towards him.
Red X threw one of his Xes, slicing through the web, the capsule clattering to the ground and rolling towards Spider-Man. Spider-Man shot another web, but Red X vanished, reappearing by the capsule and grabbing it, scooping it up.
The web hit his arm instead, and Spider-Man tugged, Red X being pulled towards the red and blue clad hero. Red X used the momentum and twisted himself in the air, slamming his feet into Spider-Man's chest, knocking the hero back before spinning backwards and landing on the roof.
Turtle Titan appeared from the side, tackling Red X, wrestling with him, Red X slapping an X on Turtle Titan's chest, where it expanded and grabbed him. Red X pushed him off, grabbing the capsule and leaping backwards now.
Spider-Man shot balls of web at Red X, one of them knocking the capsule out of his hands, covering it in web, leaving behind several balls of web on the roof.
One of them contained the capsule.
Turtle Titan wrenched free of the giant X, and all four jumped for the balls of web, trying to find the capsule.
Just as Spider-Man reached for one, a blast of purple energy forced him backwards, the same with Turtle Titan.
A sleek black mini jet appeared above them, two figures grinning down. One was a girl with black hair, purple energy glowing from her hands.
"I really hate Titans..." the girl said, then held up her hands, forming a large ball of purple energy, throwing it down at Turtle Titan and Spider-Man, creating a large explosion, throwing them backwards, over the edge...
Blackfire sighed, landing down on the rooftops, glancing towards Red X and Black Cat. From the jet, supported by two whirling blades landed Jack Spicer, grinning at them.
"They're just lucky Blackfire here took care of them," Jack said, snapping his goggles on his head, then whined at the pain.
Blackfire rolled her eyes, then stepped towards Red X.
"Red X, right? I've heard about you...I like your style...I want to offer you a job...chance of a lifetime," Blackfire said, smiling at the thief.
"Tempting," Red X said, "But I have a previous engagement."
Blackfire frowned now, glancing to Black Cat, who was scowling as she tore open a ball of web, not finding anything.
"I'll triple whatever you're being paid," Blackfire said, "Or if that's not good enough, you can name your terms."
"Triple's plently. For me and her," Red X said, pointing a thumb towards Black Cat, "And she comes with. If you want me, you want a thief, and she's just as good as me."
"Better," Black Cat said, frowning as she stood up, "None of these have it..."
"Don't worry about it, we have a much better deal now," Red X said, "So let's go...we can discuss specifics in your plane."
"Yah, yah, just don't mess it up," Jack said with a scowl, rising up into the air with his heli-pack, "I just vacuumed it out."
Red X and Black Cat got into the jet, and the four took off...
Down in the alleyway, Spider-Man was breathing heavily, grabbing the edge of a fire escape with one hand, Turtle Titan hanging by his leg.
"You okay Mikey?" Spider-Man asked, "I know I have the proportional strength of a spider, but..."
"Yah, I'm fine dude!" Turtle Titan said, "Hold on..."
Spider-Man felt the weight from his leg disappear, and then a clatter of metal as Turtle Titan landed on the fire escape below him, "Alright, let's go!"
"But the Symbiote, we have to-"
"I got it," Michelangelo grinned, producing a ball of web from his shield. He tore it open, showing the case with the black Symbiote in it. "Managed to snag it right before we got hit with that energy. Now let's head out before they find out."
Spider-Man laughed, then nodded, "Yah...we have to figure out a way to destroy that thing...I tried once, and it didn't work..."
"We'll ask my bro Donny!" Mikey grinned, climbing down the fire escape, "He's good at all that science stuff."
Spider-Man nodded, climbing down after him, "Sounds good. I can let him know that it's weak to sonic vibrations too."
"Sonic whatsits?" Mikey said, scratching his head.
"...Loud noises," Spider-Man simplified, "And didn't you sneak out?"
"Oh yah..." Turtle Titan said, then chuckled, "Well this is more important anyways."
The two entered the sewers now, Mikey running around the side, with Spider-Man crawling along the wall, heading for the Turtle's home.
"So you want us to steal the Iron Man armor blue prints?" Red X said as Jack Spicer's jet shot through the darkness, heading back to Spicer's home, "That'll be a challenge...we have a couple different possibilities..."
Blackfire had introduced herself and Jack, neither of the two seeming to recognize Jack, though Red X had heard of Blackfire, having spent some time in Jump City.
"You need to get all the armor specs," Jack spoke up from the pilot's seat, "Not just one of them."
"No problem," Red X said, waving his hand idly, "Should be a lot of fun. So that's 150 mil, right?"
"Of course," Blackfire said, "Just as long as you don't mind it in gold and gems, and not cash."
"Sounds good to me. How about you, kitty?" Red X said, turning to Black Cat, who was in the seat next to him.
"I think we have a deal," Black Cat said, smiling. "Let's plan this heist..."
A.N. Blackfire is assembling a team, but to what ends? Will they be able to steal the Iron Man blueprints, and if they do can Jack actually build himself armor with them?
Find out next chapter, as the team splits to get their missions done...
Characters and universes:
Blackfire and Red X from Teen Titans (cartoon)
Jack Spicer from Xiaolin Showdown
Spider-Man and Black Cat from The Spectacular Spider-Man (cartoon)
Turtle Titan/Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 series)
Iron Man armor/references from Iron Man: Armored Adventures
Additional references: I hope you can spot it and know what it is!