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Issue Four, New Arrivals

(A recap of last issue takes up a few frames.)

Screams echoed up from the hole in the deck and three figures exploded up out of the depths. The first was clad in the grey remnants of some kind of scientific looking protective suit. Wreaths of fire and sparks danced around his form as he sailed out of the hole and landed hard near the edge. The second figure was smaller and sailed quite a bit further before landing. He twisted in the air and took much of the sting out of the impact in a graceful roll coming to his feet at the end of it. The final figure went straight up the column of fire. His skin was hard and rocklike, and small stubby wings stuck out of his back. Even as the heroes and villians watched, he gave a strange shudder and his skin became greyer and stonier and the wings shot out another few feet and then began to beat supporting him in the air. He wore only the tatters of clothing around his loins, the rest having been shredded as he changed form.

The fire collapsed back into the hole. For a long moment, everyone (except the unconscious Frostorm) regarded each other in some consternation.

The White Knight moved quickly to where Frostorm lay sprawled on the deck and delivered a quick coup de grace. The then skirted the ice and moved toward the glowing man. "Identify yourselves" he said to the new arrivals. "What have you done to the Platform?" He gave a long searching glance into the pit as he moved by it on his way.

The man he was approaching waved his hand in the air in what looked like an instinctive warding gesture as the White Knight came near him. Sparks flew from the White Knights armour and coruscated around his head.

Fervor tried to keep the horror from his eyes as the platform he was standing on cracked and threw him from his feet. "Great, What else could go wrong now," he thought, just before seeing the three new creatures in front of him. Fervor glanced up towards the sky, "That was meant to be rhetorical."

Fervor climbed to his feet and backed away to more solid ground while waiting to see what was going to happen next.

The Wanderer appeared to remain shaken up by the wrenching platform and stayed down. But there was something eerie in the attentiveness he directed at the fallen man near him, as The Wanderer's eyes bore into his prone form with unfettered concentration. There seemed to be a vague ripple in the air between them, like a heat mirage.

The small man grunted, then slowly rose to his feet. "There's something wrong with my body," he cried. "I feel heavy but somehow ... wired!"

"Something wrong with *your* body?" shrieked the Gargoyle fluttering over the inferno, "Look at me!"

"Darren! What do we do?" asked the small man (let's call him Mongoose, shall we?).

"What do you think? Let's get the hell out of here," replied the man in front of the White Knight (let's call him Firefist). Suiting action to word, Firefist rolled to his feet and ran toward the ladder.

"Right," replied Mongoose, and he moved with an odd heavy lope to the ladder and down. The gait was odd, but the speed was undeniable.

"Works for me," said the Gargoyle, and he flapped to the edge of the platform where he hovered and waited.

Python took that moment to act, she stood and raced to where the fallen Frostorm lay and scooped him tossing him over her shoulder.

The shock of the explosion and the heat of the fire combined to melt off the last shards of the sheet of ice on the deck.

"Is it something I said?" Fervor asked the White Knight as he watched everyone try to depart. "Where are they going without a boat?"

He shrugged and returned to a known quantity raising his hands and sending a blast of heat toward Python, but the shot went wide.

"Not so fast," Glory shouted, as Python lifted Frostorm, lashing out with her quarterstaff at Python's legs, aiming to trip her. "Someone's going to pony up some answers first!"

Python shifted her weight and reached out to grab the incoming staff, she caught it and yanked, pulling the overbalanced Glory down to the deck.

The Wanderer got back to his feet and approached the oncoming Firefist, placing himself in front of the ladder. "Just a minute. Who are you and what happened down there?" said The Wanderer in a non-threatening manner.

Python looked down at Glory with an expression of disdain, "Goodbye, fool!" She kicked and Glory skidded along the deck to the edge of the hole, tipped over and fell in!

A scream erupted from the hole and a flare of light shot out of the hole, lending an odd greenish tinge to the scene of the fight.

Python alone seemed unaffected by the scream and raced across the deck without sparing a glance into the hellish pit in the center of the deck.

Firefist responded to The Wanderer's challenge with a few short words, "You idiot! Someone sabotaged the platform, and the entire thing could explode any minute! Now get the hell out of the way! "

During this time he moved over to the top of the ladder, and when the Wanderer tried to cut him off, he snapped, "I said stay clear!" He raised a hand as if to shove the Wanderer and a wash of green radiation shot out at the other man. Firefist seemed almost as surprised at this as the Wanderer did.

The Wanderer tried to move clear of the radiation, but was caught full on. He slumped to the ground unconcious.

The White Knight seemed to be having trouble with his armour. His hands flew over the suit, panels flipped open, and switches were tripped.

"White Knight, Try to take out their transport. I'll try to get to Glory." Fervor yelled to the armored hero as he raced to where Glory disapeared.

A strange greenish glow filled the gap and quite some distance down, Fervor saw Glory writhing in a greenish mist. Her body seemed to be shifting before his eyes.

Glory reached up to Fervor in a gesture pleading for aid.

The radiation burned her skin, her bones, her mind as it changed her, at first horribly, her skin bubbling, her arms twisting in horrific ways, much like the arms of an octopus.

"I can't just leave her there," Fervor thought to himself as he saw Glory lying in the radiation.

He looked around and saw the cargo crane by the crates. He raced toward it.

Python continued her charge toward the side, nearly colliding with Fervor.

Firefist started down the ladder.

"Glory, I'll be right back." Fervor yelled to Glory as he raced to the crane.

"Flyguy," Fervor added to the flying gargoyle. "Help me get Glory out of this mess. I don't know what happened here yet but leaving her would be murder."

"Fervor, you get Python and the others as you have a ranged attack, I'll go for Glory." The White Knight snapped out the order.

He took a couple of steps to the edge of the pit then dropped into the hole, using a line from his left gauntlet to slow his descent. As he descended into the green miasma of radiation, sparks began to build up a few centimeters out from his body, until he seemed to be covered in arcing light. The other heroes had seen evidence of his force field before, but never in quite such an obvious form.

He landed at the bottom, and crossed to where Glory lay.

"Darn, Too many quarterbacks." Fervor said to himself as he changed direction and headed for Python.

"Stop! Python and Frosty might not care about being on America's most wanted, but you three are new. Don't let a moment of panic determine the next 10 to 20 years of your life." Fervor yelled to the fleeing trio.

Fervor cut loose a wash of heat at Python as she raced by, then another. Even encumbered as she was, Python tried to roll clear, but couldn't avoid the full impact.

The trio by the ladder didn't seem inclined to heed Fervor's instructions, and continued their flight. The Gargoyle dropped below the level of the platform as Firefist continued to climb down.

The Wanderer could see the boat that heroes had arrived in beginning to move around to the East; perhaps Wilkins had decided not to take them all on himself.

An enraged Python turned on Fervor, dropping Frostorm. "So, you wish to challenge me?" she cried, lancing a foot at the Hot-headed Hero. Obviously still a bit woozy from Fervor's blast, he was able to easily evade the blow.

Fervor took advantage of Python's mis-timed blow and fired a short burst of heat at her. At this range, there was nearly no way he could miss. She tried to dodge, but had no room to move.

Fervor said, "Surrender!" but Python didn't seem inclined, swinging woozily at him. He punched back, and she reached out to try to throw him down, but moved way too slow, and Fervor's punch landed cleanly. Python dropped to the ground next to Frostorm.

At that moment, the platform gave a lurch and settled about a foot into the water, providing some clue as to why the trio was abandoning ship so quickly -- the platform was sinking.

The White Knight scooped Glory up and made for a large hole in the wall of the platform right at water level. He got to the edge and looked out to see Wilkins bringing the boat around.

Suddenly, Glory thrashed and screamed, a crazed look came into her eye and she swung a fist at a startled White Knight, catching him by surprise. The blow sent the armoured hero sailing out into the water but he appeared more surprised than hurt.

Glory snarled and readied herself to leap, then her eyes rolled up into her head and she collapsed forward into the water. Glory herself now seemed to be giving off a greenish glow, although it dimmed when she went into the water.

Wilkins brought the boat to a position between the White Knight and Glory. The White Knight grabbed the side of the boat and hauled himself in, then reached over the side to haul Glory into the boat.

Glory's mouth moved in muted attempts to speak, but all the White Knight could hear were weak sounds of torment and suffering. She writhed in excruciating agony, unable to crawl, stand or even move. All she knew was pain.

The Knight must have thought she was trying to communicate to him, but she was simply in another world. One comprised only of torturous misery that didn't include anyone else but her.

On top of the platform, Fervor took a moment to make sure that Python would stay out of the fight for a while then looked around. The Wanderer was rising to his feet and looking north at the boat containing the three strange men. It was rapidly accellerating away, and as Fervor and The Wanderer watched, it rose gracefully up out of the water until is was perched on thin skis.

"Wanderer, Can you get both of us onto that boat?" Fervor said as he watched the three villains speed off.

The Wanderer looked over to Fervor and with a sigh of exhaustion said, "They are going too fast and too far for me to be of any help."

"Wilkins!" Fervor then shouted to the boat "Can you have a chopper follow those three while getting Glory some medical attention? We'll see what we can do about stopping this green glow."

"Great!" The sultan of heat thought to himself as he looked around the station for something he knew would float. "I barely passed freshman chemistry and now I have to stop a green glow."

Fervor continued his inspection of the area as he continued his conversation with the Wanderer. "Let's see if we can find some information on what was actually happening out here. Maybe a computer or a journal. Anything that might give us a hint as to what we are dealing with."

"Yes, there must be something here that can explain some of this. And while I can't get the actors...perhaps I can retrieve the script." The Wanderer, turned toward the sea, pinched his nose, and with a smart wave stepped off the platform.

The Wanderer landed in the water with a splash and promptly sank. In the boat, Glory writhed in pain, her eyes focusses into the middle distance on some sight only she could see. The White Knight was nearby watching in horror. On the deck of the rapidly sinking platform, Fervor looked around for clues.

Wilkins finished shouting something into a small hand-held radio, then yelled up at Fervor, "Come on! When that thing sinks, it'll take us with it unless we get some distance!"

Not needing to be told twice and not accomplishing anything in his search, Fervor jumped onto the ship with Wilkins and the gang.

"Let's go," Fervor said as he landed.

Glory groaned as she tried to roll over. As she struggled toward consciousness, the first feeling she had aside from pain was one of heat. A moment of lucidity and she was remembering a time when she'd fallen asleep on the beach when she was a teenager and was badly sunburned.

My ears...are so hot. She fumbled to try to touch them, but her arms didn't want to respond. Her arms flailed at her sides as she attempted to do the simple act of touching her ears.

"My ears," she croaked. As she became more aware of her surroundings, she realized there were others around her. She couldn't remember anything. A sudden burst of panic washed over her. A quick mental inventory. She knew who she was, but she couldn't remember the last...what? Day? Week? Year?

What had happened to her? Why couldn't she remember? She felt her heart pounding in her chest, in her head. And she remembered pain. Her head was blazing hot, pounding and hurt beyond anything she'd ever known.

"God." The single word was all she could manage as she used up the last of the moisture in her throat.

Now she was mute, and the panic overrode the pain, making her temporarily forget the agony that she'd known for the last...GOD!! She couldn't remember!

The heat was too much. Somehow she knew there was water nearby. With single-minded effort, she raised her self on to--and them with a vehement push--into the ocean.

Fervor hesitated for only a second as he stared at the water. He appeared to swallow a breath instead of inhaling and ran for the side ship Glory pushed herself over. Fervor didn't look anything like the hero seen before or any hero at all but more like a young child taunted by his friends, screaming at the top of his lungs, leaping for the sky off of the highest diving board. As his feet left the deck the maestro of heat closed his eyes tight and kept them closed until after he hit the water and was below the surface. A bit of steam rose from the spot where Fervor hit the water.

Once encased in water Fervor fought to keep the scream from stealing his air. To keep the scream only in his head, he searched for Glory, motions jerky and frantic, the fire in his body threatening to erupt. He forced the memory of the pain away with the image of Glory's face and used it as an anchor for his sanity as he pushed forward deeper into the water.

Fervor managed to get an arm looped around Glory's body and reached out toward the boat. The White Knight and Wilkins were able to drag them in. Glory had passed out again, which in a way was a blessing.

Wilkins brought the boat around and headed away. A few moments later, the research platform tilted sideways and sank into the ocean. Wilkins turned the boat toward shore, a few minutes after that a helicopter appeared on the horizon and was soon hovering over the boat. The heroes and Wilkins placed the unconcious Glory into the stretcher the copter lowered, another trip was made for the poor pilot of the ship who was still shivering from the cold. Finally a replacement pilot was lowered, and Wilkins grabbed hold of the cable. "The pilot here will get you home, we'll be in touch. I'll have a team waiting at the docks to handle those two," he waved at Frostorm and Python.

The boat docked at one of the piers, and the two heroes watched as an IPAC team loaded the two villians into a waiting van.

"Well if we are not needed here, I'd like to see how Glory is doing." Fervor said to the armored hero. "She looked pretty bad."

Fervor walked a little farther not saying a word and thinking to himself before piping in with a question. "Have you seen someone hurt like that before? I am fairly new to this and I guess I forgot how dangerous being a hero can be. With the adrenaline pumping, I feel invincible. I never worry that all it takes is one unlucky hit might end my career. Then something like this happens and I'm forced to think about it...even knowing that I'll forget it again tomorrow if I'm needed. You know what I mean?"

"Hmmm, no I don't recall anything like that before," the White Knight replied. "I think that after we check on Glory we should try to find out just what research was being done on that platform. See whether that ties in with the tremors, or whether they are a separate phenomenon. Also, we need to find background details on the personnel from the platform. They seemed to be shocked by their transformations, and may be dangers to both themselves and the public. We need to find them soon. As to what Frostorm, Python, and Wanderer were doing there, perhaps Wilkins can find out during interrogation. And what was the box that fell into the water? Did Wanderer locate it? What does he plan to do with it? We seem to have more questions than answers...

Fervor continued after a moment, "So do you think that two heroes like ourselves could sneak in a banana split to Glory? She'd seems to be more of a beer person but I'm sure that she full of meds. Besides I have been told that hot fudge does have powerful restorative powers ..."

"Indeed it does," came the reply. I've hated hospitals since the accident..."

The White Knight stopped himself as he realized what he had said, and he paused for a moment.

"I suppose you ought to know... I was severely injured in an accident a few years ago, and spent months in hospital recovering. The doctors doubted that I'd ever walk again, but I was determined to make a full recovery. I built a pair of powered braces for my legs and lower back to relearn to walk, gradually reducing the power. My suit is based on a development of those braces. So tell me, since we're sharing," the Knight added with a grin, how did you acquire your abilities?" "Luck, I think, Though at the time I didn't look at it that way." Fervor replied. "You ever see a fresh lobster cooked? Well, that would be pretty close to how I learned of my abilities. It is not one of my better memories."

"We are going to need three banana splits, if we keep up this kind of talk." Fervor said with a forced lightness in his voice. "Let's go see how Glory is doing."

The two heroes climbed aboard the van as the crew finished transferring the prisoners. "Coming along?" asked the driver. When the heroes replied in the affirmative, he nodded and said, "Good. Won't say no to a little extra firepower -- just in case."

The van quickly sped out of town and up into the mountains. The heroes noted again the security surrounding the Para-Normal Detention Facility.

Upon arriving at the PNDF, another team and Mr. Wilkins were waiting. The team started to hustle the prisoners off into the PNDF, Wilkins greeted the heroes. "I'm glad you decided to come along."

"We're here to check on Glory. I thought she would be in a hospital. I hope this means she's doing well." Fervor told Wilkins.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but Glory is in a hospital; we have a fully equipped hospital at the PNDF, with some facilities that most hospitals have never dreamed of," Wilkins replied. "Come this way."

Wilkins continued to speak as he led the heroes into the PNDF, through layer after layer of security, "We rushed Glory here as soon as we could, although we nearly crashed coming in; the radiation she was giving off almost knocked the pilot out. I still feel a bit woozy myself. We put her into one of the isolation wards. This one, in fact."

Wilkins stopped in front of a glassed in observation window. Below them was a hospital bed and on it lay Glory, wrapped head to toe in white smocking.

"We really don't know what's happening here," Wilkins said. "Those are lead lined vests we've got her wrapped in. The doctors noticed that she seemed calmer when they were picking her up in their lead lined suits, and one guessed that for some reason the loss of radiation was paining her." He paused, "I guess it makes sense, that energy's coming from somewhere, if it's coming from her, then losing it means she's losing energy."

"You can see she's calmer now, sleeping, we think. The doctor's are running every test they know and any they can make up." Wilkins looked down and for the first time, the heroes saw a human being looking out from behind the IPAC man's eyes, "She's a good agent, I'd hate to lose her."


Glory was thankfully unconscious. Deep in the recesses of her mind, she dreamed. Quick, staccato images of her and her father, much like a slide show shown at insane speeds. Her body hurt and her mind rebelled.

The doctors and nurses did what they could, but her exposure was off the charts. She'd received a lethal dose scores of times over and all they could do for her was to try and mitigate the pain. Short of running the morphine wide open, there was little they could do.

They had to look in on her from behind heavily shielded glass, she emanated such deadly radiation. Which was unusual. And made them curious. Where was the tissue fatigue? The joint deterioration? Her filtering organs (the kidneys, the liver) should have shut down, but they remained strong. She writhed in pain, yet her heart rate was a steady fifty-four beats a minute, unchanged from her last (pre-exposure) physical.

They continued to study her. And wait for the inevitable.

Glory dreamed. Naked, but unafraid. Looked down upon not with leering eyes, but ones that cared for her. Stern, like her father's. No--concerned. Her father wasn't here. And she wasn't dreaming.

Her entire body ached. That's funny, she thought. Something's changed. It had seemed like forever she'd been in agony, and now her body only ached.

She opened her eyes, but couldn't see. She felt something brush against her eyelashes and when she tried to lift her hand to feel what it might be, she found she couldn't budge her arm! A wave of panic coursed through her body much like trying to fill a drinking glass with a fire hose. She was paralyzed! No, she couldn't be! She could feel her arms and legs moving, but only slightly. She was trapped. She had to escape!

A cry escaped from her lips as she struggled to be free. She was held fast with only the slightest room to move. She strained outward, against the fabric that held her. She was rewarded with the sound of ripping fabric, and another sound, like sand or heavy dirt. As she began to succeed to break free, she felt the power in her arms and legs like she'd never known before. It built, adding to itself...feeding, as a chain reaction would.

Suddenly, she burst out of her cocoon, her arms accelerating downward as she shredded the remaining fabric, crashing into the platform on which she lay, uttering destroying the supports underneath. She crashed to the floor, spilling onto the cold tile. With just the same sudden fury with which she escaped, she now drew into a small fetal ball and began to whimper. And glow.

"Cold...c-c-c-coold," she exhaled, her teeth chattering.

Men in protective suits burst in and quickly swaddled her in special protective gauze. They lay further, heavier, jackets under and on top of her and she seemed to quiet down and soon stopped shivering.

"Boy, that really does this trick," one of the men said.

"Good to see that there is a top notch facility here. With what you guys go up against it probably gets a bit of use." Fervor told Wilkins. "Well I think I'll go in there and say hello if nobody minds."

Wilkins stopped Fervor, "I wouldn't go in there unshielded. Hold on." Wilkins stepped to the door and called through it. A moment later another man joined them in the room. "Go with Jackson, he'll get you suited up."

Shortly Fervor, clad in a radiation suit, entered the room where Glory lay helpless. "Hey, Just thought I would stop by and see how you are doing. They tell me your radiating energy like a broken microwave. Well, it will confuse the the city having two hot heroes and you would have to change your name to something like RadChick. Better off if you just get better," Fervor said trying to keep his voice light and using humor to ward off the awkwardness that exists in most hospital rooms where you are powerless to do anything.

After a few more moments, a hazard-suited doctor appeared, "I'm afraid you have to go now, she needs her rest and it's time for some treatment." Fervor was led back to the viewing room where Wilkins and The White Knight waited.

Below, doctors, nurses and technicians were busily setting up equipment around Glory. Wilkins watched for a moment, then said, "We're done here, I think. Gentlemen?" He indicated the door. "If you would be so kind as to take a few moments for debriefing it would be appreciated." As before, clerks were waiting to take the heroes statements.

Map of Research Platform
Issue Five

Last Updated 24 April 2000