Fall… Los Angeles, California… Noon…
She sat at her desk just staring at her computer screen in her cubicle. Things have changed for her lately but she was not sure if the changes were good ones or not. True, she just left a dead end job in the northern part of the state at a cable television channel that was going nowhere and getting there very fast. The best part about it was she is now an associate producer at the Los Angeles bureau of All News Network which is the world leader in news. It was a far cry from working with the last group as far as professionalism went. Not to mention, she got more money and less stress working with a certain individual who she thought as a pompous jerk but was the so-called top on air personality on the upstart network.
A male voice said from behind her, “Lunch time, Jai.”
Jai Cabarini smiled before turning in her chair. There was another thing that she just remembered was a good new thing in her life. “Hi. Just in time because I’m starving.”
He gave her a small laugh. “You’ve been saying that a lot lately.”
She shrugged. “Guess I have. I don’t know why I’ve been so hungry of late. Things just seem… well… weird.”
He lowered his voice down and asked, “Any of those hot flashes today?”
After giving a subtle wink, she replied softly, “No. I’m not old enough for real ones yet. I’m just twenty-three, Bobby.”
He let out a small laugh. “Let’s go to lunch.”
They made their way out of the building and down the street to a Mexican restaurant that had outdoor dining. The day was pretty much as clear as it can possibly be in Los Angeles. Most of the noise came from car radios as they went by.
After a waiter came over and got their orders, Bobby said, “Jai, I worry about those hot flashes you have been experiencing lately. You know, that’s not normal.”
She sighed then looked around. She leaned closer and said softly, “Bobby, it’s apparent that I’m a metahuman but I hope you don’t think of me any different. I’m still the same person I was when you met me.”
“I know. Look, that doesn’t change how I feel about you. I just know that there are nuts out there who hate people like you because they fear what you can do. I believe there are good and bad in every type of people.” He lowered his voice a little. “Even there’s a rumor Dallas PD has a meta on the force but they keep it kind of quiet.”
Jai smiled and reached for his hand. “I heard through work. Lacey Harper is even trying to get the story. Look, I think I got it under control. The last couple of days, I’ve been able to hold it back.”
Bobby shook his head slowly. “Why is it that those blue eyes make me forget anything bad?”
“Don’t worry about it. After all, the Metahunters are gone. I’m just glad my ability didn’t come out while they were around.”
She grinned at him again. “Let’s not think about it. How are things at work? I think it’s funny you worry about me being hurt or whatever and you’re a cop. You put your life in danger a lot more than me. People just don’t like you because you’re LAPD.”
“Okay, I see your point.”
Later that night, Jai made her way home to her apartment. It took her a good two hours with rush hour traffic to get home. She thought as she got out of her car that she really should look for something closer to work. She then noticed a car parked across the way that she recognized as Bobby’s and she smiled.
As she walked to the entrance to her apartment building, she noticed Bobby standing in the doorway. She smiled as she walked up to him. “Hi.”
“Hi. I thought maybe we could go out for dinner tonight.”
She nodded. “Okay, sounds good. Come on up while I change.”
He shook his head. “No. I’ll wait in the car.”
She sighed. “Promise we’re going to dinner? You aren’t going to car to listen to the police radio, are you?”
“Promise.” He gave her a quick kiss then began to walk towards his car.
She smiled then continued up to her second floor apartment.
Bobby waited in his car for about fifteen minutes. Even though he promised, Bobby did turn on the police radio. When he heard a slight noise, he figured it was Jai and quickly turned the radio off. He got out the car to open the other door for her but noticed it was not Jai but a rather large guy. Bobby glared at the guy who had white hair who wore sunglasses even though the sun set happened almost an hour ago. “Need something?”
He frowned at Bobby. “Yeah, Anderson, I want your blood.”
“Do I know you?”
“Yeah. You locked me up two years ago.”
Bobby thought as hard as he could to identify the man. Then something made him remember because he only locked up one albino since joining the force. “Grant? Duncan Grant?” Bobby reached inside his jacket for his gun as fast as he could.
After Bobby had his gun pointed at him, Duncan just stared at the weapon then without warning, it quickly flew out of his hand into the air. “Oh, did I forget to tell you that I’ve been upgraded?”
Bobby looked up at his gun pressed up on the ceiling of the parking garage. He looked back at Duncan. “That may be true but you’re still a loser, Grant.”
Duncan laughed softly. “You know, you can learn a lot about someone when you follow him around for a few days. Take that fine looking girlfriend you have for instance. I will really enjoy her for a while.”
As Bobby began to run towards him, Duncan looked at the ceiling and dropped it down on top of him. Duncan looked at the pile of rubble that was on top on Bobby for a moment. “That was just too easy.” He turned and noticed that Jai must have just walked onto the scene as she stood with a shocked look on her face while staring at the rubble. “Oh, hi. I have to admit that you’re pretty hot.”
Jai slowly looked at Duncan and her expression changed to anger. “You have no idea,” she said deliberately. She has tried to suppress it but Jai thought this was a moment that it was time to unleash it. And that was something she never tried before. She instinctively quickly raised her hand towards him and without effort unleashed a blast of fire towards him.
“Whoa.” Duncan concentrated to move himself upward out of the way of the blast.
Jai noticed he looked intently at her then suddenly she felt a strange grip on her. Suddenly, she felt very heavy and dropped to the ground unable to get up.
Duncan said, “Yeah, you are too hot for my blood. Good thing I have this control gravity thing going or you would have fried me back there. If you weren’t a fellow meta, I’d kill you right now. But I have bigger plans. See ya.” He quickly shot himself into the air and off into the distant sky.
Slowly, Jai was able to get to her feet. She ran over to the rubble and began burning it away trying to get to Bobby. However, she knew the amount that he was buried under that the result was he did not survive but she wanted to see for herself. When she got to his body, she yelled. She looked up at the sky with tears running down her face but with an expression of pure anger.
From behind her, a voice said, “You’re a metahuman! We don’t want your kind around here!”
She turned to see her landlord. She also noticed that several others had gathered around as well. Jai really was not in the mood for him at the moment. “No problem, Collins. But here’s something to remember me by.” She shot a blast of fire just in front of him which caused him to fall backwards. She turned and walked away as the crowd that gathered parted to allow her to pass.
Winter… New York, New York… Seven in the evening…
He finished his job at the radio station and decided to take a walk through Central Park. He wanted to call Autumn but he figured it was not a good idea after the argument they had the night before. He knew for months that the relationship was on a weak foundation but it was fun while it lasted. However, when he discovered how he was different, he thought she would be able to handle the news but Autumn could not. And it was not just the fact that he grew a good six inches to stand at six feet ten inches in the last several weeks.
When the sun goes down, most people know to avoid being in Central Park but Mike Jenkins is not most people. He figured who would bother him with his new physique, even when it was covered up to guard from the cold of a New York winter.
Mike began to make his way around a corner when he bumped into a young female jogging through the park. Although he did not move, the force of the collision dropped her to the ground on her backside. Even though she wore sweatpants and sweatshirt, Mike thought she was rather attractive and gave her a smile. “Sorry. I didn’t see you.” He extended his hand to help her up.
She took his hand and made her way to her feet. As she dusted herself off, she replied without looking at him, “No problem. It was probably my fault for not watching where I was going. I don’t think I can ever get used to being in New York Ci…” She looked up at him and stared for a moment. “Oh my. You’re one of those metahumans, aren’t you? No wonder it felt like I ran into a brick wall.”
Mike just stared at her hoping she would not be frightened but she did not say anything else. “Sorry again.” Mike quickly continued on his way through the park with her glaring at him from behind.
As Mike quickly made his way through the park, the few others there with him would quickly move out of his way to avoid him. He never wanted to be considered an outcast but was quickly learning that being a metahuman will do that to a person. The idea of it caused a tear to form in the corner of Mike’s eye.
The next day, Mike walked through the park again on his way in to work. He avoided making eye contact with anyone as much as possible. The park was a lot busier while the sun was shining even though the temperature was well below freezing. For Mike, the park reminded him of a simpler time when he was a kid and spent many of days there with his friends and family. Over the years, times have changed for Mike Jenkins.
As he made his way by a bench, he did not look at the female who sat reading a newspaper. However, she noticed him as he walked by. “Hey!”
When Mike turned to her, he saw her putting the newspaper down. “You?” Mike noticed it was the same female that ran into the night before.
She smiled. “Sit down and talk to me.” After he slowly sat down on the bench next to her, she asked, “Why did you take off so fast last night?”
“Because you know I’m a metahuman, right?” Mike could not look her in the eye.
He slowly looked at her to see a smile across her beautiful face. “Aren’t you afraid?”
She let out a small laugh. “Why should I be?”
“Because the media makes metahumans out to be evil monsters is why.”
She paused before saying, “Screw the media. I don’t know why but you seem like you could use a friend to me last night. Lord knows I could use one in New York. I just moved here from Martha’s Vineyard.” She extended her hand. “My name is Ariel Hunter.”
He took her soft hand as gently as he could. “Mike Jenkins.”
She asked, “The radio talk show guy?”
She waited for him to say something more but he never did. When she figured he would not add more to it, she continued the conversation by changing the subject. “So, what kind of meta power do you have besides being pretty big?”
He thought a moment and wondered if he should tell her. Finally, he replied, “Let’s just say I don’t know my own strength.”
“Sweet.” Ariel gave him a larger smile.
Mike glared at her. The thought of someone as beautiful as Ariel not caring about him being what he considered a freak was an unexpected surprise. However, he really wanted to get to know her to the point that he suddenly found himself no longer having thoughts about Autumn.
Spring… San Francisco, California area… Two in the afternoon…
He walked alone down the hall of a typical high school. He was pretty skinny and wore baggy clothes that did not help his appearance any. Add with the fact that his brown hair seemed uncombed and his face full of acne.
He stopped when he noticed a particular blonde girl standing at her locker and changing out books. For years, Ryder Harrison had admired Julie Madsen from afar but never had the courage to speak to her even though she lived just three houses from his own for years. He just watched her from the distance. To him, she was perfection but she intimidated him because she was the most popular girl in school.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed he had gathered a small group. He turned to see several large students surrounding him. All wore jackets to show they were athletes for the school. One asked, “What do you think you’re doing looking at my girl, Harrison?”
“N-n-no, I wa-wa-wasn’t. I…”
Before he knew it, he was being grabbed by several people. He called out without meaning to because he felt that would make Julie think lowly of him. Suddenly, he felt something burning deep inside him and began to grow in the depths of his stomach. Without trying, Ryder unleashed a high amount of voltage that sent his attackers flying in all directions.
Ryder looked around at all the individuals on the ground then looked at the other students who just stared at him. He actually smiled slightly until he noticed Julie’s shocked expression. He quickly turned and ran as fast as he could.
Julie said softly, “Ryder?”
He did not stop running once he got out of the school until he was several blocks away. He slowed down and then looked back for a minute. He said softly, “Goodbye, Julie.”
Summer… Dallas, Texas… Three in the morning…
He did not turn on the lights to his apartment as he got out of bed and made his way into the small kitchen. It was not like he had a very large apartment to begin with but it was all he could afford on his salary. When he opened the refrigerator, the light from inside showed that he wore no shirt. He reached inside the box and withdrew a bottled soda.
After closing the refrigerator, he flipped on the small television and sat down in front of it. He opened the bottle and took a drink while using the remote to flip around the channels. When he reached the All News Network, he sat the remote down on the table next to him.
Travis Blake watched as Lacey Harper reported live from downtown Dallas.
She said, “Just when I thought I was getting closer to finding the truth behind reports of Dallas having a sanctioned metahuman working with the law, I find myself caught in another meta incident again. The carnage continues as two metahumans hold off Dallas PD after they broke into Dallas Federal. These two…”
Travis quickly turned off the television and ran to his room. He grabbed a shirt and threw it on. He ran out to the balcony to his third floor apartment. With fluid motion, Travis bolted into the clear night sky and headed towards downtown.
When he arrived, Travis noticed a lot of ice around. Not a common sight for Texas in the summer. He noticed Lacey Harper and her cameraman were blocked off from getting a clear shot of the police battling the two metas. He landed behind the police and made his way over to one female officer. “Need help, Leslie?”
The brunette barely looked back at him. “It would be appreciated, Detective Blake.”
“What can they do?”
Leslie replied, “One can generate ice while the other is pretty strong. They broke the bank by first freezing to make it brittle then the strong one broke the ice.”
Leslie gave him a small smile. “I’ve seen you do better.”
He nodded. “Okay. I got this.”
Leslie said into her radio on her shoulder, “Guys, back off. Our secret weapon is about to just bring it.”
Travis walked out towards the two metas who just looked at him in amazement. “You both have the right to cease this without getting hurt and you better take advantage of that right.”
One asked, “Now just who are you?”
“To you,” Travis said with a snarl, “I’m trouble.”
He replied, “I think it’s time you cool off.”
As he began to raise his hand, Travis did it faster and unleashed a bolt of energy that slammed into the meta. The force of the impact caused him to slam into the building. Travis noticed he was out then turned towards the other one who was already rushing him.
When he swung at Travis, the only result was Travis stopping the swing by grabbing his fist. The impact made a loud noise like a gun shot but Travis barely flinched.
Leslie said to a fellow officer, “Now this is going to leave a mark.”
Travis unleashed another energy bolt that put the second meta through a nearby police car. Travis calmly walked over to Leslie. “I’ll trust you can take it from here.”
Leslie smiled slightly. “Sure. No problem since you laid the latest smackdown on their candy asses.”
Travis shook his head. “Leslie, you need to stop watching those old wrestling DVDs.”
“You know, you could at least have fun while you open a can of whopass, Detective Blake.” She walked around him and eyed the two fallen metahumans. “I mean, it wouldn’t hurt for you to show you have a sense of humor sometimes. I just don’t understand you.” She turned back to see he was no longer there. Leslie looked toward to the sky to see him disappearing into the distance. “Damn! I hate when he does that!”
Four hours later…
Travis walked up to the police station as Leslie was exiting. When their eyes met, Leslie gave him a slight smile although his expression did not change. She walked up to him then asked, “You didn’t get any sleep again? Do you ever sleep?”
He barely shook his head. “When you sleep, you have dreams. When you dream, you have nightmares.” He continued towards the door.
She could just find herself in shock as she watched him make his way away from her. She snapped herself out of it then Leslie called out, “Oh! The captain wants to see you in his office first thing!”
Travis walked into the station. As he walked by his fellow officers, they would cheer but he would not acknowledge any of them. He walked into an office with two individuals. He recognized one but never seen the other before in his life. He eyed the one he did not know for a moment who nodded towards him and gave a slight smile. Travis looked at the other. “Captain, you wanted to see me?”
“Detective Blake, your little episode last night caught the eyes of the feds. This is Kurt Wade and he wants to talk to you.”
Travis studied Kurt again.
Kurt smiled again at Travis who just stared at him emotionlessly. Kurt extended his hand and said, “Nice to meet you.”
Travis stared down at his hand then looked back at Kurt. Travis shook his head before he looked back at his superior. “Captain Phillips, I thought it was something important.”
Phillips retorted, “Blake, talk to Mister Wade.” As he made his way to the door, he continued, “You can use my office to talk.”
Kurt smiled at Travis. “Talk about a small world. I was told to find someone and it’s someone I’ve seen briefly a long time ago.”
“What are you talking about?”
Kurt asked, “How well did you know your parents?”
Before Kurt could react, Travis grabbed him and lifted him into the air with one arm. “This is one of those times you better be real careful with what you say next.”
Kurt said, “I’m an old friend of your parents. We worked together.”
“My parents were not in the federal government.”
Kurt found it harder to breathe but forced out, “Actually, they were but retired shortly after you were born. They wanted to give you as normal a life as possible. They retired when you were six months old. That’s what I meant by I’ve seen you before a long time ago. You were just a baby.”
Slowly, Travis lowered him down.
Kurt caught his breath before continuing, “Your father met your mother when they were both members of a secret team of metahumans called ShadowStrike. They were a group made to be covert and they were so good that nobody even suspected their existence. The year I joined was their last in ShadowStrike. We did ask them to come back later but there was no way of that happening because your mother was pregnant with your brother Steven.”
“He went by Randy. His middle name was Randolph.”
Kurt smiled. “Now, I’m crushed. His name was a combination of my middle name of Steven and your grandfather’s middle name.”
Travis just stared at him.
Kurt said, “Sorry. When I heard what happened, I was deeply saddened. But now, your government needs you. As you know, the President ordered the Metahunter Project to be dismantled eighteen months ago. In the place, he wants to bring back ShadowStrike but with some changes. This time, he wants the team to be bold and make a splash. He wants a team of individuals that will show the world that not all metahumans are bad.”
Kurt replied, “There have been two assassination attempts on a U.S. President in Dallas throughout history. The first succeeded unfortunately. However, the second didn’t thanks to you and that same President trusts you enough to make you the field leader of the team.”
“So he wants another ShadowStrike, huh?”
Kurt shook his head slowly. “No, not exactly. This time we want to bring on a storm that will strike fear into those who use their powers for evil while letting the good metahumans know they don’t have to live in fear of being outcasts. This time, it’ll be StormStrike.”
The next day in New York City, the normal size crowds made their way through the city. It did not seem like any other day in the Big Apple. As a bus stopped not far from Times Square, she exited and looked around. The bus pulled off and she waited. She was not able to show any joyous emotion since the last time she saw him. It was not going to be long now for her to see him again. Jai had tracked Bobby’s killer for almost a year and she knew he was spotted just the other day in New York.
She had only one plan when she saw him again. Not only had she tracked him, but she has gotten better with her ability since then. And Jai wanted to show him up close and personal that paybacks can burn.
She watched as people walked by her. One person made eye contact with her who looked to be homeless. A long time ago to her, she would have felt for the young kid but she only felt a deep hate that she knew would only leave when she finished her job.
The young kid watched her as she slowly made her way down the street. He knew he has seen her before but could not figure out from where. Ryder just thought that maybe he had just seen her around before although she did not seem to be a common New Yorker. However, he was definitely not common nor a New Yorker himself. But something had to change soon for him because living on the streets was a long way from his home in California.