The SR-71D landed at McGuire Air Force Base as the sun was rapidly setting. Travis looked out the window and noticed several armed individuals standing around. He looked back at Kurt across the aisle and asked, “Are we allowed to be here?”
“Yes. They will guard the plane while we head to New York.”
Travis looked back out. “Where exactly are we?”
Kurt paused a moment. “New Jersey. This was the best place to set down the plane. What kind of distance can you travel by air?”
“No limits that I know of.”
“Good.” Kurt led Travis off the plane and quickly pass the armed guards to an awaiting car.
Travis looked at the car for a moment as Kurt quickly got behind the wheel. Slowly, Travis opened the door and got into the passenger seat. “A Jaguar XKR? This car easily costs about ninety grand with all the extras.”
Kurt smiled. “One of the perks of the job. If you got to go somewhere, might as well enjoy getting there.” After starting the engine, Kurt added offhandedly, “Besides, we got a special deal going with Jaguar. You’ll learn later.”
“Obviously, someone is overpaid.”
Kurt drove the car off the base and made his way to small road. He looked in the rear view mirror and then pulled over on the side of the road. “You can get there faster through the air, right?”
“Yeah, I can.”
“Okay, I’ll catch up with you there.” Kurt continued as Travis opened the door, “You might find it useful to have one of these.” Kurt handed Travis a small metallic object.
Travis examined the item to see it was a badge that was marked with National Security Administration. He nodded and put the badge in his jacket pocket. He zipped the pocket up and got out of the car. After closing the door, Travis quickly shot into the air.
Travis felt a sense of freedom soaring through the clouds as if there was nothing that stop him from going wherever he wanted to travel. He did notice that being in the northeast air traffic was unusually light and wondered if it had to do with the events in New York in which he was heading right into.
It took Travis about fifteen minutes to reach the city which was not bad time since he left Kurt in Jersey closer to Philadelphia than New York. When he approached the city, Travis made his way to the highest rooftop he could find and descended to try to avoid being seen. He noticed he was not far from where the top of the Chrysler Building landed a little bit east of Central Park. It was not hard to find with a large concentration of flashing lights from police, ambulance, and fire trucks.
Travis made his way over to the debris. When he reached the area, he noticed several police trying to keep the crowds at a safe distance. He noticed one pointing others on where to position themselves and figured that would be the one he would need to talk to. He walked towards him and another policeman called out to him about not being able to cross the line. Travis reached into his pocket and pulled out the badge. He showed the policeman who nodded and returned to where he was standing. As Travis got closer, he noticed the one he thought was in charge wore the insignia of captain on his uniform. “Captain?”
“Who are you? And how did you get by the line?”
Travis showed the badge to the policeman. “I’m with the NSA.”
“Okay. I was told there would be some feds involved because this was a battle between metahumans. I don’t care who you’re with but just stay out of the way of my investigation.”
Travis nodded. “No problem. I just have one question. I understand the metahumans were buried under there. Did you find the bodies yet?”
The captain laughed slightly. “I thought you all used spy shit to know everything. Only bodies in that rubble were normal humans.”
“The witnesses say that after the building crashed down out the sky, a bolt of fire shot out of the wreckage, and three came out. They were apparently hurt and went back that way. Trust me when I say when we find them, they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
Travis thought hard about what was in the direction the captain said they went. Travis then noticed an ambulance moving out in the same direction. He asked, “Where’s that ambulance going?”
“Thanks. I’ll let you finish your work.”
“Hmph.” The captain walked away from Travis.
Travis walked south until he was out of sight then quickly flew into the sky. As he reached Bellevue Hospital he noticed the VA Hospital next to it. Something struck him as odd with all the feds surrounding it as if to not allow anyone to enter. Travis decided to follow a hunch and land on the roof of the VA.
He made his way downstairs and noticed a large number of agents on the second floor. He walked up to the first agents he saw which were one male and one female. Travis and showed his badge. “What’s going on here?”
“Who are you?” The twenty-something male looked Travis up and down. “I’ve never seen you before and I’ve been with the NSA for years.”
“I’m new to the NSA. Name is Travis Blake.”
“Blake?” He nodded. “Mister Wade informed us that you might show up. My name is Rex.” He motioned to the female and said, “This is Victoria.”
Victoria said, “You see, we have three metahumans here and Mister Wade said they are to stay until the two of you arrive.”
“They were admitted into a VA?” Travis asked.
Rex nodded slowly then motioned to a waiting room. “Her name was enough to get them admitted.”
Travis turned and noticed Ariel sitting in the room surrounded by agents. “She got them in? She probably can answer a lot of questions I have.” He walked into the waiting room with Rex a step behind him. “Can I talk to this lady alone?”
Rex said, “It’s okay, guys. This is special agent Blake.” After the other agents left, Rex said, “I’ll be out in the hall when you’re ready to see the metahumans.”
After Rex left, Travis looked at Ariel who seemed worried about something by the expression on her face. Travis said, “I have a few questions for you. How did you end up getting three metahumans admitted to a VA?”
Ariel looked up at Travis and sighed. “I’m Ariel Hunter. My father Jason is a retired four star general.” Ariel waited a second then continued, “Yes, my father is Jason Hunter.”
Travis sat down next to her and said barely above a whisper, “Your father’s company created the Metahunters and you help admit three metas to a hospital?”
Ariel replied, “Look, you government types hate metas for some reason but I don’t. I could never hate someone because of how they were born. Not all metas are bad. And it was the meta that got away that caused that damage and not my friends.”
“Friends? You know the three?”
Ariel waited a moment then answered, “One of them is my boyfriend.”
Ariel nodded but looked at Travis in a way that showed she disapproved of the questions.
Travis shook his head. “I don’t believe I’m saying this. Miss Hunter, I’m going to level with you about something. No matter what you might believe, myself and the other agents are not here to hurt your friends. Actually, I’m not sure which one but apparently the NSA had been watching one of them for a while now. You see, the NSA wants to offer him a job.”
“Yeah, to be part of a team of metahumans that work for the law. And to show everyone that not all metas are bad.”
Ariel smirked. “Are you serious?”
Travis nodded. “The NSA just recruited the first one earlier today.” When Ariel was about to ask, Travis continued, “And you’re talking to him.”
“You’re a meta?”
Travis nodded. He held up his left hand then pointed to his palm with the right index finger. He shot a bolt of energy into the palm that his left hand absorbed.
Ariel’s eyes grew large. “Whoa.”
“Now tell me what happened. I was told that the Chrysler Building was dropped on them but that’s about it.”
Ariel nodded slightly. “Okay. Earlier today, Mike and I were approached by a gang that tried to rob us. Before Mike could do anything, Ryder appeared and stopped them. Well, Ryder was homeless and so we took him to lunch to thank him after he turned down some money. While we were at lunch, a fight broke out a little way away from us between Jai and another metahuman. It’s not everyday that you see things flying through the air and a fire blast shooting into the sky. Anyhow, Ryder rushed off to join the fight. I convinced Mike to go to keep an eye on Ryder. When the building dropped out of the sky, I ran towards the battle fearing that Mike was dead and it would have been my fault sending him. But by the time I got there, a fire blast shot out from the debris. I first saw Jai come out then Mike carrying Ryder who was unconscious from being hit on the head. Jai seemed to have been hurt on the side and could barely walk. So I brought them all here. I figured I could use my name for something good.”
When she gave him a small smile, Travis just nodded. “Thanks. Miss Hunter, stay here while I go check on how your friends are doing.”
She smiled slightly. “My name is Ariel by the way. I hated being called Miss Hunter ever since I was seven.”
Travis smiled slightly back before exiting the waiting room. When he walked out, he was greeted by Rex. Travis asked, “How are they doing physically?”
Rex replied, “Well, Mike Jenkins only had minor bruises. Ryder Harrison opened his eyes about thirty minutes ago. Except for minor injuries, he seems to be okay. However, Jai Cabarini is still being patched up. Mike and Ryder are in the second door on the right. Jai is in the one next to it.”
Travis said, “I need to speak with them.” He looked back at Ariel in the waiting room. “And see if she wants anything. Oh, and tell her that Mike is fine. She’s worried about him because he’s her boyfriend.”
Rex looked at Ariel then said, “Lucky guy.” Rex gave a small grin although nothing was returned by Travis. As Travis turned to head down the hall, Rex allowed an intense expression to cross his face as he watched Travis intently.
Travis walked down the hall and entered the room to see Mike standing by the window and Ryder sitting on the edge of the bed. He looked at Mike and could not believe the size of the guy. He then looked closer at Ryder. “You’re just a kid.”
Ryder replied, “I’m almost seventeen.”
“Exactly. A kid.” He looked at Mike. “So that means you must be the one that has a girlfriend named Ariel.”
Mike stared at Travis. “If you hurt her, I’ll…”
Travis interrupted, “No, I don’t plan to hurt her. She seems pretty nice.”
Ryder asked, “Who are you?”
Travis replied, “I’m with the NSA.”
Ryder smiled. “Well, Mike and I are metahumans. I bring the lightning and the big guy can bring the thunder. So don’t think we’re worried about you.”
Travis walked over to Ryder and leaned closer to him. “Look, kid. You already got beat by one metahuman today that dropped a building on you. Now, if you want to go against me then you will get beat by a metahuman for the second time in one day.”
Ryder gasped. “There’s a meta in the NSA?”
Travis looked at Mike. “Apparently, they want more than one.” He turned and said as he made his way to the door, “You’ll learn soon enough I guess. Now, I want to meet the third one.”
Ryder said to Mike, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Travis walked to the room next door and walked in to see Jai getting stitches on her side by a female doctor. He looked around and said, “I’m looking for a Jay Cabarini. I heard he was in here.”
Jai said through the pain that she refused to show, “You found me.”
“Yeah. Who are you?”
Travis said, “Your name is…?”
“It’s a nickname, okay? My full name is Jennifer. Now who are you?”
“Doctor, I need to speak to her alone. NSA business.” After the doctor left, Travis just stared at Jai for a moment. “I was thinking it was a guy named Jay when I heard people say your name. Sorry.” He looked back at the door. “Then it must have been Mike that Kurt was talking about. He said it was a he and that other one is just a kid.” He looked back at Jai. “Wait a minute. Ariel said the fire was caused by someone other than Mike and Ryder. And a bolt of fire was seen by Ariel after the building was dropped on you. You are that good with your ability that you were able to survive that?”
Jai nodded. “It just took me a few moments to burn out of it.”
Travis smiled slightly. “Interesting. The government is putting together a team of metahumans to fight for the side of the law. Maybe they wanted Mike to be part of the team but if you’re that good, then I’d like you to be a part of it as well.”
“That’s nuts.” Jai smirked then stared at him with a very serious expression. “Besides, I got my own agenda. And running around helping people who hate metahumans for no reason other than what we can do is not high up on my list of priorities right now.” She paused a moment. “However, maybe those two guys that were with me might help you out but I don’t do being a slave for anybody.”
“Slave? You don’t think I’d…”
Jai cut him off by holding up her right hand. “Save it. But hasn’t history been full of moments when a minority has been forced to serve the majority. So guess it’s metahumans turn. You so-called normals who are in the government are all alike. First you create the Metahunters to hunt down metahumans then you crawl back and ask us to help you. Pathetic.”
“Didn’t I say save it? Get out of here because I don’t want to hear what you’re selling!”
After taking a step towards the door, Travis stopped and shook his head in disbelief. He said without turning back towards her, “One question. The fight had already broken out before the other two got involved. Why were you and the fourth meta fighting?”
Jai sighed. “You don’t know when you quit, do you? It’s personal.”
Travis turned towards her and replied, “Try me. I just want to know what happened here today.”
“You wouldn’t understand. You never had anybody you loved killed right in front of you. So like I said earlier, save it.”
Travis grabbed a chair and sat down. “You’re right. I may not have experienced it right in front of me. But I did walk in on seeing my family dead.”
“Your family? How did it happen?”
Travis waited a moment. “Metahunters.”
“Now is that poetic justice or tragic irony that someone in the NSA had that happen to him? You tell me which you think I think it is. So, were they innocent bystanders while those creations destroyed another meta for no reason?”
Travis shook his head.
Jai gasped. “You had a family member that was a meta?”
Travis replied, “Both parents. And apparently when both parents are, their offspring are metas as well and not just carriers of the meta gene. However, my little brother hadn’t learned of his ability yet.”
Jai said, “So that means you’re…?”
Jai asked, “How long have you worked for the NSA?”
“About three hours.”
“So what exactly is between you and the other one?”
Jai sighed. “He killed my boyfriend in L.A. I saw it happen. I vowed I’d show him what hellfire is all about.”
Travis replied, “Okay, I’ll make a deal with you. You join me on this team and you can be sure we’ll track him down. Think about it. You could have resources to use via the NSA that you wouldn’t have alone.”
“Do I really have a choice?”
Travis shook his head. “Not really. Considering the collateral damage done to New York, they will try to hunt you down. However the NSA can make things disappear if you know what I mean.”
Jai thought a moment. “Didn’t you say it was your first day? How would you know?”
“First day in the NSA. But I was a cop in Dallas before joining.”
“A cop in Dallas? You?” Jai began to think about Bobby. She looked down at the ground then said softly, “My boyfriend was a cop, too.” She looked back up at Travis and said in her normal voice, “That’s why he was killed. He locked up a guy who later found out he was a metahuman.”
“Really?” Travis nodded. “Well, you know cops don’t care much for cop killers. Join me in DC and I’ll do my best to help you in finding this guy.”
Jai stared at him for a long time. “Well, I have one more thing to take care of in New York. Can I tell you my answer after that?”
“I’d really like to know now.”
Jai asked, “Does that mean that whenever someone feels it necessary to order me around, that I have to jump?”
“Trust me. I said that I wouldn’t join if that were so.”
Jai thought a moment. “What are the other perks? Like if I knew who the meta was working for here in New York, could I pay that person a visit?”
Travis gave her a half grin. “Only if you would let me join you. You see, you don’t have one of these yet.” He held up his badge.
Jai returned the half grin. “Okay. You got a deal. As long as we hunt down my boyfriend’s killer.” After he extended his hand, Jai shook it after looking at it for a moment. “By the way, what is your name?”
Travis thought how back in Dallas how Leslie would trick him with that. He wondered if Jai would tell him how it does not matter what his name is like Leslie would being a fan of old wrestling dvds. “Travis Blake.”
Jai stared at him a moment. Something seemed familiar to the way he acted. It was like the first time she met Bobby. “So when do we leave?”
“Soon. Mind telling me who the meta worked for?”
Jai waited a moment while eyeing him.
At London’s Gatwick, an elderly gentleman exited a plane that just arrived from Moscow and quickly made his way through the airport to another gate. When he reached the gate, he got into the short line to check in for his connecting flight. When he finally reached the counter, he handed his ticket to the attendant.
The young blonde female smiled at him. “Your flight to the United States will be leaving in about an hour and a half, Mister Vilkas.” She handed him back his ticket and his boarding pass.
“Thank you.” Ivan Vilkas made his way to a nearby seat. He opened up his newspaper and began to read it as he waited for his connecting flight to the United States. Seemed like a lifetime ago he sat in another airport reading a paper with his nephew and niece but Ivan tried to forget such things since he has not seen them in years.
Travis and Jai walked out of the room she was in and into the next room where Mike and Ryder were waiting. As Jai made her way to the window without making eye contact with anyone, Travis looked at Ryder and shook his head. He then looked at Mike. “Guess you’re the one.” He looked back at Ryder. “At least, you better be.”
Ryder asked, “What?”
Travis looked back at Mike. “Apparently, you were the metahuman that the NSA wanted to join a team of metahumans to be known as StormStrike.”
Ryder asked, “Why couldn’t it be me? I’m a meta, too.”
Travis said without looking at Ryder, “The team would show the world that not all metas are bad. It’s a huge responsibility when you think about it.”
Ryder said, “I’m up for it.”
Travis glared at a smiling Ryder. “Nice try, kid. But I don’t think I could play babysitter.”
Ryder looked around the room then said, “Now, that’s not right! I can handle myself just fine!”
Travis was about to say something but was interrupted by Jai still looking out the window. She said softly, “I hate to say it but the kid needs to be a part of the team.”
Travis asked, “Why?”
Jai waited and continued to look out the window. She continued, “Look, he wants to play hero. I didn’t ask for his help. I didn’t want his help either.” She inhaled deeply and slowly let it back out. “But he did help. Duncan could have killed me out there if not for the kid’s help.”
Ryder smiled at Travis. “Exactly. Like I said before, I can…”
Jai turned around and frowned at Ryder. “But he’s still a kid and if he wants to play hero, it’ll be best for his health that he has backup instead of going solo.”
Travis asked, “So you want him with us?”
Jai slowly nodded. “It will be better that way.” She looked at a grinning Ryder. “He’d probably be dead within a year if we don’t keep an eye on him.”
Ryder’s smile slowly vanished.
Jai continued, “Since Duncan didn’t know he was a meta, the kid was able to surprise him. Next time, it would be a lot different.” She glared at Ryder. “Trust me on that.”
Travis looked at Mike. “You’ve been quiet.”
Mike shook his head. “Forget it. I can’t.”
Before Travis could ask why, the door opened and Kurt walked in. Travis asked Kurt, “Did you break a speed record in that car?”
Kurt smiled. “Not really.” He looked around the room then looked back at Travis. “Who are these people?”
Travis asked, “You don’t know any of them, Wade?”
Kurt shook his head.
Travis said, “This is Kurt Wade of the NSA.”
Kurt said, “That’s right.” He looked at each of them then refocused on Mike. “Mike Jenkins, correct?” After Mike slowly nodded, Kurt extended his hand. “Nice to meet you. I guess Travis told you about our offer.”
Mike said without shaking Kurt’s hand, “I heard. Not interested.”
Travis said, “However, seems the other two are.”
Kurt looked at Jai by the window then at Ryder. “The woman and the kid?”
As Jai shot Kurt a snarl, Ryder protested, “I can handle myself just fine!”
Travis said, “You want me, Wade, then you take her. And apparently, she wants the kid along. Besides, she’s apparently capable with her power.”
Kurt asked Jai, “How long did you know you were a meta?”
Jai retorted, “Just after the government dismantled those damned Metahunters fortunately! Of course, if I saw one today, I’d melt it down and force feed it back to you! And trust me when I say the hole I’d use for that would NOT be your mouth!”
Travis noticed Kurt was about to say something but grabbed his arm. “Wade, take a walk with me.”
After Travis and Kurt left, Jai said, “Asshole.”
Ryder added, “Tell me about it.” After Jai returned to gaze out the window, Ryder looked at Mike. “So, you aren’t wanting to be a part of this?”
Mike shook his head. “No. Honestly, the only thing I want is to be left alone to live a normal life. What they want is hardly a normal life.”
Ryder replied, “Well, I want it. Sure would beat living on the streets. Plus, I have another personal reason for it. But, guess that will make you happy that I won’t be moving in though.”
Mike grinned for the first time in the last few hours.
No other words were exchanged until a few minutes later when Travis and Kurt returned to the room. Kurt said, “I guess the two of you are a part of StormStrike now. But there has to be some rules that you two must follow.” He looked at Ryder. “Kid, we need to discuss it with your parents.”
Ryder said, “Um… I ran away from home. I’d rather they not know where I am.”
Kurt paused a moment. “Uh, yeah. Look, I’ll bend that one but there is no choice in the fact that you must attend school.”
Ryder asked, “School? But…”
Travis said while looking at Ryder, “He’ll attend school.” He looked at Kurt and asked, “What about the security problem though? How many students are agents of the NSA?”
Kurt replied, “Counting him? One.” He shook his head in disbelief. “However, he’ll attend a special school with maximum security that has kids of diplomats and politicians. I’ll see to him getting in.”
Jai asked without turning from the window, “What about me?”
Kurt looked at her. “Travis is the field leader of the team. It was a request from the President himself. You are to follow his orders in the field.”
“The President?” Jai slowly turned towards Travis. “Damn! I just thought of something. Didn’t the President almost get wasted in Dallas but was stopped and you were a cop in Dallas. Coincidence?”
Kurt answered for Travis. “No. He saved the President’s life.”
Jai replied blandly while rolling her eyes, “Well, this one is better than the last I guess.”
Kurt asked, “Are you always so disrespectful?”
Jai quickly returned, “Are you always a jackass?”
Travis stepped in. “Okay, that’s enough.” He looked at Kurt. “What’s next on your agenda, Wade?”
Kurt said, “Well, if you really want these two on the team, then fine. Get back to the SR-71D and head to DC. I’ll catch up with you there after I clear up matters around here.”
Travis shook his head. “I’d rather we fly out of New York. I want to take care of something that will take a couple of hours first. You take the jet.”
Kurt replied, “Fine. I’ll see to it that you have tickets to DC waiting for you. Just report to the ticket counter at United.”
Travis motioned to Jai and Ryder. “You two are with me.”
Ryder added with a half smile, “I want to see this jet.”
Travis frowned back at him. “And you might not see anything if you don’t come along.” Travis looked at Kurt. “Is there a car I can use?”
Kurt handed Travis his keys. “Use the Jag.”
Ryder looked at Mike. “Hey, guess this is goodbye. Hope you don’t miss me.”
Mike replied as Travis and Jai exited the room, “I doubt I will.”
Ryder nodded. “Yeah.” He walked out to catch up with Travis and Jai. He noticed they were heading to the elevator. As he got closer to them, he noticed Ariel still sitting in the waiting room. He called out, “Hold on. I want to say bye to Ariel.” After Travis nodded slightly, Ryder walked into the waiting room. When Ariel smiled at him, Ryder said, “I appreciate that offer of giving me a place to stay but I’ll be leaving New York. I’m heading down to DC with them.”
Ariel gave him a small grin. “I see. Good luck. And stay in touch.”
Ryder smiled at her. “Sure.”
As he was leaving the waiting room, Ariel said, “Ryder.” After he turned to her, she continued, “Be careful.”
“You know me,” Ryder said jokingly.
Ariel smirked. “Exactly my point.”
Ryder laughed then exited the waiting room. He walked up to Travis and Jai then they entered the elevator. When the doors closed, Ryder asked, “So who is this friend?”
Travis replied, “Don’t know exactly. It’s someone she needs to see before we leave New York.”
Ryder asked Jai, “Who?”
Jai replied offhandedly, “A mobster.”
As the elevator stopped and they exited, Ryder replied, “You can’t be serious!” Even though neither said anything to him, Ryder continued to follow as Travis led them to the XKR. When he noticed Travis turning off the alarm system, Ryder said, “Wait! Now, you can’t be serious! This car is what we’ll be using?”
After Travis got in and unlocked the passenger door, Jai said, “Nice way to use tax money.” She motioned for Ryder to get in the back. When Ryder jumped into the backseat, Jai got into the car. “Head to Price Tower. That’s where Gilbert is according to what I heard.”
Ariel was finally allowed to see Mike and quickly made her way into the room. She quickly gave him a big hug and kissed him although he seemed to have his mind elsewhere. She looked at him with a sad expression on her face. “What’s wrong?”
Mike just shook his head. “Nothing.”
Ariel sat down on the bed. “Spill it. I know when you’re hiding something.”
Mike walked over to the window and looked down on the street. He saw the Jaguar leaving the parking lot and heading into the street. “Ari, the NSA wants to have a team of metahumans working for them.” He looked back at her. “They wanted me particularly.”
Ariel replied with a smile, “Cool.” When she noticed the serious look on his face, she asked, “What’s wrong with that?”
Mike sighed. “They know I’m a meta. That’s why all the feds are around here. Not because of the kid or that lady. They believed I’d join them.”
Ariel nodded. “They know talent?” She smiled hoping it would lighten his mood but the look he gave her showed it did not work. “Sorry.”
Mike said, “I turned them down.”
Mike looked at her for a moment. “You.”
“I don’t under…”
Mike cut her off by saying, “I love you, Ari. I’d have to move to DC and I couldn’t ask you to give up your job and I’m not good at long distance relationships.”
Ariel allowed a very large smile to cross her lips. “I love you, too. But DC isn’t that far. Mike, I’m worried though for Ryder. I’d feel better with him being there if you were there to watch out for him.”
Mike replied, “I can’t even stand that kid!”
“He’s a good kid. I don’t know but he’s just… well… a good kid.”
Mike just replied, “No, he’s a smartass.”
Ariel gave Mike a perplexed expression. “Michael Jameson Jenkins! You can be so bullheaded!”
Kurt opened the door and asked, “Can I speak with you a moment?”
Mike said, “I’m talking to my girlfriend alone if you don’t mind.”
“I just have one quick question. What’s stopping you from joining?”
Mike replied, “I want to have as normal a life with this lady as possible. And your idea just doesn’t fit into that, does it? Besides, she’ll be in New York while I’ll be in DC, right? Not an option for me.”
Ariel decided to try another approach. “Mike, don’t use the distance as an excuse. What if I decided to move to DC? Then would you?”
Mike asked Ariel, “Why is it so important to you?”
“Because.” Ariel looked at Kurt a moment. “Mind giving us a moment alone?” After Kurt left, Ariel said, “Mike, think about it. You know who my father is. You know it would really be a smack in his face for the government that dismantled the Metahunters would turn to metahumans to deal with the bad ones.” She smiled. “And only the bad ones. And no matter how good those three will be, with you they will be better.”
“Because of my strength?”
Ariel shook her head. “No. Mike, it’s your inner strength that I think they need. But I really think you should reconsider it.”
Mike returned to looking outside the window as Ariel walked out into the hall.
When Ariel noticed Kurt on his cell phone at the end of the hall, she walked over to him. As she approached, he hung up the phone. Ariel said, “I think you could have done a better approach to him.”
Kurt asked, “Did you tell him about us?”
Ariel replied, “Are you nuts? He would explode. He would suspect that my meeting him was a setup from the start.”
Ariel frowned. “And you know good and damned well it wasn’t!”
Kurt put his hands on her shoulders. “Ariel, I’ve known you almost your whole life, right? Now, has your Uncle Kurt ever steered you wrong? When you called and told me about you dating a metahuman, you know how happy I was for you because he made you happy. Not because he’s a meta. Ariel, I want him on the team because you kept telling me how great a person he was. When I was on the plane and thought he got killed, I thought about how you must have been hurting.”
“Uncle Kurt, he won’t move to DC without me though.”
Kurt smiled. “Fine. Then why don’t you move to DC as well?”
Ariel ran her hand through her hair and ruffled it a little. “And quit my job? For what?”
Kurt replied, “Well, I could use a new assistant. And trust me, I can arrange it like that.”
Ariel looked back at the door to the room she left Mike in. Then her mind shifted to a young man who she just met but helped her out of a situation. “I’ll have to tell him about our past for him to believe it. I just hope he understands.”
Travis drove the car over to Price Tower. It took almost forty minutes due to the traffic problem caused by the Chrysler Building incident. He quickly parked it in the parking garage and they exited the car. He pressed the button on the keychain to activate the security alarm.
They walked into the tower and Jai said, “He has the penthouse.”
Travis walked over to receptionist. “We need to see Mister Gilbert in the penthouse.”
The redheaded receptionist replied, “Sorry, but he’s not taking any visitors at this time.”
Travis sighed then reached into his pocket to pull out the badge. He showed it to the receptionist and said, “I was not exactly asking to see him.”
The receptionist looked at the badge and said, “I’m sorry but I was told not to let anyone up to see him.”
Jai said, “Screw this! Let me show this pathetic piece of sh…!”
Travis interrupted, “That’s okay. She’s just doing her job. Let’s go.”
Jai protested, “What?! Are you serious?”
As Travis turned to the exit, he said, “I said let’s go.”
Jai said to the receptionist, “You don’t know how lucky you are right now.” Then reluctantly, Jai followed Travis and Ryder back outside. She noticed that Travis was looking up at the top of the building. “Why did you give up so easily?”
Travis grabbed Ryder and then grabbed Jai. He then quickly flew them up to the top of the building and landed on the patio to the penthouse much to their surprise. “As you were saying, Miss Cabarini?”
Jai looked over the edge of the building to the street below. “I stand corrected. I didn’t know you could do that.”
Ryder grinned. “That was so cool.”
Travis said, “Now we just need to get inside that door. If you have any ideas on how we…” After Jai quickly blasted the door open with a bolt of fire then made her way to the opening, Travis continued, “That’s one way to do it I guess.”
Ryder added, “You have to admit she’s direct.”
Jai walked in and saw Gilbert trying to reach for something frantically in his desk. She saw he was so nervous he could not pull it out. Jai glared at him for a moment. “Don’t. Even. Think about it.”
Gilbert finally was able to pull out his gun. However when he aimed it at Jai, she quickly shot it out of his hand with her fire blast. Nervously, Gilbert asked, “Who are you?”
Jai answered, “Depends on if you tell me what I want to know. Don’t tell me and you’ll know me as the bitch with the deposition of a rattlesnake on it’s worst day.”
Gilbert looked at Travis and Ryder as they nonchalantly walked in. “So, she’s the bad cop in this good cop and bad cop game?”
Travis shook his head. “No good ones here.” He casually made his way over to the couch and sat down. As Ryder joined him, Travis continued, “This is between the two of you.”
Gilbert looked back at Jai. “What are you after?”
Jai said deliberately, “Two words. Duncan Grant.”
Gilbert looked around the room. “Wait. You’re those metahumans that destroyed a lot of the city, aren’t you?”
Travis replied, “I had nothing to do with that. I was on an airplane when that happened. However, she was very much involved.”
Jai sighed then blasted the wall behind Gilbert which caused it to catch fire. “Enough talk. I want answers. Where is he?”
Gilbert was shocked as he looked at the fire. “I don’t know. He said something about getting out of the country. That’s the truth.”
Jai frowned. “Best idea I heard. You might want to do the same.”
Jai replied, “My friend. You know her. Christy. You come within a hundred miles of her again and I will see you burn in Hell. Trust me when I say I can make it happen.” She turned and walked back out the door as Ryder followed her.
Gilbert asked, “Aren’t you going to do something about this fire?”
Travis calmly stood up. “I told you before I’m not involved. I just hope the fire trucks can get here in time with the traffic problems out there. And honestly, I think she was holding back a little. However, if you ever see this guy again, you’ll know not to deal with him, right?” After Gilbert nodded, Travis said, “That’s nice. It would suck to be you if my hot-tempered friend decided to come see you again. Take her advice and get as far away from New York as you can.”
Ryder asked Jai, “You really do have a mean streak, don’t you?”
Jai replied, “It’s personal.”
Ryder retorted, “Glad to hear that. Just remind me not to get on your bad side.”
An hour later, Travis, Jai, and Ryder collected their tickets at JFK and made their way to the gate to board a plane to DC. As they waited at the gate, Ryder said offhandedly, “You’d think they would set us up in first class instead of coach.”
Travis just shook his head.
Jai looked over at a concession stand. “Anybody else hungry?”
Ryder replied, “No.”
After looking at Ryder, Travis said, “I am.”
As they were getting up, Ryder said, “Sure, I’ll wait here alone.” Ryder smiled as they looked at him but the smile vanished as they walked away. He noticed someone left a magazine on the seat next to him so he picked it up and began to flip through it just to pass the time.
“Is this seat taken?”
Ryder looked up at the velvet voice that had a hint of an accent he never heard before to see a very attractive female. She was unlike anybody he has ever seen before. She had almost an air of royalty about her that he could not quite explain even though she was dressed in a t-shirt, a black jean jacket and black jeans. Ryder thought how he could just get lost in those brown eyes. “What?”
“The seat next to you? Is it taken?”
Ryder just shook his head.
After she sat down, she placed her small bag down on the floor in front of her. She looked at Ryder who could not take his eyes off her. She gave him a polite smile. “Traveling alone?”
Ryder shook his head again.
She laughed. “You don’t talk much, do you?”
“Sometimes.” He paused a moment and then smiled. “My name is Ryder.”
“Ah.” She extended her hand. “My name is Aurora.”
“Thanks. I’ll tell my mom that next time I see her since she was the one who named me.” She smiled.
Ryder just had to find out. “You have this strange slight accent. Where are you from?”
“Actually, I am not really from anywhere and yet from everywhere. I moved around a lot is the best way to put it. But now, I’m living in Montreal but heading down to DC for an assignment.”
She nodded. “Yeah. I am a reporter for a magazine we have up in Canada. I also have a brother in DC so volunteered for the assignment. This way I get to see him. What are you going for?”
“Reporter, huh? Is this off the record?” He smiled and she laughed. “I’m moving to DC.”
“Nice.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a notebook computer. She opened it and powered it on and began typing. She smiled and said, “I love how airports allow you to connect to the internet.” She paused. “My boyfriend sent me an e-mail.” She paused a moment again. “Aw, he misses me already.”
Ryder felt a little awkward but obviously she was a little too old for him. Or she must have thought he was just a kid. He just replied, “That’s nice.”
Travis walked up to them and said, “Miss, is he disturbing you?”
Aurora looked up at him and then looked at Ryder. “No.” She looked at Travis again and glared at him for a moment. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to stare.”
Ryder said, “It’s okay. He’s traveling with me. He’s my… um… my bodyguard.”
Aurora laughed. “You mean chaperone?”
Ryder said jokingly, “I like bodyguard better.”
Jai walked over with some French fries in her hand. She sat down on the other side of Ryder.
Ryder said to Aurora, “And this is… um… my sister?” Ryder grinned at Jai who returned a frown. “Girlfriend?” Ryder continued to smile but now Jai was looked like she wanted to hit him. Ryder looked back at Aurora. “Okay, she’s my meaner bodyguard.” He looked back at Jai. “Can I have a fry?”
Jai took one in her hand and held it up. As Ryder began to reach for the French fry, she put it in her mouth and slowly chewed it. After swallowing, she said, “No, you can’t.”
The intercom announced it was time for them to begin to board. After getting to their seats, Jai sat between Travis and Ryder. Ryder noticed Aurora sat across the aisle from him and smiled at her.
Aurora gave Ryder a smile in return and then began writing notes on a notepad. She wanted to use her computer but she could not until the plane was fully in the air. And on the short flight from New York to DC that would not really happen.
Thirty minutes into the flight, some loud yelling came from the front of the plane. Ryder leaned over towards Jai and Travis to ask softly, “What’s that about?”
Before either could reply, a man come from the first class area holding a semi-automatic. He yelled, “All of you stay in your seats!”
Ryder said softly, “I don’t believe this. This nut picked the wrong plane.”
Travis said softly, “Don’t do anything. We don’t know how many there are yet.”
Jai nodded slightly. “If there’s others involved, then we take this guy and the others would hurt people.”
Ryder whispered, “We need to do something though.”
Jai noticed the gunman watching them intently. “Shh.”
The gunman yelled, “Shut up!”
Ryder said softly, “I can’t take this.” Ryder stood up.
Jai said, “Sit down.”
Ryder said loud enough for the gunman to hear. “No. I’m not taking it from him. Some loser that has to hide behind a gun. What’s he going to do? Shoot me in a plane and risking punching a hole in a pressurized cabin? Give me a break.”
The gunman yelled, “Sit down!”
Ryder glared at him. “Make me. It’s a wonder they got that kind of metal through the detectors. Maybe it’s just plastic guns.”
Aurora tensed up and whispered from across the aisle, “Are you nuts?”
The gunman aimed at Ryder. “You want me to show you it’s real?” He pulled the trigger and the shot fired. Much to everyone’s surprise, the bullet stopped two inches from Ryder’s face. Then suddenly, the gun flew out of the gunman’s hands and headed to the back of the cabin. As he ran for his gun, Ryder shot him with a bolt of electricity that knocked him backwards.
Ryder looked at Aurora who looked at him with a shocked expression. It made him think about the first time he discovered he was a metahuman. Although, Aurora’s expression slowly changed to a smile. Ryder smiled back.
Suddenly, seven other guns came shooting back through the cabin along with other various metal objects. When others who wore similar jackets as the gunman came running into their cabin.
Ryder grinned. “Party time.” Ryder unleashed several bolts of electricity at the men running for the guns.
Jai replied softly, “This one is not quite the area I want to be shooting my flames.”
Travis whispered, “Right.”
Ryder counted the guns then noticed how many he put out. “I think there’s someone else up there. You guys keep an eye on these, because I got this one.”
Travis called out, “Kid!”
However, Ryder had already ran up to first class. He slowly stopped when he noticed that one was pinned to the top of the plane. He just stared at him and noticed something different about that one. He noticed he had several zippers on his jacket. “Whoa.”
The man said, “You will die for this.”
Ryder replied, “I wish I could take credit for you being up there.”
Suddenly, the man dropped down to the floor with a strong amount of force. Then he rose back up with equal force and repeated about four times each. Then he fell again to Ryder’s feet unconscious.
Ryder grinned. “Yeah, that’s what you get! The whole hijacking planes thing doesn’t work anymore since the fall of the towers.” Ryder kicked the guy. “Dumbass.”
Travis walked up behind Ryder. He whispered, “That’s enough, kid.”
Ryder turned towards him. “Me?” Ryder grinned. “Hey, you were the one slamming him up and down. Not to mention, making their guns go flying. How did you do that?”
Travis frowned. “It wasn’t my doing. I thought you did that.”
Ryder gulped. “You mean, you couldn’t stop that bullet?” After Travis shook his head, Ryder said out loud, “D’oh!”
Travis said, “Ryder, sit back down in your seat.”
Ryder slowly nodded than then returned back to his seat.
Travis walked up to the area just to the rear of the cockpit where he saw some frightened stewardesses. He showed his badge and said, “Everything is fine. I’m with the NSA. One of my overzealous agents took care of everything. Can I use your radio to speak to the cockpit?”
One stewardess helped Travis activate the radio.
Ryder sat down next to Jai and whispered, “He didn’t cause all the stuff to fly around or stopped that bullet.”
Jai shook her head. “Do you have any idea what exactly he can do?”
Ryder said softly, “Well, he had the leaping over a tall building down so figured he had all the rest of that stuff. Including being faster than a speeding bullet.”
“Stupid.” She looked at Ryder who just had his head down. She shook her head. “However, no matter what I say, you did good. I mean except for that whole problem of not knowing what everyone else can do, you kicked some butt.” When he looked up at her, she gave him a slight smile. “Crimefighter.”
Ryder smiled broadly. He looked over at Aurora who just sat in her seat with her eyes closed. At that moment, Ryder really wished he was a little bit older.
Travis began to make his way back to the seat. As he was about to walk by the one that was slammed a few times, he noticed the man was waking up. Travis watched in amazement as he again shot up to the ceiling and back to the floor a few times with force until he lost consciousness again. Travis looked around the cabin and only noticed frightened faces. He gathered the guy up and dragged him back to coach. He tossed the guy into an empty set of seats at the front of coach. He said, “Ryder, let’s get these guys stacked over here before they wake up.”
Ryder helped Travis put all the would be hijackers in the seats almost on top of each other. Ryder asked, “Are you sure you didn’t stop that bullet?”
Travis glared at him and said forcefully, “Yes!” Travis looked at those who sat across the aisle from the pile. “Mind changing seats? Or do you want to take care of them if they wake up?”
The family quickly moved seats.
Jai walked up to them and said, “That was weird.” She looked at Travis. “Did you cause all that which Ryder didn’t?”
“No. I didn’t do that. I did nothing like I said to do until somebody decided to play hero. Besides, the things that were done are not within my capabilities.”
Ryder said, “Okay, so I jumped the gun a little bit.”
“A little?” Travis stared at him intently.
Ryder said sheepishly, “Okay, a lot. But it all worked out.”
“Travis, if you can’t do that and I can’t. And Ryder said he can’t.” Jai looked around the cabin. She then whispered, “Another meta is on this plane?”
Travis said casually, “Yeah. The pilots said they detected strong magnetic fields inside the plane while all that was going on. Messed up their instruments but it’s fine now.”
Ryder said softly, “That would explain why all the things affected were metal. A meta with magnetic powers.”
Jai asked, “But who?”
Travis shrugged. “The pilots detected the fields throughout both first class and coach. And whoever was responsible could not possibly see everyone so the person just geared on any metal. That would explain why a lot of metal came out of first class. But the bullet stopped and the precision of the first would seem like the person is in coach with us. But whoever it is, the control shown was off the charts.”
Jai looked back. “Okay, take your pick. That guy over there with the goatee? The mother of those three kids over there? The old man in the wrinkled suit? Ryder’s new friend? How about that old lady with the bad wig?”
Ryder smirked. “That’s cold.” He noticed a little movement in the pile and shot a bolt of electricity at them. He then just grinned at Travis who just frowned back at him.
A rather tall female walked briskly through the halls at the Federal Security Service in Moscow. She opened a door and ended a small office. The room was filled with books and file cabinets along with one small desk. Behind the desk sat a weathered gentleman with glasses. She said, “Our agents were too late to catch him in the United Kingdom. He’ll be in America shortly, Yuri. What should we do now?”
Yuri took off his glasses and cleaned them. “There is only one thing to do. We must send agents to America to retrieve him.” Yuri looked up at her and replaced the glasses on his face. “Our agents must get him without America knowing. If the Americans learn about him, there is no telling how they will respond.”
She nodded. “Which agents can do this?”
Yuri inhaled and slowly blew out. “Only two I can think of. Agents codenamed Hammer and Dark Force.”
She gasped. “Are you sure? The implications…”
“I know all too well. But we have no other choice at this time.” He thought a moment. “Bring them in.”
note: above scene quotes translated from Russian
Ninety minutes later at JFK, a plane from London landed and Ivan Vilkas disembarked. He looked around at the large crowd moving in all directions. He noticed a sign that pointed him to where he needed to go for his connecting flight. As quickly as he could, he made his way through the crowd towards his final connection.
A new villain. An angered member of the team. And more on the Harbinger of Death saga.