Friday, January 27, 2006

DCU: Ultimate Shadow Cabinet #01

To Save Humanity...

Kahina Eskandari was standing at the edge of the subway platform when the blare of the incoming train filled the tunnel. Her eyes were closed, framed by her short crop of black wavy curls, as if in deep meditation. A long scar from the middle of her forehead descended down past her right eye and curved down her cheek until it nearly touched the edge of her lip and ended at the right edge of her chin. Though she wore a heavy brown coat over her black dress pants and suit, her imposing figure was evident to those who were nearby.

As was her heedless poise for the incoming train.

The people nearby began to notice that she had not moved. Even as the train blared its horn a second time. The wind inside the tunnel began to pick up. Above, a digital clock displayed: Time for next train to arrive, 6 seconds…

A young man blinked a few times and looked around to see if anyone was going to help her. His orange jacket fluttered with the growing wind. His messily uncombed black hair danced over his eyes.

5 seconds…

An old woman gasped and turned to call for help. Beside her, a blonde woman gently brought one finger to her lips. The old woman stared, unable to speak, and realized the woman had much more muscles than she thought a woman could ever have.

4 seconds…

The man turned to his left and whispered, “Someone has to help…” but the unwashed-looking fellow with Rastafarian hair and an orange vest simply stared back at him.

3 seconds…

A security officer inhaled to blow his whistle. But the whistle vanished in barely a second between the act of blowing and realizing it was gone.

2 seconds…

The man pushed forwards, past the two other bystanders who were in the way. Little did the man realize the two were intentionally trying to delay him. The chocolate-skinned woman in an all pink ensemble and the raven-haired woman in a business suit both turned to him with expressions of irritation. The man, however, shoved on forwards and extended one arm towards the woman who he thought was intent on the act of suicide.
“STOP!” he screamed and somewhere within him, something snapped free from the restraints of unconscious fear and self-control. Energy erupted from his hands, swirling outwards in an ever-growing whirpool of lights and force. The chocolate-skinned woman in pink shrieked and seemingly vanished from view. The raven-haired woman in the suit was gone in an eyeblink. The Rastafarian broke into a leap, hurling himself away from the extending whorls of light. The blonde grabbed the old woman near her and pulled away from the swirls in time.

But Kahina Eskandari, on the other hand, was not as lucky.

The energy struck her, ripping her brown coat into threads as they sliced through to reveal the heavy archaic iron armor that contained her body within. But even that too drew golden lines of molten metal, then were sliced apart by the man’s swirling energy. Kahina shrieked as her body quickly followed suit, and fell in pieces, diced by the energy that had erupted from the man who never knew he had any such powers within him.

”Iron Butterfly is down!” the blonde woman called out as she let go of the old woman by the emergency exit and motioned to her to head for the door, “Get out while you still can.”

“She’s okay right? She’s got to be all right,” the Rastafarian screamed and allowed his head to transmute into something more akin to a lion’s head and mane. Eagle wings proportional to his size erupted outwards from his shoulders and gave him the flight necessary to take to the air, “Blitzen!”

“Am already here,” the raven-haired woman called Blitzen replied as she brought her hands down on Kahina’s face and tried to find a way to lift it without futher intensifying the damage. But sadly, super-speed has its limits on what it can be usefully deployed upon. Diced human remains was not one of those.

The hybrid monster, that was once the Rastafarian, soared close by to the man who had used the energy blast. The Rastafarian allowed his face to transform again from Lion to Hound dog and in a guttural voice proclaimed, “She can’t be... She’s our leader...”

“Quit your whining, Sideshow,” the blonde proclaimed and threw a second glance at the man they were supposed to apprehend, “Dharma wants that man down!”

“Then he’s getting him, Donner,” Sideshow replied and soared another arc before descending towards the man. The man stared at his finger tips and watched the dancing embers flutter about. His face showed an utterly confused expression. Sideshow could see that the man had no idea he had such power within him. Sad, Sideshow found himself thinking, that this man has to be brought down.

Soaring closer to the man from above, Sideshow allowed his lower legs to become the cloven hooved feet of a goat. Letting the wings wrap closer to his body, Sideshow allowed himself to fall and slammed both cloven heels upon the man’s back. The man doubled over and grimaced in pain.

“Down for the count!” Sideshow hollered in victory, but his yell of success was cut short. His eyes were already focused beyond the vicinity of the man. Iota, whose pink outfit barely spoke any clue of her powers, was shaking her head in disgust. Donner was holding Blitzen close, tears streaming from their eyes. And at their feet, the remains of what was once Kahina Eskandari. She was dead.

And Dharma allowed the vision to end.

* * *

Ultimate Shadow Cabinet
Issue #01
To Save Humanity...
Written by Tobie Abad

* * *

Donner and Blitzen have been together for many years.

Actually, to be more accurate, Donner and Blitzen have LIVED together for many years.

Donner was a tall and beautiful woman, blonde, and when off-duty went by the name Gerri Brauer. She is the daughter of a long line of geneticists and scientists who at one point in their history were affiliated with the Nazi movement. Having a past Donner would rather forget, she turned away from her family and found herself meeting with Dharma one evening under a moonless sky. He offered her a second chance, as well as a second life, one which she readily accepted. She maintained her name, however, still holding her family’s heritage with pride even if her family’s history brings much shame to her. She is gifted with enhanced strength and resilience to damage. It is unknown if her powers were inherited, or if they were gained from the numerous secret experiments the Brauers actually chose to try themselves.

Blitzen , on the other hand, took the name Valerie Kameya whenever she was off duty. She had no idea that one day in her future she would be absolutely in love with a woman who could bench press a car. Blizten is a biochemist and it was through her own genius level intellect and scientific experimentation that she came up with this state of being. Blitzen’s powers were, in fact, self-inflicted and she was proud of them.

The two were enjoying a moment one afternoon, playing Resident Evil on the Playstation 2 when a small chime chided from two separate devices in the house. Both looked at each other, with Blitzen already back from picking her communicator up from the bedroom, and knew what it was about. Though their apartment had been built to fit specific requirements (such as the lack of any windows in the living room, as well as well-fitting doors that blocked out any light when closed) it was pretty much a typical apartment one would expect.

“Cabinet calling,” Donner mumbled.

”I’m dressed. You?” Blitzen teased, having already left, changed into her uniform, then zipped back in barely an eyeblink of time.

“Give me a minute,” Donner grumbled and dropped the Playstation 2 controller on the floor. “Oh and get the lights,” she reminded Blitzen because the only way for to get to the Shadow Spire, their groups’ hidden base, required being in total darkness.

The Shadow Spire’s location was carefully hidden from everyone, including its own members. With members of the Shadow Cabinet only permitted to access the location for briefings and debriefings, few even realized that the building could be in a location far away from the rest of civilization. Deep within the Himalayas, within a subterranean complex unlisted in any government agency, the Shadow Spire was accessible only by Shadow Sliding, a form of teleportation which required the teleportee to be in darkness.

Deep within a wildlife reservation, Ramon Rand was laughing. Though no one could see his grin, the Shadow Cabinet member called Sideshow was leaping from tree branch to tree branch in a hybrid form that combined the best traits of a tiger with that of a flying lemur. With a stretch of leathery flesh between its legs, the no-quite-a-tiger soared through the space afforded between branches and landed on another tree almost fifty feet away. Ramon was almost lost in his joy and barely noticed the beeping communicator until he realized it was what scared away the birds that were safely in much higher branches.

Snarling, Ramon Rand permitted his upper torso, arms and head to reemerge from the animal form, and pressed the communicator’s button to signal he got the message.

Eyes scanning the woods, he saw a long dead tree lying on its side and knew its hollow interior would serve the purposes he needed. Shifting into a tiny monkey with eagle wings, Ramon Rand dove towards the fallen trunk and slid inside, blocking the very entrance he used with a quick shove of earth.
“I’m ready,” he growled into the communicator and waited for the Shadow Slide to commence.

And flying over Afghanistan airspace, Iron Butterfly soared in the shape of a strangely-shaped jet fighter. Defying the very laws of physics with her powers, Iron Butterfly dove towards nearby rebel camps and melted their weapons to slag and debris. The soldiers who were hunting the rebels down stared at the strange ship in the sky and began calling out for their superiors to tell them what to do.
“Is it American? French?” the soldiers called out but their lieutenants could not give a certain reply.
“I have bought you peace,” Iron Butterfly called out, her voice magnified by unseen speakers that were shaped by her power, “And allowed your corrupt government more time to prove it can change. Do not waste this chance.”

A beeping sound came and was followed by a voice. It was Dharma.

“I highly disapprove of you’re interference with existing governments,” he spoke through the communicator. Iron Butterfly soared higher, allowing the clouds to cover her exit. The soldiers mutely stared at the sky and watched as the rebels ran out of the buildings where they had hid in, their hands over their heads in surrender.

“My time is my own, Dharma. Unless the Cabinet calls for me,” Iron Butterfly reminded her.

“You are being called now,” Dharma reminded her.

“Give me a moment to find the darkness,” Iron Butterfly replied.

And in the end, it was about walking towards the light. Shadow Sliding was like stepping into a room, shutting all the lights, then feeling a strange awareness that you have moved even without ever taking a single step. Then, from the darkness that surrounded you, a point of light would emerge in the distance. This point would grow larger, until you realize you can approach it and by walking to it, eventually leave the darkness and step into the lit room that was the receiving hall of the Shadow Spire.

Isadora Wellington-Smythe did nothing to hide her discomfort upon emerging from the shadows. She smiled at the Mechanic, the man who seemed old enough to have been in Vietnam and was known to be the guy who made the Shadow Spire itself, and offered him a handshake.

”Late as usual, Isadora,” he teased her.

Patting her pink raincoat down, she slid the pink gloves she wore off and tucked them into her pink body hugging bag, “Dharma in a mood again or what?”

“He’s fine,” Mechanic grinned, “As always, kinda hard when you’re someone who sees the past and future as easily as one watches television. Even Plus is here already. You better get going, Iota.”

Iota tossed him a smile and quickly made her way down the receiving hall to the nearby elevators. Quickly traveling up to the floor where the conference rooms were, she pulled out a pair of earlier shrunken ipod nanos and enlarged them to their proper size.

“I bring gifts to apologize for my lateness, if you’ll all pardon them being in hot pink,” Iota called out as she held all six of the mp3 players in one hand and stepped through the door. Dharma was already in the gist of the meeting. Iron Butterfly, Sideshow, Blitzen, Donner and Plus were all seated facing Dharma and looked at her with evident “You’re in trouble” stares.

“Sit,” Dharma coldly replied and continued, “The target shall be traveling via the Orange track and is set to arrive at the Kowloon Station two hours from now. That point of time is your action point.”

“Who?” Iota whispered to Blitzen as she sat down and handed the speedster the ipods. “Some walking government experiment that the Hong Kong government forgot to put down. Dharma’s learned he’s fated to go Godzilla if we don’t stop him in time,” Blitzen replied.

“I’m still not comfy with this S.A.N.D. mission,” Sideshow spoke aloud, “I don’t kill.”

“You won’t have to be the one who does it,” Iron Butterfly detachedly retorted then sat up and turned to face Iota, “Blitzen can debrief you along the way. Dharma, is there anything else we should know about this mission before we Shadow Slide over?”

Dharma seemed to pause for a moment and reconsider things. Donner and Blitzen were happily tucking their ipods into their pockets to notice the nervous glance Dharma seemed to have tossed towards Plus. As far as the rest of the team was concerned, Plus was an energy producer/channeler and telekinetic who suffered from a multiple-personality disorder. She claimed to have a sister, whom she referred to as Narnie, trapped in her head. No one knew for certain if she was crazy or actually speaking the truth. Iron Butterfly asked again.

“Dharma, is there anything-”

But Dharma cut her off.

“No. Shadow Slide immediately once I leave the room. That is all,” Dharma told the group and stepped out of the door. Iota stared at the screen and looked at the image of the young man. She noticed the bright orange jacket he wore and found herself feeling a tad envious. She could never wear anything but pink since she unlocked her powers. Just before flicking the lights closed, Iota found herself mumbling, “Lucky bastard.”

Iron Butterfly waited for the room to quiet down then spoke through the communicator, “Shadow Slide us, Mechanic. Hong Kong subway Kowloon station.”

And they were gone.

* * *

Dharma looked at the Mechanic and tried to seem calm when the Mechanic announced, “Team safely in Kowloon Station, Dharma. Shall I get the wine and cheese ready for another successful mission?”

Not receiving a response, the Mechanic cocked a nervous eye towards Dharma and fought the urge to ask. Dharma was not one to usually talk unless he had something to say.

As the Mechanic watched Dharma leave the room, he found himself unable to suppress the worry. Clicking the button to the communicators on, he mumbled to the team, “Watch yourselves, guys. And good luck.”

“Don’t worry,” Iron Butterfly replied through the communicator, “This will be over before you know it.”

End of Issue #01

Nikki Alfar
Tobie Abad
Gabby Lee
Andre Mischa Cleofe
Cathy delos Santos

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