Song recommendation: Hark the Herons - New Start To Start

Author's note: I'm back, baby! I had a nice hiatus, recharged my batteries a bit. I feel like I can continue now. However, I've also apparently decided I'm insane, as I'm going to be trying write two other Champions-verse stories, and this one, while I'm also doing school. Here's the first chapter of the next part of the story. A new city, a new team, a new direction. I'm moving more towards arc-based stories, though the first couple chapters will be more self-contained. And just for fun, three of the characters in this chapter won't live to see the end of this "volume" (though one in a way that leaves a later return open). Care to guess who? As always, all feedback is appreciated, and considering the changes in this chapter, I'm especially curious what your thoughts are. So please review. I know Lurtonx complained about the changing cast back in chapter 85. So if I can get him on my side with this new group, then I'll know it's working. If he's still reading, that is. Now, some quick self-whoring. Like I said, I'm trying to do two other stories. The first is called Aegis, the second is called Runaways. I'm probably going to have shorter chapters with them, though Runaways may start with long chapters. Aegis will be in the Action section, right now, Runaways in Adventure tomorrow. Both will obviously be available from my profile. Also available from my profile is a link to my Champions-verse forum, for discussion of stories set in the Champions universe I've created. You can also read my X-Men review blog, X-Men X-Pert, if you want.

January 5, 2013

"So how are you liking LA?"Alvin asked.

"It's a nice city," Melissa replied. "And the weather's great. I love wearing a skirt in January. This is gorgeous weather."

"That it is. I told you this would be a good idea. And I hear UCLA has a great medical school. So when you start there in a few days, you'll get a great education."

"While you pursue your acting career. Despite never having acted in anything bigger than a school play."

"I'm a real-life action hero. How hard can it be to do it in a movie? I can even do my own stunts. And write my own one-liners. The studios will be begging for me."

"I'm so going to look forward to saying 'I told you so'."

"Hey, wait a minute." Alvin slowed down and looked ahead of him. "Is that . . . ?"

"What is it? What's wrong?"

"Eddie! Hey, Eddie!"

Eddie didn't hear Alvin as he talked to Christina. "Churches and other private charities do a better job at helping people than the government does, anyway. They're trying to get the people back on . . . what's that yelling?" He looked forward through the crowd. "Aw, crap. They saw me."

"Who did?" Christina asked.

"Eddie!" Alvin ran forward and grabbed him. "How've ya been, man!"

"Hey, Alvin, Melissa, good to see you guys," Eddie replied, returning each of their hugs. "What brings you two out to LA?"

"Acting for me," Alvin said, "and med school for her. Starting with the new semester."

"Oh, congratulations, both of you. This is my roommate, Christina, by the way."

"Roommate?" Alvin asked slyly.

"Roommate," Eddie repeated firmly.

"Well, nice to meet you," Alvin shook her hand. Melissa did the same.

"Same to you," Christina said. "Both of you. Eddie's told me quite a bit about you. I think he's missed you, actually."

"Melissa, I've missed," Eddie said with a smile. "Alvin, I've missed like a wart."

"Psh. You know you love me."

"Maybe. Doesn't mean you weren't a pain in the ass."

"He's my pain in the ass, now," Melissa said. "Though not literally, no matter how much he begs me."

"I mentioned it once! And I wasn't even suggesting we do it!"

"So you two are still going out?" Eddie asked.

"Yep. I even agreed to start sleeping with him recently," Melissa nodded.

"Agreed?" Alvin said. "As I recall, you basically ordered me to sleep with you."

"Your memory must be faulty. At least, if you want to sleep with me again, it is."

"Dammit. I've gotta learn how to use sex for blackmail."

"So what have you been doing with yourself, Eddie?" Melissa asked.

"I've spent most of the year doing campaign work. Since the election, I've been doing a few odd jobs here and there. I'm still drawing that stipend from Janet, so money isn't really an issue."

"What do you do, Christina?"

"Call me Chris," Christina replied. "I've been trying to get noticed. A bunch of agents have told me I'm not pretty enough to make it as an actress, but I'm not giving up. I go to every audition I can find, and I've been working as a waitress in the meantime."

"Well, that's cool," Alvin said. "Hey, it sounds like something's going on."

A large number of sirens could be heard nearby. "It sounds like they're heading for the waterfront," Eddie said.

"We should go check it out," Christina said eagerly.

"We really shouldn't," Eddie shook his head.

"I'm going to," Alvin said. "Mel, you coming with me?"

"OK," Melissa replied. "I'm not wearing my costume, but I can still try to help as a medic."

"All right. Just gimme a quick minute to change."

"You should be going, too," Christina told Eddie. "Whatever's going on sounds like it's pretty big, and you've got the power to help save lives."

Eddie groaned. "All right, fine. Alvin, you can give me a lift, too."

"Don't forget your mask," Christina added.

"Yeah, yeah." Eddie took out a grey mask and put it on. It covered his whole face.

"Wait," Valour said as he emerged from the alley he'd just changed in. "You carry a mask on you? You've gotten back into superheroing! Extreme is back!"

"I've beaten up a few criminals here and there," Eddie said as he climbed onto Valour's back. Valour held Melissa in his arms. "It's not like I'm taking on the General or anything. I'm not going by Extreme any more, either. The local press has dubbed me the LA Guardian."

"Guardian it is, then," Valour said. "It's good to be going back into action with you. Feels right."

"Feels to me like a terrible idea. What the Hell are those things?"

As they neared the waterfront, they saw what looked like an army emerging from the water. There were a number of large, eight-legged octopus-like tanks among the horde of men with guns. If men was the right word. They wore full body protection that looked like a mix of environmental suits and armour. The armour was transparent in parts, revealing thick and close-fitting scales in a wide variety of colours, ranging from grey with black accents to blue with yellow accents. They also had small, round eyes.

A number of the tanks had already gone down, and they could see some sort of small dome far back on the beach, with a person inside, on which the invaders were focusing much of their fire. Valour put Melissa down, then he and Ex- . . . the LA Guardian went on the attack.

Valour went after the octo-pods. He blasted at the legs, and found each one took two hits to wreck. The main body was even more resilient. He was going to need to figure out another approach. He slammed into the legs of one of the pods, hoping to unbalance it. He was able to knock it partially off-balance, but it stayed up, and recovered before he could strike again. One of its legs slammed into him, knocking him away, but he was unharmed. He got above it and dove down to strike the top of it. It was dented slightly, but not much.

As he considered his options, half the pod's legs suddenly turned to noodles. It immediately fell over. He wasn't sure what happened, but he wasn't going to question it right then. Instead, since he didn't seem to be able to do much to the pods, he decided to focus on the army supporting them. He flew across the front line, punching and blasting. At least they didn't seem to be too tough.

The LA Guardian teleported into the middle of a pack of invading soldiers. He kicked the nearest one in the face while grabbing a second to throw into a third. He flowed from that into a leg sweep, punched another in the gut, and came up with an elbow smash to the face of another, while his left hand chopped another one in the throat. He moved from that to spin and slam his left elbow into another face, then kicked an invader in the gut and jumped on his back to leap over to another group.

Melissa ran over to the dome to see who was inside. She knocked, and he turned around. The man inside looked to be around 30, with short blond hair and blue eyes. He wore a blue costume with a red starburst on the chest. He waved his hand, and an opening appeared in the dome. "Are you OK?" she asked him as she entered.

"Yeah," he replied. "I'm fine. They can't get through this dome."

"Who are you?"

"Nick – uh, I mean, Unreality. I can warp reality. Like this." He gestured again, and one of the octo-pods that was getting close to the street sank into the beach. He looked exhausted.

Melissa looked around the beach, and could see the wreckage of over a dozen pods. "How many of those things have you taken down?"

"I lost track around twenty. I've also tried to keep the foot soldiers from advancing. It's been pushing my powers to the limit."

"I can use my healing powers on you. It'll eliminate your exhaustion for now, but you'll pay for it later. You'll actually end up sleeping a full day if I do it. It's your call."

"There's still a lot of those guys left. Do it."

While Melissa healed him, someone else entered the battle. Her body stretched and weaved among and around the invaders, punching and slamming them. She grabbed their own guns, which fired some sort of pellet, and bashed their heads with them. She wore an orange-red costume with black gloves and boots. Foes tried to grab her, but she simply bounced them back into their friends

Another man approached from the opposite direction. He was a big, muscle-bound man with a buzzcut, wearing a black wrestling singlet. He grabbed two of the legs on one of the octo-pods, and pushed them up hard enough to topple it over, where it landed on a group of invading soldiers. He picked up the wreckage of a downed pod and hurled it at another one that was turning to face him. The thing wobbled, but stayed up. Its guns, however, were wrecked. He grabbed the legs of a downed pod, and swung it around to slam it into another pair of them. The pellets being fired at him stung him, but weren't piercing his skin.

While all the superheroes fought, the police and National Guard were fighting, as well, firing into the invading army. Valour flew through the force, knocking enemies down and drawing their fire. The LA Guardian brought his reflexes and skill to bear, moving too quickly to be targeted. Unreality manipulated water, sand and metal to bring pods down. The elastic girl was in multiple places at once, keeping her body on the move. And the muscular man simply smashed everything in his way.

Finally, the invading force had no choice but to retreat before the onslaught. They fled back into the water, leaving their wounded behind. Unreality dropped his dome, and the five heroes gathered together while Melissa treated injured police officers.

"So that was pretty awesome," Valour said. "We kicked some invading army ass."

"Yeah, I'm sure it was exciting for you," the woman said. She was holding her side, and was bleeding in a few places. "You have a force field. You're not going to have any bruises tomorrow. Those pellet guns really hurt."

"Do you need healing?" LA Guardian asked. "We've got a friend who can help."

"I should definitely get patched up, but I don't think I'll be bleeding out or anything. I appreciate the concern, though." She smiled flirtatiously.

"I'm Valour, by the way," Valour introduced himself. "This is . . . uh, the LA Guardian." The Guardian was waving over Melissa.

"I go by Elastic Woman," the girl said. She was tall and thin, and looked to be in her late 20s. She had brown eyes, but her hair was covered by her mask.

"I'm Unreality," Unreality said. "Nice to meet you all."

"Gunther," the last man said.

"Is that your codename?" Unreality asked.

"Don't got no codename," Gunther replied. "Don't need one. Codenames are for nerds."

"I'm going to call you Tiny," Valour said. Melissa came over and healed up Elastic Lass. "So I have an idea."

"Ah, crap," Melissa grumbled. "I knew this was coming."

"The six of us should form a team. Here in LA."

"Yes!" Unreality accepted eagerly. "We totally should!"

"I'd love to," Elastic Woman said.

"I guess you bunch'a pussies need someone like me," Gunther said. "I guess I'll help you out."

"Guardian?" Valour asked. "How about you? As long as you're doing the hero thing, you may as well do it with us, right?"

Guardian sighed. "I'll . . . think about it, OK? This isn't really something I'm wanting to dedicate myself to. I might help out, I might not."

"You mentioned you don't have a job right now, right?" Melissa asked. "Why don't you sign up as the team's PR manager? Then you can always decide if you want to fight or not."

"Yeah, I guess that's not a bad idea. All right, I'll do that."

"Awesome!" Valour grabbed his shoulder. "The Champions are back!"

"No, they're not," Guardian said. "The Champions have run their course. We need a new name."

"Aw, weak. All right, no big deal. Hmm. We're on the West Coast, maybe something to do with that?"

"Knights of the Coast?" Elastic Woman suggested. "Like a play on Wizards of the Coast."

"You play D&D?" Valour asked in disbelief.

"I used to, yeah. Why is everyone always surprised to learn that a pretty girl can like role-playing?"

"West Coast Knights might work a bit better," Guardian said before the original topic was lost. "We'll need to design a symbol. A coat-of-arms would be the obvious choice. We'll also need a headquarters. I've gotta start making some calls. Everyone give me your numbers, and I'll get back to you when I've got a place for us to meet."

"Feel free to call me any time," Elastic Woman told him with a wink.

"Uh, I think the police want an explanation about what happened," Guardian changed the topic.

"Hello, officers!" Valour said loudly. "You can count on the West Coast Knights to protect this fair city from now on! You're welcome!"

"The who?" the chief of police asked as he approached. "Who the Hell are you people? Why are you bringing trouble to my city?"

"We didn't bring trouble. We stopped trouble. Or maybe you didn't notice us stopping the giant aquatic army."

"Hnh. All I know is that two years ago, LA had never been attacked by fishmen, or whatever those guys were. Superhumans are trouble. I don't trust you."

"You can't really do anything about it until we break the law, though," Unreality said.

"Which is why I'll be watching you people very closely." He glanced over and saw a horde of journalists. "Ugh. Vultures. Fuck 'em. I'll let you deal with them."

"So you don't trust us," Guardian said, "but you're willing to let us talk to reporters?"

"Better you than me. I'd just end up wanting to shoot them. Maybe I'll get lucky and you'll rampage through them. Then I can arrest you, and I'll have two problems solved."

Melissa joined the police in checking out the wounded invaders while the five costumed heroes dealt with questions from the press. Eventually, they left, going their separate ways but agreeing to meet back up at a later point.

"Our third full day in LA," Melissa said to Alvin in their shared apartment, "and you've already joined a superhero team. We haven't even finished unpacking everything."

"Evil doesn't wait for unpacking to be finished," Alvin replied. "You think you'll join up, too?"

"I doubt it. I'm actually enjoying being a civilian. But maybe. I'll go to a couple of your meetings, see how I feel. You never know. But don't hold your breath."

"Hey, Chris!" Eddie called as he entered his apartment. "I'm home!"

"I saw you on TV!" she called from the living room. "You were awesome!"

He took off his shoes and walked into the living room. "I'd ask if the cameras caught my good side, but I don't have a bad side."

"So you're forming a new superhero team? That's really cool."

"Well, the other four are. I haven't decided if I want to be a member. I'll handle the PR shit for them, though, and figure it out from there."

"I think you should be a full member. You'd be an awesome superhero. And I could be your Gwen Stacy."

"Yeah, that part's not happening."

Elastic Woman slipped into her apartment and took off her mask, shaking out her curly brown hair. "Man, what a day," she said. "Fighting an army was not what I ever expected to do with my life."

She showered and changed, then went into her living room. She pulled out her phone and saw two new voicemails. She put it on speaker while she listened to them.

"Hey, Susan," the first message went. "It's Jim. I had a really good time last night. I was wondering if you wanted to go out again? Well, you've got my number. Call me back."

"Pass," Susan said as she deleted the message. He was a nice enough guy, but he hadn't impressed her. She'd given him a chance, but he hadn't done enough to earn a second date.

"Hey girl," the next message began. "Good job out there today. Rob's getting together with some friends tonight, so why don't I take you out for a congratulatory dinner? Assuming you don't already have a date lined up. Call me back."

Susan checked her calender on her phone. It looked like she was free, so she called her friend back. "Jane, you ignorant slut! Buy me dinner!"

"All right, but you'd better put out."

"Then you'd better take me somewhere nice. And then we're coming back to my place; I don't believe Rob doesn't have hidden cameras in the bedroom just in case that happens."

Gunther entered his apartment. He grabbed a six-pack of beer from his fridge, threw the dirty clothes off his chair, looked for the remote control, then sat and watched TV.

Next: Will the West Coast Knights last past their first meeting, or will they be torn apart from within? In Psyche-Out.