Issue #1: Knights To Meet You
The Pier, New York City
April 2, 2012
For the last hour Danel Lee had been attempting to solve the complicated legal puzzle box that is insuring the life of a superhero. His chief problem at the moment was distraction. He would only get so deep into the legalese before the same thought would derail his train of thought: the New York Knights are back.
Part of him felt like a child on Christmas Eve, impatient to see what mysteries would be discovered upon the morning. Another part felt like that child's parents, inwardly nervous about what those mysteries might bring and knowing that there really isn't a Santa Claus - just hefty credit card bills and, if you were lucky, some zero-interest financing for six months.
In a way it was Christmas Eve, and there were five intriguing presents waiting to be opened. What would be inside each, he wondered.
He finally gave up the futile exercise in administration and rose from his desk. He went and poured himself a cup of tea from the service Waldo had laid out on his credenza. As the porcelain cup filled, so too did his mind with images of the past. He thought back to the day, almost a year ago now, when he finally made the decision to reform the Knights. There was so much to consider, so many angles, so many things he had wanted to do differently this time around.
And now the day was here, a day born from months of painstaking planning, study, and research, not to mention an enormous amount of money. He moved to the large window looking out on the city. Standing there alone he sipped his tea. It was worth it.
The reflection of his wall clock in the window said it was nine o'clock. It was time.
The scene hadn't changed materially for a week and a half. When activity was first spotted at The Pier there had been no end of gawkers, spectators, media jockeys, and other interested parties in the huge crowds outside the black iron fence which marked the property line. The NYPD had been called in to keep traffic flowing on the West Side Highway and along the sidewalks surrounding the facility.
Over time, once it became apparent that no immediate big surprise was forthcoming, the crowd had thinned out. By the time the construction crews and the security guards left and activity had ceased altogether on the site, all that remained of the giant swell of humanity was a half-dozen (or less, depending on the weather or the time of day) low-ranking media flunkies. They mainly congregated at the benches at the edge of De Witt Clinton Park, binoculars strung across shoulders and cell phones charged and ready to call in the talking heads in their news vans and helicopters should something actually happen.
There were five of them today, three men and two women and all post-college interns. (Hey, you had to break into the business somehow, right?) They took turns eyeballing the Knights headquarters building, sipping coffee, and playing Words With Friends on their iPhones.
At precisely nine o'clock AM, every exterior access point security panel at The Pier beeped three times. The LED status indicator went from red to a flashing green, and then a steady amber after five seconds. Then all was quiet again.
Jackie had arrived at the park at sunup having been too excited to concentrate on anything else. She covered her costume with a simple wrap around skirt and light business style jacket. The skirt was long enough to conceal the tall boots and her mask was tucked in the case for her laptop.
Sitting in the park waiting for the other she nervously watched the handful of reporters knowing the stir she and the others would cause when they finally made their appearance. It was the one part of the morning she was dreading, afraid she would say or do something to embarrass not only herself but the entire team, but she couldn't see any way to avoid the seeing her when she officially arrived.
At a couple minutes to nine, after making sure no one was looking her way, she casually donned her mask before removing her jacket. People might remember seeing a blond woman in her late teens or early twenties but it wasn't likely anyone had paid much attention to her. She undid the ties on the skirt so as she stood it was left behind. Still having managed to avoid the attention of the reporters watching the pier, Jackie quickly gathered her belongings then made her way to the pier's entrance.
Leah sat on the flat rooftop of a building within sight of the Knights' pier. She'd been there for most of an hour, too excited to stay in her hotel room though it was still too soon to make her appearance. She had taken refuge on the rooftop when she'd realized there were still some media folk camped out on the Knights' doorstep. They hadn't noticed her yet, but they might if she continued to flit around overhead.
She wore her trademark Iron Maiden costume still, even as she toyed with the costume app on her phone. She'd played with it off and on since Daniel Lee gave it to her. She'd let Rachel try her hand at costume design too. But in the end, she couldn't come up with anything she liked better than her current outfit.
Leah closed the app. The clock on her phone read 8:56 a.m. She drew a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it out. Showtime. Time for New York City to meet the new Knights of New York. Hell, it was time for her to meet them. She still had no idea who else Daniel Lee had recruited.
She tucked the phone into a pocket she'd sewn into her cloak and sealed the velcro closure. It wouldn't do to drop the phone while flying. She stepped up onto the rooftop ledge. Another step took her into empty air.
She angled down toward the entrance to the Knights' pier. As she approached, she spotted another costumed figure below. A blonde woman in a colorful outfit with high-top boots and a mask. Leah had no idea who she could be.
There was no time like the present to find out. Leah drifted down to a landing a few feet from the blonde. "Hi. I'm Iron Maiden."
"Dreamweaver." Jackie said, holding out her hand. Up close Iron Maiden could see the woman was little more than a kid. She was dressed in a dark blue leotard with a transparent gold midriff, over which she wore a transparent, ankle length skirt, fully open on both side. Her boots stopped just below mid thigh and smoothly blended from gold to the same deep shade blue as her costume. In comparison her gloves were a simple affair stopping an inch above the wrist. They too were the same deep blue as was the woman's domino mask and like the mask were trimmed in gold.
Leah didn't recognize the costume or the name. She only knew of a relative handful of costumed metahumans, and Dreamweaver wasn't any of them. Leah didn't think of herself as old at twenty-six, but the blonde was younger, and her taste in costumes definitely differed. Leah's was entirely black: from the tank top and leather miniskirt visible when her cloak hung open, to the tights and boots, cloak and mask. The cloak was knee length, with an elbow-length mantle covering her arms. Her mask was tied over her eyes like a blindfold to conceal her features but brown eyes and dark brown hair were visible.
She took Dreamweaver's hand. "Pleased to meet you. I guess we're the first ones here."
A cyclist decked out in blue athletic gear and a hoodie was approaching. At first glance he looked like a bike messenger, although his only cargo seemed to be a a box of Krispy Kremes dangling in a plastic bag hung on the handlebar. He drew up in front of the women and dismounted.
"Hi!" he said. "Is this amazing or what?" A big smile beamed from beneath his oversized sunglasses. "They're all frantically phoning their editors of course." He gestured in the direction of the reporters clustered on the benches.
On closer inspection his outfit wasn't bike messenger chic. It was made of thick-looking material, like something a professional biker might wear. And the hoodie was more like a knight's coif. He carefully extricated the box of donuts, opened it, and held it out.
"Krispy Kreme anyone?"
Leah eyed the donuts, then glanced toward the media folk taking notice of them now. "No thank you. Maybe later." The last thing she needed was for someone to take a picture of her stuffing her face. The tabloid media in particular just loved to capture unflattering images of celebrities and run with them. It was unavoidable in the long run, but she didn't have to help them along.
"I'm Iron Maiden, by the way. And you are?"
"Glitch!" He thrust his hand out for a handshake, nearly losing the donuts in the process. Powdered sugar rained down on the asphalt.
Leah smiled and shook Glitch's hand. He was certainly enthusiastic. "It's nice to meet you, Glitch."
"Same!" Glitch turned to the other woman, grinned, and pushed the donuts in her direction. The box sagged and an Original Glazed wobbled.
"Thanks." Jackie said giving Glitch a bright smile. She was starting to feel out of place being the only one with a real costume and not just something you could put together with clothes from your closet.
"We kinda match," Glitch commented on their outfits. "Well, if you squint."
"Or if you're blind." Jackie smiled to take any harshness out of the words.
Glitch returned the smile, somewhat shyly. Dreamweaver had a knockout smile.
An extraordinarly tall man walked towards the trio, dressed in what appeared to be dusky gray combat fatigues. His unruly hair was cut short, his face full of angles. He smiled as he neared, long legs eating up the space quickly. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a phone that was familiar to them all, and waggled it.
"Looks like I'm in the right place." His gaze shifted from Glitch to the ladies, lingered on the more colorful outfit worn by Dreamweaver, before shifting to Iron Maiden's more somber attire.
"You'd be Iron Maiden, if I've done my homework."
"I'd still be Iron Maiden even if you didn't do your homework." She offered her hand again for the third time in as many minutes.
"I'm sorry, but I don't know the rest of you. I'm Dan." He extended his hand to Glitch, smiling when he saw the iconic box of donuts. "Uhm. Can I have one of those?"
"You can take the whole box," the shorter man said, pressing it into Dan's hands. "Except the Caramel Kreme Crunch. But I don't know if we should be doing real names out here. I think just call me Glitch for now." With both hands free he began futzing with his bike. It was a collapsible model. Theoretically.
The tall man smiled as he accepted the box. "Glitch it is. Thank you." He plucked out a powdered and began to chew.
Leah asked, "On the assumption that you don't want us calling you 'Dan' in front of the media, do you have another name we should use?"
"Bane," Dan said with a slight smile.
"I'm Dreamweaver." Jackie looked around at the gathered heroes. "Looks like I overdressed." She added with a frown.
Dan swallowed. "It's very... colorful?" he said good-naturedly. He was bent slightly at the waist, letting the powdered sugar dribble to the sidewalk as he took bites from the donut. "Anyone know how many of us there are?"
Jackie frowned slightly at Dan's answer. Maybe she should ditch the costume completely and only wear a mask or something to conceal her identity. That's what the others seemed to have opted for. Even though the costume app Lee had provided suggested he expected them to have real costumes. At least that's how she interpreted it.
"I believe Mr. Lee said he intended on six of us, since the original Knights had six members."
Leah turned to Dreamweaver. "I don't think you've overdressed. I admit, you're dressed much more colorfully than I am, but that's just a matter of style. I assure you, I don't dress like this in my regular life.
"Besides, I wasn't quite sure if we were supposed to coordinate our costume choices. That would have been impossible anyhow, since we'd not yet met. Who knows, maybe we'll all end up in matching outfits like the Incredibles."
"Wow! Do you really think we can do that? That would be so cool." Jackie became more animated with the thought. "Not black though. That's too dark. We need something colorful." The others could see her mind racing with the possibilities.
"No capes!" Glitch interjected à la Mode.
Jackie turned a bright red. "Um . . . actually, I have a cape. I just couldn't figure out how to hide it while I waited for everyone."
"This," Leah said spreading her cloak a bit, "isn't a cape, exactly. But it's close enough for government work. Don't let a cartoon character's rules get in your way."
"Uh, I'm sure a cape is great if you can pull it off," Gltich grunted. He'd folded the bicycle in half but it didn't want to fold any further. "Depends on what you can do. Powers-wise."
"Think 'Inflamable, Recognizable, Durable, Practical' Bane said, almost by rote. He set the box of donuts down very briefly and dusted off his hands. "Thank you for the breakfast, senior," he said to Glitch, picking the box back up as he watched the reporters begin to take notice. He checked his watch. "It's time. Little past, actually. I don't feel anyone else around, but that doesn't mean our other team members aren't already here." He looked back at the others. "What do you think? Head in, or wait a bit more?"
"You can feel when others are around?" Jackie asked curiously. "How does that work? How far can you sense people?"
"About a hundred yards in any direction, provided they're a metahuman," Bane said.
Leah had been about to ask that very question when Dreamweaver spoke up. Dan's--Bane's--answer was intriguing. She wondered what else he could do. Just being able to sense other metahumans' presence could be handy in a fight, or an ambush. What else could he do?
Jackie looked around to see if she could see anyone. "Maybe we should wait for the others to arrive. They might have had to stop a crime or something on the way."
Bane laughed. It came out suddenly, and there was no ridicule in it. "They might indeed." He shook his head, eyes sparkling. "Lee was right - this will be very very different."
Two of the twentysomething media lackeys, a man and a woman, were on a full-fledged sprint for the quartet while the others were furiously barking into cell phones where they had been set up across the park. The two who were running seemed to be unofficially racing each other until the woman stuck out her leg and tripped the man. His face lit up in surprise and anger as he flipped head-over-heels into the grass. His shouted curses, including a choice reference to female genitalia, only made the woman's heady smile of triumph grow wider.
"Caroline Payumo... ::huff:: ...New York Daily News... ::huff::..." she said as greeting to the four of them while she caught her breath. She held out a digital recorder. "Who are you, and do you have anything to do with what's been going on here at the Pier?"
Jackie gave the woman a look of disgust and walking past her went to the man she had tripped up. "Are you alright, sir?"
The female reporter wannabe didn't miss a beat. She just pivoted slightly towards Bane. "Are you affiliated with the Pier or the New York Knights, sir?"
"Well that was classy," Bane said to the reporter, shaking his head. "You're kidding, right?"
"He's a dick," she replied without blinking, "and he'll get over it. What's your name and where are you from?"
"He's not the only one, then," Leah muttered to herself.
"Donut?" Bane said politely, offering the box. "I think there's one with sprinkles left."
"The Caramel Kreme is mine," Glitch added quickly. He smiled and Bane sensed that Glitch had activated a metahuman ability. "Is that your phone making that awful noise?"
The young woman looked down at the phone on her hip which started making loud noises like a digitized cat being strangled. It aggravated the hell out of her and she tried furiously to shut it off and not let it ruin her flow, to no avail.
Doug sighed as he watched the initial gathering form in front of The Pier. He pushed off from the alley wall he'd been leaning against and shrugged out of the old Army jacket he'd bought at a thrift store. It had simply allowed him to walk here from down the street without anyone noticing the shoulder holsters and causing a scene, but now, watching a "scene" unfold already, he figured it was time to make his appearance. He switched his coffee to his other hand and pulled on his mask.
Casually strolling across the street he walked through the park and between the three media flunkies still trying to figure out what to do. They were inching forward as they talked furiously into their phones, simultaneously trying to get headlines and instructions from their betters.
"You should get closer," he said casually as he cut between them, tipping his coffee in a mock-salute. "You're not going to want to miss this."
He crossed the street, knowing he was already drawing stares. He was a big man, solidly built, just starting to grey a little at the temples. His mask drew up around his neck and covered his eyes and the upper nose/cheek area. His shirt and pants were made of kevlar flex-mesh weave, bulletproof against most small and mid-caliber weapons, and were reminiscent of military garb with pockets at the biceps and thighs. Sturdy boots, well-worn gloves, and his comfortable two-gun rig strapped around his shoulders and chest. The entire costume was a deep two-tone violet with gold accent and trim.
He strode calmly up to the others, giving each a brief once over as he picked up the tail end of the conversation. "I'll take the sprinkles," he said simply, taking a sip of his coffee. He smiled. "Sorry I'm late." His tone implied that he wasn't sorry in the slightest.
That makes five of us, Leah thought. She looked around for any sign of a sixth arrival. Unless he or she was disguised as one of the media folk, she saw no evidence of one. "Glad you could make it," she said.
Jackie was in over her head being bombarded with questions from the man she'd gone to rescue. She looked back toward the group hoping someone would come to her rescue and spotted the new arrival. "I'm sorry but I really need to get back with the others. You'll get all the answers you want soon." She told the report as she turned away from him and headed back to the group.
When she arrived she thrust out her hand. "Hi, I'm Dreamweaver."
"Ballistic," he said simply, shaking her hand with a gentle grip. His eyes reflexively took in her appearance with professional appraisal. The second look was strictly for personal reasons.
Leah walked away from Caroline Pavumo to join Dreamweaver in greeting the new arrival. "Iron Maiden." She offered her hand as well.
Doug turned and shook Iron Maiden's hand, as well. "Ballistic," he said again, failing to hide a small grin. He took a sip of his coffee and cocked an eyebrow at the other two men. "Missing one, are we?"
"I was told that the plan was to have six of us." Leah shrugged. "Maybe someone's late. Or maybe someone backed out at the last minute. Nobody tells me anything around here." She'd expected that the new Knights would have their first meeting out of the public eye instead of on the doorstep in full view of the media. Shows what she knew.
Jackie shrugged. "I don't know. I never asked how many of us there were."
Glitch shrugged. I'm Glitch, by the way," he said.
Leah reached into the pocket of her cloak and removed her phone. She checked it for new texts. Failing that, she would call the contact number Daniel Lee had given her and ask him directly.
The QE presented no profiles for the suited man sipping his coffee, so he wasn't a metahuman. Just very very talented, and very very... driven. Thing was, it was widely considered that the wearer of the Ballistic costume was retiring. He'd been seen rarely of late, and had a pretty long career behind him. Maybe age or injury had caught up to him? Maybe this was a new guy in the old guys suit? Who knew? Still.
Not a metahuman, and not known for being particular about the letter of the law, either. At least, not according to the things Dan had read about the man during his stint with the Service. He kept his expression friendly, his "officer face", as it were, while he considered this addition to the group. Lee had said that he was looking for experience as well as talent, and there was a shit-load of experience bundled up in Ballistic, that was for sure. Angry, back-alley experience, but experience nonetheless.
"Bane," Dan said, joining in the round of handshakes. "Pleasure to meet you." Ballistic was tall, tall and broad and built like a battleship. But he found himself in the rare situation of having to look up to meet someones eyes. The tall man was doing a good job of appearing affable, but Ballistic had been around the block a few times (and in several makes of vehicle), and he could see some calculation going on in that gaze.
"Indeed." Ballistic shook hands, his grip firm without being testing. If he felt anything about having to look up it wasn't readily apparent. He gave his mug a swirl before taking another sip. He wasn't going to get that donut, he could tell. He glanced around and eyed the door. "Anyone try it yet?" he asked with a jerk of his head to indicate the entry way.
Jackie shook her head. "Nope, we've been waiting for everyone to get here and introducing ourselves." The young woman was nearly bouncing with excitement. Bane turned back towards the gate, extending the donut box out to Ballistic and wincing as Caroline's phone made a painful squawk. Damn thing sounded like a chicken about to give birth. "We're here. Probably best to head on inside at this point."
"What the stink are they doing?"
From his office window, Daniel Lee slowly ground his teeth into powder as he watched his recruits shaking hands and chit-chatting away while the media watchdogs called in reinforcements. He looked down the West Side Highway and saw a FOX 5 news van fishtail and almost topple over as it made the right off of 34th street and floor it for their location.
"Waldo, please ask the team if they wouldn't mind stepping inside before we have a situation on our hands," he said to with a heavy sigh.
**Yes, sir, right away,** was the reply from the ceiling speakers.
Everybody's cell phones chirped at once with a received text message. It read simply, **Please move inside immediately.**
Leah was checking her phone for texts when the message popped up. She laughed and glanced over at the building. It's going to be a bit like herding cats, I fear, she thought at Daniel Lee. "Oops, time to go!"
"Speak of the Devil," said Bane, slipping the black slab of silicon into a pocket on his vest. "Ladies first?" He bowed slightly at the waist and extended a hand towards the main gate, an impish smile on his fox-like face.
Jackie made a beeline for the door wanting to be the first one inside. Leah followed at a walk.
"Hey," the young woman with the recorder and the odd-sounding phone who'd been ignored up until this point called out to Jacob and tried smiling. "You got a name or do we call you Kid Donut?"
"KD for short."
Doug chuckled around a mouthful of donut and headed inside.
The property upon which the Pier sat was surrounded by a fifteen-foot metal fence designed to look like decorative black wrought iron. There was a wide gate where the driveway started and this swung open automatically upon the group's approach. It swung closed again after Glitch brought up the rear.
The main entrance was a huge arched metal and glass structure that grew out of the eastern side of the building. There were three sets of sliding doors on the north side of the structure, one of which had a black security pad adjacent. A small amber LED did it's best to be bright under the morning Manhattan sun.
Jackie held her phone up to the panel and waited, shifting from foot to foot. The action was met with a quick beep from teh panel and the amber light flashed green. The large glass doors in front of the group slid silently apart.
As soon as they had parted enough to get through Jackie bolted inside. This was a dream come true and she couldn't wait to see the wonders presented within the pier. She stopped just inside, her mouth hanging open. It was the coolest thing she had ever seen and she wasn't sure where to look first.
Leah dogged Jackie's heels as she plunged eagerly through the doorway. It was an experiment. Could she get inside without presenting her own credentials by following close on Jackie's heels? The LED on the security panel answered that question when it changed from green to amber again. The doors, however, simply remained open while she stood close to them, perhaps something like the door at the supermarket. Leah entered the building, making way for the others behind her.
Dan followed Leah inside, holding up his own phone as was required.
The entrance foyer was bright from all of the sunshine and elegantly appointed. The floor was some kind of all-purpose surface that looked like wall-to-wall carpet but had a more solid feel like indoor turf. There were potted trees at regular intervals all the way to the far end where a huge and ominous security door awaited them. It all looked like something out of a far-future movie.
Shaking off some of her shock Jackie headed for the second door. If the entrance was this amazing she could wait to see the rest. Leah followed. "Pretty sweet, huh?"
Jackie was so in awe of everything she didn't even hear the other woman's question.
Leah smiled at her reaction. It was a rather amazing structure. She looked forward to seeing the rest of it. In the mean time, she tapped the icon for the browser on her phone and Googled Glitch, Dreamweaver, Bane and Ballistic. It didn't take long. There were no hits for costumed superhumans under three of the names. "Ballistic" was the name of a superhero who operated (or had operated--accounts varied) out of Chicago.
She glanced at Ballistic, who might or might not be the same person. And who might or might not be wearing a new costume (again, accounts varied). Well, she'd find out soon enough, most likely. She closed the browser and lowered the phone, giving her attention to the next doorway.
"I feel like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory," Glitch said. "Do you suppose Mr. Lee has any Oompa Loompas?"
"I'm partial to the Grunka Lunkas, myself," Leah said.
A what? Dan thought. This must be what anyone within ten feet of his parents must feel like at any given time. He raised an eyebrow as he took in the surroundings, following the ladies lead.
"But Oompa Loompas fit this better. The Grunka Lunkas were mean." Dreamweaver explained as if Iron Maiden was a child.
"But funny," Leah said. "That counts for a lot."
"The Oompa Loompas were pretty scary though," Glitch remembered.
"They never scared me. I always thought they were cool." Dreamwaver sad rolling her eyes that anyone could think they were scary.
"That whole movie is freaky. Wonka is totally expecting all those weird things to happen. And the Oompa Loompas help set it all up. And then they whisk away the kids."
"That movie is awesome. I still watch it every once in awhile. Now the new one I will agree is creepy."
"Three words," Glitch said solemnly. "Puppet burn ward."
Doug remained silent, content to simply listen, observe and go along without comment. At least for now. He might have something to say once he figured out what-the-fuck a 'grunka lunka' was.
Though he'd deny it if asked Doug had to admit that so far it was indeed 'pretty sweet.' He also had to admit that the exuberance shown by the kids was a little infectious. It felt good to be back in his togs, even if he wasn't sure what he was doing here, much less with a handful of young wannabes he'd never really heard of. Whatever the future held it should prove to be interesting, at the least. He shoved the last of his donut into his mouth and chased it with a swig of coffee, giving the cup a little swirl. Almost out, he noted with a baleful glance at the cup. He should've gotten a larger cup. He sighed. If he ran out of coffee before he got somewhere he wasn't going to be happy, and damned it he was going to stand around with an empty cup in his hand. He walked toward the security door at a steady pace, wondering at the odds of finding a Starbuck's on the other side.
"Not much wireless traffic," Glitch observed. "I guess everything's hardwired."
"Entry detected... five proximals... security scan commencing."
The voice, which could only be that of James Earl Jones, spoke from seemingly everywhere at once. There was a sudden shift in ambiance as the lights in the wide, arched half-tube glass atrium dimmed from the glass tinting a charcoal grey. Some hundred pencil-thin beams of blue light danced and swept the entire space, originating from all over and touching everything and everyone. That lasted three seconds and was followed by the brightness which returned as the glass walls resumed their lack of tinting.
"Security scan complete... Identified New York Knights: Ballistic, Bane, Dreamweaver, Glitch, and Iron Maiden. Welcome to the Pier."
A heavy mechanical sound within the walls echoed deeply before the wide heavy security door sealing the portal leading into the building began to slowly slide rightward. When it stopped there was enough room for several people to pass through abreast and into a public foyer.
"There is one message."
"Wow! How cool was that?" Jackie said to no one in particular. Her eyes couldn't decide where to settle as she tried to take in every little detail. It didn't even occur to her she might be stepping on toes when she eagerly replied to the disembodied voice, "Play message."
"Message recorded today, 07:32 hours."
A three-dimensional area about three meters in front of the group shimmered and formed into a life-sized image of Daniel Lee. It was a good quality projection from somewhere along the wall in the foyer behind the image, based on trace lines of light expanding into that space. It wouldn't pass for the real thing, but it was clear and crisp.
"Welcome to the Pier," it said to them in Lee's recorded voice.
"Whoa," Glitch whispered. "Best voice mail ever."
"This facility has been occupied by some of the finest people it has ever been my privilege to know. This was their base of operations, their sanctuary, and their home, and now it is yours.
"I have taken the liberty of assigning a residence suite to each of you in the north wing. Even if you will be living elsewhere, I want you to know that you have some place to come that is yours, without conditions. The Knights have always been something of an extended family and while you may be strangers to each other now, in time that will change - trust me."
"Breakfast is set up in the dining room. I'm in my office in case you want to stop by. Otherwise, I'll see you in the team conference room at ten o'clock."
Jackie moved around the image as it spoke, at one point causing it to flicker as she moved between it and the projectors. "Oops." She muttered and moved off to one side her eyes following the faint lines of light. It was obvious she was fascinated with the technology required to project the image and couldn't wait to dig deeper into what made it tick. It was also obvious she was far more interested in the base then the people with her.
The image flickered twice and vanished silently, leaving the five Knights alone once more.
"That was so Minority Report," Glitch exclaimed. "Future is now! Computer, replay message." As the figure of Daniel Lee repeated the greeting, Glitch walked around the image and joined Dreamweaver in looking for the projector. Projectors?
For the first time Dreamweaver really looked at one of her fellow heroes. "You've heard of Minority Report?" She asked incredulously.
"Everyone's heard of the movie, haven't they? But the short story was better."
"The stories are always better, everyone knows that." Dreamweaver answered. "The movies can be good but I prefer the stories."
"Absolutely." He turned to look at her, removed his sunglasses, and cocked his head slightly as if she were as fascinating as the hologram. He had big brown eyes, a wavy mass of unkempt hair, and a slightly upturned nose. The overall effect was slightly elfen. Glitch not only talked like someone who knew The Lord of the Rings by heart, he actually looked like he might hang out in Rivendell in his spare time.
"Are you by chance," he asked, "a Dickhead?"
Dreamweaver shrugged, "I prefer Asimov but Dick's not bad." Glitch had her full attention. Here was someone she might be able to talk to.
"Dickhead?" Leah asked. "Philip K. Dick," she added. "I get it. I just never heard his fans called that before."
"What do you call Asimov fans?" Glitch wondered aloud.
"I could tell you some of the things I've been called." Dreamweaver said laughing. "Most of them not very nice."
Dan had been impressed with the hologram. Very impressed. But when you could literally do anything, it kind of took the bite off such things. Jaded much, Danny? He watched the nerds go back and forth a bit, then headed on into the building. "I'm going to scope out the new digs," he said conversationally. "Anyone care to join me?"
"Count me in!" Dreamweaver was on his heels. She called over her shoulder to Glitch, "You coming?"
"I'll come along," Leah volunteered. "I already had breakfast--and I'm curious to see if our quarters are as high tech as the foyer."
"Heck yeah!" Glitch agreed quickly. He'd intended to be on his best behavior until some of the ground rules had been clarified. But that was boring. It wouldn't hurt to just ping the Pier's computer system, would it? Just a friendly hello? He reached out mentally and tested the air for ambient signals.
Ballistic sighed and resisted the urge to shake his head. He supposed he was young and eager once, too. "At least as far as the nearest coffee maker," he said, following his teammates into the building.
The Pier was immense. Leah figured that the entry foyer was two and half football fields long, and about as wide as a four-lane highway. If the rest of the place were built on that scale, the five of them would be lucky to stumble across one another on any given day. She was tempted to take flight--walking from the entrance to the residental wing would take forever. But it wouldn't be polite. And besides, she was curious to learn more of her new teammates. Dreamweaver and Glitch, at least, showed encouraging signs of being fellow sf fans.
The enticing scent of bacon--among other things--drifting from the dining room they passed on the way down the corridor that led to their assigned quarters was almost enough to make Leah reconsider. But she could always come back after she'd investigated, and curiosity was eating her up. Daniel Lee did nothing by halves. She couldn't imagine what the residences would look like.
Ballistic, too, smelled the tell-tale scents of breakfast. His steps slowed, then halted. He smiled. "That's my exit," he said to the others with a polite nod, then turned to the cafeteria in the hopes of finding a decent cup of coffee.
"Catch you later," Leah said with a wave.
Gltich came to a stop between Ballistic and the rest of the group. "Want me to wait up for you man?" he asked.
Ballistic gave a shrug. "Unless you want a coffee or a danish it's not necessary. I learned a long time ago to get what grub you can." He smirked. "Some days are longer than others."
"Okay, if you're sure." Gltich was already turning back to the others.
Dan stopped and peered around a bit, hands clasped behind his back. He'd gone to parade rest almost unconsciously, and probably would for the rest of his life. The United States Army had been in business for some hundred years or so, and it had the indoctrination thing down pat at this point. He cleared his throat, then tried a little experiment. "Could you please give me directions to Bane's quarters?" This was said to the air, pretty much. Sure he might end up looking the fool, but just how hi-tech would this place turn out to be?
James Earl Jones replied immediately. "Please follow the indicated path."
On the nearest wall a small map appeared, like a poster without the paper. It displayed a floor plan of the Pier in crisp and easily understood detail with markers for Bane's current position, his destination in a place marked as the North Wing, and an animated dotted path in red that moved in the direction he needed to walk. There was a room near to the path shaded in amber with the notation 'Dining Room: Breakfast in Progress'.
Looking of towards the direction he was to go Bane could see an identical map on the wall acting as something akin to a breadcrumb.
"Thank you," Dan replied automatically, peering at the directions. "Catch you all in a bit," he said to his companions, then he ambled off down the corridor towards his room.
"Wow, if Scotty ever came back in time to this place I'll bet he would feel right at home." Jackie said in awe. She had always dreamed of living in a place like this. It was too bad she wouldn't be able to live here and maintain her secret ID. She ran her hand over the wall, in part to see if it would disrupt the image, in part because it was so damn cool.
The closer examination revealed a razon-thin screen embedded just underneath the surface of the wall which was all but invisible unless you were really up close and looking for it. It gave the illusion that the wall itself held the image and appeared to be free of any wiring or other connections. When her hand touched and then moved along the screen, the image slid along the surface. The floor plan scrolled over until there was no more to scroll.
"How cool is that?" Jackie asked in general. She looked around to see if anyone was as excited about the display as she was.
"Pretty damn cool," Ballistic admitted with a nod. This hi-tech stuff was going to take some getting used to. He gave a mock salute and headed in the direction of the cafeteria. 'Breakfast in progress' had a nice ring to it.
"We're definitely living in the future," Leah agreed. There were no space colonies yet. Flying cars remained a pipe dream--and frankly, given how people drove on the ground Leah was in no hurry to have them flitting about overhead--but in many ways this was the future she'd read about as a kid, and she was in it. The high-tech software interface built into the Knights' HQ was impressive. "Show me Iron Maiden's residence."
One of the rooms in the residential wing of the map flashed several times before the words "Iron Maiden's Quarters" appeared on the map in the appropriate space.
"Thank you," Leah said. She smiled at Dreamweaver. "Time to see what's on offer."
There was a mumbled, "You go on ahead." as the younger woman continued to examine the wall. To the air she said, "Show me the control room."
The single spoken word was followed by three thumbnail videos appearing on the screen, replacing the floor plan. The first was titled "Command/Control" and showed high quality surveillance camera footage of a large room with several different stations and a huge screen flanked by slightly smaller screens, much like the bridge of a ship in one of her science fiction novels or shows. The second was titled, "Simulation Control" and showed the feed covering a smaller room that seemed to overlook a warehouse or hangar or other large open space. The third was titled "Reactor Control". This third feed was represented by a static image of a video error icon.
The third feed intrigued her. Given what she had seen so far she didn't think the error icon represented a real error. It was more likely the icon was used to indicate the footage was not available for casual perusal. She would have to check that out later. For now she couldn't wait to see the Command/Control center. Dreamweaver touched the first video display and said aloud, "Show me directions to command, control." She knew were she was going to be spending her time until the meeting with Lee.
"It's right over here."
A man had come around the corner to their right, but only just. He stood there, close by the corner, as if he was shy and might jump back behind it. He was middle aged and thin but had a friendly face.
"I'm Waldo. You must be the new Knights." He gave a timid wave. "Hello."
"We must," Leah agreed, "or the security software is in need of a serious overhaul. Hello, Waldo. I'm Iron Maiden. It's nice to meet you." Was he the sixth Knight, or part of the staff? Her first impression was that he was too timid to be a Knight, but she could be wrong. He could be phenomenally powerful, for all she knew--she certainly didn't look anywhere near as strong as she really was. Better not to assume anything. "So what do you do around here?"
"Oh, maintenance mostly," he meekly replied. "It's my job to make sure everything here runs properly and Mr. Lee is very strict about keeping it clean. We have an informal policy regarding cleaning up your own messes but I'm always around to help if you need it."
"That sounds like a reasonable policy. I'll do my best to avoid messes, and clean them up."
He took a tentative few steps closer to Iron Maiden and said with a shrug, "I'm a really big fan, by the way. Being able to fly... that's got to be so damn cool."
Leah's first impulse was to move forward to shake hands, but she feared he might retreat--or flee entirely. "Thanks. Yeah, flying is..." the next best thing to sex, really, but most people didn't want to hear that comparison, true though it was. "It's more fun than I can say."
"Hi Waldo!" Glitch chirped. "I'm Glitch. Are you as psyched to work here as we are?"
"Hi, Glitch," Waldo answered as his eyebrows rose slightly. "Oh, yes, these are very exciting times. I'm something of a student of Knights History, so to be here, now, it's just so humbling."
He half turned back the way he came and asked, "Do you want to see the C-n-C?" Then he giggled to himself just a bit at how it sounded.
"Si!" Glitch replied. "Oh, but wait, I just have to do this." He touched the wall and said, "Ho, computer! Which way to the holodeck?"
"I can't wait." Dreamweaver said over Glitch. Then what he said registered and she turned her attention to him. "This place has a holodeck? How'd I miss that?"
"It was just a j-"
"Holographic simulation room, actually," Waldo explained. "See?"
The screen now showed a path to a large room deep into the south wing called the 'holographic simulation room'.
"It doesn't have the ability to create simulated artificial intelligence like on Star Trek, but it can simulate any kind of external or internal environment. It can also create a variety of threats and crisis situations. That's where you'll be doing a lot of your early training. Mr. Lee saved all of the previous programs from... from the previous Knights. Some of those a really intense."
"Wow! This place is even cooler than I thought it would be." Jackie was torn between visiting the command center and the holographic simulation room first. Even when her powers began to develop she had never seriously imagined she would ever have a chance to be a part of something so great. Looking back and forth between the two she finally decided on checking out the command center first, simply by virtue of it being the closer of the two.
"Nerdgasm," Glitch agreed.
"The command center is this way, right?" She was already moving in that direction.
Glitch was also torn, then remembered he'd accepted Waldo's offer of a tour of the Command/Control Center. C-nC, he reminded himself. We say C-nC. That's what we say.