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[Part 1]
Herald the Strangers

Location: Lost Haven University, Lost Haven
Time: Present Day - Morning

The late morning sun shone through the chemlab windows on the west side of the LHU’s campus, a couple students working on their individual summer projects were minding their own business while one tall lab assistant bobbed around the lab, periodically recording sample readings, preparing bunsen burners for later use. The university’s chemistry labs rather quiet, providing little work for its assistants. Her blonde hair was tied into pigtail braids, clear safety glasses sat on her head and green rubber gloves poked out from her white lab coat pockets. Charlie Croll made her rounds, bored but with plenty to occupy her mind with. The past few days had been full of mysteries and excitement. Returning to the mundane helped to sort her routine back to normal.

She thought of Berenice and Salamander, thought of the risky plan she was hatching with Maddi. It felt like the city itself was simply waiting. Like it was overdue. Terrible news was gracing the headlines everyday, pumping fear with every grim news reporter.

Lost Haven University was hosting it’s orientation for new prospective students, the majority fresh outof high school to check out their respective department buildings and campus dormitories. Having graduated with her master’s, she felt pangs of nostalgia watching teenagers wander through the hallways.

Hassan stood in the back of a procession of his peers as they all trampled off the bus rented by Lost Haven HS. A mixed class of juniors and seniors whose college acceptance test scores were just good enough to warrant admission and those who scored perfect in every category. Hassan was amongst those who were just good enough to get in. He always hated high school, although he figured college would be worth it if for no other reason than the high school girls who had matured into women. Travelling in the dead middle of the group, he had intentionally situated himself next to his platonic high school sweetheart, Akila. She didn’t care for him of course, but he was too naive to relish in the hint.

She stood in front with Hassan in tow behind her,

“So! College, huh? Pretty dumb if you ask me.” Hassan was smug.
“You think everything is dumb. Maybe college would teach you something!” Akila opined,
“Yeah, well. . .” embarrassment choked the contours of Hassan’s face, “you aren’t that smart yourself.” he muttered,
“Excuse me?”
“What? Oh, nothing! Nothing! I uh… you smell good.”
“GROSS!” Akila weaved amongst the crowd, abandoning Hassan to his woe in the sea of other middling and disinterested members of this visit.

It was apparent to him at that moment that he should probably throw away the balloons with the smiley faces that he was going to use to ask her to the upcoming school dance in the fall; it was an odd gift, creepy even, but Hassan was no artist, nor did he have a mind for design. Maybe he should have taken his sister’s advice and just approached Akila like a normal human being.

“Real smooth, kid.” Pantheon interjected.

No one asked you, idiot.

“I can hear that too, you know.” Pantheon returned.

As the group approached the university’s interior, Mr. Kleinschmidt halted the entire group and turned to speak,

“Alright kids, you know the. . .”

Blah, blah, blah, blah. This was such a waste of time.

With Carmine in the hospital the University of Lost Haven found itself one professor short in the Archeology department, so David opted to fill in as his substitute, and after a quick staff briefing and mass e-mail he was now filling in.

Today’s plan was to wait for the orientation groups to come by, and show them what their class was about. To teach and guide the next generation of adults is what many teachers, and professors, would say is their reason for choosing their chosen profession. However, for David, he never thought he would have the patience for teaching, let alone the drive for giving brain draining lectures every day. Today he was only here to replace Carmine, David blamed himself for his injuries, because even with all his power, he still let his best friend get hurt.

Although David had some negative feelings about teaching, he didn’t mind the small task of helping to advertise the Archeology department, it even meant that he could use campus facilities, like a shower. He also appreciated the small reprieve this gave him, doing something simple, and normal was certainly a change from his rough first day in Lost Haven.

That harpy woman, Birdneice, was it? Uskriss and his shaman powers, the Moloids underneath the city.

“I just went along with all that?” David mumbled to himself as he went took another sip of his coffee.

“What was that David?” Another staff member in the lounge asked. The lounge itself was mostly quiet, due to the other teachers also enjoying the silent morning in peace while a tv softly played in the background, along with the occasional ruffling of a newspaper. This was what David needed to center himself.

“Oh, uh, nothing.” David quickly blurted as he took another sip, looking out the window an odd sight caught his eye. Several black vans began to drive up awfully close to the campus, the fact that they drove up to block exits was suspicious enough, but there were a good many of them. Far too many to be visitors, especially in the summer, and the orientation kids all came here by bus.

“You guys see this?” David asked outloud, pointing towards the windows.

Hassan and his classmates were divided up into small groups pertaining to their specific interests and majors each would like to take. In groups of four they were tethered off: some met with Chemistry professors, Mathematics professors, Biology professors, Nursing, Business, English, Philosophy, Art, History, Pharmacy, Occupational Therapy, and some even cessated into Geology and Archaeology. Hassan didn’t care who he went with, he doubted he wanted to go to college anyway. So, he decided to feign interest in the less popular Archaeology faculty members whose faces shared the knowing disassociated gleam present in each of the approaching student’s eyes. Who wants to study Archaeology of all things?

Hassan and James McNair, the resident LHS Chess Club champion for two years straight, followed the Department Chair to his office. As the trio walked, Hassan admired the interior design. It was an old campus garnished with silver busts of the founders and plaques commemorating the service of long retired professors and principals since the University’s inception. Marble floors were finished and waxed, a modern contrast to the elderly walls which drew one’s attention from the walls themselves to the floor and vice versa. Sun smashed against light and dark melanated skin from the clear highrise windows above where one could see the newly built buttresses displaying their dominance over the hapless and finite humans who the buttresses themselves had seen come and go for nearly a century.

Regardless of how much disdain Hassan harbored for this tour, he could appreciate fine artwork when he saw it. Soon enough, they were near the Department Chair’s office and Hassan watched as the white-haired gentlemen rustled his keys into the lock and promptly opened the door.

“Find a seat anywhere, gentlemen.” The trio stepped into the sunlit room littered with growing and withering plants alike.

“This one needs a little water, doesn’t she?” Collins smiled as he withdrew his water cannister from the third top shelf of his bookcase where there were ironically few books. He showcased his stewardship before seating himself in front of the two boys.

James was a little too eager to obey. Hassan teetered to a seat of his own afterward. The Chair, whose golden plated desk tag read Daniel Collins, began his spiel:

“Well, sirs, let’s get right down to it! Here at Lost Haven University, we pride ourselves on innovation, contribution, creation; particularly so for our Archaeology and Geology departments--though between me and you” he whispered, “no one wants to study fucking Geology!” Collins and McNair laughed, Hassan also gave a chuckle. He appreciated when people spoke their mind.

There was an open window situated behind Mr. Collins, Hassan had been staring absent mindedly into the window when he saw the parade of black vans encircling the Eastern section of the school. McNair and Collins were exchanging what they believed to be jokes while Hassan’s eyes followed the growing trail of black vans winding around the building. From what Hassan remembered, black vans meant trouble.

”Remember when I said we had much to discuss?” Pantheon butted in again.
“Yeah, and?” Hassan was getting sick of these intrusions.

Pantheon’s warning couldn’t have come sooner, because that is when Hassan saw them. Six men brandishing assault rifles Hassan had never seen emerged from the sliding doors of a single van. Then another six, and then another six. These men donned all black paramilitary attire--it was clear they hadn’t come to welcome potential freckle faced freshmen. These were the men Hassan had seen on the news.

These were the Hounds of Humanity.

For a split second, everything moved in slow motion. Hassan saw Mr. Collins get his skull destroyed by a 5.56mm round. Reigning chess champion and valedictorian, James McNair’s heart exploded seconds later from another 5.56mm. Hassan tossed himself on the floor as the office was sprayed to oblivion. Then the glass broke, a smoke bomb had infiltrated the small office. Apparently Hassan wasn’t the only one facing peril, the earth seemed to quake as he heard the screams of peers and teachers alike, flesh ripping open, bones mushing against the unheaded blasts of a Kalashnikov--human bodies unseamed and unzipped limb by limb from a storm of weaponized hatred.

A few moments ago David spotted several men leaving the few vans he could see, all carrying gear, guns, and none of them looked police. So he assumed they were the terrorists from the other day, the Hounds of Humanity.

“One of you call the police, I’ll hit a fire alarm!” David shouted as he moved to the doorway, a second later gunfire broke out near the front, and then from all across the first floor. David’s brows furrowed in worry as he ran, he sprinted behind several of the unwatched corners to change. Not stopping for a second David once again borrowed the powers of the earth, becoming Terra Firma.

David was still thinking like a normal human, so he ran out looking for a staircase to descend, but as he rounded a corner he stopped in surprise. A group of the Hounds had just climbed a staircase, their guns already trained on a couple of the other staff members walking around, they had frozen in fear as they stared at the Hound’s gun barrels.

“No!” David shouted as he jumped towards them, his hand reaching out, it wasn’t going to be enough, he wasn’t fast enough to block the bullets. But he didn’t have to be, with but a thought his body crackled with lightning, electricity swirled around his body. David brought his arms close, electricity gathered in his hands, then he threw out an arm, sending out several thunderbolts towards the Hounds guns, stopping them from firing, or throwing off their aim widely.

”Hah, shocking, isn’t it?” David taunted loudly.

They all shouted out various grunts of pain, or obscenities to help deal with the pain. Not allowing them to recover, David leapt towards them and crashed in the group, sending them down the first floor, or rolling uncontrollably down the stairs. David stood up again and rushed a Hound member, he sent a punch into the man’s gut, throwing him into a wall several meters back, but an explosion to his side sent him flying into another room.

The debris and dust from the wall flew out into the air, landing on the crumpled remains of the classroom wall was uncomfortable, but David ignored it, and dashed into the man that just shot him, forcing him into his allies, and knocking them all down.

Smoke swelled the room, Hassan fell into a spurt of violent coughs. He had involuntarily alerted the Hounds to his presence. Lucky for him the smoke was still thick; Hassan’s head was overcome with aches, the combat boots of what seemed an entire garrison of soldiers thundered through the shattered hole which used to serve as a fine source of daydreaming for Mr. Collins. How quick a simple thing turns horrendous! Never before had he felt such pain. Every sliver of his corporeal knit pinged with sharp episodes of burning distress.

As his body seized up and he heard the clash of the steel toed boots grind against the marble office floor, he could also tell the smoke was beginning to dissipate; he shut his eyes in a vain attempt to shield himself from everything that was happening. Maybe this was just a prolonged vision, he was having more than usual these days--and they typically began with fits of full body throbbing and stabbing aches. But, like every night, they soon converged into one of the visions, whether it be the all white oracle looking figure or Pantheon himself. But this time it was no dream or vision, Pantheon stood right before him. He had freed himself.

“Take my hand and live. Reject it, and die.” Pantheon presented his ultimatums with the requisite poignancy.

Hassan objected not, but as soon as he reached for Pantheon’s hand, the two merged. There was a resounding flash as the two entities joined. When the blinding light had died down and the smoke was clear, there stood Hassan reborn as the mythical titan of his lineage, Pantheon.

What proceeded next could only be kindly referred to as a slaughter. The Hounds rippled Pantheon with bullets, but each either crushed against his frame or ricocheted off his body. He slung one into a building adjacent the school; another he backhanded into the bookcase once belonging to Mr. Collins. He grabbed two by the neck and promptly crushed their esophagus’. Tossing these aside, he felt a tinge swing down his spine as one attempted to shoot him with a tranquilizer--its needled had bent inward on itself. Pantheon smacked both hands together to form a thunderclap, the condensed pressure from the clap pushed the remaining eight into the streets and atop some parked cars.

Pantheon stepped over the bodies of the two dead Hounds and set his predatory eyes on his victims. If he did not kill them all, he would make sure they regretted the happenstance of their existence.

Meanwhile on the western side of the campus, over the intercoms the alarm began to sound. An automated voice alerting everyone of a Yellow Alert, cautioning students to find safety. The message replayed twice, finally one of the students spoke up. One of the two male students in the lab with Charlie commented irritably. “It’s the summer, why the hell are they doing a practice drill?”

Charlie shrugged at them, remembering their names were Jordan and Matt, “Don’t know.

The first gun shots rang through the halls making the trio jump, automatically they turned their instruments off then ducked underneath the counter, hissing, “What the fuck!

Charlie ran to the lights darkening the lab as more gunshots drowned out the intercoms. The natural light illuminated the lab regardless, soon the chorus of screams followed the violence. They stared at each other, terror clear in their faces.

Her hands shook with fear fumbling for her cellphone, dialing 9-1-1. As the dial tone rang, the warnings on the intercoms were cut off with a brief tap-tap test on a microphone. A clear, delighted voice spoke.

“Goooood morning, kiddos. My name is Lawrence and if you’re either dead or haven’t figured it out yet the Hounds of Humanity are here to clean up a few things.” The clatter of a desk chair in the background was audible, the speaker making himself comfortable. “We all know, the filthy metas and magic heathens walk among us. Most notably passing for normal in school. Naturally the best place to start cleanup would be the metahuman’s favourite city and favourite school, LH university.”

Charlie’s stomach flopped as the small voice of the 9-1-1 responder pulled her attention, “The hounds are at the university! The school is on lockdown and there’s guns going off!

There was a slight pause and the responder immediately said, “Stay on the line with me-”

Charlie cut the phone call, the other students looked at her like she was insane. It really was rather insane, she would soon find herself later agreeing with that. She texted her mom first. In a quick message she said her love you’s and assuring she was alive, what was happening. She pocketed her phone tearing off the lab coat not giving it a second thought. In her locker outside the lab was her staff and backpack, the gunshots never seemed to cease and as they were - they were sitting ducks waiting to be found. The lab was on the second floor with big bay windows facing east.

Lawrence carried on, his enjoyment warming his chilling message, “Now kiddies, there’s no real way to tell you apart so we’re not going to discriminate. For those who are not meta or magic take some comfort in how your name will be remembered in a fancy plaque for this tragedy. Your blood will serve as a tribute to the greater good, bleach can’t remove that… oh what’s the word? That sacrifice. Anywho, to those who choose to fight we’ll see you at the hostage round up in the courtyard.”

She said in a hurried whisper, chilled to the bone once Lawerence was done talking. “Move when you can, they’re going to make their way to every room. I have to go.

“No!” Jordan snapped, then whispered, “Charlie you’re dead if you leave!”

I can’t stay here.” She said, with a firm breath she crawled out from the desk, neither Jordan or Matt brave enough to stop her they weakly begged watching her go. Carefully approaching the door, the gunshots moving closer, terrified steps racing past the laboratory door. She peeked over the window then slipped out looking both ways. She made a dash for her locker, hands shaking as she messed up her combination not once but twice. When she unlocked it she jerked the door open pulling her staff free first with a sigh of relief then her backpack stocked for a trip into the junkyard after her shift.

She had an old Lost Haven University sweater packed away, she pulled it on then immediately brought up the hood. She grabbed her goggles and face mask, tying the mask sloppily pinching some hair then pulling her goggles over her eyes. Her heartbeat in her ears she failed to hear the telltale metallic tink of a smoke grenade rolling down the other end of the hallway to her right. A professor sprinted by her, she pulled on Charlie’s sleeve shouting at her to run. Charlie recognized her seconds before she was shot where she stood, dragging the alchemist down with her in a dead heap. Blood splashed up Charlie’s arm, while the dying professor gurgled her last gasp for life. On the ground Charlie was face down, feeling every twitch from the professor.

Black boots came stomping behind her, while the smoky haze of the grenade filled her vision, she held her breath. She had no urge to fight, fear had frozen her where she lay. While one pair of feet stopped to check if they were dead, satisfied they moved on more gunshots making Charlie flinch. When the boots disappeared it was several heartbeats later the dead professor’s weight ceasing her in a fit of panic, the warmth of her blood soaking into her sweater. She gasped like fish out of water, the material of the mask being sucked against her open mouth. She threw her arms up to shove the body away. When she was free she scrambled across the hall back up against lockers, choking back sobs staring at the body. Charlie coughed against the smoke, the grenade still billowing out the gas. Fumbling, crawling several feet toward the grenade, she reached out covering her hand with the sleeve of her sweater slamming it against the steel, using alchemy to seal it.

Shallow gulps for air, she croaked the periodic table, trying desperately to focus. “Hy-hydrogen… helium, lithium, boron, cuh-” Charlie gasped, “C-carbon.” Slowly, she began to calm down as she recited the periodic elements, when she reached tin she forced herself to stand tracking back to her staff. When she stood upright, she saw at the far end of the department building the exit to the courtyard had men stationed at the exit. Panic nearly overwhelmed her once again, only this time clear words reigned her terror in.

Her mother’s words came to her from a familiar memory. “An alchemist is never truly trapped, you think and you act. Do not look for an escape, make one.” Gingerly her fingers wrapped around the solid sycamore wood, her thumb finding some smoothed gold. Picking it up she convinced herself of one thing.

I will survive.
The Lizard
Captain Marvel


Episode VIII: Trident of Atlantis

"Aww nuts...jus' when I can be useful in water...we are too deep down...." sighed Lizard in reply, already disliking being in such a situation.

"How the feck, did those damn Atlanteas survive in the firs' place? Or how did the Ol' Stars and Stripes reach this far down to take them out?" she added, curious on how the fate of Atlantis had ended in destruction.

"You have heard of a fuckin' submarine haven't you?" Rose stated, annoyance showing in her voice due to her dealings with the Bat. She opened her mouth to say more but opted not to as Captain Marvel stepped forward.

He had been asked to lead a mission with people whom he had never worked with in a place which he had only surmised was legend. Although he had also surmised all things magic were legend before he himself became the vessel of seven mystical figures. What's more, he was--as Rose blurted before Batman rudely cut her off--lacking requisite field experience which would equip him to lead in the traditional sense; so, he decided on a more natural approach. Marvel, still stood next to Rose,didn't want to draw much attention to himself and so he spoke up from where he stood,

"I lack the mind of some of you more..." he gave a side glance to Wilson from beneath the hood, "Creative individuals, so all I will say is: if something seems like it will be a problem, deal with it before it becomes one. Do not leave a teammate behind, use your strengths, supplement your partner's weakness, and most of all--don't leave my sight."

He fell silent, the floor now belonged to anyone who wished to speak.

"I think that damn well says it all." Rose remarked as Captain Marvel finished his spiel. "Best to gear up and get moving into the city." She continued grabbing her weapons off the bench beside her, slinging one sword over her should while the other one hung off the back of his waist. On either thigh, a pistol was holstered as Rose picked up her aquatic helmet, airbrushed to resemble her usual bandanna.

Stepping out of the jumpship, Rose looked around the arcitecture of Atlantis. It reminded her of her time in Greece, albeit with a hint of cyber-punk. The technology laden into each piece of arcitecture was at the very least on par with the modern world. Apparently Atlantean socery gave them a distinct advantage when it came to conjuring up the means to leave.

Overhead the shield shimmered as the power fluctuated. Rose paused, hooks of fear sinking into her heart that they'd be crushed before the mission ever truly began, but yet the shield held. Looking into the labyrinth before her, Rose shook her head as passage ways led everywhich direction. Tapping the forearm of her armor, she called up a heads-up-display as the H.U.D. appeared in her helmet, showing her the map of the area obtained by the League.

"Map suggests that fuckin' passage." She stated with a point of her hand as Rose turned towards the other three. "Is the most direct route to the throne. What's your call, Captain?" She asked the team's appointed leader.

' this is what sea-water tastes and feels like,' thought Lizard, easily able to be in the water without a helmet. As she could breathe underwater in essence - although, it didn't seem all that different to her usual. Albeit it came with the cost of having her ears shut, otherwise - Lizard couldn't get any information on what to do or go to. So she couldn't hear the ocean' sounds either sadly.

"If that is the most direct route, then let us take it." Marvel retorted, his demenor still unphased and rather unexcited. He could sense the pull of that old Atlantean magic swirling all around. It felt like an ancient salt mine--compact, shrouded, and shoveled beneath the care of a world which had long forgotten about it.

Lizard soon waved her arms infront of Captain Marvel and Rose - indicating that they should continue on their journey. Lizard was able to operate underwater without a helmet - but guess, that came at the price - that she couldn't speak to them. Since all that would be heard by her was simply bubbling and a muffled voice.

Marvel paced near the front of the group in case there did encounter something nefarious.
Ayita Dyrkin

("Oshea is a different kind of wild.")

Oshea Jackson

"Ayita; she tries to play beast--but like Hank--she can't run from her humanity forever. I respect it though, 'cause I done my fair share of trynna run from mine too."

Location: Xavier's Mansion Courtyard

Ayita couldn't help but feel a bit smug that it took Oshea a minute to notice her. Her lips twitched slightly as though they held whiskers at the end. Shifting her shoulders as he greeted her, the shifter regarded him with a brief display of surprise that was then and gone in an instant as she turned her head away. Her dark brown hair falling to obscure his view of the feeling. For all her trying she rarely could keep feeling from her face when it was praise. It was too strange, to shocking when she received it. Especially so when she was not the one it should have gone to.

"It was not I who saved you." She stated softly, blunt with her words as usual. Nodding towards where Damon was. She hated throwing the poor guy under the bus on this. He didn't appear to like people any more than she did. But she was not one to take praise. It would only make the accusations worse when they came. "Thank him. I did little." Regaining her composure she flicked her hair back and continued to watch him warily. Unsure of his motives to come and speak to her.

Hah! Got her!

His internal gloat remained just that, he quickly switched his own demeanor from its usual playful--and perhaps childish--disposition to one more glim. Contrasting a sorrowful lack of hair, he didn't have the luxury of burying the genuine thankfulness which rested on his face no matter how steeled he tried to be. He dropped his voice to a near whisper; something told Oshea Ayita was one who enjoyed the privacy of a conversation more than the content of the conversation itself. He wasn't going to fluff anything,

"So, wha's ya real deal, wolf? You all types of anti-social an' shit; I mean I'on' blame you," he leaned in, "some of these niggas annoy me, too not even gonna lie. Why you all brooding an' shit?"

Was that to the point? Oshea thought so.

If she had ears they would have flattened as he leaned in. Narrowing her amber eyes, she drew herself up from her slightly withdrawn posture to her full five foot eleven inches. Real deal? That was a question and a half. Yet she was not about to spill her entire story to this speedster or anyone for that matter. He didn't need to know about what remained of her family or where she had lost humanity and taken the beasts as sane. She didn't even know where that was entirely. "I do not brood." The tiger rolled beneath her skin and wanted out. She slammed her control down upon it. Why was he so interested? Damon had seen what she could do. He was wary of her, and she respect that even if it hurt a bit. Yet this man had not a drop of instinct in his head that he should be walking in the other direction! "The real deal?" Her eyes grew sharp as she watched him warily, "You are a human. I am not." Not any more. She had lost the humane part of her when she shifted and took to the forest and sky. It had be glorious but now she no longer understood her own kind. Not that she ever did easily, Ayita admitted. Social interactions were always hard.

Oshea burst out laughing! "AHAHAHAHA! initially, it was rather loud but it soon died. Quick as his jubilee came it distilled into a mood serious. There was a small smirk kept on the corner of his mouth,

"You know you jus' proved my exact point, righ'? 'I do not brood''" he mocked with a child's intensity while retaining a solid gaze. "Tsh; you might be some type a' animal. . . human. . . chimera thing, but you still walk talk sleep eat an' cry like I do. But uh, shit man, I ain' even--" he gathered some phlegm from his chest and spit it into the grass, "I ain't come over here to preach, you do know it don't make a lick of difference who human and who ain't in Magneto eyes, right?"

He ran the white towel along his soaked face and lathered it around his neck to lap the sweat's remnants,

"The real deal, b. I'm jus' trynna know who Ayita is, not whoever trynna stand in fronna me righ' nah. Plus," he leaned in again and his smirk turned smile, "Damon, Mary, Allison, they might all steer clear of you 'cause you can turn into animals--but you couldn't lay a finger on me no matta what form you took; so miss me wit' all that intimidation shit." He leaned out,

Prolly not a crack, maybe enough for a dent. It was her move, one could see the anticipation in his eyes.

Ayita's eyes narrowed as the tiger stirred and snarled at this afront to it's favorite squeaking man. The woman however was more concerned with the deal against Allison. "Magneto would see all burn for his goals." She stepped towards him, her teeth bared in a snarl. "And I don't care if someone's a muntant, a human." She took two more steps till she stood less than inches from him, her amber eyes burning with rage and cat-like slants for irises. "Allison is as close to me as I can bear. Damon has-" She paused and clenched her fangs- teeth. He had been a staunch ally in helping her control. He had shown concern for her, something she didn't fully understand. Why? She was just Ayita. The monster. The creature who destroyed. "Run as fast and far as you want. You can't escape the land, Oshea. And you have to tire at some point." She clenched her hands into fists as she held back the tiger and her flaring temper for the sake of the two who had helped.

Oshea tilted his head, his arms were folded across his widening chest. There was no strike of fear in him, no backing down. They were both animals of a different kind, and Oshea knew that. A wild beast, born from the heart of nature herself and a kid who knew the pit of poverty, born from the exoskeletons of urban renewal. It was the strangest strike of wonder; the child in him wanted to see how far he could push the beast, the man in him knew tempting the wild was never smart. Except Oshea almost always listened to the child in him over and above the man,

"Damon has--has what? Oh, oh, I see! You got a [thing for him, right?! Shiit, no worries, I ain't tellin' nobody,"then he dropped the smile--his face went blank. Bullies immemoriam made him spend his whole life running, and though he could lap Ayita a hundred times over, he wasn't to be made a coward by any man; and especially not by someone who didn't even believe herself human:

"Don't make no idle threats, Ayita. Shit might get you hurt," he roused, his voice iced with the same chill present in Ayita's, "I joke, I laugh, I might e'en act childish sometimes, but don't approach me like you 'bout some shit you really ain't. We don't do that where I'm from. Do somethin' or keep it cordial, you feel?"

Overstepped? Maybe. This ain't what I imgined this would go like.

The wild woman stood her ground not stepping forward to push her position on him. Letting out a shakey breathe. "I do not know what 'thing' you're talking about. He's helped. I owe him for his help." And trying to pounce on him multiple times. Her eyes still held the tiger in them as she moved to turn away from Oshea. "And you know where I am from. Don't pull a tiger's tail." She turned away morphing into the form of the great cat. A look of agony on her face as she did so. It was slow and it was painful, leaving the tigeress slump for a minute before it turned to look at Oshea. It's coat and the ground about it speckled with blood. Ayita's blood. Ayita's tiger body. Giving a very clear grumble and what could only be a sour look. She sat in the snow, her tail thrashing back and forth. She didn't like talking to people and she didn't like confrontation in the form of her having to get sharp and toe to toe with people. Giving a scowl she snorted. It reminded her too much of her mother. Now she wanted to bite something, the tiger agreed and noted the dark human was close enough to bite.

Oshea held up another smile; this was the most he had smiled in the last few weeks, ironicaly. His arms were still folded as he watched and moreover admired Ayita's transformation, unsettling as it was to see and he could only imagine it was ten times more painful. Part of him felt sorry for her, such drastic changes to one's anatomy could not induce pleasure in anyone. He heard her muscles tear and her bones snap as she morphed,


There was a momentary sliver of worry, he had never seen her change up close and personal before. The moment called not for admiration or praise, however, he had to maintain the gravitas, I know you have trouble speakin' in them forms, but I'mma give you this once piece of advice before you think about what you gon' do next--the tiger never catches the gazelle."

Ayita gave him a large grin of a row of sharp fangs. Accompanied with a rumbling albeit small roar. She would catch the deer. She always did.

(An abandoned warehouse, Marvin Hayes' hideout)

January 15th, 2020

5:10 a.m.

The months of December and January Marvin spent training. He began his full time venture into mixed martial arts in the highest order: first Judo; seven days a week, three hours a day, he practiced various leg trips, hip throws, and sweeps. On the old heavybag upon which he used to practice his boxing, he went through three repetitions of five moves each: first, the harai goshi--the sweeping hip throw. He grabbed the heavybag around its top and set outer part of his rear against its front, he pushed one foot backward into the bag and used his hips to twist with the bag's forward momentum; a massive smack echoed against the dusty of the abandoned warehouse in which he had set up his personal training room near the low-rises of New York's Marcy prjects.

Next, the Ippon Seoinage--the one arm shoulder throw. A more difficult maneuver to pull off, havybags have no arms one may note. To compensate, Marvin grabbed the heavybag by its chain and curled one arm beneath an artificial crux he made by giving the chain some slack; he proceeded to twist his body so the bag rested on his back, and then dipped into a slight squat before propelling himself upward forward and tossing the bag over his body completely with the chain still in grip.

He took brief respite. The old warehouse swelled of sweat and old boards. It would definitely need some renovation if he was going to make this his base of operations. Marvin took a look around; a splash of fuscia? maybe some forest greens and earth browns? It would fit the all natural look he had always wanted when he got his own place. He didn't care much whether this place was ten year old painting factory with some less than savory chemicals trapped in the walls.

After his short rest, he returned to training. Now it was ground transitions and using muay thai elbows and knees in combination with the transitions. It took another hour of continuous training before he had completely run through his entire regimen for the day: Judo, BJJ transitions, Muay Thai knees and elbows, and of course some regular boxing refreshment.

If he was going to build himself a hideout, it had to be gorgeous. That, and he would probably need to invest in some kind of actual protection--his fists still weren't as fast as bullets. Off to the home supply store and the outdoor hunting establishment.

Later that Day

4:00 p.m.

Shopping cart in motion, Marvin scanned the available camoflauge fatigues. Green? Black? Tan? These folks had no fashion sense.

They just don't know, you gotta look good when you bustin' heads!

Marvin shook his head in disappointment at their appalling lack of fashion sense. He chose the black fatigues; they were obviously the best choice for disguising oneself for night-time barhopping--if one would use such loose terminology to describe taking down the mob. He continued his search, one finger tapped his thick chin as he pondered his decisions; did he want the fingerless gloves and the tan workboots or should he wait and order the army boots to pair with the gloves? The army boots had better traction across different terrain, after all. No, the workboots would do just fine. He snatched both into his shopping cart.

When he got back to his base of operations, he tried on the camo gear, gloves, vest, and boots. It all fit well, though it all felt a little heavy. In time he figured he would get used to the feel; it probably just meant he had to strettch more, for after all, he was beginning Taekwondo next month and he had never thrown many kicks before.

February 1st, 2020

12:00 p.m.

January passed in a flash, in the intervening weeks, he had sent a little compensation the governor's way to procure rights to the land surrounding the warehouse upon which he had been nesting: compensation to the tune of of half a million dollars. He would have no city inspectors haggling him as he continued to prepare for what was brewing. The Mob had apparently relented in their pursuit of his life and their money, or so it seemed. New York's streets often talked, and Marvin had been keeping his ear close to her pulse; a new set of Triads had moved into town and had their sights on the Italians' territory. War was coming to NY streets, and there would be blood. Marvin would be right in the middle of it.

After he was done painting and re-decorating of course. He spent the last two weeks of January adding his own touch to the white walls permeating the 200x300 space. He spent much of the month simply painting his hideout; black and white tiger stripes draped across half of the warehouse from ceiling to floor; the other half was left unfinished until he felt like getting to it. He wasn't paying himself for this. This was indeed a strange time to be alive; superpowered people were slowly making themselves known--the most known of them all being Lady Arcana. Marvin didn't have a TV, but he heard from word-of-mouth of some of her more grandiose deeds; something about holding up a building with one finger? Marvin was unsure how much credit he could give to such stories. Although he was among these 'powered' people from what he knew of the changes he had underwent.

The world was changing, growing; people with incredible powers were appearing everywhere, and for every superpowered human who had appeared the common person still remained, and so did her problems. A rising of heroes was met with a rise in men and women who only wanted to capitalize on the suffering of the lowly. It was no wonder to Marvin thus when the lowrise housing projects he looked over had gotten another influx of drugs right into the heart of its population.
Been meaning to get back into JLU and this tbh
@LadyRunic pls no
Oshea Jackson

"Predator, prey--ain't no real difference when they both locked in a cage."

Location: Xavier's Mansion

A feeling always crept over him when he felt he was being watched. Most of the time it was just his paranoia, but he grew up around predators who knew how to thrive in broad daylight, those who stalked city streets with the most evil intentions dressed in modern lingo and deed: hustlers, boosters, drug dealers, pimps. The skin of Man and the skin of beast blend together too well. He approached the group with a steady pace, only to be swarmed by the same sensation as before; it grew stronger with each step until he saw whose eyes had been stalking him the whole time. Either Ayita was truly apex or he was beginning to lose his mind; how could he hardly manage to spot her though she was right in front of him? Maybe he was beginning to a step in more ways than he imagined before.

His thoughts tensed as he drew closer to the shifter; it didn't take him long to see what was present in her eyes--the Hunt. She was stalking him! It was no literal stalking of course, in his present state she could surely capture him if she wished; this was to be a strategic exchange. Oshea knew he could make no erroneous moves here and each word he chose had to be the right ones, or she would shut him out completely--and frankly, he was tired of everyone avoiding him for whatever reason. If all of Oshea's dalliance in books of war taught him anything, it was this: in dealing with the quietest of friends--or enemies--it was best to invite them in. The prey can lure the predator if it makes itself appear weak. He was excited, perhaps too excited, to engage in this game of tug-of-war he had been constructing in his mind.

How am I gone start? She look like she's starin' into my damn soul, bro.
"Start with the weather", his conscious replied to itself.
Lame shit. Need something she might be interested in.
"She hates everybody, son. She prolly ain't even got no interests." his conscious retorted once more,
You wildin', I got this; got suhn perfect.

"Ayita! Aye! You know, I never got to say thanks for savin' me an' all that. The wolf thing was nice, you know? You did real good out there--better than me, shit. Hah!"

Too light? Maybe too light. Try for somethin' more direct next time. Don't seem like she enjoy small talk.
Posting tonight.
@RiDaku Tell yourself to come get this smoke.
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