Journal Posts

Agent Johnson's Tale-- Part Two
Its a nice school. Real top notch, if you ignore the fact that we’re educating Hitlers alongside the Galahads. Still, these supers tend to be a closed bunch. They don’t give away each other’s secret id’s or rat each other out.

Sure they turn the bad one’s over to the police or the SOC when they can, but a lot of times they just have their fights in the alleys or on rooftops or in third world countries without extradition and they stop the bad guys but don’t catch them. Hell, before the SOC separated from the CIA, we had a half dozen reports of Century meeting with Benjamin Bale without any violence. They had dinner together at least two of those occasions.

The point is that they police their own.

So when I got to the school and started having a look around, I was already sure that the Challengers were launching their own investigation. The reports on these kids suggest that they’re like pit bulls. Once they sink their teeth into something, well, it gets dragged kicking and screaming into the light.

It didn’t take much, really, to put them to work for me. Hey, I only want to make sure that a murder gets solved. If I can pin a name to the crime I might be able to sleep better.

* * *

Destructor’s “daughter” was pretty easy to get moving. One of the side effects of Bale's is an ego the size of a dump truck. I just sort of implied that I was faced with a scientific problem that I couldn’t solve, that normal science couldn’t solve. Worked like a charm.

I made several references that this was an ongoing SOC investigation to cover my ass, but I never actually told her not to talk to anyone outright. She would talk, and the Challengers would be on the case. Outside chance that the Young Allies might put themselves on the case, but the Challengers MO suggests they won’t leave it alone.

That’s why I didn’t let Jerry come out here. He likes to micromanage. He’d be all over these kids with the whole “stay out of the SOC’s way while we solve this crime” shtick. Don’t get me wrong, Jerry’s a good agent, but he doesn’t do well when the players operate at this level. In the culture.

And god damn, but I’m gonna burn in hell, she’s what..? Sixteen? Sixteen didn’t look like that at my high school…
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my report on wards
Byeli Kurjack
Magical Wards and Their Applications

Magical wards have many practical applications, from security systems to impenetrable walls. Wards encompass a vast variety of magical phenomenon. A place can gain a ward over time through emotion or events that happened in the place. These wards are common place and are around everyday areas such an old family house, a church, graveyard, or prison. Someone is sensitive to magic can usually sense them when they step through them, some wards are so strong that you don’t need any magical awareness sense them. Other wards are created by rituals or spells, in my experience these are most common done by the application of a magic circle. Magic circles used to create wards are usually used in application to keep a being in place so one can speak to them or gain a service from them without danger of personal injury or global destruction.
I am studying wards to further my magical repertoire and ability to help my team mates in the field; I’m studying three different circles at the time of this report. The first is a detection ward for security reasons, the second is a defensive ward, and third a aura that increases the healing rate of beings in it.
The security ward is a ritual that im creating that can be used to detect a being entering the area that the ward surrounds. The ritual is designed to detect general traffic in and out of the ward, but it can be tuned towards certain individuals or travel methods. The one I’m working on specifically is geared towards detecting beings using magical means of teleportation. I used a rather creative way of marking the area of the ward, Play-Doh charged with some magic energy stuffed into the corners of the room. I think that with enough Doh and magic energy I could ward a huge area.
The second ward im designing is a spell. It will be a relatively quick spell that will increase the defensive capabilities of the beings inside the circle. Unfortunately it is a stationary circle and if the being on the inside breaches the circle it will disperse dropping the boosted defenses. The other drawback is I need to draw or form a circle on the ground to affect with this spell, but that relies on me having chalk or salt or sand, something on hand to draw the circle, which is not always possible.
The third and final ward I have been researching is a healing ward. It increases the natural healing rate of the beings inside the immediate area around me. I have to concentrate on keeping the ward up so while it is active I can’t do anything else, but the benefits are worth it if the ward can keep my team alive.
In conclusion wards and circles can be used to protect, repel, and heal beings and objects, among many other applications. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages in the application of combat. I will be researching more types as my studies go on.

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Epic!
Freudian Slip
Freudian Slip


“And this one? Kevin?” the shrink's voice rose an octave as he tried to get me to pay attention. “What does this one look like?”

I stared at the ink blot for a moment before turning away to look at the grandfather clock set up pretentiously by his wall of degrees and certificates. Dr. Kessler, specialist, psychologist and most importantly, friend. What a load of bullsh*t.

“Like someone spilled something?” I shrugged my shoulders with a grunt.

“Kevin, you know that's not what I mean. Come on, this will be the last one, I just need you to try and participate,” the bespectacled, bearded, sweater-vest wearing anthropomorphic PBS special bounced the card stock Rorschach test in his well-manicured hand.

I sighed deeply, and very consciously turned and stared at the card. I didn't like looking at them. I didn't like the way they made me feel. The arterial sprays of black ink making me feel... something. There was something there, just under the surface, brief glimpses, images of strange creatures being slaughtered by the thousands, flickering into my sight like someone had spliced frames from a horror film into my regularly scheduled life. Their bleating, warbling (and sounds that I don't even have the words to describe) just barely unheard, like the dying reverberations of an echo.

I twitched.

Doctor Kessler scribbled something on his note pad and then raised a single brow as he rested his chin against the palm of his free hand, his elbow propped up on the arm of his leather seat.

“What is it, Kevin? You can rap with me, dude.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. What an unbelievable jerk off. “I saw a skateboard. With, like, a turtle on it.”

“I see...” he offered, nodding and writing something down with his miniature, green golf pencil.

“Is that good?” I asked and looked around the room, anything to avoid staring this guy in the eyes.

“Well, it's not bad... there's no right answer to this test,” he explained.

“So what's the point?”

“The point is that your parents are worried about you, they've noticed a change in behavior lately that's got them alarmed. They thought maybe if you had someone outside of the family to talk to, that you'd be more able to open up about some of the things going on in your life right now,” Kessler intoned, with affected empathy.

I recoiled for a moment hissing out my displeasure as I sank a bit further into the identical chair across from the psychoanalyst. “I'm not really interested in talking to anyone.”

“Well, Kevin, you can expect a level of transparency in all of our dealings...and everything you discuss with me falls under my client-psychologist privilege. I won't share a word with anyone, not even your parents, unless you want me to,” he smiled and set the Rorschach card against the arm of his chair. He took a sip out of a glass of water that he had set onto a coaster, on the small, ornately crafted wooden table by his side. It sported a Celtic knot design that traveled up along to pattern the hand-made side table. Spires. Spires of twisting black bursting up from me, stretching high into a strange, and exotic lavender sky.

I blinked again. “I – uh – I've been having these strange dreams...” I blurted.

“Go on, please.”

“Well it's like this... this place, it's not earth, it's like an alien planet and there are these animals on it. They're strange, I don't know the names for them, but they're being just... slaughtered and devoured by this thing, it's this mass of like... tentacles and... it just... engulfs everything on this planet... you know?” I asked, searching his eyes for some understanding.

“And how does that make you feel?”

“Hungry,” I rumbled below my breath.

“Pardon?”

“Angry,” I said a bit louder.

The alarm on his desk rang with a gong chime and he reached over and swiped a finger over the touch screen to quiet it.

“What I'm hearing, Kevin, is that you feel as if you're in a strange place and this tentacle-thing is that place destroying and isolating you from your old life. It's not uncommon for young men and women to feel cut off from the rest of society, especially during this time when hormones are raging and... well... tell you what, why don't we continue this conversation next week. You're starting classes at your new school then, aren't you?” Kessler asked.

“Yes,” I answered and stood up from the chair. We shook hands and I could feel the imprint sweeping through my body as his genetic information surged through each and every cell.

“Good luck with that, if you need anything you have my number if you need to get in contact. Remember, these feelings are normal and you're not alone. Okay?” the psychologist smiled and led me out of his office.

“Okay,” I said quietly and walked out of the office and down to the building's lobby where my mom was waiting.

We left the office complex together, my mother and me.

Perfectly normal, perfectly sane, me.

-D
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Left behind...
just like that. Lynne's gone. She went with the Bad Seeds, and even when Thundersnap ordered the destruction of a whole town, she didn't even seem to flinch, or to question it.

What did we (I) do wrong? Why would she rather be with them than with us? I don't understand it at all. Maybe I should have been more pushy? Less? I don't know.

All I know is, I didn't think it could hurt so much. All the stuff leading up to it has been painful, and I thought, maybe, if she decided to leave us, if she chose them over us, maybe all of that would have made me prepared for it. Maybe it wouldn't hurt so much. But it does,like a wound. Is this grief? Does it ever go away?

And Rodney's unreachable, now, so wrapped up in... whatever is going on with him, he doesn't seem to be "here" anymore. It feels like we have lost him, too.

At least Forthyajar left us for a reason, and I am happy for her, that she and her people are reunited. I miss her, though.

It's just me and Lonnie and Wanda, now.

I wonder who I will be rooming with. I hope Wanda will be able to come back to the regular dorms. I just hope they don't put me with Lynne's old roommate, she seemed awful.

Maybe that would be better, though. I wouldn't get attached.

If not Wanda, I wish I could be Lonnie's roommate.


Edit:

And my parents thought I rebooted. The backup was activated. So is there an unprogrammed "me" out there somewhere? How, and why?

(it upset them quiete a bit, thinking something bad had happened to me. A good reason to avoid reboot.)
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Tags: Lonnie , Lynne , Nakitomi , Recap
What Lies Beneath
What Lies Beneath

A Montgomery Moment

Rodney stared at the bare patch of plaster on the wall in his dormitory. Sometimes, it was good not to look at anything too exciting while you were thinking. He didn’t want to invite the chance that he might get distracted and have to start all over again. The young mutant was diving deep into the depths of his mind to try and figure out an answer to all of these problems that had seemingly cropped up overnight!

No matter how hard he tried to sort them and act on one issue after the next they all mixed together. Rodney thought that his ideas were sort of like sides on a plate that didn’t have any reason to ever blend and yet, by the middle of his meal he always had a pile of amalgamated muck in the middle. Yes, he was sure that was his mind entirely... a pile of peas and mashed potatoes and chicken when it gets all stringy from cutting into it too much. Also, he was getting hungry.

There was the problem with Peaches. Yes. That seemed like it should get top billing. Rodney stared at that blank spot and tried to focus on it and not the fact that she had cut mental communication with him. She was heading down the same road that got her mixed up with Magpie and that got the both of them sent to Super - Juvie. Prison had been hard for Rodney - it was the first time that he had been alone, without Peaches’ soothing presence in his mind. It used to scare him, and yet, now, it seemed like they spent more time cut off from each other than linked. He was getting used to it and he hated that. Last time he said nothing, he did nothing, he had believed that Peaches’ happiness was the only thing he should have cared about. They were arrested for that mistake, and like a child touching a hot stovetop for the first time he had learned a valuable life lesson. But there he sat, in his dorm room, having watched history unfold itself despite his best efforts and a little Norn-magic to help. Rodney’s efforts had depressingly little effect despite him giving it everything he had. He had given everything to his deception and it lasted all of five minutes once the magic that Loki-girl had put on him had worn off. The Bad Seeds wanted his sister and she wanted to be a part of them. He had even gotten the impression that she was interested in Perseus. Perseus. Please, he wasn’t even in her same league! How could this have happened on his watch?! Rodney dwelled for only a moment on the truth that he was the one that probably solidified her membership into the organization. He had trusted her, thought that she was the only person that would have never lied to him, would have gone to the edges of the earth and beyond to make sure that she was safe and happy - and this is the thanks that he gets? When he asks her to trust him, just like he had trusted her, and leave the Seeds alone, what does he get? Nothing! Rodney balled his fingers into a tight fist. He took a long slow breath and relaxed them one by one. There was no sense in letting anger control him, even if they had promised to always be there for each other. First was family, then friends and then everyone else. That’s how it was supposed to be. Now it was all flubbed up.

Perseus, the snake. Rodney’s lip tightened into dark scowl as he recognized the young man for who he truly was, a deceiver, leading Peaches astray just like Magpie did. A peddler of half truths and false comforts, buying his sister like she was a... she was a... Rodney shut the thought out of his mind and locked it up, somewhere deep and dark to be let free at another time. He and Perseus were going to have words very soon. Oh yes.

Lonnie. Rodney owed his roommate an apology. He had tried to tell Rodney that his sister was lying, and Rodney didn’t believe him. Honestly, he didn’t want to believe him, it hurt too much to think that his sister had been leading him on just like everyone else he’d ever cared about. No, Lonnie had been the only honest one and he repaid that with skepticism.

Wanda had rose with Rodney to Peaches’ defense. He hadn’t given the girl much thought... there just wasn’t enough room for too many at once, but he spared one now. She was probably taking this whole thing hard. Maybe he’d go talk to her, she didn’t seem to like the fact that he took matters into his own hands when his mind got flipped with Peaches’. For that matter neither did Tomiko. Was personal choice more important than keeping Peaches’ safe? Rodney paused, giving that some extra special attention. If a man leaps off a bridge should he not try and catch him? It was his choice that threw him from the bridge, a concerted effort to take one’s own life was a choice wasn’t it? Should he respect his decision and wish him well on all future endeavors? It was his decision after all. No, that seemed off somehow. Standing by, watching while someone destroys their own life would be just as wrong! No. He wasn’t wrong for trying to stop this. The whole crazy school was in the wrong for condoning a damn group of soon-to-be-psychopaths, robbers and murderers.

Murder. Namely, Rodney’s own at the hand of Aces. Pithia, the oracle and apparent girlfriend had warned him about his own death. She told him Aces was going to kill him when there was snow on the ground. That didn’t give him much time to make sure that everything was going to work out fine. Rodney had died before. It was a grain thresher, he’d gotten too close. It all happened so fast that it didn’t even hurt. Peaches said she had freaked out... but then she put him back together, brought him back good as new just like they did when they healed each other. So death wasn’t especially terrifying for Rodney. He had to trust that no matter what was going on between them, that Peaches would bring him back if she were able. He had been good about keeping that particular ability a secret. If that got out, Aces might not be willing to just leave his corpse somewhere convenient.

Of course there was always the chance that Pithia was wrong. That this was all a grand manipulation perpetrated by the Olympians. Rodney knew that the Olympians and the Bad Seeds had business dealings. He remembered the day of the commando attack on the halloween dance. Pithia had done her best to make sure Rodney was far away from the conflict when it had began. They were the same commandos that had been after John Smith on account of the fact that he had no soul. The same commandos that Rodney’s gut instinct told him were in league with the Seeds. So what was the connection between the Olympians and the Seeds and when he found it what did that mean for him.

When Rodney started at the school, he had only wanted to make a few friends and be left alone, so that he could start a quiet life somewhere away from the capes and the lasers and the flying karate chops. He had experienced a superhero ass kicking first hand and he wasn’t really looking forward to getting any more of them. He and Peaches would have completed their education, put their crimes behind them and gone to live a quiet life. Simple. That’s how he liked it. He didn’t like being put in a position like this. Fated to die, sister just aching to get tossed in the slammer for her snake of a boyfriend Perseus, a girlfriend that may or may not betray him at any moment, working long hours monster hunting in the sewers and a class load that keeps getting heavier and heavier because of all the screw ups his ‘combat team’ had managed to pull off in record time!

Rodney tossed himself back into the bed, slumping onto the comfortable mattress with a sigh. His head hurt. Maybe he was an idiot, like John Smith always said. It was just... so hard to concentrate on anything with his head always being a jumble of everything he’d ever seen, read or heard. Rodney had a hard time forgetting anything.

Solutions. Oh, there were a few rattling around in his head. Nothing too promising, but the starts of some ideas that might work. He tried to keep things simple. Just how he liked it. He could ask Peaches to stop. Really ask, like a brother. He could beg her to stop and appeal to the part of her that had put family before all else. Or maybe he could say or do something to Perseus or the other seeds that would make them reject Peaches’ membership. Maybe he could make Peaches more of a liability than anything else... it would cut into his studying and probably his work, but he could just locate Peaches anywhere she went and offer to lead the young-heroes on campus right after the Seeds. When their plans keep ending in a superfight every time they took Peaches with them, it wouldn’t take them long to figure things out. And then there was the other thing. He could simply refuse to touch her. Without physical contact, the Montgomery twins powers had an expiration date. Peaches had gotten better as a thief, but without her powers she certainly didn’t have the chops to stand side by side with the Seeds. Those sounded pretty good... and that was just from a few minutes of thinking. Rodney smirked. Imagine what he could do if he actually put a few hours of effort into it.

The torn Montgomery rolled over onto his side and eyed the neon blue Triceratops that he kept on his bed. It was the only toy that he had kept from his home, it was a gift to him from his mother. She had bought it before he was born and before she died. It stared back at him with dark beaded eyes.

He wasn’t an idiot and he wasn’t a good guy. If it came to it, a hero would have a problem with burning the whole school to the ground to save his kin. They had made that mistake over at juvie, too. But that was before he crushed that asshole’s throat with the side of his lunch tray. That was before Justifier, his old roommate, took the blame for that action to protect Rodney’s chances at getting sent to the school with his sister. No. Rodney didn’t like bullies and he didn’t like labels. Everyone was in the same boat, just trying to survive. The boy didn’t have any problems with you if you didn’t make problems for him. He was only too happy to not get into other people’s business if they just left his family and him out of theirs. That was it, the big secret. Rodney was a survivor. Nothing more, nothing less. Making friends was a big part of surviving life... so too was knowing to keep a few cards up your sleeve for when you really needed them.

No, he wouldn’t ever be a hero. He was just a stupid kid with a troubled sister, a death sentence and a stuffed triceratops.

-D
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Epic!
First Night Ninjas in Under[I]where[/I]?
A Rodney Lee Montgomery Yarn

Things had gotten off to a running start at the academy. Rodney had received the telepathic message from his sister that men had gotten into her room and he responded in the only way he could think to do so, directly. He didn't fight many of the underwear stealing ninja's, but the ones he did knew they had been hit. Well, at least for the few moments before they dissolved into piles of ninja-goo. Rodney didn't understand it, but then, he didn't understand much of the goings on at the school. It was probably best for him not to dwell on it. He did feel pretty good about getting a commendation from the security team on campus for thinking on his feet and dispersing a smoke cloud. They didn't even seem mad about him breaking out Wanda and Peaches' window, or for him being on the girl side of the dorm, which was good, because Rodney kinda figured he'd had some comeuppance due for bending those rules.

The next day was a little harder in its own way, it was time to pick schedules... Rodney couldn't bring himself to care, he wasn't a child left behind, he just never really had a head for book learning and studying was a forgotten layer of hell from Inferno. He basically just followed along with whatever Peaches chose, though he was forced to separate from his sister for Combat Training, apparently all those tussles and black eyes growing up counted for something, because the Sensei really thought he could handle a bit more than the beginner's class. Rodney wasn't worried about the physical stuff. He'd always been good at the physical stuff. It was the regular classes that he was certain were going to cause him a heck of a lot of trouble. School. What a drag.

-D
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No Respect!
I can't believe it. None of them showed me the proper respect. Not even the teachers. Those who don't know my lineage, I can understand their ignorance, but the staff should have observed more decorum. In my first day here, I have seen the rougher side of humanity. These humans have many of the qualities of our oppressors. They torment those they perceive as weak. I think I'm going to find that my duties to protect my people may need to be expanded to help those here that need my guidance and assistance.
Session: Game Session - Thursday, Apr 19 2012 from 12:15 AM to 3:45 AM
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Tags: Day 1
A Moment With Montgomery, Feuding and Fussing!
Rodney's first day was a rollercoaster of new names, new ideas and new rules. He didn't sweat most of the details, Rodney would have all of that stuff planted in his memory in a few short days, he'd just wing it until then. It was all worth it to have his sister back in communication. He was hoping he could have roomed with her, but like those old songs that his daddy listened to said: you can't always get what you want. It was enough to have his connection to her back, to have her energy acting as a catalyst for his powers and vice versa. It was enough not to be alone again.

He'd see Peaches quite a bit it sounded like and he got to meet some new folk, like the greased-up Wanda, John the human chimney and his new roommate "Lonnie," who looked like all hell, but seemed like a nice enough guy, if a little - over disciplined. Someone had trained the poor boy like a dog and that didn't seem right to Rodney, though it looked like they were trying to make up for it to him and let him have his high school years. Either way, he and Lonnie were going to be fast friends. It was settled.

Aces was going to be a problem. Rodney knew it and he was torn. So long as he left he and Peaches alone he was more than happy to oblige...but the way he manhandled that poor china-girl wasn't any kind of right. He knew Aces' type. Kid like that only respected power. But it won't be too long before someone steps up to put him in his place. When a dog bites someone, you don't just put the dog down, you go after the master. In this case that was Skybolt. All the names. Rodney still thought they were silly. But if that's the way they did things at Deacon he would be happy to oblige.

It got crowded in Rodney's head very easily. Right now he needed to find himself a campus job and get back into a routine. It wasn't so different from the juvenile detention center. Everyone has something to prove in the first few days...testing... combat placement...psychic defense courses... yeah... there'll be opportunities to turn on the ole Rodney magic and with Peaches at his side again he was stronger than ever!

What could possibly go wrong?

-D
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Consequences
Consequences

A Rodney Lee Montgomery Yarn

If there was ever a place that Georgia-born Rodney Lee Montgomery had never wanted to see, it would have been the inside of a Court House, any of them, across the entire world. The law never held much sway with the young man, though his experience (up until this point) had been by and large the court room dramas that ruined an otherwise perfectly suitable day-time television block. Rodney could never be bothered to muster so much as an inkling of interest in the intricacies of the judicial system, something he as a defendant, was beginning to regret.

Rodney sighed as he stared at the glass of water sitting half full in front of him. His assigned attorney was talking loudly and boringly about what a hard childhood that Rodney and his twin sister, Peaches, had endured. The teenager found that it was easier to concentrate on the small ripples that shuddered across the water's surface with every vociferous ebullition that bellowed from the public defender than on the man's tedious arguments (even if they were in Rodney's favor). The Court Room had been smaller than he had imagined it would be, but still managed to hold a crowd large enough to make him feel uncomfortable. The neutral, brown suit that he was forced to wear to the proceedings had only enhanced his discomfit. The dark-yellow tie hung around his neck like a noose, pressed too tightly against his Adam's apple and made him painfully aware of every nervous swallow.

And he was very nervous and very alone.

Rodney did not like being alone, but nor did he like crowds. He liked exactly one person: Peaches. For as long as Rodney could remember, he and his sister had shared a powerful psychic bond that ensured (for a time) that he would never be unaccompanied. He grew up sharing his inner-most thoughts with his sister: his feelings, his successes, his dreams, his worries, his failures, and she with him. She was a constant, comforting and secret presence in his mind. In hindsight, their abilities might have served as an omen of the still more fantastic powers to come, but the connection had always been, to the siblings, as natural as breathing. Rodney in particular never thought it anymore odd than feeling one's pulse beating throughout one's body or more worthy of conversation than the frequency of a person's blinking. Like breathing, it existed on such an instinctual and primal level that it was very easy at times for the twins to forget they were in contact at all and at others to become all-too cognizant of the strong impressions, emotions and thoughts blaring from one another. Also, like breathing, Rodney had taken his mental link to his sister for granted, something that he only became aware of after he had lost the ability to do it. He had never noticed it, growing up with Peaches, but his incarceration had made him painfully aware of a weakness that did not present itself until just then. Without physical contact from Peaches, his powers faded away to nothing in a little over twenty-four hours.

Rodney had been shaken by the loss of his sister's telepathic proximity. He never before had to wonder how she was feeling, what she was thinking, what she was doing. He was wondering those very things as his lawyer's voice continued to sound somewhere in the distant background, relegated to mere noise as his thoughts turned to Peaches and the events leading up to this moment. He had never meant for any of this to happen. He was supposed to have been taking care of his sister, he was the older brother, after all, even if it had just been by three minutes. She was his responsibility and he had let her down, the only family he had left and he had failed her. He wondered if she would be forced to endure the same struggles as he had been, surrounded by a media circus and treated like a carnival sideshow – a spectacle.

Was he a freak?

That single, all encompassing question had become louder without his sister by his side. When it had been the two of them against the world, it was easy to believe that it was everyone else that was wrong. Now, with a whole room of people staring and judging him, Rodney was starting to believe that his daddy had been right. There really was something wrong with him.

* * *

To truly understand any moment, someone should have knowledge of it's beginning. What strange game had fate played, stacking events up like dominoes, to lead Rodney to this point? Would it be enough to say that the mutant siblings' mother had died in childbirth? Is it sufficient to make a brief mention of their father, their only living family abandoning them upon the onset of their more advanced (and far more noticeable) abilities?

The devil, as they say, is in the details.

March 7th 1998 should have been the happiest day in Johnny “Private First Class” Montgomery's life. His deployment had come to an end only days before and he was watching his gorgeous wife, Claire, give birth to his first child, correction, children. Claire was pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. John was young, he'd survived the Gulf War and he had just received a full scholarship thanks to Uncle Sam. Things were looking up. Maybe that's why life had such an easy time sweeping his legs out from under him.

The birth was coming along smoothly, the doctor assured Johnny. The children were healthy and Claire was doing very well. The boy was born first, Rodney, named after Claire's grandfather. John even got to cut the umbilical cord, just like the happy, proud fathers in the movies. He was healthy, crying loudly with his first few breaths. It only took another three minutes for the girl to follow. Peaches. Johnny and Claire had met in a peach grove, it had become one of their favorite spots, in many ways they had fallen in love in a peach grove. Peaches would be their own little reminder of the happiest moment of their lives. Again the doctor handed Johnny the scissors. Johnny joked away his nervousness, he told the doctor that he was getting good at this. He told Claire that he loved her. He cut the cord.

If Johnny had read more Greek mythology he might have been familiar with the idea of the threads of fate. When the serviceman's scissors sliced through the cord it was like someone had just turned Claire off. John's dream became a nightmare with one smooth snip. Something had happened, something had gone wrong, Claire had flatlined. One moment he was joking with the staff and the next he was being rushed out of the room. He stared impotently through the glass windows, but the nurses drew the curtains closed and left Johnny nervous, terrified and yes, alone. The sweetness of life turned to bitter ashes in his mouth as he waited for what seemed like an eternity. John watched as the doctor left the operating room. The look on the man's face tore what little hope John had clung to away from him. The new father and widower fell to his knees and in many ways, never stood again.

Johnny “Private First Class” Montgomery may have been ready to accept the challenges of parenthood with Claire at his side, but without her he was lost. A once promising future became increasingly bleak, John lived at the mercy of the wellfare system. He was able to get himself diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. But even John knew that he had lied to his physicians. It wasn't the war that bothered him, not anymore, it was that awful March night in 1998 that haunted him. He never held a job again, moving into a small trailer that would serve as the Montgomery's childhood home. It wasn't long before John began to suspect that something was very wrong with his children. When they cried (which was often) they did so in unison stopping only when the other did. When they were able to speak, John would notice that they never spoke directly to each other. Instead, they reacted. One would suddenly laugh or frown or go and get something for the other without actually being asked.

John was not a happy man. Fatherhood rested uneasily on him on the best of days, his feelings towards his children gradually changed. It was not a sudden realization, but rather a slow and terrifying slide. In the beginning he doted on his children, for Claire's sake, but as the years passed those emotions of love and paternal pride were poisoned. He was afraid of his children, he resented them for taking his perfect life away and he convinced himself over a span of ten years that they had been responsible for Claire's death. He was sure that they, perhaps, were agents of some evil force sent to destroy something pure and wonderful. Johnny Montgomery fantasized about many dark things in those days, but he could never work up the nerve to act on them. He could only distance himself from his children. Frequently he wouldn't be home when they returned from school. Deep down inside he had wished that someone would notice that his kids were running wild and call the authorities on him, maybe someone would take Rodney and Peaches far away from him and he would be free once again. But no one ever came. The twins, the silent, yellow-haired freaks had become very good at looking after each other.

The last straw for Johnny came on a March 7th. Maybe there was something significant about that date, maybe life just wanted to rub a little more salt in a decade's old wound, whatever the case, that was the day when the Twins' mutant powers kicked into overdrive. Johnny didn't see a miracle of genetics, he didn't see a resemblance to the Champions or those U.N. sponsored heroes; he only saw evil. They were just like those senators on T.V. had said: a corruption. But John was a bitter, broken man, not a stupid one. Rodney had lifted the neighbor's car trying to catch a turtle that had crawled underneath it. Peaches was laughing her grating, piercing laugh into John's rattled senses as she hovered twenty feet above the ground. Those senators had also called the mutants dangerous. He did the only sensible thing that occurred to him. John finally left the trailer park and his children. Someone would come now. Someone would hear about what his children could do and they would take them away. The last time the Montgomery twins would see their father, he was driving out of their lives and out of their story.

* * *


“Hey.” Rodney half-smiled at the young man being escorted into his cell. The boy was around his age, but much taller, easily bordering six-foot-four with broad shoulders and dark skin. He had a roundish face with thick chubby cheeks. Draped in the taller man's arms were his linens and a fresh drab-grey uniform. The power dampener around Rodney's new roommate's neck matched the collar that he himself wore.

“Hey.” The tall boy said quietly, standing sheepishly at the door. Rodney, who had been reclining on the top bunk of the cell's dual bed sat up as the door behind his cellmate locked shut loudly.

“Ah'm Rodney Lee Montgomery, though just Rodney'll do if you please.” The blond haired boy offered with a grin. Rodney was just happy to have someone around to break up his own thoughts. The connection with his sister had broken days ago, though he still had some pretty nasty bruises from when Liberty Squadron took him in. Everything had happened so fast, they'd held him in observation for a day with very little contact to gauge how he'd accept the power dampeners. As far as everyone was concerned, they were working perfectly. Rodney hadn't exactly been anxious to spill his secret weakness to the people holding him.

“Jerome.” Said the new cellmate.

“Nice ta meet ya, Jerome. First time in the poke?” Rodney asked.

“Yeah.”

“Me too. You want the top bunk?” Rodney bounced down from the raised bed and extended his hand to Jerome.

“Kinda.” Jerome replied with a small smirk.

“Sure, be less of a climb for ya anyhow.” Rodney laughed. “Jus' help me switch these mattresses and we'll get ya set up.”

The two teens worked in silence for a moment to set up the bedding. Jerome climbed up into the top bunk and the bed sagged a bit with the boy's weight. Rodney leaned into the bottom bunk and adjusted the pillow beneath him.

“Better?” Rodney asked.

“Kinda close to the ceiling.” Jerome muttered.

“Yeah...we can switch again if ya want?”

“No...it's fine.”

“Say...Jerome?” Rodney said after a long quite moment.

“Yeah?”

“This place...I ain't been here long, but it ain't bad. Ya know? I seen the shows, you know the ones. Cop shows. Jail, you get to your cell and the guy in it is like... all mad and stuff. And I reckon that might be the case sometimes, but it don't gotta be that way. Sure, place like this ain't bad, but could be better if we got friends. You know anyone in here?” Rodney said dividing his attention between the conversation and chewing on his bangs.

“No.”

“Shoot, well that settles it! We can be friends, look out for each other. Daddy used to say it's impossible to watch your own back. That's why you gotta have a friend do it for you. Works great 'cause we're roomies, ya know?” Another silent moment slid through the cell. “Yep. That settles it.”

“Hey. Rodney?” Jerome took a turn at breaking the awkward quiet.

“Yeah?”

“Wassup with you man? You don't wanna know what I done or what I can do first? You just want to be bro's?” Jerome mumbled.

“Why? Ya think that it's important?”

“Hell yeah, man. It's important. Once you get powers, everyone wants a piece, you know? You gonna live or die by them out there. Maybe you make a name for yourself or maybe you go down in flames? It's like winning the crap lottery man. Everyone comes out o' the woodwork. Do this, do that, serve your country or your gang or your family. You know what happens to capes in fights man. You know the kind of stuff we're expected to fight. It's amazing any of us grow old anyway.” Jerome spouted.

“Kinda...bleak... ain't it?”

“Truth don't gotta be pretty. It just gotta be.” The bed above Rodney shifted as Jerome turned onto his side. “You got a name?”

“I told ya, I'm Rodney...”

“No, man. I mean your real name. The name you choose for yourself. Your war-name, like Corax or Fuji.” Jerome persisted.

“Naw, nothin' like that.” Rodney laughed.

“What?” Jerome asked, insulted.

“Nothin'...nothin'...it's just...ya don't think the names are a little silly?”

“Hell no! You gotta own that sh*t. You gotta! It's the same as a flag! You wave that sh*t proud!” Jerome all but shouted.

“A'right, a'right, I get it. So, what's your war-name?” Rodney asked.

“Justifier.” Jerome the Justifier proclaimed proudly.

Rodney whistled. “Actually, yeah, that's pretty darn good. Gonna have to work hard to think o' somethin' that good. I was just gonna go with Rodney, maybe add like 'Man' to the end or 'Captain' at the front.”

“So what'd you do to get put away, Captain Rodney-Man?”

“Mayhem, destruction of property, theft, resisting arrest, assault an' battery.” Rodney rattled off with a sigh.

“Wait, I knew I recognized you! You're that fool Commander Supreme put through a bus! Oh that was tight! You had to know that the heroes always win, man! What the heck were you thinking?” Jerome smiled wide and looked over the bedside down towards Rodney. The Georgia-born teen did his best to avoid Jerome's dark stare.

“I-I don't know... that stuff jus' sorta happened! One thing led to another...and hey if you're so sure about the good guys always winning, then what the heck are ya doin' in here for?”

“Obstruction of justice. Assault and battery. I...was trying to be a superhero. I have powers and I thought I'd use them. I'm not from a good neighborhood, you know? The police don't do nothin' for the people there. When I saw a drug deal goin' down over by my baby sister's school – right in the damn playground – I just lost it. I went after them, figured I could bring them down and call the police right after.” Jerome closed his eyes tightly as he remembered that moment. His fingers rubbed his temples as he recalled the details. “So...I did. But it was a sting, the pusher was an undercover cop.”

“Shucks, that's a simple misunderstandin'! You try to explain that?” Rodney asked.

“Burned the cop pretty bad...but yeah, I tried explaining.”

“Did they listen?”

Jerome just stared at Rodney for a moment before pulling himself back up into his bunk.

“So...we friends now?” Rodney's voice floated up from the bottom bunk. Jerome chuckled to himself and shook his head in disbelief, the kid beneath him had gone toe-to-toe with Liberty Squadron and now he wanted to be friends with a would-be hero. Jerome couldn't tell if he was naïve or mental.

“Yeah, man. We friends.”

* * *

The twins found themselves on the run after their neighbors called the police on them. Rodney and Peaches weren't exactly subtle when it came to displaying their abilities and that caused quite a stir around the old trailer park. When the sheriff came by to investigate the disturbances, Rodney and Peaches flew away in a nimbus of emerald bio-energy. It was an escape born of impulse not planning. The siblings took only the clothes on their back with them and soon found themselves hungry and in unfamiliar surroundings.

They knew that stealing was wrong, but their powers didn't make them immune to hunger or protect them from the elements. When the twins found themselves starving, they decided that it was either take or perish. Rodney insisted that they only take as much as they needed to survive and nothing more and for awhile that creed seemed easy enough to maintain. Things were simple for the Montgomery twins. They relied on each other (as they always had) and though they weren't anywhere near the skill of professional thieves they did have one very effective technique. Through trial and error with their powers the siblings found that they could turn themselves into pure energy momentarily and teleport through the intervening space to emerge back into existence by the other's side. While they could only move directly adjacent to each other, this was an immense boon to the teenagers' crime spree. Often they would enter a large clothing store, pick out an outfit, change in the dressing room and disappear, only to reemerge next to the sibling waiting just outside in the parking lot.

When they needed a shower or a bed they would find an empty home (often forclosed upon) and squat until it was time for them to move on. Finding a restroom was as easy as finding a fast food restaurant and though they never robbed directly from people (being adamantly against the concept of mugging someone), they never-the-less caught the attention of people they would have much rather remained ignorant of. The main source of their notoriety was leaked camera footage from a megamart showing Rodney entering the changing room. For a few moments he remains in the stall until he suddenly and dramatically reappears in a swirl of green power which was caught on footage by an outdoor security camera. It went viral in a matter of hours.

Unbeknownst to the Montgomery's, the chase was on and they were the quarry. Maybe things would have gone differently for the twins if the authorities had found them first, but there is an old adage: it takes a thief to catch one. Magpie was a master thief. Magpie was also empowered with the ability to teleport. Magpie was curious as to who was ripping off his shtick in the most amateur way possible.

The world-class thief caught up with the young imitators at a seedy motel that the siblings had checked into without any real intent to pay the bill in the morning. The situation became tense for several long moments, but calmed as Magpie took a liking to Peaches. He offered to train the twins to use their abilities to their fullest and to help them step up to the major leagues. Despite Rodney's objections Peaches was taken in by Magpie's charming nature, something that only strengthened her brother's concerns. But, he could never say no to his sister.

Peaches trained with Magpie for a little over a month and during that time he did his best to crush the elements of Peaches' personality that he found to be uncouth or unsophisticated, including refusing to call Peaches by her first name (calling it too redneck). Meanwhile Rodney was mostly ignored. Magpie made it quite clear that he wasn't interested in dealing with him and was barely able to tolerate the naïve, dim-witted brother and then only because he had become aware of their peculiar limitation. If Magpie were to separate the twins, his protege would have lost her powers.

While Magpie treated Lynne (Peaches' middle name) like a prized pupil, he was openly derisive to Rodney. For the elder twin's part he was stuck. Peaches was happy, worse she was caught in the throws of a schoolgirl crush on the mature, sophisticated, Magpie. While Rodney was unable to convince Peaches that Magpie was only using her, things were starting to spiral out of control. No longer were they only stealing what they needed to survive, they were taking jewels and artifacts from private collections and museums! Rodney wasn't allowed to go on the missions with the two (being forced to wait outside in some convenient place to let Peaches teleport to him) and Peaches deferred to Magpie in all things.

Rodney knew he wasn't happy, but it hurt too much to argue with Peaches. He knew that she would come around eventually, he just needed to be there when Magpie showed his true colors. The day came sooner than he had expected.

* * *

Rodney was bored. He had been waiting outside in the nondescript black van for hours while Peaches and Magpie did their Mission Impossible routine. They'd left him with a couple of comic books and a nacho supreme but he had devoured the latter in minutes and the former had only given him the better part of an hour. He was studying the art on the pages intensely by the dim glow of streetlight.

Suddenly, a stiff breeze rocked the whole van with it's passing. The night had been dead calm until that moment and the shaking van had done so violently enough to force Rodney to lose his place. He sighed and traced his eyes across the two-page-splash trying to figure out who was blasting whom with the death laser with the SHAKKAKAPOW sound effect. It wasn't until he heard voices that he took a cautious look outside. His eyes widened at what he saw. Three people dressed in full super-hero regalia. He recognized one of them: the tall, broad shouldered, confident stance, the graying hair, cut conservatively, the cape that hung down in a patriotic red and white barred motif: Commander Supreme! Magpie and Peaches had been made!

Rodney wasted no time trying to send out a warning to peaches. Peaches! He thought, loudly.

It's Lynne! Came the annoyed answer buzzing through his head. He did always seem to forget that she wanted to be called Lynne these days. It didn't make sense to Rodney and it wasn't easy to break himself from the name he had called her all her life.

Not now! Listen, ya gotta listen, Commander Supreme and some other capes are outside! I don't know how but I think they know what ya'll are up to in there! We gotta get outta here, but quick!

I'll tell Magpie! He'll have a plan! Pea – Lynne replied quickly.

The woman by the side of Commander Supreme took to the air surrounded in a roiling silver field of energy. Rodney waited for word back from his sister, becoming more nervous as the members of Liberty Squadron began to surround the building Lynne was skulking about in. He tried to remind himself that now was not the time for I-told-you-so's, no that would come later, and at length.

Oh Lord! Lynne's thoughts pierced through his senses like a razor, he felt her surprise and her sadness all in one overwhelming wave.

Peaches? Are you aw'right? What's goin' on? Did Magpie do somethin'!? Rodney rattled off his questions in rapid-fire succession.

Yeah, he did somethin' alright! He left! Poof! Said we were minors and we shouldn't worry about a little grand theft! Can you believe that? Lynne sounded genuinely surprised.

Uh...yes? Rodney responded.

Don't you start! Listen, I'm comin' back to you, are you still with the van?

Yeah, but hold up. They'll see the flash, they got the whole area under watch! I got me a better idea! I'll get their attention for a bit... you make your way out, find someplace to hold up an' I'll jump over yonder to you when you put a little range 'tween you and the capes. Rodney gritted his teeth and placed his hand on the van's large sliding side door.

How is that a good plan, Rodney? They'll tan your hide faster than you can spit! Lynne thought, worriedly.

Naw, I'm pretty sure I got this. Rodney lied.

You can't lie in my brain. I hear you tell yourself that you're lying, remember? Lynne added, sarcastically. Why don't you come to me and we'll figure somethin' out?

Won't be anywhere to 'scape to if we're both cooped up. This way, least you get gone and if they take me in you can plan a rescue. You're the smart one that's good with locks and such anyhow. Rodney answered and slid the door open forcefully, the slam caused the members of Liberty Squadron to look back towards the van behind them quickly. Commander Supreme stared harshly at the teenaged boy cracking his knuckles in his direction.

“Hey. Nice night, ain't it?” Rodney smirked. “Well, you get all dressed up in your pajamas for nothin' or we gonna get this sleep-over started?”

Commander Supreme pointed towards the boy and scowled. “Take him down and find the girl.”

Rodney ran towards the group of superheroes descending upon his position, he could hear Lynne's thoughts in his head, telling him that she wasn't going to leave him. Damn it, she was telling the truth. He hoped that she would change her mind, but what was done was done. As he threw himself at Commander Supreme he kept telling himself that 'he had this,' and 'no sweat.'

Never overestimate the power of positive thinking.

* * *

The closing arguments were over. The judge had returned from his deliberation with his sentence. Rodney was guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. On all charges. He lost his court case as handily as he lost his fight with Commander Supreme. To his credit, the boy restrained himself, he didn't give into his emotions, he didn't cause a scene in the court. He was ready to have that book thrown at him. He was even starting to cheer himself up, telling himself that he'd get a little more time to hang out with Jerome and some of the other alright guys at the juvie facility.

That's when the judge threw him a curve ball.

Yes, he was guilty, but the court was willing to waive the sentencing if Rodney agreed to enter a special program at some kind of special school. In light of these things being his first offense and the extenuating circumstances that led him to his life of crime, he would be given a second chance. If he could fly the straight and narrow the crimes would be expunged from his record upon his turning eighteen years old.

He didn't have many options, but this was one more than he had a few minutes ago.

Of course Rodney agreed with a promise to stay clear of trouble.

How hard could that be?
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