Monk

Wingblade's page

1,338 posts. Alias of Stalwart.


Full Name

李秀英 (Li Xiu Ying) aka Shayera Kinney

Race

Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

Gender

Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none

Age

15

About Wingblade

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Hero
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Hero Name: Wingblade
Real Name (if different): 李秀英 (Li Xiu Ying) aka Shayera Kinney
Abilities: Flight (shared)
My own ability: Superhuman physique -- manifested in metallic, razor-sharp wings, a quick healing factor, and enhanced senses.
My Mentor's ability: Impossible fighting skills -- manifested in a mastery of hand-to-hand combat, mixed martial arts, aerial fighting styles and some weaponized quills.
Look:Young female, dark hair, mixed-race, athletic body, casual clothes, simple costume (black tank and cargo pants).
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Labels

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Danger : +2
Freak : +2
Savior : 0
Superior : +1
Mundane : +1

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Influence

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Have Influence on: Hashtag, Thor Girl

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Team Moves
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When you share a triumphant celebration with someone, ask them if you’ve been a good leader or effective teammate. If they say yes, your mentor loses Influence over you and you mark potential.
If they say no, your mentor gains Influence over you, and you take +1 forward on using the Label your mentor embodies.

When you share a vulnerability or weakness with someone, tell them a secret about your mentor (including your feelings towards them). Give them Influence over you and add 1 Team to the pool.

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Advancement

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Write down any current advancements.

Overwhelm a Vulnerable Foe. When you overwhelm a vulnerable foe, roll + Danger. On a hit, the fight’s over. They’re done. On a 10+, choose one. On a 7-9, choose two.
• you take a powerful blow in turn
• you hurt your foe more than you intended
• you cause serious collateral damage

Been reading through the files. You've learned about the superhuman world through your mentor's resources. When you first encounter an important superpowered phenomenon (your call), roll + Superior. On a hit, tell the team one important detail you've learned from your studies. The GM will tell you what, if anything, seems different from what you remember. On a 10+, ask the GM a follow-up question; they will answer it honestly. On a miss, the situation is well outside your base of knowledge; the GM will tell you why.

Captain: When you enter battle as a team, add
an extra Team to the pool and carry +1 forward if
you are the leader.

Rearrange your Labels as you choose, and add
+1 to a Label

Choose four more resources from your mentor (Chem lab, med lab, badges of authority, and a supercomputer)

Add +2 to the Label your mentor embodies or denies
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Backstory

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How did you first meet your mentor?
When she freed Wingblade from the facility that was turning her into a living weapon. They fought and although Wingblade had superior upgrades, Whippoorwill's experience won out and she was defeated.

When and why did you choose to train with her?
With the project disrupted, Wingblade was without direction. She had nowhere to go and was likely headed to become a very dangerous weapon for whoever would give her a purpose.

Why did she agree to train you?
Whippoorwill saw something of herself in Wingblade, and recognized that she needed a mentor and guidance to become a force for good.

Who else, outside of the team, knows about your training?
The remains of the weapon project, the shadowy secret organization that funds and backs projects like that.

Why do you care about the team?
Her childhood robbed by being an experiment raised in a lab, the team is her first experience with peer relationships.
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Relationships

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You and Imagine teamed up a few times before the rest of you came together.

Your mentor is cautious; she asked you to keep an eye on Hashtag.

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*Any Other Abilites Unique to your Playbook
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Mentor's Resources:
Hidden Base, Communicators, and Security Systems

Mentor embodies: Superior
Mentor denies: Danger
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Protege Moves

Venting Frustration
When you directly engage while you are Angry, you can roll + the Label your mentor denies (Danger) and clear Angry.

Fireside chat
When you seek advice from your mentor, roll + the Label they embody. On a hit they will tell you what to do. On a 10+, mark potential if you follow their advice, and take +1 ongoing to follow through. On a 7-9, you get +1 forward to see it through if you do it their way.
On a miss, they don’t have time for you because something big has gone down; mark a condition, GM’s choice.

Be mindful of your surroundings
When you assess the situation before entering into a fight, you may ask one additional question, even on a miss.

Translations:

1
"Hello, Xiu Ying"
"What are you doing here?"
"We're passing along a message to our sister."
"I'm not your sister."
"Oh, but you are. You've passed the trials and you're one of us. Our meeting is tonight, and you are expected."
"Tonight is not a really good time for me."
"Americanized mongrel, you amuse us! The Daughters of the Tiger do not jest. Act like one, Xiu Ying."

=======================

2
"What are you doing here?"
"We're here to go to school. Surely you would know that"
Shadow, Digital, Jade Tiger

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3
"She's very smart but she doesn't understand people very well."
"We thought she might have powers. She eats like a horse"

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4
"You two are funny"

Homework:

Shayera had raced home at her top speed. Part of the reason was simply to cut loose; she almost always had to hold back whenever there was a fight, so pushing herself to fly at her top speed was cathartic. The other reason was to get a head start on her report before the inevitable chaos of having the Shaun, Alexis, Kaoru, and likely Cassie and Alexandra all within the same living space.

She lands hard on the balcony and with a few voice commands has Abacus up and active. She starts dictating her report while she undresses and takes a quick shower.

When the elevator doors slide open, instead of the whole team spilling out, only Bronwyn walks into the apartment, hands fidgeting, and a guilty smile flickering across her face. "Hi. Umm... Don't be mad."

Shayera's hair is wrapped in a towel while the rest of her is wearing light pink Chinese-style silk pyjamas as she steps out of her bedroom and freezes when she sees Bronwyn. "Abacus, save progress." She reaches up and pulls the towel off her head, letting her damp hair fall over her shoulders. "Um, why would I be mad? It's just... I thought you didn't want to come over... that often, I mean."

"No I do, I just- That's not the point. The point is... I, umm, no one else is coming over tonight. And..." She swallowed, hard, but managed to keep from looking away, "...you're going to do your homework," her resolve broke and her eyes drifted down to Shayera's feet. "And I'm here to help."

The usual defiance starts to rise. "No, it's fine it's--" she says reflexively. But it suddenly catches up to her how big a step Bronwyn was taking in this. Her eyes go wide, and her stomach immediately clenches in a strange and autonomous reaction. "I, uh..." she starts without any idea of what she was going to say. Suddenly the penthouse apartment felt really big and the distance between her and Bronwyn felt magnified. Some instinct to start talking about anything but seized her, but she shoos it away. She nods wordlessly.

Bronwyn breaks the silence first. "Okay. So umm... Do you think we could... watch a movie or something? Like... a comedy? And just snuggle on the couch for a bit?" Finally her smile came back, "I think we'd both be too nervous to just... dive right in start. Right?"

Shayera grabs a fistful of her hair and shakes it out to get it drying faster while her cheeks redden. "Yeah, we could do that, I guess. But if you'd like to get it out of the way, I don't mind starting now. You know. Then we could relax and enjoy the evening?"

"Shayera, that's exactly what we're going to do. We're going to relax and enjoy the evening. Your 'homework should be a part of that."

Shayera looks uncertain. She twists the damp towel in her hands. What if nothing happens, with her? What if I'm--? She lets the towel drop to the floor and wipes her hands on her pyjama bottoms. "Okay. Let's, um, do that. You said watch a movie? Do you want any popcorn? Or, wait. I'm going to shut up and follow your lead." She takes an unconscious step back.

She couldn't help it; as soon as Shayera stepped back out of fear, Bronwyn rushed forward to embrace her girlfriend like there had been a string tied between them. "Hey. I love you. This is still something you want to do right? You want to find out about this part of you? That's all we're doing. There can't be a wrong answer here. But tonight is all about making you feel comfortable with yourself. So, do you want popcorn?"

Shayera doesn't move when Bronwyn takes her into a full hug. She just leans her head on her shoulder and breathes in all the scents of her girlfriend. Her arms slowly come to life and start to return the embrace. Her muffled voice replies, "No, I don't want popcorn."

"Me either. Do you actually want to watch a movie?"

Her metallic wings twitch, but fold up to their most compact shape. She shakes her head. "No. But I-- Do y--" She stops herself from asking. "Would you like a robe? I've got, well, a couple in your size. They're really pretty, too. Or some yoga pants, if that's what you want."

Bronwyn leaned down and gently kissed Shayera right where the corner of her mouth met her cheek. "A robe sounds great."

A bit of a smile starts to form on Shayera's lips. "Okay." She slips from Bronwyn's embrace, but grabs hold of her hand and leads her into the bedroom straight to the closet. She pulls Bronwyn into one corner where there's a small selection of silky floor-length robes and a couple heavier ones of flannel. Shayera pulls a couple off the rack and spins, holding them up to Bron's shoulders. "This one kind of matches what I'm wearing. And I like the dark blue in this one," She suddenly shakes her head at what she's doing. "Sorry. Just, like, go with either one." She leaves Bronwyn in the closet to choose as she goes out to the cavernous bedroom.

What am I doing?! Okay. Okay. You're just helping her. Your robe is staying on. You're just going to make sure she's comfortable. Then you can... She abruptly realized she had no idea how long she'd been standing in her underwear staring at robes. "First thing's first. Blue."

Bronwyn comes out of the walk-in in a robe of midnight blue lightly speckled with pale flowers. "So. I was going to suggest that you have a nice long bath, but... I mean your hair is literally still wet. What would feel most relaxing for you right now? I could give you a massage? We could just snuggle up? Or if there's anything else..." A calm that really was there beneath all her nerves shone in her eyes. "Whatever's going to help."

Shayera had wandered from one side of the bed to the other, trying to decide if she should be in the bed before Bronwyn returned or if that would be too obvious. Obvious? What am I thinking? I'm just... it's just homework. It's an assignment. And she's helping because... Her train of thought is interrupted when Bronwyn appears. She turns and smiles a bit when she sees that she'd chosen the blue one. She thought back to when she bought it and how she thought it'd look on Bron. It had sparked her imagination, the two of them sitting close and painting each other's toenails. She blinks at the idea and holds up a finger. She hurries over to her vanity and selects a couple matching shades of polish and quickly returns. "Here. We're relaxing, right? This is something I've wanted to do with you."

A slow smile spread across Bronwyn's face "Sounds fun!"Even though I'm going to chip that into oblivion in 24-hours flat. Unceremoniously she plopped down on the ground near the bed's edge and patted for Shayera to sit. "Okay, gimme your toes." She spread on the polish in thin, even coats for a few toes, resisting the urge to start tickling Shayera instead. Once she was done she stayed put though, reaching up to firmly keep Shayera in place when she started to rise.

Gently she worked her fingers along the arches of Shayera's feet. "They still need time to dry." Looking up into her girlfriend's eyes with a cheeky grin she added. "I'm not gonna let you undo my good work that fast!"

Shayera relaxes her wings that had her propped up in a reclining position and drops down to lay flat while Bronwyn rubs her feet. It was similar to the pedicure she'd had with Portia and the others, but definitely more intimate. She closes her eyes and lets her girlfriend work on her feet, though from time to time her eyes flutter open to see the color dotting the tips of her toes and Bronwyn just behind them.

When Bronwyn tells her to stay put, Shayera relaxes again, staring up at the ceiling. "Okay, fine! How long before they're dry?"

umm... Like... At leeeaaast ten minutes? Just lean back and enjoy. I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm leaning back! I'm all the way back!" Shayera giggles, closing her eyes as she shimmies on her bed to move closer to the middle.

Bronwyn scrambled up after her. You are going to get nail polish all over your sheets!"

"I'm being careful! Besides, what else am I going to do for ten minutes?" she says, peeking out of her mostly-closed eyes.

Bronwyn settles herself in a kneeling position across Shayera's legs and slowly leans down to kiss her. "Do I have to sit here to make sure they dry?"

Shayera reaches up and locks her arms around the back of Bronwyn's neck when she leans over. "I think you're overly concerned about my sheets. I go through, like, a lot, you know." Her wings, spread flat like a broad fan on either side of her, slide out a bit more.

With one hand Bronwyn reached out to carefully stroke Shayera's feathers. "Fine," she murmured, lips barely brushing against Shayera's. [B]"Then if we're not waiting for your toes, what are we doing?"

The smile on Shayera's face falters a bit. "Um, I guess... you were gonna... help me with something?" Her arms fall to lay against her sides, freeing Bronwyn if she wanted to get up. Her eyes open partway, and she looks at her girlfriend through her lashes.

"Okay. Umm... Well, she's thinking about it while we're kissing... "So... She reaches down, fumbling a bit as she tugs at the sash of Shayera's robe. "Just keep your eyes closed if you want. she takes Shayera's hand in hers. "Really, Shayera. I'm here, we're here." Carefully she places their hands on the slight curve of Shayera's stomach. Just... Whatever feels right."

Shayera nods, closing her eyes once again. She puts her hand over top Bronwyn's for a moment like she was going to move it, but she lets go. She drapes one elbow over her eyes while her other hand strays below her navel. She takes a couple slow, deep breaths. "Okay."

This isn't what I was supposed to do. I was just going to help her get comfortable and leave. But she needs me. "Okay. Just... Just listen to me, okay? Don't worry about our hands, just... Think about your favorite smell Something that makes you feel safe and relaxed and cozy. Whatever happens happens. We're just..." Her voice caught just before she let out a quiet groan. "We're just finding out what that might be. Nothing needs to happen. You've already got me."

Shayera drew in several centering breaths, focusing on Bronwyn's hand on her stomach. She considers the pressure exerted on her, and how it wasn't a threat if she needed to rise to her feet quickly. The voice above her registered stress, which set her on edge, but it did not signify an impending attack. She breathed in again and exhaled slowly. I've already got her, she thinks, trying to push aside her instincts. What does that mean, exactly? Oh, right. No stress. She tries to bring herself into focus.

A helicopter beat the air as it passed by the penthouse. Distant sirens sounded in the streets below. She could tell the skyrail was passing by her building. The thrum of the medical and chemical lab equipment sent vibrations through the apartment. She feels her own heartbeat and the functions of her body. The presence of Bronwyn's hand is a burning reminder of what she's supposed to be doing. The homework. What is it I like? What does my body tell me?

After several more minutes, Shayera shifts her arm so she can peek up at Bronwyn. "You okay? I'm sorry this is taking a while. I've usually given up by now."

Bronwyn was clearly flushed, but her voice was gentle. "I'm fine, sweetie. Where did you go there?"

Shayera sits up briefly to move her wings to one side to clear the other in case Bronwyn would want to lie next to her. She shrugs. "Nowhere, really. Just... tried to listen to my body, like I was told. And I hear everything else."

Bronwyn followed the implied invitation, and put her arm around Shayera as she lay down "So umm did you feel good at the start when we were kissing, and then just... I dunno, listen to everything else too much? I've just .. I've seen when something has all of your attention. I've seen when I have all of it and... I know that wasn't it."

Furrowing her brow, Shayera meets Bronwyn's eyes. "Um, was I supposed to focus on you? I thought... I mean, my homework... It's 'me' time, right?"

This is why you're not supposed to do this. "No!" She hadn't meant to say that, but... it was out. "I mean, yeah, it's 'me-time,' I guess, but, but the whole point of your homework, heck the whole point of making love at all is because of the Love part!

"Shayera... Look if you're tired, or you've just tried enough, or you want a break or... I mean I can just go for now, you don't have to, but... but if you wanted to try again... If you did try, try for us. Don't just think about your body - you're so much more than that!

"Think about what makes you feel happy and safe and loved. Think about the way you get squishy inside when you see me in a pretty dress. Think about the way I smell right after a shower, or right after a run - whatever! Just... just think about us!"

Bronwyn wiped the back of her hand across her face. [smaller]"I'm sorry. I really do mean it. If nothing happens, nothing happens. You have me and I'm not going anywhere, but... I don't care if you masturbate Shayera, I just want to know if when we get married we'll... we'll be able to really be together that way."

Shayera stares at Bronwyn, wide-eyed. She was right. She just tried the same old way she'd done her "self exploration" these last few months. She barely even acknowledged Bronwyn was present. But she was here. Her girlfriend was here. Shouldn't that make a difference?

She reaches out and takes Bronwyn's hand in hers, giving it a squeeze. "I-- you're right. I just... ignored you." She shifts her position so she's laying next to Bronwyn and stuffs a pillow under her head so it's propped up and looking straight into her eyes.

Shayera guides Bronwyn's hand back to her own hip, so they're no longer touching, though they're lying so close to each other Shayera can feel her warmth and breath. One hand is under her pillow, but her other is resting just above her waist.

Bronwyn didn't say anything. I kinda said too much... Just looked in Shayera's eyes. I know you never promised things would be easy, but... God? She loves me so much. Even if she can't... Please. Just help her a little. Help her find peace.

Shayera drinks her in. She studies every feature, every facet. Starting with Bronwyn's large, expressive eyes, she examines the deep chocolate brown irises with flecks of gold and amber. She studies her lashes and her eyelids, made more pronounced with the vestiges of the coppery shadow that she had applied that morning. Shayera's focus moves to the slight angle of Bronwyn's cheekbones, and to the smooth contours of her jawline. Then her attention is drawn to her full, soft lips, pressed together just a bit with worry and concern.

Shayera's focus diffuses so she takes in Bronwyn's full face as her hand finally moves. She doesn't close her eyes; doesn't try to feel her own body. She thinks on Bronwyn, noticing the slight rise in temperature coinciding with the color blooming in her cheeks. She wants to marry me. She wants to be with me. I can almost feel in her what I should be feeling. Shayera bites her lip, but keeps her focus and attention on Bronwyn.

Heat blazes in Bronwyn's eyes as Shayera bites her lip, but she stays still. Her breathing gets a little faster, her face a little warmer, but she stays still, falling into the intensity of Shayera's gaze.

Shayera tries to block out the input her other senses are feeding her, focusing only on the scent and sight of Bronwyn, trying to mirror them. She inhales deeply and the subtle nuances of Bronwyn's scent fills her mind. The sensations from her body are nagging and distracting, so she pushes them away. She lives in the sensations she is drawing from Bronwyn -- the rising heartbeat, her sweat, her pulse, her breathing, the mix of hormones and arousal. If only she could show her...

Shayera snaps out of it and rolls over, adjusting her pyjamas. "Sorry! You'll get in trouble for this. I'm breaking your rules."

"Don't stop. You're almost there."

Shayera sits up and turns her waist so she's facing Bronwyn. "I wasn't... I need you to-- wait. No, you won't. Can't. Sorry."

"I could..."

Shayera shakes her head. With her other hand, she reaches over and gently touches Bronwyn's cheek. "I won't let you cross your line. I love you too much to let you do something you'll regret."

"I wasn't going to-!" A mote of alarm sparkled in her eye, her mouth hanging half open. [b]"I just wanted you to... But you umm... You were...? That helped, right?"

Shayera leans over and kisses her on her forehead while inhaling all her mixed scents. It was a pleasant, heady cocktail that made her brain dance. "Yeah. You helped. I can feel you, um, or smell -- damn, there just aren't words -- it's like there's these little bubbles floating off you, and they're sweet and spicy and kind of intoxicating... Anyway, that's probably a no-no for you, right?"

It's... It's not wrong to be... turned on. I'm just supposed to- It's just a good thing to do to wait for right person and-" Abruptly tears filled Bronwyn's eyes and she lay her head on Shayera's shoulder, the top of her head resting against the cool metal of her wing. "You know I meant it right? About us getting- about you being my wife?"

Shayera hugs her, letting one hand rub up and down Bronwyn's back while her other hand twines her fingers through her hair. "I know," she whispers, thinking on the idea that seemed so far away that it felt unreal, yet here, together, she could envision the two of them eloping that evening.

"But we can't." She jerked her head around so she could see Shayera's face. "I mean not right now! We totally can, just..l later." Bran-fate be damned. I am going to live long enough to marry her.

Shayera pulls back with her head cocked to the side and looks at her with a wry grin. "You have to wear a dress too, you know."

"Have to? We're not even engaged and we're talking about 'Have to's?! " She reached her hand up to tangle in Shayera's hair and gently brought her down to the bed.

"Of course it's a 'have to.' Otherwise, I might just say no." Her grin spreads to a full, bright smile.

"Well joke's on you. 'Cause when we get married and I get to wear a dress - it's going to be so dang beautiful you're gonna forget how the vows go."

Shayera giggles despite herself and bites a nail as she looks Bronwyn up and down. "Okay. Deal." She reaches around Bronwyn's waist and pulls her in close. "So, it's time for relaxing and snuggling, right?"

"Sounds perfect."

Meeting the Overseer:

Wingblade settles into the chair and puts her hands in her lap, like she'd been instructed. No fidgets, no little movements. Even though she really wanted to adjust the black domino mask over her face that her mentor had insisted she wear. She hated the things. They messed up her senses and all the little enhancements that Whetstone had added only served to distract her rather than help. After three very expensive masks "accidentally" got busted during outings, Whippoorwill finally relented and let her go maskless.

But now, in front of SIDEKICK Overseer Fleming Innis for her first report, Whip had insisted. It would help hide her facial expressions, she said.

The rail-thin man with wispy blond hair and small, wire-framed glasses studied the laptop one last time before addressing Wingblade. She was told what to expect. He would try to make her sweat by going over her report in excruciating detail, and most likely start out by making her sit and wait on him. So far, Whippoorwill was batting a thousand.

"So, Wingblade," he begins, his voice coming across as extremely condescending. "before we begin, do you have anything to add to your report?"

She had spent most of the last evening working on it, and it was as complete as she could make it. "No. No, sir."

Mr. Innis looked extremely disappointed and gave her a look. She was told to expect this tactic. Long moments of silence, disapproving looks, convoluted questions. Whippoorwill had hastily tried to prep her, since she wouldn't be allowed to be there with her as Wingblade gave her report.

"So, you are given confidential information regarding the missing ambassador and the other abductees. You are assigned the task to patrol the Waterfront Park and search for evidence of the ambassador or the kidnapper." Mr. Innis looks up from the screen and makes eye contact with her.

Noticing that he left off a very important piece, Wingblade can't help but take the bait. "And engage only if we've eyes on the missing people or the kidnapper. That was also part of the mission."

With a devious smirk that has Wingblade wondering if she'd already made a mistake, Mr. Innis types a few things on his laptop before continuing. "Very well. So then you immediately split your team, sending two to harass the ambassador's daughter, while the rest explores the park."

Wingblade's arched eyebrow was shielded behind her domino mask. "Not harass. Talk with. To see if she had anything she could tell us."

"Right, that's what you said in your report, but could either of the people you sent speak Portuguese?"

Wingblade wanted to fight this, to explain further. But she decided to pick her battles. "No."

More typing. "I see." Mr. Innis then continues. "Meanwhile, in the park, you split the team up further--"

"To cover more ground," Wingblade interjects and immediately regrets it.

"You split the team, and failed to realize that communications were compromised." Mr. Innis pauses and looks at her.

Wingblade makes an effort to unclench her jaw. "Comms were fine inside the park. We stayed in contact with each other. SCA and Defenders were radio-silent. So I didn't notice our signal was blocked."

The overseer makes a few more notations before continuing. "Machina gains illegal access to a security camera which--"

"I got him permission," she interrupts.

"Using deception," Innis concludes. "You get a video still of a person in a straw hat. No face. Just a hat."

Wingblade rankles. "And guitar. Plus, it matched the description Mercy and Kilt got from the witness."

Innis pushes his glasses up on his nose. "Then you approve a magic spell to be cast in a populated area."

"A detection spell." Wingblade takes a deep breath, trying to keep this guy from getting under her skin. "And it worked. We found some additional leads in the park."

The overseer gives her an unimpressed look. "Leads. Which you then proceeded to engage, without approval from SCA."

Wingblade sees the trap. She takes another breath to center herself, then proceeds slowly. "Hex's spell ID'd three matches. Machina and I eliminated one through peaceful contact. Silver Shadow and Acolyte eliminated another. That left only one. Hex determined it was strong."

Innis looks up again, his mouth twisted in a sneer. "So then Mercy proceeds to attack without provocation, causing collateral damage and injury to numerous bystanders. Her only backup is 'Kilt', who uses swords?"

Wingblade glares at him. "I've got swords for wings. What's your point?"

"He doesn't have powers, does he?" Wingblade shakes her head. "And Mercy has superhuman strength. A swordsman and a human battering ram assault a target in the middle of a populated area."

She wanted to throw Mercy under the bus. She wanted to tell this guy that Mercy engaged contrary to her orders and the escalation was her fault. But that's not what the leader does. "My instructions were unclear. Machina, Hex and I were approaching, Acolyte was compromised, Silver Shadow dealing with that. I didn't want the target to get away. I gave the order to apprehend the target."

"But he got away after half your team had to stop and render first aid."

"He tried. I was able to follow him, and Kilt, Hex and I managed to catch him. He put up a fight, but Hex stopped his magic. Then the goons showed up, but Machina tapped into their comms and called them off for a time, letting me extract the target."

Innis takes a few notes, but is quickly back focusing on Wingblade. "And then you proceed to hand him over to the animal people. I thought you had enhanced senses?"

Wingblade tries not to scowl, since that fact still burned. "I was being chased by a trio of harpies at the time, and it was an SCA van!"

The overseer seems nonplussed at that fact. "Let's not belabor that point. Silver Shadow alerted you to the fact that you had lost your target." Not seeing any point to disagreeing, Wingblade nods. "She places a homing beacon on the van, giving you a means to track the van to their hideout and avoid further conflict in the public space. Yet you chose not to."

Wingblade has to dig a wing into her back to keep her composure. "The battle was already happening. I countermanded Silver Shadow's plan, since the target's a shapeshifter. I believe he's being treated for acid burns now, so leaving him in their hands was not an option."

"But now we have no idea of this faction of animal people and what they wanted with Encantado."

We have a few leads I'm not putting in a report I can't control who sees it, Wingblade thinks, but says nothing about that. "We have the giant pig guy."

"Yes, the one you maimed. We'll be lucky he doesn't sue the agency for what you did to him."

Wingblade clamps her mouth shut before she asks whether a boar has rights in court.

"And then there's the power lines you cut down."

Grateful for her mask hiding the rolling of her eyes, she says, "Halcyon's been on a redundant electrical grid ever since Electronimo in the Sixties."

"Then what about the 300-year-old trees you cut?"

"Just a few limbs. They'll be fine. Boar-guy destroyed the one, trying to get to Machina."

Innis takes a moment to clean his glasses with a handkerchief. He goes back to his computer and scrolls through his notes. "Let's see... witnesses report seeing Mercy attacking you? I don't see that in your report."

Wingblade goes rigid. She wondered if she should have included Mercy's rampage, but she couldn't figure out how to spin it. "Maybe they were mistaken? The fight was pretty chaotic."

Innis gives her a triumphant smile as he turns the monitor to her. There's a security camera feed showing from a distance Mercy slamming Wingblade into the ground. "Do you think the video is mistaken, as well?"

Stopping a gulp before it becomes noticeable, Wingblade measures her breathing. She decides to shake her head rather than respond audibly. The video captures the beating Wingblade received until she manages to flip them over and take flight, carrying them both out of frame.

"You reported that Silver Shadow used a high-explosive on the battlefield, but you neglected to list its target. It wouldn't have been Mercy, would it? As a means to stop her rampage?"

Wingblade looks at him evenly. "Mercy is a valued member of the team."

"How can that be? If she cannot follow orders, and she cannot tell friend from foe?"

"Mercy is a valued member of the team," she repeats.

"I think I've heard enough." Overseer Innis closes his laptop, folds his hands and leans forward at his desk.

Wingblade almost let out a breath of relief at this session being over, but she could tell he had more to grill her about.

"What I see from this report is a completely inept team that lacks cohesion, discipline, rudimentary safety precautions, and maturity. Again I ask, is there anything you'd like to add to your report? Some explanation of the actions of Mercy, Kilt, Silver Shadow, Acolyte, or Machina? Bran the Blessed showed up late as well."

Wingblade feels tears welling up in her eyes and again is grateful that Whippoorwill insisted on the mask. She measures her breathing, letting her mentor's words comfort her. No matter how brutal Mr. Innis could be in this review, he couldn't shut down the team. He didn't have the authority to overrule the Defender's sanction. All he wanted was to shake her confidence, and try to get her to bad-mouth her teammates. She wasn't going to do that.

She tries to ignore the lump in her throat as she shakes her head. "N-no, sir. I stand by my report, and my decisions as field leader."

Overseer Innis sits back in his chair and drums his fingers on his desk. "Then I've no choice but to relieve you of your duty as field leader."

Wingblade is on her feet in an instant, wings flared out. "WHAT???"

The overseer's finger is suddenly hovering over a red button on his desk. She forces herself back down in her seat. Though trembling, she tries to keep in control. "I-- I see. Who will be the new leader?"

"I've someone in mind."

In the Lab (Wingblade version):

"Your heart rate is too fast. You need to calm down," came the voice through the speaker on the other side of the glass.

Being under a large steel-and-glass instrument with huge amounts of wires jammed directly into her brain was normally something that haunted Shayera's nightmares. It made sense that her heart would be thundering in near panic, since it meant that the scientists who made her had her again and were going to remake her into a weapon under their control again -- possibly irrevocably.

But instead, her heart pounded out of sheer excitement. "Sorry. I'll try to calm down more," she responds, while going through various calming exercises that Whippoorwill had taught her. Slowly, her heart rate went from red, to orange, to green. She carefully measured her breathing and refused to think on how soon, after the brain mapping was complete, they'd be able to make the subtle changes that would make her someone who could properly love Bronwyn like she deserved.

Minutes pass as the instruments thrummed in her skull. It was decidedly unpleasant, but Shayera could do unpleasant. Heck, she'd done everything from painful to agonizing, so this was nothing. Time ticks by as the mapping caused strange flashes of light and colors in her mind and behind her eyes.

Sounds start next. Loud, crashing, tearing, then shouting. The shattering of glass, the rending of metal. She recognizes the voice. Bran. Why am I imagining... No that's here, now. Shayera sits up to see the laboratory a wreck and the armored giant Welsh warrior on a rampage.

"What-- Bran?!? What are you doing here? Get out! You're messing everything up!" Shayera screams at him, trying to sit up and yanking at the wires protruding from her skull.

His voice was hard and blunt. "Shayera, I am not leaving." Bran uncurled his fist, and the hapless labtech dangling from it dropped to the ground in a shaking heap, already scrambling for the new exit. "Go. Do not disturb us."

The rest went while Shayera was helpless to do anything. She dared not rip the wires out that were doing crucial work.

His body a mass of tension, Bran walked a brief circuit, stabbing Gae-Dearg into the security cameras and the lights in the outer hall, before dispersing their stored energy into a security door to jam it shut.

Then in a flash, the helmed behemoth was gone, and Bronwyn stood there red-eyed and waiting.

"Have you gone nuts? This is my dad's facility! He's helping me! He's helping –"

"How could you do this without telling me?" Her voice was quiet, but cut through Shayera's protests as if they weren't there.

"Bronwyn?? What are you talking about? You don't know what I'm doing!"

"He came to my house, Shayera. He told me a lot of things. Some of it seemed like what he knew from their experiments. But he said that you thought you weren't capable of love. That you'd gone to him to have him root around in your head until you loved me. He tried to sell you to me in exchange for Bran's secrets."

There's a moment when Shayera feels a pang of betrayal when she realizes her Dad told Bronwyn about her deficiency. But it's drowned in the disbelief that she interrupted the procedure that was going to fix her. She scowls. "I know you don't like Dad, but that's a low blow, Bronwyn. Not while he's trying to find out more about how I was made. And you said I wasn't built for love."

"I said you hadn't been raised in love, Shayera. I said it would be harder for you. I never said I thought you couldn't."

That's exactly what you said. She tries to stand but is held down by the wires, though she feels a couple pop out. "I want to love you. So why not go to the one who I trust? It's not like I'm going back to the actual lab."

"Because love isn't about crazy shortcuts!"

Shayera lets out an exasperated gasp. "This isn't about a shortcut! This is about actually figuring out what's wrong with me and fixing it!!"

"Shayera... Is this for me or for you?

"Bronwyn, you deserve to love someone who can love you back. If I can't, I'm willing to change. To get fixed so that I can." Shayera starts yanking out the wires embedded in her skull. "I'm supposed to be calm for the brain mapping. I've probably messed everything up. I hope Dad'll let me try again."

"Shayera. If you want this for you, that's one thing, but I'm telling you now: I don't want this. Look, He said you were asexual. Is that how you feel? Is that why you think you can't love me?"

Shayera looks at Bronwyn with an expression of hurt and disbelief. Dad told her?? "He said?? No! No, that's not... I mean, no. I'm... gay... I'm sure... I mean, just let me fix it! Don't think about that! Just forget he said that! Please!!"

"Shayera, love and sex aren't the same thing. If you don't want to have sex, that's not wrong. If you really are asexual that's fine, and I love you anyways, and we'll make it work."[b] I hope

Shayera presses her fists to her eyes. Everything was spiraling into a disaster. [b]"STOP IT!!! I want it! I want it! I want it! Don't listen to him! Don't listen to anyone! Please stop saying that!"

"Why do you want it, Shayera? Because you can't love me if you don't trust me. You can't love me if you can't be honest with me about how you feel. And you can't love me if you don't understand that I'm not wrong to love you."

Shayera looks up, eyes welling with tears. "Why wouldn't you want me to be like you? Why? I've been made the way I am, and if I can be changed, then let me do it!!! I've told you how I feel, and you don't believe me!"

Bronwyn visibly rocked back. "You're right. I'm.... I'm being unfair.” But it's still wrong to change who you are. "Shayera... can you tell me one thing?"

She wipes her eyes and nods.

"You said I was wrong about how you reacted when you saw me in the bikini. You said you weren't afraid when you were in my room. Did you really go Fight or Flight on me? I don't have your super nose, I can't smell your adrenaline. Is that what happened? Because, if all of this is crossed wires, or if the idea of caring about someone scares you, and that blocks you off, then maybe there's something to fix. But if it's just you, really you, I'd be the monster your Dad thinks I am to go along with this."

It's Shayera's turn to rock back in surprise. She thinks back, and tries to put her thoughts into words. "I... I tried to find you sexy... and I was analyzing your body closely. I let my mind wander, and it started analyzing you as a threat, in case we had to fight. But I snapped out of it! I wasn't going to attack you!"

"Okay." Bronwyn reached up to fiddle with one of the straps of her dress, a demure one she normally wore to church. "Tell me what you're thinking. You don't have to focus or analyze, just look at me, and talk to me." And with that, embarrassment spreading across her face, she slipped the straps over her shoulders, and began to disrobe down to her underwear, pausing slightly before she pulling off her sports bra to see how Shayera was responding.

Shayera blinks nervously. "I... like... it? I mean, I like it! I like you. I like you being... naked." She looks around helplessly, then gestures at her. "I mean, you're pretty! You've got good muscle tone, denser than normal, with a stronger tensile strength than most weight lifters. Good reach--" She grabs her head and squeezes her eyes shut. "Dammit." I'm failing. I can't see her as sexy, but I want to.

"Shayera. Please. You have to be honest."

Shayera looks up, tears in her eyes. "I see you. I see my best friend. I love you."

Despite all her good intentions, she had to force the disappointment not to show in her voice. I really thought that... I was just fooling myself. "I love you too. What are you feeling- what do you want right now, Shayera? You don't seem scared, or angry, or stressed. I thought maybe... I thought maybe when you saw me like this, it was getting crossed over to weapon-stuff. That's not what's happening though, is it?" But she doesn't fight mad... "Or is the cataloging just how that manifests for you?"

"Weapon stuff? No! I don't want to fight you! It's just... I dunno... second nature to assess someone in case they make a sneak attack against you."

"I know. I know you don't want to fight me, but when you see me like this, do your instincts make you think about it more?" Despite those same intentions, Bronwyn's voice was picking up notes of excitement. "Or is it always the same?"

Shayera thinks about that some. "Uh, I don't know. Maybe? I hadn't really thought about it that much. I've only seen you this way... really only that one other time."

"Well... how often do you think about fighting me? Now that we know each other I mean. I know you looked at me like this when we first met."

"Well, that was just a quick glance. Most people I only need a second to figure out how to take them out."

"I know, I get that it was quick, but Shayera, how often do you think about fighting me? Please just tell me? I trust you, and I know you wouldn't hurt me. But I think it might matter."

"Well, not too often. Just sparring and stuff. For practice. And when Whippoorwill is training me., I sometimes wish you were there. And the times I dream... we're sometimes fighting... a bit..."

Puta madre... Do I tell her that's how some of my dreams start? ”Really?”

"Well, I think you could get really good! You're like a young Whippoorwill, without all the scar tissue!"

”Did you ever think about fighting Bran or, umm, Skuld?”

"Well, at first, yeah. In case I had to. But that's about it... I guess... Wait. What is this about?"

Oh Shayera, I hope I'm right. God, please, please don't let me hurt her.”I don't think you're asexual, not really. I think they screwed up your wiring."

Confusion wars with frustration on Shayera's face. "What? What does this mean... for us?"

"Well... We'll see." Hastily she began tugging her clothes back on. "If there really is something they did to you that you want fixed, then of course I want to help however I can, but... The sex stuff isn't everything. I'm still hurt that you kept all this from me. Like, you didn't choose to share any part of this, and I think I deserved to know before you had someone shove wires through your skull."

Shayera gets quiet for a moment, feeling guilty. But she shakes that off and a flash of anger appears in her eyes. "You're hurt? Bronwyn, what was I supposed to say? You took off in a panic when I said I wasn't into you! So I'm supposed to share that I don't find girls attractive!?! Or is it supposed to be okay because I don't seem to feel that way about boys, too?” She pounds her breastbone. "I don't want to be this way! I want to be in love with you, and your body! So I didn't tell you!! I didn't think that was wrong, but I guess it is, since I still apparently can't love right!”

”Shayera, I'm sorry I ran. I was overwhelmed. All of a sudden, all these feelings I'd been having and lying to myself about since I first met you just burst out! You kissed me and I was certain that you had known the whole time. That you knew I wouldn't stay trapped as Bran, that I would come back to you. And if you knew that, if you could tell... then the way I felt about you was real.

“But then just WHAM! That wasn't what you meant, and you were laughing and joking about how you didn't feel that way, and you knew that of course I didn't and I just felt so stupid! Like this idiotic little girl who had no idea how she felt about anything. And I ran.

“But Shayera, then I told you what was happening. Yes, because I thought you might feel the same way, but also because no matter how you responded, I wanted you to understand what I was going through.

“That's the problem Shayera. I know you care for me, and I know you'd do... anything for me. But I need you to want to do things with me. If we're going to be together, it's about us, not just me and you.”

Hearing about her gambit to shock Bran's psyche into reverting back from Bronwyn's perspective twisted a hot knife in her gut. Shayera had no idea why Bronwyn had reacted that way, and even though on an instinctive level she knew she hurt her somehow, having it explained to her made her feel all the worse. Her mind whirled in guilt and remorse, and she almost retreated from the conversation right then and there. Wait, no. She doesn't want me to go. She wants us to be together. With the truth out, Shayera gives voice to her fear. "I'm afraid there'd be no 'us' if I'm not gay! I didn't want you to know. I hoped I could pretend, or just make it happen. But you could tell something was wrong. Now you know what it is. So, are 'we' going to try to fix this?"

”Shayera... Before we do that, I need to know. If this doesn't work, if you aren't able to change the way you want... Would you still want to be with me?”

Shayera blinks in confusion. "Wh-- well, yes, but you wouldn't want to be with someone not... you know..." She rubs her shoulders and looks away. "Aroused."

Bronwyn gave a guilty blush, "Honestly, it'd make my life easier for a while." She quickly waved her hand to show she was mostly joking. ”Shayera, as much as I value our friendship, I want more." She took a deep, measured breath, "Even if there's nothing to fix, even if nothing changes, will you help me find out what that more could be?"

Shayera throws up her hands helplessly. "Please, I don't understand. Yes, yes I want to. But I still don't get why you don't want me to change! Why can't I make myself into everything you want?"

"Shayera, there might be something to fix, something that was done to you, but... Don't you get how wrong it would be for me to change who you are?”

She shakes her head vehemently. "No! I'm doing this! You didn't ask, you're not doing it to me, I'm doing it for you!”

”Shayera, would you want me to change?”

She shrugs. "I dunno. You could get better at fighting, maybe? I mean, 'if you're not getting better, you're getting worse.' That's what Whippoorwill says sometimes about practice.”

”I mean, would you want me to change so that I wasn't... attracted to you. So that we could just be best friends?”

Shayera looks almost sick. "Of course not."

”That's how I feel about changing you from who you are, or who you're meant to be. That's why I want to go slowly with the idea of changing anything in your head. But if it's what you really want for yourself, I'll help you do it as safely as we can.”

"That's what I'm saying. I want this. I don't know why you don't”

A heat is burning in Bronwyn's eyes as she says quietly, "Shayera... I want it so much. I just don't want you to only do it for me. I couldn't live with myself...

Shayera's shoulders slump helplessly. "Then live with me."

”I'll help.” I just pray I'm doing the right thing.

Shayera almost breaks down. She looks truly happy. "Really? You really will? Oh, thank you!!" She rushes forward for a huge glomping hug.

"But we have to tell your... We have to tell Whippoorwill. Even if you trust... your Dad. You know that not everyone he works with is on the level. Maybe we can get Matrix to consult?"

Wingblade looks uncertain about bringing in Whippoorwill. "Uh, You really want her involved?" She looks sick for a moment, then sets her jaw like she's about to take some foul-tasting medicine. "All right. If that's what you want."

"Do you think she'll say no?"

Yes. Yes I do. Shayera tries to sound nonchalant. "Eh, I don't know really what she'll say. She not someone you go to for relationship advice."

And it's not like you've told your parents what you're up to... ”You don't have to tell her, I'm sorry I said that. You get to decide who you tell, I just... I dunno, I sorta think she'll know what to do.”

Shayera frowns as she thinks about telling her mentor that she wants to be attracted to girls and plans to undergo an experimental procedure to unlock her sexuality. There's my out. She won't make me tell her. Should I, though? "I don't know. She probably will say no. She might even get pissed." Her eyes go wide and she stammers, "not about the being gay part! About the..." she reaches up to her head and yanks out another wire as a demonstration.

”It doesn't... it doesn't have to be Whippoorwill. I do want it to be her. But please, someone I trust has to be watching. I would never forgive myself if anything happened to you while you- while we were doing this.”

Shayera slides off the table and goes to a small chest which she opens. She slips out of her hospital gown and starts pulling on her regular clothes while her mind runs around the idea of bringing in Whippoorwill. She won't be okay with this... but if it's about love, how could she not? Right? There's no other way, is there? But if there is, she'd know, wouldn't she?

After pulling up her black tank top and slipping her arms through, she grabs her cargo pants and fishes out her earbud from its pockets. She gives Bronwyn a long look as she sticks it in her ear and taps it on.

"Umm, Whippoorwill? Code White. Yeah. I-- We need to talk to you about something."

Amalgam Universe:

Wingblade - PL 14
Strength 6, Stamina 12, Agility 10, Dexterity 6, Fighting 10, Intellect 2, Awareness 14, Presence 0

Advantages
All-out Attack, Close Attack 2, Favored Environment (air); Fearless, Improved Critical 2: Nth Metal Claws, Improved Critical 3: Nth Metal Wing Strike, Improved Initiative 2, Improved Smash, Weapon Break

Skills
Acrobatics 8 (+18), Athletics 6 (+12), Close Combat: Nth Metal Claws 6 (+16), Close Combat: Unarmed 6 (+16), Deception 2 (+2), Insight 5 (+19), Intimidation 4 (+4), Perception 8 (+22), Ranged Combat: Nth Metal Wing Strike 9 (+15), Stealth 8 (+18)

Powers
Flight: Flight 6 (Speed: 120 miles/hour, 1800 feet/round; Wings)
Immunity: Immunity 2 (Disease, Poison)
Nth Metal Claws
. . Damage: Strength-based Damage 6 (Linked; DC 27; Affects Insubstantial 2: full rank, Penetrating 12)
. . Nth Metal Wing Strike
. . . . Damage: Strength-based Damage 7 (Linked; DC 28; Affects Insubstantial 2: full rank, Increased Range: ranged)
. . . . Nullify: Nullify 8 (Linked; Counters: Magic, DC 18; Broad, Simultaneous)
. . Nullify: Nullify 10 (Linked; Counters: Magic, DC 20; Broad, Simultaneous; Reduced Range: close)
Protection: Protection 5 (+5 Toughness)
Regeneration: Regeneration 10 (Every 1 round)
Senses: Senses 17 (Accurate (Hearing) = 2 Acute (Olfactory) = 2 Counters All Concealment (Auditory) = 5 Counters Illusion (Olfactory) = 2 Extended (Normal Sight) = 1 Low-Light Vision = 1 Penetrates Concealment (Hearing) = 4)

Offense
Initiative +18
Damage: Strength-based Damage 6, +18 (DC 27)
Damage: Strength-based Damage 7, +15 (DC 28)
Grab, +12 (DC Spec 16)
Nullify: Nullify 10, +18 (DC Will 20)
Nullify: Nullify 8, +15 (DC Will 18)
Throw, +6 (DC 21)
Unarmed, +18 (DC 21)

Languages
Native Language

Defense
Dodge 11, Parry 11, Fortitude 13, Toughness 17, Will 15

Power Points
Abilities 120 + Powers 81 + Advantages 13 + Skills 20 (60 ranks) + Defenses 4 = 238

Complications: Naivete: Wingblade spent her childhood as an experiment in a lab.
Trigger Scent: When exposed to a specific artificial pheromone, Wingblade launches into a berserk rage not knowing friend from foe. Treat as controlled, either "attack nearest character" (aerosol form) or "attack targeted character" (targeted). Will DC 30 to resist.
Reincarnated: Wingblade is inhabited by the soul of an Egyptian princess, and occasionally gets flashes of her past lives.
Soul Mate: Shayera is destined to fall in love with the reincarnated Carter Hall, but because of Project H's meddling, they are currently incompatible.

Background:

In the years leading up to World War II, globe-trotting archaeologist Carter Hall discovers he is a reincarnated Egyptian prince who has been living a cycle of birth and rebirth with his beloved Chay-Ara. Using his dreams of his past lives, he is able to discover an ancient temple in the deserts of Egypt. Within, he finds buried at the heart of the ruins an ancient starship from the planet Thanagar, homeworld of the Shi'ar Empire. Using technology from the spaceship and a mysterious "Nth metal" in the ship's drive, he builds a flying harness that gives him powers. He adopted the mantle of Hawkman and joined the second heroic age as a member of the Justice Squad. During that time, he also discovered the incarnation of Shiara, to whom he gives a similar harness and she takes on the identity of Hawkgirl.
Both the original Hawkman and Hawkgirl are killed in the turmoil of the second World War, the former slain by Vandal Strucker and the latter killed by Redmasque.

Carter and Shiera were soon reborn and reunited in the late 70s. They both adopted their predecessors' names and persona, although the general lack of major activity left them as more curiosities than heroes.

That changed in the 1990s, when the new hysteria against super-powered individuals arose. Shiera was killed by a sniper in 1995, and Carter was driven into hiding.

It was in 2001 when "Project H" utilizing a sample of Carter Hall's tissue and an amount of Nth Metal attempted an ambitious project. No pure human could withstand the effects of Nth metal on the body, but Carter Hall's genetics contained traces of Shi'ar ancestry. Needing a test subject, the project elected to clone Hawkman for further testing. Unfortunately, the samples they had were degraded, most notably the Y-chromosome. One of the project leaders, Sarah Kinney, suggested creating a female clone.

The project was never designed to create a living, sentient clone, but something happened. Shiera's soul, awaiting the passing of Carter so she could be reborn with him, was drawn to the cloned body. The clone awoke.

The child was raised in the lab, being subjected to a myriad of tests designed to bring out her Shi'ar heritage and to utilize the Nth metal that augmented her physiology.

When she was 14, the Hive attacked Earth. Project H had no choice but to convert her into a weapon. Physically bonding her with wings made from Nth metal, as well as grafting retractable claws in her arms and legs, she was sent forth to battle the aliens as a living weapon, with no regard for her humanity.

After the Hive were repulsed, she was overwhelmed with the world outside, having never before set foot outside the labs where she was made. She could remember dreams of her past lives, but remotely. Not having been reborn naturally, her cycle of life, death and rebirth has been interrupted. Taking the name Shayera Kinney, she accepted membership in the team of super beings alongside whom she fought, though she struggles with the fact that she had been nothing but an experiment and then, a weapon.

Iron-y:

Shayera moves like a shadow through the night, following the faint trail of the man's scent. She weaves into and out of alleys and dimly-lit side streets, staying on the ground to keep close to the traces of aftershave and body odor lingering on the wet concrete. Moving into the warehouse district, she has to stay low and dart quickly past the sickly orange streetlights to remain unseen. But she was getting close.

The night air was still, but once out into the open spaces of the warehouse loading yards, the man's scent traveled better. Shayera picked up a whiff of him and caught the low rumbling of a well-oiled garage door sliding open. Turning toward the sound, she encounters a heavy razor--wire fence blocking her from her quarry. Not impressed with the glinting points of metal, she ducks behind a stack of wooden pallets and works a muscle in her forearm. A bloom of pain erupts in her hand as two blades are forced out through her skin and lock into place. She swipes her talons across the metal fence and the links give way effortlessly.

With a simple roll, she enters the warehouse yard and moves through the shadows to a short distance from her target. The dapper man with the imported suit glances about, wary but not nervous. She pauses and watches him produce something from his pocket. He unwraps a small stick of gum and pops it into his mouth casually. A wave of minty aroma fills Shayera's nose and memory rises unbidden.
. . .

"So, lemme ask you a question," started the man with the thinning hair and the glasses that reflected the computer screens so completely that his eyes were never seen. He fished around in the pocket of his white lab coat while he waited for his colleague's response.

[i]"I suppose you're going to ask it whether I let you or not," replied the skinny one with the rumpled lab coat that smelled as if he had slept in it for the last two nights. His hair, too, was unruly and desperately needed a comb.

[i]The first one shrugged and continued. "Yeah. Anyway, here we are experimenting on alien DNA. Real aliens. A Thengarian alien --"

"Thanagar. Than-a-gar. Though I believe they call themselves Shi'ar."

The thin-haired one glanced down at the subject. It didn't react to their conversation. It sat there, blank-eyed, with the tubes and sensors and probes wired into it. "Yeah, whatever." He pulls out a package of gum and starts the noisy process of unwrapping it. "Anyway, do you think we're going to piss them off, doing what we're doing here? If they ever find out about it?"

The one with the rumpled lab coat leaned forward. "Okay, one: They'll never know. How could they? No one beyond Project H knows what we're doing here. And two: No. They won't care."

The other took a step back, and finished freeing a stick of gum from its wrapper. He popped it into his mouth and chewed a moment. "How do you know? We'd get pretty pissed off if some aliens ran these kind of tests on one of us." He gestured to the banks of computers, the needles, dissection gear and other equipment, all drawing data from the eight-year-old experiment sitting in front of them.

"Because," the mop-haired one replied, testily, "they left all this behind a thousand years ago. The old ship, and whatever genetic material they introduced to the gene pool, it's all garbage to them. It's worthless. They care as much about this as we care --" he looked around for a moment, "as we care about that gum wrapper."

As if to punctuate his point, he snatched the wrapper out of his colleague's hand, waved it in front of his face, then drops it on the floor. "Forget it. We need to prep for tomorrow, and calibrate those emitters. Its prefrontal cortex isn't going to[/b][/b][/b][/b][/i][/i][/smaller]