Rise of the PhoenixHawk
Aaron woke up with the sun beating in through his apartment window. Looking over at the clock, ten-fifteen in the morning, he rolled onto his feet. Small grunting sounds came from somewhere in the room as he slowly worked his way upright, trying to loosen stiff muscles and abused joints. He realized the noises were coming from himself, but knowledge didn’t make the aches and pains of continual abuse subside.
Cleaned and shaved, he ate a quick bowl of hot cereal for breakfast, then dressed loosely in sweatpants and a tee-shirt and went out for a run. The stiffness in his muscles started to recede as the blood flowed through them, a light sheen of sweat covering his skin. A mile and a half from the house was a gym where he worked out often. He went through a full upper body weight lifting routine.
The gym had a group exercise room with mirrors and kicking bags that sat on water-filled bases. Aaron worked on one of the bags, circling, kicking and punching in combinations. He let his mind drift to the workouts his father had paced him through like this, and felt the familiar burn of anger start deep within him. His kicks started getting faster, hitting the bags harder and harder. His mind sank into the routine, but the flashbacks of his Dad wouldn’t stop. He threw a hard left hooking punch, the bag making a loud whop when he hit it. His right leg snapped out in a roundhouse kick, the bag almost burst. Something in the back of his mind told him to control his power, that the equipment wasn’t made for the mutated strength he possessed, but his emotions overrode that knowledge. His speed and power continued to build, almost to a peak. He threw a hard overhand right, concentrating his strength and power, letting the anger flow into the strike, but it never got to the bag. A black hand, lightning fast, came in and caught his fist in it, stopping it dead and taking the impact without budging.
“Stop, my friend,” Kwang Ghe told Aaron. “You don’t want to have to replace more of the equipment here.”
The anger in Aaron still filled him, pouring his expression into a scowl, his lips pulled back in a snarl.
Kwang Ghe shook his head, and with a slight trace of an accent, softly said “I wouldn’t do it. Your Ki was never one for hand to hand combat. You may be more powerful than I, but hand to hand fighting would not even be a contest.”
Aaron met Kwang Ghe’s glowing eyes with his own. The fire born of his mutation shone in Aaron’s eyes, but Kwang Ghe’s glowed a deep blue, scientifically enhanced by Dr. Ward to increase his hand-eye coordination, as well as giving him a full infra-red spectrum view.
Aaron let out his breath in a huff, and slumped to the ground, leaning back against the abused bag.
“You’re right,” he said. “I would never lash out at you, but not because you could beat me.”
“I know,” Kwang Ghe said. He knelt down next to Aaron. “I know.”
Aaron leaned back and let the sweat run down his face, his glowing eyes closed, controlling the rage that burned within him. When he had regained his self-control, he opened his eyes and found Kwang Ghe still kneeling in the same place, eyes closed as well in a meditative trance, adding his own calming energy.
“What are you doing here?” Aaron asked.
“Thauma Guard said you would be here,” Kwang Ghe responded. I was sent to find you. The Onami is gathering at one o’clock.”
“Who called the group together?”
Aaron nodded. “What’s up?”
“I believe she has heard from your contact, Tina Chung,” Kwang Ghe replied. He uncoiled from his kneeling position, smoothly rising without using his hands, or even looking like he had considered the idea.
Thauma had done some work with Tina as well, so it didn’t surprise Aaron that Tina had her number.
“The Freakshow?” Aaron asked.
“I believe so.”
“Give me a few to get cleaned up.”
“I will meet you outside,” Kwang Ghe said.
The Onami Strike Force met in a meeting room in an office owned by The FBSA. Sitting around a large rectangular table, the heroes sat costumed and ready for whatever task was to be put before them. Thauma Guard sat next to an empty seat on one side, Shadow Pain on the other. Seated across from the two women sat I Doctor. Next to the Doctor were three of the group’s premier blasters: Shakti, her husband Icee Frozen Pop, whom the group simply called Icee, and Shakti’s younger cousin NOVA 1. Kwang Ghe stood at the rear of the room, next to the group’s newest member, Ginger Blaze, who was being trained in force field skills by Thauma Guard, and Fire control by PhoenixHawk.
“Good to see you all again,” PhoenixHawk said as he took his seat. There were nods and greetings in return.
Shadow Pain said “It’s about time you got here,” with a grin, which drew chuckles from several of the members.
Tina Chung was at the head of the room, having traveled from her office in Founder’s Falls for the meeting.
“As you are aware, I have had PhoenixHawk tracking down some stolen Rikti tech, taken by Freakshow attacks on several labs. The whereabouts of the Vanguard’s advanced weaponry that is supposed to be assigned to guarding the Rikti research labs is still in question, but thanks to your efforts we have gotten a break in hopefully locating the stolen tech. We were lucky enough to find some computer data that was stolen along with the tech, and one of the Freaks who let slip which Boss he worked for.”
Tina turned and pushed a button on a remote control in her hand. The room darkened and a picture was presented on the wall behind them. It showed a large Freak with blood-red hair spiked in three rows of a triple Mohawk. He had armor plating grafted to both shoulders, muscled rippled across his chest. His right arm ended in what looked like several feet of stiff chord that ended in a small steel ball.
“This is Cable,” Tina said. “Or was, before he had more and more armor grafted to him. He got his name when he cut off his own hand and bolted a three foot length of steel cable in its place. He killed and maimed a lot of people with that cable. He’s a full blown psychopath, and the Freaks follow him. During the Freak-ylmpics, Cable and his followers had the highest score of any group before the operation was brought down. It seems the whole thing was a prelude to hitting the labs and stealing the Rikti tech. Dreck wanted to see which group should have the honor of stealing it, and putting it to use.”
“And Cable won,” PhoenixHawk said.
“As close as can be,” Tina said. “Cable’s group is all together today, supposedly to see what the kidnapped scientists have come up with. We found out that location, but it’s not good; a warehouse in the middle of Crey’s Folly.”
“Nice,” I Doctor said.
“No,” Tina said, “Not really.”
“I’ve never been to Crey’s Folly,” Ginger Blaze said. “Is it bad?”
“It’s a hazard zone off Brickstown,” Shadow Pain said. “A lot of Rikti running around loose in there, and there are constant running battles between them and the Freakshow. Add in some Nemesis Warhulks and snipers, swarms of Devouring Earth bees, and you’ll get the picture.”
“We’d guess they picked the area because it’s not highly patrolled,” Tina said. “And there is ample opportunity for Cable to test out his new Rikti tech on its former masters.”
“Is that why you wanted the whole group?” PhoenixHawk asked Tina.
“Partially. We also expect the warehouse to be full of Freaks, and we aren’t sure exactly what they’ll be armed with.”
“This is sounding better and better all the time,” Ginger said.
Tina finished her presentation, pointing out the exact address of the warehouse, and cautioning the group to be careful in Crey’s Folly.
“You have to get in there and save the five kidnapped scientists,” Tina told them. “And take down Cable and his guards.”
Crey’s Folly was just as bad as Shadow Pain described. The guards at the gates to the Hazard Zone didn’t want to let N0VA 1 or Ginger Blaze in, due to their lower security level identification, but the rest of the group vouched for them, and got them through.
“Stay here, let me and Shakti fly out to the warehouse and we’ll teleport the rest of you.”
PhoenixHawk and Shakti took flight high above the city, passing over the towers of chemical processing plants and brick factories. Power lines crossed the area in a web of wires. Groups of Freakshow could be seen haunting the streets, looking for Rikti to kill or Crey employees to rob. Several groups of Nemesis could be seen gathered around Warhulks. Shakti had warned PhoenixHawk on his first trip through the area to watch out for the Nemesis Subaltern snipers, who could hit them from further away than they could retaliate.
PhoenixHawk and Shakti dropped down under an overhang near the back of the warehouse, just out of site of a group of wandering Freakshow. PhoenixHawk teleported Thauma Guard, who had taught him the skill, while Shakti pulled her husband. Thauma joined them and in no time the eight member team was gathered at the entrance to the warehouse.
Thauma Guard threw force field bubbles around the rest of the team, as did Ginger Blaze.
“Remember to stick close to me,” I Doctor said, mostly to the junior members. “I can’t heal you if you get outside of my radius.”
The doorway opened into a locker room, which opened into a hallway, down which a large group of Freakshow waited. They sat on large crates, cheering on two of their own slugging it out in a gleeful, drug-induced haze.
Kwang Ghe and Shadow Pain both shimmered into near non-existence, moving stealthily up the hallway towards the gang members. Kwang Ghe knew the Freaks would see him before they did Shadow Pain, but he was certain he could still get close enough to rush the group during the initial moment of surprise.
Icee moved forward, just out of site of the group and raised his hands. The temperature in the hallway dropped noticeably, and an ice rain showered down on the Freakshow. The two who had been slugging each other stopped, the rest of the group scrambled to get out of the freezing droplets pouring over them. Their movements were considerably slower due to the cold, and six of them didn’t even see it coming when Shadow Pain appeared between them, whirling her katana in a leaping spin, dropping the six Freaks to the ground.
A Juicer Freak tried to slip out of the cold but Kwang Ghe sent him flying backwards into the heart of the storm with a solid left-footed side kick.
Ginger Blaze moved up and threw a ring of fire around the Juicer, holding him in place, while Kwang Ghe hit him with a flurry of punches, followed by a quick jump-spinning kick, nearly knocking the tesla coils from the gangbanger’s back.
Shakti and PhoenixHawk hovered near the ceiling of the hallway, blasting the Freaks with energy and fire. Concentrating their attacks on the Freaks towards the back, keeping the Gunners at bay.
A Slicer, Swiper, and Smasher all rushed at Ginger, seeing her as a smaller and easier target. Thauma threw tentacles over them, but missed the Smasher, who brought his clubs down hard on Ginger. The blast knocked her from her feet. As the Smasher raised the hammers at the ends of his arms over his head, Icee encased him in ice, freezing the freak in place. N0VA 1 threw a harsh fireball at the Freak, sending ice fragments and an unconscious gang member flying.
Watching out for the controller, N0VA had turned her back on the Freaks, and a Mad Gunner stepped up and blaster her in the back. The shotgun boomed out, but the force fields Thauma and Ginger had wrapped the Onami members in turned quite a bit of the blast. What it didn’t slammed into N0VA, knocking her to the ground next to Ginger.
Thauma turned in and concentrated, pulling dark energy into herself, and lashing out in a solid blast, staggering the Gunner. PhoenixHawk put the dazed Freak down with a pulsating power blast.
I Doctor was there with the two junior heroes, helping N0VA and Ginger to their feet. As he did, he bowed his head in concentration and a green aura spread from him, encasing the two young women, mending the minor wounds either had sustained.
The battle was fast and intense, but over quickly. The Onami members agreed that no alarm had been raised, and moved on cautiously. Kwang Ghe and Shadow Pain took lead, moving with Stealth ahead of the group, getting a lay out of the building.
The warehouse was divided into four areas; three storage rooms of medium size, filled with steel and wooden boxes, fork-lifts, bent and twisted steel shelving; the fourth room, which could be found by passing through a break room, was twice as large as any of the others.
In a corner of one of the smaller rooms another group of Freakshow was gathered around two prisoners who were tied and seated against a wall. Occasionally one of the Freaks would come over and threaten or swing at the captives, who would cringe in fear.
“Two of the scientists,” Kwang Ghe told the group at the mouth of the room. “We will need to get to them so that the Freaks do not harm them when we attack.”
“You and Shadow Pain take care of that,” PhoenixHawk said. “We’ll take care of the rest of the group.”
“Open a gap for me to get in there with you,” Thauma Guard told Shadow Pain. “I can push the Freaks back away from the scientist, give us time to protect them.”
“We will do as you need,” Kwang Ghe said.
“Just don’t take too long,” Thauma said. “The repulsion bubble is exhausting, I can’t keep it up very long.”
“I may be able to help with that,” I Doctor said. “Gather around me.”
When the Onami were close, I Doctor closed his eyes and spread his hands out in a low arc. Energy pulsed a slight blue glow that encompassed the rest of the group, and every member felt the energy pulse through their system.
“The Recovery Aura won’t last long,” the Doctor said. “But it will keep your endurance up near peak for about two minutes. Better move fast.”
Giving Shadow Pain time to move all the way to the captive scientists, Kwang Ghe held slightly back, and waited for the rest of the Onami to attack. Shadow Pain lashed out at the Freak closest to the scientist, lifting the tattooed gang member off his feet. Kwang Ghe rushed in and kicked the second closest member away, leaving a small area just in front of the scientist clear. It was all Thauma Guard needed. She leapt the thirty foot distance with ease, landing next to the scientist, and flung a repulsion bubble up. The large green, shimmering area pushed all of the Freakshow in its radius backwards, creating a nearly physical wall between the gang members and Thauma at its center. Turning quickly, Thauma threw smaller force bubbles around the two scientist to protect them from any incoming projectiles.
The rest of the Onami poured over the group Shots boomed out in response to energy or fire blasts, blades crossed and slashed, but in a short time the Freakshow were all down and Thauma was able to release the Repulsion field. She dropped to her knee, breathing heavily after she did.
Two more scientists were recovered in the same way in one of the other rooms. Each time the heroes moved in as one, coordinating their attacks, taking the Freakshow down quickly. I Doctor kept the groups injuries to a minimum, as did the force fields Ginger and Thauma kept around the Onami members.
The group quietly moved up a set of stairs and through the break room that Shadow Pain had said led to the largest open area in the warehouse. There was a huge amount of noise coming through the doorway to that area, and when the group arrived, they saw why.