Steel City

The End of Thornbird

Day after atomic supermen. Canadian Lass had an inconclusive battle with Immaterial Girl and Hellteen (they vanished) but not before IG said something like, “She thinks of you as her real daughter.” So after recovering, Canadian Lass had a scan of the Future Foundation building and found several areas that her X-ray vision couldn’t penetrate. A small room, a medium room, two large rooms.

Chiclet (under that name) gets a text message from her old friend Lacey to have coffee, says it could be valuable for both of them. Lacey is Rapture’s daughter, so she knows the important stuff. At coffee, she reveals that she knows who Chiclet is, mostly because when she disappeared, Chicle was asking around, and with that clue it wasn’t hard to say, “99% has been missing for so long and Chiclet has been missing for so long; both are Asian-American girls, of the same size.” After commiserating about the things super-powered parents put their kids through and revealing that Mom is in a home (something to do with trying to take over Lacey’s body: “You made it real easy to decide about the home, mom” that just recently had a summoning problem thanks to mom, so now Lacey has to pay for magic protection too), Lacey reveals that a gadget-based person has been making herself a pain about joining the group, and Lacey gave her this time and address for a job to pull. She’d like one or more of Chiclet’s “friends” to show up at the same time and see how the girl handles herself. If she gets arrested, enh, Lacey doesn’t have to hire her. If she stays free and gets a good report from Chiclet, then maybe she’ll be a useful addition. Chiclet cautions her about shitting where you eat, but Lacey promises not to break the supervillain out if she gets caught.

The time and place, not surprisingly, are the museum, the night before the opening of some Japanese equivalent to the Faberge egg, which is the artifact that Mr. Shibota wants Dragoneye to keep an eye on.

In the meantime, Izzy asks 99% to use some clairvoyance on the mysterious hidden areas. Dragoneye comes along because they want to talk about this egg thing, which apparently has some mystic legend associated with it. Huitzil is away dealing with family issues, and Volt is busy, dealing with private eyes who are in danger of finding his secret identity.

Clairvoyance shows that one of the large rooms is a super high tech lab that puts the official Future Foundation lab to shame, with a hacking substation and a genetic engineering substation, with a set of flash drives labels with superpowers and one “possible cures for radioactive decay”. It also contains a half-dozen dolls of the type that exploded over Ottawa. The medium size room shows evidence of being where Hellteen is living, though Hellteen is not there; the small room is apparently some kind of mystic summoning room with a small workbench and some magical-style materials (mystic aura). All four are connected, and the fourth large room turns out to be a subway-style boarding station big enough for one of those digging machines, but with dirt on left and right sides: no tunnels, though dirt where tunnels could be made.

So they grab one of the students who gets dubbed PortalGuy, who can open a portal a mile away (he’s a middle-aged man who normally works at restoring auto bodies; 99% suggests “Porter” as a name, because Porter was a car make). They scoot one of the Atomic Supermen to the middle of the Blasting Range, a wilderness on the property that they use for training people to use their powers, and follow, just in time for the pod to open and a (brief) fight ensue. The Atomic Superman whiffs most of the time, and is eventually destroyed. So now the team knows that if you cut power to the pods, they open up. PortalGuy gets a $25 Tim Horton’s gift certificant for his help.

That’s when they discover that Izzy’s mom, who went into the hospital for a “routine procedure” has been kidnapped. Izzy brings both the others to the UNTIL base in Windsor, which is a hive of activity, because it’s not just Izzy’s mom: it’s five agents, all identical, who have been kidnapped. At the hospital, the kidnapper left a note that says “I needed the parts” and a bank safety-deposit key.

At the bank, which is already closed and cordoned off, they discover a present addressed to Izzy. The card says, “Let’s see what you can do.”

Her dad tells her that because she’s directly named, she now has the security clearance, and it’s his wife, dammit. Professor Apocalypse used a great deal of alien tech, and usually could figure out what it did. He thought he had a teleporter—he pushed a junior accountant into it, and she disappeared. So he followed.

Instead, it was a copying machine. Professor Apocalypse found himself to be a pretty young brunette woman with an IQ much lower than it used to be. He/she split, and the UNTIL agents hunting him followed, including Murcheson and four other agents….all of whom became copies of the pretty young brunette woman. Yes, Izzy’s mother used to be a man named Murcheson.

Now Professor Apocalypse (as Thornbird) has kidnapped all of the clones.

A little X-ray vision shows a doll inside, a smaller doll than the ones in the lab, and the X-ray vision seems to have started something electronic in it (according to super hearing)…but it’s not moving. They’re afraid to move it, X-ray it, clairvoyance won’t help because it’s dark inside the box. They get UNTIL to bring the parts for a Faraday cage while they get PortalGuy. They carefully slip the package into the Faraday cage, and PortalGuy opens a path to Lake St. Clair, and Izzy dives down to the bottom, cutting the batteries free with her heat vision, then slicing the doll into little tiny pieces. No bomb inside. Some kind of needle for a biopsy, though. She goes back, looks at the dirt under the hospital, figures out that it’s been recently disturbed….and follows the tunnel back to the Future Foundation.

But if she has a clone who is twentyish, why does she need the others for parts? Ninety-Nine Percent puts the answer together with Immaterial Girl’s earlier comments and realizes that Izzy is the daughter who is reasonably like her genetically, and would be a great place to put a brain from a body that, say, had radiation poisoning from the Atomic Supermen. This is the point where a secret door slides open and reveals a corridor leading off to…a place that clairvoyance and X-ray vision can now show a surgical laboratory. (Almost as if a mystical enchantment had been lifted that was hiding it from view.) The surgical laboratory contains a wasted and dying Thornbird/Izzy’s mom clone in the equivalent to an iron lung; five identical women on surgical tables; five surgical robots poised over them. Immaterial Girl and Hellteen are also there.

Ninety-Nine Percent does part of the wall breakage (they’re not going to go down that corridor), and Izzy does the rest. Thornbird, in a creepy voice says, “If you want your mother to live, all you have to do is give up and be the recipient of my brain,” and starts the surgical robots.

Dragoneye throws a wall between the unconscious victims and the surgical robots, Izzy starts brawling with Hellteen, and Immaterial Girl takes on Dragoneye, going into him and then making part of her body solid. Ninety-Nine Percent concentrates on killing Thornbird’s iron lung (and by extension Thornbird).

To attack the ghost, Dragoneye has to drop the wall, which means Izzy concentrates her movements on rescuing the victims…while Hellteen is whaling on her.

Ninety-Nine Percent and Dragoneye switch (because Ninety-Nine has an attack that affects insubstantial). Sometime after the seams on the iron lung split open from the hammering that Dragoneye is doing, Dragoneye notices switches flipping themselves on the far wall. Sparks are flying from Thornbird’s head, and they hear a Japanese phrase, which Ninety-Nine Percent helpfully translates as “It is done.”

Ninety-Nine finally deals with the ghost who vanishes up Ninety-Nine’s telepathic lance; Hellteen decides he doesn’t have to worry about the victims and lets loose a flame blast that does terrible damage to them, though all the heroes escape. Thornbird is apparently dead…but Ninety-Nine’s clairvoyance shows that the biopod containing the Izzy’s mom clone has opened and the clone is dressing herself in Thornbird armor.

Hellteen goes down quickly after that, and Dragoneye does a healing to stabilize the women who are in bad shape from the howitzer-shell powered flame blast. (In fact, he did two, but that’s because I didn’t understand how healing works. First time it’s really come up.)

Dragoneye rushes upstairs, only to be caught in a fight with the invisible ninja, who is trying to buy the clone Thornbird some time. Ninety-Nine Percent flings her helmet away while Izzy is destroying the surgical robots (lest they hurt the stabilized women). The heroes manage to knock the clone Thornbird unconscious, but her boots take off….Ninety-Nine Percent implants a hidden message using mind control that Thornbird will turn herself in, and Izzy follows at a safe distance to figure out where Thornbird is actually hiding. Hellteen gets a similar mind control message, along with “If Thornbird contacts you, tell Ninety-Nine Percent and then forget you did this.”

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