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StormStrike #43

Created By Antony -- Jun/30/07

 


STORMSTRIKE #43



STORM ON THE HORIZON





NEXT ISSUE:

While Jai deals with her surprise by Kurt, the Masters begin to rebuild their family bonds and their day to day lives. Plus, Lord Omega finally meets one that has been around since almost the beginning. And Lord Omega is not looking for any friends. Next month, the bloodbath begins

STORMSTRIKE #44

QUADRIVIUM

After the jet landed, Jai remained in her seat as Kurt disembarked and Ray powered down. She looked out the window to see a few people that were obviously not natives moving about around electronic equipment that she knew was very advanced. Jai did not recognize any of the faces at first but noticed that Kurt seemed to when he came into her view. She looked up at the cockpit to see Ray was looking back at her with a small grin on his face. Jai gave a short sigh then looked back out the window. "Hey. Who are these people?"

"They're part of the NSA." When Jai looked at him, Ray continued, "Yeah. When StormStrike disbanded, Kurt went back to the NSA full-time."

"What about you?"

"You care?" Ray laughed until he noticed the disturbed expression she gave him. "I wasn't ever in the NSA. I'm just an Air Force major. Well, after the attack, I've been keeping busy. Remind me to show you what I mean later."

"Why not just tell me now?" Jai asked.

"You have to see it to believe it."

As he grinned at her, Jai slowly looked back out the window. "So what are they doing here? This is the spot where Travis well, you know."

Ray replied, "We found his communicator." After an astonished Jai looked back at him, he continued, "In Houston in the aftermath of a metahuman attack on the skeletal remains of a young girl. The government never let us in to get the body until now and we want to know how his communicator ended up half a world away on a dead girl."

Jai stood up walked out of the jet and looked around as people she could tell were Americans moved about. She saw Kurt standing close to the hole she remembered seeing when she was there before. Jai walked over to him until she stood at his right. "So?"

Kurt responded, "It doesn't make sense." He looked at her. "Are you sure he never came out?"

"Positive."

"Weird. We've only found his bloodstained uniform. However, that's all we found." As Jai looked down into the hole, Kurt announced to everyone else, "Pack everything up and head home to get that full analysis on the blood on that uniform. I suspect it will belong to Travis Blake but I want to be sure." Kurt looked back at startled Jai. "Let's go."

As Kurt began to make his way back to the jet, Jai stood a moment as she could not take her eyes off the deep dark hole. Jai thought back to a time when the team took a vacation to the Grand Canyon and she wished she could go back to that time with the three. However, at this moment, Jai realized the four would never be together again and she now felt a sense of loss that she did not get to know them better. Jai said softly, "You said when we were at the Grand Canyon, if someone messes with one of us then they will deal with all four of us. Well, it's time to live up to that. I won't let you down again." She turned and made her way back to the jet. She walked up the ramp and hit the button next to the entrance that caused it to close. "Ray, get me back home now. And don't try to bluff about how long it takes because you taught me how this thing can get almost anywhere in no time flat. I have stuff to do."

Kurt asked, "Like what?"

Jai replied, "Everything."

Two hours later, the jet had landed at Andrews Air Force Base however it was early morning as the sun was just beginning to make an appearance to the eastern United States. Jai stepped out and saw a black car parked close. She looked at Ray who extended the keys to her. "You had the car parked here?"

Ray nodded. "Well, I figured you'd want to get it back as soon as possible so when I heard we were picking you up I thought I'd have it here for you. And you have a full tank of gas."

"Thanks." Jai took the keys and examined them in her hand.

Kurt asked, "So where are you headed to?"

"Just some place that I need to take care of something," Jai replied unemotionally.

Kurt reached into his pocket and withdrew a StormStrike communicator. "Here. I know you and Ryder put the ones you had in the ocean for whatever reason. But keep it just in case. There are only four people who know the decryption code for them. Myself, Travis, Victoria, and Derek."

Jai asked, "Where are the other two?"

"Derek just took a job at Hunter Enterprises with Ariel. Victoria well, I'll show you tomorrow or whenever you get back from wherever you're going."

Jai asked, "She's back in the NSA like you?"

"That's kind of a yes and a no. Yes, she's back in the NSA but we're in two different areas so not exactly like me."

"With Derek taking a non-government job, the code wasn't changed?"

Kurt shook his head. "It's kind of complicated to explain things. It will be made clearer for you when we fully bring you up to speed." Kurt looked as a limo pulled up in front of them. "I think here's someone to welcome you back, Jai." As a grey-haired man got out of the car, Kurt gave a small nod to him. "Jai, I don't think you met him before. He's"

Jai cut Kurt off. "I worked in news before I was in StormStrike. I recognize Vice-President Whitmore."

Whitmore smiled at Jai. "It's good to finally have you back. Did Kurt explain everything to you?" He extended a hand to Jai.

As Jai just stood looking at Whitmore's extended hand, Kurt said, "I still have a few things to discuss with her. Right now, she needs to take care of something she said."

Whitmore slowly put his hand back to his side when it was apparent that she was not going to shake it. He said, "Time is a luxury we're running out of."

Jai responded, "It's important to me. And when it's all said and done, maybe you'll get more than just me." She looked at Kurt then continued, "Look, if all goes according to plan, I'll catch up with you sometime tomorrow." Jai walked to her car and got in. She sat for a moment to soak it in as she just realized how much she missed it. She put the key in the ignition and turned the car on. As the powerful eight cylinder engine revved, Jai allowed a small grin to cross her lips. She pushed in the clutch then put the car into first gear and pulled off.

Whitmore asked Kurt, "Has she always been like that?"

Kurt laughed. "Actually, that's mild compared to what she used to be like when she first meets someone." He looked at Ray. "Should we tell him about your fight with her?" Kurt laughed softly as Ray gave him a frown.

Whitmore asked, "How did you put up with it?"

Kurt looked back at Whitmore then said with complete seriousness, "Well, she may be hard to get to do what you want her to do at times but if I had to put my life on the line with someone else fighting the fight, there are very few others I'd rather want than Jai Cabarini."

Whitmore grunted. "I hope she lives up to her billing because she may be our only hope."

An hour later in the undisclosed area that served as a central command for Operation Prometheus, the one who gives the orders walked out of his office cleaning his glasses. He placed the glasses back on his face then looked around at the others there. He then inhaled deeply then announced to the room, "I have some news." As most of the darkened room stopped what they were doing to look to him, he continued, "It seems the female member of StormStrike has finally resurfaced. Soon Operation Prometheus will have what we've been working towards."

A few hours later, Jai walked up to the receptionist that spoke on the phone behind her desk. She stood at the desk for a second before the receptionist put up a single index finger without even a glance to Jai.

As the receptionist ended the call, she asked as she hung up the phone still without a look to Jai, "Now, what can I help you with?"

Jai quickly replied, "I would like to see Ariel Hunter."

"And who may I tell her is asking to see her?"

Jai took a deep breath then said as calmly as she could, "Tell her that Jai Cabarini is here to see her." As the startled receptionist looked at her, Jai continued, "I'm sure she could spare a minute or two." As the receptionist picked up the phone and made a call, Jai turned to see a familiar face walking in the front doors. Even though he smiled at her, Jai kept an unemotional expression on her face. When he walked up to her, she said coolly, "Derek."

To Jai, Derek Lane was in the same situation as her own sister Franki. He was a meta-inactive who had an active older sister. However, Derek's sister was killed as a victim of the Metahunters. Jai never got that close with him back at the StormStrike compound but then she never had much of a chance but she heard about the poker games that he, Travis, Sonya, and James used to have and part of her wishes she could have sat in on a few.

"Jai, it's good to see you back." He gave her a polite smile. "You're here to see Ariel?" After Jai nodded, Derek continued, "Well, I'll take you to our area. Come on."

Jai followed Derek to the elevator. After they entered and the doors closed, Jai asked, "So you're working for the company that created the things that killed your sister? Mind explaining how that works?"

Derek chuckled. "Ariel asked me to help with trying to find anything in the Metahunter programming we could use against them."

"Find anything yet?"

Derek shrugged. "I don't know how what we found so far could be of much use. One of the oddities was the safe list they have built-in to their programming. Or at least it used to be there."

Jai glared at him. "Safe list?"

Derek nodded. "Yeah." As the elevator stopped and the doors opened, Derek walked out with Jai a step behind him. "They had a list of those not to attack unless they were attacked first." He stopped and looked at her. "And guess who was on that list the entire Blake family including Travis."

Jai said, "Considering they killed all of the family but Steven, I would say that is odd."

Derek continued to walk. "Well, the parents were killed because they attacked the Metahunters trying to help a third metahuman who they were after. I saw the report."

"I was wondering about who that third grave belonged to since Steven turned up alive. But what you're saying is if one of them encounters a Metahunter, the android would not attack first?"

"Well, that is true but we're talking old programming. It could be different now. But they do seem to have kept their public enemy number one list so we can only hope that safe list is still in there too."

Jai thought a brief second. "Public enemy number one. Would that be any member of the Masters family?"

"Yeah. How did you know?"

"Witnessed it. However, they went after Aurora but didn't do the same to the twins. I guess whatever experiments were done to them that altered their powers changed them enough to not be seen as family members by the androids."

"Guess so. Say, you aren't here to take down the Hawk, are you?"

Jai asked, "Who?"

Derek smiled half-heartedly to her then quickly said, "Nevermind." He continued on his way as she stood for a second then followed. When he reached a room of medium size, he looked at the two people in the room that were huddled near a computer screen on the far side. He coughed to get their attention and when they turned to him, Derek gave a subtle grin. "Guess who finally came back." He stepped aside to allow Jai to enter the room.

Ariel stared in disbelief for a brief second then gave a small grin. "Jai, you're back."

Jai said as she walked over to Ariel, "We need to talk."

Ariel looked at Scott at her side who just eyed Jai. She looked back at Jai then said, "This is Scott Crane. Scott, this is"

As a smiling Scott extended a hand to her, Jai frowned at Ariel. "I'm not here for a social event. I have a few things to talk to you about and I think you might not appreciate what I will say in front of other people."

Ariel noticed the look in her eyes. She said while not taking her eyes off Jai, "Guys, I think now would be a good time to take a break."

As he was walking out with Derek, Scott asked, "Is she always like that?"

Derek let out a small chuckle. "You have no idea."

After the door closed, Ariel took a seat and motioned to a nearby chair. "Sit down." She smiled at Jai until she noticed that Jai only folded her arms and returned an expression to not show happiness. "Or stand if you prefer. So, what do you want to talk about?"

"Ryder."

Ariel took a deep breath. "Oh. Look, I am as shocked as anyone about him joining Valhalla. He wasn't happy with my joining Hunter Enterprises but I would hardly think that would be the only reason he'd do that. He did take the deaths of Travis and Mike pretty hard."

Jai returned softly, "We all did."

"Well, I never fully explained to him why I joined Hunter Enterprises. I was going to but he vanished before I did. But I figured I may as well put being Jason Hunter's daughter to good use and hope to find something that can be used against the androids. Problem is we are going off obviously old programming."

Jai asked, "How do you figure?"

Ariel took a deep breath. "Because we're not sure what we're facing anymore. A while back, I was kidnapped and was being taken to the leader of the Discord. And saw something completely different called Vincent. I'm not sure what he was but he wasn't human. Add to the fact that Aurora said there was an android immune to her magnetism she fought at the power core at the compound during the attack."

Jai eyed her. "What are you saying? You think they evolved into being able to pass for humans?"

"Not completely. I'm sure some things are still safe from them. Like I would think there are no babies being born as them. And I would hope other um functions aren't quite up there yet."

"How can you detect them?"

Ariel shrugged. "We haven't figured that out yet."

"Then how did you find out about the one?"

Ariel gave a half-grin. "I was rescued by the Hawk who turned Vincent into a scrap heap in the process."

"That's twice I heard that name. Who is this Hawk?"

Ariel looked at the closed door with a very subtle grin. She looked back at Jai then said, "Nobody you will need to worry about now." Ariel remembered when another metahuman she knows came to Salem City and went after the Hawk. And Ariel thought he was a little more even-tempered than the one in front of her now so figured best to take that subject slower this time around. Ariel noticed that something on her desk caught her attention as she reached for a picture and looked at it intently. Ariel stated with a touch of sadness, "Things will never be the same again I guess."

Jai looked at the picture that had Ariel with Mike, Travis, and Ryder in an area of the StormStrike compound. It was the first time she ever saw the picture. She asked without looking away from it, "When was this taken?"

"Not long before you guys went to Valhalla to help the twins."

Jai suddenly felt a sense of she missed out on a few moments of friendship with her fellow teammates. A part of her always worried about getting too close to them but now she had a small regret about how things turned out. In the picture, she could tell they were all sharing a happy moment that she was not a part of. The picture reminded her how she was sort of isolated from the rest of them during down times back then. She knew it was not their fault and now a part of her wishes she had spent more personal time with them. Jai placed the picture back where she found it then turned to Ariel. "I guess I should head back."

"Jai, are you going to go after Ryder?"

Jai nodded. "I have a couple of things to do first though." She looked back at the picture again.

"You know he cared a lot about you."

Jai eyed Ariel with a puzzled expression. "Mike?"

"No. Well, he did too. I meant Travis though." After Jai gave another puzzled look, Ariel continued, "Hey, you made me do those unnecessary pull-ups, remember? I put enough together to realize you had feelings for another member of the team that wasn't Mike. And I always thought you and Ryder were more brother and sister." Ariel noticed the expression did not change on Jai. "Okay, maybe cousins."

Jai sighed softly then said, "I'll talk to you more later."

A large group of Metahunters led by the one designated as Lucifer arrived in Bordeaux, France on the last reported sighting of a particular being only known as Lord Omega. With the political connections with the leader of France by the Discord, the Metahunters had very little resistance to entering the European country. As they arrived over the city, they broke formation to begin a sweep of the city which caused many citizens to run into buildings without knowing what the androids were there for.

Lucifer noticed one being in the mass confusion below that stood almost a quarter-mile away with his back to them and standing calmly in an ocean of confusion that swarmed around him. Lucifer attempted to scan this being for the metagene and came up negative. However, something was detected that was not like normal detections. Lucifer detected power but it was different. It was almost like detecting Tremor unfiltered and powerful. Yet, it was different. It was unexplainable even to his electronic mind.

Lucifer had something the other androids with him did not have a sense to survive. Therefore, Lucifer ordered several androids through the programming link they shared to investigate this being as he maintained his current position.

As the androids closed in, the being quickly turned to the approaching Metahunters. "Who dares?" Even hidden behind a mask, one could tell that Lord Omega was very displeased. He released an energy bolt that easily ripped through the closest one which exploded on impact.

Lucifer ordered more when he realized this being must be the one they have been searching for all this time.

Lord Omega stood as the sky grew full of Metahunters that approached and began firing their blasts at him. He did not even try to move as the blasts reigned down on him. The ones that hit him barely made him flinch. He then levitated off the ground slowly as the Metahunters continued the bombardment. Two androids came up behind him and grabbed him to fly him into one of the towers of St. Andre's Cathedral.

From the street below, the sound could be heard of stone and steel being violently torn just before a mild explosive blast shattered the top portion of the tower causing large pieces of stone to crash to the ground below. Many vehicles that were parked in the nearby area suddenly took to the sky and began acting as guided missiles into the android force.

Lucifer watched as something streaked out fast from the explosion. He watched as it stopped to show it was Lord Omega who began angrily blasting at the androids without mercy. Lucifer saw that nothing the androids could do affected this being. He began a more intense scan of the being that was overwhelming the Metahunter force. If Lucifer was programmed to say curse words, this would have been the first time he would have used one. Lucifer began a more intense scan of this being and when he was finished, he said, "Impossible." As Lord Omega unleashed a large discharge of electricity that ripped a few androids, Lucifer turned around and flew westward while the other androids continued the hopeless battle with Lord Omega showing no signs of stopping the onslaught.

As night began in the D.C. area, Jai stopped her car where she had been told to meet with him. She noticed another vehicle drive from the opposite direction towards her. When the car stopped and the window went down, Jai gave a quick look at the car. "Not driving one of those mini-rockets these days?"

Kurt replied, "Maybe later." He gave her a small smile.

"So what did you want to show me?"

Kurt said, "Follow me."

As he drove off, Jai turned her car around and followed. She noticed that he turned left into an alley. She cautiously turned her car into the alley. Jai was surprised when she saw he reached the end of the alley and the wall slid upwards to reveal a tunnel that he drove into to. She followed into the tunnel and had to turn on the lights when the door closed behind her. Jai could tell she was heading downward but only saw the tail lights of Kurt's car. Suddenly, Jai entered a large well-lit area half full with cars. She parked next to where Kurt parked and got out of her car. When her eyes met his, she asked Kurt, "Where are we?"

Kurt replied, "You'll see. Follow me."

Jai took a breath before she followed him as he walked through the only door she could see in the room. She followed him to an elevator at the end of the hallway the door led to. When the doors opened, they entered the elevator. Jai noticed Kurt pressed a single button to make the elevator begin to move and she felt it went down. Jai leaned against the wall then said, "So, Talia caught Tremor I hear and put her in Arango."

"Sort of." When Jai eyed him, Kurt continued, "Tremor apparently is immune to metagene inhibitors. She was able to come and go at will in Arango. Well, there was a Metahunter attack in L.A. recently and she took off to it. Rearranged a few mountains out there. But she vanished after that."

"Think she's dead?" Jai asked the question but did not believe the answer would be yes for one second.

"Doubt it. After her Arango situation, I think with Tremor she just can't be understood. As if when she thinks we think we have all the answers about her, she will go and change all the questions. I do think Tremor wanted to have an alibi for this other powerhouse out there destroying cities. If she's seen in Arango, there was no way we could blame her for it."

"You mean, now there are two of them out there? I mean, you think this other person could possibly be as powerful as she is?" When Kurt only nodded, Jai said, "Damn." When the elevator stopped, Jai noticed Kurt quickly exited and she followed. As she exited the elevator, her eyes locked on another person that walked in. Jai thought she seen that person before but was not sure. She turned back to see Kurt grinning at her. Jai looked around the room filled with electronic equipment and people moving about with most as if they were in a hurry. She asked as she continued to look around, "Where are we?"

Kurt replied, "Jai, I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to explain it to you earlier. My assignment was to deliver you" He looked as a man with glasses flanked by armed men walked towards them then continued, "to them." He took a breath as Jai looked at the men suspiciously. Kurt said, "Jai, this is Operation Prometheus."




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