Tear The World Apart, Part 5 - Lines In The Sand

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(June 4th, 2008)

The meeting room overlooked the harbour, the quay below a scene of typical weekend frivolity. In the room, eight people sat in chairs or chatted to one another, all wearing civilian clothes instead of the costumes that they would be using on the day of the attack.

As Jim and Nadia entered the room, a tall, pallid man walked over to them, a broad smile looking incongruous on his face. He held out a slim hand to the two. “Mayfly, Handyman. Thank you for coming. I'm Terry Malcolm, codename Eclipse. I'm leading the harbour operation. Come on in, I'll introduce you to everyone.”

As the two entered, Nadia looked around, feeling extremely nervous. Eclipse continued speaking as though he hadn't noticed, raising a hand to get the attention of the group. “Everyone, this is Mayfly, and Handyman, two of the local heroes. They'll be joining us on harbour defense, and giving us any local background that we might have failed to take into account.”

“Hi, everyone.” Jim waved cheerfully, taking a seat. Eclipse sat in front of the window, his chair scuttling forwards as though pushed from someone behind him as he sat, and gestured around the circle.

“Let me introduce the others. First, these two are Styx and Charon, our frontliners.” Two massive men, shaggy hair hanging over their eyes stood in the corner, wearing ragged sleeveless shirts. They nudged each other and gave a pair of thumbs up towards the newcomers. Nadia couldn't tell at first glance which was which, and decided it wasn't worth trying. She settled for a smile and wave in return - to her surprise, one of the two blushed fiercely and nodded, while the other rolled his vaguely-visible eyes and smacked the first on the back of the head. Ignoring the display, Eclipse moved on. “Epsilon will be our co-ordinating psion; he's a telepath, mainly.” The man in question, dressed from head to toe in a dull white jumpsuit, made a gesture that might have been a wave; it was so restrained, it was difficult to tell. “Energy projection duties will be handled by Handyman and Blastwave.” Blastwave, a young woman wearing a heavy coat despite the heat, nodded her head distractedly, one eye still looking at the people outside. “Omnibus will be keeping track of changes and providing backup as necessary, and Spinaround and I will be evacuating the injured along with normal backup duties.” A heavyset woman with thick glasses nodded acknowledgement, and a young black man tapping his fingers on the windowsill grinned widely and copied the thumbs-up that the twins had given. “Finally, we have Mayfly and Gwenivere covering aerial observation and moving in as necessary.” Gwen, a muscular young woman with well-tanned skin, ragged brown hair and clothes in a dozen colours, smiled, looking Mayfly over, and nodded after a moment.

“Sounds good, boss.” She leaned her chair back on two legs, looking around the room. “We have any idea what the harbour attack'll look like?”

“Only vaguely. It's a mid-ranked objective, so we can expect them to send one or two scouts first, followed by a wave of eight to ten supers. Expect people who are focused on heavy-object destruction, and they might have Typhoon with them - if they do, there'll be some heavy storm activity.” Eclipse gestured at a whiteboard on one side of the room, and shadows began to pool and shift around it, forming into a map of the harbour. “We're going to have to be moving fast; defending objectives has priority over defeating Antiheroes, but we'd like to take out as many as possible. We might get help from Rex Mundi, but I wouldn't count on it yet.”

“How would we even know?” The grumble came from one of the two in the corner, and Eclipse smiled wryly.

“Mundi has declared his intent to give us his rosters the day of the attack, once he can monitor our transmissions. He doesn't trust that we've rooted out all of Judgment's moles in the organization, yet.”

“That's a point, actually.” Omnibus spoke with a soft, even voice. “Are we absolutely sure that our own teams can be trusted?”

“Dudeman sidelined any hero that he doesn't trust completely; it's the support staff where we could still have problems. That's why we're mostly going in blind here.” There were groans around the room; Jim raised an eyebrow, and Nadia twisted in her seat to see the various expressions of annoyance. Eclipse raised his hands in a gesture of calm. “I know, I know. But we're keeping all support staff handling civilian matters; any moles won't likely have any trouble to cause there. It's not ideal, but it's the best we have.” He shook his head. “Anyway, Mundi is impressive, but he doesn't have our resources. He's projecting no more than a dozen supers, and a handful of minions. Other than that, we're on our own.”

“What about Ash and Tony?”

“Sorry?” Eclipse swivelled to look at Nadia, who was watching him expectantly.

“You know, Ash? Zombie tree?” Nadia paused. “Oh, wait, what's the phrase. Benign… something…”

“Benign entities.” There was a hint of disapproval in Omnibus's voice. “It's not standard procedure to include civilians in defense planning. Besides, the second on is barely sentient.”

“Well, don't tell him that. I met him once. Big fellow.” Nadia shrugged. “I'm just saying, Ash might be willing to help.”

“It's against regulations. Benign entities…”

“Thank you, Omnibus.” Eclipse raised a hand. “You have a point, Mayfly. I'll bring it up with Dudeman, and see what he thinks. At the least, there's a chance that the tendril creature in the harbour will take exception to the attack, so take that into account.”

As he moved into specifics of planning, Nadia settled back into her seat, mixing a feeling of pride with embarassment at having spoken out. At least Eclipse hadn't dismissed her out of hand.

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