Gale Rising (Chapter 21)

The dojo was quiet. Not even the air conditioning whirred overhead through aging pipes. The walls were covered in everything I could wrench from the floor to keep it absolutely still. It was all held in place precariously, tape, chairs, practice instruments, stretched out in an esoteric fashion that reminded me of my distant home, and long nights waiting for my father to get home.

In the end, the only noise that was left was the stirring of my breath, and the storm rumbling outside.

I could feel it like a thousand voices screaming at me from the distance; so far I couldn’t make out the words, but so close that I knew they wanted me to join them. If I were being stupid, if I were being romantic, if I were being a thousand things that I was fundamentally not, I’d say something about it being fate I ended up in the rainiest city in the nation, when my lineage was storms, and perhaps my blood was also storms.

Was it my fate to tilt against the shores again and again, only to lose, disintegrate into disparate clouds, and grant people life?

Was that something to wish for; some lingering effect, instead of the slow realization that there might be no unexpected swell that saved me from my own sin. That the thunder outside was as short lived as I was, a bright noise in the darkness, leaving nothing but an after image.

But I was not stupid, and I was not romantic, which meant that instead of thinking on the rain, or the storm, or even distant Dauphin island (that was a lie it never left my thoughts and I could never get the smell of blood out of the air no matter how still it was, it clung to everything dripped from everything cold and clammy and neurotic; untreated as of now, but I couldn’t break free long enough to get it treated, so it would have to remain that way until I wrestled myself free of these responsibilities)

The dojo was calm and quiet, unlike the beating of my heart or my straining lungs. Sweat rolled down my skin as muscles twitched and hands shook.

It was not just the labor of remembering, of the reckless screaming quiet incoherence of the things whirring through my head, that left me sticky in sweat. On some level, I was nervous about the battle soon, and yet.

I could feel the room around me like a distant touch. Every fabric, every note, every nuance. Perhaps, if I had a greater power, I could do more than just feel it, could move it around.

But that would come later, I hoped. I’d never been this hard pressed before. Never so desperate. Perhaps it would develop from the stress and strain, along with a new mental diagnosis.

Gently, I called upon the gusts of wind that had granted me a D rank status and held it as tight as I could. Could see it in my mind’s eye, floating about, making papers on the distant scheduling board rattle. Could feel it move about.

Center yourself. Clear your mind. Find peace.

The world needed me at my best. Couldn’t afford to get distracted by all the unresolved things in my head. Had to keep moving forward.


Welcome to the Association Comm Database 3.7! How may I assist you?

Hero Database

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Excelsior

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Excelsior

Height: 6’2” 188 cm.

Place of Origin: Unknown

Age: Unknown

Rank: A

Powers: Full Extent Unknown. Energy dispersal.

History: Found wandering [REDACTED] near the [REDACTED] crater in Louisiana. Refused to give actual name upon request, ignored attempts to stop him from entering the situation present at the Atlanta Stadium. Slew Renard (See File) in one on one combat, then asked to be arrested for his crimes. The Association took the necessary steps to get him branded a hero, utilizing an Alpha media intervention, and claimed responsibility for the save.

Currently assigned to Eradicator Squad B; on a non combat tour to increase PR for our upper Echelon. Team leader remains Faraday (See File), with their assistant Gale (See File).

Mission history:

Query denied, information secure for A rank clearance and higher.

Previous Affiliations:

Eradicator Squad A, partnered with [REDACTED] and Guinevere.

Judgement:

Tactically capable, deploy when needed. Good for PR.

Close Database


The motel room was dirty and I thought I heard the movement of bugs as I slipped inside, drawn in from the pouring rain outside (it was still delightful to hear it, it drowned out so much and opened so much up and I wanted to join it, but there were earthly considerations to take care of) and carefully checked the room for them.

Probably paranoia, but I bagged up the food from the gift baskets littering the floor, most picked through or left untouched, depending on the contents.

There were a couple festooned with hearts that had arrived in the last few days that I just hadn’t bothered to deal with, setting them out of view. I wasn’t an object of affection, didn’t need to be an object of affection.

So it stood that for the moment, in that room, I was not Gale, B rank and head hero of Mobile, trying to keep everyone in touch with each other, trying to corral people who desperately wanted information about the outside world together, and I was Gale, last ranked D class with a famous father.

And Gale, last ranked paperwork pusher, was going to be in a fight. What would Gale do? Run?

Not an option.

What would Gale do? Hide?

Not an option.

What had Gale done, looking down Negalli.

I will trade my life for thirty minutes, so people could be safe. Trade my life, knowing there would be back up.

Stand up, face your fears, learn your enemy, take advantage of a flaw.

Center yourself again.

I sat down on the threadbare couch and listened to the rain outside, and gently, I reached for the Com again.


Welcome to the Association Comm Database 3.7! How may I assist you?

Hero Database

—- Detecting credentials—-

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—- Querying internal registrar—-

Gale

—- Displaying information now—-

Gale

Height: 5’6” 165 cm.

Place of Origin: Florida

Age: 20

Rank: B

Powers: Small Gusts of Wind. Possibly undeveloped secondary powers.

History: Born from a tryst with Hurricane, left in his care, Gale displays great intelligence (not linked to any expression of powers) and massive insecurities. Performed poorly in most physical categories, performed highly on most intellectual exercises, good head for tactics, strong grasp for morals.

Recommendation to be sent to a tactician program denied by Hurricane.

Currently assigned to Eradicator Squad B; on a non combat tour to increase PR for our upper Echelon. Team leader remains Faraday (See File), with secondary leader Excelsior (See File). Field Promotion to B after slaying Negalliforce (See File).

Mission history: None found.

Previous Affiliations:

Shell alliance: honorary member of Hurricane’s Patrol.

Am I worth a judgement?

Query not found.

Judgement

Candidate for Fafnir testing. Hurricane remains watching. Gain field experience as soon as possible.

Close Database


There wasn’t much left of Excelsior’s stuff, just a small emergency package left behind, containing additional gear and armor. Rummaging through it, I tossed a few gas grenades (almost the same make and model as the ones the Cuban Patrol had used) to the side, and hesitated as I pulled out a practice sword.

I pulled it free from the sheath and stared down at the blade, wondering how Colton’s knives held up against it, then sheathed it and tossed it on the bed. Too soon to try and do anything with it. Needed tutelage from someone that mattered.

Needed to get out of my own head. The world thundered outside, but I walked to the door nonetheless, drew my cape around myself, slid into a uniform, and walked back out onto the streets.

It was Mobile. It wouldn’t rain too long.

Headquarters was a mess by the time I showed up, rain sliding down my skin, soaked to the bone, though the uniform was designed to put up with water well. It’d be stupid to expect heroes to fight in weighted down clothing, so it was only natural that it was semi porous enough to leave me soaked, but breathing and moveable.

Hands was working the main desk, her eyes half glazed from the many heroes reporting for their nightly shift. Her eyes lit up as they settled onto mine.

“There you are!”

“Hey to you too, Hands,” I said, smiling back. Didn’t want to think. Didn’t want to breath too hard.

“You look like shit,” She laughed. “You sure you’re up for working today?”

“I’m already late a few hours,” I said, sliding in behind the desk to join her. “What’s on the agenda?”

“Colton’s talking up the fight with you on Friday,” Hands said, seriously, cutting through the cheer. “Are you sure you’re up for this? You don’t have to do this.”

“I think I do have to do this,” I said. “If I don’t then what’s to stop someone from challenging me?”

“It’s fine to be challenged.”

My teeth grit and ground against each other and I shot her an incredulous look. “We need stability. We need order. Questioning can come later?”

I wished someone had challenged me on Dauphin island. Wished I hadn’t made that decision. Wanted to say it wrong. Wanted to tell people I was wrong but…

I stared at all of the people around me, new blood from the association base. Couldn’t say it was wrong to save them. Best of a bad situation.

I wanted to be wrong but I was right.

“You’re not thinking straight,” Hands said.

“I know that,” I took a long breath, and sat down properly, leaving bit of water in the chair. “I just…”

“Pressure, huh?” She asked. “I think you’re running yourself ragged worrying about things.”

“People keep asking me to worry about things, Hands.”

Hands breathed out. “And there’s a lot of people out there who want to keep this place afloat too, you know. Just… tell them to do it.”

Couldn’t put into words what I felt at that moment, couldn’t put into my mind the wordless screaming terror that if I let someone else do it, if I let someone else handle things, it would explode, kill people, pepper people with shrapnel made of poor decisions and fanciful ideas.

That maybe I was trapped in that research lab, staring down the barrel of a gun, and I wasn’t getting past it that easily, panicking again and again.

“Any signs of villain activity?” I asked, slipping past the question.

She gave me a long look, and I gave it back, eyes half lidded, barely awake. She shook her head slowly.

“Just a few bizarre reports out in fairhope.”

“Fairhope?” I asked, snapping awake a bit more. “Aren’t they where the shelters are?”

“They are,” Hands said. “And they’re having trouble policing them all.”

“Where’s the national guard at?” I asked.

“Montgomery. Birmingham,” the teenager said woodenly. She wasn’t really a teenager anymore than I was an adult, but the age distinction made me feel strange to have her sound so lifeless and tired when I felt the exact same way. “Bigger cities. They’ve got quarantine lines up. I don’t like this, Gale.”

“So we need someone to help with Fairhope?” I asked. Didn’t know how many people we had to spare, so my eyes flicked over to the display board. Patrols littered, markers drawn on a map of the Mobile area, color coded for convenience.

“You got it.” Hands looked back down at her macbook. “Also, school board wants to talk to you about all the days we’re missing.”

“Fuck, you’re still in highschool?”

“D classes don’t have to stay in the hero school, you know that.”

I did, and it had still slipped my mind.

“And they want to talk to me because…”

“Ranking hero.” Hands rolled her eyes. “Just send me to handle it, will you? Get some rest, figure this fight out.” Her face fell into something easier than the wooden mask she’d had on before, something I could read. Something that made me feel slightly less alone in the moment.

“And figure out some delegates. We can do the work just fine.”

I yawned and looked over her shoulder at her screen. Too many tabs open trying to link all the disparate systems together, so we could monitor the situation. Were trying to take over for the crumbled police…

Had a stupid idea.

“You know…” I said, giving Hands a look. “You’re right. This isn’t my job, not really.”

I pulled out the com, slipped over to the radio broadcast, and gave out the coordinates for the remnants of the police station to meet up.

It hadn’t occurred to me to do it before for a great number of reasons.

Trauma, the recency of losing so many other officers, concerns about my legitimacy even making the decision, but it had been a week, and the city needed people to support it, and the most of us here a bunch of teenagers and young adults who had almost no clue how to talk to people in authority.

My eyes drifted down to the board that just circled the graveyard, with the eternal vigilance of the retired heroes. Gunze’s name had been crossed out so many times that it was just a black box, but…

Maybe, if I just co-opted more of the police systems, we could get it working again. Enough infrastructure to keep everything in place.


Hero Database

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Hands

—- Displaying entries that fit your requirements.

Hands (Gabriella Manning, Mobile Alabama),
Hands (Thomas Manning, Mobile Alabama, deceased.)

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Hands (Gabriella Manning)

Height: 5’3” 160 cm.

Place of Origin: Mobile Alabama

Age: 18

Rank: D (civilian)

Powers: An Invisible hand. Difficulty in tests make it unclear the extent of this power. Hands lacked dedication or reason to continue testing, psychological testing deemed her threat minimal released back into civilian status.
History: Found during routine infant testing and flagged for follow up, spent a year in the young heroes program to determine whether or not additional functions would develop. When no further powers manifested, she declined further training and dipped back into the civilian population, admitting she wanted to give college a try.

update Powers: Invisible hand that appears indestructible. Unsure of dimensions. More testing required.

—-Entry updated—-

Close Database


The gas grenades on the bed clinked together as I slid onto the motel bed. The springs were out of alignment, but I’d declined cleaning services again, finding something bizarrely comforting in the faint scent of metal polish in the air from where I’d drawn the sword.

Drifted the air around the room, circulated it with a quirk of my fingers. I stood up, rolling to my feet, and jerked my arms as hard as I could.

A light gust circulated the room, knocking over the glass of water I’d left on the table.

Swearing, I doubled over to it before it ruined anything.

Then paused, holding the air in place around me. Then slowly, but surely, wound the smell of steel and polish closer to me. Held it there, breathed it in. Mind went clickety click.

Idea.


Hero Database

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Colton

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Fissure (Colton Dampir, Seattle, Washington),
Dynamo (Colton Richards, Nashville, Tennessee),
Colton (Mobile Alabama)

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Colton

Height: 5’9” 175 cm.

Place of Origin: Pensacola Florida

Age: 21

Rank: C

Powers: Can freely convert Willpower into blades. Varies based on confidence. Subject shows the ability to use most bladed weapons, but chose throwing knives after training.

History: Found in a routine sweep of an orphanage, having escaped detection and a social security number. Put into the young heroes program as soon as possible to curtail possible development of sociopathic tendencies. Shows strong ideas of right and wrong, but favors direct and fatal interventions.

Update: Originally a B rank, listed as a C rank for what missions and teams he is allowed to run with while on probation.

Judgement

Currently assigned to the Dauphin Island association base as a potential Fafnir candidate, as well as behavioral modification therapy, as soon as a therapist is found to be a fit.

Fafnir

Query denied, information secure for A rank clearance and higher.

Fafnir Candidate

Query denied, information secure for A rank clearance and higher.

Guinevere

Query denied, information secure for A rank clearance and higher.

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