Character Name: Zach Toran
Alternate Identities: Laze
Player Name: Zach
|Hair Color:||Black with Red highlights|
|Eye Color:||Black/Red||Height:||6' 1"|
|Zach is taller than average and, while a bit light, well-muscled. He is very good looking in an angular way with black hair usually streaked with red. His hair is normally at that stage between needing a haircut and 'ah what the hell' and often gets in his eyes which is a good thing since his eyes, while usually black, flash regularly with red. He dresses in black, usually jeans with a tailored jacket over an open-throated white shirt and prefers calf high black boots with 2 inch heels making him even taller.|
Zach Toran opened his eyes and stared up into the star splattered sky. What had happened? His hand felt the grass under him and when he tried to sit up it felt like someone had hit him in the head with a baseball bat. With a groan he laid flat again, the soft dewy grass as comfortable as any mattress. A rhythmic thump thump pop made him look around without lifting his head.
A guy dressed in a muscle shirt and cutoff jeans with the sun bleached hair bounced a tennis ball off the slate flagstone. It ricocheted up to the grey stone of the huge building then arced into the sky a good nine feet. A tanned hand shot out and captured it.
“So, who brought you in?” the surfer asked without looking back.
Zach looked up at the tall kid and realized he must be over seven foot. The other bounced the tennis ball again and caught it. He looked back at Zach raising an eyebrow.
“Hey, honestly, I don’t know. I don’t even know where I am,” Zach said.
The taller boy turned to face him, leaning over to get a better look in the limited light of the rising sun.
“This is the Lothlorien Academy.”
“Oh,” Zach thought this guy was a font of useless information. “Like a school?”
“Among other things,” he returned to bouncing the tennis ball against the wall. “We . . . um . . . learn how to use our powers.
“Powers? Like super powers? A school for people with super powers,” Zach slowly sat up and looked around.
Thirty minutes before, Zach had raced through a bayou in Southern Louisiana, stopping just long enough to turn and fire a beam of laser light into the dawn streaked sky. Each shot had the desired effect, drawing the gigantic robot after him. He had to keep that thing from going back to his home and hurting his family.
He dove to one side as a ball of fire burst on the surface of a stagnant pool of water beside the path. Zach literally came off the ground a good three meters and wobbled along, actually flying. Under other circumstance this discovery of a new power might have thrilled him but right then, it was just a new way to lead that metal monster deeper into the bayou.
Just as he figured out how to gain altitude, a steel mesh closed about him like a seining net around fish and he crashed into the mud. Giant boots landed beside him, the earth trembling with the massive weight. Zach looked up as the thing leaned over to scoop him up like a netted prize.
A blaze of light sparkled in the monster’s face and it staggered back as though slapped.
“Don’t TELL me yur pickin’ on a good ol’ country boy!”
A figure ran by Zach and leaped into the air, fist drawn back for a punch.
“Time fo’ a ass whoopin’!” The blow struck, further staggering the giant and the marshy ground of the bayou tossed in its two cents when the thing stepped into a bog and sank to the knee.
A second figure flew over the bogged down robot, the day’s first rays glittering off the silver of a helmet. Coming to a hover, the flying man aimed a pistol at the machine’s head and loosed a ball of blue white plasma that struck it between the ‘eyes’ and burn through the metal. A cascade of sparks showered the bayou, hissing out of existence as a second ball of blue melted a crater into the chest of the robot.
“Nah that’s wat Ah cawl kickin’ ASS!”
A man in a costume fronted by a Rebel Battle Flag began to untangle the boy, whistling Dixie the whole time. The flying man dropped to the earth and watched without comment offering no help. This man was wearing some form of padded tunic with a gold sash and the silver helmet covered his entire head save for his face from the eyes down.
“Are you injured?” the flying man asked. His accent was strange and very precise as though English was not his first language.
“Sheet, this here’s a good ol’ boy,” the Flag said. “Take more’d sum tin robot tah hurt him!”
“Nevertheless,” the flying man said to Zach. “Are you injured?”
Zack pushed aside the last of the steel netting and looked up at the two.
“Who are you guys?”
The Flag snorted, “Mebbe you ain’t a Southern boy.”
“I am War Eagle and my associate is Rebel Yell.” The flyer told Zach.
“What WAS that thing?” he asked them.
“Minuteman Mark 8, I believe,” the one called War Eagle told him. “It is a Genocide capture robot sent to capture you and any other mutants that might be in this area.
Zach started to protest that he wasn’t a mutant but shut his mouth at the remembered laser beams and flying.
The swamp erupted as the remains of the robot exploded sending shrapnel in all directions. A piece the size of a dinner plate hit Zach in the forehead and the world went black.
“I’m Nat Ryan, by the way,” the tall surfer said.
“What kind of powers do you have?” Zach asked suddenly, climbing to his feet.
The other rolled his eyes and said “God . . . same thing every time . . .”
“Oh, sorry,” Zach apologized extending his hand. “I am Zach Toran.”
Nat looked at the hand “Maybe you might want to think twice about that.”
Between thumb and forefinger he popped the tennis ball as if it had been an egg. Zach pulled his hand back quickly and laughed nervously. Nat tossed the halves into a plastic five gallon bucket already half full of similar tennis ball victims.
“Sometimes I don’t know my own strength,” Nat grinned. “Sometimes . . . I do.”
Zach stepped over and snatched up handful of the halves.
“I control mine pretty well.” So saying, he tossed the halves into the air, burning a hole through all but one. Nat produced another tennis ball from a can and bounced it off the wall.
“I am practicing to control mine,” he said. “You might want to do that target practice in the ComSim, though.”
“What do you mean?” Zach asked, puzzled.
Nat grinned “Mr. Archer doesn’t like us using that kind of power out here.”
“Ohhhh . . . okay,” Zach grinned back. “Who’s Mr. Archer?”
Nat dropped the ball into the can and carefully sealed the plastic top. “He . . . umm . . . like runs the school.”
“Oh,” Zach tried to be nonchalant. “Can you introduce me around to some of the people?”
Nat picked up the three unopened tennis ball cans and dropped them in on top of the destroyed balls then picked up the bucket.
“If anyone’s around . . . “
Nat started for the white building with dozens of huge windows, Zach had to quickstep to keep up with the taller boy’s long legs.
“So, can you fly?” he asked his new guide..
Nat grinned down at him “If Wren makes me.”
“Well . . . Wren’s . . . a dancer . . . tall, about 6 feet . . . slim . . . elegant and quiet . . . “
Zach pondered Nat’s description and decided the tall boy had a thing for the girl.
“Then there’s Jessy,” Nat’s tone changed, discomfort in his voice. “She’s like 5’ 6”, blonde or black . . . maybe red . . . Dresses in . . . er . . . very little . . . “
“Ahh!” Zach chuckled wondering just how ‘little’.
“She’s big on bikes . . . her dad just gave her a new customized chopper,” Nat continued.
“Cool!” Zach had only dreamed of a chopper, or any bike for that matter.
“Then there’s Brit,” Nat went on. “Little, FAST, with purple hair.”
“Fast?” Zach’s interest perked up, “How fast?”
“Blink of the eye fast, mach like twenty . . .”
“So, are you associated with any of these girls?” Zach already had his suspicions but was curious if Nat would warn him off anyone. When he received no replied he asked, “Who are the other guys? Other than you and me?”
“Matt . . . he’s a shape-shifter,” Nat said.
That had to be a cool power, Zach thought.
“Ian,” Nat added. “He’s an animal all the time.”
Zach stopped then had to run to catch up. “Why is that?”
Nat shrugged. “Just the way he is . . . “
“Can he turn into a humanoid form?”
“I don’t mean he’s a literal animal . . . that’s Matt,” Nat explained.
Oh, okay,” said Zach. “HE prefers the animal form?”
“Yeah, Matt usually goes around as a blue koala...gets the girls to pick him up and cuddle him.”
Zach laughed “Good idea!”
“Matt also does monkey a lot.”
Zach caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his attention to a gorgeous girl about his age with honey blonde hair. She was wearing a pair blue jeans that hugged every curve and a tee shirt. There was a large towel draped over one shoulder. Nat, a few yards ahead of him was out of the girl’s line of sight.
“Who’s the girl,” he asked when he caught up to the other.
Nat looked back and said without much enthusiasm, “That’s Jessy, heading for a swim in the ocean.”
Zach lifted both eyebrows and stopped abruptly. “The one that wears very little?”
Nat eyed the newcomer.
“I think I’ll go take a swim,” Zach said. “Think she’d mind company?”
He took off without waiting for a response, flying just above the ground. So focused the girl, he only subconsciously caught something from Nat about ‘her father’.
“Okay, but the water might pull you down,” Jessy warned.
Zach was waist deep in the surf after catching her and inviting himself along on her morning swim. She hadn’t seemed to mind. Up close she was by far the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen and when she’d peeled off the tight jeans and pulled the tee shirt off, Zach had to step fast into the water where the chill of the ocean managed to cool him nearly as well as a cold shower. Nat had been right, she wore very little. Three tiny triangles of cloth covered the barest essentials leaving an incredible amount of tanned skin bare to view.
Zach took the next wave floating on his back as he watched Jessy step into the low surf, obviously testing the chill waters. Dropping his feet down to the sandy bottom, Zach drew an arm back and sent a cascade of water at Jessy.
She turned her back to it instinctually and shouted “HEY!”
A million ants crawled up his legs and began to pile on. For a moment he thought it was some type of sea creature but when the sand mounded up as high as his chest he knew it had to be the girl. With a wicked grin she waded toward him. Perpendicular to the surf line a wall of sand rose until it towered over him. A bowl the size of a back-hoe’s scoop formed just over his head then tipped. Several hundred gallons of seawater hit him and pushed him under the surface. Jessy’s giggle was like music.
“Gotcha back,” she said as he sputtered to the surface.
Zach wiped the salt water from his eyes and grinned. He vision clears just in time to see her knife into the next wave and disappeared. He turned to follow her out into deeper water but she surfaced behind him, landing with both hands on his shoulders. Under he went but this time he didn’t mind in the least. Jessy’s body pressed him deeper.
‘What a way to die,’ he thought as her breasts pressed against the back of his head.
When she rolled off of him he managed to snag a grip on her ankle and pulled her back in range. With his free arm he circled her waist and clamped her tightly again his chest. She sputtered.
“Okay, ya caught me,” she admitted. “Now what are you going to do with me.”
About a dozen things instantly flashed through Zach’s mind, beginning with getting her out of that bikini. She seemed to sense his thoughts and stopped struggling to free herself. He relaxed his hold and she turned to him, grinning.
“Hey! You going on the field trip?”
“What field trip?”
“Daddy’s got this field trip all set up and we leave in the morning.”
“Daddy?” Crap, things were happening too fast.
“That would be me,” said a deep voice from above his head.
A rugged looking man in his early 30s with black hair and green eyes hovered several meters above the wave tops. Dressed in a red flannel shirt, jeans and boots, he made it look as if he stood on solid ground. Zach lowered his head, feeling the intense gaze of the man and realized he was millimeters from the guy’s nearly naked daughter.
“Daddy, this is Zach,” she said. She didn’t seem in the least concerned about the situation and made no effort to put distance between them.
“Zach,” the man gave him a slight nod. “You can call me Archer. War Eagle told me he’d brought you in. Sorry about him dropping you on the lawn. He doesn’t exactly have the best manners in the world but Nat was the first person he saw.”
“That’s okay…but why am I here?”
“So you can learn all about your powers and stuff,” Jessy said. “And how to be a superhero.”
“What about my mom and sister?”
“They were gone when I reached your house,” Archer said. “I have a watch out for them now.”
“Why didn’t you take me back home?”
“That would have placed you and your family in greater danger. Genocide only tried to capture you this time. Next time, it will be a kill order.”
Zach had heard of the mutant hunting group and never thought twice about them. Now, it seemed, he was just exactly what they were always trying to kill. He was a mutant and being a mutant placed his family in peril. No way he could bring that kinda threat to his mom and sister.
“What do I have to do?”
“Ya hang out here, learn to use your powers and wait until daddy says it is safe,” Jessy said. “AND you get to go on the field trip, right daddy?”
“If you can get him back to the school and pack him up some gear, I don’t see why not.”
Jessy grabbed Zach’s hand and pulled him up on to the beach oblivious to the effect her bare butt was having on him.
“I’ll show you the way up the cliff,” she said, glancing back at him over her shoulder. “Just follow me!”
Zach grinned. ‘Anywhere you want!’
The ‘field trip’ turned out to be an expedition to another planet.
Off-world travel had been nothing like, and exactly like, he’d expected. The whole building a city for elves had been cool and having Jessy, hell, every girl in the place running around mostly naked had been a dream. Then there was Nat. Things had not started well there but gradually he’d begun to rely on the big guy, and even like him. Yeah, the whole thing with Jessy throwing herself at the huge surfer was pretty fucked up but as much as he’d like to have taken Jessy’s side, Nat hadn’t done a thing to encourage her. It was pretty obvious he was hung up on Wren.
Then things got screwed up and he wasn’t exactly sure what had happened. Nat and Wren had disappeared without a word, Jessy was gone and her parents were looking for her. He’d found himself back at the school all but alone. Some school this turned out to be.
The phone in his pocket trilled and he flipped it open.
It was Nat.
“Where the hell are you, man? What happened?” Zach asked.
“We couldn’t stay,” Nat replied. “Too many bad things going on and I am not going to lose Wren over it all.”
“So you guys are still together?”
“Yeah, for as long as she’ll have me,” Nat said.
“Where’d you go?” Zach asked.
“I still own my mom’s place in San Diego,” Nat said.
“I thought it was wrecked,” Zach reminded him.
“We got somebody to fix it up,” Nat sounded so distant, guarded.
“What’s going on, Nat?”
“Look …” Nat began. “Wren and me aren’t from your world.”
“What are you talking about, you’re from San Diego!”
“Just not the same San Diego…We live in another dimension, one that’s not the same as yours.”
“What the hell are you talking about,” Zach demanded.
“On our world, our alternate Earth, superheroes like you and Archer and the Wild Hunt don’t exist,” Nat explained. “People like Wren and me are what’s called Metahumans here and WE are just starting to appear.”
“So what’s that mean?”
“We are at the dawning of the superhero age here and Wren and me got some serious responsibilities,” Nat replied. “But that’s only part of the reason we aren’t coming back, ever. Zach, Archer knows where we are and how to get here. You’re always welcome if you should decide to visit.”
“Fuck, Nat, another dimension?”
“We were on another world, remember?” Nat said. “And we can always use a little help.”
“I dunno, man,” Zach said.
“Party every night,” Nat said. “Bring something, a six pack of Coke.”
Then he was gone.
“How close can you get me to home?” Zach asked the computer.
“New Orleans,” was the reply.
The concept of a teleporter like the TV shows had be just one more thing he’d run into in Archer’s world that amazed him. In seconds he found himself in a storage room of the New Orleans Saint’s locker room and, as the team was in San Francisco that weekend, all was quiet. Avoiding the two rent-a-cops proved to be no problem and two minutes later he was airborne and headed south east toward the rising sun.
All those months ago he’d led that robot on a merry chase to protect his family and in all those months he hadn’t contacted them once. His mom would be mad but glad to see him but his dad would just be mad. Not wanting to draw too much attention he kept his speed down below the sound barrier and flew out over the Gulf keeping low. At what he judged to be the right point, he turned north east and headed for the house.
“Yo! Zach! Dat you man? Where you bin?” Clyde Fortier, his neighbor, stepped out onto the front porch of his place as Zach came up the road.
“Hey, Mr. Fortier,” Zach continued toward his home.
“Ain’t gonna fine nuffin’ der, you.”
“Yo daddy done took yo momma an dat sis a yours and lef,” Fortier said.
“’bout time dat big metal ting showed up round chere lookin’ for yu,” the man replied.
Zach was on the porch and in the man’s face in a blink.
“It hurt anyone?”
Clyde jumped back, his eyes going wide.
“Yu ona dem mu-tants ain’t cha?”
“The robots! Did they hurt anyone?”
“No, no, yo daddy done talked ta it an it flewd ‘way.” Fortier told him.
“He talked to it?”
Fortier nodded “’bout two minutes.”
“Yes, Zach?” Ghost Archer pivoted in the chair to face the boy.
“What can you tell me about my family?”
“What do you want to know?”
“My dad in Genocide?”
Archer nodded. “Yes, he is.”
“You gonna kill him?”
“Zach, I never kill anyone if I can avoid it,” Archer replied.
“What about my mom and sister?”
“If I hunt them down, I would also be hunting down your father and he might do something stupid,” Archer said.
“Don’t you hunt Genocide?” Zach finally dropped onto the couch.
“I hunt the upper echelon, not the foot soldier, but you know we got most of them in Death Valley.” Archer was referring to a trap the mutants of the world had sprung on the mutant-haters.
“Can I find out if my dad was one of those killed?” Zach swallowed a dry lump in his throat.
”He wasn’t,” Archer said with a slight shake of the head.
“Where are they then? Can you help me find them?”
“If that’s what you want.”
Morgan City to New Orleans, New Orleans to Chicago, Chicago to Houston, Houston to Oklahoma.
Zach rocketed over the scrub covered hills of northwest Oklahoma at about a thousand feet scanning ahead for two silos he’d been told about that marked the house of Joe Thorn and his wife Marie and daughter Maggie. The family’s obvious Cajun background had stood out like a sore thumb in rural OK.
As he popped up over a hill the tops of a pair of round cylinders appears just above the crest of a ridge to the left and he turned toward them. There are a flash of red from one and the smoky trail of a missile arched toward him.
Zach rolled hard away from the approaching rocket and dropped belly first into a cluster of rocks half way down the back slope of a hill. The missile flashed by only a few meters above his head the slammed into the ground where the opposite hill began its rise. It wasn’t fireworks. It left a crater the size of a car.
Keeping low he scrambled up to the crest and peered across the intervening distance to the silos. There was a figure standing on top of one obviously scanning in his direction with a pair of binoculars. It was his father but something was wrong. As the man moved Zach would catch the occasional flask of sunlight reflecting off something metal. And it wasn’t from only one place, it came from all over his father’s body. Sliding back down and out of sight, Zach activated his Hunt comm unit.
“What is it, Zach,” came the calm but alerted voice of the Ghost Archer.
“I found my dad, at least I think it’s him,” Zach said.
“What do you mean?”
“I think he fired a missile at me,” Zach replied. “He missed but I crawled up to get a look at what is was and he’s up on a silo looking for me with binoculars and he’s got these flashes of sunlight reflecting off him like he’s wearing mirrors or a lot of metal.”
“Beam him out now,” Archer commanded the computer.
Zach didn’t even have time to get to his feet and a second later he appeared at Archer’s booted feet. He scrambled up.
“Why’d you pull me out?” Zach demanded.
A hologram of a heavily augmented man appeared beside Ghost Archer. It looked like a Borg from that sci fi program, all covered in mechanical and electrical things.
“This is a Genocide Knight,” Archer said, indicating the holo. “It is a human that has been converted into a cyborg by Genocide.”
Zach stared at the borg.
“My dad is one of these?”
“Based on your description of the attack, yes, as the Rook version doesn’t generally carry missiles,” Archer said.
Clinching his fist Zach growled “They made my dad a monster?”
Archer shook his head.
“I’m sorry, Zach, but Genocide only goes through a Knight or Rook modification on willing and loyal Genocide agents.”
“What about my mom and sister?” Zach glared at Archer. “They borgs too? Don’t these things assimilate people?”
“This isn’t sci fi,” Archer replied. “I wish it was but I think your mother and sister are completely safe for now.”
“Safe? How can they be safe from a monster?” Zach could feel his control slipping.
Archer put a hand on his shoulder. “He isn’t going to hurt them. He was waiting for you.”
“To kill me?”
“Using them as bait?”
“I can’t go back to them then,” Zach said flatly.
“I know the Black King, he will not let your mother or sister be hurt until after they get you, then they are of no use to him.”
“Can’t you go in and get them?”
Archer smiled slightly. “Of course.”
The three sat together on one couch in Archer’s library, the bowman in an arm chair facing them.
“The cyborg parts may have been removed but that didn’t change his beliefs,” Archer said. “And technically there was nothing to hold him on in the eyes of the law.”
“So he’s still out there?” Zach said.
“And probably in contact with Genocide,” Archer added. “He’s got all the training and implants. They’ll plug him into a Knight again.”
“And he’ll come looking for us?” Mary Toran said flatly.
“Most likely,” Archer admitted.
“Can’t you keep them here?” Zach asked, meaning the Valley.
“Zach, this Valley is completely self-sufficient and the self-sufficiency is very limited,” Archer said. “We can host a lot of people but only for a short period of time.”
“What about Everith?” Zach pointed up. “She’s been here for YEARS!”
“Where can she go, Zach? If she leaves this Valley she is vulnerable to immediate attack and being carried off to Hell.” Archer said. “She is a political exile and a virtual prisoner here.”
Raven stepped up to her husband and laid a hand on his arm. “They can stay until we can figure something else out.”
Hefting his backpack, Zach spoke into the air “Computer, can you send me to Nat’s San Diego?”
“Quite easily,” the computer said and Zach felt the familiar sensation of having his molecules disassembled then transmitted across God knew how many miles.
When he was solid once again, he looked at the small cottage with the concrete walk partially covered by sand. It looked as if it had just been completed, especially in comparison houses to either side. The building couldn’t have been more than ten meters wide and the clearance between it and its neighbors had to be less than two meters. The door was to the left and a bay window allowed him a clear view of the interior. It looked unfurnished.
“I guess the computer knew where I was going,” he muttered to himself.
At that moment the door swung open and Wren stepped out, the screen held open by Nat from inside the cottage.
“Hello, Zach,” she said flatly. In the few months since he had last seen her, her black of hair had been streaked with gold by the sun and her skin turned to a deep bronze. She wore a black bikini with a gauzy white man’s shirt that had to be Nat’s. While in total, it was far more material than Jessy’d ever worn, it gave her an alluring quality that made Zach swallow hard.
Nat stepped out from behind Wren as if to place himself between the girl and his visitor. It was a very protective gesture that was not lost on Zach.
“What’s wrong,” Nat asked, both trepidation and concern in his voice.
“I need your help,” Zach said and instantly both relaxed. The reaction actually scared Zach. Anything that might make Nat wary had to be major league serious.
Nat’s big hand came down on Zach’s shoulder, the touch very gentle. “You’re just in time for the party.”
Zach held up a six pack of cold soda.
“I remembered the Coke!”
“Zach, you sure you really wanna do this?” Nat asked for the third time.
“I need someplace for my mom and sister, and here seemed like the best bet,” Zach said.
“I truly hate giving Miller anything he can use,” Wren sighed.
The trio sat in the sand as the sun dropped lower, the beach party behind them down to a low murmur.
“Look,” Zach said. “Metahumans are a new thing here, right? So no Genocide, no way my dad could find my family and use them to get to me. And as for the government, yeah, I’ll hate it but mom and Maggie will be safe!”
“And you will be a new cog in Miller’s machine,” Wren replied.
“If I can cut a deal with the devil himself, I’d do it to protect them!” Zach growled.
“Look, you can’t tell him about Archer and the whole dimensions thing,” Nat said. “Things are complicated enough without adding that kinda thing into the mix.”
“Agreed, now how do we get a hold of him?”
Ten minutes later the trio sat at a wrought iron table some distance up the street, ice cream sundaes the order of the day. Zach was idly stirring his into a soup while Nat and Wren sat, shoulders touching, and watched the waves.
“Aren’t you afraid of getting sand in your shoes, Agent Miller?” Nat said, not looking around.
Zach jerked and looked up at the man in the suit.
“I didn’t even hear him coming,” he said to Wren.
“It is an ability you develop after a very short association with him. It is not unlike the odor of something you would scrape off your shoe after walking through a dog park,” Wren said sotto voce. She ignored the man who flushed with anger at her insult.
“Well?” Miller sounded impatient.
This guy was nowhere near as intimidating as Ghost Archer, Zach decided.
“I want to join the Minuteman Project,” he said bluntly.
Surprised flashed across Miller’s face but instantly vanished under his usual look of haughty distain.
“This is something that is only to be discussed in a secure location,” Miller said.
“How ‘bout your place, Nat?”
Nat shook his head, Wren matching the gesture. “Mr. Miller is not welcome in our home, Zach, sorry.”
“I have a car and we do have a secure location prepared,” Miller said.
Zach dropped the spoon into the old-fashion sundae glass with a clink and stood.
“Let’s go then,” he said.
Nat and Wren made to rise but Miller put out a hand.
“You and Ms. Collins are not welcome,” he said with a smirk.
“Don’t worry guys, I got it,” Zach said.
Two hours later he rapped on the screen door of the cottage. Inside Nat was working in the kitchen and Wren sat on the couch with her feet tucked under, reading.
“Come on in,” Nat said.
Wren lowered her book and regarded Zach, one eyebrow slightly lifted.
“Miller told me I’d be joining your team,” Zach replied to the unspoken query. "Now all I gotta do is contact Ghost Archer and get my mom and sister here.”
“I hope you got a good deal,” Nat said as he handed Zach a Coke.
“A house for them, a steady income, school for my sister and training in whatever field she wants for my mom,” he told them.
“And for you?” Wren asked.
“I guess the same deal you guys got, finish high school, whatever college I want, whatever degree I want, a monthly stipend,” Zach replied.
“Pretty much the standard,” Nat agreed.
He sat on the opposite end of the couch and Wren automatically slipped her feet into his lap. Every gently he began to massage one foot.
“Welcome to the team,” Wren said between groans of pleasure.
Zach fidgeted. The suspense was killing him. He thought it was a simple thing he asked but the way Ghost Archer regarded him with that stone face of his made him want to shout at the man.
“I think you’ve come up with a fine solution, Zach,” Archer said at last. “Not only will it protect your family but it will also bolster the emerging Meta population there. I’d be happy to transport your family.”
“Yes!” Zach hissed, his fist clenching.
“You’ll have to explain things to them,” Archer added. “And your mother must agree to the move.”
“Mom, I’ve been there, it’s just like San Diego here but without all the mutants,” Zach sat at the kitchen table of the apartment Ghost Archer had provided at the Wild Hunt when he had helped Zach pick up his family from Oklahoma. Maggie was off someplace playing with Archer’s triplets and Zach hoped she didn’t end up hanging by an ankle from one of Nicky’s stupid traps.
“It’s another dimension?” Marie Toran struggle to come to grips with the ramifications.
“Kinda the same thing as when I went to Ea to help build a tree village,” Zach nodded.
“That was another world?” she tilted her head slightly at the idea.
“Yeah, see, Mr. Archer can move through dimensions and even to other planets through this Road thing and it’s like only a step away like stepping through a curtain,” Zach said.
He knew he was presenting concepts far beyond anything his mother might have considered given her bayou upbringing. She’d barely squeaked by in high school and then found herself pregnant with Zach only a month later. Any thoughts about a ‘shotgun’ wedding being a thing of the past had been quickly dispelled when his grandfather had marched Zach’s redneck father into the church at gun point.
“Mom, if we move to San Diego, dad will never find us,” Zach’s hands covered hers. “Never, ever.” Their eyes met and Zach could still see the faint scar on her lip from the ring his father had worn and the bump on the bridge of her nose from the time he’d broken it.
She sighed heavily and nodded. “I don’t understand it all but if you and Maggie are safe from what they made you father …”
The house was built in the Spanish style with a stucco walled patio, heavy carved wooden gates and red terra cotta tiles on the roof and it was new. Like the other eleven houses in the gated neighborhood it had been built at the same time as the new high school a few hundred yards further out on the Point Loma peninsula and was purpose built to house family members of the Minuteman Project teams. With the addition of the Toran family the population of the complex rose to eight.
A small welcoming committee descended on the new Toran house in under an hour, six in all, with three adult woman and two girls and a little boy. The three adults each carried a casserole dish.
“I am Viv Amundsen,” the stout blonde in her early thirties with sapphire blue eyes offer a hand to Mary Toran. “Designated babysitter.” She flashed a friendly smile.
“Shirley Campbell,” said a short, thin black woman in her late fifties. “Designated grandma.”
“Keelie Temple,” announced the last, a slightly mousey woman with brown hair and eyes also in her early thirties. “Designated tour guide.”
The three children stood quietly behind the adults eyeing Maggie.
Shirley pulled her two grandchildren to the front.
“Phillip and Ariel,” she said with a hand on each head.
The boy was about ten with a slightly arrogant demeanor Mary had seen in other black kids his age around Morgan City. The girl, about six, had a friendly smile and was trying to look around Mary to Maggie who was also six.
“I’m Ariel, what’s your name?” she said.
“I’m Maggie,” Mary’s daughter replied.
“You like to play Barbies?” Ariel asked hopefully.
“Uh huh,” Maggie’s head bobbed. “Mom said I can get some soon as we can find a toy store.”
“You can play with mine if you want,” Ariel looked up at her grandmother. “Can Maggie come over, Gran?”
“That’s up to her mother, Ariel,” Shirley replied and looked at Mary. “It’s just across the street?”
“Of course,” Mary said and the two took off like a shot.
“This is Paige,” Keelie presented a slender girl of about ten that bore only a passing resemblance to her mom in the brown eyes and the set of the lips. Other than that, her father must have been a very handsome man.
“Why don’t you two run over and play X-Box and keep an eye on the kids,” Shirley suggested to her grandson and Paige.
“And why don’t y’all come on in and have some coffee,” Mary offered.
Zach paced the bare hardwood floor of the cottage until Wren could stand it no longer. She lowered her book and glared at him.
“Sorry,” he murmured. He sat gingerly on one of the stools that fronted the breakfast bar but came to his feet as heard the faint rumble of the Army surplus Hummer.
“Calm down,” Wren said from the couch.
There was no reason for him to be nervous but…the screen door squeaked and Nat’s massive bulk filled the doorway. Wren came to her feet in a move only a dancer could perfect and met him with a light kiss. Together they stepped back and allowed the rest of his new team to file in.
|Laze has at his finger tips a variety of light-based powers including power lasers capable of carving open a bank vault in moments. He can also spread out the beam to make it less lethal or he can product a wild light show that can temporarily blind an opponent. He can fly, but normally this is limited to only about 65 MPH in combat and 130 non-combat.|
Zach can be a loose cannon and occasionally will act before thinking but he is proud of who and what he is. He can be moody and tends to dress toward the Goth with red streaks in his raven black hair and is not above a couple of piercings and tattoos. His association with Miller has given him a stronger sense of independence and he resents Miller's authority over him because of his reliance on the agent to provide for his family.
Zach feels betrayed by his father but also does not want to be the cause of his death and so has chosen to move his mother and sister to an alternate dimension where he hopes they will be safe. He knows that a time may come when he will be forced to confront his father but at the moment its more than he can handle.
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