Character Name: Wren Collins
Alternate Identities: Giselle, Aiden Collins' daughter
Player Name: Lauren
|Black, curly, shoulder length
Wren’s mother is one of the most beautiful women in the world. Even as she nears forty, she still places in the upper half of FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women though in the most recent edition she was outranked by her daughter. And Aiden Collins, Wren’s father, though not a ‘beautiful’ man like Tom Cruise, is still listed as one to the sexiest men alive. Is it any wonder the genetics have produced a stunning young woman?
From her mother came the olive complexion, black hair and dark brown eyes. From her father came her height and the curl to her hair. While her training as a dancer has given her a willowy grace few can hope to attain, genetics have combined to produce a tall, slender young girl with a classical beauty reminiscent of the stunning Hollywood leading ladies of the 30s and 40s. Whether in a leotard, evening gown or wearing sawdust covered shorts and tank top Wren is always elegant and poised.
The massive 747-300 settled onto the runway with a chirp of tires and puff of desert sand. Instantly the engines reversed and began slowing the plane until the flight crew could use the breaks. Turning wide at the far end of the taxi apron it slowly crept up to the terminal where the boarding ramp latched on like a giant leech.
Passengers did not immediately begin the ritual of debarking but rather sat quietly as one rose to address them. Aiden Collins, Scotch in hand, was barely listening to the production manager. His attention was the attractive young woman who was playing his love interest in the film.
Collins was thirty and already a veteran of over a dozen films but always in some supporting part, the best friend, the cop, the pimp, whatever role the studio decided required a fairly good looking man that wouldn’t outshine the star. When he’s been given the opportunity to play the lead on an action adventure film, Collins jumped at the chance.
Now, after three months of intensive training, Collins was physically ready for the part and he had noticed that with his new hard body had come admiring looks from a good number of women about the lot. His co-star, a 20-something named Laney Parisi, had nearly drooled the first time he took off his shirt and after only a few days, he’d found her in his bed nightly. It made for more convincing love scenes, he told himself but she was getting possessive. Only a few more weeks and he could dump her.
Cairo, in January, where was the heat he’d expected? Laney had insinuated her way under his arm as they moved out onto the arrivals terminal and though she whispered promises of delights she’s show him, he was really more anxious to get away for her for a while and get down to some serious drinking.
A tall, slender young woman with dusky Egyptian skin and flowing black hair brought him up short. Their eyes met for an instant and she smiled. Beside him, Laney jerked on his arm and he turn to her with a growl.
“That’s the fire I want to see!” their director stepped between them, forcing them apart. He hooked his arm into Collins’ and slipped the other around Laney’s waist. “You remember that moment, Aiden! You put that kind of feeling into this role and we’ll have a winner!”
“Sandura al-Rihani,” the assistant director told him.
Collins had made a point of cornering the man during the cocktail party at the Concorde El Salam that evening. Laney had been distracted by the script writer offering her an extra couple of lines and Collins had snatched the opportunity.
“She goes by just Sandura,” the AD explained. “She’s the hottest model in the Med right now.”
“She Muslim?” Collins asked.
“No, Arab Christian,” the man replied.
Collins smiled. Better, he thought, much better.
By March the promised heat hadn’t begun to make its presence known and Laney had jumped from Aiden’s bed to the scrip writer’s, in exchange for a little rewrite here and there, Collins knew but the film had at last wrapped. The company’s last night in Egypt was an additional cause for celebration and Collins was well on his way to a good drunk when the girl from the airport sauntered in. The AD met her at the door and spoke to her briefly then gestured to Aiden.
Aiden Collins didn’t leave Egypt for more than a month and by then the romance between the minor actor and the Middle East’s hottest model was the subject of all the gossip columns. They traveled Europe for the next five weeks with a stop in Switzerland to be married. By the time they reached Los Angeles in the late winter, Socorro had become a bona fide blockbuster.
Wren Collins was born on April 21, 1987 in a private clinic in Malibu. Her father was at the time filming a movie in Death Valley and could not attend the birth. He would be in Tibet three months later when her mother left for Italy where she had a photo shoot scheduled. The infant Wren was placed in the care of a nanny.
At two, Wren was walking and talking, a feat neither of her parents saw for more than a few brief moments caught on video by the nanny. Sandura had become even more sought after and Aiden was turning out picture after picture with location filming all over the world. They never managed to make her birthday or Christmas.
Her first boarding school, at age 5, was Adcote School for Girls in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England and she remained there for only one half year. It was by no means the last boarding school she would attend.
For the next ten years, Wren was shuttled from one school to the next, seemingly at the whim of her father. Each time it was explained to her that this next school was so much better or that school had the precise class for Wren. Everything changed and shifted so fast Wren became inured to it. No matter the school though, one thing remained constant. Wren loved to dance and she excelled.
Wren was 13 when the first paparazzi showed up and began taking pictures of her with long range lenses. By the time she was 14, her face had been plastered all over any number of scandal sheets in Europe and her regular breakouts from school often lead to dozens of pictures of her in some obscure dance club. It was a classmate at her last school that snapped the nudes of her that began to appear on the internet when she was 15 and it was those nudes that made her father pay some attention.
She had become famous as the daughter of two famous and beautiful people and it was time to exploit that. When he arrived in England and rolled up to the boarding school in a limo, Wren had no idea why he’d showed up but dutifully packed her bags as she was told and returned to California with him.
Three nights later, with both her parents, Wren attended her first Hollywood premier and the camera loved her. Though one or both parents always seemed to be in the frame with her, everyone knew that she had become the true center of attention. That night, after the party was over and all three rode in the limo, the ambush came.
When the fifty foot tall robot landed on the hood of the limo, she and her parents had been thrown forward and would have smashed into the divider if it were not for Wren’s instinctive reaction. She used her power to hold them in place and it was just enough to save them. A second robot had landed on the trunk, pinning the long car down. Like an evil Jaws of Life the mechanical monster peeling off the roof and stared down at the three in the rear through cold red eyes.
Wren knew it was after her, she could almost feel the red targeting dot between her eyes. As it reached for her, she opened her mouth to scream and the reaching hand exploded.
The next few minutes were a blur of robot and someone flying, pausing only long enough to lose another arrow. An arrow? At some point, with a robotic foot about to come down on her head, Wren unleashed the power she’d hidden for so long. The boot came down but had to crush its way through the remains of the limo’s structure and that resistance against the now weightless robot shot it into the air.
Though it only took a moment, the robot’s analysis of its weightless state made it pause just enough. There was an explosion and the area that would have been called the heart became a hole large enough to drive the limo through. The blast effect on the weightless machine hurled it west toward the ocean and Wren followed its flight until it was a tiny dot in the distance then released her power.
“Is anyone hurt,” the man with the bow had landed beside the wreckage of the car.
Wren’s father patted himself down and shook his head. “I am fine.”
The bowman looked at him in disgust.
“Miss?” he said, looking at Wren.
She shook her head, black curls still bouncy even though she was covered in fear sweat.
He looked at Wren’s mother.
Her mother lifted one shaking arm and showed them all the protruding end of a broken bone. Wren winced and looked away. She’d never seen a real injury before.
There was a ripping of metal and the door of the limo disappeared, tossed into the street with a negligent strength. The man squatted, one knee in the car but with a foot still on the pavement. Wren turned back to watch as the man took his mother’s arm in both hands.
“Close your eyes now,” the man said looking her mother in the eyes.
The lines of pain in her mother’s face eased and she sighed deeply. The man’s hands began to glow green and with a swift, sure movement, he yanked on her arm and the bone disappeared back into her skin. Wren turned away, struggling to fight down the rising bile. Her mother hadn’t even whimpered.
“The ambulance is on the way and the police will be here in a couple of minutes,” the man said.
Wren turned back and found he had covered her mother’s wound with a hand and that hand was growing green. He looked up into Wren’s eyes.
“Thank you for your timely help,” he said and her eyes widened.
“But I didn’t . . .” she started then stopped. She could see that he knew.
“Right now the world is a very dangerous place for you and that danger will spill over onto your parents,” the man said.
Her father frowned. “What danger?”
“Them,” he pointed at the wreckage of one of the machine. “They are from a group called HARP and they hunt and kill meta humans.”
“There aren’t any meta humans here,” Wren’s mother said.
Her father looked at Wren. “Maybe there is,” he said.
“Wren’s not a meta human,” her mother said. “No one in my family has ever been a meta human.”
“That you know of,” the bowman said. “Some meta powers are so minor as to go unnoticed even by the possessor.”
“What have you been doing,” her father narrowed his eyes at Wren. “How did you become a meta?
She was speechless. How could he think it was something she caught like herpes? The bowman stepped in.
“She was born that way,” he said firmly. “It is a gift, not a curse, no matter what the papers say.”
“I can’t have a meta human daughter!” he father protested. “It could kill my career!”
Sirens were approaching fast.
“Aiden is correct,” her mother said. “Those pictures were actually good publicity, this would be bad.”
Wren steeled herself. “How do I get rid of it?”
The man with the bow shook his head. “You don’t, you learn to control it.”
Wren looked at her parents and a cold shiver ran down her spine. That was all she was to them, publicity and then only when something like those pictures happened.
“I have a school for young people like you,” the man said, watching Wren. “Everyone there has abilities and it is safe from marauding robots and totally cut off from the outside world.”
“How much,” her father snapped.
The bowman looked at him like he was an insect but neither of her parents noticed. “Free,” he replied. “Totally free.”
Wren’s first teleport trip made her a little queasy but she refused to let on. They arrived in a huge empty room marked with a white grid on the dark gray walls, ceiling and floor. Ghost Archer, his name had been on the card he’d given her parents, gestured toward a door that seemed like a thousand feet away.
“Right now things are just beginning to get going,” he told her as they walked. “We only have seven other students and all but one is either my child or my ward.”
The door had proved much closer than she had expected and after only a dozen steps, the bowman pulled it open for her. Just outside in the corridor was a young man not much older than Wren herself, dressed nattily in brown tweed. He pushed a pair of round wire framed glasses back up the bridge of his nose and smiled.
“Ms. Collins, this is Kyle Longstreet,” Archer introduced the young man.
Something about him made Wren return his smile and take his offered hand.
“Ms. Collins,” he said. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Wren, please,” she replied.
“Who have we here?” a woman slipped up behind Kyle and draped herself over his shoulder.
Wren gulped. She was the most angelic, there was no other word for it, woman she’d ever seen.
“This is Wren Collins,” Kyle responded and the woman stepped from behind him to offer a hand.
“I am Everith,” she said in a musical voice. “I have a feeling you and I are going to be very good friends.”
“Could you please show Wren to a room and help get her settled in,” Ghost Archer said. “She’s running on West Coast time and its 2 am there. She could probably use some sleep. Let me know what room she is in and I’ll have her things delivered.”
The woman, Everith, looped an arm in Wren’s and led her to a set of double doors, Kyle hurried ahead to pull it open for them.
“He is so cute when he gets all gallant,” she whispered to Wren.
Wren looked over at her, “You and he?”
Everith smiled as they stepped by Kyle into a beautifully furnished anti-room. He hurried ahead to the next set of doors. When he pulled them open brilliant sunlight of late afternoon filled the room, making Wren blink.
“Oh, yes, very much so,” she replied.
“Are you students here too?”
Everith’s laughter was like ringing bells and Kyle smiled.
“I am the music and dance teacher,” she replied. “Kyle is law and ethics.”
Wren raised an eyebrow.
“Neither of you look old enough to be teachers,” she said.
Again Everith’s laughter filled the room. They stepped out into the sun and onto a perfectly manicured lawn.
“Kyle and I never discuss age,” Everith gave Kyle a sly smile.
“I am only 19,” Kyle informed Wren. “But I started law school at Yale when I was 14 and only have to go pick up my diploma before I can take the Bar.” He looked at Everith. “Of course, there’s no real hurry to do that.” He fell in beside her and took her hand.
“Kyle has decided he really likes the valley for some reason,” Everith explained.
‘Valley’ made Wren take notice of their surroundings and her eyes widened in surprise. They were at the floor of what had to be one of the largest valley’s Wren had ever seen. Possibly 15 or 16 kilometers across, the distant walls were a towering vertical barrier of rock broken only by a gap to what Wren perceived was the west. Tumbling from at least a dozen places feathery plumes of water cascaded over a thousand feel to the valley floor, most leaving a rainbow in the mist. Gigantic redwoods formed a living wall through which Wren could see little save for a single white tree that dwarfed everything else.
They had just left a rather unattractive granite monolith of a house that Wren recognized as a massive manor house so familiar to her from her time in the United Kingdom. The main difference being this structure looked as if it had been cut from the earth yesterday. She could not detect even the slightest weathering of the stone.
Everith gently steered her toward the second building in the valley, this one, though only slightly more modern, look as new as the manor. It was set into a hill on the west side, the ground floor actually embedded in the earth, then rose to three stories, each with many floor-to-ceiling windows that allowed natural light to pour in. Before the colonnade was a long pond walled with slabs of natural stone but flat on the top. A garden erupted around the pool, apparently untended judging by the riotous growth but as she got closer she could detect no weeds and all the plants looked health.
Kyle ran, literally, ahead to open the doors for them and Everith ushered her into an entry hall decorated in Louis XIV style. Everything, to Wren educated eye, looked authentic, from the vases of fresh cut flowers to the settees flanking the doors. For a moment, she thought she’d stepped once more into the Louvre.
“This is the floor for males only,” Everith explained. “You may enter here but you will not be able to exit other than up the stairs or back outside.” She led Wren up the curving staircase to the first floor. “Here are classrooms, dining facilities, game room, common room and the dance studio.”
They started up the next flight of stairs and Kyle stopped. Everith looked back at him with a devilish little grin. “Even male teachers can’t come up here.” She said.
The second floor, the top floor, was the girls’ floor and Everith opened the first door.
“You may have this one,” she said and Wren was not surprised to find a rather standard room set up for two occupants. Two double beds, two desks with chairs and a pair of matching chest of drawers.
“No one else is in this room so you will have time to stake your claim before you are burdened with a room mate.” Everith looked at Wren and smiled gently. “You look exhausted. I suggest you do at Archer said, get a good night’s sleep. Once you wake, perhaps you might want to visit the common room to meet some of your new classmates.” With a gentle pressure to her hand, Everith closed the door leaving Wren alone.
Her internal clock was still off when she woke. A glance at the thin watch on her wrist told her it was 10 a.m. California time but the scant light through her windows hinted of dawn. Sitting up in bed she stretched noting a slight degree of stiffness, likely a result of her encounter with a pair of robots. To her surprise she found her bags stacked just inside the door. She really must have been exhausted if she missed an intruder dropping them off. Frowning at the thought of someone sneaking up on her she lifted her dance bag onto the bed and unzipped it. The night before, Ms. Everith had mentioned a dance studio and Wren felt the need to practice.
Fresh from a shower dressed in tights, leg warmers and a short skirt, Wren hooked her slippers on one finger and shouldered her dance bag. Slipping out of the room she moved silently down the stairs to the first floor. Standing at the bottom of the steps she considered which way to turn then selected the west hall. Ignoring single doors, figuring correctly that they would be classrooms, she stopped at the first double doors she came to.
Quietly she turned the knob, relieved to find it unlocked and slipped into the room closing the door behind her.
Faint light of dawn filtering in through French doors along one wall gave the darkened room just enough illumination to clearly make out the interior. A couch, two, walls lined with books, a huge flat screen TV mounted on the wall opposite the doors and reflected in it, a figure slouched down in a massive arm chair, chin resting on his chest.
“Oh, pardon. I did not mean to disturb,” she said. The figure sat up and turned to face her.
Even though sitting Wren guessed his height to be well over six feet and the obvious tan, close cropped blonde hair and body of a swimmer made her automatically think of beach bums in movies. Great.
“That’s okay,” he said, quickly. “Who are you hiding from?”
She raised an eyebrow at his assumption.
“I do not hide,” she said keeping her tone neutral. “I politely avoid or make promises for lunch.”
The surfer stifled a bark of laughter.
“Same thing,” he said. “Since you never plan to keep the engagement.”
She stepped forward and the young man said “You’re Aidan Collins’ daughter.” It was a statement.
She glanced at the reflective TV screen and smoothed her shirt flat.
“Yes,” she admitted. “Along with Nicole, that girl in France claiming he had an affair with her mother.”
“He makes a great bad guy,” the boy commented.
“I am sure he would be very pleased to hear that,” she said flatly.
“Sure he doesn’t care much . . . “ the boy said, slouching back into the chair.
“Oh, you would be surprised.”
She moved over to a chair across the coffee table from him and smoothed her skirt under her as she sat. Her posture was perfect, knees together, back straight, and hands folded primly in her lap.
“You do not appear to be particularly happy.” She observed.
“Hey, it’s nothin’,” he said, sitting up. “By the way, I’m Nathaniel Ryan, Nat.”
She tilted her head slightly as if to bow. “Pleased to meet you, Nathaniel. I am Wren Collins.”
“I was wondering,” she began as he said “Look I gotta . . .”
Both stopped talking and she took a moment to get a good look at him. He WAS rather good looking in an athletically outdoorsy way and his eyes were a startlingly ocean blue she’d only seen from the deck of a ship. She wondered if he had sand in his hair.
“You first,” he said.
“I was wondering if you could tell me where to find the dance studio?”
He sighed. “I really don’t know. I have only been here a couple days and haven’t explored that much. Did you ask Spock, the computer?”
Wren frowned, her brows knitting.
“The computer?” Wren said.
“Spock, can you tell Ms. Collins how to get to the dance studio?”
“Wren,” she said.
“Wren,” he repeated.
A green line appeared on the floor.
“If Ms. Collins will please follow the green line, it she will arrive at her destination within forty-five seconds.” The computer replied.
“There ya go,” Nathaniel said coming to his feet.
Wren rose smoothly and looked up at him. She’d been very wrong about his height, by at least a foot. He was the tallest person she’d ever met but her own height seemed to reduce the difference. She clasped her toe shoes.
“And you were saying?” she asked.
“Huh?” Nathaniel was confused.
“When we spoke at the same time.”
“OH! Yeah . . . well . . . you gotta practice I guess,” he said with a shrug.
“Please, finish the sentence anyway.” She told him.
“I was gonna say I gotta catch a few waves . . .” He stared down at his feet. “I was just wondering . . . but you got things to do . . . “
“Nathaniel,” Wren said, allowing a tiny bit of annoyance to creep in to her tone.
“If you might wanna go surfing with me!” he blurted.
She blinked, a little taken aback.
“I don’t know how to surf,” she admitted. “And I do have to practice. Perhaps a rain check?”
“Is that ‘perhaps a rain check’ like ‘let’s do lunch’?”
She paused and considered then said, “Since we are both students of the same school, a school with a limited student body, I believe the later would be rather blatant and detrimental any future relationship we may foster. Therefore, I consider your offer genuine as you may consider my rain check.”
“Okay,” he said and she actually detected a blush. “Cool!”
“Now,” she said. “If you will excuse me, I have a line to follow.”
Nathaniel turned as she moved by and she could feel his eyes on her. She stepped into the hall and for some reason turned back to close the door. For a moment she contemplated him and when she lifted her eyes to his face they locked gazes. For a brief moment she allowed it then with a sudden flush of heat, she closed the door and leaned her back to it.
“You have dancing to concentrate on,” she scolded herself. “Not . . . “
She felt an unaccustomed thrill run through her and she forced her attention to the green line.
“Dance, dance, dance,” she chanted as she followed the glow.
In her early teens Wren discovered her ability to manipulate gravity but it was years before she considered the possibility that her powers extended beyond the personal. When fifty tons of robot landed on the hood of her limo, it was an involuntary reaction that pressed the car’s three occupants down into the seat and prevented them from being hurled through the windshield.
Now, with Nathaniel’s urging, she has expanded her abilities to include many new options from lifting the 400 ton Seine River barge to scooping up a hundred gallons of water to drop on her tall friend. She has found it is possible for her to ‘catch’ a falling object and lower it safely or rapidly alter gravity to bounce a target repeatedly on the ground/floor.
By sharply increasing gravity around her she has been able to form a force field of a sort that can shift the trajectory of any incoming attacks possibly deflecting them, this includes energy attacks. So far she has made no effort to ascertain the range of her powers but suspects she can maintain at least her Gravity Cancellation power out to the limit of her sight.
All of her life Wren has been farmed out to boarding schools, often not staying in one place long enough for the teachers to even remember her name. Always the 'new girl' she has given up all pretenses preferring to remain aloof in an effort to insulate herself from fleeting attachments. In the past her classmates have seen her as caustic, arrogant and impossible to approach, a façade Wren is quite willing to maintain.
Accustom to being alone she wasn’t prepared for Nathaniel Ryan. After so many years in the class-conscious society of European boarding schools, where one’s parents where the gauge of one’s position in the school hierarchy, this simple surfer from San Diego was an enigma. His unselfconscious offer of surfing, a concept that terrified yet thrilled her, was so unexpected she had responded with trite offer of a rain check. It was the beginning of what she later recognized as her ‘undoing’.
With Nathaniel at her side she discovered the joy of simple things and after that first rollercoaster ride, her reserve began to slip. Though she will probably never become as open as Nathaniel she is gradually learning to relax a little around her classmate. She is sure of one thing, if Nathaniel were to leave, she would be right back where she started.
O 38 D 35.2 M24 T 97.2
Created: Tue, 30 Jan 2024 16:15:45
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