Barn Raising

Summary:
December 23 2014: A strange psychic beacon calls several heroes together

Abandoned Barn

An abandoned barn north of New York


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
[* None]


It's been a thing for a while, albiet a subtle one, that odd bits of technology have been showing up around the Tri City area. This tech, highly advanced in nature and mysterious in origin, seems to be able to affect the minds of those around it and sometimes comes with otherworldy guardians. The weird part? As best as any one can tell, all it's telling people to do is continue with consumerist behavior patterns that have been a part of daily life in the US for the last thirty to forty years or so. Why exactly that should be is baffling and what whomever set them up hopes to get out of that beyond inscrutable.

One of the things scientists and spies alike are trained to look for is changes in patterns. When someone or something establishes a pattern, if if one does not know what it does, it's always at least a point of interest when that pattern changes. And that's the case today. A psychic beacon has reached out to (at least) three people of some power and urged them, called them to a particular location. That particular location happens to be a seemingly abandoned barn outside the New York City limits wherin lies an ashcan sized beacon, pulsing with energy and not otherwise doing a whole lot - at least at the moment. Whether or not the beings in question recognized the external nature of the prompting is an open question.

-

Midnighter doesn't have any particular ability to recognize subtle psychic intrusion. He does though have the ability to recognize when he's behaving abnormally and he's realized that he has no possible, logical reason to want to go visit the countryside outside of New York City. He's not traced any criminals there and rural New York is not a hotbed of drug activity. So the urge to do so is enough reason to want to find out why he wants to do so. He doesn't usually need to break out the motorcycle that Stormwatch's R&D department cooked up for him but there are occasions he can't or won't take public transportation: something Waller no doubt considered when she gave it to him. Quieter than normal, the soft purr of the bike pauses as he pulls to a halt just within sight of the barn to look it over.

-

The Fantastic Four normally investigate things like this as a team. Normally. Reed's discovered the energy signatures and their peculiar broadcasts of esoteric energy, and he's entirely aware of this situation, but he has this thing were he never talks to the rest of the team (except for Sue when she shoves in between him and his machines) until it's something he needs them to help with. But Johnny found out about this because HERBIE told him that Reed's alarm was going off, but he and Sue had dragged Ben off to some rock-world thing to see if they had a cure for his 'condition' and Johnny was left to hold down the Baxter Building. And so far he's been doing that, but suddenly, he's restless.

"So that's what he was looking at the other day? OK, I'll go check it out." Johnny picks up a hand-held omni-scanner and "FLAME ON!" he's in the air, and minutes later, he's at this abandoned barn? And there's someone here already.

-

EARLIER

"No, I jus'— no, it ain't a client, it's— yeah, I know we got that thing with— right, them— right, no, just a— a hunch…"

Luke Cage stares blankly at the city racing by his train window for a moment as the love of his life continues to try and make sense of his excursion. All he left her was a note with a brisk explanation and an apology. And a baby, who he was supposed to watch while his wife wound down from a few hours worth of errands.

"I'll have to owe you, I guess," he murmurs when a question breaks his reverie. "An' you'll have to just take my word for it: I'll be back in a few hours, an' I'mma start makin' it up to— " He pauses long enough to crease his brow bemusedly at something, and then: "… baby, I ain't got a costume'a my own, much less a Jewel— " A beat, and then a grin begins to cross his lips. "… a'ight, maybe we can figure somethin' out…"

NOW

All that guilt over disappearing on his errand-running wife/daughter made the trek from Harlem to what appears to be a barn in the middle of nowhere even longer than the details of such an excursion might already demand. Even after trying to explain it to her, and turning it over in his mind for the rest of the train ride/walk/lift from a friendly local with a pick-up truck, he doesn't know why he's here.

Looking at the barn as his motorist angel drives off with a few bucks for gas money isn't really giving him any clues either; he spends a good four or five seconds just studying the structure from the outside and weighing the merits of turning around on the spot against sating his inexplicable curiosity before approaching it.

He doesn't notice Midnighter idling on the outskirts of the structure - stealth bike and stealth agent, after all - but it's kind of hard to miss fire streaking through the sky; after a few steps, he snaps his head up towards Johnny, pauses long enough to study his path, then starts jogging along it with balled fists to see where the unidentified fireball lands.

-

This place is definitely the source of the call. Which is odd. The barn is in shambles. The roof looks like it probably won't survive the winter without caving in and the walls and door make it questionable how much winter it's even keeping out in the first place. About a quarter of a mile away is a two story farm house in similar disrepair. The grounds are overgrown with weeds and the fields long since gone to seed. What exactly would call the three of them out to quite literally the middle of nowhere is a good question. For a moment it seems as if that might be it. Just a pointless call but then it gets curious. It's not a psychic probe per se. Not a detailed rifling through the mind to find out secrets but each of the three arivals gets the definite sense of getting sized up as surely as if they could see someone next to them looking them up and down. The intent? Not hosttile, but certainly not friendly. Definitely more the 'is this a threat' kind of look over and less the 'this guy looks good' type.

For an abandoned barn, it's receiving a lot of attention. A metahuman with fire powers flies by and a car disgorges another one before driving off. Midnighter shuts the bike off and pushes it off to the side where he can hide it down in the overgrown under growth. Then he makes the rest of the way on foot, keeping an eye on the others while attempting to remain unseen. They might not be hostile but something is. Or could be.

-

Right. There. Johnny lands, but he doesn't flame off. The scanner pings, and the Torch whirls, but there's nobody there, not even when he does a heat-check. But then coming from the other direction, there's the tall, lean black guy with the somehow too-small xl tee-shirt… now that's kinda scary, but the FF knows about the Heroes for Hire.

"You're Cage, right? Any idea what this is about?" Johnny waves the scanner to the left, and the right, frobdicating a knob.

"Mr. Johnny, please do not alter the sensitivity settings," HERBIE's voice says from inside the scanner. Oh, great, it has a remote presence. Thanks for that, Reed.

-

Cage stops a ways away from Johnny's landing point, because someone. Is. Watching him. He is intimately familiar with the feeling of being sized up by unseen observers, so as soon as he verifies that the fireball is 'a guy he's seen on magazines' and not 'a bomb' or 'a killer robot', the occasional Power Man spins towards a patch of foliage, raises his fists, and shoots whatever is or isn't hiding in there the meanest mug he can muster.

"Nope," he grunts to Johnny without breaking his attention from the brush. "Got this feelin' that I had t' be up here, so I— came."

Once those words come out of his mouth and he has the chance to hear them, he gradually and grimacingly draws his fists down, and once they're at his side, he turns to face Johnny. "You got anything on that— thing? Any idea what kinda ass I'm about to have to kick?"

-

The answer is about to be provided. In their heads a mechanical voice sounds. "Metahuman assessment: Unregistered Fire Type. Matter to Energy conversion class S. Technological support class B. Threat Index: Moderate. Methuman Assessment: Unergistered Genetic Manipulation Project. Superior Physical Attributes class C. Modification Index Theta. Threat Index: Moderate. Metahuman Assessment: Unregistered Mutate Type: Superior Physical Attributes Class E. Modification Index Omicron. Threat Index: Moderate. Data recorded and transmitted. Welcome metahumans. You have been called here for the purposes of investigation and data gathering. Your powers will now be indexed and cataloged. Standby for stress testing." There's a loud thrum from inside the barn and a bright light that shines through the gaps in the walls and doors. Those with enhanced senses will be able to tell quite easily that there are now people in there.

-

"Moderate?" Midnighter says, now walking openly toward the barn since he's been made. "I should be insulted." He spares Johnny and Luke barely a glance, his attention mostly on the barn, trying to get a hint of what it's hiding. "Why don't you burn down the barn so we can see what's inside there." he suggests. Withdrawing the three rods from his coat, he snaps them together to form his staff.

-

"Moderate? Really? That's … yeah, kind of insulting. HERBIE, alert the FF, in case we can't just kick their asses," Johnny says, since the changing energy signatures don't actually make a lot of sense, well, other than 'spacetime fluctuations consistent with unknown teleportation modality' - that's what the help button says. He clips the scanner to his belt, and glances at the other two.

"Seriously, good idea," Johnny says, and fires a fast stream of six fireballs at the barn.

-

"Hell of a lotta collateral damage," Luke warily says to the man in all black everything who steps into view from—

Luke isn't entirely sure where Midnighter came from, actually; maybe this is why he only rates 'Moderate'.

He starts pulling his right ankle back to limber up a little for taking a run at the house as he continues, "'s probably flammable as all hell; what if— "

Before he can add, 'you burn something important?', Johnny starts chucking fireballs at the barn.

"Damnit!". He shoots a glare at the other two men, briefly, but— the damage is done; rather than watch it happen, he starts heading towards the burning barn, intent on working his way inside. "I'm goin' in— checkin' for occupants!"

-

The wall, even without being lit on fire, isn't horribly sturdy and Luke goes right through it… to be confronted with the oddest sight. If one were to take the extras off a B sci-fi alternate history movie and dress them up in fascist modern plate armor… and then give them all electronic third eyes in the center of their foreheads, what one would get is the six people in the barn. None of their faces can be seen, in fact none of their ''skin'' can be seen but they all have variations on energy rifles and they're all happy to point them in Lukes direction and generally try to light him up as they fan out. Their aim isn't the best and some of those blue-white bolts punch through the barn wall and out in full view of Johnny and Midnighter as the place begins to (quite quickly) burn.

"Did you miss the part about stress testing?" Midnighter asks Luke, making no move to join him inside the barn. "I don't feel like cooperating with it by demonstrating just what we can do more than necessary." But of course the power house isn't listening and is thinking with his muscles instead of his head. Since the energy bolts aren't heading for him, he just stays where he is. "Can your machine pinpoint where that voice was coming from?" he asks Johnny.

-

The Torch says, "HERBIE, find out where that voice was coming from!"

Meanwhile, he's doing his Fire Is My Biotch trick: the barn may go up like flash paper, at least the outsides (because we don't want to hurt the insides … yet) but the therms do not reach the delicate human flesh inside, nor indeed, the not-so-delicate steel-like skin of Luke Cage. However, all that heat energy does eventually compact into a sphere that Johnny holds in his left hand, using a bit of it to divert the energy bolts that might come too close. He's now burning at about 5K Kelvin, but again, the heat only reaches a few inches past his skin. Control. Man. It's all about the control.

"Please direct the scanner towards the probe device, Mr. Johnny," HERBIE says. So the Torch does that, once he sees the ash-can of dubious nature… a moment of distraction.

-

Luke Cage's list of priorities currently reads something like:

1. Getting back home to his wife.
2. Figuring out who set him up.
3. Punching the shit out of whoever set him up.

Figuring out how to baffle the test isn't quite as important as getting it over with right now, so Midnighter's protests fall on deaf ears and a rapidly disappearing back.

Right around the point where he realizes that the barn is occupied with blaster-toting— people— he begins to rethink his course of action; a moment later, energy bolts begin raking across his body, turning his shirt to yellow tatters.

"Rrrargh!" he exclaims as he hurtles through the salvo to try and grab one armored weirdo and hurl him into one or two of his friends. It isn't eloquent, but eloquence isn't particularly high on his list of priorities either, what with the scorch marks criss-crossing his skin now.

-

There's the rather unmistakeable sound of spintering wood as three armored figured go out the back. The other three scatter out, mostly exiting out of the door or the hole Luke made getting in. Whomever they are, they appear to be more or less regular people on the inside and getting thrown out a wall, a burning wall mind, doesn't appear to be something they're prepared to just get back up from. On the plus side Luke's no longer taking blaster fire now. On the down side… (for someone) now they've seen Johnny and Midnighter. Two of them put gloved hand to helmet and their third eyes flare. Johnny hears a voice say that the guy next to him - yeah, that guy - he really needs burned.

-

The scanner definitely detects an odd power source in that 'ashcan'. Not only is it emitting some kind of pseodo psychic field, but it's producing a lot of power Concieveably enough to breach a dimensional barrier.

"He shouldn't bother with shirts." Midnighter notes to no one in particular as Luke loses it to energy beams. Guy doesn't need to think; he should just stand there and look decorative until someone tells him to break something. As the walls burn and people in armor get thrown through what's left, he too sees the machine. And two potential threats. He likes shuriken. They're precision weapons. But sometimes you want something with a bit of weight to it and suddenly there's a throwing knife in his hand. A quick snap of his arm and it goes sailing past the potential threats and toward the trash can.

-

Johnny … lets his thoughts burn, for want of a better word. He's all about energy transfer at the moment, and something is trying to transfer energy into him, which is kind of making it hard to keep the absolute lock down on his control of the thermal energy of one ramshackle barn and of course his own solar-surface temperatures… one meter away from him it now feels more like being in front of a hot pizza oven.

The scanner pings and beeps, recording the surge in that strange energy, and HERBIE priotitizes… "Mr. Johnny. You are under attack. Remember your mental defense exercises."

Oh for … mental defense exercises. How Johnny hated those. Focus on the fire, focus on the edge, think about how that energy feels moving around, don't think in words, just use your feelings Johnny, it's like the Force only hotter.

Note that Reed designed the training to work against normal human telepaths, after an encounter with a Rigellian noble. They almost sold the Earth, and that would have been hard to explain. It almost always works against the Puppet Master too, he burns his hand on the control figure. But it takes his attention away from the defense, and an energy blast gets through to spin against his skin… he'll notice that later. Or maybe sooner. It's sizzling away there inside his shields for the moment.

-

Luke allows himself a moment to take a breath and glance down at some of the dark, stinging marks all over his body. He is grateful for the lack of blaster fire; tough as he is, being peppered with energy bolts hurts. There's no telling how long he might've been able to withstand a sustained salvo from them.

Once that moment passes, he wipes sweat from his brow, then runs over towards the shuriken-studded beacon to heft it up; if there are any wires or moorings that need to be broken in the process, so be it. Assuming that he's able to leave the barn with his new weapon, he'll head out after the guys he didn't already use for bowling practice, intent on interrupting their helmet-touching and eye-glowing with a gentle tap from his procured ashcan-thing.

-

It turns out that transdimensional psychic beacons make good clubs. Even when they're sporting new throwing knife accessories. Speaking of which that seems to have broken something… perhaps a regulator of some kind because suddenly there's an external pressure on everyone's mind urging them on a mental rollercoaster that takes them from depressive to euphoric and back again in the space of about ten seconds. Still. There's only one blaster armed thug left. And that's good.

And then the dragon lands near them. Granted he's only a dragon for a moment. Then he shrinks and turns into a muddy haired young man with a spear that looks like it's made of coral. He glances curiously at Midnighter and Luke and Johnny… then the machine starts shouting at them.

New Metahuman. Analyzing: Match found. Rowan. Blue Warrior. Threat Index: Classified. Priority Target. Mission Parameters Altered. Resistance cell detected. Summoning Purification Force.

A portal opens right in front of where Luke just clubbed two psyborgs unconscious and out of them come two very stompy looking walkers with energy cannon for arms and another half dozen rifle armed soldiers. "Crap…" the new arrival mutters.

-

There's a second throwing knife in Midnighter's hand once it becomes obvious the first wasn't sufficient. But then he's forced to pause and shake his head at the mental barrage. "Will you just destroy that thing instead of playing with it?" he snarls to Luke as a dragon shows up and some more opponents are teleported in.

-

OK. Johnny is a fire type and psychic attacks are neither stronger nor weaker against fire … but that doesn't explain why he wants to decorate the field with his lunch. His shaky control means the trapped energy blast breaks through to hit him with what remains: kinetic punch, and that knocks him back, and the ball of extreme fun and pain he's been holding together vents itself as a bar of 7000 Kelvin heat aimed vaguely in the direction of the large stompy things. It may hit, it may just annoy, but Johnny is rolling across the ground, flame extinguished, until he comes to his senses. Then he sits up and looks around, confused. BAD HANGOVER.

-

"Everything copacetic out here?" Luke inquires between clubbings. His eyes flick around as he tries to get some sense of the situation, but before he can glean much of anything, the world seems to drop out from under his feet. Hopefully, the beacon can take a little more wear, because it tumbles from Cage's arms as he sucks in a desperate, gasping breath. A fresh wave of guilt and sadness rushes from his subconscious, threatening to drown him as his thoughts turn inexorably to the two women he's left at home to gawk at barns and punch sci-fi rejects—

— two women who'll almost certainly forgive him, just as they always seem to. A beautiful wife and a wonderful daughter— who he doesn't— deserve—

Eventually, between the appearance of the killer robots he'd been anticipating earlier(and the dragon he hadn't been), Midnighter yelling at him, and sheer science, he is eventually able to break through the infinite emotional loop, and instead of standing there alternatingly grinning and looking shell-shocked, he bends towards the fallen device, seizes it up once more, then twists around to hurl it into one of the walkers. Hopefully, that will destroy at least one of the two things.

-

Ashcan sized beacon meets very very hot air meets metal walker in a wonderful explosion of really, really hot liquid metal. If there was a pilot (there was) there isn't anymore. The only thing left are the two legs, standing in a vaguely menacing fashion in Midnighter's direction. The central pod is gone.

-

Rowan - that seems to be his name - seems to pale and his movements become a bit more… airy? Then lightning crawls up his spear and he hurls it at a pair of the newly arrived scifi rejects. Moments later he's sent scrambling for cover as everything on the field decides he should be dead. On the downside, lots of bad things coming Rowan's way. On the upside? No more beacon and no one's paying attention to Johnny, Midnighter or Luke…
"About damn time." Midnighter mutters as the ashcan device explodes. Idly twirling his staff, he takes stock of the situation. "The joints are the weak spots on those." he tells Luke. "Circling the body of that thing in a wall of fire should block its optics and confuse its sensors." he notes to Johnny. There's no actual reason for him to get involved since he was lured here but he can at least offer suggestions to the others on how to win. Then he won't need to get involved.

-

Now there's something you don't see every day. Dragons. Who are people? Well, there must be somewhere for them to hide, right? The dragons, that is. Johnny stands, and checks the scanner. Yeah, still working — Reed is used to Johnny being a bit rough on equipment, though really Ben's the menace in that regard.

"FLAME ON!" he yells again, ow, that hurts, cracked rib? Maybe. He rises into the air as superheated flame and pushes a wall of visible flame in between the energy-blaster-carriers and the belongs-here people, letting it be brighter on the OTHER side to mess up their aim by blinding them.

"Thanks, but the guys with the guns are more important right now," he says to Midnighter. Because really, it's a good plan and the one Johnny was going to execute, but those energy blasts STING.

-

It's a good thing that nobody's paying attention to Luke, because he's flung back when the walker semi-expectedly explodes near his position. What's left of the barn gets another hole in its wall when the Hero for Hire sails through it; fortunately for the structure, though, he comes to a hard stop on the ground after bouncing once or twice instead of hitting the opposite wall.

Less fortunately for the other walker, while it takes Luke a second to get his bearings back once he's on his feet again, that's about all the break it gets before he comes sprinting through the hole he just made on a collision course with the domineering machine.

When he's a few feet away, he pauses just long enough to crouch low before bounding into the air towards the walker, hoping to get a hold of some part of its chassis. "I'll keep that in mind!" he exclaims mid-leap.

Instead of going for the legs as Midnighter suggested, he wants to scrabble across the thing's structure in search of a cockpit he can break into. A cockpit could mean a pilot; a pilot could mean getting some answers as to what the hell he's been dragged into.

-

There is a very, very bright wall of fire which suddenly spoils the am of just about everyone. The walker pauses, as the pilot tries to compensate for the sudden flare by toning down the optics and then… er… oh that's bad… A masked, uniformed man rigged to his vehicle with cybernetic hook ups looks up at Luke atop his cockbit glass.

Another bolt of lightning fries another pair of baddies with rifles and the rest are looking for a way to somehow get to Johnny. Well… when in doubt, blow it up. Three spherical objeccts sail through the air in the general direction of Johnny and Midnighter. Prooooobably grenades.

Three's too many to catch and throw back. Instead, three shuriken are thrown toward the grenades to deflect them before Midnighter runs and dives to get out of the blast zone. "Heads up!" he calls to Johnny in case the grenades are overlooked.

-

"On it," Johnny answers, and the presumably-deflected grenades are hit by a wave of heat and flame that will, if it doesn't detonate them, cause the kind of sudden backdraft that will push them back at their original location. Will they blow up sooner or later?

The blinding wall is left to its own devices, but that just means it will be there for another thirty seconds without him helping keep it going. Johnny's got his personal thermal shield back in place, so unless it's designed for really, really high temperatures, the shrapnel should be inconvenient at most. Or at least, that's what practice has shown. Really it would suck if they were able to last longer. But Reed would be fascinated.

"Mr. Johnny, sir, the scanner has detected more extradimensional incursion, are you all right?"

"You're gettin' slow, HERBIE."

-

Glass scrapes across unbreakable skin as Luke's arm continues burrowing through the cockpit until— paydirt!

"Yo!" he shouts in greeting over the grenades while seizing a handful of the pilot's uniform and tugging until he starts to feel resistance. "Torch ain't gonna hit you while I'm up here; no idea if the other guy's got anything for you, but with the way he was directin' traffic, I'm bettin' he doesn't. Dragon's a wildcard, but a fancy ride like this can probably take a beatin', right? You're havin' a better day than all'a your boys out there, 'cause all you gotta worry about is tellin' my moderate self what all this garbage is about."

At that point, he'll begin pulling again— gradually, to give the pilot some time to make a choice before things start getting disconnected.

"'less you wanna take your chances out there…"

-

The grenades fall short, thanks to Midnighter's shuriken, near the fire line and detonate. But these aren't explosive grenades. Each one is designed as a psychic attack and sends a spike of agony screaming through the ether and into people's minds. Rowan lets out a pained cry and then really, really, lights his next target up.

The pilot looks up almost uncomprehendingly at Luke. This isn't part of the mission parameters and doesn't compute. Tellingly, none of the attackers have so much as said anything. Then he reaches for a sidearm. Defense protocols initiated.

-

Midnighter grunts at the telepathic pain. Thankfully, they didn't detonate close by since there's no actual pain receptors to turn off. He'll need to figure that out at some point. Now he just grits his teeth and gets back on his feet. Attacking him just gave him reason to get involved. He sprint toward one of the soldiers, using his staff to deflect the rifle as it turns towards him and then ramming one end into his head just under the visor.

-

Psychic Attack Grenades. The thing about that — Johnny's control of the flame is psychic, though not in the traditional sense. Just enough that the flash of agony washes back along it, and his reaction causes him to, most unfortunately, detonate the wall of fire, and it's already set up with a vector towards the bad guy army. By the time it hits them it's probably only about 3000 degrees, moving at about a half-meter per second. Unfortunately. Midnighter will probably notice that movement when Johnny screams, in plenty of time to get out of its direct path. And the enemy WAS moving out to the side to get clear shots.

On the upside, for those who become instant ash, the pain doesn't last. On the other upside, the feet of the remaining walker are now melty and on fire. The pilot, of course, feels that and the sensation of second-hand pain slams into his dissociated mental state.

Not hard enough to break it though. That sidearm is still being drawn; the programmed reflexes are not easily disrupted.

And, the Torch is back on the ground again, this time still on fire and breathing raggedly.

"DAMN THAT HURT," the Torch says.

"Language breach noted, five dollars to the swear jar," HERBIE says, that last bit in Sue Storm's voice.

-

Right after Luke makes his offer, pain lights up his senses and sends him reeling with a yell. He immediately loses his grip on the pilot and only just manages to maintain his hold on the chassis as a glimmer of his survival instinct manages to shine through the searing sea of agony. He didn't hear any answers… he thinks?

He isn't really sure. He isn't sure of anything for the— moments? Seconds? Minutes? Hours? Years— however long his psyche is barraged, really.

He does manage to catch sight of a gun in the pilot's hands as it subsides, however; he has no idea whether or not it's too late to do anything about it, but he makes an attempt at hauling himself up to throw a haymaker through the glass regardless.

Even if it works, though, he's guaranteed to fall, thanks to the walker's feet melting and the entire thing going wobbly beneath him; it's just a question of whether or not he'll fall with scorch marks on his face.

Either way, once he picks himself up from his landing, he'll storm right back up to the walker and lob a punch at one of its shins or knees - whatever ends up being in reach by that point - to aid its descent.

-

Right after Luke makes his offer, pain lights up his senses and sends him reeling with a yell. He immediately loses his grip on the pilot and only just manages to maintain his hold on the chassis as a glimmer of his survival instinct manages to shine through the searing sea of agony. He didn't hear any answers… he thinks?

He isn't really sure. He isn't sure of anything for the— moments? Seconds? Minutes? Hours? Years— however long his psyche is barraged, really.

He does manage to catch sight of a gun in the pilot's hands as it subsides, however; he has no idea whether or not it's too late to do anything about it, but he makes an attempt at hauling himself up to throw a haymaker through the glass regardless.

The gun goes off as his fist crashes through the glass, and between his freshly scorched face, tenuous grip, and the walker's melting feet, he can't help but fall after the blow is struck. His body makes a pretty sizable divot in the ground where he lands, but he pulls himself out of it in relatively short order so that he can storm right back up to the walker and lob a punch at a knee, a shin— whatever he can reach by that point to aid its descent.

-

Midnighter's staff goes into the soldier's face as they both get washed with the edge of Johnny's flames. He has to drop and roll to put out the smoldering of his coat. As he stands back up, he shoots Johnny a look. Stepping over tot he fallen soldier, he picks up the rifle and turns it on any soldiers still standing.

-

Midnighter will discover something about the enemy. They're stupidly advanced in some ways. The rifle seems to lack a visible trigger. It has a handgrip in the stock in the usual place, but no moving parts. Presumably, it's psychically activated. Because who wants the enemy to be able to use their 'liberated' ordnance?

However, there are no soldiers left standing to shoot — the last of them staggers, half-burning, under the walker, when the legs separate from the feet and it slams to the ground under the pounding fists of Luke Cage. The pilot flies out the open cockpit, and a brief strangled shriek marks the unauthorized separation of his control linkages from the machine. His body goes into a siezure, thrashing about like it's being electrocuted, before a pulse of energy explodes from it.

The man who is sometimes a dragon is here somewhere, but Johnny's eyes are still crossed and blurry after that trio of pain grenades, and he doesn't even see Midnighter's glare.

-

Midnighter looks briefly irritated at the lack of a firing mechanism but since there's no one left to shoot anyway, he takes a closer look. R&D will love to get their hands on it, no doubt and Waller will be happy. Never let it be said he doesn't do anything for her. One of the soldiers also gets a closer examination. "From the future maybe. Or an alternate dimension. That would explain wanting to test us before they invade."

-

After the walker begins to list, Luke pulls back from hitting it any further to grab the staggering soldier's ankle and drag him out of the machine's shadow. There isn't a whole lot he can do about the fire, but at least he can stop the crushing.

Once they're clear, he drops heavily to have a seat on the ground and give himself a few moments of respite. "You're gonna be a'ight," he murmurs to the soldier as he tries to pat out flames with his bare hand. "An' then some smart person or another's gonna figure you out."

Afterwards, he looks up to Midnighter to say, "Might be more'a these things, then; if I was tryin' to figure out whether or not I was up to invadin' the planet, or— y'know, whatever the hell, the place I was eyeballing, I'd sure as hell be testin' more than three random dudes."

-

Rowan emerges from cover, walks over to one of the charred soldiers and prods him with the butt of his spear. Dead, of course. All dad but for the one Luke has. And that may or may not last long. Depends on how good the medical facilities are wherever he's going. "Nameless…" The Dragon Warrior breathes, like it's a curse. He glances up at the victorious heroes. "Is everyone alright?"

-

"They said we were mediocre threats," Johnny says. "I suppose we could've found a way to keep them thinking that."

He walks somewhat unsteadily over to Midnighter and says, "Sorry, man. I lost it when the hangover from hell bombs went off."

He pulls out the omniscanner and points it through the area. HERBIE can take whatever readings he thinks are useful.

-

"That depends," Luke says, sliding his attention towards Rowan. "You gonna try anything, now that it's just us?" Despite the wariness, he remains seated, albeit with a fist curled at his side.

-

Midnighter is slightly charred but ignoring it as if he doesn't even feel it. Which, in fact, he doesn't. Not worth mentioning. "Fine. They seemed to know you." Pause. "Moderate." he corrects. Definitely insulting. Reaching up, he turns his comm on. "Midnighter. Send a retrieval team to my location. Advanced tech, possible invasion scouting mission. The lab boys will love it." Psychic weapons, giant robots, bodies to dissect.

Rowan shakes his head in answer ot Luke's question. "They did know me. They're from… where I'm from. I'm not sure how they're coming over but it's bad news." He glances over to Midnighter as he calls in a retrieval team. Probably for the best. If he can get whatever organization he works for on this that can only be good. Because the Overlords will try something more forceful at some point and when they do…

-

"Well, I need to go home and get my stomach pumped and have a shower. Anything else we need to do here?" Johnny asks. He shudders faintly — why did he have the reuben bomb for lunch before whatever this is dragged him out here to the wilds of Nowhere Farms? And how can he be sure never to do it again?

-

Once his rescue isn't on fire any longer, Luke picks himself back up, hauling the soldier along with him until he is eventually standing with the other— man? In a fireman's carry.

"Where're you from, then?" he shoots towards Rowan as his eyes slide curiously towards Midnighter. "You got any idea whether or not they might have more'a these sites scattered around?" He tromps towards a fallen weapon as he talks so that it, too, can be scooped up; Danny might know a guy who can have a look at it.

-

"It's possible. That's not the first one I've seen." Rowan says quietly. "I'm from… well, my people live under the sea, but that's not the question you're really asking. I'm from Earth… but not this Earth. I came here by accident but I'm fairly sure they're coming here on purpose." The Blue shakes his head. "I'm glad you were able to beat them. Hopefully you can learn something from what you've got here."

"Bring a medic too." Midnighter adds as he sees the pilot is still alive. Mostly. Luke asked the twenty four thousand dollar question so he doesn't have to. "So it /is/ an extradimensional scouting mission for a possible invasion." Damn he's good. All the more reason to get Stormwatch involved. That's right up their alley. "I know someone who's going to want to talk to you in depth."

-

"Awesome. I have scans. HERBIE and Reed will figure out anything else," Johnny says, shuddering again. Definitely stomach pump. He's still mostly on fire, so he just turns it up and jets back to New York. Unfortunately someone in Yonkers will be blessed with his lunch. Flaming reuben, in the back of their never-sees-hard-work pickup truck. Oh, the horror.

-

"Who're you with?" Luke wonders of Midnighter when the man in black mentions his curious acquaintance. After a quick glance towards the field of bodies, he quietly crosses the League off of his mental list of possibilities. "Can't go givin' my new friend up t' just anyone, y'know; guy's had a long trip. Gotta make sure he's taken care of."

-

"I'm not hard to find." Rowan sprouts wings. "And I'll answer whatever I can. Probably won't be everything you want to know, but I'll do my best. Just come find me when you're ready." And with that Rowan takes off skyward and heads back toward New York.

-

"The US government." Midnighter answers, watching Rowan fly off. No, that wouldn't be hard to find. "Stormwatch." Though the man in black is obviously not one of the shiny costumed heroes that makes up Prime. "They'll make sure he's taken care of. Hopefully he'll be a valuable source of information."

-

Luke Cage's life hasn't exactly been rife with moments that inspire trust in any authorities, much less state-sponsored ones; Midnighter might or might not notice himself being sized up for a second time today after revealing his affiliation, this time by a physical observer.

"Hope so," he eventually mutters as he bends to set the soldier down. "Might still have Geneva rights on that other Earth; wouldn't wanna give the next wave of invaders somethin' to to cry about."

As soon as that's done, he starts walking away. He can't fly, and he doesn't have a motorcycle; his only shot at making it back in time to avoid marital disaster is finding another friendly motorist. And hoping that this fight didn't take too long. And— finding somewhere safe to stash the psychic weapon, because bringing it home would probably be a non-starter.

Luke Cage is probably going to be sleeping on the couch for a while.


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