Legion Tryouts: Introducing Huntsman
The Legionnaires had broken for lunch, and were just settling in for another round of judging applicants at this third annual Legion tryouts. Jacques, the second man to assume the mantle of ‘Invisible Kid,’ raised a hand for the applicant’s attention as the three other Legionnaires selected to judge todays group of recruits took their seats (or, hovered above their seat, in Quislet’s case). Shadow Lass and Phantom Girl, the two most senior Legionnaires present for today’s tryouts, had already had a hand in dismissing the six previous applicants, offering comments both insightful, and, occasionally, incisive, while Quislet, as was his way, offered only obscure commentary that seemed, on the whole, inane. It was certainly an interesting quartet, Jacques thought. The warrior-woman from Talok VIII seemed most concerned with the tactical or practical usefulness of an applicant’s powers, while her free-spirited Bgtzln friend seemed equally concerned with an applicant’s past, and if they demonstrated an ability to work well with others, or function (or learn to function) as part of a team.
“Maintenant, from Earth, Conn Mak, also known as Huntsman.” Jacques said, as the next applicant stepped forward. He was a slender young man, with dark hair and guarded features, wearing a form fitting bodysuit that showed off his physique. He didn’t walk, so much as swagger, with an exaggerated sense of self-confidence. Jacques couldn’t help but notice that he wasn’t quite as tall as most of the Legion males, and wondered if his cocky attitude wasn’t some sort of overcompensation for the assumptions that others might make about his height.
The applicant assumed a military ‘at rest’ posture and nodded to the Legionnaires, his stoic expression betraying none of the uncertainty or sense of anxiety that had plagued several of the earlier applicants this day. “I discovered at an early age that my nervous system didn’t work like other peoples. I can move and react faster than others, and any sort of physical pursuit, from gymnastics to martial arts, came easily to me, so much so that I was disqualified from athletic competition. Having to find other outlets to challenge myself, I began to take up hunting, on the worlds where big-game hunting is legal. I can use any sort of weapon or firearm, with superhuman proficiency, but to challenge myself, I have taken to hunting without weapons, studying each target, its vulnerabilities, its pressure points and its habits, so as to be able to kill my prey with my bare hands. I’ve run down a Sarlian hunting cat, snatched a Terran hummingbird out of the air, evaded the many venomous heads of a Whirran serpent-hydra and paralyzed a four-ton Myrli bronto-beast with a precise nerve strike.”
He turns to the pair of non-lethal combat droids used to test applicants, he concludes. “But you aren’t here to judge how good I am at talking about fighting. I’m ready to show you.”
Jacques finds this Huntsman’s self-aggrandizing words off-putting, but waves to the reprogrammed security robots to begin the challenge, and even after the brash young man’s claims, is startled with his man’s speed as he flips forward as the robots are still raising their arm-tasers landing on one like a jungle cat, twisting it’s head violently and causing it to fall to the ground in a clatter while twisting in mid-air, using the falling combat-droid as a springboard to fly over the taser-blasts of the second robot. He lands behind it and as he crouches low to absorb the impact, his leg snakes out and pulls the second robot off balance. As it falls backwards, he grabs both of its taser-armatures, and holds them straight up while he stomps down brutally on its face plate, once, and again, until it too lies too damaged to continue, and it’s mechanical arms go limp. Jacques looks down to note that the entire encounter took just under five seconds, and closes his mouth, hoping to conceal his look of surprise before the supremely confident young applicant can turn around...
“It should not need to be pointed out that the remainder of your tryout will involve only nonlethal force.” Shadow Lass says dryly, looking at a nail, as if it is more interesting than the young man who has returned to a more relaxed military stance.
Gim Allon and Gigi Cusimano step forward, combat staves held defensively, as they attempt to prepare for the anticipated lightning display of brutality they had seen unleashed upon the combat-droids, but the applicant stood, waiting for them to move upon him, and even remained poised, hands behind his back, as Gigi circled cautiously around him. Familiar with each other’s tactics from dozens of previous tryouts, Gim and Gigi moved as one, coordinating flawlessly, and found their attacks meeting only air as the Huntsman rolled beneath their attacks and barreled first into Gigi’s legs, causing her to fall to the ground, where he seemed to roll across her and back to his feet before rising to catch Gim’s first combat-baton as it arced over his head, and yanked hard, pulling the Legionnaire off balance, and then kicking his legs out from under him. Gigi still hadn’t risen from the ground, and Jacques could see Shadow Lass turning away to freeze the holo-recording of the encounter and play it back at quarter-speed.
He turned back to see Gim also not rising, and the Huntsman bowing to the four Legionnaires observing his display. He turned to Gigi and rubbed the small of her back, eliciting a small gasp from the fallen SP liaison. “A temporary nerve-block. It won’t cause any lasting harm.” he says, as he turns to Colossal Boy and similarly presses his fist into the back of the Legionnaires neck and twists it back and forth a couple of times. Gim similarly rose, and muttered, “Ow,” while cracking his neck. “Actually, I think that helped…”
Rather than comment, Jacques activates the privacy field, leaving the applicants to stare at a frozen image of the Legionnaires in the same position they had been in when he pushed the button, and making their discussion inaudible to their ears.
“Well, he certainly has fine form,” Jacques begins, already suspecting that the man’s attitude may prove far more of a deciding factor than his ability.
Phantom Girl immediately confirms his suspicion, “Timber Wolf can already do everything he can do, better, *and* he doesn’t brag about being really awesome at *killing stuff…*”
He expects Shadow Lass to counter, but she sides with her friend, “His skills and powers add nothing to the team that we do not already have, as Tinya has said.” She looks disdainfully at the slight man, who can be seen talking to Gim on the other side of the privacy field. “He also seems overly self-absorbed, and I find that selfish men rarely make satisfactory lovers.”
Jacques eyes widen at this oversharing, as Tinya raises a hand for the Talokkian to slap, as they take some amusement at her comment.
A mechanical bleep precedes Quislet’s contrary opinion, “If he’s so clearly going to become a problem, with his selfishness and his fascination with killing, maybe he’s the candidate we should recruit *most,* since those who are more noble by nature would become heroes whether or not we admit them as Legionnaires?”
“Now wait a second…” Shady began, but Tinya seemed to be seriously thinking about the idea, and Jacques could see the logic of Quislet’s surprisingly cogent proposal.
“Before we argue the pros and cons of Quislet’s idea”, Jacques says quickly, cutting off Shady’s protest, “Can we agree that this is not the sort of decision the four of us should be making?” “I move that we adjourn for the day, and allow the rest of the team to debate this and have a vote, rather than possibly change the entire philosophy of recruitment…”
Shadow Lass looks perturbed to have been cut off, but agrees, “Certainly, I would prefer that we consult with others before throwing out years of Legion tradition.”
The four had agreed, and informed Huntsman, and the remaining applicants, that tryouts were done for the day, pending a Legion meeting on ‘other matters,’ asking Huntsman to remain available, as they had not yet finished discussing his candidacy.
Less than a third of the team were physically available, but most of the others were contacted by FTL comm, and Tinya presented Quislet’s argument to them, arguing persuasively that the Legion had a history of dismissing those they felt lacked the calling, and, too often, seen them turn to groups like the Legion of Super-Villains, or the ‘Justice League of Earth,’ using their rejection as an excuse to turn their gifts towards petty or criminal ends.
Quislet himself remains uncharacteristically silent on the matter, although Tinya has clearly been energized by the idea, always willing to see the best in everyone, and even manages to convince her skeptical best friend, Tasmia, to begrudgingly admit that it is a waste of tactical resources to allow a young metahuman ‘on the cusp’ of deciding to use his abilities in service to personal gratification, or a life of service to others, when recruiting him could be the deciding factor in whether or not he becomes an ally in the fight against injustice, or another foe that must be faced on the field of conflict.
Four hours later, the final votes from distant Legionnaires return, and Phantom Girl’s head hangs low as she goes to find Quislet with the news.
“Quislet left after registering his vote.” Shady says, with a hesitant look on her face that Tinya has rarely seen.
“You look like you don’t want to say something, and that’s *totally* not like you…” Tinya says to her normally brutally forthright friend.
“The vote was 13 against, 12 for the proposal, correct?” Shady says, clearly stalling for time.
“Quislet voted against the proposal. He said he changed his mind about recruiting people in need of moral guidance, and that ‘it sounds boring.’“
“That little creep! I’ll kill him myself!”
Hours later, Shady has called Chameleon Boy to join herself and Tinya at dinner, informing him that she wishes to discuss Espionage Squad business. The shapeshifter is intrigued, as Shady has previously shown no interest in the subtler aspects of intelligence and counter-intelligence work.
“The recent discussion about rejected Legion applicants turning to crime led me to wonder if we couldn’t do more to keep tabs on them than merely provide them with a tracker-equipped Flight Belt, to trace their movements.” the Talokkian warrior begins, while Tinya pushes her food around and glowers, still peeved about the day’s debacle.
“What do you have in mind?” Cham asks, “Bear in mind that we are stretched too thin to attempt to more personally monitor the large number of applicants that come through our doors, and the ones that we should probably be most concerned about are the ones that *don’t* make things easy for us by signing up for the Legion Academy.”
Shady nods, having noticed that herself, “My idea is that, for those that seem, like this Huntsman, to be at greater risk to use their abilities for anti-social acts, to allow them to form their own rogue team, but one under our covert direction. They can perform actions that ultimately serve our ends, channeling their competitive or disruptive tendencies towards acts that we, for whatever reason, couldn’t overtly do, serving as a sort of shadow Legion...”
Tinya finally stirs from her own mood at this, and she shakes her head, muttering, “Oh Shady, that sounds like a terrible idea…”
Before she can go further, Cham raises his hand, “I have a lot of experience at using deceptive practices towards good ends, and I assure you that deceptions, particularly large deceptions of this sort, never last in the long-term, and that the deceived always end up becoming worse foes than they were before, as the act of fooling them in this manner is seen as a personal betrayal.”
Shady nods acceptance of Cham’s words, “And this is why I wished to broach the subject with you. Subterfuge is not something that comes naturally to me, and I did not feel that I was best suited to weigh the pros and cons of this without consulting someone who is more practiced at what the tacticians call ‘asymmetrical warfare.’” She nods again, “I need but think of how *I* would react to such a deception, to be used to fight another’s battles, while thinking myself their foe, and I agree, that such a thing would incite great anger in me, and make me wish to avenge myself upon those who had so betrayed me.”
Tinya places her hand on her friends, “I’m glad you see that, too, and I fear that some of those we have rejected would be far more likely to strike against what they see as our interests when they figure out they’ve been played for fools. Giving them access to covert operations training and intelligence, while we don’t have any *real* ability to trust them or control them, really does sound like a disaster in the making, even if I do kind of regret that we’ve got to just cut them loose, and let whatever potential they have to do good go to waste.”
Chameleon Boy seems assured that this idea has been discussed and put aside, for the time being. “Thank you for consulting me on this, and I appreciate your attempt to make gators from gatorade.”
Shady frowns, uncertain as to the idiom, “I think you mean lemons from lemonade…”
Tinya laughs and shakes her head, “It’s lemonade from lemons, and can we please not use Earth idioms that none of us really understand?”