[A cut-scene that could occur anytime really.]
Legion Try-outs; Introducing UItra-Girl!
"Jo." In his mind, Ayla was saying his name softly, while her hand raked through his hair. "Jo!"
"What? I'm awake!" Jo protested to an annoyed Ayla, blinking owlishly at his fellow Legionnaires, rudely roused from his daydream. A dejected looking recruit, soaking wet, was being led out of the room by an equally soaked Gim and Gigi, and he wondered what sort of traditional Tryout Day embarrassing mishap he'd missed out on during his senior moment.
"This next recruit is from Rimbor, I thought you might at least pretend to stay awake this time, champ…" Ayla said with just enough of a mischievous smile to get away with the rebuke. Besides, he wasn't really asleep, asleep, he was just, uh, thinking. Yeah.
He looked absently at the pad, wondering what the big deal was. Rimbor was a big planet, it's not like they all knew each other or…
"No. Sprocking. Way." Jo muttered, tossing the pad down in disbelief. He failed to notice that a new figure had entered, gingerly stepping around the puddles left behind by her predecessor.
"Is it someone you know?" Imra asked with her always pitch-perfect cool-yet-inquiring tone.
Jo snorted bitterly, "Yeah, you could say that." He pointed to his pad before crossing his arms, "Jaq Li. Daughter of my dear, dear friend, Qu Lin, who became leader of the Green Dragon gang after leaving me holding the bag for his crimes. Instigator of the brilliant scheme to have a young and gullible kid pilot a hot-wired sight-seeing skiff along the length of the Space Dragon orbiting Rimbor's sun, hoping it's ambient radiation would spoof the sensors of the UP scout craft, so that the gang could rake in a cool profit smuggling goods past the blockade. When that kid got eaten by said Space Dragon, he gave him up for dead, and when the kid miraculously survived, busted himself out of detention and returned to his friends, promptly turned him right back over to the authorities…"
"THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED AT ALL! Shut your lying mouth, Ultra-Jerk!" shouted an outraged voice from the floor, startling him from his tale of betrayal. Jo looked down at the shouting figure and then stopped, as his eyes fell upon a scaly reptilian humanoid, with outlines suggestive of a slender female form, but adorned with thick scales, a twitching tail as long as her torso, and a reptilian head crested with horns and spines.
"Uh. And that's not her." Jo finished lamely.
"Dad was wrong! You're not a hero at all! I hate you!" the serpentine girl said, before suddenly accelerating in a greenish flash of energy and zooming out of the room fast enough to cause the air to crack like thunder as it filled the space left behind.
"Awesome work, 'Ultra-Jerk,'" Ayla commented wryly. "I hear the Legion Diplomacy Corps has an opening…"
"I can go after her…" Imra said with a tone that left no doubt whatsoever that she intended no such thing.
Shooting the telepath a look, Jo rose to the bait, "No. My mess. I'll go clean it up." He was already lifting out of his seat, ironically realizing that he had managed to get out of sitting through the rest of the tryouts. Maybe he should pick a fight with a recruit every year.
Soaring out through the doors, he took a second, as always, to revel in the sensation of flight, the wind ruffling through his hair and pushing against him as he accelerated. Trusting to his flight ring to keep him in the air, he looked around for some sign of the lizard-girls passage, but she hadn't left any sort of visible trail. A good sign, he'd hate for a trail of destruction to lead him to her… Reaching deep within himself to the seething ultra-energy that he'd always pictured as some sort of serpent writhing in his belly, he let it uncoil and shine it's light through his eyes, which quickly adjusted to allow him to see across great distances, and even through solid objects. He had planned on methodically sweeping the area, as his search and rescue training had prepared him to do, but was surprised to see a greenish trail, leading to a distant spark of green, like some emerald fire burning in the distance. He accelerated in that direction to find the mystery girl huddled against the side of the Metropolitan Arts Complex, at least thirty stories up the side of the structure, and sitting dejectedly on a ledge, staring at the setting sun. Her posture made it seem as if she could be crying, but it was hard to tell, as her reptilian eyes were dry and her posture was as still as a stone carving.
At a loss for what to say, Jo drifted closer as the girl looked up at him, somehow sensing his presence. "Well? Are you just gonna float there, 'Uncle Jo'?" She spat the last two words at him venomously, and he remembered the little girl who used to come to the hangout with Qu Lin, and play in the corner while the gang planned their latest heists. As the youngest full member of the gang, and the least experienced, Jo had gotten roped into 'keeping an eye on the kid' more than once, and bristled at the memory of his older peers joking, 'maybe the kids can keep each other out of trouble.' But little Jaqi had been of earth-human descent, like Jo. She had darker hair, sure, but neither her nor dear old dad had been covered in scales. He's sure he would have noticed...
"Jaqi? Is that really you?" he said, floating a little closer, until his feet touched down on the ledge next to her. "You've, uh, changed your look?"
She rose smoothly to her feet, and the crest of her horned head rose above his own, "You don't get to call me Jaqi, anymore. I'm not a little kid anymore. And you're not nice anymore." she added petulantly. Even though her voice was a raspy hiss, he could still here the tone of her voice, just as outraged as when he would snatch her toy blaster away and hold it out of her reach.
"It *is* you!" he exclaimed, at a loss for how she could have changed so much in the five years since he'd last seen her.
"I'm still me. What happened to *you?* You and dad were best friends, and now you're saying all sorts of mean stuff about him that isn't even true, and you were the one who ran away and left *us* holding the bag, so where do you get off…" her tirade was cut short as Jo raised his hand and squeezed her snout-like mouth shut with two fingers.
"Take a breath, Jaqi, and let's start at the beginning." He said, releasing her as quickly as he'd interrupted her, and sitting down where she had been sitting, hoping to look less threatening, as she had puffed up slightly at his sudden movement, and actually looked a little larger, if that was possible…
She loomed over him for a moment and then crouched down again on her backwards-bending reptilian legs, so that her face leaned forward into his. Her needle-like teeth suddenly seemed a lot more intimidating. "It begins with you calling me Jaq. My grown-up name." she said, her slitted yellow eyes narrowing.
"Jaq, it is then. It's been a long time, Jaq, I'd like to hear what's happened since I've been gone. How's your dad doing?"
"Dead." Jaq answered flatly, although the quaver in her tone betrayed her feelings, "Radiation poisoning, from ultra-energy."
Before he was consciously aware of it, his hand had reached out to the side of her face to comfort her, "I'm sorry, I didn't know. What happened?"
"He was stupid. He sent you on that dumb run, and you got swallowed up and dosed with all of that ultra-energy. The gang was falling apart, 'cause they'd risked too much capital on those goods that got destroyed on your ship. It would have been a big payoff, and really established our cred if we'd gotten the goods to the off-world market, but it didn't happen, and we ended up owing a lot of powerful people. Then we heard that a science vessel had discovered the remains of your ship, where the dragon had spit you out, and that they'd rescued a survivor who was in some sort of medical quarantine. Dad argued that we should try to find a way to get you out, but the rest of the gang was falling apart. We had a lot of angry people threatening us, and most everybody just wanted to vanish into the backstreets, change their names and sign up with new operations, just pretend the Green Dragons had never existed. We were still arguing about it when you came in, busting down the doors, with that green fire flying out of you."
Jo remembered the day, vaguely. He'd woken up being tested and prodded by suited figures in some sort of medical facility, strapped down and prisoner. Something had flared up within him, and with strength like a mass-driver, he'd torn free and smashed his way out of the hospital, running off so fast that the world was a blur around him, his legs pumping like pistons. When he got back to the hangout, the gang didn't seem happy to see him, and he was out of control, tearing the door off the hinges to get in. The authorities had shown up only minutes later, and he'd been sure that someone must have called them. Stun-shockers and Chem-darts had bounced off of him with no effect, and he felt the green fire protecting him somehow, but then they disoriented him with flash-bangs, and when he tried to run fast again to get away, he was hit by stunners and the electrical currents locked him up just like he was normal again.
"The rats showed up, 'cause you were leaving this trail of destruction and broken things all the way from the hospital, leaking all sorts of radiation, and everyone just scattered. My dad tried to get them to stay, but they didn't listen, so he grabbed me and ran with the others."
Jo remembered the one thing that would always make Qu back out on a plan, if it meant jeopardizing his little girl. Somehow, he wanted to believe this story.
"We heard that you were shipped off-world to be 'studied' or something, because the radiation was dangerous, but that was all, until we heard that you'd joined the Legion. After that, dad was convinced that you were the best thing to ever come off of Rimbor, and that the ultra-energy was the key to that. He managed to forge credentials and get a job working as a lab assistant for off-worlders studying the space dragon's radiation, and finally saved up enough to rig up a skiff for the two of us. He didn't really explain it to me, or I wouldn't have let him do it. He said we were going on a space-tour, for my birthday, and get to see Rimbor from way up high. Instead he rigged the transponder to make it look like we were still on course, and then changed course and took us right to the space dragon, and flew us right down it's throat!"
Jo was shocked, "It was a one in a million chance that I wasn't killed Jaq! That's crazy!"
"Don't you think I know that? But he was convinced that I'd never have a real life on Rimbor, just end up a crook with no future, like him and all of his friends. He wanted me to have a chance to be like you, to escape Rimbor." Jaq flexed her taloned hand in front of her face, "And it didn't work anyway. The ultra energy was just killing us both, and after the dragon spat us out, we spent months in isolation, being tested and prodded. They couldn't siphon the ultra-energy out of us, and it was eating us away. My dad managed to break free, I don't even know how, and he was dead before I saw him again. The doctors said he'd gone back to the space dragon, and taken a gene sample from it, and that it had breathed on his ship and he'd died instantly from the ultra-energy radiation. They found the sample, still intact, and since I was dying anyway, they decided to take a chance at what he had planned, injecting me with the space dragons DNA." She flexed her scaled hand again and looked down at him with her lidless eyes. "It worked. The ultra-energy isn't killing me anymore, but I'll never be the same."
"I'm sorry, Jaq, I didn't know. I thought everybody had just left me, and then when I busted out, it seemed like my friends just ran out and left me for the cops…" he put his arm around her, surprised to note that she seemed slimmer again, and not as covered in spines, as if her form kept changing.
"I didn't know where else to go. They were gonna study me forever, so when I got powers, I escaped and snuck off-world on the first transport I could sneak onto. Dad always said that he wished I could be like you, 'the best thing that ever came from Rimbor.' I thought maybe I could be a Legionnaire, but I'm not so sure…"
Jo gently pulled her head up so that she could see his face, "Well, I'm sure." Thinking back to the name on the datapad that she'd planned to audition under, "Although, I'm not so sure about the name 'Ultra Girl.' Maybe you can find someone a little nicer to be your role-model…"
Jaq hugged him back, "I like Ultra Girl." She said quietly, and Jo knew that he was forgiven. This time anyway.
"Well then, there's gonna have to be some sort of tryout, don't you think?" Jo said, rising up to float in front of her. "Show me what the latest sensation from Rimbor can do, Ultra Girl!"
Jaq stood up and Jo could see greenish ultra-energy flaring around her as her body doubled in size and bulk, covered with a massive scaled carapace covered with thick spikes. Her voice was a low growl as she said challengly, "Ultra-Strength, and Ultra-Toughness, at the same time."
"Nice!" Jo admitted. "And you've got Ultra-Speed as well?"
Her head bobbed as she reduced in size to become a slender form, all sharp angles, with flaps under her arms and long spines on her back. She quickly took off down the building, an emerald blur until she leapt horizontally into space, her arm-flaps spread like wings and gliding down the remaining 30 meters at incredible speed, before flaring out and landing gently as a feather. Jo accelerated down to meet her, clapping as he landed in front of the crouching figure. "And you can practically fly! Awesome!"
She bobbed her head, and Jo suddenly looked towards Legion Headquarters, before looking back to Jaq. "HQ is that way. ReadySetGo!" he shouted as he vanished in a blur of Ultra-Speed, only to hear her only moments behind hissing, "Cheater!"
"Can you explain that in words that I can understand, Brainy?" Jo asked resignedly, hating having to admit defeat.
"I doubt it," Brainiac Five said curtly, but at a raised eyebrow from Imra sighed dramatically and continued, "Jaq's body has internalized the ultra-energy through the physiological assimilation of the space dragon DNA. She can shift the energy into a 'Fight' form, which is thickly scaled and quite durable, as well as possessed of Ultra-Strength, or into a 'Flight' form, which is also tough and strong, although not extraordinarily so, and capable of Ultra-Speed. Combined with her patagia, the folds of skin under her arms, she can also glide with extraordinary maneuverability, although she would have to use her Ultra-Speed to generate thrust, making her incapable of flight."
"We knew all of this, Brainy." Jo said.
"But did you know that she is still developing?" Brainiac said. "She has the same levels of Ultra-Energy permeating her form as you do, and she should be able to harness it through her senses, and offensively, as you have with your Flash Vision. This being the case, I recommend that she spend a few months, perhaps longer, at the Academy, learning to control and refine her abilities, before I would vote for her to admitted to the team."
Imra looked pensive for a moment before speaking up, "I'm not sure we need a second Ultra Boy on the team. If all she can do is replicate what Jo already does, don't the guidelines discourage recruiting members who bring nothing new to the team?"
Brainiac Five's face fluttered for a moment, and Jo thought that there was
a chance in a billion that he had considered smiling, "That would be
the case if the capabilities I mentioned where precisely analogous to Jo's
exhibited talents. Jaq's physiology, for example, does not lend itself to
the expression of 'Flash Vision,' and I don't believe that the Legion has
any members who are capable of breathing radioactive fire…"