Tuesday, January 29, 2019

MI-13: Part III

Days and weeks pass after the Dark Elf invasion, and the Arcanist, Purple Shadow, Sandman and Psylocke are introduced to their new HQ in the sub-basement levels of the MI-5 building in London. Pete Wisdom tours the team around their new home (excepting the Arcanist who will continue to live at the Sanctum and Sandman who wants to maintain his pub), showing them the CQMS, barracks, canteen and other staff that make up the ministry. Although trades are still working on the finer details and fittings, the HQ is shaping up to be a major instillation. 

Wisdom takes the team, as well as Union Jack, into a meeting with the National Security Council and Joint Intelligence committee, headed by MP James Jaspers, via telepresence. The team are expected to smile and wave and not say much. Most of the meeting is dull until Wisdom is asked to justify MI-13’s existence. Thankfully, he has a speech prepared:

“We’re fitting out MI-13 as a modern superhero intelligence strike force. That’s a very specific mission. The public wants to see Union Jack, charging into battle; Psylocke and Sandman and other costumed heroes alongside… But they don’t necessarily need or want to know what their heroes will be fighting. That’s why we keep secret. That’s why we’re working within the intelligence community. We’re targeting the aliens that were set loose, and any others that see Britain as an easy mark. Monsters. Not ‘suspected terrorists’, not decadent ‘super villains’ or other heroes. Monsters, right out of myth. Our identities will be kept secret by ‘D’ Notice, technology and magic, we won’t have to bother with masks. Running the team, like this, this very British mix of professional and amateur might be the best, most secure way to run a superhero team. Amateur adventurers, professional resources, intelligence community culture. But, with great freedom within that responsibility, so nobody gets compromised. It’s about time someone tried this. Thank you.” 

The meeting wraps up shortly after that. It seems that things aren't going to wait for MI-13 to be complete, as an alert sets off an alarm and Wisdom has to run off to coordinate a mission, sending Union Jack to Birmingham. The team get some time to adjust to their new surroundings, with Sandman sneaking off to do his own tour. Having been a superhero in the late 1980s, Sandman is shocked and confused to find that the government agency he's working for is not at all shadowy and sinister, but rather is a typically polite and straightforward British Ministry. Before long, another alert comes in, and the team are called into the briefing room. 

There has been a sighting of some kind of alien creature at Gravesend and the team are being sent to investigate. Hopping into a Seahawk, the heroes are quickly whisked down the Thames and soon see a commotion in a small park by the river. Stomping through the trees is a hulking brute with blue skin and an icy demeanor, it can be nothing other than a Frost Giant! It must have come here through the portals during the Dark Elf attack and is looking for food, unfortunately that means any poor soul unlucky enough to get close. 

The Arcanist calls out to the giant, "Is there any way we can resolve this peacefully?" and gets a grunt by way of reply as the giant rips a light pole from the ground, hefting it like a club. Taking that as a indication of future events, the team leap into action; Sandman and Purple Shadow advance into cover and Psylocke lifts a litter basket with her mind at flings it at the giant, it bounces right off. The Arcanist attacks the mind of the Giant, whilst placing a protective dome of mystic energy over Sandman and telling him to move up to cover Purple Shadow. The giant hurls the light pole at his only legitimate target, Psylocke, the mass of metal connects, hurling the young woman backwards and breaking several bones. Using the shield as cover, Sandman and Purple Shadow close with the Giant, but can't seem to hurt its tough hide. 

As the Arcanist weaves a healing spell over Psylocke, the Giant pounds the earth with its mighty fists, bowling over Purple Shadow, but Sandman remains unaffected in his sand-like form. As the pair of heroes dodge blows, Psylocke uses her telekinesis to maneuver the same light pole she was injured with closer to the giant. After repeated battering, the giant breaks through the mystic shield, injuring Purple Shadow, but allowing Sandman to hit back with a spear of solidified sand. Seeing an opening, Psylocke flings the light pole straight at the giant, but the metal shreds against its armour. Wanting to protect his teammates, The Arcanist recasts the 'Stance of Defiant Agamotto', weaving another shield around Purple Shadow once again. 

This new shield lasts only moments however, as the massive strength of the giant batters through once again. Sensing that she's in danger more so than she is helping, Purple Shadow withdraws, allowing Psylocke to charge in with her psychic knife. Sadly, the young hero cannot connect, but thanks to the Arcanist, she is lifted away from the return blow, his own spell staggering the monster. Sandman dodges in, using his solidified sand weapon to batter the giant down and keep it pinned whilst the Arcanist wraps it in nearby chains and bollards until a recovery crew can arrive. As it is not their responsibly, the team is returned to MI-13 to be patched up and debriefed. 

A couple of hours later, the alarm sounds once more; this time Wisdom brings the team into the situation room, as they're the only ones around to deal with the crisis. A fuzzy picture of Union Jack is on the main screen, with audio coming in and out, "I've got proof... the supernatural things you told us to be on the lookout for... They're right here! ...right AH!" his voice is cut out by a scream of pain. Without hesitation, the team is a go, back on the Seahawk and heading to Birmingham. 

Cloverdale Housing Estate, Hodge Hill, Birmingham is on fire. Scarlet flames envelop the building, though nothing and no one seems to be burning. A crowd of civilians are around the building, within the flames, not burning, but stopping emergency service from coming close and shouting that they'll kill anyone who comes near. Not wanting to injure any innocents, Arcanist and Psylocke levitate the team up to a fifth-floor window, entering a corridor inside the tower block. The inside of the building is eerily quiet, suffused with a ruby glow unlike anything even The Arcanist has seen before. Wanting to scout around, Sandman turns into living sand and slips under a nearby door. 

Sandman finds himself in Wembley stadium, on the pitch as England win both the penalty shootout, and World Cup, against Germany, thanks to the efforts of an emaciated, elderly man. Confused, Sandman withdraws and tests out more doors. He is greeted with scenes of fantasy and debauchery, as normal people are treated to lavish and outlandish dreams made reality. A quick conference with the rest of the team has them reach the conclusion that the residents of the tower block are living out their fantasies in their flats somehow. Just how this is happening becomes a question for later, however, when several hulking monstrosities burst from nearby doors, their faces nothing but smoking, glowing pits. 

The first of these brutes smashes into The Arcanist, gravely wounding the frail old man, but the rest are slow and Psylocke manages to get a blow in before they move too far; her psychic blade slides in easily, but hits nothing, as if these hulking brutes are totally mindless. Purple Shadow and Sandman find their attacks similarly brushed aside by indifferent stone. Unable to reach the, now fleeing, heroes, one of the monsters turns its face-hole towards Sandman and a blast of flame erupts, fortunately missing the man of sand. Needing to cover their retreat, the Arcanist rips out a section of floor and pushes it into a makeshift barricade, which the monsters attempt to batter through, but it provides ample time for the team to run to a nearby stairwell and get away.

What strange portents weigh on our heroes? Who will survive and what will remain of them? Find out next ish, True Believers!

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