June 25th, 2010
The Watchtower - Geostationary Orbit
"Ezekiel Patrick Armstrong," Batman's gruff voice rang out throughout the chamber, his words carrying just fine without any need of a microphone as he spoke on the matter at hand, "is the name of our current topic of discussion."
An image from the holographic projector embedded between the gap in League's meeting table appeared between the seated Leaguers, the same image appearing on the holographic screens in front of each of them, all displaying the face of a young African-American teenager. Overall, he seemed like any other young person one would see on a daily basis, the teen bearing a slightly bored expression on his face.
"He was discovered eight days ago in Lexington, Kentucky chasing down a purse snatcher and attacking him in the middle of a busy intersection. After incapacitating the thief, Armstrong lost consciousness on the spot. He was then taken to Lexington County hospital for treatment." Another image appeared, this one of the boy sitting up in the hospital bed, eyes open.
"I hate to be this guy," Green Arrow cut in, spreading his hands out in front of him "but why is this kid a topic of discussion again? I thought these meetings were for important business. You know, debriefing and stuff."
Captain Atom glanced over Green Arrow's shoulder, sharing a look with Batman. The dark hero nodded back, aware of what the chrome-plated hero was insinuating.
"I'll get to the point." Batman paused for a moment as another holographic image of the young man rose up from the center of the table. It displayed his appearance as of last week, the teenager standing up but clothed in little more than a hospital gown. "While he has not officially been out in the field as of yet, Captain Atom has chosen to take the boy on as a protégé."
Several members of the league turned toward Captain Atom. Black Canary simply raised an eyebrow while Aquaman's strict countenance rose into a slight smile, the expression almost invisible behind his beard. Captain Marvel's grin seemed to widen somewhat, if that was possible, and Wonder Woman gave an approving nod.
"Finally got yourself a sidekick, Cap?" Flash chimed in, shooting the chrome hero a grin. "Nice." It had seemed highly unlikely to anybody in the League who cared about such things that the taciturn soldier would ever do so.
"Thank you, Flash," Captain Atom responded tersely, nodding in acknowledgement. "However, there are still things that need to be brought up. Batman, you were saying?"
Batman's expression tightened slightly, his lips pursing. "Several hours after the incident mentioned, I met Captain Atom at the hospital where Armstrong was taken to for treatment. As he happened to be flying overhead as the confrontation occurred, he was first on the scene."
Batman tapped the desk, displaying a series of still shots that obviously originated from a phone camera, with image quality that could be given the generous descriptor of sub-par.
Regardless of the quality or lack thereof, it was quite obvious that the boy in the previous image was the same one here despite the different clothing, his hands aglow with bright yellow light. "As can be seen in these images, his power allows him to augment his physical abilities, the effect creating a visible glow around certain portions of his body. Onlookers also described his lower body as emitting a similar glow moments before these images were captured, allowing him to move at enhanced speeds."
"So," Flash cut in, his fingers tapping out a drum-beat on the table, "he's a kind of speedster?"
"No." Batman's gaze turned to the man in red, shaking his head slightly. "Not in the same sense that you or Kid Flash are. His enhancement as reported seems to be closer to a professional athlete, as opposed to blatantly superhuman."
Centering his gaze on the League as a whole, Batman continued on. "While speaking with Captain Atom, Armstrong mentioned that he was an amnesiac with a lack of concrete memories prior to the 20th of May. He followed the prior statement by saying that contacting his parents would be impossible because his family 'doesn't exist.'"
"I'm sorry," Superman made a face, his brows furrowing as he spoke, "'Doesn't exist'? Why would he use that term? Does he mean that they died?"
"No," Batman replied, hand touching the table again, "he meant what he said. Immediately after asking a few more questions, I left Captain Atom to continue speaking with the boy and began to do my own research."
"And?" The Flash asked impatiently.
"No records, no data trail, not a single trace that he exists anywhere that I can find," Batman rumbled, his tone carrying just the slightest hint of annoyance. "Not even a facial recognition search turned up any concrete results."
"Someone wiped the kid's data then?" Green Arrow spoke up again, eyebrow raised. "Is that what you're trying to get at?"
John Stewart shook his head, his mouth turning down into a frown almost as severe as the one on Batman's face. "That doesn't seem likely. A wipe for some kid not even old enough for high school? Why go to that effort? Who would even do something like that?"
"No one," Batman said with a growl, obviously frustrated. "No one -and I mean, no one - could perform a data wipe this clean. Not across so many databases and not without drawing some attention. There'd be traces of something."
"Yet there are none and you can not track this boy's origins," said Wonder Woman as she gestured at the large holograph, the image of the boy still there. "So, what do you know with a certainty? As Green Arrow said, you would not have called this meeting if it was not a matter of some importance."
For a moment, the Bat was silent, simply staring at his teammates. "What I do know is unsubstantiated, and it may simply be a misunderstanding but…"
"But?" Black Canary cut in, obviously interested by the proceedings.
Letting out a sigh, Batman tapped the screen in front of him before glancing back at the League. "My only lead to the boy's origins is what he told Captain Atom and I. According to him, what few memories he does have has led him to believe that this is not his Earth."
Martian Manhunter, Superman, and the two Lanterns perked up at this, gazes locking onto Batman.
"An alien?" Stewart barked, gesturing towards the image himself. "Why weren't we informed earlier? Alien incursions across this sector are our jurisdiction."
"Because, John," Batman replied calmly, "he's not an alien. At least, not technically."
"Wait-wait-wait-wait," Hal Jordan spoke up, waving his hand in the air. "You just said that he's not from Earth. So, what are you talking about?"
"I think I know what he's getting at." Superman said with a slight nod of his head. "Not from this Earth. Implying that he is from some type of Earth." The Man of Steel shared a look with Batman, one eyebrow raised. "Am I right?"
"Yes, you are," Batman continued. "Armstrong believes himself to be from a different universe. Primarily, because his memories recall the League and the world being vastly different. What those differences are exactly, I haven't fully learned." Pausing to take a breath, Batman continued. "Still, I plan to catalog every single difference that he notes as soon as the boy has come to terms with his situation."
Superman turned to the Captain, eyebrows raised. "No offence, Atom, but are you sure that he's the best choice for you as a protégé? It doesn't seem like his abilities really complement yours."
"I admit, Superman," Captain Atom nodded at the Man of Steel, acquiescing to his point. "You raise a good point but there is more to him than what he's explicitly shown." The captain paused, frowning slightly as he glanced down at the tabletop in front of him. "Or at least, I suspect there is."
"Well, don't leave us hanging, Cap," Flash cut in again.
"All right." Captain Atom nodded, lifting his head. "At the time, I happened to be leaving an altercation involving Plastique in Virginia, stopping her from attacking Mount Vernon. I was flying relatively low over Kentucky and happened to detect a rather strong surge of energy, energy of a type that I'd never felt before, so I headed towards it."
"Unlike anything you've felt before?" Zatara spoke up, a gloved hand on his chin. "Likely magical in nature, then."
"Definitely not," Captain Atom shook his head, barely glancing at the magician. "I've felt magical energies before. This felt… different. Much denser, almost. I can't really describe it but I can say that much. Judging by the amount and again, the density of the energy I felt from Ezekiel at that first moment, I believe that he simply needs training to access this well inside him."
Zatara seemed to accept the answer with some slight trepidation. Superman and Wonder Woman just nodded along as Captain Atom spoke while Captain Marvel looked almost confused, seemingly unsure about the other captain's words for some reason.
"Hm." Batman drew back attention to himself with a single sound. "Speaking of abilities, Armstrong seems to believe that he has additional capabilities in addition to the physical enhancement, but we have yet to verify his claims." Another image appeared on the screen, this one of the teen in a blue-and-white sleeveless jumpsuit, sneakers and matching fingerless gloves. "Over the last few days, Armstrong has been residing at the S.T.A.R. Labs in San Francisco, allowing the metahuman specialist team to decipher how his powers function as well as collecting valuable data for us as well."
"That's gotta suck," Flash replied with a snort, shaking his head. "Stuck in a lab with a bunch of scientists all day and night. Kid must be bored out of his mind."
"Come on!" Zeke spat the words from his lips as he continued pumping his arms and legs like a machine, eyes locked onto the track in front of him. Sweat trickled down his brow, even despite the temperature-controlled environment he found himself in, the effort he was pushing into every single movement strenuous enough to keep his sweat glands on overdrive. "Come on!"
He spoke the words to no one but himself, trying to motivate himself to run even faster. For a second his gaze trailed off to the side, just enough to catch something in his peripheral. He frowned at the sight, gritting his teeth as he refocused on the path in front of him. "Come on!"
About two meters to his left, a slightly blurry figure ran alongside him, the image a perfect mirror of Ezekiel, sloppy running figure and all. Part of S.T.A.R. Labs' status as a renowned series of scientific laboratories dedicated to creating some of the most advanced technology for civilian, commercial and military use meant that they had plenty of crazy tech in their labs for literally the most mundane reasons. Case in point, the holographic running partner that Ezekiel was currently struggling to make sure he didn't lose to.
Instead of leaving the Olympic standard track as it was, S.T.A.R. Labs had decided to outfit it with a real-time 3-D camera, high-tech sensor suite, and a holographic projector to create his clone of a running partner. If that wasn't enough, S.T.A.R. Labs seemed to have tech all over the place, including hologram projectors around every corner for some reason. I didn't even think holograms were possible and all of a sudden, they're all over the place.
Gritting his teeth again, Zeke refocused his wandering mind on the path in front of him, the line at the end drawing ever a surge of speed, he found himself pulling forward, passing over the finish marker scant seconds before the hologram could.
"Yes!" The teen thrust his hands in the air, pumping his fist up and down excitedly even as his breath came in quick, short pants. "Yes! Suck it, hologram! Who won? I won!"
"Yes," replied a voice, warm and soft in it's tones, yet still possessing a strict edge to it. The person it belonged to walked over from the middle of the track with her face in a tablet, a series of holographic screens still being operated by her squad of interns and assistants. "Yes, you did. As you have every single time we've tested your endurance and speed around this track."
Zeke allowed himself a moment to stare at the scientist as she walked toward him, wondering not for the first time if most of the women he met in this universe were going to be this pretty. A black woman in her very early twenties, Sara Charles looked like she belonged on a movie screen or a magazine more than she did a laboratory, even with her lab coat and glasses. On top of her looks, she was undoubtedly a genius. Although, she would have to be, considering she worked at S.T.A.R.
When you look like that, brains like hers are just unfair, though. Shaking his head, the teen drew himself away from those… distracting thoughts and decided to focus on something more important.
Namely, his progress.
"Dr Charles ... time, please." His voice was curt, not out of disrespect or a desire to be rude. In his short time here, he had quickly learned that the scientists, at least the ones he interacted with, often didn't respond to worded questions while they were reviewing data or research. No, the shorter the request, the quicker they responded to it.
"Sixty-one point six-two seconds," was the just as curt reply, the female scientist not even lifting her head from her tablet. "A reduction of one point eight-five seconds from this morning."
"Okaaay," he frowned slightly, pausing to wipe sweat from his forehead using the back of his bare arm. "And what's that average out to in… like, actual speed?"
"Roughly 21 kilometers per hour." Sara cocked her hip, placing one hand at her waist as she glanced down at the tablet in her hands again. "A slight improvement from this morning but an improvement nonetheless."
"Not good enough, though," Zeke cut in, already gazing back at the track with a slightly annoyed expression, his eyes locking on to the form of his hologram,, the image remaining motionless at the finish line. Definitely not good enough. "That's like thirteen miles an hour, at best."
The scientist shot him a look from underneath her glasses. "You're joking, right?"
Not for the first time since he had met her, Zeke wished he had his own glasses to send her back one of her own looks just to see how she liked being looked at like a five-year-old. Bet that wouldn't be fun, huh?
"No, I'm not joking," Zeke replied as he turned his head to avoid eye contact with the doctor for no reason at all. "This place studies metahumans, right? What's the point of studying someone whose power wouldn't even have him place in a middle school track meet?"
"In reference to your body, you would be correct." Dr Charles replied bluntly, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Still, It seems to me that in addition to your 'Inventory,' you seem to be ignoring the fact that you have an enhancement ability as well."
Zeke rolled his eyes, shrugging his shoulders to free himself from the doctor's hands. Like I could forget about the only two "skills" I have. "I'm not forgetting about it. I just don't really see the use in something that wouldn't even let me win a high school track meet, either." Training Power Sprint was a bit annoying, really. With his [Malnutrition] trait still refusing to disappear, he couldn't even train the skill without risk of falling to the floor in exhaustion half a minute into a run.
It was beginning to grate on his nerves, really.
His slow growth, that is.
He had been a resident of S.T.A.R. Labs San Francisco for nearly seven days now and his biggest achievement was the fact he could run a little bit faster. Although, Zeke fumed to himself, I could probably have done a lot more than that if these guys hadn't wasted my time.
The various other scientists at S.T.A.R. had been far more interested with his Inventory, it's capacity, his ability to preserve organic items inside it and anything else they could think of to test for hours on end. In fact, they had been so interested that they had used up his first four days testing just that.
If he hadn't known they were actually curious, he would have thought the scientists were trying to torture him the way they were doing things. Just having him test out the myriad ways he could put something into his inventory and out of it again. Over and over and over and over again. It had almost been worth it when he had accidentally displayed his ability to equip clothes in his inventory with nothing but a thought, just seeing the expressions on their faces.
Still, it had gotten to the point that he almost had to resort to begging to get at least one of them to even consider testing his strength and speed. Even then, the majority of them had raised complaints, apparently because "the manifestation of a personal dimension with near-infinite storage capacity is more important than minor physical enhancements."
"Seriously, kid," the doctor responded dully, one hand raising her glasses so she could rub the bridge of her nose. "I don't get you or why you're complaining so much. This time last week, you could barely keep up a pace of five kilometers per hour. Even then, your stamina was impressive enough for you to last almost thirty minutes of nonstop running till you collapsed on us. Be happy with what you have. Not everyone can be Superman."
"Uh-huh, thank you," Zeke said, barely listening to the scientist on his case. After taking a moment to wipe down his face with a towel sitting on a rack, the kid gave the doctor his full attention. "So, did my stamina improve at all since then cause it doesn't feel li..." He found himself trailing off as Sara's eyes narrowed at him. What did I do now?
"You have all this… not right now. Go away." The scientist's face turned down into a slight scowl as she shooed away a set of interns, both female, approaching her with tablets in hand. Still scowling, she turned back to Zeke. "All of this information is sent to your S.T.A.R. Tab and updated in real-time. I don't know why you insist on asking myself or the interns to give you a readout every time you get the slightest bit curious."
Zeke scrunched up his face slightly, before replying, his voice quiet. "I don't ask you all the time."
"I beg to differ. You've asked me six times today, and it's only 1 in the afternoon," Sara replied, the strict edge in her voice standing out a bit more. "We've provided you a S.T.A.R. tab. Use it."
Ezekiel opened his mouth to respond, only to close it as he realized he had nothing to say back. At least, nothing that could help his case. What am I supposed to say? He thought to himself. Telling the resident smart people that he couldn't figure out how to work the device they had given him in the six days since he had been with them was just asking to be pitied, or looked at like an idiot. It wasn't his fault this universe had weird future technology.
What the heck is a tablet computer anyway? Like, a laptop without a keyboard? Really? That didn't even make any sense. "...Fine," Zeke finally replied, towel hanging from his hands as he began to walk away from the track, the metahuman specialist keeping stride with him. "I'll stop bugging you guys."
The sigh that left Sara's lips was loud enough to echo around the enclosed cavern the track occupied. "Kid, I didn't mean it that way. We appreciate you allowing us to collect data on you. Metahumans are rare enough as it is, and it feels like most of them end up as criminals these days. The information we're collecting on how your powers work is important. So, thanks for putting up with us." Her hand landed on his shoulder again and she gave it a reassuring squeeze.
The young man grimaced slightly, the approval feeling odd from the normally strict doctor. "No need to thank me. I mean, three meals a day, a warm bed, and cash in my pocket for letting you guys push my limits is cool enough. Then you toss in this awesome jumpsuit, too?" Zeke gave the woman a smile, as he gestured to the blue-and-white sleeveless one-piece he had on, one of dozens S.T.A.R. Labs had custom-made just for him using something called a 3D printer. Breathable, super-light and near impossible to tear, it was insane how comfortable it was. "How did you know I'm not a fan of sleeves?"
Her lip twitched, the doctor turning her head away from the young man for a moment as she took a deep breath. "Call it a lucky guess."
"Either way," Zeke continued with a nonchalant shrug, "you guys are the ones doing me the big favor here."
"That's nice to hear, kid," Dr Charles responded, her twitching lip finally rising upwards into a small smile. "Now do us all a favor and go hit the showers. We're not scheduled to test whether your sweat has metahuman effects till next week."
|Ezekiel Patrick Armstrong|
|STR||12 (-30%)||SPD||19 (-30%)|
|Stat Points: 2|
Malnourished: Too little to eat for too long has weakened your body, drained you of vitality and made you more susceptible to bumps and bruises. (-30% to STR & SPD, Health does not gain VIT bonus, Health/Will recovery is slowed by 50%, and Will-based skills cost twice as much)
Bright Kid: While you're no genius or some prodigy, you're obviously brighter than most kids. By the time you're an adult, however, no one will care. (Before the age of 18: +75% to INT gain and +25% to speed of learning Mana-based skills/abilities)
Power Sprint Lv 3
Gamer's Body Lv. MAX