Ms. Shock/Origins

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((This is the origin story for Ms. Shock.))

Spoiler warning: Details about a player-created storyline, or information currently unrevealed about a character, follow.



London, 2002.

Much like Paragon City, London was a focal point for super-powered entities. The British government preferred to employ superheroes as government contractors or enlisted members of their military branches. Those that resisted the Crown's "enlightened employment" policies were considered outcasts, criminals, or (at worst) exiled from the British isles.

London was not spared from the Rikti invaders. When the dust cleared and the British Army managed to reclaim London in late October 2002, they found very few survivors. Most of them were found hiding in World War II-era bomb shelters, but a few were found wandering aimlessly in the rubble of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square.

One of them was a 19-year old Cambridge student named Christina Golden. This is her story, starting from the fateful First Rikti Invasion.

The Daily Telegraph Interview; November 12, 2002

Pain. That was the first word I used to describe the invasion. From the very first appearance of the Rikti invasion ships, all I felt was pain. At first, it was nothing more than the thought of imminent death. A few seconds later, when the ship began to belch green fire, that was when the actual pain began.

Where was I? Just a few meters away from Parliament... right over there. I was on a short holiday from Cambridge... OK, it wasn't a holiday. I was working on my photography class project. Pictures? No, no, I lost them all. And my Fujitsu digital camera. Bloody Rikti destroyed it; thought it was a weapon, I guess.

After the buggers got done destroying Parliament, I found myself thrown clear of the blast, lying on the ground next to a dead Redcoat. You know, the ceremonial Parliament guards. The ones you do a silly little jig in front of to see if they'll react...? Oh, to hell with it. Well, the poor sod still had his assault rifle on him - he never got the chance to use it.

Anyway, I grabbed his weapon and ammunition. Right about that time, one of them found me. The bugger stood seven feet tall, covered head to toe in some strange light yellow armor. His weapon... it looked like something out of some episode of Doctor Who. My life bloody well flashed in front of my eyes...

Oh, I'm sorry. The little ones will be reading this, you say? I'm sorry about that... still quite angry about the whole thing.

I don't know what I was doing, but I figured that I needed to take him down before he did the same for me. I felt the rifle bucking in my hands; I saw the armor spark and flash as bullets bounced off. After a couple seconds, the bugger had stumbled back enough so I could get up. I just kept shooting; somehow, I hit a soft spot and it went down.

I couldn't move after that. I guess I was just in shock. The bugger just lay there; there were a few nicks in its armor and a nice hole in its helmet. I walked up to it slowly, kept the rifle trained on it just in case. Then I saw what was inside the helmet.

I turned away and puked my lunch up on the concrete. It was alien, not human at all. Its blood was a sickening, opaque pink... something.

Then I heard something that sounded like paper being ripped in front of a megaphone. I looked up and caught a glimpse of three more Rikti. How they got there, I never knew. That was when my headache started.

OK, maybe headache isn't the right word. I felt like someone took a red hot poker and shoved it into my brain. I couldn't think; I sure as hell couldn't act. Even my vision blurred; the pain was that intense.

I could still hear, and what I heard next was a shrill screaming. The pain in my head stopped as quickly as it started, and I heard and felt flames erupt around me. The Rikti were firing their weapons; I just dropped to the ground before I realized they weren't shooting at me. A jet of flame flew over my head and engulfed the nearest Rikti soldier. Then I heard his voice:

"Run, lassie! I cannae hold them off forevah!!"

I knew that voice belonged to Pyro-Brit, a British superhero that was well-known for his abilities to create and manipulate fire. I rolled to my feet and got out of the line of fire, but I couldn't leave him there alone. I reloaded the assault rifle I had acquired and opened fire as the Rikti burned inside their armor. We managed to kill them quicker together than I was able to do so alone.

"Stupid girl," he shouted, "there'll be more o' them coming soon! We need to get outta here!"

I remember pleading for him to get me out of there. He scooped me up, told me to hang on tight, and he leaped into the air. I had never flown before; I remember screaming for a second until we settled somewhere above what was left of Parliament. The whole building was nothing more than smoldering wreckage. I remember seeing a member of the House of Commons crawling away from a Rikti soldier... and then I saw the politician engulfed in some yellow energy and the resulting charred skeleton.

Pyro-Brit took me Trafalgar Square. There was a small group of superheroes and military people guarding a small medical unit there. The place was filled beyond capacity with the dead and dying. Even the soldiers looked like they've been through the grinder. When Pyro put me back down on the ground, he gave me a stiff military salute and told me to stay alive.

I never saw him again. As he flew away, I said a little Hindi prayer of protection under my breath. It was something I learned at Cambridge from my roommate. Never believed in it myself.

They had a couple of cell phones there. Where mine was, I had no idea. I grabbed one and tried calling my parents in Surrey. All circuits were busy. The military couldn't help much either; all of the circuits were either dead or "commandeered for official use only".

I hoped my family was OK. My mum and dad... my little sister Felicia... my big brother Tad. My boyfriend... he joined the Marines a few months ago. Hadn't heard from him since he left for basic training. I hoped he would be OK as well... even though the idiot hadn't called me like he promised.

I found myself in their tiny mess tent, eating what they liked to call food. American-made food. M-R-E's, they called them. They were no better than pig slop in my opinion. But it was food.

Birth of a Hero

Late Spring, 2003

The 5-ton military truck pulled into the base after the gate guards finished their inspection. With the constant threat of the Rikti on everyone's mind, everyone that had survived was on edge. There had been a record number of suicides in England; mental institutions and insane asylums were overflowing with patients.

There was also a massive increase in military volunteerism. By now, nearly one of every three British adults were involved in the military or rebuilding efforts. Anyone that didn't qualify for the former dedicated themselves to the latter cause.

This particular 5-ton carried the latest set of fresh recruits that came out of the last remaining British boot camp. Most of them were male, fresh-faced and young, affected by the Rikti conflict like everyone else. There were also three young ladies in the truck. Two of them were nurses. The third one wore the crossed rifles badge of the infantry, a rare but rapidly growing occurrence in these troubled times.

The 5-ton pulled in front of the Reception Building, a squat two-story structure built for processing new arrivals. The British flag flew high, eclipsed only by a pair of Apache attack helicopters graciously loaned from the American army. Once the recruits pulled themselves out of the truck bed, a second 5-ton pulled alongside and the arrivals unloaded their belongings.

Once that was done, the arrivals began to assemble into formation. The female infantryman, also the highest ranking soldier from the truck, barked a couple of orders to get the formation orderly before performing a perfect about-face. A British army captain stood before her; a couple of quick salutes transferred control to the captain.

"My name is Captain Greenly," the captain shouted above the noise of moving traffic. "Welcome to your new home, people. Once I give the command to fall out, you will fall into a single-file line and enter the building behind me. Be sure to have your orders ready. Also, please leave your kit bags behind; a detail will bring them into your assigned bunks. FALL OUT!"

The female infantryman stood in line for about twenty minutes before she reached the first of twelve tables inside the building. A personnel officer, young and bored out of his mind, asked for a copy of her orders and looked them over briefly. The newly frocked officer started to move on--

"Hold on, Ell-Tee," he said suddenly. The female officer stopped for a second as the personnel officer read the orders more thoroughly. "Your orders for special duty, ma'am."

"That's correct, Sergeant. Is there a problem, something I need to know?" Second Lieutenant Christina Golden hadn't had a problem with the Army yet; she hoped this would not be the first.

"Yes, there is, ma'am. We don't have the clearance required to process your paperwork," the sergeant explained. "Not really a problem, though. Let me ring your unit." Christina nodded as the sergeant made a quick phone call.

"Yes, Sergeant, this is Sergeant Barrys at the Reception Battalion... yes, Sergeant. We have one of your new officers here... Aye, she's flagged for processing at your unit... Very good, Sergeant, thank you for your assistance. Cheers." The sergeant turned back to Christina and explained that her unit would be sending a car to pick her up.

Odd, Chrstina thought. I never thought special duty would be so... special. "Thank you, Sergeant. I guess I'll wait out front for them." Lietuenant Golden turned back to the front door and let the next young man go ahead. She got a couple of strange looks, but none of the other soldiers really paid much attention. They all were tired and just wanted to get in a bunk and sleep off their travel fatigue... Christina included.

It started to rain outside; Christina stood next to the door and left her hat off so other soldiers wouldn't have to bother saluting her. She hated the whole "pomp-and-circumstance" and military tradition things that came with the uniform and rank she wore. Besides, it was after regular duty hours... she could afford to relax.

It took only a few minutes for her ride to arrive. It was a black Mercedes, something Christina did not expect. She also didn't expect an officer in full dress uniform to get out of the car. Christina raised an official-looking salute, but the colonel shook his head. "At ease, Leftenant," he responded with the old English version of Christina's rank.

"You're Leftenant Golden, yes?" the colonel inquired. Christina nodded. "Good to meet you. Your exploits in London are the stuff of legend in my unit. Lieutenant Colonel Addlesbury, 43rd SAS." He offered his hand, which Christina took and shook firmly.

"Well, let's get out of this bloody rain and get you into housing," Addlesbury said as he turned back towards his car.

"Sir, I'm not authorized for housing--"

"You're SAS now, Golden. You get only the best of the best. Unless, of course, you don't think you're qualified for such an honor..." The colonel turned back towards her slightly, waiting for her reaction.

Christina was dumbfounded. The Special Air Services was (and still is) Britain's elite special forces division. She had never heard of the 43rd SAS, though. Besides, she was just classified as an infantry officer; she had no special forces training. Still... this was an excellent opportunity, too excellent to pass up.

"Well, bugger me silly, sir," was Christina vocal reaction. The colonel smiled to himself and mentioned that his wife wouldn't appreciate it if he did do that. That brought a smile to both of their faces.

It was the first time Christina had smiled since the Rikti invaded. It wouldn't be the last.

Weapon of Choice

Somewhere in England, Fall 2004

MI-6, Great Britain's rather famous (or infamous) intelligence agency, was busy these days. Along with its regular duties of gathering intelligence and protecting Britain's considerable interests, it also kept a large portion of its budget involved in research and development. The MI-6 R&D division, more colloquially known as "Section Q", kept in touch with its counterparts in the United States, Russia, France, and Vanguard.

In one of Section Q's varied and well hidden facilities, the civilian scientists were showing a contingent of military experts some of their newest prototypes. The crowd was a mixed bag: infantrymen, intelligence analysts, a couple of generals, armor drivers, and special forces soldiers. Each soldier was dressed in their country's and service's respective dress uniform.

The only soldier that stuck out was a beautiful blonde female; she was dressed in the British Army's dress uniform and had the Special Air Services' insignia on her shoulder patch. She kept a veil of interest upon her face, but she was mostly bored with the new weapon systems she had been shown before.

..."again, developed from reverse-engineered alien technology. This next weapon system is the PE-42X energy weapon." Lieutenant Christina Golden blinked out of her boredom so she could at least get the details on this new exhibit.

This one did not disappoint.

"The PE-42X - we like to call them 'Power Gloves' - are a dual-function weapon system," the project leader began. "Both gloves are required for the weapon to function.

"The first function is, simply put, an ranged electrical discharge. The Rikti technology embedded in the gloves allow the user to activate the discharge without any physical exertion." The project leader, an older British male, pressed a button on the video display. The video that followed was quite impressive: One glove fired a single bolt of lightning that destroyed an old car in seconds. With both of them together, the gloves could easily damage a tank, kill a single infantryman, or hurt a small group of people.

Now that's a weapon, Christina thought to herself.

"The 'Power Gloves' can also enhance the user's strength in combat." The next section of the video began; it showed a properly equipped user punching large dents in steel doors and knocking lifelike human dummies through the air as if a car had hit them.

"The two combat modes are mutually exclusive; that is, only one mode can be activated at a time. However, the activation and set-up time for these two modes are negligible," the project leader continued. "Questions?"

There were a few questions posed. What were the gloves power source? (Unknown; it had something to do with the Rikti technology.) How do the gloves maintain a constant level of power? (Electrical charge via batteries, electric motor, or solar exposure. More methods may be possible.) How much wattage can the gloves generate? (Unknown at this time.)

"I have a question," the female special forces officer said suddenly. "Is it possible to integrate the 'Power Gloves' into one of your prototype armor suits?"

That got a look from a couple of the infantrymen and generals. The project leader was also a little surprised. "I'm sorry, ma'am. You are...?"

"Second Lieutenant Christina Golden, British Special Forces... and an interested party in field testing your 'Power Gloves'," she responded with a soft smile.

The project leader pushed his bifocals up his nose. "Um.... we haven't explored that possibility yet. Interesting..." He made a note to himself to try that out on his clipboard. "Any other questions? No? Very well then, let's move to the next weapon system..."

Christina settled back into her relatively bored demeanor. An image flashed unbidden into her mind: It was her, equipped with these 'Power Gloves', firing a bolt of lightning into an unarmored Rikti; the Rikti was burning and writhing in pain. She smiled to herself.

A cellular phone chirped, and Christina's daydream winked out of existence. It took her a second to realize it was her cell phone. She apologized and answered it. "Lieutenant Golden here."

"Leftenant, this is Colonel Addlesbury. Are you able to talk?"

"No, sir. I'll step outside and call you back," she responded. With that, she ended the call and began walking in that direction. Once she was outside, she called her commander back. "What news, sir?"

"Scotland Yard just confirmed the location of your family members. It is as we feared. Their bodies were interred in a mass grave north of Nottingham. DNA analysis by the Bureau of Reconstruction has confirmed it." Christina felt her heart sink and her knees buckle. She braced her free hand against a nearby wall and let herself collapse to the ground. She couldn't speak; her mind was flooded with sadness as she began to cry. "Leftenant? Christina, are you there?"

It took a second or two to Christina to respond. "I'm here, sir," she sniffled. She took a deep breath to regain her composure before standing back up. "Any idea on how they died?"

"Negative. There's no way to tell; all of the bodies are decomposed beyond a coroner's abilities. Besides, it'll take too long to sort through all of the bones--"

"Sir, I want to know. Bugger that; I need to know," she said tersely.

"I know. Let me make some calls, I may be able to find someone who can help." Christina thanked her commanding officer and ended the call.

It made sense, in a fashion. After the Rikti were defeated, the British government took a fast-track approach to rebuilding their devastated cities. A lot of people objected; the government had to fend off hundreds of riots and protests over the last year. In the end, the government ordered that mass graves be built to handle the massive amounts of bodies that lay out in the open. Soldiers, citizens, and superheroes alike pitched in to build and fill the graves, all under the watchful eye of the newly formed Bureau of Reconstruction.

It was only a few months ago that the government decided to account for all of its citizens. Reverse-engineered Rikti technology had yielded teleportation technology, and it was being implemented just about everywhere, including in unearthing remains. Further advancements in DNA analysis and the resurgence of magical aura detection helped to locate and identify those remains. It was still a slow and arduous process; millions of people had died around the world, and it was still impossible to find them all.

Now, Christina's mother, father, sister, and brother, were confirmed amongst the ranks of the dead. Her boyfriend had died during the second day of the Rikti invasion, along with the other military personnel onboard Britain's HMS Illustrious.

She was alone.

Christina wiped the tears from her face. She was a soldier. She was SAS. She whispered the SAS motto under her breath: "Who Dares, Wins." Christina straightened her hair and her dress uniform jacket. Her sadness was gone, her resolve tempered. It was time to dare fate.

Christina went back into the Section Q compound and caught up to the tour group. No one else noticed her return, and she kept quiet until the tour ended. Once it did, Christina took the Section Q scientist aside.

"Doctor, I would like to speak to you further about those 'Power Gloves' you described earlier. Has anyone else expressed interest in testing them?" she asked.

"No, Lieutenant. In fact, we haven't had a single interested party except for you and... which organization did you represent again?"

"The Special Air Services," she responded. "Specifically, the 43rd SAS." The scientist nodded at that.

"Well, the PE-42X is ready to enter field testing now. There is a companion item that goes with them--"

"Yes, yes, we'll test them as well," Christina said tersely. "My commander is very interested in seeing what they can do."

"Very well, Lieutenant. We'll arrange for them to be transferred to your organization's headquarters," the scientist said as he scribbled another note on his clipboard.

"Jolly good," was the soldier's response. A new smile crept across her face.

Dig Deeper...

London's East End, Fall 2004

It took only a couple of days for Colonel Addlesbury to arrange a meeting with one of MI-6's top analysts. Christina took a three-day pass to head to London; she wanted her privacy, and the MI-6 analyst had asked her to come alone. This was the perfect way to fulfill both requirements. Besides, she needed a vacation.

This part of the East End was predominately populated with Indian- and Pakistani-descended citizens. It was called "Little Dehli" by the locals; most the Pakistanis frowned on that description, but they didn't let that be known outside of the neighborhood. That would discourage the tourism and economic traffic that dominated the area.

Christina wore a trenchcoat, black slacks, and 2-inch heels. The trench was buttoned and kept the rain from soaking her shirt, something the umbrella she carried was having little effect upon. She stopped at a small house and checked her cell phone. This is it, she thought after verifying the address of the nearby house. Christina walked up to the front door and knocked. After a few seconds, the door opened; an old Indian woman looked up at Christina with a friendly smile.

"What brings you to see Shivan Eye today?" the old woman asked after she let Christina inside.

"I have an appointment for an aura reading. A friend referred me--"

"Ah, yes. Mr. Addlesbury is a close friend of our family. You must be Ms. Golden," the woman responded. "Shivan knew you would come." The last statement was said as if it was a great revelation of Earth-shattering proportions.

"Well... yes. The Colonel did make an appointment," Christina responded skeptically.

"Now, now, child. Shivan is much more perceptive than that. He has been anticipating your arrival for at least two years." The old woman moved through the beaded doorway as she spoke and left Christina alone in the foyer.

Bloody psychics, Christina thought to herself. Ever since the Rikti invaded, all of these paranormal experts and wizards have been crawling out of every hole in the ground--

"I heard that," a male voice said suddenly. The beads were swept aside by a tall, slim, middle-aged Indian man. He wore no shirt, a pair of loose white cloth pants, and a traditional Indian cloth wrapping on his head. His bare chest was covered in tattoos; some of them depicted Hindu religious icons, while others were Indian text in several different dialects. Christina knew some of them from her dabbling in Hinduism, but the rest seemed foreign and even ancient.

"I'm sorry?" Christina asked in response.

"I am a psychic, you know. That includes the ability to read surface thoughts," the Indian male responded with a mischevious smile. That drew a frown from Christina. "I apologize if I intruded. I am Shivan Eye. Are you ready for your reading?"

Chrstina rose from her seat and nodded. The psychic and his client moved past the beaded doorway and up a flight of stairs. The entire second story was a single open room; the walls were covered in murals and Indian tapestries. Incense burned in sconces along all four walls. The windows were cracked open, and rain dripped from the windowsills into several small containers. A set of pillows lay directly in the center of the room; this was where they sat down.

"Do you have an item that belonged to your family in your possession?" Shivan asked. Christina pulled a small photograph from her pocket. It depicted her family a couple of years ago; it was at Christina's secondary school graduation ceremony. Everyone has happy, laughing. It seemed so long ago to Christina...

"A picture of happier times. Such joyous energy collects in these physical momentos," Shivan mused. "It will do nicely. Now, we begin. Place your hands in mine and close your eyes." Christina did she was asked; Shivan closed his eyes and began to chant in his native tongue.

Time seemed to slow for a moment. Suddenly, Christina felt like the environment around her had changed. She didn't smell incense; instead, she smelled fresh pumpkin spice bread... like her mother used to make. Her eyes flashed open.

Christina was back in her family's house in Surrey. The radio was playing some forgotten English boy-band's latest smash hit. The kitchen was empty save for her and the smell of fresh bread coming from the oven.

Her mom came into the kitchen hurriedly, hefted open the oven, and yanked the bread loaf out of the oven. "Oi!! Felicia! Breakfast is ready!" At that point, her father came in; he still had those golden wire-rimmed trifocals on his face. His face still had those same worry lines, the same wrinkles.

It was all so... real.

"It is real to you, my dear," Shivan Eye explained. "This is what happened on the day the Rikti attacked."

"Can we skip ahead to the actual attack?" she asked nervously.

"Of course, child." Shivan concentrated harder, delving into the past, looking for that one fleeting moment.

Dad and Mum ate breakfast along with Felicia. Felicia rushed off to school; Dad and Mum headed to work. The maid came by and cleaned. The house was dark for a short time before Felicia came home with her boyfriend. They decided the kitchen would make a good place to have sex--

"I knew it," Christina mumbled with a smile. "Bloody girl never could keep her hands off of him. Didn't hurt that he was cute..."

--before Mum and Dad came home. All four of them were now in front of the telly, watching the BBC coverage of the Rikti's preparations for invasion. The TV showed an aerial view of the large portal over Parliament. And then the Rikti capital ship appeared through the portal. All hell broke loose on the television screen; a line of green fire lanced through Parliament twice before the building exploded. Another one enveloped the picture and left the screen covered in white noise.

Christina winced. It was only two years ago, she reminded herself.

The house was also in pandemonium. Felicia was screaming; her mom and dad were running for the gun safe in the back of the house when the front door was kicked in. Two Rikti came in and started firing. Felicia and her boyfriend died without knowing what was happening. A few seconds later, her mom and dad died, but not before killing one of the Rikti soldiers.

Christina was screaming. Rage, sadness, and futility blotted out the vision; Shivan Eye found himself violently thrown to the far side of the room. He got up and ran over to Christina; she was writhing on the floor and screaming bloody murder. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Shivan reached out with his mind and fought to calm Christina down; it took a couple of minutes, but she finally stopped long enough for Shivan to get her back into a sitting position. "What was that bollocks?" Christina was still upset and breathing heavily.

"I apologize; I should have warned you earlier. The aura behind that picture was very powerful; the experience was raw and unabridged in any fashion... including the backlash," Shivan explained. Christina queried further, so Shivan explained: "That part of Surrey is tainted, corrupted by an aura of tragedy and sadness. Science attributes the malaise to excessive radiation byproducts of Rikti weaponry; we of the psychic and magical persuasion called it a residual localized aura field. That field caused the backlash.

"What you felt was a combination of both effects, the background gamma radiation and the feelings of loss, sadness, and death left upon the land. Both are blights that will take years to repair," Shivan mused sadly. "But there is hope hidden behind the sadness. Did you feel it?"

Christina looked up for a second. How in the hell could hope exist in such a place...? Wait. Where was Tad? Tad wasn't in the house. HE WASN'T IN THE HOUSE! Shivan nodded and smiled.

"Yes, Lieutenant Golden. Your brother is alive."

Christina was on her feet. "How? How did he survive?"

"I cannot tell. I cannot even sense his aura. It must be blocked from viewing somehow," Shivan said as he shook his head. "People leave a certain signature when they die, like a ripple in a pond caused by a falling raindrop. I cannot sense his aura-death in the past, so it is reasonable to conclude that he must live."

Christina closed her eyes and wiped her face dry. She didnt know magic, nor did she pretend to. She did understand what Shivan Eye meant in general terms. Tad was hiding, or he was with someone who didn't want him to be found.

"Tell me what you can," Christina implored. "I will take that and find him my way."

Shivan rose and nodded. "The fee will triple if I do that. I will need to purchase certain reagents in order to find him. And I will need to keep the picture as a focus." Christina shook her head and told him to do it.

Outside, the rain stopped and was replaced with a bright, glowing sun. In Surrey, a flower began to bloom out of season near the burned shell of an old house. More flowers grew there without rhyme or reason; it became a minor news story on BBC News a couple of days later. Within a week it became a local monument, a symbol of hope and recovery in those troubled times.

Christina knew it was something more.

Lightning's Fury

Belfast, Ireland, Fall 2004

It took some doing to get Colonel Addlesbury to let Christina take time to find her brother. Eventually, the Colonel gave her two weeks leave, but told her to "stay on the grid." Christina didn't care about conditions; all she wanted to do was find her brother. Shivan Eye had managed to trace her brother's aura trail into northern Ireland, a hotbed of criminal and terrorist activity. This was where she began her search.

The Irish Republican Army was now fully in control of Ireland. Their political arm, Sinn Fein, won popular elections in 2003, and they immediately began to implement their own philosophies on the Irish people. The British government immediately closed its embassy in Ireland, only to re-open it a few months later. Tensions between the two governments were still evident when Christina flew into Belfast International Airport.

After picking up her gear - high-altitude equipment drops were rarely used, but it worked this time around - she began her search in earnest. Shivan mentioned that an IRA cell in Belfast's southern districts had been in contact with Tad just a few weeks ago; unfortunately, the seer and MI-6 analyst knew nothing more. With a few well-placed bribes and punches, she managed to get the location of that cell's headquarters.

Lieutenant Golden walked right into the Irish pub without a care. She wore all black: leather pants, a halter top, a black trenchcoat, and her newly acquired Power Gloves and their companion 'Power Boots'. At first, she didn't get any strange looks, but that changed almost immediately.

"What the hell are ye supposed to be, lass?" was the bouncer's first response. "Ye think you're some kind of hero?"

Christina smiled confidently in response. "Depends on who's asking," she replied.

The bouncer moved out of his relaxed stance. "If ye wanted trouble, you came to the right place, lassie. I suggest ye leave before ye get hurt," he said loudly. Two more men began walking to the door as well, sensing easy prey.

Christina kept on smiling. "Three of you? What, you think you can't handle me by yourself?" The bouncer immediately moved towards Christina in response, as did the other two men.

Christina moved to the right, ducked under the bouncer's meaty fist, and struck both of the bouncer's knees with one blow. As the bouncer began to fall forward, she spun on her heels and fired an electrical blast into the other advancing men that threw them across the pub. A blow to the first bouncer's head finished him off. The whole process took only a few seconds, and no one else was moving to attack.

Lieutenant Golden stood back up and scanned the room. Most of the bar patrons were moving back, visibly afraid of her. There was a single exception: A raven-haired female stood in the emptied space with her arms crossed. "Ye really think we'll let ye leave here alive after that little stunt you just pulled?" she asked imperiously.

Christina sighed. "Look, I'd rather not have to hurt anyone else. I'm just looking for someone. Tell me what I want to know, and no one else will get hurt."

"That's enough, Mary," another voice said from the back of the pub. The crowd began to part; a middle-aged man dressed in an old British Army uniform stepped forward. Three other men dressed in varying mixes of black and camouflage followed behind him. Christina recognized the first man's face; it was the guy MI-6 had designated as this cell's leader. "Who are you looking for, lass?"

Christina kept her eyes on the cell leader as she spoke again. "My brother. His name is Tadley Golden. I was told he was seen here a few weeks ago." Mary looked back at the cell leader suddenly; Christina swore that she saw a look of frightened concern on her face.

"I've never heard of the man," the IRA terrorist replied with a stone face.

Christina spat on the floor. "Bollocks," she said angrily as electric impulses began to flow between her fingertips. "You know something. I'm gonna give you one last chance to tell me the truth. Where is he?"

Christina heard the unmistakeable sound of firearm bolts sliding back and forward. Several of the bar patrons, now armed with a variety of weapons, were fanning out in front of her. Christina sized them up; she felt her gloves crackle with electrical energy as she readied herself for combat.

"Forget it, lassie; you'll be dead before ye can shoot any of us," the cell leader warned Christina. "Stop your little light show, and I'll let you walk out o' here. Otherwise..." The cell leader shrugged. "I cannae guarantee your safety."

Christina narrowed her eyes. She had only one chance to get herself out of this little jam. She breathed a Hindi prayer of protection and clapped her hands together violently. A wave of lightning shot out in a cone in front of her, hitting all of the displayed weapons. Their bearers were thrown in various directions, over tables, into walls or booths. Some of the other patrons were also hit, but Christina knew the shock wouldn't be enough to cause lasting damage.

With that done, she pulled her arms back in preparation for another blast. She never got the chance to fire; the cell leader was already in her face. He landed a perfect blow to her stomach that launched her towards the ceiling. Christina felt herself bounce off of the roof; another blow knocked her into a nearby wall.

Christina got to her feet and took up a fighting stance. The circuitry in her gloves shifted color from blue to red as she changed tactics. Another blow from her right knocked her to the ground; she never saw it coming. Bugger's fast... She didn't have the chance to think anything else before she felt herself being pulled to her feet. Her arms were immobilized; her head was pounding from adrenaline and the blood flowing through her skull.

The cell leader stood in front of her with a victorious smile on his face. "I warned ye, girl. Now you're gonna die... just like your brother did."

Christina felt her rage boil over. She pulled her legs up and planted an energy-enhanced kick in the cell leader's chest. As he flew back, she switched her gloves' mode again and electrocuted the two terrorists that immobilized her. Their smoking bodies fell to the ground as Christina levelled her arms towards her main target.

A solid bolt of lightning shot from Christina's fists, striking the cell leader in the chest. The electricity immobilized and enveloped him as Christina screamed, commanded him to die. The white spear of energy faded as the gloves' energy reserves were depleted; the cell leader had a large hole in his torso where his heart and lungs would be.

Christina turned slowly to her left; the remaining IRA terrorists were standing there with expressions of shock and anger on their faces. Their cell leader collapsed to the ground lifelessly in two pieces.

"Now then," Christina said before she spat a stream of blood on the ground, "Which one of you fools would like to tell me where my brother is?"


England, Spring 2007


The entire regiment, dressed in their full "Number 2" dress uniforms, moved at once to a tall, stiff stance. In front of the formation, Colonel Addlesbury stood with a medal case in his hand. To his left was the regiment's adjutant and personnel officer. In front of him, the first female member of the Special Air Services stood at attention, also in her "Number 2's".

"By order of the Commander, Special Air Services, and with the blessing of the Royals and Citizens of the United Kingdom, I hereby promote Lieutenant Christina Golden to the rank of Captain in Her Majesty's Royal Army," the adjutant shouted to the entire regiment. As he did so, Colonel Addlesbury slid her new rank epaulets on her uniform. Once that was done, a pair of SAS captains buttoned the shoulder decorations down. Salutes were exchanged, and the entire regiment erupted in applause and cheers.

Fifteen minutes later, most of the other officers were congratulating the promotee at the base's Officer's Club. Christina and her fellow male officers had already begun the party; Christina was already on her second pint of beer.

There was some commotion at the front door; Christina looked back that way as she laughed at another officer's joke. A couple of younger officers were harassing another soldier... a private. One of her soldiers. Christina took a sip of beer and stood up.

"Oi, Christina, where you goin'?" That was Lieutenant Maxwell, the 43rd's resident lecher - everyone knew it but kept it quiet.

"Don't matter, Maxwell; you aren't coming with me." Her buddies laughed and gave Maxwell a few more light-hearted jabs as Christina walked towards the door. By now, the younger officers were physically pushing on the younger private. Christina began walking faster.

"Hey! What the bloody deuce is going on here?" she asked loudly. The private looked up and smiled; he knew about Captain Golden by reputation alone, but what he did know was that these two punk "single-pips" were in for it now! The two second lieutenants turned to look at Christina but didn't pay attention to her rank.

"What's your problem, lass? Came to defend the poor little private?" the one on the left asked. Christina could smell alcohol on his breath... it was whiskey, not even good whiskey.

"I am, Lieutenant. And it's Captain, not lass. And stand at attention when you speak to me, you scrub!" That was all it took; the two punk lieutenants screwed themselves into the position of attention. Christina turned to the private now: "You OK, Private?" The young soldier nodded in response.

"Ma'am, the Colonel wants to see you. Said it was important," the private said confidently. He would have quite the story to tell his roommates tonight... Captain Golden to the rescue! Didn't hurt that she looked so damned hot in her "Number 2's"...

"Very well. I'll be there shortly. Oh, and Private... if these two bother you again, just let me know," Christina responded with a smile. The private smiled and walked out with a little spring in his step. To the lieutenants: "As for you two... next time I see you, you'd better be saluting instead of trying to get in my face. Dismissed."

Christina headed back to her table, grabbed her mug of beer, and quickly drank it. With that done, she tossed a 5-pound note on the table and walked out. A couple of her fellow officers gave her grief, but she ignored them. The Colonel wanted to see her; it had to be important.

Twenty minutes and three breath mints later, she found out why.

"Captain, you're being reassigned to embassy duty." Christina was in shock. She had been with the 43rd SAS for her entire career; it was all she knew. Now she would have to start all over, from scratch, from who knows where. "Relax, Captain. I had a nice bit of time with the personnel officer, and he assures me that he will be able to get you somewhere nice. How does a little trip to America sound?"

Christina was even more shocked. "America? Beg your pardon, Colonel, but the SAS doesn't operate in America. At least we didn't last time I checked..."

"You're right, Christina, we don't. At least we didn't until now. We've traced some of the happenings on in Britain to several major organizations based in the Americas... specifically, in Paragon City," he continued. "We can't spare much in the way of resources right now, but we could send one soldier there. I chose you."

"Why me?" she asked.

The Colonel nodded at that. "Three reasons. One: You have the most experience with advanced weaponry. Two: You know how to work with supers. Three: We've managed to trace your brother's whereabouts to Paragon City."

Christina needed no more encouragement. "When do I leave?"

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