Harry smiled as he watched the kids run over to the glass case that held the uniform display. He knew that it was killing Jason to watch them ogle over the grandeur of the tower, but Harry was quite proud of what the Assembly had been able to create—even if the way they’d gone about it had been a little misguided. In the end he was just happy to see that they had put their fame and glory to good use.
He followed slowly behind the rest of the group who was now marveling at the collection of uniforms that had once been worn by the original six members of the Assembly. As he approached the group, he stopped to look over the uniforms himself. It had been a long time since he had paused to truly admire them.
Jason had designed the uniforms himself, out of materials that he had engineered to be both lightweight and flexible without compromising their protective qualities. The base of each was made out of a dense mesh-like material, not dissimilar to spandex. The material was extremely light and versatile—it sometimes felt almost as if you were wearing nothing at all—but it was stronger than the highest quality chainmail. No blade could penetrate it.
Secured to the outside of the base material was a series of pads. The pads were made of a foamy-like substance that Jason had also engineered in his basement. It was as light and cushy as Styrofoam, but was tougher than Kevlar. It was easily able to stop a bullet or absorb the impact of a blunt weapon or high fall. The pads were strategically placed on the uniforms to protect all vital organs, bones, and muscle groups. Jason had even made baseball caps out of the foamy material to protect their heads from injury.
Though all very similar in design, each member added their own unique flare to their uniforms to represent them as an individual.
Starting from the far left, the first uniform belonged to Lady of the Sky. The color of her uniform was appropriately sky blue, with a large section cut out of the back to accommodate her wings. The symbol across the chest of her uniform was a pair of white wings that stemmed from nothing in particular. Her uniform was also equipped with a pair of white gloves that extended all the way to her elbows. The gloves contained an array of gadgets and weapons intended for self-defense.
To the right of Lady of the Sky’s uniform was Jason’s—or The Eagle’s, as it were. True to ninja form his uniform was all black. The uniform in the case also included the black cloth he used to wear to hide his face, exposing only his eyes. Jason was the only member of the Assembly who for years had insisted on hiding his face from the public as he was also the only hero who had been doing so since well before the Assembly’s formation. He had absolutely no desire to be famous. He cared only that people knew of The Eagle, not the man beneath the mask. He wished for Jason Haze to remain a nobody, that way no one could ever bother him. Over time though the Assembly garnered more and more attention from the press and the public until everyone was demanding to know the true identity of The Eagle. Soon the paparazzi were following him everywhere, trying to catch a glimpse of the man behind the cloth. Jason eventually admitted defeat, knowing it was only a matter of time before the media unmasked him against his will. He decided to get out in front of it and during an Assembly press conference—something he had previously refused to be a part of—he revealed his true identity to the world. From then on he stopped wearing the cloth while in uniform and switched to the standard ball cap. He had previously worn a beanie made of the protective foam underneath the cloth.
Harry often wished that Jason would have continued wearing the cloth simply because it looked really cool. The cloth was long enough that after wrapping it around his face a part of it hung down over his chest, able hide the notorious white symbol of an eagle while he lurked in the shadows undetected. Also a part of the display uniform was a model of his katana, its black handle sticking out of its black sheath and strapped to his back. Crossing over top of the sheath was a quill of specially designed arrows, and attached to that was his custom made crossbow that somehow attached to the quill so that it was easier to carry. Harry often marveled at Jason’s ability to carry so many items without getting weighed down.
The Eagle uniform also included a pair of padded black gloves to protect his hands.
Next to The Eagle uniform was Harry’s—or that of Major Justice. Harry’s uniform was simple. It was padded the same as Jason’s, but instead of black it was the sandy color of military desert fatigues. Like the military, Harry had different colored uniforms for different environments. They had chosen the tan for the display case because it was the one he wore most often. On the chest was a silhouette of the Roman goddess of Justice. In her right hand she held a double-edged sword, and in her left were the scales of justice.
A tan ball cap sat atop the manikin’s head, but he wore no gloves. As computer technology advanced, Harry had different jacks built into his fingertips so that he could port into any computer simply by removing the lifelike cover of one of his mechanical fingertips and plugging in. He also had no fear of his hands being damaged because he could always get new ones.
Strapped to the left thigh of his uniform was a model of the special handgun Jason had designed for Harry himself. It was capable of switching between tiny, nonlethal tranquilizer darts, and standard bullets for more extreme situations. The gun was the color of his uniform and had a vertically stacked double-barrel but was no heavier than a standard issue military handgun. It was also deadly accurate from both long and short ranges.
To the left of Harry’s uniform was the most unique looking in the bunch—it belonged to She-Beast.
She-Beast was invulnerable and therefore had little need for protection, but Jason gave her a uniform anyway so that she could be easily identifiable with the rest of the Assembly. Amara immediately tore off—that’s right, tore—the sleeves off of the all-white suit and the legs from just above the knees. Her abilities caused her internal body temperature to occasionally skyrocket, so she wanted to expose as much skin as possible.
Harry had also never once seen her wear shoes. She may have been invulnerable but he felt that must have been uncomfortable in certain situations. Each member chose their own footwear—Jason always wore his high-top sneakers whereas Harry wore standard issue military boots—but Amara absolutely refused to wear anything on her feet. Ever.
Her uniform—which had none of the foam padding—had the picture of a gruesome looking beast on the chest. The beast was drooling and had black eyes and a monstrous jaw with huge fangs. There was a tribal word for the name of the beast that Harry was unable pronounce. It was apparently something out of African folklore.
The She-Beast uniform required nothing else as she needed only her fists to cause damage to her opponent.
After She-Beast came the uniform of the alien Grok Tûn. Though very powerful, Grok’s body was incredibly fragile compared to that of humans, and his uniform therefore had more of the protective foam than the others. It was also pink. Being from a different planet, Grok had no concept of gender bias when it came to colors. He found pink to be visually appealing and therefore requested that his uniform be that color. The rest of the Assembly didn’t have the heart to tell him that on Earth the color was most often associated with females, so Jason did as he asked and made him a pink uniform. The symbol on his chest was a green, generic looking alien head. Even though he was from another world, Grok had an extraordinary sense for human humor and thought it was absolutely hilarious.
Unlike the rest of his body, Grok’s head had an incredible amount of natural protection and he therefore had no need of a hat of any kind. It was a good thing because there was no kind of hat that would have fit the bulbous shape of his head anyway.
The only weapon Grok carried was one that he had brought with him from his planet. It was some kind of stun gun that looked an awful lot like a TV remote. It shot a thin bolt of white electricity from a range of up to three meters that could paralyze a human for up to an hour.
The last suit on the far right was that of The Animal. He wanted his suit to be the color of a cheetah’s blonde fur, and so it was. He carried no weapons beside those that he had on his body. There were however a number of modifications to accommodate his unique physiology.
His gloves were fingerless, allowing his sharp claws to remain exposed. There were removable flaps at the sides of his torso enabling him to utilize his gills should the situation warrant it. He, like She-Beast, did not wear shoes as there were none that would have fit the unique shape of his feet. Finally there was a small hole cut out of his lower back, allowing his tale to poke through. On the chest was the picture of a griffin—a mythological creature with the wings and head of an eagle and the body of a lion.
Animal also refused to wear head protection of any sort claiming that it would mess up his beautiful mane.
Harry took a nostalgic breath as he remembered the great times he and his former teammates had created every time they saved the planet from certain doom. It was almost enough to make him want to get back in the game—almost.
He looked down at his watch. They were already late.
“Come on guys, the meeting’s already started without us,” he said to the group. Begrudgingly, the young members of the group tore themselves away from the display case and headed for the elevators.
As they neared the elevators Harry felt a tug on his sleeve. It was Bryan.
“Why isn’t the uniform for The Insider with the rest of them?” The boy asked. “He was an original member of the team too, wasn’t he?”
Harry shot a look of concern over at Jason, who had been trailing directly behind them. Jason responded with a dark stare of his own, suggesting that Harry better diffuse the situation immediately.
“You know damn well why,” Harry responded sternly.
Bryan seemed taken aback, confused why Harry would be angry at him for asking a simple question. This concerned Harry even more. Perhaps he should have left the boy back in New York.
The High Council’s primary conference room was on the fortieth floor of the building, at the very top of the main tower. The smaller tower above the fortieth floor was home to the council’s personal apartments.
The group was wowed by the view of the city and the landscape beyond as they gazed out the window at the rear of the elevator. Harry couldn’t help but admire the view himself. It was a stunningly beautiful island.
They almost missed their stop as the doors of the elevator slid open behind them. Harry had to literally pry Tommy and Blaze away from the window to keep from holding up the elevator for everyone else. He grabbed them by their shirt collars and lifted them off the ground before turning and carrying them out of the elevator. The two laughed hysterically at the hero’s show of strength.
“Don’t make me do that again,” Harry told the entire group. They all nodded and finished laughing before walking around to the other side of the conference room and climbing the steps to the entrance of the observatory. Silently, they slipped inside and made their way into their seats.
The main conference room—like everything else on the island—was a glamorous distraction in and of itself. It was a challenge for Harry to keep the kids quiet as they gawked at their surroundings. Fortunately the glass between the observatory and the conference room itself was completely soundproof, but their gossiping was clearly a distraction to the others trying to observe the meeting.
Harry had to admit though, it was difficult for even him to concentrate and he had been in that room at least a dozen times before. Amara’s voice was coming in over the speakers in the observation room, but for the first five minutes or so not a single word registered with Harry. He was too busy looking out of the gigantic floor-to-ceiling window that was situated directly behind her. Through it he could see the entire south end of the city, the rolling green landscape beyond it, and the blue of the ocean beyond that. The Assembly had certainly chosen a beautiful island on which to build their society.
The observation room was situated one story above the actual conference room itself. The room was blacked out—the only light shining through the soundproof glass from the conference room below. It was set up this way to create the least amount of distraction possible for the council members below. Amara was always acutely aware of her surroundings however, and he noticed her glance up at them as they took their seats in the observatory. There was a reason she always sat at the far end of the table, opposite the entrance to the observation area.
Once one had finished admiring the view outside the giant window, the conference room itself was a sight to behold. The floors were the same shiny white tile as the main lobby. The walls were black granite with water trickling down on all sides and landing in a tiny pool at the base. The walls were also covered in vines, and potted plants were situated at every few feet along the perimeter. The room was also brightly lit in the same natural way as the lobby. Amara came from a tribal village and therefore did everything she could to create an outdoor atmosphere for every room in which she was forced to spend a considerable amount time.
The focal point of the room was the large table that sat in the center. It sat twenty people and was shaped similar to a lantern. Each end was straight across and the length of the average arm span, but the sides were rounded, and curved outward at the center like a sealed container about to burst.
The table itself was an incredible piece of technology that had been built by Roger Bankman’s company. On the surface, the color was a sort of translucent white, similar to the light used by a doctor to view an x-ray. But when activated, each place setting functioned as a personal computer, all connected by an internal network. Each person at the table could access the web or set their personal electronic device in front of them on the table and upload files from the device to their place setting, and then share those files with other place settings at the table or with the entire table by sliding them to the display in the center. Amara could then turn the window behind her opaque and project the file onto the wall if she so chose.
Around the table sat the remaining four members of the original Assembly. At the head was Amara Odya.
Amara Odya—codename: She-Beast—was born in a tribal village along the African Savanna. Her village existed in a small, independently governed municipality known as Kuzimo. Kuzimo existed mainly off the map. The other central African countries knew of its existence and did not interfere with its politics, but it was not a recognized nation by the rest of the world.
Kuzimo was established and controlled by a warlord known as Boipelo Abrafo. Using military force and brutality, Abrafo took control of a small area of land and claimed it for his own. Having no desire to create conflict with such a ruthless dictator, the surrounding nations made no quarrel with Abrafo and allowed him to govern over his lands freely. However, the UN opposed Abrafo’s violent rise to power and refused to recognize Kuzimo as a sovereign nation. This infuriated the warlord and he vowed that he would one day force the rest of the world to take notice.
Several years after Abrafo’s establishment of Kuzimo, Amara Odya was born into a village on the outer edge of Kuzimo that belonged to the Amani tribe. Amara was the most beautiful little girl that her parents had ever seen, and they cared for her deeply, but they always knew there was something different about their little girl—something special. She was clumsy—constantly falling down and getting herself into painful situations, but it never seemed to bother her. She would fall from the top of a vachellia tree, then get right back up and continue on as if nothing had happened. Her parents never spoke of Amara’s gift for fear that the others in the tribe might shun her for being different.
One morning when Amara was only five years old, a hunting party returned to the village with a wildebeest to feed the village. As the hunters began carving the animal who had sacrificed its life to nourish the tribe, two of Abrafo’s men came storming into the village in a gasoline powered truck. They climbed out of the truck with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders and pointed them at the hunters, threatening them to hand over the wildebeest or be killed. They said that the animal had been claimed in the name of Boipelo Abrafo—King of Kuzimo—and that they’d better turn it over at once or pay with their lives.
The tribe refused to hand over their food, and a group of thirty warriors drove Abrafo’s men away. When they returned to their master in the capital, Abrafo was furious and had the two men executed for their weakness. He then called for fifty of his men to follow him to the village to teach the citizens of Kuzimo the price for defying their king.
The Amani tribe never stood a chance. They were a peaceful tribe whose warriors had not seen conflict for many generations. In a matter of minutes, Abrafo and his men swept through and burned the entire village, executing every member of the tribe as the flames lit up the savanna. Abrafo thought he had left no survivors, but there was one his men had not been able to kill. Somehow, a five year old girl had managed to survive, walking away from the genocidal event without so much as a scratch.
The neighboring village of the Upinzani tribe had witnessed the entire tragedy the night before, and they mourned for their fallen brothers. The Amani and Upinzani had maintained a friendly relationship for nearly a century, and both despised Boipelo Abrafo and his cruel methods of leadership. The next morning the Upinzani went to the village in search of survivors, and that was when they discovered Amara, curled up underneath a large wooden plank. She was shivering, and her face was moist from an endless stream of tears. Somehow though, the girl had managed to avoid any injuries. The Upinzani Chief Kamau took the young girl in as one of his own. Any child who had been able to survive such atrocity was worthy of his care and protection.
Together, Kamau and his wife Zola raised Amara, and like her birth parents, they quickly recognized that the young girl was special. Unlike Amara’s birth parents however, Kamau and Zola were proud of her differences, and bragged about them to the rest of the village. This allowed Amara to flourish and soon she began to explore her abilities further, learning how to utilize them to her advantage.
By the time she was sixteen, Amara had become the tribe’s greatest warrior. She was invulnerable to injury. Her skin and bones were unbreakable, and her strength was far beyond that of the strongest man in Africa. Nothing could harm the daughter of Chief Kamau, and for that reason she became the unofficial protector of the Upinzani and all of the other tribal villages in Kuzimo.
Amara led warriors from all six tribes against Abrafo and his men. Anytime they tried to create trouble, she was there to destroy them. Abrafo’s army grew more and more frightened of the young woman every day. She became a legend among the ranks of his army. They called her the She-Beast—a demon woman with god-like strength, incapable of being harmed by blades, bullets, or rockets. No man fought against the She-Beast and won.
Amara also used her strength and invulnerability to combat poachers and other intruders, but her ultimate hatred was for Abrafo. She still carried with her memories of that night when he slaughtered her entire tribe, including her parents. The events had traumatized her, and she vowed that she would not rest until Abrafo had paid for his sins against the people of the Central African Savanna.
The people of all six tribes adored her. Even the male warriors who were at first slow to warm up to the idea of a female leader, quickly changed their opinions once they saw her in action. She was an unstoppable force, sent to them by the gods themselves. They would follow her anywhere.
Things changed one day when an American film crew showed up in the village of the Tofauti tribe on the other side of Kuzimo’s boundaries. The legend of the She-Beast had spread to the United States, and so the crew had come to film a documentary on the mythical creature who was said to have been part lion and part deity. The chief of the Tofauti called a secret meeting of the six tribal leaders to announce the arrival of the Americans in his village. Kamau—now the most respected among the six chiefs—told the Tofauti chief to allow the Americans to film their documentary, but made all six leaders swear to hide the secret of his daughter from the Americans.
When he returned to the village, Kamau told Amara what was happening, and warned her to keep herself hidden from the film crew while they were in Kuzimo. He feared that if the rest of the world found out about her they would come and take her from him. Amara protested at first, insisting that no one could take her away even if they wanted to, but out of respect for her chief and adopted father she did as she was told. She was in line to become the next chief of the Upinzani and leader of the six tribes. If she wanted the others to respect her, she could not be seen defying the wishes of her elder.
For two weeks the crew was able to film interviews with villagers from every tribe, and all of them kept the secret of Amara’s identity. The crew seemed satisfied to film a documentary about an African myth and had no expectations of finding the actual She-Beast. Unfortunately their filming was interrupted one day when some of Abrafo’s men came to one of the villages. With each day that passed without a reported confrontation with the She-Beast, Abrafo grew more and more suspicious. He sent his men out to the villages to investigate.
When word got back to the capital that an American film crew was in Kumizo, Abrafo saw a golden opportunity to gain leverage against the UN and force them to recognize Kumizo as a sovereign nation. Holding Americans hostage would gain him media coverage all over the world, so he ordered his men to take the film crew into custody and bring them back to the capital.
The Americans happened to be in the Upinzani village when the order came down to arrest them. Amara wanted deeply to help the crew, but Kamau forbade it. He said it was not their fight and that they couldn’t risk exposing her to save a few Americans. She watched as Abrafo’s soldiers brutally beat the innocent Americans and destroyed their equipment before tying them up and throwing them in the back of a pickup truck and driving off toward the capital.
For three days Amara could not sleep as the guilt of letting the Americans be captured weighed heavily on her. In the back of her head she could hear the screams from the night her village was burned, and every time she closed her eyes she saw the blood and flames. She imagined what Abrafo was doing to his American hostages—how horribly he must be treating them. It was her fault that they had been captured. They had come looking for her and she had lied to them, and when she had the opportunity to save them she did nothing so that she could continue her lie.
No, she thought. She still had the opportunity to save them. As long as they were alive there was hope. She could redeem herself and save those innocent people, and in the process she might finally get a shot at Abrafo. It didn’t matter what her father said, this was something she had to do for herself and the future of the six tribes.
That night she snuck out of the village and ran all the way to the capital. What she had not expected to find when she got there the next morning was that two American warriors had also decided to mount their own rescue missions. Together the three of them would do something that would change their lives, and the world, forever.
Amara spoke firmly and confidently to the others at the table. She was no longer living among the Upinzani, but she had found her way into the leadership role that she was destined for. She was the first official Chairperson of the High Council of the International Assembly of Superheroes, an organization with far more reach and influence than that of a small tribe in central Africa. She was still an Upinzani warrior at heart and if they ever needed her she would be there in an instant, but from her current position she was able to protect not only six villages but the entire world, and that was a duty she took quite seriously.
She wore—as she always did—a traditional African sundress to the meeting. This particular one was her favorite. It was designed with bright reds, oranges and yellows. Her eyes were dark brown—almost as dark as her skin—and her hair was very short. She wore ruby red lipstick and golden hoop earrings. Even a strong woman was allowed to look good every once and awhile.
Amara sat with her arms folded in front of her on the table. She was a very strong woman with a build that conveyed as much. She maintained a non-traditional form of beauty that divided men down the middle—they were either incredibly drawn to her, or incredibly intimidated by her. Either way, she enjoyed it.
To her right was the other female of the group—Tiān Kōng.
Tiān Kōng —codename: Lady of the Sky—came from a similar background as Amara, only from another part of the world. Also a chromey, Tiān was born in a small village in rural China. Unlike Amara however, Tiān’s genetic mutation was obvious from the moment she was born. Her parents were stunned as the midwife handed them a small human daughter with a pair of feathered wings on her back.
At first, Tiān’s parents and the villagers did not know what to make of the little girl. They had never before heard of a person being born with the wings of a bird. Before she was even able to walk, Tiān was flying around the family home, giggling uncontrollably as her parent’s struggled to catch here as she whizzed by them. Much like Amara, the villagers eventually concluded that she must have been some kind of angel, sent to watch over their village. They coined her “Lady of the Sky,” a title which raised her family to a high level of status in their small village.
Over the years Tiān did her best to live up to her prophecy and protect the village. She was the first person charged with investigating any crimes within the village, and also became involved whenever outside threats such as looters threatened the villagers’ safety. Unlike Amara however, Tiān was not invulnerable nor was she ever trained in the ways of a warrior. She often faced great risk while defending the village, and that risk eventually caught up to her.
One day a group of looters came to the village and threatened to rob everyone of their valuables. The village was poor, but many of the families held onto artifacts from their ancestors that were very valuable on the underground market. Assuming her duty, Tiān tried to ward of the intruders by attacking from above, using rocks and an old bow that her father had given her. She was not a very good shot however—especially from the air.
She resorted to using fly-by attacks, attempting to dive down and punch or kick her opponents before taking back off into the air. He tactics failed, as one of the looters had a bow of his own and was able to place an arrow right through the center of her left wing. The crippled bird woman tumbled to the ground and the robbers got away with their loot.
The village physician had no idea how to treat the wound, so Tiān’s parents resorted to taking her to a hospital in Beijing. When she was admitted to the hospital, her parents covered her wings with a large overcoat. The moment they removed the coat in the private exam room, the doctor immediately ordered her parents to put the coat back on and led them out of the hospital and to his personal home. He feared what the Chinese government might do if they discovered Tiān’s existence. He decided to call a brilliant geneticist he had met once in London. That was when Tiān Kōng first popped up on the Assembly’s radar.
Tiān was a very sweet girl who harbored no ill will toward anyone. Unlike the rest of the Assembly, Tiān was peaceful by nature, and did not like physical confrontation. She got involved only because she believed in a personal duty to protect others, which made her important in maintaining the balance of the team. The over aggressive nature of some of the others sometimes caused them to lose perspective, something Tiān had helped them to regain on more than one occasion.
Tiān was very tiny, appropriately so for someone who spent a lot of her time soaring through the air. She was built like a gymnast, and often looked like she was performing a gymnastics routine while executing some of her more advance aerial maneuvers. Her long dark hair reached the center of her back. The rest of the team often wondered why she never cut it because it blew everywhere when she flew. She was fast and agile when she was in the air, proving herself to be an incredibly valuable member of the team not only mentally but physically.
Further down the table was the Alien Grok Tûn.
Grok was a mysterious case. He was an alien who supposedly traveled from the other side of the galaxy to Earth before crash landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. When the Assembly had first been told about Grok, they didn’t believe it. Most people were smart enough to know that the Roswell story was more fiction than fact, but as it turned out most people were dead wrong.
After crash landing in the desert Grok’s fragile body had suffered serious injury, but luckily his ship’s safety equipment had been enough to keep him alive. The government recovered the body and brought it to Area 51, where Grok spent twenty years recovering from injuries that would have taken most humans only several months to recover from. During this time Grok remained in an unconscious healing state. His species’ bodies were unable to remain conscious and heal at the same time.
When he finally awoke in the sixties, the government naturally had a lot of questions for him. They treated him with respect, but he was undoubtedly a prisoner—never allowed to leave the confines of the base. He received nourishment by ingesting Earth minerals, which he would swallow whole and allow his body to digest. The crew at Area 51 provided him with all of the sand, dirt, and rocks that he could eat.
Grok told them that he had been assigned to travel to Earth and observe the planet’s dominant species, then report back on whether he felt they had evolved far enough to join the other sentient beings that made up the Galactic Alliance. He determined that they indeed had, but his ship’s communication systems had been destroyed in the crash and Earth’s technology was not yet advanced enough to be able to repair them. Had Grok had the correct parts he would have been able to build a new one, but while from an advanced race he was not tech savvy enough to know how to design said parts with Earth technology.
The reason the government had decided to tell Major Justice and The Eagle about Grok was that he was more than just an alien being—he had a supernatural ability. Grok had the ability to control both time and space. He could slow time down on command, almost freezing it, while allowing himself and any others he chose to move through space at a seemingly normal speed—time being entirely relative. He could also warp space, bridging long distances in a single step.
Grok tried to explain his abilities to hundreds of the world’s brightest physicists, but they were unable to grasp how such a thing could be possible. Each one had their own theory of course, but none were definitive.
While his abilities were incredibly powerful, Grok’s weakness was that his body was incredible fragile. Many biologists determined that however his powers were able to work the way they did, his species had probably developed them through means of natural selection. In order to survive with such fragile bodies they needed a way to avoid being damaged, and someone who could control time and space at their whim was nearly impossible to lay a finger on.
His cranium was also very well protected. His bulbous head offered a great deal of padding, and his skull had proven incredibly durable. While his body was easily damaged, his brain was not, meaning he was very easy to injure but difficult to kill. The only problem with that was that it took years of unconscious recovery for him to regain his health.
As it became more and more clear that super humans were becoming the planet’s newest and greatest protectors, the government felt Grok would be best served as a member of the Assembly. For decades he had been a model inmate, never complaining about his situation or taking any aggression out on those in the base. With his abilities he could have easily escaped, but he chose not to. In his last ten years on the base they had even allowed him to move around freely as long as he didn’t go outside. Finally, with the formation of the Assembly, the government released him into their custody.
Grok was one hundred Earth-years old when he crash landed in New Mexico. The average lifespan of his species was around three-hundred years, so it seemed that he still had a lot of time left on Earth. He hoped that one day the planet’s technology would evolve far enough that he could reestablish communication with his home world, or that they might come looking for him, but to this point he had shown an extraordinary willingness to adjust to Earth and its multitude of cultures. He found our planet fascinating and beautiful, and he considered humans to be quite charming. He often said that if he had to crash land anywhere in the galaxy, he was glad it was here.
Another trait of Grok’s species was that they were easily distracted, but incredibly skilled at multitasking. It often seemed as though he wasn’t paying any attention to what was going on, but in reality he was registering every single world. His ability to focus on two, three, or four things at once was remarkable.
Currently he was staring at the screen of his tablet, which was resting on the table in front of him. His beady black eyes moved from side to side as he surveyed the entire screen. His thick grey skin was rough and clay-like as it wrapped around his narrow face. His nose was flat—nonexistent really—as there were merely two small holes in the center of his face where a nose was generally located on a human. It was the same for his ears—two holes on the side of his head. His mouth had no lips, and operated similar to a nutcracker’s—the bottom half of his jaw moving straight up and down while the upper jaw remained stationary. His purple tongue was also very short, barely long enough to stick out from his mouth when extended.
There was no discernable brow above his all-black eyes, which was something that humans took for granted but appeared incredibly odd when looking at a humanoid species without one. Instead his skull began to curve backward, extending a full twelve inches before rounding off in the back. The rear of his oversized dome was like a party balloon—very round and wide.
Grok was humanoid, but his body was very tall and lengthy. He stood six-six, but weighed only one hundred and seventy pounds. Currently he was wearing khaki shorts and a blue Hawaiian shirt—something he had taken to wearing after moving to the island. He claimed that he had done research on the internet for appropriate island wear, then immediately went out and bought a dozen outfits just like that one.
Grok was also the only member of the Assembly who didn’t have an official codename. There were instances when the media simply referred to him as “the alien,” but for the most part everyone really liked saying the name Grok Tûn.
At the far end of the table from Amara was Eric Strife.
Eric Strife—codename: The Animal—was the world’s most renowned geneticist. Born in Manchester and spending most of his life in London, Eric spent years working at Oxford researching a way to splice human DNA with that of other animals in an attempt to perfect the species. This was something that scientists had been attempting to unlock the key to for many years, but everyone in the genetics community firmly believed that Eric Strife had the best chance to succeed.
Once corporations from all over the globe began hearing of Doctor Strife and his game-changing brilliance, they started pouring millions into funding his work. Like so many others before him though, Eric always seemed to be one critical breakthrough away from success, and eventually the well began to dry up.
Part of the problem was the Eric dreamed too big. It wasn’t enough for him to take just one species and cross its DNA with a human’s, he insisted on picking and choosing traits from all across the animal kingdom and combining them into one human subject. His colleagues and mentors insisted that he focus on just one in order to demonstrate the potential for success and secure more funding before moving on to a more complicated endeavor, but he refused.
Eric spent countless hours working alone in his lab, refusing to sleep until he’d unlocked the key to his research. Finally, as his very last cent of funding had been spent, he’d found a formula that proved successful in all of his simulations.
He took his work to all of his investors and begged them for a little more money to allow him to start further testing, but they refused. None believed that he was as close as he claimed and told him that they had already wasted too much money in his fantasy. Eric refused to accept this failure, and therefore decided to pursue the only course of action available to him.
It was drastic and foolish, but testing the formula on himself was the only hope he had left. This was his life’s work—if he couldn’t make it work, he had nothing else to live for. His reputation as a scientist depended on the success of this formula—it had to work.
He went home that night and stood in front of the mirror, contemplating his life. His computer simulations had proven successful, but human trials were another animal entirely. He took a deep breath and plunged the needle into his arm. He expected some sort of great pain, but it never came. Instead he felt only a small tingle near the injection sight, until his entire body suddenly went numb. He collapsed onto the floor before blacking out.
Eric awoke the next morning to the sound of a creature growling. He jumped up and realized that it was not in fact growling, but his own snoring. He reached up to scratch his nose and felt a searing pain as his nails dug into his skin. He screamed and moved his hand back. His eyes widened as he noticed the sharp, black claws growing from where his fingernails used to be.
He gasped as he jumped up and looked at himself in the mirror. Everything about him had changed. His entire body was much hairier than before, and he was more muscular and toned.
He moved in closer to look at his face. He smiled big and started opening and closing his jaw repeatedly. He suddenly started remembering the night before, and all of the various genetic markers he’d included in his formula. He now had the claws, jaw strength, and fangs of a jungle cat. He had a full-grown beard whereas he had previously been unable to grow much in the way of facial hair. He sniffed with his nose and found that he could smell breakfast cooking at the diner two blocks over. He focused his hearing and heard music coming from the coffee shop on the other side of the block.
He stared into his own eyes. He adjusted his pupils and his vision suddenly zoomed in like a high resolution photo lens. He jumped back as he felt a sudden strain on his vision, rubbing his eyes before lowering his hands to make sure his vision had returned to normal.
He glanced back at the mirror and noticed his hair—previously black and now the blonde color of a lion’s mane. It was long and thick and ran down the back of his neck.
He took a step back to observe the rest of his body. On the sides of his torso were three large slits—the gills of a fish. He looked again at his hands. Suddenly his claws slowly retracted back into his fingertips. He tried to focus on them, and just as they had disappeared they began to slowly reemerge.
He took another step back and almost tripped over his feet. He looked down. His feet—they looked like giant hands! They had thumbs!
His head shot up in sudden realization. He turned, seeing his new tail for the first time—he had included the DNA of a tree monkey.
Suddenly, he felt an unexplained wave of anger. It wasn’t supposed to work like this. He was supposed to maintain human appearance while being able to utilize the traits of other animals. Looking at himself now he looked like a circus freak.
In his anger, he dug his claws into his armoire and hurled it across the room, sending it crashing into the far wall. He paused—the strength of a great ape.
He turned back to the mirror, looking closer at where his claws had cut his nose earlier. The wound had disappeared—the regenerative properties of a reptile.
Once he was past his harsh appearance, Eric ran out to find his colleagues and investors. He wanted to prove to them that his formula had been a success. He would demonstrate to them his new abilities and they would have to jump back onboard. He would win a Nobel Prize for this!
What he hadn’t counted on was the fact that the citizens of London may not have been ready to see a giant man-animal to come barreling through the streets. They panicked. The police came after him and his colleagues barricaded themselves away from him—frightened by his new potential. Stirred into a frenzied state, Eric defended himself as he tried to escape from the police.
That was when the newly formed Assembly of Super Humans was called in to handle the threat. When they arrived, they quickly found that it was all a misunderstanding. The man-animal meant no ill-will toward anyone. After a brief physical altercation, the Assembly was finally able to settle Eric down. He then told them his story, and upon hearing it the team decided to invite The Animal to join their new team.
Eric was currently trying to keep himself from drifting off as Amara continued down her agenda for this afternoon’s meeting. From his vantage point up above Harry could see that Grok was also keeping his mind occupied away from the meeting—a game of Asteroids currently in session on his tablet. Ever since the technology had been developed Grok had acquired a fascination with space-based video games from the seventies and eighties. He hadn’t stopped playing them since.
Amara continued to lead the meeting from the far end of the table. “The next candidate up for admittance into the Assembly is Zuleyka Marquez, a chromey shape-shifter.”
Today the Assembly was voting in the first new members of the team to have lived and trained in the Society. The observation room continued around the corner from where Harry and the group were currently sitting. The Assembly hopefuls were sitting along the wall to their right, listening as the High Council gave their evaluations and voiced any objections. Also in that area of the observation room were various members of the world’s press.
Currently sitting at the table with the High Council were a collection of ambassadors and representatives from several of the world’s major nations such as the United States, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and France—as well from major world organizations like the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. Some of the representatives were actual ambassadors who lived on the island and served as a liaison between the SSE and their respective country, while others visited only when their government felt the High Council was discussing an important enough topic.
Each representative and ambassador was given the opportunity to take the floor and voice their opinions on any issue presented by the High Council, but only the four Councilmembers ultimately got a vote when it came to matters regarding the Assembly and the Society.
To date, only the original six members of the Assembly had ever served on the High Council. After the departure of Jason and Harry, the number of Councilmembers had been cut down from six to just four. On paper this seemed like it would have a significant impact on the way the Council functioned. In the olden days, a five-to-one vote had been required for any motion to pass. Now that there were only four voting members, only a three-to-one vote—or simple majority—was needed.
Harry and Jason knew better than to believe their presences made any different, which was why they had few qualms about leaving. Even when the vote was five-to-one, Amara had always gotten her way. She was aggressive and always played an aggressive strategy. She had always stood firm on her beliefs that the commercialization of super humans was a good thing. She felt that increased recognition had led to stronger influence and greater respect on the world stage. In many ways she had been right. As their exposure grew and people from all over the globe began to learn their names, the bad guys began realizing that they did not want to make enemies of the Assembly, while the good guys decided that they were valuable allies.
While increased awareness was in many ways a great thing for not only the Assembly but the entire world, Amara’s beliefs sometimes proved to be a little to grandioso. It was on these occasions that Harry and Jason often found themselves aligned against her, and that made for some unpleasant council meetings. Amara began believing that the team needed to start focusing only on major world events, and let the world’s militaries and police handle the more mild incidents. This was where Jason—a notorious hero of the little guy—drew the line.
The vote always started at four-to-two the first time around. Eric had as aggressive a personality as Amara, and therefore always sided with her from the word go. Meanwhile Jason almost always landed on the other side of the issue, and was as stubborn as they were. Unfortunately for Jason the stubborn vote was always two-to-one against him, and the other three who generally began the debate on his side of the issue, were always worn down and twisted into voting with Amara and Eric.
Grok was always the first to go. The alien lacked human passion for an ideological stance and Amara knew just what buttons to push, using slanted reason to bring Grok over to her side of the table.
Harry would then hold out for hours, each time swearing that he would not again give into pressure and leave Jason hanging out to dry. But in the end there were always aspects to Amara’s ideas that seemed to have some merit, and giving into them accomplished a lot more than sitting around for days arguing about it. Once Harry folded, Tiān was quick to follow. Her background often caused her to share in Jason’s ideals, but she disliked confrontation, and like Harry she would rather follow Amara’s lead than continue arguing any longer. This always left Jason standing alone on the losing end of a five-to-one vote.
It had been one of the many broken straws that had led to Jason’s disgruntled departure. Once Jason and Harry were gone, the voting process was almost unnecessary as there was no one left to take a firm stand against Amara. It was also after they’d left that the High Council had decided to appoint a Chairperson—something that had not even been a thought previously. Though he was always outnumbered in the voting, Jason had always been considered the Assembly’s unofficial leader in the field. As soon as he was gone Amara swooped in to fill the vacancy, and had decided to make it official by creating the Chairperson position. She was elected by an Assembly-wide vote—at the time fourteen members large.
Since Harry had left, the Council had discussed adding two or more members back to the High Council at almost every single meeting, but they were never able to agree on who. For so long the decisions had been left to those six that it was very difficult to imagine allowing anyone else to be awarded that kind of influence. Still, everyone believed that it would need to be done eventually.
“Would the guests of the Council like to make any statements before we prepare to vote?” Amara asked the suits from varying nations sitting to her left at the table.
A few of them perked up as if awoken from a dull daze, but none said a word. It appeared no one had any strong feelings one way or the other about any of today’s candidates.
“Then we shall open the vote,” Amara announced.
Also on the floor was a media crew consisting of a cameraman, boom operator, and a director. The cameraman had been kneeling to Amara’s left with the camera focused on her while she had been speaking. Now, as the voting began, the director was gesturing for the camera and boom microphone to circle around the table in order to better capture the votes of each councilmember.
Harry rolled his eyes. He looked over to Jason who sat with his head resting on his right fist. He looked agitated.
Allowing the camera crew to follow them around was another one of Amara’s decisions. A cable station had paid the Assembly four million dollars to let them come in and film a “documentary” about the formation of the Society, but if the first season was any indication, the crew was actually filming a celebrity reality show under the guise of a documentary. It was almost embarrassing, but the Assembly had agreed to a two-season contract with an option for two more. To this point the ratings had been through the roof.
One by one the council voted to approve Zuleyka’s admission into the Assembly, and Harry watched as a very happy young woman began to celebrate on the other side of the observatory. He smiled as she received hugs from those around her. Zuley was a prime example of why they had chosen to establish the SSE. He was very happy for her.
The group watched quietly as the process was repeated five more times—all six of the candidates receiving a unanimous vote for admission into the Assembly—growing their membership to twenty strong with dozens more to come in the following months. Harry looked over his group wondering which one of them would be the first to receive admission. His money was on Sabrina if she was willing to put herself out there.
Harry sat up and prepared for the meeting to adjourn so that he could take the group down to meet the High Council. He lifted his arms up and stretched his mechanical body, giving relief to those few organic muscles that were still hanging on to their existence.
He sat forward and watched as Amara concluded the meeting. “Congratulations to those six who have been awarded entry into our esteemed Assembly of Superheroes. We welcome you with open arms and greatly look forward to working with, and getting to know each of you a little bit better. Everyone is invited to attend a welcome reception in the grand ballroom one floor below us. And…”
Harry tilted his head to the side as Amara paused in the middle of her sentence as though confused about what to say next. It was very unlike the woman who was usually a very confident public speaker.
“And I would also like to give a special shout-out to a new young prospect from the United States who is with us today—the great Phsychosis. He is a young super human with a lot of potential and I assure you he will be joining our team very soon. Get it Bryan!”
Harry’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped in horror. If his face hadn’t been mostly synthetic he was certain it would have gone flush. He nearly gave himself whiplash as he shot his head around to look first at Jason and then at Bryan. Jason had a fire burning deep in his eyes and Harry knew that for the boy’s sake he’d better get to him before Jason did.
Amara gave a deep, dark glare up toward the glass window above her, knowing very well what had just transpired. Harry gulped, imagining the She-Beast tearing off every one of his robotic limbs, piece by piece. It wouldn’t be the first time.