[Edit: I won't even mention how much of the afternoon I spent on this and still have to come back and edit it.]
The Furious Fist [Ning Lee Wong; Henry Wong]: "All I am saying, Officer, is that, past experience notwithstanding, this might not be the occasion to rely on time travellers."
Superintendent Ranjit Acharya: "Look, uhm, Fist. This whole "superhero" thing was ancient myth around here until six months ago. You know how that changed? "The Empress of a Billion Dimensions" invaded, and her superagents swept the forces of the Galactic Federation before them. I saw no way to win, or even survive. Many of my colleagues didn't. Then, seven superheroes saved the Federation. Three of them came from your era, and I doubt that we would have had the others without them. So pardon me if I have more confidence in your team than you do."
Henry: "I'm not seeing the problem here. Your officers mopped up the zombies without even calling in the army."
Acharya: "It's not the ...zombies I'm worried about. It's whatever raised them. I'm looking through databases from your era, and it's like concentrated essence of horror movie. With pictures. Lots of pictures."
Henry: "How do you do make that picture?"
Acharya: "Here: touch my finger. Okay, your phone is activated. Now you can do it, too."
Henry: "But how... Oh."
Acharya: "Yeah. It's pretty user friendly. Now. See what I'm saying?"
Henry: "Those are comic books!"
Acharya: "The database is incomplete that far back. Are they wrong?"
Henry: "No. Well, except Ma Tian. She's much prettier than that."
Acharya: "Oka-ay then. We'll be happy to back you up; but you have the experience and the abilities to make the difference."
Henry: "I have a high school field trip! Can't you get your Champions on the job? I'm sure they don't giggle every time their leader talks."
Acharya: "They're halfway across the galaxy, and your phone can fix your hair."
[Inside, Henry wilted, although he tried not to show it. He'd known that the Afro was a mistake. How could an Eight Dragon master succumb to peer pressure? But it was Beowulf who suggested it. Beowulf! And everyone back in 1972 liked it. For a second, Henry wondered what Ma Tian would say about it. Why was he thinking about her so much?]
Henry: "That's not the point... Okay. What have you got?"
Acharya: "Forensics says that the zombies are all from one of the Xenovore livestock transports that Zhukov shot down in 2355 into the Adirondack Planetary Park and left as a war grave. There's similar sites in Blue Ridge Park, a third in Grand Coulee. And others, but those are the closest to human populations, so we think that that is where you will find your 'necromancer.'"
Henry: "This phone thing must have put Funk and Wagnells right out of business. There are no humans living in the Great Basin north of Shasta? Is the Earth completely depopulated?"
Acharya: "No. There's 17 billion of us. We just like living in cities. It's better for the environment."
Henry: "I own land in the Grand Coulee park."
Acharya: "You've got a time machine. Take it up with Empress Marissa."
Henry: "You want my help, or don't you?"
Acharya: "There's not much that I can do. The Grand Coulee Park was established by a Presence Edict, and there's a huge block of data behind a secure Imperial encryption. I'll get an archaeologist on it, but it typically takes a couple of weeks to get at anything an old-time emperor wanted kept secret."
Henry: "You do that. Getting back to cases, can you drop my team at the grave site? My teleporter can probably do it, but we're a little one-sided, and I would prefer to keep the fact that one of my three light fighters has something else under her belt a secret until I need her."
Acharya: "Sure. And don't you have a fourth hand-to-hand specialist?"
Acharya: "Because we just picked up another 21st Century youth throwing scenery at zombies at the south end of the outbreak. Because if you don't want him, my daughter is doing her third cycle thesis on skateboard culture, and I'm sure she'd love to interview him. No? I'll have him beamed right over."
[Oh great, Henry thought. A Kung Fu girl on roller skates, and a brick on a skateboard. If he could just get the Amazing Spleen onto a surfboard, the team would be made. Which brought him to the next item on the list.]
The Amazing Spleen: "No. No. Of course I can't be team leader. That's crazy! You're ...you're perfect for the job. You're nine years older than me!"
Henry: "But you know these kids. I don't. You're all from my future, and if you say the wrong thing there will be a metaphysical disaster and the universe will end. Like, for example, whatever you almost said there. You were doing fine back last stop before I showed up. You coped after Tateklys pulled me out."
Amazing: "That's different. Me and Sn...Snake...Snakes-On-A-Plane are...friends from sch....school. And we've, we've fought together. We have to trust Tateklys to maintain the integrity of the timestream. We would not be here if there weren't something important going on, and I am sure that he picked us all for a reason."
[Henry wasn't a mean man. He did not enjoy pushing Brad into talking about his crush, and he knew better than to comment on the flush spreading across the stammering boy's face. He also had to remind himself that the girls were only two years younger than the Spleen, and that he would probably be as hapless with them as he was at talking about Snakes-On-A-Plane.
And come to that, it would probably be better for the Spleen if he did talk about his feelings with someone instead of running away from them. That, presumably, being what the grown-up of the group was supposed to arrange. And how had Henry become the grown-up, responsible for these timestrewn children? This was not the kind of life he'd been prepared for at Eight Dragon Monastery.
Amazing: "Uhm, who is that boy dressed in 21st Century clothes, and why is he fighting with the Avenging Daughter?"
Henry: "Don't just stand there gaping, this boy is strong!"
Vijay: "Who are you calling a boy? Just give me a second to figure out this hold and I'll...You're good at this, aren't you?"
Avenging Daughter: "Don't hurt him! He's got my phone!"
Henry: "I shouldn't hurt him? You punched him in the face. Five times. With the Eight Dragon Fist. Which, by the way, we are going to talk about right after we settle this."
Avenging Daughter: "I didn't hit him hard."
Vijay: "No. No, she did not ...sir."
[Henry caught the change of tone, the note of pennies dropping. What was going on here? Why did this girl look so familiar? Because of the family resemblance to Snakes-on-a-Plane? No. There was something more than that]: "You're Ma Tian's daughter, aren't you?" [The girl looked scared, but didn't say anything. It didn't matter, though, because it was obvious.
It was like Mardoom Thah punching him all over again. Ma Tian had told him that she was a living Buddha, that she would never re-enter Maya, never take a lover or have a child. And of all the things that treacherous half-Turk had told him that day fighting across the Shop Rite, that was the one thing that he had believed. Willed himself to believe, he thought now. But she had. And why should he care? More importantly, who had been her Eight Dragon teacher? Probably his great-uncle. That this was a mere girl, a child trying to do right, was all that pulled Henry back.]
Vijay: "Oh, please step back now, sir. That was all so many years ago, and no-one needs to be hurt right now."
[Why was the Avenging Daughter crying? But then Vijay's hand crept to take hers, right in front of Henry, and he realised that, whatever he was feeling himself in this moment, an Eight Dragon master could overcome it and be happy for these children. He could, he would, be a teacher, and a man.]
Henry: "I'm cool. How did you get free, anyway, Mr.... I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name?"
Vijay: "Vijay Singh Kumar. And freeing myself would have been my second clue that you and Ma Tian have issues."
Henry: "Indeed we do. That dragon lady is the lieutenant of Yin Wu herself, and a deadly fighter even before she recruited my great-uncle to teach her Eight Dragon Kung Fu. But 38 years is a long time, and your sister is a good woman, Avenging Daughter, and you seem to be as well. Although I will be damned if I let you go into our next operation trying to fight in roller skates."
Avenging Daughter [Suddenly smiling instead of crying]: "Sir!"
[Henry didn't even have to be looking to know that Tri-Del was rolling her eyes. Maybe managing three teenage girls wouldn't be so hard.]
Henry Wong will remember that specific thought again and again in years to come, and he will laugh and laugh.
This is the fifteenth installment in my Champions Universe fan fiction focussing on Philadelphia's Liberty Legion, and the third installment of the second arc that may someday go in between "Jenny's End, Part Two" and "Jenny's End, Part Two, Two." It depends on how much of a cliffhanger it ends up being. And whether I change those stupid titles. And whether the Lion Stallion turns into a typical Mary Sue pet.
All new characters and malevolent alien races are from "future history" supplements published by Hero Games, including Alien Wars, Terran Empire, and, of course, Galactic Champions. It's not clear to me that they are part of the Cryptic Games license, but, for what it's worth, let's assume that they are. Eight Dragon Kung Fu, however, is introduced with Spirit Dragon, published in the Champions supplement Villains, Vandals, and Vermin. What can I say? I like his build: an Aid on one primary characteristic at any one time, plus a naked armour piercing advantage on his Martial Strike. So he can punch fast, accurately, or very hard (roughly equivalent to the Thing's regular punch, with the armoured piercing advantage.) He is, however, built on 443 points in Fifth Edition, 200 points less than Henry Wong, Senior, and almost 200 more than May Wong. Which doesn't really explain how May manages to throw an Autofire punch, but I figure it's because she's feisty.