When one has a big huge whole world, it's hard to figure out where to open a seam to let you in. So. Donna will tell you her story,the history of her people and their city, up through its recent decay - and the decision to track down the long-lost girl who may be their only home.
And so Act I of the comic itself will start with Tessa getting the call. Because it has some humor with the horror, it shows the fantasy element right off, it introduces a lot of characters in a fairly organic day...
This is a world, not just a story. In a world, beginnings happen every day. This isn't the beginning. But it is a beginning, and one of the more important ones.
We're in the forest: Zion National Park in Utah.
Caption: “I want to believe in myself once again/So I dream of a man whose hopes never end/To kiss with a girl who’s as lovely as you/I’ll give you my heart if you give me the truth” – Flogging Molly, “Black Friday Rule”
Start with a home-video-camera view of Napalm. He says, "Aisling Fisher. Napalm. I blow shit up."
Next panel, voice from behind camera (Johnathan): "Why do you always have to say that?"
Napalm rolls his eyes. "Dude. It's my whaddayacall. Catchphrase. Okay?"
Snort from Johnathan.
Napalm crosses his arms, smug. "You're just jealous that *you* don't have a catchphrase."
Johnathan: "I could have one if I wanted one. Ummm... 'Raven! He comes by night!'"
Napalm doubles over laughing. "Comes by night? Dude. No. So wrong!"
Camera tips down to show the ground. "Hey. Beavis. Do you wanna do this or not?"
Camera swings back up to him. Napalm composes himself. "Yeah, sure. Lemme pose."
He strikes the familiar fireball-throwing pose, arranges himself so his "good side” faces the camera, tries his best to look serious. "Aisling Fisher. Napalm. I blow shit up."
Static shot of him facing the camera. Then Johnathan moves the camera, and we see through his eyes: Napalm's wielding a crackling ball of raw energy, but the camera's obviously not picking it up. Camera. Johnathan. Camera. Johnathan.
Johnathan: "The fireball's not showing up on camera, man."
Napalm, exasperated, drops his hands. "What? Aw, no..." ...and he has obviously forgotten that he was holding a frickin' fireball, because the pine needles beneath him ignite with a fwoomp. He yelps and jumps away. We see Johnathan now as he grabs the fire extinguisher he had Just In Case and sprays the area. Napalm starts laughing, full-on belly-laugh, as Johnathan rolls his eyes...
We cut to Tessa and Adam. Tessa's perched on a boulder not far away - she can hear the laughing and clearly heard the yelp, because she has her fingers pressed to her temples and is muttering "I DON'T want to know, I DON'T want to know..." Adam's leaning against the boulder, smiling wryly. Napalm tears out of the woods with Johnathan hot on his heels; Johnathan's got the camera in one hand and the fire extinguisher in the other. Napalm: "Tessa! Tessa, did you know my fireballs don't show up on film?"
Tessa, wary: "How do you know this?"
Napalm: "Well, we were thinking we should make like a reality-show kinda thing. Like the Real World, or I guess more like Road Rules - the true story -"
Johnathan: "...true story..."
Napalm: "Of four strangers, with superpowers, in a minivan!"
Tessa, faintly: "Ah." Pause. "So you were filming yourselves goofing off in the woods..."
Napalm: "Yeah, but the fireballs don't show up on camera! How're we gonna have a superhero Road Rules thing if you can't see the superpowers?!?"
Johnathan: "Yeah, so bright boy over here drops his fireball..."
Tessa: "DROPS his FIREBALL?"
Napalm throws a pinecone at Johnathan, who deflects it telekinetically with a flick of his wrist; it thuds to the ground harmlessly.
Tessa: "Aisling. You nearly caused a forest fire in a national park, and you think the problem is that it doesn't show up on film?!?" Muttering to herself: "I was right, I didn't want to know..." The cell-phone clipped to her belt rings, and she answers it. “Hello? Jason, hi!” She brightens visibly upon realizing it’s Jason; even her posture improves. She hops down off the boulder and paces as she talks; Napalm and Johnathan bicker in the background.
[Boys continue bickering...]
Tessa: “They did?”
[Napalm turns his back to Johnathan, mock-sulky.]
Tessa, all color draining from her face, very quietly, “Oh.” All of the boys turn to look at her, picking up the change in tone. “So they want me to… oh.” The fingertips of the hand not holding the phone are again at her temple – she’s visibly distressed but trying to hide it. “Okay. No, we’re not far; we’re at Zion National Park. We’ll get packed up right now, be there in a few hours.” Pause. The boys are silent and watchful. “Yeah… thanks, Jason. We’ll see you soon.” Hangs up. Stays facing away from the boys for a long moment, then turns. “Okay, guys, change of plans – we’re heading back to the Sanctuary.”
Napalm knows he shouldn’t ask, but does anyway: “Everything okay, Tessa?”
Tessa gives a small, strained smile. “Yeah, no crisis, just a new mission. Pack up, we’ll discuss it in the car.”
Napalm and Johnathan go to their tent to pack; Adam follows Tessa to theirs. He stops her with his hands on her shoulders, standing behind her: “Tess – what is this mission?”
Tessa, jaw squared, looking away: “They want me to find my littlest sister.”
[A cafe, five years ago - Tessa and her first group. We show Julia's "awakening" hitting everyone, some more severely than others; imagery similar to that used in SSCA #6. I have not yet written this in enough detail to show it to you.]
“What the hell was that?!?” asks Michael, scared, but Tessa’s already got the phone out and is punching in Jason’s number with trembling fingers. “Jason. No, I need Jason. It’s Tessa Stone. Tessa ni’Tamra, I need Jason now!” Adam holds her other hand. Tears are pouring down her face. “Jason! What the hell – what was that? That girl, she…” Pause. “You told me she died.” Pause. “You told me she was stillborn, Jason.” Her face is tightening in anger. “Okay. Okay, fine. I’m open. Read me. Get whatever you can from me. Find her.” She covers her face with her free hand. “Find her. Tell me when you do. I want to meet my sister… and I think she’s going to need me.”
They’re in the van now and have been going for a while; they’re in a red rock canyon-y area. Adam’s driving, Tessa’s in the passenger seat; Napalm’s behind Adam but leaning forward into the gap between seats, and Johnathan’s kicking back behind Tessa. Tessa’s staring resolutely out the window.
Napalm: “They couldn’t find her?”
Tessa: “Well, Jason and I managed to figure out where it had happened… but she was long gone. The psychometrists he sent in gave him all the readings they could find*, but there were no clues as to where she’d gone – we think she just ran scared, with no destination in mind. And immediately after the attack, she shielded herself pretty much airtight – no one’s sensed her anywhere.”
Napalm: “But, I mean, she could’ve died, right? Are you sure she’s still alive?”
Tessa: “Positive. My sisters and I… it’s not that we share a really deep bond, but the bond is there. I can feel their presence, and they can feel mine. Now that I know that Julia’s alive – I can feel her, just a little. That’s why Jason’s sending me; I’ve got the best chance, maybe the only chance, of finding her.”
Johnathan: “Wait. If you guys can all feel each other, why isn’t Alanna’s Council looking for her? You said they don’t even know she’s alive, but how could that be? I mean, if all of you felt her that night…”
Tessa: “Well, for whatever reason, Katrianna didn’t tell. We’ve got a source at her – at our father’s place, who says she played dumb, pretended that she had no more information than anyone else.”
“And we don’t know why, but Alanna didn’t seem to feel anything that night.” is the caption over a darkened bedroom – Alanna’s. Vast, well-decorated, tchotschkes everywhere, but none of them seem all that personal. This is actually Halloran’s parents’ old bedroom, and Alanna’s done surprisingly little in the way of redecoration. Several framed photographs are turned face-down. Hounds are stationed around the bedroom in alert status, none of them looking especially comfortable. There’s a hunched figure in the darkest corner; from her we hear a hissing indrawn breath. Something clatters to the floor, and we hear her say, “Shit.” The item rolls into view, and we can see that it’s a hypodermic needle. One of the Hounds seizes it and returns it to her; the “camera” follows him, so that we can see Alanna better as he approaches her. She’s sitting on a stool in front of a large cherry vanity table; perfume bottles, old lipsticks, tons of this stuff lying on its sides, gathering dust. The only dust-free item is a hand mirror. Alanna herself is looking mildly haggard – hair in slight, sexy disarray, the makeup on one eye smudged. She’s carefully adjusting long gloves (above-the-elbow) with shaking hands. The Hound kneels before her and presents the needle to her on upturned palms; she takes it and sets it on the vanity, being very careful with its placement. Then she pets the Hound’s head. “Good doggie,” she says. “Wanna lick the spoon?”
*This is what you see and hear in SSCA #6 - Shawn's dreaming about eavesdropping on the psychometrists.
(copyright me. eventual art copyright mouse.)