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Strangers: A New Twist #1
July, 1998

Jumpstart (Part 1) - Lightning Strike

Written by Lex, based on the plot
for Strangers #1 by Steve Englehart
Edited by Phractyl and James Pedrick
Created by Steve Englehart

Property of Malibu Comics

Softly scented breezes are blowing in off the wide Pacific Ocean, as the special light shining only on San Francisco suffuses the world's favorite city. But even here, it's a workday. At a quarter to nine on a Tuesday morning, the Powell Street cable car is jammed with the same cross-section of humanity found in any other city. There's nothing at all special about this car or its passengers. Oh, except they're just about eight minutes away from the biggest change in their life.

Just stepping on the car are two art students, Hugh Fox and Bob Hardin. They stand right next to a man and a woman who are making out in front of everyone.

"Bob!" says Hugh. "Check this out! Doin' the wild thing!"

"Jeez!" says Bob. "Why don't they get a room?"

"They'd have to check out by eleven, and I don't think they're gonna be through."

"Eleven which day?"

"We're makin' the natives restless, Candy!" says the man. "I told you this would be better than takin' a cab home."

"You're always right, J. D.!" says Candy. As her face is now uncovered, Candy has long, red hair and beautiful, light-blue eyes. Both Bob and Hugh look at her in amazement.

"End of story," says J. D. as he and Candy start making out again. A young African-American boy responds with "Hella cool!" and a woman elegantly dressed in black with short black hair looks at the display in disgust.

"That's disgusting!" says an African-American woman in a nurse's uniform.

The elderly gentleman sitting beside her says, "Oh pipe down! Let the young people have their fun! I'm not so old, I don't remember--"

"Don't tell me you ever had standards that low!" The nurse then looks over at the conductor of the cable car and says, "Gripman, can't you do something about that?"

A man wearing glasses and a Hawaiian shirt says, "Wait! I haven't got my picture yet! I'm a tourist! I've got rights!"

The conductor says to the couple, "Excuse me. I'll have to ask you folks to take a break-"

The man called J. D. gives him an angry look and then looks back at Candy. "It's a free country, my friend! That's first. Second, I can buy and sell this ticky-tack system. And third, the lady LIKES what I'm doing! End of story!"

Bob and Hugh look at each other and smile, almost as if they think the exact same thing. Both of them pick up J. D. by his suit coat and are joined by another man who says, "I'll give you a hand with that, boys!" All three throw J. D. off of the cable car.

Hugh yells, "Fourth floor…no ladies' lingerie!"

The other man says, "Watch that first step." J. D. falls to the ground as everyone on the cable car applauds.

J. D. turns around on the ground in time to see a large energy blast hit the cable car and everyone on it. The energy resembled lightning but there was something odd about it.

The passengers, confused and scared, scream at the same time. "Wha?" "L-lightning!" "Dios mio!" "Can't be! Clear sky!" "Look out! We're slipping!" "Ohhh boy!" "The brakes! I can't get 'em to hold!" "Hang on!"

The cable car rolls down the hill and comes to a stop as it crashes into a passing sports car. After a moment, everyone on the cable car comes back to their senses.

"We're stopped," says one person.

"That Miata jammed us! But the driver…" says another.

"You okay Hugh?" asks Bob.

"Yeah, yeah, I've had worse run-ins blockin' the plate…but you're cut, Bob."

"I'm all right, we've got to help the other people."

Bob walks around to the other people; some have little cuts and bruises, but most are just slightly rattled. The conductor says to everyone, "the brakes were just checked last week! I don't understand!" Then reassuringly he says, "We'll get everyone to a hospital as soon as possible."

Suddenly the man that was thrown from the car runs up to the conductor yelling, "That's not good enough! I know the best lawyers in the world! I'll own this city when the courts get through with you! And I'll personally own every dime those three punks have, or ever will have!"

"Just calm down Mr…"

"Mister J. D. Hunt!"

"The millionaire?" says one of the passengers.

"That's one thing they call me ma'am." J. D. Hunt looks over to the woman he was with and yells, "CANDY!!! Get over here, girl!" Candy looks blankly at him. "You hear me? What are you lookin' at?" Candy starts to walk away and J. D. Hunt grabs her arm, pulling off her overcoat, revealing that all she is wearing underneath is a one-piece lingerie. Candy continues to run and J. D. yells after her, "You can't run from me, you bimbo! You can't run from me!"

All the men in the area stare at Candy as she runs away. "Am I dreamin'?" wonders Hugh.

"If I am, don't wake me up," says Bob.

Attention turns to the man in the Miata. The young African-American boy says, "This guy's about gone! He's got a hunk'a metal in his head!"

Another person says, "I'll help get him out!" "No! Don't move him!" says another.

"Here comes the cops," yells someone as a police car pulls up to the accident.

As they exit the car, one policeman says, "I knew I should've called in sick today."

The other policeman says to him, "You'll be sick soon enough! Everybody backs away now! We're gonna need some room for the ambulances!"

Softly scented breezes are blowing in off the wide Pacific Ocean, as the special light shining only on San Francisco suffuses the world's favorite city! But even here it's a workday. Life in the city goes on. "All right, just calm down!" says one of the policemen. "We need to get some names."

["Elena La Brava."]

"Elena," says a casually dressed lady, "Princess Violetta has been waiting an hour and a half."

"I confirmed your appearance at Cannes in August," says another lady. "I hope that was right."

"Okay everybody," says Elena, the 31-year-old fashion designer, "but I couldn't get here any sooner. There was an accident on the cable car."

"Oh no! Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine. Amazingly, no one on the car got anything more than a few cuts and bruises…though a man in a Miata that the car hit was in really bad shape."

"I don't understand why, as successful as you are, you ride that rattletrap."

"I've told you Bernadette, it keeps me on top of street fashion. The "La Brava" line can't afford to lose its cutting edge."

"Yeah, you're right," says Bernadette.

"Well anyway," says a slim looking man, "the Princess is still waiting."

"You deal with her, Tom," says Elena. "If you need me for a blessing, I'll look in, but otherwise…"

"You're blowing off the Princess? She flew in just to see you!"

"Understood, but this morning has got my juices flowing. I can see a whole new look."

"Blood and bandages?"

"No…something more…heroic."

["Bob Harden and Hugh Fox, students at the San Francisco Art Institute."]

"If I hadn't cut my arm, we'd have been here a lot sooner," says Bob Harden, blonde 19-year-old.

"I told you to let the institute nurse take care of it, Bob," says Hugh Fox, athletically built and the same age as Bob. Both of them are running to get to their class on time.

"But the police needed an accurate assessment of the injuries. I couldn't leave."

"You're too darn straight, boy!"

"Yeah, yeah. Still I was counting on the time before class to get those sketches done."

"It's only art, man…completely subjective. Tell Kenner you were going for the 'quick and free' approach."

"Hugh! Professor Kenner has helped me so much! I need to keep him on my good side…" Suddenly a red ball of energy appears from Bob's left hand and the energy turns Bob's art portfolio into a bag of apples.

"What the hell?"

"Whaddaya mean, 'What the hell?' You did it."

"But I-I don't know what I did!"

"Did the paramedic give you any drugs?"

"No. I was up to date on my tetanus shots."

"You know shat I think?"

"No, what do you think?"

"I think it must have something to do with the lightning that hit us."

"Nonsense! Lightning doesn't work like that."

"You got a better idea?"

"No, but…well, if it did, you should be able to change things too. Get over here, so nobody sees us." Bob walks over behind some trees and is followed by Hugh. "Let's see you turn your own portfolio into apples."

"How did you do it?"

"I told you, I don't know."

"Well…"

After a long moment... "See?" says Bob. "Nothing."

"Yeah, but…when I tried it, I felt something funny. Not like you did, but like…" Suddenly Hugh explodes with a quite boom.

"You-you exploded!"

"No!" says Hugh, who now has smoke coming from his skin. Hugh's shirt and green vest have many holes in them. "Stuff was flyin' outta me, like shrapnel…right out through my skin…but I'm not hurt at all."

Bob kneels to the ground. "It is shrapnel…little metal pellets."

"They tore up the sidewalk…the tree…but not my skin. And, Bob, look at the ones that hit you."

"Nothing hit me."

"That's what you think." Bob turns from the shrapnel on the ground and sees… "Rosebuds, little tiny rosebuds."

"You must've protected yourself automatically."

Bob looks up and says, "Hugh, we're screwed."

"No way, Bob! We just became millionaires."

["Dave Castiglione, baker."]

A nice looking man of 26, Dave hurriedly turns a corner to his Bakery. There is an elderly gentleman standing in front of it.

"Where ya been David? I been'a waitin' all morning."

"Sorry Mr. DiStefano. There was an accident on the cable car." Dave unlocks the door to his bakery and helps Mr. DiStefano in.

"That was'a you? I heard about it."

"You hear about everything, and you never leave the neighborhood. How do you do that?"

"La mana nera."

"The Mafia, yeah right." Dave grabs one of the loaves of bread.

"Here's your pane. Listen, I obviously didn't get it baked this morning. This is yesterday's, still good, but just take it on the house."

"I couldn'a do that, David…but okay. Even yesterday's a slice of heaven." Mr. DiStefano takes the bread and puts it into a sack. "Say, you should'a come by an' see my gran'daughter some'a time. You two were'a goo'friends in'a high school."

"You're right Mr. DiStefano."

Mr. DiStefano begins to leave. "Arrivederci, David."

"Arrivederci. And tell Julietta I will give her a call."

When he closes the door, Dave suddenly bursts into green flame. "What th…" says Dave. It only lasts a second. Dave finishes his sentence, "The…the hell! Oh no! Oh Christ! OH NOOOO!"

["Leon Baliord, eighth grader."]

Leon, a young African-American wearing blue shorts that have lightning bolts on them, a gray trench coat, and a backwards red cap. He has his hair in short dread-locks that stick out of the hole in the back of his cap. Leon is walking down the street when he is confronted by to guys who look about in their late teens or early twenties.

"Hey, Leon, man. C'mon down to the corner, man."

"I don' think so, Colvin…I, uh, I was in an accident, man. That cable car thing."

"Ask me if I care, Leon. I need you ta watch out for the cops. You know."

"I'm not down with that no more, Colvin. I'm hurtin."

"You'll know what hurt is if you don't get your skinny butt down to the corner." Colvin grabs Leon's coat.

"Lemme go! Lemme goooooooooooooooo!" Leon bursts from Colvin's hands with incredible speed. He's going incredibly fast, nothing could catch him. "This can't be real!" thinks Leon to himself. "What the hell am I doing? I'm gonna end up in the street!" But Leon turns the corner, "No. I turned. Just by thinkin' about it. 'Thought even slowin' down either. But, if I slow down." As Leon thinks that he slows to a stop.

"I gotta get me a pickup game, man! All of a sudden, I could wax Michael Jordan!"

["There was also a woman who ran off, I think her name was Candy"]

["Can you give me a description?"]

["Why, uh, yes as a matter of fact."]

Candy casually walks down the street, still in that piece of lingerie. Everyone is staring at her, especially the men. No one can seem to take their eyes off her and she wonders why. Suddenly she cuts herself on the fencing around a side walk tree. "I hurt my arm," Candy says as a nice looking man approaches her.

"Can I help?" he says with a smile. "That sort of cut can be dangerous if not treated. You'd better come up to my office."

Candy looks at her cut, instead of blood and tissue she sees wires and metal. "Oh!" she says. And with realization, "Oh! Get away! Leave me alone! Keep your hands off me!"

["She was with a man called J. D. Hunt."]

["Uh-oh! Jack, call the captain."]

"You must have misinterpreted her reaction J. D.! We didn't build her to act like that."

"I don't misinterpret anything, Crowell. She looked at me like she knew what she was."

"But the most important fact is, she is loose out there…the most advanced machine this world has ever known…and it must not know. My empire rests on the secret of that technology. She must be caught at once. At all cost. End of story!"

["G. Lawrence Bushnell, and his nurse, Henrietta Hawkins."]

"Henrietta, you know why I wanted to ride on the cable car."

"Yes."

"Yes…the doctors said I have a week to live…a week before the cancer kills me…and I wanted to see the city one more time."

"Don't excite yourself, Mr. Bushnell."

"But Henrietta, I don't know why…but I feel much better now."

"That's good, Mr. B…because I feel much worse."

["There were 59 people on that cable car, and the only one hurt badly was in the Miata."]

"How is he Doctor?"

"Critical, Janet. A shard of metal was driven through his forehead. X-rays showed it lodged in his brain."

"Can you remove it?"

"That's the hell of it, leaving it there might kill him, but getting it out definitely will. I doubt he'll survive till nightfall."

"There was talk of lightning striking the cable car before it hit him, Doctor."

"Nonsense. It doesn't rain in July. There's not a cloud in the sky." How wrong he is, for at that very moment a large cloud travels from the distance and comes to rest above San Francisco.

[Life in the city goes on.]

"And this, uh, the phenomenon didn't occur all day?" asks a doctor who is examining Dave Castiglione."

"I know it sounds crazy, Dr. Beniamino," says Dave. "I've spent the last nine hours asking myself the if I dreamed if…but I didn't. I burst into green flame. I mean, what the hell!"

"Maybe you should see Father Santini, Dave. It sounds more like his line of work then mine."

"I just thought there would be some medical explanation."

"Not that I've ever heard of, but…"

He is interrupted by the radio. "This is a special bulletin from Magic-61. A woman described by the police as acting strangely has blocked traffic as the corner of Powell and California, the site of this morning's cable car accident. They say the situation is potentially dangerous, and everyone with no business in the area to stay away."

Dave puts his shirt back on preparing to leave. "That could be connected. There could be an explanation there."

"They said to stay away, Dave."

"They aren't bursting into flame."

Softly scented breezes are blowing in off the wide Pacific Ocean. As the special light shining only on San Francisco suffuses the world's favorite city. And now the workday is over. At eight p.m. on a Thursday evening Powell Street is jammed with some San Franciscans and twice as many tourists. And they are all watching a woman…the woman is dressed in a two-piece, purple costume with matching cape and boots.

She is wearing many expensive looking jewels all over her, on her belt, her boots and a large headdress. Her skin is dark, and her eyes glow scarlet red. What seems like magickal energy is emitting from bracelets on both of her wrists…clearly the ultimate tourist.

"This is your last chance," a policeman says through a megaphone. "Allow the officers to approach you, and no one will get hurt. I'll count to three. One…"

Before he can count to two, the lady blasts waves of her magickal energy at him, knocking him over. The crowd sighs. In fear? In awe? This confrontation has been memorable. And as the lady starts to float up toward the sky…there is a blast of shrapnel at her. This is not over yet.

"Are you sure about this, Bob?" asks Hugh.

"We've got powers, and we need to know why. We couldn't just watch her fly away." The woman floats back to the ground saying something in an ancient language that ho one can understand. "Now listen, whoever you are…if you had anything to do with the cable car accident that happened this morning, you have to tell us about it. That's all we want…just information."

The lady yells some more non-understandable words and blasts them with her magickal energy. Suddenly Leon appears and as fast as lightning giving the lady a punch as he speeds by. "I don't know what you two think you're doin'," says Leon giving the woman many punches a super speed, "but I remember you from this morning. Looks like all three of us got some juice. An' the same need to know why. I dunno the rules, but I'm on your team."

Elena LaBrava is in the crowd of watchers and she starts to take off her black scarf.

"The more the merrier. My name's Bob"

"Mine's…" Before Leon can finish his sentence the woman uses her magick to place a wall of ice in front of Leon's path and he slams into it with a hard "Thunk."

Suddenly a black scarf wraps itself around the woman's neck with unerring accuracy. The woman pulls Elena with incredible force into the air. "Why did I do that." Thinks Elena.

"That woman," says Hugh. "She'll hit the wall!" Bob quickly goes to the ice wall and transforms some of it to large balloon-type balls so Elena can bounce right off of them.

"Nobody wanted to hurt you," says Bob as he transforms another ice wall, giving it dagger-like spikes attacking the woman, "but this has gone far enough! If we have to subdue you do find out what you know we'll…whoa!"

Bob falls back from his attack.

"Bob!" yells Hugh. "What's'a matter?"

"Dunno…dizzy all of a…sudden. Don't stop!"

"Okay, freak!" yells Hugh as he shoots shrapnel out of his hand and forearm. "He tried it his way, now we go mine!" Another ice wall forms right in front of Hugh blocking her blast.

Elena uses her scarf as a whip trying to distract the woman. "You got it, Lady," says Leon.

"I can hit anything I aim at," says Elena. "That's what I got from this morning. Force her over this way, and I'll wrap her up like a Christmas present."

"If she did give is our power," says Leon as he uses his speed to ram her closer to Elena, "then we might own her a thank you…but this is all she'll let us deliver."

"You sure bring it special delivery, kid," says Hugh. "But I can't bring her down!"

"Four of us with these powers and nothing stops her," says Bob.

"Hell, we weren't the only people on that cable car…maybe there's some more of us out there."

Dave Castiglione steps out from his place in the crowd joining Bob, Hugh, Leon and Elena. "I must be one of you," he says igniting himself in his green flame. The woman erects another ice wall in front of Dave.

"But it doesn't hurt. What the…my fire doesn't melt the ice."

While Dave tries to figure out why he can't melt the ice, the woman walks around it and grads Dave by his neck. Dave's flame turns white. "She's so cold…snuffing me." Suddenly in rage Dave's flame turns orange, frightening the woman and making her back off. "Orange flame? I didn't know I could do that." The woman, now very angry, blasts Dave with some of her magick and snuffs out his flame.

"Cover that guy!" orders Bob. "Don't let her finish him off."

"Stay back," yells Elena. "You're not recovered yet."

"I can do what I have to."

"Then stay out of my way," says Hugh. "I feel a big time blast coming on." Hugh stops, seeing Candy. "Hey!" he thinks. "There's that babe again. She was on the car. Wouldn't it be great if…" Hugh's thought is cut off by that woman's magick blast.

"That boy was looking at me and forgot to look at the strange woman," thinks Candy. "It's all my fault, but I can't do anything to help him. That thing's beating on him and I…I can't o anything assertive unless someone asks me to. Why am I even questioning it? I know what I am…I say the wires. But how do I know? HOW DO I KNOW? Those people…they changed. Like I did. But they got weird powers, and I…I can think better, that's all. I still can't do anything assertive. I'm not made that way…but I can think better. I know things. And I need to know more."

Candy steps from the crowd extending her arm out and yelling at the woman, "Stop that you!" Suddenly her body glows with electricity and a blast of electricity, almost like a straight lightning bolt. "WOW!" says Candy.

"Look," says Bob. "It's hurting her. This is our chance. Everybody takes a crack at her." Bob reaches down and grabs the woman's left boot. "I'll anchor her boot to the ground."

"And speaking of clothes," says Elena, "I designed everything I'm wearing. I don't see why this skirt shouldn't work as a scarf." She removes her skirt revealing a one-piece swimsuit looking outfit with fishnet leg stockings. "Besides…Flesh seems to be the fashion du jour."

Elena wraps her skirt around the woman so she can't move a muscle. Dave, Candy, and Hugh shoot their powers at the woman.

"So long as she can't get a hand on me," says Dave, "She doesn't like my orange flame more than the electricity."

"Just don't set her of my clothes on fire," says Elena.

"Nah. I'm just keeping her distracted."

Bob and Leon stand a few feet away from the others. "But what can I do?" asks Leon. "I want in on this."

"Don't' worry about it," says Bob. "It's enough that we've got her stopped."

Suddenly the woman yells in her language and casts a spell. The spell frees her from Elena's skirt and her boot from the ground. She quickly flies straight up into the air, too fast to catch.

"…Like I said," says Bob. Everyone looks in amazement.

"Dang!" says Hugh. "I wanted another shot at her too."

"Lady, get over here," says Elena pointing to Candy.

"Why?"

"You six," says a policeman with a megaphone. "Stay where you are. We want to talk to you, too."

"Guess," says Elena to Candy as they are swept up in a tornado created by Leon running in a circle.

"Hasta la vista, Bay-bee!" says Leon as the tornado carries all of them off away from the police and crowd. They come to rest on a hill outside of the city limits.

"This is too weird," says Bob.

"But the intersection was too crowded for the cops to come after us," says Leon.

[And the six finally find out who they are.]

"…And we're going to be on the TV news," says Hugh with stars in his eyes.

"That's not important," says Bob.

"What do you mean? We're like that group of "superheroes" in LA, The Squad. We're gonna be rich."

"Three of 'em are Dead, Hugh."

"And I am already right," says Elena. "It doesn't' make you happy."

"I'll risk it…all of it," says Hugh, annoying Bob with his getting rich talk. "With this power I've got…"

"To hell with money or with powers," interrupts Bob. "We have to know why we have these powers."

"…And why you have two powers," chimes in Candy talking about Dave. "The cold green flame and the hot orange one."

"Is that all of 'em?" wonders Leon. "I mean, can you burn other colors?"

"I don't know," says Dave, "maybe. What color do you want?"

"Hmm, green, orange…how 'bout yellow?"

"I'll try." With that Dave turns to flame once more, this time in a yellow flame. Dave slowly lifts off the ground.

"Proper!" yells Leon. "You're flying!!"

"Each color seems to give a different power," says Dave as he floats down to the ground.

"Try some more," says Leon.

"Later, okay? There's other important things to find out."

"Candy," says Bob in his very nice tone. "If you don't mind me asking…why are you dressed like that?"

"I'm a boy toy, Bob."

"P-pardon me?" says Hugh, his eyes widening at the prospect of that thought.

"I'm not a real person," continues Candy. "I'm what they call an android. I was built to give men pleasure…but something's changed in me. For the first time I can think…I think."

"Plainly, we have a lot to learn about ourselves," says Elena, changing the subject.

"Like what we should do next," says Dave.

"It'd make it a lot safer if we stayed together right now," says Bob. "Especially since there were maybe fifty other people on that cable car."

"What do you mean?" asks Dave.

"Well, we all showed up and stood up, but the others didn't. It could be that at least some of the others take a darker view of like."

"You mean they might turn bad?" asks Candy.

"That's exactly what I mean."

"I hadn't thought of that," says Hugh.

"But the first think on our plate is still learning everything about what's happened to us…" says Elena, taking charge. "…And that means that flying woman."

"But she flew straight up into the sky," says Candy, pointing upwards.

"Sure but," starts Leon. Then he looks up in the sky and… "Hey! There was a cloud up there before."

"Y'know you're right," says Hugh, "but there aren't any clouds in July."

"But there it is…over the Oakland Hills," says Bob, pointing at it.

"And it's even a calm evening," says Elena. "No wind."

Elena turns to the group deciding to take charge like she does at her company. "People, I've got a private jet at SFO. Do you want to go after that cloud?"

Everyone else answered her at the same time. "You bet I do." "Hell ya." "I'm in on that." "Count me in." "I want to know."

"Well okay then," says Elena with a smile on her face. "I'll get a taxi."

Getting into that taxi Dave says, "You put it well, Bob. This is very weird. This morning we had nothing in common…we were all strangers."

"And now…" replies Bob. "…Now we're all stranger than ever."

<End of issue #1>

Okay, I know all you Strangers fans are wondering why this was exactly the same as the first comic…well it's because I wanted to rewrite the first three and then take this series the way I want. For everyone unfamiliar with The Strangers…Next issue, they all go in search of answers with the mysterious cloud. You'll never guess what's inside that cloud. Click here for "Hey Get Off'a My Cloud!"  And be sure to check out the Strangers: A New Twist Website for the latest edition of My Strange Thoughts.

 

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