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Before reading, please read Strangers #1.

A couple hundred feet up in the air, six people are on a small private plane headed out of San Francisco. Hugh Fox, explodes shrapnel from his body. Leon Balford, runs at ultra fast speeds. Bob Harden, transforms things. Dave Castiglione, burns with various colored flames which bestow various powers. Candy, and android who controls electricity. Piloting the plane is Elena La Brava, unerring aim. All six are in search of the exact same thing…why they have these fantastic powers.

Strangers: A New Twist #2
July, 1998

Jumpstart (Part 2) - Hey Get Off'a My Cloud!

Written by Lex, based on the plot
for Strangers #2 by Steve Englehart
Edited by Phractyl
Created by Steve Englehart

Property of Malibu Comics

"There it is," says Elena. "The only cloud in the sky." Their plane approaches the large cloud that was over San Francisco earlier that day.

"That's where that Babe who knows why we've all got these powers went," says Hugh.

"But it still looks…like a cloud," says Candy.

"Except that it's moving without any wind," says Bob.

"Movin' fast," says Dave. "We're over Fresno."

"Yes," says Elena, "and hot on course for Death Valley."

"Did you have to tell us that Elena?" asks Hugh.

"I have to tell you this, now that we've caught the cloud. The next obvious step is to fly into it…but I want to put that to another vote. How badly do you want to know what changed us?"

Six minds respond at once…from six different angles, the same scenes. This morning, on the cable car…the change…the inexplicable change. The alien woman who appeared at the scene of the…crime? The alien's escape.

"Let's do it," says Bob and everyone else agrees.

"All right," says Elena. "But we're going to be flying almost blind, so make sure your parachutes are tight. It's a long way to fall without one." The plane enters the cloud. "Here we go!" All of their hearts seem to stop in the moment. Could they finally be going to find the answers to their questions? Or could their greatest fears be somewhere buried inside that marshmallow cloud?

A few moments later they exit the cloud. "Damn," says Dave.

"A person in that cloud is like a needle in a haystack," says Bob. "We couldn't expect to find something right off…though I was hoping for it too Dave."

"That's no longer our problem, people," says Elena.

"What is?" asks Leon.

"I flew straight through the cloud, according to my instruments…but the lights below us have turned 30 degrees. Something in there messed with this plane, and I didn't know it."

"We're just puppets in its hands," says Candy.

"What if ya just close yer eyes an' hold the wheel steady?" asks Leon.

"Too many air pockets, and too much hidden power," says Elena. "Maybe Hugh and Candy can shoot shrapnel and electricity as we flew through…"

"No," interrupts Dave. "You can't just open a window in this thing…but I can fly."

"You gotta be kiddin' me, man!" yells Leon. "You just flew for the first time. Just a little off the ground. You ain't steppin' out the door of no jet at 15000 feet or whatever the heck we are."

"I don't mind putting my hand out a window," says Candy. "I'm not a real person."

"You've got feelings," says Dave. "That's want counts, Candy. But I've got a feeling that I can burn with different-colored flames, and the yellow one lets me do this." Dave ignites his yellow flame. "If I'm in the sir, it doesn't matter if there's a plane under me or not."

"But if you find something, how would we find you?" asks Bob. "If you carried a beacon, our receivers could be screwed with."

"I've thought of that, Candy, can you feel electricity as well as generate it?"

"Sure! Electricity's like…a brighter light inside me."

"But can you feel it here in this plane?"

"Oh sure."

"Then I'll carry a beacon and let her guide you to it.'

"Dave, the wind could blow your flame out," says a worried Leon.

"That woman blew out your flame," reminds Elena.

"The green flame, not the yellow. I don't really understand them yet, but each flame is different. Look, I've got a parachute and the flame doesn't burn it and more than it burns me. Worst case scenario, I spend the night in Fresno."

"That's reason enough for you to stay here," says Elena.

"I'm with Dave," says Bob. "If my power applied here, I'd use it. But if it doesn't work out…"

"Oh, Dave, be careful," says Candy giving him a hug."

"Watch that first step, man," says Leon.

Dave opens the side door to the plane. "Whoa, we are moving fast aren't we?!" 'Don't look down they always say,' thinks Dave as he looks at the city below them. 'They know what their onions, they do. It doesn't matter how high you are, if you're flying, I always say. I'm lying. So lets stop talking about it!'

Dave jumps out of the plane and plummets, "Haoooooollly motherrrrrrrr…"

'Parachute, parachute!' thinks Dave. 'No, dammit! The flame! Turn up the flame! TURN UP THE FLAME!' The yellow flame burns stronger and stronger until Dave is no longer falling. 'Don't look down. But I'm…I'm holding my own up here. I'm…okay!'

Now Dave begins to fly diagonally up towards the cloud. 'Like I say…it doesn't matter how high you are…if you're flying,' thinks Dave as he takes off his parachute.

Dave quickly makes it up to the plane and levels himself flying right beside it. "Hello boys and girls," says Dave to everyone on the plane. "Nice weather we're having isn't it?" 'Idiot,' thinks Dave. 'They can't hear me. But Dammit…I'M FLYING!!!!' Heading into the cloud Dave aligns right in front of the plane.

On the plane, Elena and Candy are in the cockpit. They no longer see Dave. "I feel the beacon," says Candy. "He's signalling us."

"You point the way Candy," says Elena.

"There, says Candy as she points towards the signal. "No, you're trying to turn."

"I'm not doing anything."

"Well move in that direction. Yes, you've got it now." They make it though to the center of the cloud and find…

"Oh my God! It's an island…a whole island! In the sky!"

"Hang on!" yells Elena. "We've got to land, or we'll shoot past!"

"Land?" asks Hugh "On what?"

"The beach," says Elena as she makes a rough touch down on the sandy ground extremely close to the edge.

"Beach?" asks Hugh again. "What beach? There's not enough room."

"There is if I know my business." The plane comes to a very slow stop a few feet from going over the edge.

"Elena knows her business," says Candy as they exit the plane.

"Yeah," says Hugh, "handing out heart attacks"

"Try being up there without something to stand on," says Dave in his yellow flame as he makes an easier landing then the plane did.

"But how solid can it be?" wonders Bob as everyone heads into the thick jungle.

"It's too late to worry about that now," says Elena. "Whoever tried to divert us will know we're here."

"Let's stand 'em off here," says Leon enthusiastically. "It gives me room to run."

"This close to the edge?" says Bob cautiously. "I don't think so, Leon."

"We'll have more cover among their buildings," says Hugh.

"But who are we talking about?" asks Candy. "I don't see a soul."

"Which is probably a bad sign," comments Dave, who is flying over everyone's heads instead of walking.

They reach a clearing that has the look of an ancient tropical culture with huts and a ritual area with a fire pit and the whole works. "It's spooky," says Candy in awe. "I never knew what that meant before. People would say it, and it would go in one ear and out the other."

"Everything looks so tropical," says Dave hovering over everyone, "even though it's so cold."

"Tropical?" says Elena commenting on Dave's choice of words. "Looks like voodoo."

Suddenly that woman, along with many of her fellow tribesmen, jump out of nowhere attacking. One blasts Dave with magickal energy. It's not like they are defenceless. Hugh blasts one with his shrapnel, Candy get another with her electricity, and Leon runs around getting up enough speed to use it in this battle. Bob resorts to an old fashioned punch,
but it works just as well.

"I can flame orange now," says Dave, "and they don't like it"

"I see the one we're after," yells Candy to the rest of the group. "I don't like the look in her eyes."

The woman says something in her language and blasts the whole group with her magick.

"My flame," says Dave. "They snuffed it!"

"Try another color."

"I am! Nothing"

"I can't explode," says Hugh, "but I can take these scarecrows anyway! They won't get us!"

Everything goes dark. A while later they all wake up tied with vines to six different posts. "Ohhhh, my head," says Hugh slowly waking up.

Ten feet from them are the woman and the other tribesmen who seem to be in the middle of a heated debate.

"They zapped us with their magick 'fore I could get started," says Leon.

"The rest'a you had no chance at all."

"They've still got us zapped," says Hugh. "These ropes are more then just ropes. I still can't explode."

"And I can't burn orange, or yellow, or green," says a frustrated Dave. "They've got us tied up on all levels."

I think it has something to do with that glowing rock they're sitting around," says Candy. "See how they look at it." Candy turns to Bob, who is tied to the post on her right. She sees sweat drenched face crumpled up in concentration. "What are you doing, Bob?"

"…Secrecy is the prime directive Yrial. The prime directive." All attention is drawn towards the tribesmen, as they are now able to understand what they are saying.

"That directive is obsolete," says the woman who they came here in search of. "Nothing like the cable car has ever happen before."

"And so you bring Americans here," yells another tribesman. "Nothing like that has ever happened either, Yrial!"

"What the hell?!" says Hugh.

"What did you do Bob?" asks Leon.

"I…transformed…their language."

"Wow!"

"But how did you do that?" asks Elena. "Didn't they nullify your powers?"

"I think the nullified every power they knew about," says Bob, "from our battle with this one called 'Yrial.' I can't transform matter, but I decided to try sound waves…and it worked! Took a lot out of me though."

"Do somethin' different?" wonders Leon. "Somethin' they don't know about? Maybe I can vibrate loose, then grab their rock."

"I'm the prime candidate for a different approach," says Dave. "I've had three colors already, maybe I can burn a new color like red..." As he bursts into red flame something seems to be wrong. Dave starts growling and turns to screams as he breaks his ropes. The fire burning deep in his eyes.

"Now what?" asks Elena.

"Dave! Wha's up?" asks Leon.

"Oh my God!" yells Candy.

"The Americans grow restless," says a very old tribesman, probably the chief of the group.

"They are a restless people," says Yrial. "Do not avoid the subject. That site was too important…" suddenly Dave bursts onto the scene, knocking over several tribesmen and the large glowing rock they were sitting around.

"The ropes," says Candy as the ropes lose their grip on them.

"The rock Dave knocked over must have been the source of their magick," says Elena taking off her ropes. "We're free!"

"But for how long?" asks Candy.

"It'll damn well be long enough!" yells Elena as they run to join the battle.

"Nothing in five hundred years has injured the Starfoam," says Yrial dodging a punch from Dave.

"Are you claiming refuge in tradition now?" asks the Chief in a scolding tone. "The Starfoam has fallen…the magick is gone away until it gentle down again."

"So the playing fields a little more level this time," yells Elena as they now realize that they have their powers back. "I like those odds."

Elena grabs a long vine to use as a whip while Hugh has already gone off to blast as many tribesmen as he can with his shrapnel. "The more we learn about ourselves," she says as she wraps the vine tightly around Yrial, "the more we learn about the others too. We almost beat you last time, lady. And we're getting better."

"But what about Dave?" asks Candy standing behind the still red Dave. Dave turns, growls, and hits Candy sending her flying back and crashing into Elena.

"Huh!" says Elena getting up and grabbing some more vines. "Maybe I forgot about Dave too soon. If he's going to roll over us as well as the enemy, we'll have to fight on two fronts, and that's no good." Elena takes a vine and whips it at Dave and wraps it around him. "Just as I hoped. The red flame's like the green and yellow ones…it doesn't burn."

Dave breaks free of the vines. "Sure, you're strong when you're red, big guy…" Elena grabs another vine and tosses it at Dave, wrapping it around him even tighter then before "…but as long as I hit everything I aim as, I can overwhelm even that eventually." Suddenly an idea flashes into Elena's mind. "Hey! Leon, get over here! (I know I don't have to say 'quick.')"

"On my way," says Leon as he gives a speed punch to one of the tribesmen and then runs over to Elena, ducking to avoid a blast of shrapnel from Hugh aimed at another tribesman.

"Listen, I've just had an idea." Elena leans over and whispers her plan into Leon's ear.

"Umm…Yeah I'm down with that!" Leon runs to the edge of the island and runs in a large circle.

"What th…" says Bob as the ground beneath shakes making everyone lose their balance.

"Leon, I love you skinny little butt!" shouts Elena as she grabs vines and starts wrapping them around her new friends. "Hang on tight people!

The seat belt light is lit. To quote Betty Davis…"

"Who?" asks Candy.

"… 'It's going to be a bumpy flight.'" Elena finishes wrapping everyone, except Yrial and her tribesmen, in sturdy vines to hold them as the island starts to tilt.

"Yrial!" screams the Chief. "The island is tipping!"

"Leon's created a high pressure area," explains Elena. "It pulls everything up on that side. This island looks like it used to know hurricanes."

With everybody busy trying to sturdy themselves there is no one to prevent the Starfoam from rolling to the edge of the island.  "The Starfoam!" yells the Chief. "Can't reach it!" The Starfoam rolls off the edge of the island.

"I can!" yells Yrial as she flies after it. "That foolish flaming man thinks he can fly," says Yrial as she dives and catches the Starfoam.

Leon stops running in the circle and returns to the group. The island slowly rights itself. "The Starfoam won't be calm for days," complains Yrial as she returns to the village.

"And that is why, Yrial, we must now sue for peace," says the Chief. "What?" shouts Yrial. "You can not surrender."

"Who are you to shout against it, Yrial," says an angry looking tribesman. "You led them here."

"The Shadowchiefs did not put our island in the sky to have me bring it down again," says the Chief.

"This is all your fault, Yrial!" yells the angry tribesman.

"Wait," shouts Bob. "There doesn't have to be any 'fault.' All we ever wanted was an explanation, the reason for our new powers."

"That's all we ever wanted before," says a still angry Hugh, "but now…"

"Do not delude yourself, flat-footed fool!" yells the angry tribesman. "Your luck cannot last forever."

"Silence, Zara!" says the Chief. "I rule here!" He turns back to Bob. "But, unfortunately I cannot give you what you seek."

"Yeah right," says Leon.

"And why is that Chief?" asks Bob.

"Because searching for the reason…IS the reason. When you find it, you will know I was just in this. You must seek it out for yourselves, everywhere…to earn what you would learn."

"But you know the reason?" asks Bob.

"I know."

"Leave 'im to me, Bob," says Hugh.

"No Hugh," says Candy. "I trust him. If he says he shouldn't tell us, then he shouldn't."

"You trust him?" asks Hugh.

"Yes."

"And I trust her," says Dave, now back to normal, "she's so unspoiled."

"Dave!" says Elena. "You're okay!"

"Yeah but I'm swearing off that red flame, it completely drove me nuts."

"All right," says Bob. "Candy does have a very pure spirit…so I'll accept her opinion of you. But what about you, or is that a secret too?"

"I will tell you this," begins the Chief. "We were natives on an island…somewhere on the waters below. A great magickal danger threatened the world, and we defeated it. In the aftermath we felt it imperative to move our island to the sky, and we did. The rest is our
secret…and our shame."

"There's a lot more to this world than we knew this morning, isn't there?" asks Bob.

"You still have no idea how MUCH more," says the Chief with a smile on his face. "But I believe you will learn very quickly. And to help you learn, I send Yrial with you…to act as your ally in all things."

"What?!!" says Yrial, Zara, Hugh, and Leon at the same time.

"Help these…these…" says Yrial so angry and confused she's become speechless.

"Such is my decision, Yrial. You are yet young, and obviously impetuous, but your spirit is true. Joining these Americans on their quest will temper you for a brighter future."

"Who says we want her?" asks Hugh with a sneer.

"I do, Hugh," says Elena.

"So do I," says Bob.

"But she'll be a spy," says Hugh.

"I don't care if she is," says Elena. "If we have as much to learn as the Chief says, we'll have to be on our guard anyway…and we can use all the help and allies we can get."

So later, after the only slightly damaged jet has gingerly dropped off the edge of the island and caught the air again…

"I could have flown to your city. It is unnatural to sit while soaring."

"You'll sit and like it, Yrial…now that you're under my command."

"Whaddaya mean, 'your' command, Elena? Who died and made you God?"

"I built my fashion business into a worldwide concern, Hugh. I have the experience to lead…but I don't mind putting it to a vote, because we have a lot to settle now."

"Like what, Elena?" asks Candy.

"Well, as Bob said before we took off, there were maybe fifty other people who got powers this morning, and we don't know what their intentions are. And as the chief said, there's a lot more behind that we have to discover. And, since our faces are all undoubtedly on tape
after our battle with Yrial, we're going to be doing it as public figures. I'm used to that, but the rest of you aren't. I think we're going to have to band together from here on, to protect ourselves and keep each other sane."

"All of us?" asks Leon. "Even me?"

"Sure you kid, says Bob "We're all in this together. We're something now…something never seen before. We need a name for ourselves."

"A name, huh?" ponders Hugh. "Like a team…the A's, the 49ers, the um…"

"What about what we were this morning, and what we are now to the rest of the world…THE STRANGERS!" says Bob with a great big smile on his face. Everyone else agrees on the name and it's settled. This begins the adventure of their lifetime, but this beginning is not quite over yet…There are still many things to do and many people to see…

***

Meanwhile in the hospital room containing the man that was hit by the cable car.

"Well Dr. Rosen's a better doctor than a fortune teller," says a nurse "Meaning what, Mary?" asks another nurse.

"He said this guy wouldn't live 'till nightfall, but he's holding in there."

"With a piece of metal still in his head."

The first nurse picks up the clipboard with his information on it. "'John Domino,'" she reads. "Haven't I heard of him?"

"Jazz musician," says the other nurse.

"That's right," says a man appearing at the doorway. "And a damn good one."

"Visiting hours are over, Sir."

"What the hell do I care? I'm his father, nurse…and I'm staying right here until HE throws me out."

***

Meanwhile…at J. D. Hunt's Nu Ware Headquarters

"We traced Candy as far as the airport, Mr. Hunt. She left in a private plane registered to La Brava, the fashion line. They filed a flight plan for Reno, but they would have arrived there by now, and the haven't. We have planes scouting the major routes for any further
tracks."

"That woman was on the cable car this morning…an' there she is on the tape the station sent me. I don't like it, Waddell. That woman's not powerful enough to threaten me all by her lonesome, but she's powerful enough to ride the circuit. If she starts letting my secrets out in the wrong places…I want her an' everybody else on that jet killed as soon as they're found. END OF STORY!"

NEXT ISSUE

The Strangers battle their first ultra villains and become introduced to the whole world in the conclusion to "Jumpstart." Get ready for TNTNT. And for everyone who read the story when it first came out…Look for a few major changes, some that will show my plans for The Strangers: A New Twist.  And check out John Domino in Nightman, a new series by Chris (2099UG EIC) Partin, in August!  Click here for issue #3 of Strangers: A New Twist!

Also, don't be a stranger.  Send in those comments and opinions on the most recent issue, plus check out the Strangers: A New Twist Website.

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