EVENT: True Blue Hero!
Event-icon Who: Zen, Spider-Girl, Cannonball
Where: Columbus Park, New York City
When: A Sunday afternoon
Emitter: Maleficent
Tone: Heroic
What: In which Zen's past life as an interstellar mercenary comes calling and he gets to be the hero--here on Earth--that he's always wanted to be.

On a brilliant early fall day, Columbus Park is filled with people. The air smells surprisingly unlike New York today with a crisp breeze blowing through and teasing the scent of BBQing meat, cotton candy, and fresh French fries across people's senses. Men and women in dark blue NYPD T-shirts tend the grills and fryers, clowns cavort and twist balloon animals or juggle brightly coloured balls. A traditional Chinese tune is being played by a cluster of musicians under a banner which reads--in several languages--NYPD Benevolent Fund Picnic, Columbus Park, 2012.

The sun bounces off the polished buildings of City Hall, the flags hung from Chinatown shops snap cheerfully with every gust of wind. Lost helium balloons spiral into the sky where--far above the Earth--something else glitters. A child crying after an escaping balloon stops and tugs her mother's hand, pointing at the 'diamond', but her mother only says, "Yes, dear, we'll get you another," and moves on.

Those watching from the proper vantage point might detect that this is more than something bright and pretty. Inside it, and it is far from small, are a cluster of ugly, angry minds. Their destination, marked on a radar screen, is in the middle of Columbus Park. At this moment, waiting in line for hot dogs, with no clue as to what comes next.

Zen has been seeing the city today, cruising unobtrusively in his T-Pod, enjoying New York from a distance, as he always must. When he starts noticing advertisements for the picnic in the park, Zen's heart warms. The hard working boys in blue! They deserve their fund-raiser, and their time in the sun.

Zen must satisfy himself with parking on a nearby building and enjoying the view from a crouched location high above. He cocks his head in sympathy as the girl loses her balloon, and when it passes the height of his roof, about 10 stories up, he glances up and behind him to watch it go, which brings his mental focus swinging through the presences rushing down at everyone.

|"No,"| Zen says to no one in particular. |"No, it can't be."| He stands fully, shielding his eyes from the sun, straining to see the incoming ship.

Amongst the park-goers is Anya Corazon, her ever-present backpack slung over her shoulders. You know, just in case. She remains oblivious to the pretty diamond full of /very angry people/ up in the sky largely because she is distracted. Distracted by dropping a bit of spare cash into one of the fundraiser's many donation jars with one hand while she balances a plate of BBQ chicken and fries on the other.

Come on, man. Anya can't say no to a /barbeque/. It just isn't done.

With a beaming smile for one of the fine folks in blue, Anya stakes a claim on a clear patch of grass. Normally, she'd wait for her buddy to catch up with her, but... she's hungry. And with her luck, if she doesn't eat now, /something/ will come up and she'll miss out entirely. Sorry, Sammy, but Black Spider needs food, badly.

Sure, she needs food. So does Sam! Fortunately, he doesn't have to spin webs out his hands or backside or wherever they actually come from. He's not too clear on Anya's physiology and doesn't plan to be. Ever. Like, never. Friends do not need to know that stuff.

Sam gets off the subway and merges with the crowd winding into the park. It smells a little like home here now. The day is gorgeous. He couldn't be happier. Of course, his backpack is something of a weight. Not really, but psychologically. It's got his hero gear in it. Anya will web his face if he leaves home without it.

       @smashbrother: @the_spider_girl: Signal me already. 
       No GPS for locating spiders.

The 'diamond' continues its downward plunge, lighting up into a star as it completes its entry into Earth's atmosphere. The long-toothed, green-skinned, sharp-clawed occupants watch their radar screens with avid curiosity.

"Revakk. Something on our tail," one of them spits. "I thought you said you got rid of the bitch."

"Stop whining and shoot, Xelgg." In the tight space, the alien in the captain's seat easily backhands the gunner without looking. "Oraxx and Klynnit, get to the fighters."

"I will make my own way down." This one is glossy purple, thin and insectoid.

"You'll stay." Revakk spins in his chair and grabs the other by the throat, slamming it into a newly vacated seat. "I don't trust you, Ynsikt."

"Yet you trust my information."

"Hardly. I trust that you don't want to die. Xelgg, is that bitch dead yet?"

Apparently not, because the sky lights up as the two fighters break away from the ship. A moment later, the answer might be a little less certain as Xelgg manages to plug the pursuer with two good bolts, allowing his comrades to carry on unmolested.

Now, the tableau is playing out in the sky and--right up until the fighters dive--people seem to be impressed with the special effects. Suddenly, it's not quite so amusing anymore. There's screaming and panic across the park.

Zen has never had a great deal of finesse in trying to read or control minds, but he can at least be heard over (under?) all the panic and chaos. His heart sinks as he recognizes the shape of the lone fighter in a downward spiral, but he turns and focuses all his attention on the crowd below, pushing himself beyond anything he's done before. |"MOVE!"| But along with that simple word is the distinct mental impression of exactly where /not/ to be, and the direction people should be running in, so they aren't countering their own escape attempts.

And then he notices a couple of people in the crowd /not/ running, looking up at the fighters, and he knows them. |"Look out, you two!"| He calls to just their minds. |"Incoming jerks!"| And with that, he leaps off the roof, and sails to the ground in a the classic ninja-leap position.

       the_spider_girl: @smashbrother I'm over by the 
       BBQ tabsjhgfjhgava NEVERMIND. #EveryDamnTime

This will teach Anya to promptly respond to Sam's messages. If she'd just ignored him, she'd have gotten to eat /some/ of her delicious BBQ. Instead, she's dumping a /perfectly good paper plate of food/ into the trash on her way into the trees, so she can reveal the costume under her clothes in relative peace. Sure, there's not much chance of people noticing in the chaos, but come on. /Some/ modesty is called for.

"I need a vacation," Spider-Girl sighs as she scales her Tree of Choice, her face popping up out of the foliage as she looks around for these Incoming Jerks she's heard so very much about. "Maybe to Denver. Nothing ever happens in Denver."

"Aw, hell NO." Sam is supremely unimpressed. Heroing will have to wait five damn seconds while he steps into a narrow space between buildings and suits up. Jacket, gloves, goggles. And pants. Black ones that zip up over his jeans. They are leather, they DO have a backside on them, and just everyone hush about it. They're efficient.

Moments later, he's airborne and bombing down Mulberry Street, trying to get a handle on the situation. Spaceships. Problematic. Panicking bus driver flooring it down Mulberry. Immediately problematic. He launches himself into its path, shields up.

"Xelgg, drop the disruptor," Revakk orders, sitting back in his seat. He seems quite relaxed. Xelgg hits a button and a strange little satellite ejects from the main ship and rockets down to plunk in the middle of the park where it does... absolutely nothing obvious. It blinks and a little dish whirs on the top of it.

The fighters are equipped with more than just the two spikes of laser rifles protruding on either side of the nose. A teleporter beam from one sweeps the grass just as a tall man with dark skin and golden eyes dives under the still-blazing grills, his child clutches in his arms. A woman who closely resembles him is running for the pavilion, one child in her arms, another in tow. A lanky teen with the same coloration and long braids has split off and is racing toward Mulberry Street. An observer who had the wherewithal to pay attention would notice that these people, only moments before, seemed to be a very average Chinese family minding their own business.

At the moment, the primary concern for the civilians is not the fighters or the hunting ship on their heels but the other vessel that spirals down out of control. At the last minute, with a heroic effort from the pilot, it recovers to land in the intersection at the south end of the park. Fortunately for all and sundry, it was already blocked off for the fireworks display later. Less fortunately, the fireworks are all going off at once.

A hatch on what's near the top of the ship flies open and someone--all in shiny red, flies out gracelessly. It would have been graceful if not for the Roman Candle bouncing off her ass and punting her forward onto the sidewalk. "Are you... this planet... AUGH!"

Zen is trying to pay attention to too many things at once. He's sure he recognizes the crashing fighter's profile, but shoot. It's not like she's the only one to have /ever/ owned one of those. Besides, if it /is/ her, she was always able to handle herself.

Zen turns and takes in a number of facts. That family not from around here. And the Intergalactic Jerks closing in on them will take just about /any/ bounty, no matter who it hurts. Jerks. Zen sprints into motion, noting the dad and infant are practically right under Anya's tree, so he chases after the mom and two other little ones.

When the damaged fighter saves itself from a crash, he finally gets a clear scan of who it is. She finally installed that tele-tempered glass in her cockpit! He tightens his broadcast to include the family, plus his two new friends, and one very old friend. |"Yo, head for that alley! I don't even need to know why Rygulians are after you people. It just puts me on your side."| Beat. |"Nira, you need flight lessons."|

Spider-Girl winces as she sees Sam -- Cannonball, he has goggles on, thank GOD we finally got that covered -- go careening heroically into the path of a speeding bus. Seriously. There have got to be better ways to do this kind of thing.

Spider-Girl is about halfway through mentally asking |"Why am I heading for an alley?"| in Spanish before she realizes she isn't the only one Zen is talking to. Oh. Oh she sees. Okay. THEY can head for the alley; /she/ is gonna duck back into the trees and do the dumbest thing imaginable.

Spider-Girl's gonna creep closer to the spaceship that has decided to land in the middle of the park.

Fortunately, the park was packed with police. Most of them are out of uniform but they're doing an admirable job of clearing the area and calling this in. Lickety-split. The bus stops, or tries to, before it hits Sam. He takes the brunt of the blow and gets a thumbs-up from a really cute policewoman before she starts yelling at the driver in full-out New Yorker style about how dumb his ass is and how he's going to open those doors and load up with people. Nice.

Sam would be better pleased if he didn't feel about to pass out. He raises a hand and fires a weak shot at one of the hunter craft, clipping a wing and disrupting its teleporter beam as it sweeps toward the lone teenager. What the hell is wrong with hime?

Red--Nira--recovers admirably from her faceplant. One of those days where you go for the triumphant crash-land pose and end up on your face. She can get with that, just warn a girl first. "Gun," she says, diving back toward the ship. Fireworks bounce harmlessly off her armour. "The really big one." Obligingly, the ship drops what looks like a cannon into her hands.

Nira ignores the light show she's standing in and draws a bead on the back end of the larger craft. BOOM goes the dynamite. She rocks it hard enough that it buries its nose in the turf of the park and slams over onto its back. The engines go into emergency shut down mode and the thing is--for the moment--dead in the water.

"XELGG!" Revakk is upside down and highly irate. "YOU FOOL. Get this ship moving!"

Xelgg, staring up at his own feet, is considering a career change. A fist nails him in the side of the head and he sees stars. After he gets out of here.

While the others are busy roaring at each other, a slender, harmless old woman slithers out of the side of the spacecraft. No one here but us humans, darling. She picks up her skirts in her hands and hurries toward the father as he struggles to his feet.

"Here, you poor man. Let me help!" She holds out her hands and, in one of those horrifying slow-motion moments, he puts the baby into her arms so he can get to his feet.

The hunter craft Sam hit wobbles to the ground and Oraxx leaps out of it, netgun and stunner in his huge, clawed hand. If there was panic before, there's all hell breaking out now. This guy is nearly seven feet of mean green muscle with slavering jaws and glowing eyes. From here, he's got a line on the mother and her children.

Chasing after the mom and little ones, Zen isn't able to see the 'good samaritan' helping out dad. Keeping himself between them, and Oraxx, he flings three of this throwing stars in an attempt to disable the net gun, and then leaps at the giant, drawing his photon staff in mid-leap, aiming to bring it down squarely on Oraxx's head. |"Not today, scumbag!"|

Okay, someone just fired something big neough to /flip a damned spaceship over/. Spider-Girl isn't 100% sure on this, but she bets this is, like, above her paygrade, to say nothing of the NYPD's. The eff is this.

Zen may be distracted, but Spider-Girl isn't. She sees the old woman coming out of the ship and where she's going, and while onlookers might be a bit confused about why a costumed hero is sprinting across the park with a fist cocked, ready to spring forward and punch a frail-looking old woman in the side of the head? She's feeling pretty confident about it, herself. She's even got her other hand ready in case of Baby Fumble. "WRONG."

Sam recovers enough to take off and assess the situation. He zooms down and scoops up the fleeing teenager with complete disregard for consent. Sorry, kid. The girl--he works that out once he picks her up, sorry about the hands, wow you are very nearly human there aren't you--punches him in the face without a moment's hesitation. That's what Sam gets for extending his personal shield to passengers. Fortunately, she doesn't manage to hit him very hard.

"I'm here to help you," he explains... and then she bites him. "Augh! No biting!"

A trio of police officers were headed for Oraxx, guns drawn, trying to work up the nerve to fire--and trying to determine whether firing would do anything for them--when Zen snaps off the throwing stars, shattering the netgun, then lands squarely on Oraxx's head. The photon staff does its job, Oraxx buckles and his knees dig gouges out of the turf. He turns the fall into a roll, shaking Zen off for the moment, and fires the stunner at Zen. Not well, but the attempt is there.

"Lady, this way," one of the officers shouts, gesturing frantically. The mother is obviously torn. This closer, it's clear that she's very much not human. Her skin is black velvet, her hair a mass of thick onyx strands. Her eyes are wide and terrified, all gold without a pupil or iris.

While her mother struggles to make up her mind, her little girl wrenches free of her and flees, terrified but Oraxx's roaring. Her mother calls her back in a fluting language that Zen can parse if he listens to her thoughts, begging her to return. But the child is too young to understand Earth customs like police officers. She's only running on instinct.

BAM. Ynsikt takes a Spider-Fist to the head. Oh, the irony, except that spiders aren't insects, people. Ynsikt isn't people, either. He's rocked and he answers by throwing the baby square in Spider-Girl's face. His illusion is gone like that and he slashes at her with long forelimbs.

Klynnit is a Rygulian with a brain. He does a fantastic nose-over-tail flip and shoots back toward Nira, aiming at her with the teleporter. She has to dive out of the way to avoid that. Getting shot is nothing, getting stuck in a Rygulian brig? Would suck. The big ship is rebooting, the engines slowly lighting up.

Zen is not having a good day. This family is going in 6 different directions, and knowing Rygulians like he does, that's just perfect. For them. Twisting in the air, Zen tries to avoid as much of that wide-beam attack as he can, but it just catches some of his left foot, making it go numb. He lands in a crouch, favoring his tingling toes, and spins his staff to try and bludgeon Oraxx with a battery of blows. Body, head, body, body, head. He has to find an opening eventually. This is where he belongs. He can find a peace in moments like this, strange as it sounds.

In the swirl of combat, Zen finds his mind reaching out to assess the situations and minds around him. He gets Sam's weariness, and Anya's satisfaction. He gets Ynsikt's desire for a pay off after all the hassle of working with the Rygulians.

He gets the family spread out and terrified. |"People, to me. The humans in blue can help!"| What do you expect? Blue is always the right choice.

He gets that his friend Anya is fighting something she's never seen before, |"Spider! Elbow blades!"| He tries to point out the creature's most insidious weapon as succinctly as he can.

And then he gets Klynnit bearing down on his old friend. |"Nira, look out!"|

It doesn't even occur to Zen that he shouldn't have time for all this attention, but then, these thoughts happened almost on top of each other, each person hearing only what they needed to hear. Push him to the limit, sons of Rygul. Just see what happens.

Spider-Girl catches the baby in the face and has just enough time to reflect that she really hopes it isn't a facehugger before she needs to /focus/. |"Of COURSE it has elbow blades."|

From a distance, it probably looks like Spider-Girl and Ynsikt are dancing. He swings and slashes at her, she twists and turns and leaps and ducks, all while holding the baby protectively to her chest. "Y'all have /got/ to work on your first contact protocols," she notes flatly, before she quickly passes the child off to the father. Run please. Away from the freaky arm blade guy and towards the nice, normal policemen.

Poor Sam isn't wearing blue. |"Ow! Ow. I said I was. Ow. Look, it's your Dad. Yay, Da--."| The girl headbutts him in the face. |"For @)(*#@ sake. Sorry, Ma."| Sam drops her right near her father and she and Dad, now holding the gurgling baby, run for a slowing advancing line of police cars and officers in full body armour. Attack a police picnic, get the big guns. That frees Sam up to fire at the big green guy Zen is fighting.

Nira isn't easily impressed. Klynnit is going to have to do a lot better if she's going to buy him dinner. Because right now, thanks to Zen, she's only going to spring for a full-strength energy punch in the face. She's grateful, Zen. Honest. |"Zen, you blue bastard! Get the targets clear, they have a Urocyonad on the ship!"| So it doesn't SOUND like gratitude. It is... in Nira's way.

Zen doesn't need to know what a Urocyonad is. It's clear enough from Nira's mind that whatever it is happens to be bad news. Big bad news with a nose for more bad news. Really expensive, whatever it happens to be. Getting one for Nira... that'd get you dinner and a few other things to boot. She's freaked out and jealous at once.

Oraxx is staggered by Zen's attack, reeling back and roaring with fury. There's Rygulian spittle everywhere. He slashes at Zen over and over, abandoning the stun gun, going back to basics. Zen's photon staff slams his head to the right and a heartbeat later Sam's blast slams his head to the left. The rapid torque drops him in his tracks, out for the count.

Revakk has recovered from his moment of fury and is watching things play out on his screens. The toddler making surprisingly good time across the park has his interest. Hey. Free baby!

"Xelgg," he says smoothly. "My friend. Why don't you release Cinereo."

Xelgg swallows hard, then does as he's told. Some days, he hates this job. For a Rygulian, Xelgg kind of likes babies of all kinds. Still, he doesn't want another punch in the head. Being upside down is bad enough. A hatch on the back of the main Rygulian ship swings open and out rolls a ball of fur. Awww, so cu-NO. An enormous, angry ball of fur that's just now unwinding itself into some kind of terrifying werewolf kind of thing.

The little girl actually twigs into Zen's thoughts and changes course for two burly police officers--one covering the other with his gun drawn. As she races for the safety of their arms, Cinereo the Urocyonad drops to all fours and lopes after her, lips drawn back to bare huge fangs and a long, red tongue. Her mother stops in her tracks and screams, a piercing noise like a terrified bird. |"Save my baby!"|

Ynsikt hates spiders. He hates them even more now. He draws himself up to his full height, protecting his thorax with his forearms, and -spits-. This isn't a PTOO, this is a full-open-mouthed spray of something foul... quite possibly his last dinner. It's also incredibly sticky. And it's aimed straight at Spider-Girl's face.

Ok, everything was just starting to get organized. /Actually/ impress Nira? Yeah right. Maybe in his next life. He'd make do with what he can get. He offers a quick nod of appreciation for Cannonball's teamwork, and then glances around to see what Nira's getting all worked up about. Then he sees the jerking motions of Ynsikt as he gets ready to hork his stuff at Anya. Even his tone of thought-voice sounds embarrassed at the late-game admission, |"Watch out, they spit, too..."|

And |"Holy /shit/, those things are actually /REAL/?"| Zen pauses, taking in his 360 degree awareness. Everyone was getting close to safety. Anya is covering dad and friends, mom and the others are nearly to the cops, and Nira's anti-aircraft skills are doing the trick.

Zen blasts his thought out to the cops and everyone else present, |"Don't shoot, bullets are no good. Cannonball! We have to knock it unconscious..."| If the stories are true, this was gonna be tough. Zen sprints at the thing, pulsing himself in and out of everyone's awareness so he seems to move like in a strobe light. He moves in fast, trying to catch it off guard with his photon staff.

|"Like camels?"| Spider-Girl turns back to Ynsikt in time to see him preparing to hock, and without thinking, she darts forward and down to escape between the creature's legs. |"Okay, not like camels! Good to know!"|

Aloud, it's another story. "Aw /hell/ naw. You did not just try to use the web-to-the-face schtick!" Spider-Girl snaps her fingers in a Z-formation -- and with each snap, another line of webbing *THWIP*s from her wrist to affix to Ynsikt's limbs. Thwip, thwip, thwip. She slaps her palm onto the ground to anchor the lines, then surges forward to climb /onto/ Ynsikt's back, firing more webs as she goes. She's going to need to eat, like, all of the BBQ by the time she's done, but if she plays her cards right, there will be a Ynsikt-shaped cocoon webbed to the ground so she can go help with the /giant werewolf monster/.

Sam squints to get a line on Zen. The flickering is making him woozy. Cinereo is about to pounce, though, and Sam pops up a shimmering golden dome right before the beast can tackle the child.

The dome seems to work like a switch. Cinereo latches on to the next target, the officers. They start backing up and--in spite of Zen's warning--firing like madmen. Instinct. This creature is a nightmare. It takes the bullets as though they were spitballs and spreads its arms wide to embrace them.

You know what? This planet is way meaner than Xelgg remembers. Nira whallops the stern of the ship again just as he gets the shields up. You know what else? HE is the pilot here. In the driver's seat.

New York obviously just does SOMETHING to the little people. Xelgg punches the engines and rights the entire ship without warning. That's kind of rude but nowhere near as rude as the shot he plugs into Revaxx's head. Rygulian skulls are tough but not tough enough. Revaxx slithers out of his seat onto the floor. Hey. Free space ship.

Does he pick up the others or not? Wait. Nira's here. That means... there's a bounty out on THEM. Someone already sold them out about this illicit pick-up. What the hell. Free bounty.

The teleporter beam from the spacecraft flickers and out sucks up Klynnit from where he lies in glorious union with a tree. Moments later, it yoinks Oraxx, then Ynsikt from the ground where he's been thoroughly webbed. Anya is free and clear to date--rather, fight--whomever she pleases. Full brig, time to go. Enjoy the Urocyonad! |"Good luck!"| Xelgg whoops, turning the big spacecraft for the skies.

Nira shakes her head as she rolls to her feet. |"Of course they're real, you mouthless nerfherder. Get one of your lackeys to blow that disruptor, you're exposing the targets."|

Zen manages to get a jump on Cinereo while he's switching targets. He lands squarely on the beast's shoulders while it's in full roar, towering over the terrified police officers. He can clearly feel the officers' unbridled relief at his swift arrival. A bash of his photon staff shakes its focus and it tilts its huge head back to focus on Zen.

|"Zen!"| Nira sounds almost afraid for him. |"Don't let it target you!"| The monster's eyes narrow and from his perch, Zen can see the heavy collar around its neck flashing wildly.

Suddenly, Zen is /riding/ a creature he thought was only made up to scare baby mercenaries in their armor-lined cribs. He supposes the back of the beast is better than the belly, but this could be tricky. Also, he knows this beast is no more /evil/ than every trained fighting dog ever sent into an illicit ring. And then he finds the slave collar. /Those/ he's more familiar with. Those get used on all kinds of animals throughout the galaxy. And also, there's the matter of getting Nira to buy him dinner.

Suddenly, his plan becomes clear. Sigh. Boys...

Zen /drops/ his staff and uses both hands to cling to the fur on the thing's back. |"Cannonball, keep us away from everyone!"| If he can get the collar off, it'll stop making it attack. Probably. Maybe. At least it'll act more like an /animal/ and less like a programmed killing machine. Poor little fuzzy wuzzy.

Gripping for all he's worth, with hands, and clamping his legs on wherever he can, he tries to inch his way up and get a grip on the collar. There's the clasp! Just another... couple... inches...

Okay. UFO leaving, with badguys in it. That's cool. Spider-Girl ain't even gonna complain. She's just gonna take a moment to really regret missing lunch before she takes off sprinting for the... thing... that Zen and Sam are dealing with. They need to be kept away from the others? No problem.

Spider-Girl puts a pair of fingers to her lips and /whistles/ to try and get the beastie's attention, waving her arms up over her head. "Hey! Fido! Lookie over here! I am bite sized for your convenience!" And not anywhere near the NYPD and other civilians! How about that!

Keep us away... you know what? Sam might be able to do that. It takes what he's got but he lets the child go to sprint into the arms of the police officers. "Run!" he shouts, as they hesitate. Then on their heels, he pushes out a golden force fence to separate the heroes from the crowd. Somewhere behind him an intrepid reporter scales a fire escape to take even more pictures from the roof.

Nira growls--does she have to do everything herself?--and blasts the disruptor out of the ground. As soon as it's gone, the targets look like ordinary people again. What? No one saw anything, did they? The police are not going to question it right now.

|"Zen, you idiot!"| Nira snaps the moment that she sees what Zen's doing. |"Don't... it's dangerous. Just cage it!"| |"No! You oaf!"| That's not directed at Zen, that's at Sam. She's caught on the outside of his shield. Sorry, lady. Sam's only got so much brain.

Anya, also apparently only has so much brain. She does indeed have Cinereo's attention and she does look like a tasty snack. The Urocyonad drops to all fours, ignoring Zen and focusing on her.

There is a brief pause, almost enough time for Zen's fingers to find the clasp. It's not big. It's too complex for the creature to undo it this state. It takes work to get it undone.

Then Cinereo charges. The beast is mind-bogglingly fast, faster than Anya. It takes all that Zen has just to keep working the clasp. Suddenly, the collar gives way and Zen spills off the beast's back. In mid air above Anya, it loses focus and twists, looking for its target.

The collar in Zen's hand is making an inaudible noise that still shivers the nerves. There is the tormenter, and there is the one that holds it. |"Zen, for all that's sacred, drop that thing!"| Nira is--in barely decent garb now--up a tree and dangling over the arena Sam is holding fast. |"Don't be so stupid!"| The other thought layered under there is 'brave', but 'stupid' has priority just now.

Zen has a peaceful moment. Ah, weightlessness. Where's the grou- oh, there it is. |"OOMPH."| Zen grunts, in his mind, not even meaning to broadcast it. The signal even comes with some of the sensation of being bucked 20 feet by a terrifying monster and face-planting into the grass. He's dazed for a long moment, before finally rolling onto his back, and digging Nira's voice out of the back of his mind. His head rolls and sees the collar in the palm of his hand.

In a flash, Zen's world speeds back up into real time, and his fist snaps shut, crushing the collar device to bits. He keeps his eye on the thing, trying to corral it now. His photon staff glints in the sun, way across the grass, also on the wrong side of the shield wall now.

|"You got a cage handy, lady? I'd be happy to."| He starts to project directly into the creature's mind, the most basic of instinctual notions of calm, and peace. Coherent thoughts bleed out for everyone's benefit, |"C'mon now, ease up chief... Good boy..."| Chief? Really?

Spider-Girl doesn't have time to react, really. One minute, it's standing still. The next, it's sailing over her head. FINE BY HER, it isn't landing in her face.

"So very, very far above my paygrade," Spider-Girl grouses, warily peering up towards Zen and his new pet dog. Aliens, man. They don't do anything low-key, do they?

"Sorry, sorry," Sam is saying to Nira as he flies up enough to help her down from the tree. Oh, God, his hands are ending up places they shouldn't, he's never going anywhere without gloves again...

"I forgive you," Nira says in a sultry voice that rattles Sam's focus better than alien beings or laser fire. Why, hello there, Sam is not actually completely oblivious. Just oblivious to people from -this- era. "Because you're obviously deficient," she finishes, patting him on the head as he puts her down. "Must be the poor nutrition around here."

It's really not as though Sam's listening. Between hands full of Nira and trying to hold the shields, his ears have packed it in and gone for a walk with things like his ability to do math and form coherent sentences.

Cinereo goes from being ready to tear Zen limb from limb--it's a rather uncomfortable thing to feel in one's head, one's impending and inevitable doom--to bafflement. He crouches down and whines at Zen. He doesn't have language but he is able to reason in that big skull somewhere.

Cinereo realizes what he's done and is ashamed of himself. His long silvery tail tucks between his powerful legs, his beautiful feathery ears flatten. His face is no longer ravening and insane but feral and sad at once. He's so terribly confused. The last thing he knew, he was home, learning to hunt and chase bad people. Then, here, in a strange place with strange smells and so many angry people.

|"Oh, he's BEAUTIFUL."| Nira is enchanted. Her clothing shifts back to armour for safety as she dances up beside Zen. |"Just look at him."| Her expression is admiring and, yeah, some of it is for Zen. |"You did it!"|

Some of the tension dares to creep out of Zen as Cinereo calms, and changes his body posture. |"Hey there, big guy,"| Zen says, slowly approaching with his hand up to be sniffed. He glances back at Nira, |"You know, you could have just asked me to get you a Urocyonad... Does this make up for losing your bounty?"| He tips his head toward the sky to show he understand what happened.

Reaching up after Cinereo gets a sniff of him, he gives the huge animal a scritch behind one ear and says, |"Oh, Cannonball, Spider-Girl, this is my friend Nira. She's... from out of town too."| Yeah, she looks pretty human, but then, she also looks very different in her own way. A woman of the galaxy, lets say. |"Nira, these are some of the new friends I beamed you about last week."|

Spider-Girl lifts a hand in a wave when she's introduced. "Yo. I promise I'm not trying to be rude, but I need to eat something before I pass out," she says, and she is... not entirely exaggerating. Webbing that guy up took a /lot/ out of her. She manages to give the Great Big Doggy a light, somewhat clumsy pat on the flank before she turns to stumble towards the heavily armed police officers.

Surely one of them knows how to work a grill. Come on, fellas. Help a girl out.

|"You might want to take the big guy elsewhere,"| Sam suggests, coming up and putting a hand on Zen's shoulder. |"Because I think there's some people who want to talk to you."| He's pulling his shields in and what's left is a ring of police officers and New York citzens who are all applauding wildly. "I think you're a hit," he says to Zen.

"He can come with Nira, can't he?" Nira is already scritching Cinereo's head. The big guy is smitten. Sure, Zen saved him, but Zen doesn't smell like NIra. Zen should know that. There's few males in the galaxy who can resist. The beast rubs his head against Nira's leg and whines at her. He's at least as sentient as, say, Sam. That's a start. "I'll wait for you..." Nira points upward. "Before I go. You'll find me." She gives Zen a quick kiss on the cheek before she goes back to fawning over her newest subject.

For once, Zen is disappointed about his lack of olfactory sense. He doesn't /really/ know what he's missing, but everyone does seem to go nutty around Nira. You don't even need a nose to see why, but apparently it helps. He nods as Nira leads the creature back to her ship which has probably repaired it's major systems enough to get her back in orbit with her new pet. No doubt Tinhead would know enough to let her in when she tries to dock at Zen's ship, too.

Turning, he offers fistbumps to Sam and Anya and then walks forward to meet the press.


Zen news 250

An as-yet-unidentified group of alien beings plunged out of the perfect blue sky over New York today, terrifying the residents of the Columbus Park neighbourhood and disrupting the NYPD Benevolent Fund picnic being held in the park. Chaos and panic reigned until a group of heroes led by Spider-Girl and the blue man, Zen, drove off the aliens and saved the crowd from a wild, ravening wolf-beast from space.

This reporter has never seen anything like it. The police acted swiftly to clear the scene, heroes sprang into motion from the crowd to save a family who seemed to be the target of the violent assault. Percy Bowden, spokesman for the NYPD Benevolent Fund said, "The police appreciate the cooperation of all the citizens of New York City and visitors to her soil who respect the sanctity of life and the laws of our great state. Immigrants built this city, it's only right that we continue to welcome them with open arms."

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