A Trip Back to the Park
Some of this is familiar from the former Exploring Options chapter, with Cassie receiving her new high-tech costume, but the rest is new. Mostly because the Wasp Corps are new. Makes sense, no?
"Hold this band for me while I plug your visor into the sockets… sorry, Cassie, but you're going to need help from Dawn when you suit up from now on. Okay, I'm reading green on connections, powering up and running the boot sequence… voila! May I present the newest in crime-fighting technology, freshly liberated from the labs of Tony Stark?"
Circling around Cassie, Dawn whistled in appreciation. "Body-hugging black PVC with suggestive red highlights. I like the way Stark thinks. Although if he's creating this for teenage girls, I think we'd better start watching for him on To Catch a Predator. Although with your schoolgirl fetish, you'd probably be right after Tony on the list of people that Chris Hansen is telling to take a seat over there…"
Hank stepped away from Cassie, rolling his eyes as he reached over to swat Dawn's shoulder. "The equipment is from Stark, Dawn. You can blame Astrid and your mother for deciding your girlfriend's costume needed 'suggestive red highlights'. And shut up about the damn schoolgirl outfit, that was Janet's idea." Pausing, he looked over at the pair of redheads, Janet perched on his workbench with her legs spread, Astrid standing between them as Janet leaned on her. "Although Dawn does raise an interesting question. Why are there suggestive red highlights on Cassie's new outfit?"
"They're not that suggestive!" Dawn raised an eyebrow at the synchronized rebuttal from the group's two designers, coming back around in front of Cassie and gesturing to the blonde's chest. While the design kept some of hers - the body of an ant in the center, with the top two legs reaching up to join with the red arms of the catsuit - the bottom two legs now stretched down to meet… at Cassie's crotch, of all places. And the middle legs, once relegated to a spot below each breast and looping around Cassie's ribs to her back, now wound around the outside of her breasts before curving inward. Astrid managed to keep an affronted look on her face, but Janet quickly cracked and blushed. "Okay, maybe it's slightly suggestive. But that's part of picking your look as a heroine. You're either butt ugly and people give you that feared awe that the Hulk gets, or you're totally sexy and teenage boys are introducing their potential children to Kleenex while looking at your picture. If you try and be in the middle, people just ignore you. Well, unless you go playing hacky sack with someone at giant size. But you can't really make a career out of that."
That earned snickers from the other girls, a reddening of what could be seen of Cassie's face, and a sigh from Hank. "Can we please redirect this conversation away from the idea of guys masturbating to my wife or stepdaughter's girlfriend for the sake of what little sanity I have left? Please?"
Raising her hand, Cassie looked back and forth. "How about we talk about how to turn this stuff on so I'm not blind anymore? That'd be swell."
"Let's see how far along it is." Hank scooped up his Palm Pilot from next to Janet and tapped a few commands in. "Okay, boot sequence completed. Imaging systems online in three… two… one…" The six red optical sensors on the front of the visor obscuring Cassie's eyes lit up and the blonde let out a satisfied sigh. "Sorry about that. The entire system has a sixty second cold boot time, so in the future you might want to start the power up before you even go to work on the catsuit. Now, let's start with your visor. The back band goes over your ears and around the back of your head like a pair of headphones, and then the visor itself connects to the earpieces. You'll need help to properly seat the connectors but Dawn can earn her keep there. The sensors on the visor can replicate what you'd normally see, so you won't even notice you're wearing it, and even go into the ultraviolet or infrared ranges to help you at night or with concealed enemies. The earpieces amplify your hearing and can also be linked with Bluetooth to your cell phone so you and Dawn can talk during battle. I hope you're both in the other's Fab Five, or the bills are going to be horrendous."
Fab Five? Dawn furrowed her brow before it came to her. "Hank, you're thinking of T-Mobile and that's Fave Five. The Fab Five were the gay guys from Queer Eye. And Cassie and I are both on Verizon." Hank scowled and Dawn patted him on the back. "You don't need to try and be hip. You're a nerd. We know you're a nerd. It's your lot in life."
Hank gave her another dirty look for that one and Cassie stepped in to defuse the situation. "Hey, Hank? Just out of curiosity, can I talk to bugs with this one like I can with my father's helmet?"
"No, but I'm one step ahead of you." Turning, Hank took two silver, quarter-sized devices from his workbench and pressed one to each of Cassie's temples. There was a whir and the blonde let out a shriek of pain that made Dawn jump, barely resisting the urge to lunge at Hank. Telescoping antennae extended from them, curling up and back along the natural lines of Cassie's skull. "You're going to want to leave those in except for when you're around your parents, I think. They're removable and will secrete a compound to heal you, but you'll still be pulling something in and out of your skull and that sounded like it hurt."
Cassie nodded and reached up to rub around the bases of her new antennae. "Why don't I jab something through your skull into your brain and see how much you like it? What the hell was that? A little warning would have been nice."
Snorting, Hank went back to tapping away at the Palm Pilot. "Would you have let me even get near you with them if I'd warned you?"
"Uh, no? Duhh."
"My point exactly." Hank tapped away for a few more seconds before looking up. "Now, for the best part. The waldos."
As juvenile as it was, Dawn couldn't help herself. "Where's Waldos?" Cassie groaned in exasperation even as Hank pinned Dawn with a glare. "Shutting up now."
"Thank you." One final tap, and a pair of silvery, spider-like legs extended from Cassie's back. "Tony's developing these for a project with Spider-Man, hence the look. You're going to need to practice with them but they're mentally controlled and eventually you should be able to use them just as well as your natural limbs. Each one has a camera in the tip, and you can replace some or all of your forward view with a camera signal to see behind yourself, around corners, and so on. Tony says they're 'delicate' and not suitable for combat yet, but unless you're trying to block adamantium or something, you should be okay. Try not to be too rough on them, though, at least until I can secure a supply of spare parts."
Cassie nodded and the legs twisted back and forth rapidly, servos whirring as she tested their limits. Eventually they disappeared from view behind her, silence descending as she shut them down. "Weird, but I'll get used to it I think. So… what's in these?" Her hands dropped down to rub the claw-like metal shapes that wrapped around her hips. "Jet boosters so I can fly? Something to turn me invisible? Some kind of weapons?"
Each suggestion received a negative shake of Hank's head. "Actually, they're load-bearing. Tony hasn't quite figured out how to keep the waldos from hurting the user or destroying the costume without building in a bit of exoskeleton, and for some reason that's not acceptable to him. Personally, I didn't think you'd care and so I had Janet and Astrid work them into the design. Think of them as part of the whole ant theme. Mandibles or something."
"Your costume's a bit thicker than the cloth that Spider-Man uses, too. The PVC, for starters, but we also added some Kevlar. I know the Young Avengers are still heavily into the community policing part of adventuring and wasn't sure what you and Dawn were planning. But this way if some robber takes a shot at you, you'll have some protection." Janet crooked her finger and Cassie approached, the redhead lowering her voice although not enough to mask her words from Dawn, much less the Slayers. "And certain parts are a bit more… protected… than others, if you catch my drift. Just like you wanted."
Dawn's eyebrows rose at that, and she looked Cassie up and down again. Oddly enough, the suggestive swirls had distracted her from the actual body they were supposed to be advertising. On closer inspection, though, the blonde did seem a little bit more curvaceous than usual: a bit fuller in the chest than even the Wonderbra effect of Dawn's gifted costume made her look, and her hips appeared a bit more rounded. Not enough to set off alarm bells in most peoples' heads, but for someone who studied Cassie as much as she did, the changes were obvious.
A light cough brought attention to Regan, who was standing in front of the other Slayers with her arms over her chest. "Not that this ain't fascinating and all, but can the rest of us get our costumes too? Nothing against Cassie, but her powers are in her. Ours are in the spandex. No costume, no training with Dawn this afternoon."
"Think fast." Astrid twisted and grabbed something off the workbench, completing her graceful spin and hurling a black object at Regan. It spun through the air, moving so fast it was only a blur to Dawn, but the Slayer easily plucked it out of the air with no apparent effort. Astrid smirked and repeated the move, hurling the black objects at each of the other five Slayers. "It's like Christmas without the fat fur lover with a mad-on for B&E."
Dawn was closest to Sophie and watched over the Slayer's shoulder as she opened a clear plastic package and withdrew a thick wad of folded black PVC. Dropping the packaging, Sophie shook the bundle out to reveal a twin of Janet's 'landing strip' costume, as Astrid so loved to call it. Wait. Not quite a twin, Dawn realized: there were stripes of yellow on the catsuit's thighs and biceps, a different number on each girl. Regan's had one across each thigh, while Mahika had one on each thigh and an additional stripe on each bicep. Naledi had two stripes on her thighs and one on her biceps, Kathryn had two on each, Kimberly had three on her thighs and two on her arms, and Sophie had three all around. A marking system, Dawn realized, given that the girls would be known for now as simply 'Wasp-One' through 'Wasp-Six'.
Pecking away at his Palm Pilot, Hank sighed in relief. "Okay, all the suits are disabled. Last thing I need is one of you flying up into the ceiling half naked or something." Dawn bit back a snicker at that; that sounded fucking hilarious to her. "As Regan so succinctly pointed out, these suits are the source of all your… well, your new superpowers. Height multiplication, height reduction, flight, and an electrical pulse stinger. Obviously you still possess your Slayer abilities outside of the suits. But the tests Sophie let me run on her confirm that your bodies' accelerated healing flushes the Pym Particles within hours, preventing them from building up like they have in Janet, Cassie, Dawn, and I. Therefore, if you want your powers, you will need to wear the suits. If I were you, I'd start learning to pick out outfits that cover as much skin as possible so you can go out in public while wearing the costume under your street clothes."
Astrid let out a little cough and Hank looked back at her curiously. She gestured to the right with her head but when he still didn't seem to get it, she sighed and wandered off down the length of his workbench. "Glasses, Hank. You're forgetting the glasses."
"And the headsets, but it figures that you'd focus on the Oakleys." All six Slayers perked up at that and stared with hungry eyes as Astrid returned carrying a large metal briefcase. She held it out to Hank who, rather than taking it, opened it and forced her to remain there holding it. Reaching in, he pulled out a pair of amber-lensed sunglasses: Oakley Radar Pitches, Dawn's inner mall rat supplied. Hundred seventy dollars a pop, and there were seven pairs there. Seven? Did she get a pair too? Sweet! "These are no ordinary sunglasses, ladies. I've added HUD capabilities that will help out not only with the use of your powers, but with tracking enemies during a fight. I also bought a set of radios for you to use in the field, since shouting at each other tends to get annoying fast in a real fight. And… there you have it. Go forth and reek havoc. Preferably on criminals and demons, but I'll look the other way if you just so happen to blow up one of Stark's expensive cars or something."
Dawn reached in and yanked out a pair of Oakleys and a radio, donning both as she retreated to stand over near Cassie. On a hunch, she felt around with her fingers until she found the Oakley symbol on the left side of her glasses, pressing it lightly. Instantly, her amber-tinted world lit up with numbers, letters, and lines, circles hovering over each person's face along with a name and threat level. A bar at the bottom served as a compass, while an altimeter occupied the left side of the HUD and a height indicator the right. "Cool."
There were assorted oohs and ahhs as the girls tried out their new toys, before Hank clapped his hands together to get the group's attention. "Now, the NYPD has agreed to escort you to the park, provide security, and bring you back. They'll be here at eleven, so I recommend you all get changed." There was no reaction to his words and he sighed before pointing to the door. "Now?"
The girls filed out with that order and Hank shook his head in dismay before turning away. Dawn pouted as she moved to sit beside her mother on Hank's workbench, nudging Janet with her shoulder as Cassie moved to stand between her legs. "Why does everyone but me get a new costume? Either I go out in the armor, my bug skin, or the same catsuit as them. And I would expect you of all people to know that never show up for a party in the same outfit as someone else."
"Actually, I made you something." Dawn arched a brow at that, leaning forward to look across Janet to where Astrid stood, nibbling her lower lip nervously as she clutched a large shopping bag to her chest. "Your mom gave me your measurements from the armor's skinsuit and I used that to make… well, I wasn't sure how well you'd take to this because of… ugh." Astrid closed the distance between them, thrusting the bag out towards Dawn. "Here. Wear it, burn it, hurl a boot at me, whatever. I'm gonna hold out a shiny black olive branch here, it's up to you if you want to take it."
Not quite sure what to make of Astrid's behavior, Dawn simply nodded before accepting the bag. Opening it, she peeked inside. A black and yellow, long-sleeved minidress, with a harder yellow material protecting the shoulders and forearms, along with a pair of black knee-high boots with yellow protrusions that mimicked the forearm armor from her dress. Her favorite out of the outfits they'd designed together on the day of their… encounter. "Even after how I've treated you for the last..?"
Astrid snorted, looking away. "You don't have the monopoly on blame for this. Or guilt. So are you going to go get dressed or did I waste my time?"
"I'm going, I'm going." Dawn leaned down to kiss Cassie's neck, the blonde letting out a little purr before moving away so Dawn could slide off the workbench. "Not like I need to hurry or anything. You saw how long it took Cassie to get dressed and she's used to catsuits. We're stuck waiting on half a dozen newbs. I could probably go try on both of my other costumes, then put this on, and still be the first one back."
While his sire was remarkably tight-lipped about his time in the hell dimension Buffy had once sent him to, Spike was fairly certain that it was nowhere near as torturous as his current existence. Staring down at the yellow mug in his hand, he let out a faint growl. This was the third smiley face mug in the last month that someone had defaced, adding fangs to the mouth. And Nibblet was in the Big Apple, so the Slaylettes couldn't try and lay the blame on her anymore. The hungry stares, he could take. The occasional grope when he passed through a crowd of girls, he could take. But a man had to have some dignity, damnit!
In the end, though, hunger won out over pride and he emptied the bag of O negative into the altered mug before sticking it into the microwave. Just for that, though, he was using a regular tablespoon to stir his blood and it was going back into the silverware drawer unwashed. Spike blinked before shaking his head in dismay. God, how the mighty had fallen. A dirty spoon was the extent of his evilness these days. Oh yeah. He was definitely a Big Bad. Not.
When the microwave beeped, he pulled out his breakfast and stirred it up a bit to ensure a constant temperature before wiping the spoon once on his black t-shirt and tossing it back into the drawer. Making his way into the living room, he carefully lowered himself onto one of the couches, not wanting to spill the blood. After a minute's fruitless searching, he growled in frustration. "Oy! Where's the bleedin' remote?"
A giggle came from the other end of the couch and Spike looked over before groaning as he came face to face with the last person he wanted to see early in the morning. Not that he had anything in particular against Ophelia Smythe; she was actually one of the most tolerable of the runty Slayers swarming all over the Cleveland facility. But her resemblance, both physically and vocally, to his late love Drusilla was downright creepy. If not for the slight flush that came with having a heart that still worked and maybe a year or two less in the way of aging, the two could have been twins. "Howzit, Spike?" Holding up the remote in question, she waggled it teasingly before tucking it away between her body and the arm of the couch. "You can have the telly after my morning cartoons are over."
"Oh come on! It's…" Spike leaned back, checking the time on the grandfather clock pushed up against the far wall. "…eleven in the morning. Go find something more productive to do with your day and pass that remote here." Ophelia just sniffed in derision, turning her attention back to the television. "Hey! Don't ignore me, you little twit. Fork it over or I'm coming to get it."
Giving a mock shudder, Ophelia retrieved the remote and held it out to him, only to snatch it back just before his fingers closed around it. Spike growled at her taunting and she laughed. "Ooh, I'm so scared. The big bad vampire's gonna get me. Whatever will I do?"
Spike leaned forward, carefully placing his mug of blood on the coffee table, before whirling and tackling the Slayer. Wrapping both hands around the remote, he began to tug furiously at it, face shifting instinctively from being so close to the enemy of his kind. The two battled back and forth, the television's sound a disjointed jumble as it changed channels rapidly. Then someone cleared their throat and the pair abruptly stilled. "Spike. What did I tell you about trying to score Os with O?"
Smoothing away his vampiric visage, Spike glared up at Faith. "I'm not trying to 'score', you stupid bint. All I want is the television remote so I can enjoy my breakfast in peace, and she won't give it to me." Giving one last tug, he wrestled his prize away and retreated to the far end of the couch, catching one last fleeting glimpse of pale flesh and red satin before Ophelia pulled her shirt, which had ridden up during their scuffle, back down over her stomach. "Besides, she's nineteen. I'm a hundred and forty-years older than her. And I was thirty when I was turned. No matter how you look at it, it'd be wrong."
Hopefully Faith wouldn't bring up Buffy's age when the two of them had gotten involved. Or how old Drusilla had been when she was turned. Or the fairly obvious bulge in his jeans at the moment…
"Uh huh. That's why I always catch you eyeing her ass like a bag of virgin AB negative." Faith hopped the back of the sofa, claiming the spot between them as her own. "Not to mention the whole Dru-a-like thing she's rocking. Nahh, I don't care if you do shit with her, just keep it private, man. I don't need X-Man whining about you getting a love life." Snorting, she tugged open a foil package of Pop Tarts, assaulting Spike's sensitive nose with the smell of some kind of over-processed fruit. "Don't think he's in a position to say much, personally, since he's banging his pet Slayer like Criss on a drum solo."
Mug halfway to his mouth, Spike shuddered in disgust. "Thanks, luv. That's exactly what I need when I'm trying to enjoy breakfast: the mental image of Chubs and Cat Girl doing the nasty." Banishing the image from his mind as best he could, he sipped at the cooling blood as he surfed from channel to channel. Bollocks. Bollocks. Bollocks. Nine hundred channels, and nothing but crap. He flicked rapidly through the next few channels before a word caught his attention and he doubled back.
"…spoke to us briefly before the area was cordoned off by the police. It turns out our mystery superheroine is none other than Dawn van Dyne, daughter of legendary Avenger Janet Pym. While she wouldn't give the names of her companions, we have been informed that they are the newly formed 'Wasp Corps'. As you can see, they all appear to be wearing variants on Mrs. Pym's current Wasp costume and… oh my!"
Spike was suddenly very grateful he'd chugged the last of his blood as the mug slipped through his slack fingers, bouncing off his thigh before tumbling to the carpet. Dawn slowly stretched upward, growing from human size to what he guessed was close to a hundred feet in height, She was quickly joined by a girl in black and red with a silver visor over her eyes, and then the girls he recognized as the six Slayers Dawn had requested for a 'special assignment' began to surge skyward as well. "Bloody hell."
"You're the one who turned down my transfer request, right?"
"I hate you so much right now."