Series 1: The Gathering StormBy Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue
The Gathering Storm
Wherein we meet some of the major characters of this world and find out how the Whethermen come to be formed…and whom they shall be.
Currently, the series “The Gathering Storm” in still in progress, though well over the halfway point. It is the first novel-length series of tales in the Whethermen universe. Chapter links and synopses below (if you don’t want spoilers either don’t read the synopses or visit this page for chapter links without comments):
We see Query, in his Milo Phillips identity, indulging his passion for rap and hip-hop. Later, he consults with his associate, Carl Beacham (an attorney) about an ongoing case of Query’s. During the meeting, Query realizes Carl has been bugged so that a strike team could track him to Query’s lair in the city of New Judah. Query gets Carl to safety and then takes out almost the entire team sent to kill him, except for two mercenaries who report back to the villain who hired them, Janus.
In one of her classes, Zoe Dawson goes head to head with a professor in a discussion about transhumans, having been hiding her own powers throughout college. Recovering from injuries sustained during the attempt on his life, Query tries to figure out why Janus would target him specifically. The villain Tooth Fairy terrorizes a bank executive as part of a plan to steal money.
Julian Gregori, a designer who does a side business making costumes for transhumans of all kinds, goes to what he thinks is a meet-up with a customer and ends up detained by FBI agents. Mad Dash, a super-fast hero with mostly harmless mental instabilities, meets with Query and they discuss Gregori’s situation, among other things. Janus makes a pitch to Underworld, a semi-retired villain, to get her to join with him in helping to lead his East Coast operations. He gains her acceptance only by threatening her family, and she vows to make him pay for that later.
A freelance transhuman named Cheshire meets Query, and asks him a favor, for which he exacts one in return. Janus, who has been alerted to the existence of Zoe and her powers, enlists Underworld to try to recruit her. Right-wing television and radio pundit Ben Glick finishes up his show on FOX News after interviewing a Freedom Party U.S. senator who shares his desire to keep transhumans in check by any means necessary.
Gangster “Marty the Hun” and his crew are ambushed by a temperature-controlling hero named Solstice. Police examine the scene of a petty crime by a low-level criminal named Hellfire. Zoe, during gymnastics practice, mulls over the fact that she hid her transhuman powers so she could qualify for an athletic scholarship. Researchers in a government agency discuss subject in whom they are forcing the emergence of transhuman powers.
Cole Alderman, a young transhuman recently out of university, itches to be a hero, and makes a connection with the Guardian Corps, a sort of transhuman version of the Guardian Angels organization. Mad Dash meets Ladykiller as she has just finished mauling a rapist in an alley, and innocently asks her to join him for a bite to eat. Tooth Fairy lurks outside a home, watching the father and daughter inside it for a while before leaving.
As they share a meal at a restaurant that caters to costumed transhumans and their admirers, Mad Dash gives Ladykiller (who, while a costumed vigilante, is a bit naive and ignorant about other transhumans) a few tips and insights about the costumed scene and transhuman activities, both heroic and villainous. Cole is brought to a place where the Guardian Corps can observe him and determine whether to take him into their fold.
Fortunato, a former costumed hero and now billionaire mogul and businessman, discussed with his personal assistant, Jeremiah, about a thinly veiled threat from Janus. In yet another class, Zoe gets into a tiff during a discussion about transhumans, but with the added irritation that the discussion callously challenges her religious beliefs. A Guardian Corp leader, Desperado, questions Cole pointedly to make sure he’s “the right stuff,” as well as to show him they know much about him already.
Still upset after leaving the class that was the site of her latest verbal tiff, Zoe is met by a woman who invites her to dine with her and listen to an offer. Cole meets another person connected with the Guardian Corps, Sweet Talker, who questions him further and clears up remaining concerns about Cole, who is invited to join the Guardian Corps. The mysterious woman reveals herself to be Underworld as she brunches with Zoe, and begin the recruitment process, alternately wooing her and warning her that she doesn’t have much choice in the end.
Solstice comes back from a night of fighting crime and catches up with her stepsister and roommate, Isabella. Underworld continues to try to woo Zoe, and warns her that Janus isn’t patient and may eventually make the decision for her. Zoe reaches out to Query, which is revealed in a meeting between Query and Carl in which Carl catches the hero up on messages, old business and new business.
During a show, Ben Glick attempts to bait a guest with whom he vehemently disagrees: the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transhuman Affairs. Zoe is contacted by Query indirectly. President Obama meets with his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense to discuss a “black budget” transhuman resesearch program of which he has only recently been made aware. A representative of Janus makes contact with Tooth Fairy to invite her to join the organization.
Carl meets with Query to share information from his interview with Zoe, and finds out that part of Query’s ability to keep tabs on so much in New Judah is because he owns a number of military-grade programmable flying drones. Carl is still skeptical and somewhat suspicious Zoe may be a trap set by Janus; Query is confident she isn’t, and takes on her case both to protect her from Janus and in the hopes that doing so will draw Janus out for Query to take down. Tooth Fairy, who had previously been using Julian Gregori for her costume design and production, meets with her new designer Francesca DeSantos (who, like Gregori, does a healthy side-business with transhumans)…a woman whose personality and priorities suit the villain much better.
In a Speedster-vs.-Speedster fight, Mad Dash confronts a transhuman bank robber, and also notices Ladykiller in civilian garb watching him in the distance. Crazy Jane, one of Janus’ minions, uses her powers to make a man commit suicide. Janus takes great pleasure in showing video of Crazy Jane’s manipulations of the man to Underworld, and explains the full extent of Jane’s powers. Tooth Fairy enters the home she had been watching previously, and we discover it is the home of her husband and daughter, whom she abandoned for a life of crime when her powers emerged and twisted her mind. She informs her husband that one day she will be back to claim her daughter—when her own powers emerge, if not earlier.
Andrea Yates, a new assistant district attorney in New Judah, gets schooled by a police sergeant on the realities of dealing with transhuman crime in the city…and dealing with her colleagues. Cole goes out on what should be a routine Guardian Corps patrol and ends up in a major firefight with gang members instead. An older, independent hero named Epitaph helps get him and his patrolmates out of the predicament. Ladykiller shows up for a date with Mad Dash (who’s still a bit confused at to how they fell into a fledgeling relationship) in a new costume for a cover identity as Honey Badger, so that she can hang out with Dash and not have people wondering why he’s with a vigilante who frequently cripples or kills her victims.
Epitaph brings Cole and Cole’s two patrolmates (one of whom has serious gunshot wounds) back to the main Guardian Corps headquarters, sending Desperado into a rage since Cole hadn’t been vetted enough yet to be trusted with its location. Cole pays witness to an interchange with Epitaph (who speaks only in quotations from books, movies, etc.) and Desperado that indicates a complicated relationship and history. When Desperado’s anger focuses on Cole again, Sweet Talker steps in to intervene and to explain some things to Cole. She also offers to take him under her wing a bit since Desperado is likely to try to drum him out of the Corps or drive him to give up. Fortunato considers a video sent to him by Janus, which makes it clear that the “suicide” of one of his relatives was actually a murder by Crazy Jane at Janus’ direction. Fortunato then summons one of his employees, Vanessa Santos (who is a transhuman) and essentially extorts her into accepting a new job as a costumed hero working for him. At the Caped Cuisiner restaurant, Mad Dash debates Ladykiller’s tactics with her a bit, and they are interrupted by a visit from one of Dash’s acquaintances, the Vegan Manhunter.
While going over potential villainous recruits to their operation, Underworld gets resistance from Janus about one of her candidates, Shrill, but eventually gets her way. After the meeting, Underworld has a brief, unexpected and slightly unnerving encounter with Crazy Jane in a hallway. In one of her psychology classes, Zoe and her class watch a video explaining the unique kind of altered perceptions and sometimes odd mental illnesses that seem to afflict many transhumans. Query confronts Solstice to let her know her sloppy handling of Marty the Hun previously helped him get released from custody and that the gangster is now actively abducting and killing women whom he thinks might be Solstice—and impresses upon her the importance of cleaning up the mess she’s caused quickly.
Tooth Fairy meets with Janus, assuring him she’s not a team player. Janus and Underworld, in turn, assure her they want her more for her solo talents, as an independent contractor, and she agrees. Using the leads Query provided, Solstice begins her investigation to track down Marty the Hun and try to determine how to take him down. Query and Carl have another meeting, about some costumed transhumans whose identities Query has discovered. Unexpectedly, Desperado actually puts Cole on a patrol (and allows him to adopt a codename: Quantum) and while Cole is happy to be let into Guardian Corps activities again, the change of mind on Desperado’s part confuses him. Query, who has discerned that Honey Badger is actually Ladykiller, has a friendly and cautionary chat with Mad Dash about their new relationship. After Dash leaves, Query meeting with Epitaph, who shares intelligence on Guardian Corps recruits and members with him. Underworld keeps running into Crazy Jane and is increasingly nervous about the woman.
Training in her Allison Wonderland costume vents her frustrations and anger at Fortunato on the practice dummy, and has a brief emotional breakdown, while Fortunato and Jeremiah watch via video. As the talk about Vanessa, Jeremiah (having figured out what Fortunato is up to) ask how big a team his boss plans to build to seek revenge on Janus and Crazy Jane. Fortunato reveals, in the course of the conversation, that getting Query’s involvement and cooperation in some way is a key concern. In meeting with Query, Carl notes that Fortunato has made many attempt to contact him and left numerous messages, and Query starts to wonder what scheming Fortunato is up to. Underworld, continuing to court Zoe, lets the younger woman know what she’s running out of time and needs to accept Janus’ invitation or run. Query attempts to follow Underworld after her meeting with Zoe, but he loses track of her.
Returning to headquarters after meeting with Zoe, Underworld runs into Crazy Jane again, and finally realizes the reason that keeps happening and the reason she hasn’t simply told Jane to leave her alone is because the woman has been using her addictive powers subtly to form a bond between them, most likely as part of Janus’ plans to keep Underworld in the operation no matter how much she wants to leave. Tooth Fairy (out of costume) has a dinner out with the husband she abandoned and tell him exactly how she will be working her way back into his life and, in particular, their daughter’s. In doing some busy work for Desperado in the Guardian Corps headquarters, he overhears the man discussing the possibilities of traitors in their midst. Underworld calls Crazy Jane to try to get her to keep her distance and instead Jane cheerfully admits to what she’s doing and Underworld realizes she has already begun to crave Jane’s friendship and presence.
Query and Carl do a stakeout of Zoe’s dormitory and Carl learns a bit more about his employers, including the side effects of Query’s powers (notably, the inability to ever sleep). Gen. Keith B. Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, visits the Genesis One facility that President Obama was recently made aware of to caution its director about the president’s concerns, as well as urging him not to tell the president that the dangerously unstable transhuman fugitive Doctor Holiday was created there. Ladykiller (as Honey Badger) and Mad Dash get involved in battle with heavy armed drug dealers. Solstice gears up to carry out a plan hatched by her, Isabella and Query that should take Marty the Hun down. Janus pays a visit (indirectly) to Hush-a-Bye and GoodKnight in Marksburgh, Penn., hoping to “invest” in their criminal empire and secure their support in his own efforts. Following instructions to meet with Desperado, Cole instead finds himself interrupting a secret meeting and ordered by Desperado to leave.
After meeting with Janus, we see the intricate complexities of the power arrangement between Hush-a-Bye and GoodKnight and realize that arrangement is still a work in progress. At her college graduation, Zoe realizes that Janus might try to abduct her at any time. One again near Desperado’s office at the Guardian Corps headquarters, suggestions are made that perhaps Cole has been intentionally eavesdropping. A small mercenary team hired by Janus attempts to abduct Zoe but is defeated and captured by Query, who was in disguise at the graduation. Reporting to Fortunato about the odd graduation-day skirmish, Jeremiah provides evidence the merc team was hired by Janus. Underworld tries to figure out what plans-within-plans Janus has, since the attempt on Zoe seemed intentionally sloppy. Janus explains to her and then she confronts him about Crazy Jane. He doesn’t admit to being behind her actions but also drops hints that he actually was and notes that killing him in retaliation might cause Jane to withdraw the attentions to which Underworld is now addicted.
Cole comes into Guardian Corps headquarters to discover it had been attacked violently the night before, reinforcing the notion that a traitor had given up the group’s location, and several eyes look on Cole suspiciously. Janus and Underworld interview a potential recruit, a villain called Odium. Ladykiller shows Mad Dash her home, which is actually the condo of the man who had kept her prisoner as a sex slave a few years earlier, and eventually reveals that in one locked room are the long-dead remains of her abuser. Dash takes the news in stride, and as he curls up next to her that night, decides he is very lucky to be a part of her life.
Query takes some time for himself out on the town as Milo Phillips, though he still keeps tabs on his communications as Query and frets about Zoe. Solstice and Isabella engage in some banter as Solstice gets ready to go out on the town socially, not knowing if she will even survive the plan the take down Marty the Hun soon. A villain named Breathtaker abducts Zoe from a house party for Janus and Underworld. A private investigator hired by Query to keep watch alerts the hero to the kidnapping. At the Guardian Corps headquarters, after another ambushed patrol, one of Desperado’s lieutenants, Puma, fingers Cole as the likely traitor, only to discover Desperado had been placing Cole in places he didn’t belong to help flush out the real traitor. A fight ensues, in which Puma and a few other traitors are defeated. Desperado admits to using Cole and playing up his hatred of him, but also says his dislike of Cole was never an act and he still hopes the college grad will leave the Corps.
Zoe begins to come to in the trunk of the car she’s been stuffed into, as Query contacts Mad Dash to get him to chase down the abductors. At the Guardian Corps headquarters, in the wake of the fighting with the traitors, one of Sweet Talker’s crew, PrinSass, commiserates with Cole as he struggles with whether he belongs there. As he gets a drone within visual distance of Zoe’s abductors and continues to try to catch up with them, Zoe bursts out of the trunk and take out both of Janus’ minions in the car, killing them both. Query warns Mad Dash to be very calm and careful when he reaches Zoe. Underworld and Janus discuss various transhuman members of their burgeoning teams, particularly Odium, whom Janus plans to manipulate slightly through the use of Crazy Jane’s powers. Query reaches Zoe by phone to get her to clean up the scene of the attack and calm down before Mad Dash arrives.
Mad Dash arrives at Zoe’s location and they converse for a bit until Query calls Dash and give him instructions. Zoe tells Dash she wants Query to call her directly, and she demands to know what’s going on, why and what’s likely to happen soon. After losing contact with Zoe’s abductors, Janus goes to complain to Underworld, who points out that given the timing her recruit, Breathtaker, did his job perfectly and it was Janus’ hand-picked drivers who clearly messed up. When reinforcements arrive to back up the missing team that was driving Zoe, Query ambushes them, killing two and incapacitating the other five with the help of Mad Dash. Crazy Jane bursts into Underworld’s office looking for a place to hide from Janus’ uncontrolled rage over the ruination of the abduction attempt by Query; she also reveals to Underworld a secret about Janus’ mysterious powers. Before leaving with Mad Dash to go to a safeh0use, Zoe discovers from Query that the survivors will be tortured for information, and confronts Query about that, forbidding him to take that step. When Query refuses, she confronts the men herself, and convinces at least one of them to give Query the bare minimum information he needs, with no torture involved.
Query drives toward Janus’ safehouse in the woods while trying to contact some transhuman associates to back him up. President Obama pays a direct personal visit to the director of the Genesis One facility to assess whether the program should be allowed to continue, and asks point-blank if Doctor Holiday came out of the lab. In the course of the conversation, Dr. Hansen learns that the president is a transhuman with the ability to detect lies. The heroes Peregrine and Buttress, and a more vigilante-style transhuman names Feral, answer Query’s call and they assault Janus’ collection of safehouse cabins in the forest. The battle goes well, if difficult for the heroes at points, but is marred at the end when Feral loses control and viciously mauls one of Janus’ minions to death. Query subdues and restrains him, then starts looking for clues.
Zoe begins to regain her composure at the safehouse that Mad Dash brings her to and awaits the arrival of the healer Asclepius. Although he doesn’t find anything likely to lead him to Janus directly, Query finds plenty of evidence worth plundering in Janus’ woodland camp. He also informs Feral that he’ll be wearing a monitoring device for the rest of his career since this probably wasn’t the first time he’s lost control (and Query fears innocents might have been harmed in the past or will be in the future). Janus rather aggressively questions and punishes key members of his staff that he feels should be held accountable for Query overtaking the woodland safehouses. On one of his radio shows, Ben Glick stokes the fires of racial fears as he ties the rise of transhumans to the rising population of non-whites in the country. Zoe finds out that Query had implanted her with a tracking device during his rescue of her at graduation, and angrily confronts him about that and his motivations for doing so but not telling her.
Query convinces Fortunato to shelter Zoe long-term. Solstice takes down a skeez drug lab as part of a plan to trap and frame Marty the Hun. Mad Dash tries to convince Ladykiller to start taking steps to get clear of the condo where she was imprisoned and raped and make a fresh start, beginning by explaining to her about bank accounts for costumed transhumans. Vanessa Santos approaches Zoe to warn her about doing any kind of business with Fortunato, but Zoe rebuffs the woman.
Solstice springs her trap on Marty the Hun and gets a few surprises in the process. Zoe finally meets Fortunato face-to-face, and they negotiate about her future.
Carl and Query have another of their regular meetings, at which Zoe (Loc-Down) and Fortunato begin as the topic of discussion, but which takes a turn when Carl presses Query about his reluctance to share his vast stores of intelligence with other heroes and the police. Assistant DA Andrea Yates gets a look at some of the high-tech tools the police have at their disposal in the New Judah Police Department’s SO/GT Division. One of Crazy Jane’s pets, Dr. Marcus Blood, ruminates on committing atrocities in his mistress’ name. Janus and Underworld discuss team member Caterwaul (formerly known as Shrill).
Underworld slips away from Janus’ watchful eye to practice her teleporting skills, something she had been doing for weeks previous already, not wanting him to know too much about how potent those powers were. Zoe makes up with Vanessa Santos (Allison Wonderland)…sort of. Janus demands to know where Underworld has been, and Underworld refuses to tell him, even going so far as to threaten him with a gun. Crazy Jane is shown to have been hiding in the office during Janus and Underworld’s stand-off, and she wonders what she might be able to do to keep either from killing the other in the future. Assistant DA Andrea Yates questions the father of Crazy Jane in hopes of getting some clue as to how to track her down. Query confronts the somewhat morally ambiguous hero Coldraven and extorts her for a couple of future favors.
Query informs Solstice that she has attracted the attention of mob boss Murphy Walsh, for whom Marty the Hun had worked, and he gives her some mentoring-style advice. President Obama visits Dr. Hansen again at the Genesis One facility and finds out more precisely what work is going on there, which primarily revolves around creating true telepaths (we also get the first mention in a Whethermen story that there are not just transhumans in the world but four aquatic sub-species of humanity that emerged about the same time). Query, in his Milo Phillips identity, goes to a rap/hip-hop show and interacts with a performer and transhuman named Alliterati. Underworld questions Janus about why he doesn’t have Carl Beacham tailed as a way to track down Query.
Tooth Fairy tells her still partly-estranged husband how things will go with her visitation of their daughter and eventual custody, and then gets a bit disturbingly randy. Query decides to go vegetarian. On patrol as Quantum, Cole has his first solo success taking down a thug. Leon confronts Julian over doing a free costume design and construction for Cole. Query “confronts” Good War. Janus publicly punishes an employee who tried to flee his operations.
Query and Fortunato discuss the latter’s desire to form a team, and eventually Query gives him a suggestion for a team member: Solstice. Fortunato manages to get Query to agree to some concessions with regard to working with him. Crazy Jane’s “pet project” Dr. Blood meets up with another pet project of hers that goes back farther: a band called A Madness to My Method. Janus and Underworld discuss the roster for their criminal team.
Carl gets a call from a fake Query, and leads some men following him into a trap. Janus realizes that Underworld was responsible for Carl Beacham being followed and loses his temper, though he discovers there is merit in what Underworld did. At the same time, Underworld make an ultimatum. Julian Gregori shares news with his family that their status in the design-for-transhumans world is on the cusp of growing. President Obama not only greenlights the Genesis One project going forward but decides to add some new touches.
Epitaph considers a proposal from Query and gets into conflict in a patrol. Janus and Underworld give an orientation to the A-list and B-list members of their fledgling team. Michele Cho (Solstice) tells her stepsister/roommate Isabella about an unnerving call from Fortunato. Sarah Gagnon (Ladykiller) and Peter Nguyen (Mad Dash) get domestic, and tender, after their respective patrols.
Solstice meets Fortunato for the first time and he extends an offer she might not be able to refuse…or want to. Allison Wonderland goes into the field on a test run for Fortunato and finds some trouble. Solstice tries to convince her stepsister to come with her as she moves on to a job of crime-fighting, without showing her emotional hand. Underworld deals with Rancor’s unacceptable behavior.
Feral inserts himself into a fight between Peregrine and some criminals solely to bloody his claws; although she is conflicted about doing so, Peregrine calls Query to let him know Feral is getting more out of control. Afterward, Query calls up Cheshire to call in a favor. Solstice/Michele and her stepsister Isabella move into their new place in Fortunato’s building; Loc-Down/Zoe and Allison Wonderland/Vanessa come in to greet them and Zoe and Isabella seem to hit it off right away. Query deals with an ambush.
Cole encounters a whole new problem with his view on the world—literally. Hush-a-Bye and GoodKnight consider the recent attack on Query for which they were framed. Later, Query finds out they want to meet with him secretly. Underworld taunts her former adversary Glory Boy. Vanessa “models” a new toy for Fortunato’s team. Query gives Fortunato more suggestions for the budding team. Crazy Jane sets her hooks into Odium.
Cole seeks out help, still freaked out by his sudden visual problems. PrinSass asks Epitaph to keep an eye on Cole and/or find him a better place to be a costumed hero. Query confronts Feral and then goes to meet Hush-a-Bye and GoodNight under a flag of truce.
Underworld lets Janus know a mercenary group is gunning for them, and finds out it’s part of Janus’ twisted plans anyway. Mad Dash meets Cadaverous a second time, but this time he’s in costume and can cut loose. Query and Carl talk about the meeting with Hush-a-Bye and GoodKnight. Crazy Jane tries to convince Janus to let up on Underworld a bit.