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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 A Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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A Fistfull of Fontaines


Elsewhere…

A string of men walk on from central processing. Amongst them an average sized male in a black t-shirt for a local rock band and black sweatpants. A cop sits at a screen transcribing paper lists of charges onto the files, whilst another takes the mug shots of each man in turn.

“Next!”

The man walked in front of the camera.

“Ryan Alford! Eyes front!”

The cop casually tapped through a few criminal misdemeanours.

“Turn! Side on!”

Ryan turned for the profile shot and the officers were done with him, moving him on to the line to the cells.

“Next!”

The man in the black rock shirt and pants approached the camera.

“Isaac Fontaine! Eyes front!”

The man shot a final glare at the cop for thinking he could tell him what to do. As if he were making a mental note to add him to a list of those who wronged him.

“Eyes front!”

He turned a dead eyed glare to the camera and held a weighty posture. Rage seemed to exude from every pore. The cop at the keyboard was working considerably harder now. Isaac could only imagine the dozens of charges he was hard at work transcribing. Assault with deadly weapon, numerous counts of resist/fight police, and the job where he’d left a witness. The hit which would send him away for decades…

“Turn! Side on!”

For a few seconds he considered his situation. The two cops in front of him. The Corrections Officers awaiting him. The officers out front working reception. How many sidearms would be involved. The time it would take him. The one-way magnetic-locked doors with key card access only. The likely time for reinforceme--

“TURN! SIDE ON!”

With only a second’s more thought he conceded. He turned and the blank expression returned.

The typing continued to clack as the photographs were completed. Minutes later his black clothes would be replaced with an orange set with white undergarments.

- - - - -


His cellmate was named Mark. He recognised him from a rival gang. Isaac had long been a member of the Jesters, and amongst gang leader Russ Williams’ strongest muscles to flex, whether for intimidation or actual hits - Mark was a two-bit street level dealer, mostly weed. If Mark wanted to survive this situation he would bend. Isaac figured a $10 weekly bonus stipend to commissary and a line on any information Mark stumbled across would be a solid agreement for Mark to stay unharmed week-to-week.

So far Isaac had been in 3 weeks and had mostly got the lay of the land - The major prison bosses in each cell block, the people who could get shit done, who you could turn your back on and who you couldn’t... - when it happened.

Isaac and Mark had been confined to cells after a small fight escalated between factions in Cell block D and COs returned inmates to their cells until the situation could be safely resolved. Mark took the opportunity to sleep in his top bunk, he was the type who could sleep through anything and everything. Which is why he didn’t notice when it tore...

The fabric of time and space. With a rip and a vibrating buzz, the portal hovered in the middle of the cell. Isaac stared. He found himself drawn to it. First intellectually and eventually physically. He took a step towards it, seeing an escape from his own predicament, and something within demanded more, pulling at his core. The portal dragged him into itself, he rode through cosmic lines, past lights of all frequencies both within and beyond the visible spectrum. He felt like he could taste something deeply green, before he found himself spat out of another portal downwards at a 45 degree angle. He fell what must have been over a dozen feet before his fall was broken by ferns.

Isaac got to his feet, rubbing the small of his back. Freedom. Sweet freedom. Of course he’d need a change of clothes if he was going to keep it that way. An orange jumpsuit was a bit of a giveaway whenever he’d have to deal with some actual people. For now though, just being out was enough.

Then he heard it. The screeching. He felt the ground shake beneath his feet, before hearing loud pounding that he could feel in his own chest. He barely had time to dive clear when the horned head burst through the undergrowth to get a mouthful of the shrubbery he was laying in.

A triceratops. An ancient creature that wouldn’t have been born more than 5 years earlier. But the colours were all wrong.

...then Isaac realized there was no reason he should believe the colours he associated with dinosaurs would be right in the first place.

Less freedom than a jail of a different kind...

* * * * *


Fine British leather on cobblestones, as the pair made haste. Another case closed just before dinner and Isaac and Dr Morris were hurrying home for an awaiting Sunday roast that Ms Stevens would had been good enough to prepare in anticipation of their timely return.

The gaslights were beginning to be lit as London’s streets began their rapid descent into darkness.

It was Fontaine who first made it to the door of his home at 112A Butcher Street, his wiry figure being much easier to carry than his companion Tony’s. He held the door open in anticipation and the panting Doctor Morris rushed up the stairs.

“Good evening, Mizz Renee. I trust we were timely enough as to not let the stuffing go cold?” Morris addressed Ms Stevens as he removed his hat and coat once he reached the interior.

“In fact, the pair of you are early, Dr Morris. I don’t know how Mr Fontaine does it, but he always seems to resolve your mysteries and have you home before the bird’s cooked. It shouldn’t be too long a wait though.”

Isaac reached the top of the stairs, removed his deerstalker hat, donning it atop the stand and produced his black clay pipe from an inner pocket, expertly layering tobacco strips before lighting it with a singularly struck match, his head cocked at a jaunty angle and puffing for it to light.

Then it happened.

With a sound very much like the tearing of paper it appeared.

“My word!” Dr Morris exclaimed.

“Ah! A most peculiar quandary, perhaps even worthy of my mettle…”

The portal hovered in the middle of the room, it seemed to offer an otherworldly buzz that would not have been out of place in a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells tale.

Dr Morris circled around the object, looking perturbed. “Do you hear that, Fontaine?”

“Indeed, Morris. It buzzes not unlike a South American wasp of the Synoeca genus…”

Then Morris stumbled, as could occasionally be his way, fell into the great Isaac Fontaine’s latest problem to solve, and the mystery’s sense of urgency heightened to fever pitch. He extinguished his pipe, donned his deerstalker hat, and quickly snatching the good doctor’s own hat and coat, he too leapt through the cosmic maw in search of the pair’s next great adventure…

The alternate end of Doctor Morris’ door appeared to come out at a 45 degree angle downwards, from some height and the pair dropped back to the firmament at such great speed that they crashed through a roof and ceiling, and landed not without some calamity on the floor of some great shop, the likes of which neither Fontaine, nor Dr Morris had ever seen before.

The pair slowly and grudgingly got to their feet. Dr Morris taking the hat and coat that Fontaine had retrieved for him.

“Wherever do you suppose we are, Isaac?”

Fontaine pointed his nose to the sky and raised a single finger.

“If I am not mistaken, and judging by the scent. I believe this is some kind of paint and/or resin store. Although the likes of one such as this, of such a magnitude I assuredly have never seen before…”

“Hey! Can we help you with anything? Or did you just plan on coming in, wrecking up the store and never buying any actual paint?!” A floor worker barked at the pair.

“Astounding, Fontaine! You’ve truly done it again! Now how do you suppose we ever wound up here, in our present predicament?”

Isaac looked around the floor, and saw numbers of paint stirrers and mixers. One display had an egg timer which would periodically turn and allow a rich, deep blue paint to empty from one chamber to the next repeatedly, dropping in a single poured thread.

“If you’re not unwilling to entertain just any notion, Morris, I have heard tell of an Indian fakir on my travels. One such man who laid claim to the entire world and the heavens beyond which comprise the universe, being just one of a myriad of existing worlds and heavens beyond even further. Held together by threads of cosmic gossimer, interweaving and creating a greater…”

“Myriadverse, Fontaine..?”

Isaac drew his pipe and bit down on it as he answered.

“Mm-hmm…” He removed the pipe to speak clearer. “Or something like that…”

“Look… somebody here, I don’t care which one of you, is going to be paying for that. Look at the size of that hole!”

“Ah! That, good proprietor, would be the purview of my companion here Dr Tony Morris. With a doctorate in economics, he’s more than qualified to be the executor and manager of my financial concerns. I’m sure he’d be able to more adequately negotiate recompense than myself.”

“Certainly, I assume five or ten shillings should suffic--”

“That’s going to cost over a thousand dollars...” The paintshop manager countered.

“My word! The cheek on this man! Fontaine, I do believe he wishes to exploit our good nature--”

Suddenly a second ripping occurred and another portal appeared. It pulled Dr Tony Morris from this new world and disappeared before Isaac Fontaine had a chance to move.

“What the--?!? What happened there?! Where the Hell did he go?” The manager queried, stunned.

“Ah! Finally, a task worthy of my own unique set of skills! I shall get you an answer to this question at once! I ask for only two things.”

“And what, pray tell, would they be?”

“First, I will require that you forgive me my debt.”

“And the second..?”

“I must have my violin or one of a similar timbre! A mystery is afoot!”

* * * * *


The woods had turned dark, matching his ebony armour, and so had the knight’s mood. Sir Isaac, the Black Knight of Bristol had pursued the changeling for four days and nights. He checked the hilt of his sword, Vyracite the Blade of Truth, and the blue glow of its pommel - a shard of the Philosopher’s Stone - a glow which sensed magic, and could divine truth. The Changeling would be beyond the horizon somewhere… but he was still tracking it in the right direction. He wouldn’t catch it on this day though, so it was time to dismount and set up camp before it would be too dark to do so.

He swung his leg over his faithful steed Reeve, slowing to a trot as the pair found a suitably lush patch of grass before the knight tied a hobble into the reins, leaving Reeve to her own devices. Sir Isaac piled sticks and kindling for a fire, then drew Vyracite from its scabbard. The long length of the blade bursting into flame in the grip of its worthy chosen wielder. He used his enchanted sword to light his campfire and then re-sheathed the sword.

Reeve brayed happily, Sir Isaac walked to his horse and took bags of food and mead and his heater shield, which bore his familiar crest - a red cockerel, surrounded by wheat sheaves on a black field, with a red side and bottom. The Black Knight of Bristol planted the shield upside down into the soil to give himself something to lean on as he cooked his meat and downed the mead in the same style that earned him the gusset sanguine sinister on his shield in the first place.

Besides him his sword began to shake and whine at a high frequency, the glow of the pommelstone turned green. It had never done that before.

“Neither magical element, nor falsehood be…”

Sir Isaac got to his feet as fast as a man in a full suit of armour could, Reeve was no longer content. The Black Knight reattached his scabbard and picked up his shield. He remounted Reeve and attempted to settle her, when it happened.

Like fine linens being rended asunder, there was a tear and a hole revealing a space between places.

This may not be the Changeling that has been tormenting the townsfolk, but something that called to him deeply. He turned his mount and stared down the unknown cosmic abyss. Sir Isaac urged on faithful Reeve, and the pair galloped forth through the hovering portal into an unknowable world beyond even the finest sorcerer’s ken.

Upon the completion of Reeve’s cosmic steeplechase the pair found with horror that the portal’s other end would have knight and rider spat out at a 45 degree angle downwards, from a great height.

Reeve let out a terrified neigh. The Black Knight tried desperately to brace himself. The horse crashed through a high-density polymer roof. The metallic clatter of black armour crashing against a holo-tiled floor. The disgusting sound of horse flesh and bone tearing and breaking.

Sir Isaac looked to scramble to his feet and was stunned at what he saw. Many strange knights wearing helmets with glowing eyes, stood agasp looking down at the fallen pair. Suddenly the cell was filled with greater lighting, as if a second sun had been captured and enslaved to bring its light to bear for these very people.

“What manner of magic is this?!” He exclaimed, dropping his hand to Vyracite’s hilt.

“Whoa-- whoa-- No need to jabber off the jim-jam, ma man.” One of the glowing eye’d knights said… or something to that effect.

“It’s just Vee aRrr, man. You crushed out in an IDS Hub, tin guy.”

“Aye Dee Ess?”

“Interior Decorating Studio Hub. We wear these Vee aRrr helmets, and can change the holodeck’s appearances. Then we just pre-program the Smart Homes to take the new style template for credits, ma man.”

Sir Isaac had little use for this man’s babble. The important thing was, he didn’t seem to be any kind of direct threat. He looked across the floor to see his oldest companion, Reeve, broken and wounded beyond any repair. With a sniff, he drew his sword and prepared himself to do what was necessary to end Reeve’s suffering.

“Whoa-- what’re you doing?! Hold up! You don’t need to do that!”

The Black Knight looked over at the jabbering man, whilst holding true to his form, sword overhead prepared to end her suffering with a single solid stroke.

“Hey! Yo! Anyone got about a 3 pack of elixir?!” The jabbering man called to the other glowing knights.

One reluctantly brought forth some kind of substance in pre-packaged bottled syrettes.

“You got credits, ma man? Lookat what I’m talking. Course you don’t ken.”

The man bent down to the horse and pumped three syrettes full of the substance into the horses veins.

“This one’s on me, ma man.” He held his wrist out, bumped it with the woman who gave the substance, and then pressed some buttons until there was an audible beep and the woman seemed satisfied.

Sir Isaac looked stunned as the horse seemed to heal itself, from this remarkable equine panacea that the jabbering druid knight had given Reeve. Finally his steed’s legs reformed their proper shape and she got back to her feet as if nothing had ever happened.

“It seems I owe you a great debt, wizard. I have only my services with the blade to offer.” He drew Vyracite with a flourish and was stunned to find that the blade did not light.

He looked to the hilt and saw the pommelstone remain dull.

“What has happened?” He threw his sword down in shock.

“Whoa-- whoa-- let’s not be throwing sharp stabby around, eh, ma man. Besides, it’s quite a fine antiquity you’ve got there.” The jabbering man picked up the sword and the Black Knight noticed the pommelstone glow once more.

“I-- I’m no longer worthy!”

In a fraction of a second a portal opened up and dragged Reeve back to her own world, before anyone could utter a word or move so much as an inch.

"Well... never seen elixir do dat before. Must work different on horses, eh ma man?"

In an instant Sir Isaac became a stranger in a strange land. Stranded in this world without his faithful steed and impotent to his blade.

"I was going to take Reeve's life with such a holy blade..." Sir Isaac took back his sword, drove it into the ground and began to pray over it. "God is telling me, for this fault I must prove my worth for both!"

* * * * *


Cooktown, Terraria - This Universe

Isaac stood over the graves of strangers and wondered “What if?”

Here Lies Helen and John Fontaine
Reunited To Each Other’s Love After 17 Years
And Missed Deeply By Their Son, Isaac


He began to wonder why he kept coming here. It certainly wasn’t for appearances, there was nobody around at all.

The Isaac wasn’t him, the John Fontaine wasn’t his father - and by all accounts had a very different relationship with this Isaac than he had with his own father - and not only was this Helen not “his Helen”, but he’d never known his own mother at all to even really consider himself as having a Helen at all.

Another year had passed and whilst this foreign world became less cold, it really was no more his than when he first got here. He was just making the most of an impossible situation.

He dropped flowers from a strange world on their graves and stepped back.

No room on a tombstone, and no vacant plot nearby made him feel better about things though. Even if he had as little in common with this world’s Isaac he liked he thought that his father here wanted the son to forge his own path. Find his own destination, wherever that may be.

Down the hill from their plot he could hear arguing taking place. He heard the word “coke”, and then the staccato of gunfire.

Muscles tensed, fists tightened, teeth clenched. He pulled a black balaklava from his pocket and started to run in the direction of the fire-fight.

Another year and whilst so little changes here, there’s still so much to do.

Death is static, but life... ever-changing.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Hellis
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Hellis Cᴀɴɴɪʙᴀʟɪsᴛɪᴄ Yᴇᴛ Cʟᴀssʏ

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Lost Haven Airport, C terminal.

“You sure about this.” The voice on the other end was tired and old, in a way she had never heard her beloved teacher sound. Moving her from her dojo had been rough on the old lady who had a special connection to it. But Kaya could not allow her to live in a burned out husk. So she had set her up with a friend back in LA, now she was calling to complain about the heat every two days if felt like. But this call had been her old mentors last effort to persuade her to leave the vigilante life behind. Unfortunate that was not an option for her. Not now, and likely never. But this time, she had friends.

“I am sure.” Kayas voice was calm, confident. She walked through the gate out into the airport proper. “I got backup this time” Just as she said it, a woman in black fatigues walked up to her. She was a redhead, with a build that dwarfed Kaya. Annie McDougal was a scottish born powderkeg that Kaya had not seen in years, on account of Annie being knee deep in Wet work for the government over in colombia. Until recently, where she and some others had contacted Kaya.

“Little Bangkoks not the same as you left it.” Her mentos tired voice said on the other end of the line. Kaya sighed as she fist bumped her old friend and and followed her wordlessly. They moved towards a large black SUV where a handsome black man sat at the wheel.

“Look. I gotta hang up.” She said apologetically and waited for her old teacher to protest. She didn’t. “Just be careful, ok? You almost got killed by that Yakuza fella”

“Don’t worry. I am better prepared this time. Take care of yourself ok. And invest in a better AC. LA summers can be rough.” She put the phone back into her pocket as the suv opened and two other sat waiting for her. Her old friends Lou, who been with her since the start and Feliciano who shot her a grin. Both were dressed in black fatigues and flack vests.

“Like the look boys. Even got matching haircuts.” Kaya said as she hugged them both briefly. ”I see our benefactor is coming through”

“Jade Spiders made a big mistake when they started recruiting new metas and utilize them so blatantly. Uncle Sam becomes a whole lot more hands on when your criminal network start employing metas. And with STRIKE out of commission, others have to pick up the slack. “ Lou said as he picked up a handgun from under the seat. Shooting Kaya a smile.

“I still think the name is corny as fuck” Kaya said as she slipped on her own flack jacket.

“What are you saying as if someone called Cabbie gets to complain. Besides, Strike is a dope ass organization name if you ask me.” Kaya just rolled her eyes as Lou protested and went about her way, inspecting her own weapons. They rolled down the 11th boulevard, not far from Little Thailand now. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and focused. Felt the vibrations of her magical power vibrate and activate.

“Ok boys and girl. Showtime” The door swung open, and out they went. Like one, they exited and blasted the two Jade Spider sentries with chock rounds, putting them out of commission. DOwn the stairs, two more sentry taken out before they could react.

Kick the door in, shoulder the closed into the wall, put a shock round into him while the other pour in and open fire on the surprised thugs. All four of them moved in further, now more urgently and less silently. The surprise was no longer a factor. As she rounded a corner, a man laughed at her with a machete. She went low, swept his legs with a kick, swing her gun onto her back, safety on. Her first hit sternum with a most unpleasant sound. The man went down like a sack of potatoes. She moved on, kicking in the door to he inner sanctum. Immediately, she had to dodge away from a green shiny whiplike chain. She moved to the side, grabbed her gun and fired into the room, driving people to seek cover, tagging totwo in the back, taking them down.

The meta rose up, slashed across the entire room wit hs chain, hitting and knocking down to his own. Kaya simply hit the floor then rolled forward into a leaping knee seemingly out of nowhere. It hit the man flush on the chin. He reeled, but before he could get his bairing she kicked him in the liver and drove a elbow to his back, driving him down to the ground. Pulling his arms behind his back he put a pair of electronic handcuffs on him.

“Your under arrest for Racketeering and smuggling in illegal mystical items as well as human trafficking.” She spoke quickly as she tightened the cuffs and awaited her team to arrive. They soon all filed in.

“Area secured. We took down seven armed associates. It appears the intel was correct. This will be a good show of force. We can expect them to become very paranoid after this.” Annie said with a grin on her lips. Kaya matched it with one of her own.

“We only just begun.”

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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Fallenreaper
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Fallenreaper ღ~Lil' Emotional Cocktail~ღ

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Hunting with Wolves: Finale




Location: Zion National Park, Utah. Nearly 2 hours and a half outside of Nevada.
Time: Evening, month after the HoH attack.

Stone, piss and heavy musk hit Benjamin like a brick wall. His nose screamed in pain at the intensity, but he managed to hold his lunch in. His hand-like paws covered his muzzle to block out the stench from distracting. With watery eyes and fur on end, he felt the troll’s beady eyes size him up.

His hind paw took another step to the exit.

The troll appeared to have finished its debating. It rolled its shoulders then lowered its upper body, the knuckles slammed on the ground. Everything within range rumbled from the raw power. A roar vibrated off the air while spittle and fresh meat flicked into Ben’s fur, marring the surface. Bulky muscles coiled before the troll charged forward.

Every hair bristled up in alert as Benjamin attempted to turn and flee. Pain speared through his muscles when the troll lowered its head and bite into the werewolf’s shoulder. Over half his upper torso fit into the behemoth’s mouth causing the younger wolf to grit his teeth in pain. His hind legs started to leave the ground. From the side of his vision, Benjamin spotted the troll’s arm rising to try and seize his lower half. In his panic, he jerked his lower half upward to tear himself free. His head whipped and tried to sink his teeth into the mountain troll’s nearest eye.

Startled, the troll dropped Benjamin. Before he could land on his feet, the troll’s right hand swiped at him in midair. The force sent him flying into the nearby wall. His arm bent at an angle and snapped on impact. Benjamin collapsed into a heap where he landed.

Breathing heavily, he struggled upright once more. He looked a complete mess. Blood matted his left shoulder where the troll had bitten him and his right arm pressed close to his chest, crippling his mobility in this fight.

His growl ended in a sharp snap of his teeth. A warning to back off or he will protect himself, but the display fell on blind eyes. The troll went to smackdown its palm to crush him. With the muscles gradually knitting during the fight, Benjamin rushed into the wide gap between the legs. He twisted in mid-leaped then swiped out with his good hand at the nearest ankle. Flesh split and blood spilled out, staining his claws red.

Benjamin skidded to a stop a few feet away. He rose up on his hind legs as he smirked in satisfaction upon spotting his work.

Enraged by the inflicted wound, the troll shifted around to face him. Its good leg lifted then kicked out at Ben, the largest toe caught him on the head. It knocked him on his ass. A little dazed, his mind screamed for him to get up through the daze. The larger threat began to loom over him, catching the werewolf in its shadows as it raised an arm to smack down again.

A dark shape jumped from the cavern’s open top, landing on the troll’s back. It was Duff. The salt and pepper furred werewolf’s teeth sank into the shoulder, but he couldn’t break past the hide. With a swift jerk, Duff was tossed off to land near his pack mate.

They exchanged a glance. Their noses quickly exchanged information over each other’s condition as Duff scoffed in irritation. His golden eyes snapped back to the troll with bared teeth and a snarl.

As Ben continued to heal the worst of his wounds, Duff darted to the left of the troll. His maw opened and nipped the troll’s heel, nearly touching the skin. The dumb creature growled then turned about. Its trunk-like legs shuffled over the gravel and small rocks, powdering them into dust from its weight. With its back turned, Duff darted in for another nip. This time the troll slammed down its arm to pin the werewolf.

When the dust cleared, nothing was underneath. Duff pounced out of the haze onto the hand and tore into it. Feeling the pain, the troll’s other hand swatted Duff away. Duff managed to land on his feet, but not undamaged. A few ribs had been fractured from the force used to swat the older wolf off.

Meanwhile, Ben jerked his arm out and snapped it back into place. His muscles and bones began to fuse back together once more.

Frustrated at its denial of a meal, the troll bellowed again. His fury was fed by pain and blood, but the wolves didn’t care. Their own pack mentality drove them to protect each other. They continued the assault.

The troll snapped its maw at Ben’s movement to its side. The tusks nicked his side leaving behind a red line. Duff took the opportunity to pounce on the troll’s head, his teeth ripped off an ear and slashed down on the troll’s eye. The damage done, he kicked off to land a few feet out of reach. When the troll rose upright, Benjamin went in for another attack at the ankle. His teeth latched into the exposed wound then widened it with another slash. The troll tried to counter by sweeping its large arm to catch him, but Ben evaded the attack. He made it underneath the troll’s torso where he hid.

Confused to where Benjamin went, the troll shuffled about to at its side and behind it. Seeing no other wolf, its attention fixed on the remaining wolf. Duff continued to growl. The troll snorted then swung its right arm at the wolf’s side. The strike clipped his head, but his fangs managed to rip at the flesh along the way.

Seeing Duff being attacking, Benjamin went for the elbow. His claws found the joint, but the troll began to raise up its wounded arm. It realized where Benjamin was hiding. Seeing the younger wolf exposed, Duff barked then nipped at the troll’s heels again finding purchase.

When it felt Duff’s jaws latched on, the troll kicked back into the older wolf’s face. Ben heard the bone-crunching as Duff’s snout broke under the pressure. The older wolf howled and retreated, face bloodied by the impact. The troll turned about to swing at him. Its strike caught Duff’s side and sent him skidding across the ground a short distance.

Ben noticed the troll’s movements were sluggish. The fight was taking its toll on the creature as it began to fight in desperation to survive. When he heard Duff’s bone break, his lips curled back and he rushed at the troll. He scaled the troll’s back then bit down on the area connected to the head, his claws dug in for a grip. The troll roared in fresh pain as its arms swung to rip Ben off. The right hand tightened about his waist then flung him into the ground. The grip still held tightly, the troll then lifted and whipped his broken body to the other side.

Duff rushed at the wrist and slashed deep enough to cause the troll to drop Benjamin.

Irritated at Duff’s damaging attacks, it backhanded the older wolf away. Duff flipped backward and landed on his feet before he went back at the troll. The last thing it saw was the flash of fangs before Duff tore out its throat. Blood splattered across both wolves as the giant creature toppled onto its side, dead.

When the dust settled down, Duff looked over at Benjamin’s heavily breathing body. The younger wolf rolled his eyes before he weakly pushed himself up. His right side gave out from under him causing him to nearly crumble. Instantly Duff moved in beside him and leaned in to provide support. Together the pair limped toward the truck where they could lick their wounds then rest for the night.


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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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HenryJonesJr

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His webbed, powerful feet hit the roof as he ran from his pursuers. Around him were his two brothers and his sister, running as well. They had been running nearly all night from an untiring group of foes. Since they had found their freedom in San Maria, they had fought many enemies. From the Bay City Bandits to petty criminals, they had started to do what they were born to do: Fight. Though originally they were to be obedient soldiers, now they fought for the innocents of the city. They weren't going to stop doing that. It was their identity. The first one they had ever chosen for themselves.

They only had to survive the night.

The scraping of the metal legs behind Mozart told him he couldn't stop. Not now. They were still coming. The drones the Integrated Dimension Research Group sent after them all the times before were stupid. Nothing more than simple hunter-seekers that would attack when they saw Art and his siblings. They were easy to trick. They were easy to fight. They were easy to destroy. In the months since their escape from the research think tank's clutches they had fought and eluded plenty of them.

But these ones were different. They didn't stop. They didn't give the frogs any time to catch their breath. Clara figured it out easy enough. The IDRG had figured out how to track their DNA. The frogs stood little chance to escape them.

The tripod-like robots didn't stand much taller than three feet, with the three, spider-like legs taking up most of that height. They moved like crabs, scuttling along the ground with speeds that were hard to believe. Another appendage came off the back of the metallic, triangular body. This one, however, pointed up, like a scorpion's tail. On it was some sort of energy weapon that caused some sort of temporary paralysis, as displayed by Ludwig's right arm, that currently hung limply at his side as the frogs ran from their pursuers.

"You getting any feeling back in that?" Art asked his brother, hoping the strongest of them would be back in the fight soon. "We need to tear these things apart!"

"Starting to get better," the big bullfrog grumbled. "Can feel some pins and needles in it, but I still need some more time."

"No, what we need is to shut these damn things down!" Clara protested as the four of them clambered up the side of a building. Art stayed at the tail of the group to ensure Ludwig got up the fire escape in time. He wasn't the best climber on a good day. Losing the use of his arm wasn't going to help. "We need to go back to IDRG and destroy their ability to track us!"

"Oh, yea," Bach replied sarcastically, "just wander up to the place we escaped from, the place where all the robots are coming from, find the control hub for these, and spend however long it takes to hack them. Yea, great plan!"

"Well do you have a better idea!?" Clara yelled defensively. "We can't stop, we can't go home, we can't rest while these things are on our tail, and I don't know any other way to get them off it."

Mozart had thought the same thing, but didn't want to say it. The hunters were coming from there, and the scientists in the think tank had probably found a way to code the frogs' DNA into the machines' homing systems. That meant there was no escape. They'd come as long as they had the DNA to track. They were going to have to go to IDRG sooner or later, he had just hoped it would have been later.

Before he could agree with Clara's assessment the pack of four Hunters that were chasing them managed to cut them off. Two of the pack must have broken off and rushed in front of them while the frogs were bickering between each other. Art cursed himself for not noticing. He was supposed to be their leader and he was distracted by a petty back-and-forth.

One fired a shot from its tail towards Bach, who managed to leap out of the way. Before it could find another target, Mozart was on it. He grabbed the tail, and using his strength ripped it off. The robot convulsed and fell to the roof. Art scooped the body up and used it as a shield as its partner fired a shot of its own towards the blue frog. The beam deflected off the metal of the fallen Hunter, which was then flung by the frog at the functioning robot. The two metal constructs smashed into one another, wrecking both.

Art turned to find the other two Hunters closing in. Before they could get in range, however, Clara came at them from the side. She slid under a shot from the closest one's weapon and kicks it into the air. As it tumbled around, it's snatched by Ludwig's good arm, which slams it into its partner.

"Well, that wasn't too bad," Bach smiled. "Now we only have to do that a hundred or so more times, knowing the resources IDRG has."

"No," Art had made his decision. "Clara's right."

"I am?" she was surprised. The two of them butted heads more than Art liked. She was the smartest of the four when it came to science and technology. Of that he had no doubt. But he was the strategist, and she rarely respected that. It led to too many fights. But this time she was right.

"Yea," he nodded back at her. "We're going to lose if we keep running and fighting. They only way we come out of this alive is to go to IDRG and get our data out of their mainframes."

"Just in time," Ludwig chuckled deeply, rotating the previously paralyzed arm. "Look like I'm good to go."

"Oh terrific," Bach rolled his eyes. "Exactly where I want to go. I'm sure mom and dad are really gonna be happy to see us. I hope dissection doesn't hurt too much."

Mozart knew his brother's fear. He knew the reason the youngest of the frogs exuded an air of indifference often. It wasn't that he was aloof, or that he didn't take their situation seriously. It was that Bach used his humor as a defense mechanism and a way to cope. Without it, Bach would despair, and none of them wanted that.

"I'm not going to let them take us again, bro," Art assured his little brother. "I'll never let one of us be stuck in that place again."

"Well?" Lud cracked his knuckles. "What are we waiting for?"

**********


Angel rubbed her tired, dark-brown eyes, pushing her glasses up towards her forehead. She had been here too long, especially considering the fact that this was nothing more than an unpaid internship. Still, working for the IDRG was something she had always dreamed of. Their advancements were legendary, and the chance to play a part in that legacy in the future was intoxicating. But...it was close to midnight, and she couldn't stare at a computer screen any longer, especially considering she had an exam on Monday to study for.

"Okay, Casey," she groaned to her cubemate and pushed herself away from the desk, "it's time for me to get out of here. Don't stay too much later."

"I've just got a few more runs on this program," the boy responded, shaking his blond hair out of his face. "I want to finish it before the weekend."

"Well, technically you've got like twenty minutes before the weekend," Angel chuckled and put her frizzy, brown hair into a ponytail. She patted him on the shoulder, "Don't work too hard, kid."

"Yea, be safe getting home," he responded, not looking up from his screen.

"Will do!"

She left the lab where she had been assigned, and walked through the gleaming, prisitine halls of the unclassified areas of the Integrated Dimension Research Group Pyramid. The glistening spire was the highest building in the Bay Cities, acting like a beacon of knowledge that often cut through the city's thick fog. She always loved that mental image. It was here she could escape the ignorance of the world. It was here that she could make sense of a world of gods and monsters.

The security guard at the front door waved good night, and Angel smiled back as the doors opened and the cool, humid night air hit her. San Maria was a lot of things, but the minute you were comfortable the weather would change on you in a second. She liked it. Maybe it was just that she was free of her family here, and not the city itself. But she didn't believe that. There was something about this place. Something that said her destiny was here.

Angel turned down the street and decided to walk to her apartment. It was a nice night, and she needed to stretch her legs after a long day in the lab. It probably wasn't the safest decision, but it was only a few blocks.

She started to doubt her decision when she was about halfway home, however. She had the sneaking suspicion she was being watched. Angel clutched her purse to her more tightly, and started to move faster. She could have sworn she heard footsteps behind her, and she cut down an alleyway she knew was a shortcut.

Looking behind her for a pursuer, she ran directly into something hard...and slimy. When she hit the ground, her glasses fell off her face, and she searched for them blindly.

"Sorry about that," a confident, yet...odd voice said to her. "We aren't here to hurt you. You need to know that. We just need your badge to get into IDRG."

"Why the heck would you need-" as she found her glasses and put them on, she finally got a look at her robber. It stood at about five-and-one-half feet, its yellow eyes shone in the darkness like beacons. Its blue and black skin glistened slightly in the dim light, and its large mouth was almost all she could look at. It was a frog. It was a large, humanoid frog. "Oh."

That's all that could be said, which seemed to confuse the frog.

"That's it? Usually we get a scream or something," another voice said, drawing her attention up to a fire escape where a green frog, smaller than the first, was perched. "Or people try to kill us. Either way, I appreciate the understated approach."

"When you live in a world where people can lift aircraft carriers over their head, I guess giant frogs aren't all that weird," she shrugged and took her badge out and tossed it to the blue one. "But I can't give you my badge. I love my job, and want to work full time at IDRG someday."

"First, that's a bad idea," the blue frog sighed.

"We don't have time for this!" a yellow one appeared and hissed.

"You're right," the blue one agreed. "Lud?"

Suddenly, the footsteps behind her were back, and she turned to find a gigantic bullfrog hovering over her, "Oh wow. You're big."

"Yea," he croaked and grabbed her by the shoulders. "Sorry about this. But...it won't hurt. Or kill you."

The blue one approached and reached out with his hand. Before he touched her, he recoiled slightly, "Before you go to sleep, where do you live? We don't want to leave you on the street."

Angel motioned to the apartment building down the street, "Over there. Third floor. On the corner."

"Okay great," the blue on shrugged. "Have a good nap."

With that, his slimy skin brushed against her cheek, and the world went dark.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by VATROU
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VATROU The Barron

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And




in


A Baskerville Massacre


Knocking on the side of the trailer Sinclar stepped back, and finished slipping on a pair of gloves one would assume were padded as he slid rings on top of them. ” Youse all ready in there?” Hound Dog said as his knuckles sparked with the slightest bit of electricity.

The doors opened swiftly, forcing Hound Dog to either back off further or move off to the side, letting a bulky, armored figure step out, crunching down on the gravely floor with each step; and then the doors closed behind it, just as quickly as they had opened.


”Yeah I’m ready, are ‘youse’? You kept me waiting.”


‘Roadblock’ was supposed to be patiently waiting in the trailer, as Artemis and his partner Jennifer took every chance to remind him, so Richard had to play that part. But he hated it, being a cop meant never hiding, proudly presenting yourself as an upholder of the peace. So, while this secret identity thing was a little distasteful, it was this or the alternative, and he needed the SCD.

”Youse ever slip into a tight leather underwear? They don’t slip on easy I’ll have youse know. Besides I got some upgrades I was hooking up.” Cracking his knuckles against each other sparks flew from diodes just below the knuckles. ”Everything go on your end, any sign of our wolfman?”

“He’s already asking you about leather underwear? I never figured you for the type.” Artemis took this chance to tease him, she somehow seemed to carry a part of that in her voice too.

Stop talking about underwear! Richard pleaded in his mind.


”Nothing yet, chances are we’re early.”


Richard then jerked his head sideways, then gestured his hand at another building, and lead the way as they moved in closer.

”Usually I’m ready to go, but those Squares at the TSA are a right pain. Couldn’t go through security unless I checked my hero gear in. But now that we’re here let’s go collect some strays.” As Hound Dog looked at the doors to the warehouse, rust peeled off the handles and smeared his fingertips. ”Older than my grams spaghetti recipe, nothing behind the door least not that I can see. You got a pick or should I just force it open?”

”Motion sensor and thermals show all clear too.”


”I’ll handle the breaking and entering.”
Richard said as he pushed in the doors, shattering the lock, and nearly knocking the doors off their hinges.

”I hope you plan to treat my armor better than that.”

”I can see the wiring in the walls, a lot of power is pulsing through the place looks like there’s a fake container elevator as the power lines stop and then immediately head through the concrete.”
[guy]”Think you can handle it?”[/color]

Giving a smile he walked over to the container trying to see where the door was, feeling the ground he could tell the scratches were worn into the concrete floor so he stood back and let a burst to crack it open.”First floor, empty warehouse, rats and heroes. Going down anyone?”


”Better let me.”


Lowering the two heroes into the abyss, the elevator trip was a bit of a long one leading down to a cold and dark tunnel the rough walls made of even more concrete than above was becoming an eyesore. Roadblock barely fit through the opening that lead right to a abandoned construction site, his armor scraped against the walls more than once along the way. As the two moved forward they could see a rail and platform, tools that rusted and cracks that dripped a sludge like water from the ceiling.

”Looks like an old subway, rails still have power. My guess, they used this to move things around unnoticed. Must be some sorta door or secret keypad in this grody place.” Looking around Hound Dog had a hard time figuring out where it was, either the keypad was hidden behind a panel or it was elsewhere, the thick walls did a good job of hiding where it would be. ”If there’s power flowing to it, the walls are covering it pretty well wherever they got their power connected too I can’t see it. How’s your scanners? Or do you need a tune up for this, I can wait.”


“No tune up or scanners needed, this one needs a detective’s touch.”


Richard bent down slightly, and moved his hand across the wall Hound Dog was staring at. His hand slowly rubbed the wall and stopped when he noticed an odd groove, a little cleaner and smoother than the rest of the wall, then pressed his hand down. The wall in front of them shuddered, and moved to the side.

The obvious sound of the hidden door moving alerted whoever was on the other side of the wall as sounds of movement echoed throughout the chamber, along with the familiar sound of guns being readied. Normally, detectives weren’t the ones storming storming hideouts or jumping into firefights face first, but he wasn’t the normal detective.

Richard moved to grab a small cylinder from his waist, making a swift motion with his fingers, and then tossing it into the room before the door had opened all the way. He backed up slightly and motioned for Hound Dog to move back before preparing his pistol.


”Police, put your guns on the ground!”


Standing behind Roadblock Hound Dog readied himself as well in case they had any weapons capable of breaking through his electrical barrier.”Shocked we found you! Might wanna give it up, go easy and we’ll protect you, or not. I don’t mind busting heads.”

“It’s a meta!” One of them shouted as they all opened fire with their rifles, but no bullet ever made contact with anything but the floor as they were all caught in Hound Dog’s magnetic barrier; Richard holstered his gun, and raised his right arm at them.

A thick steel wire, surging with electricity of its own, shot from his forearm at the wall behind the Hounds, the tip bounced off and wrapped itself around one of them. Richard then used that Hound against his nearest allies by bashing his body around, crashing him into them, causing them all to lose grip on their weapons, with the occasional stray fire at the ceiling or floor.

Clenching his fists Sinclair moved in. ”Hows about youse take a dirt nap, and youse get a dirt nap. Half price dirt naps for everyone.

“Bullets aren’t working, grab the Force Cannon and hit the big one!” Another Hound member shouted and pointed at some piece of equipment in another corner of the room, one of the others complied by rolling towards it and mounting it on his body. It was some kind of cylinder attached to a chest harness with several tubes connecting to a small backpack, it was more complicated looking than it was considering he managed to put it on in an instant.

The man then aimed his chest at Roadblock and a flash of light escaped his chest, it cracked and exploded the immediate floor in front of him, warped and dissolved Hound Dogs’ electrical barrier, along with the air behind it, as an invisible force crashed into Richard’s armor; tossing him backwards with a grunt, and a loud metallic thud. The ground between them ruptured and exploded upwards violently, even as Richard was flung backwards.

”Oh sweet lemonade, I got this.” Grabbing his left ring he tossed it towards the newly armed Hound. A strand of electricity trailed behind it as it struck the molecular laser as Hound Dog pulled back suddenly with his right hand as if the lighting were a rope snatching the weapon from his grasp and moving in gloves charged with electricity. ”That was a neat gun, here let me introduce you to mine.” Punching his jaw the left side of his cheekbone had a nice imprint of Sinclair’s fist pouring enough juice through him to put him to bed for a while.

”If only we had the funding the Hounds did, they seem to have a new piece of equipment every time they show up, and it’s not too bad a piece of tech too.”

Richard grunted and held his head as he rose up, his own screen was blurry, from the blast or just his own perspective he couldn’t tell.


”Feels like I just got hit by a truck, ‘not bad’ is understating it.”


Now that their biggest gun was out Richard and Hound Dog made quick work of the remaining Hounds. It was a smaller hideout compared to the one everyone raided a month ago so it was only reasonable that it would have less people.

”Now that just leaves the last hound here, what’s it gonna be.” As the hound goon momentarily hesitated before simply trying to make a break for it something Hound Dog and Roadblock were equally prepared for. With him finally out for the count the two were free to look around. Hound Dog took this time to look through the crates in the room, while Roadblock went over the bodies of the Hounds.

Some of them were armored, but a few of them weren’t, despite all of them being armed. Their low numbers might have necessitated all of them participating in the fight, but one of their faces caught Richard’s eye.


”Does this guy look familiar?”
Richard asked out loud as he moved the man’s face side to side.

”A question for me?”

Richard’s screen then filled with images of different men and women, presumably all from the Hounds file they downloaded a month ago, the images continued to slide to the side, quickly shifting through different profiles until it suddenly stopped.


”Yeah, one of the top scientists back at their main base. He was there before we raided the building, seems he managed to get out before things got too hot.”


As Hound Dog combed through the various crates deemed to ship out he noticed another room hidden behind a large stack of boxes and only partially visible.

”You wanna bring that hot rod of yours over here. We got a door.”

As soon as Raodblock cleared the way Sinclair noticed there were lots of specialty equipment, pods where creatures submerged in a liquid of sorts. Rabbits, Dogs, Cats, as he shone a light further he paused and collected himself.

”That is some jacked up shit. Roadblock!”

Sinclair called out with concern echoing in his voice. As the light illuminated various tubes of people in all sorts of states of decomposition with only a few that remotely looked alive.


”That’s what they were doing down here, the same experiments? But why animals?”


”It’s common knowledge that even domesticated Dogs and Cats can be more nimble or faster than the average human. If the Hounds want to overcome metas-”

As they were inspecting the victims something let a low growl out barely noticeable to normal human ears as it dragged away one hound, but Hound Dog and Roadblock were not reliant on their ears alone.

A rapid blinking at the bottom corner of Richard’s screen caught his eye, along with Artemis, diverting them from the grotesque gathering of experiments, to where they had left their prisoners.


”We got movement!”
Richard said as he twisted around, to see that whatever was moving was gone, along with a certain man.

Rushing back out it was clear the werewolf creature had dragged away one of the scientists, pausing he drew from the electrified rails, using it to hoist himself up and climb along the walls as it rushed down the southbound tunnel. ”I’m gonna head it off, follow after me to block it’s escape! The rails will be shut off your way once I pass!”

Jumping down to the rails he flew by the wolf, it lunged and swiped at him, but a supercharged Hound Dog managed to slip by it’s claws. He blasted the creature, filling the air with the scent of burnt hair, causing it to break off and turn around. Irritated and volatile it chucked the prey it was carrying toward Roadblock as it leapt, claws extended, ready for a massive swipe.

Richard followed after the the creature as Hound Dog went to cut it off, then just as he said, Hound Dog blew ahead of the ‘werewolf’ and turned it around with a few thunderous zaps. The werewolf turned towards him and he readied himself to intercept it, but it tossed it’s hostage at him before charging at him with its claws.

He caught the man easily, the armor gave him a pretty big profile, but the claws were the real problem, and because of the somewhat close confines of the tunnel Richard wouldn’t be able to dodge, so he’d have to rely on something else.

Luckily for him Artemis was able to react and moved the riot shield in between the two, causing the creature’s claws to become lodged halfway in.


”That was close.”
He sighed a breath of relief. But it wasn’t over yet, the creature gave a heavy, wet snarl, and heaved a torrent of viscous liquid all over Richard.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by nitemare shape
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nitemare shape

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The Next Morning

Scott and Alexa had spent a restless night keeping watch over Seline and Sophie. The girls had been terrified of what this man, Etoile would do to them should he find him, and they were convinced that no matter where they went, they would never be able to get out of his reach. Although both Scott and Alexa were more than confident that they could handle this monster and his minions, they took extra precautions in order to assure the sisters that they were safe. Scott had offered to stay awake and keep watch in order to ensure that no harm would come to the girls. Though he honestly believed that the danger had passed, at least momentarily, he was happy to do whatever he could in order to give the two sisters peace of mind. Alexa had agreed with this line of thought, and offered to take the second watch.
And as they had expected, the rest of the night had been uneventful.
Alexa sat on the lush couch in the living room of the hotel suite, looking out the big picture window that overlooked the city. She watched as the sun rose over Paris, the Eiffel Tower casting a long shadow in its wake. She was somewhat mesmerized by the view, and was slightly startled when Scott appeared next to her, offering her a cup of coffee.

“Morning.” He said to her with a boyish grin.

“Morning.” She repeated as she took the coffee from him, then taking a long sip from the cup. After a moment she looked back to Scott and asked, “So, what do we do now?”

“I don't know. We have to do something. We can't just send them on their way, Etoile will find them, and we know what will happen then.” Scott said darkly.

“Right.” Alexa said with a pause. “Well, we have another problem.”

“What's that?” Scott asked.

“I'm starving, and we have no food.” Alexa said with a smirk.

“Yeah, that's a problem.” Scott agreed jokingly. “Why don't I run to the bakery and get some pastries for breakfast, then we can figure out our next move.” Scott said slightly more serious.

“Yeah, that's a good idea.” Alexa concurred.

“Yeah, I'll be back in a little bit. Stay out of trouble.” Scott said. He then bent down and kissed Alexa on the top of her head, before retreating back into the bedroom to gather his wallet and keys, and then left the hotel suite.

***


Twenty Minutes Later...

The smell of coffee wafted throughout the spacious suite, filling ever corner with its delightful aroma. The pleasant odor was enough to stir Seline and Sophie from their restless slumbers and draw them to the kitchen, where they found Alexa brewing a fresh pot. Sophie entered the kitchen first, with her older sister following close behind. Sophie approached the counter where Alexa stood and reached for a box of danishes, and when she realized it was empty tossed it aside.

“Morning.” Alexa said to the girls as she poured them each a cup of coffee. “I don't know how you like it, sugar's in the cabinet over the stove, creamer's in the fridge.”

“Where's Scott?” Seline asked after taking a drink of her coffee.

“He went to get breakfast. He should be back soon.” Alexa told him.

“Good, I'm starving.” Sophie chimed in as she loaded her coffee with more sugar than Alexa had ever seen anyone put into anything...ever.

“Hey, slow down there. You're one sugar cube away from a foot amputation.” Alexa joked before taking a sip from her second coffee of the morning.

No sooner had Sophie taken a sip of her sugary concoction and there was a knock on the door. Alexa stepped away from the counter and made her way to the suite's front door. Sophie and Seline both looked uneasy, but Alexa smiled to reassure them.

“Scott must have forgot his key.” She said with a smirk as she opened the door. However, much to her surprise, it was not Scott who greeted her on the other side of the door. Instead it was a man that she had not seen before, a man with sharp features and a slight beard. The man looked completely normal save for his eyes, which were almost otherworldly. Large silver eyes with a thin black line which encircled where his pupils should have been. Alexa wasn't able to say anything before the man and his thugs forced their way into the hotel suite and backed her and the girls into a corner.

“Prends les.” He said as he motioned to his minions to take the girls.

“Back off.” Alexa ordered the men as a small current of electricity began to bounce between her fingers. She didn't know anything about the Etoile or his men, and she really didn't care. She and Scott had taken it upon themselves to protect the sisters, and that was exactly what Alexa planned to do. However, as she was preparing to strike, she heard the sounds of little feet running down the hallway of the hotel, and she remembered where she was. She knew that this hotel was full of vacationers and she was suddenly aware of the cost of a public confrontation with these monsters. She knew that these men did not care who got hurt, so long as they got what they wanted. So she relented.

“It'll be okay.” She whispered to Sophie and Seline. Wherever Etoile was taking them, he would be taking her as well, and she knew that the girls would be safer if she was with them.

***


Scott returned to the suite as promised with a box of fresh pastries from a small bakery just down the street that he had seen while he had been exploring the city on his own. When he slid his key card into the lock and opened the door, he was surprised by how quiet it was.

“Babe?” He called as he stepped inside the suite, and as he had suspected, it was empty. He first went back into the kitchen and placed the box of baked goods down on the counter, which is when he noticed the practically full cup of coffee sitting there, nearly untouched. Something was wrong, that much was clear, but what had happened was a mystery.

Then, his phone began to ring. He pulled the phone out of his pocket and looked at the caller ID. When he saw that it was Alexa calling, a wave of relief washed over him.

“Hey Babe, where'd you go?” Scott asked as he answered the phone.

“Hello 'Babe.'” A stranger's voice, a man's voice replied.

“Etoile.” Scott replied, his tone growing darker. “If you-”

“You will bring me what I want, or I will kill them all. Then I will come for you.” Etoile cut him off.

“If you've hurt them...” Scott began.

“I assure you, they are fine. For now. However, that may change at any moment, depending on you.”

“Let me talk to Alexa, I want to know that she's alright.” Scott ordered.

“You're in no position to be making demands. Bring me the Divinity Shard, and they might make it out of this alive.” Etoile told him. “5350 Rue de Saint-Simon. If you do not bring me what I want, I will kill them all. Beginning with your Alexa.”

“Etoile-” Scott began before being cut off again.

“You have two hours. Do not be late.” Etoile said before ending the call.

Scott stood alone in the hotel suite staring at the phone in his hand, unable to believe what had just happened. He blamed himself for the predicament that he found himself in.

I never should have left them. He thought to himself as he put the phone back in his pocket and began to make his way into the bedroom. He knew Alexa, and was sure that she was more than capable of handling Etoile on her own. However, he also knew that she must have had her reasons for allowing herself to be taken. It must have been the only way. In the bedroom, Scott went into the closet and began going through his bags, until he came to the one that he was looking for, a simple nondescript black suitcase. However, when he opened it, there was nothing ordinary about the contents. The familiar blue and silver uniform of Icon.

“I guess there are perks to flying on a private jet after all.” He said to himself as he took the uniform from the case.

***


Etoile had made a grave mistake. He had underestimated Scott and Alexa. His overconfidence had caused him to tell Scott exactly where to find him, and when he will be there. However, Scott was not going to wait the two hours that Etoile had given him, he was going to go to the address now. And unfortunately for Etoile, it wouldn't be just some random American tourist who showed up on his doorstep, but one of the most recognizable people on the planet.

Icon soared through the skies above Paris toward the address that Etoile had given him. It didn't take him long to find where Etoile had been hiding. It was an upscale art gallery inside a large windowless brick building. The sign that hung from the doorway read Galerie de Lumière. Icon circled above the building for several moments, in order to get an idea of what he was walking into. Although both he and Alexa were more than capable of taking care of themselves, Seline and Sophie were both in real danger. As he flew above the building he closed his eyes and concentrated. He tapped into his ability to use echolocation, an ability that his little sister Jenny had dubbed his “Radar Sense” to locate just where the girls are being held.

He almost immediately had a hit.

Within the building he was able to pinpoint a large spacious area. There were numerous objects in the cavernous room, and he could sense that there were several objects inside huddled together, which were different than some of the other objects. They gave off a different frequency than the other, harder objects which Icon had assumed were works of art, sculptures and statues and the like. These objects were organic, and they seemed to move slightly.

They were human.

“Got you.” Icon said to himself with a grin as he altered his course, quickly descending toward the building.

Inside the art gallery, Alexa found herself bound to a chair in the corner of a large open room. Both Sophie and Seline were there with her, bound in a similar fashion while the criminal Etoile and his men stood guard. The walls of the building were covered with some of the finest art outside of The Louvre. There were a number of paintings that she had recognized, though, there was something odd about them. Many of the paintings had been thought lost to history. She immediately recognized famous works such as “Man with a Pipe” and “The Just Judges,” however, they were mixed in with a number less famous pieces.

However, Alexa was less concerned with the paintings than she was with getting out of the predicament she had found herself in. As Etoile conversed with his thugs, Alexa was working on getting out of her bonds. While her captors were not looking, Alexa had been using a small, barely noticeable electrical discharge to “cut” away at the rope bound her. It was a tedious process, however, it was her best option at the moment to ensure the safety of the sisters. She just needed a bit of patience, and with any luck, a bit of a distraction and she would be able to get free and get the girls to safety.

She didn't have to wait long.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash, and an explosion of brick and mortar that filled the room with dust and debris. There was an almost otherworldly silence in the room as the shock of the sudden impact, and as the dust began to settle, the familiar form of a blue and silver clad hero stood amongst the destruction.

“You boys really screwed up, you know that?” Alexa taunted as she freed herself from her bindings.

The room then exploded in red and green flashes of light as Etoile and his men sent deadly mystical energies toward Icon. The streams of magical energy hit Icon square in the chest, neck, and torso. However, much to the surprise of Etoile and the others, the mystical bombardment had little effect on the hero.

“Ouch.” Icon said as he brushed off the assault and continued toward the men.

Now free from her restraints, Alexa walked up behind one of Etoile's men, who was distracted by the sight of Icon approaching him. He was so distracted, that he never detected Alexa making her way toward him. The man was so startled by her sudden appearance, that he jumped and let out an audible cry when she put her hand on his shoulder. When Alexa touched the man, she released an electrical discharge that stunned the man, knocking him to his knees. Then a second jolt of electricity rendered the man unconscious.

“Stay down, Jackass.” She said as she stepped away from the man, and went over to release Seline and Sophie from their bonds.

Etoile took a step back as he saw Icon continue to advance on him, and with a wave of his hand, a strange white light engulfed his two remaining henchmen. The two men then began to writhe in pain as their bodies began to twist and writhe, the sounds of bones breaking and joints popping filled the room as the men began to grow in size, their bodies taking on new, monstrous forms. Etoile's men had been transformed from two unassuming men to a pair of massive gargoyle like beings. Large, stone-like wings grew from their backs. Their faces were twisted and deformed, until they wore a dragon-like visage with gaping maws full of razor sharp teeth.

”Well, that's new.” Icon said shaking his head in disbelief. He then launched himself at the first of the creatures, connecting to its jaw with his fist.

Icon laid into the first creature, hitting it with a series of punishing punches that knocked the beast down to a knee. However, before he could hit it with a finishing blow, the second creature was on him, wrapping him up in its massive arms and squeezing with everything that it had. Icon grabbed the monster's wrists and began pulling them apart, in an effort to get free from its grasp. Just as he was about to pull himself free, the other creature pounced. It struck at Icon with its blade-like claws and gnashing teeth. The sudden attack kept the hero off balance, forcing him back. However, Icon rebounded, hitting the attacking monstrosity with a hard right hand which glowed with a blue-green energy that crackled when it connected with the side of the beast's head. A second such strike rocked the beast, sending it again to its knees. Then Icon clasped his hands together and struck the beast again, hitting the beast with the back of his fist with a powerful ax-handle strike which fell the beast. As the beast lay still, it began to transform again, this time back into the form of a human.

Icon didn't have time to revel in this small victory, as the second beast charged him, grabbing him by the throat and driving him through a support beam. Without relenting on its grip, the beast then ran through the gallery at a full sprint and threw Icon through the wall. The hero landed in a pile of bricks on the concrete sidewalk outside of the building. The sudden emergence of the hero, as well as the gargoyle-like monster that had attacked him sent the numerous residents and tourists alike, scattering away from the scene of the disturbance.

Icon immediately got to his feet, and almost as fast, he again left them, as he drove his shoulder hard into the beast's midsection, sending it crashing back into the gallery. Icon moved around the creature at a great rate of speed, peppering the beast with a vast array of punches and blows which staggered the creature.

“Cela ne fera pas, cela ne fera pas du tout.” Etoile said to himself as his monster minion fell, crashing to the floor. It had barely begun to return to its human form when Etoile made a circular motion with his right hand, opening a portal in which he stepped through, before closing it again.

***


Several minutes had passed before the Parisian police force had arrived on the scene of the disturbance and quickly set out to secure the scene. An officer was taking a statement from Alexa, who was telling the officer everything that he needed to know, when Icon approached them.

“Excuse me.” Icon said to the officer. “Miss Winstone, I just wanted to make sure you were alright. I'm sure that this must have been...quite the ordeal.”

Alexa just laughed.

“Listen Big Guy, living in Lost Haven, this is just a Tuesday.” She told him.

“I guess you're right. Well, have a good day, miss. Icon said before taking to the skies, leaving the bystanders in awe as he flew out of sight.

***


Scott and Alexa stood in front of the Le Grande Peninsula Hotel with Sophie and Seline as they said their goodbyes. The two sisters had expressed their gratitude for everything that Scott and Alexa had done for them, as well as remorse that they would never be able to repay the debt. Alexa and Scott had dismissed that talk as nonsense, and let the girls know that they would gladly do it again.

“If you ever need anything, you know how to reach us.” Alexa told Seline.

“Anything at all.” Scott reiterated.

“We should probably get going. We have a lot to do.” Seline said. “We still have to bury our family.” She said with a deep sadness that hadn't been there before, almost as if the weight of what had happened, and how their lives had been changed was finally just hitting them. Seline leaned into Scott and gave him a long hug, and then embraced Alexa.

Sophie then followed suit. After they said their goodbyes, Sophie and Seline left Scott and Alexa standing there in front of the hotel as they walked away down the street, until finally, they had disappeared from view completely. Scott and Alexa just stood there for several more moments in silence, looking in the general direction that their new friends had gone, until Scott finally broke the silence.

“You think they're going to be okay?” He asked.

“Yeah, I think so. They're strong, I think they'll be just fine.” Alexa answered.

“You're paying for the funerals, aren't you?”

“Yep.” Alexa confirmed. “And Scott...”

“Yes?” He answered.

“If you ever call me 'Miss' again, I'm gonna kick your ass.” She said with a hint of laughter in her voice.

“I understand, miss.” He replied with a teasing laugh of his own.

“That's enough out of you. We should get upstairs, you have a lot of packing to do. We leave for Skopelos first thing.”



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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by HenryJonesJr
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HenryJonesJr

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The towering, gleaming visage of the Integrated Dimension Research Group Pyramid towered over the rest of San Maria. Most saw it as some sort of modern day Great Lighthouse, beaming scientific knowledge and guidance across the world. But Mozart knew that was just the public face of the organization put on. Behind the doors of that building were horrors that would shock the world. Experiments that created the frogs themselves, along with who knew what else. If the IDRG was willing to experiment so drastically on animals, who's to say they weren't do the same thing to humans?

Of course it wasn't like the Frogs could tell anyone about it. Who would believe a group of giant, mutant frogs over a group of near universally-loved scientists?

"So we just gonna look at it all night, or are we gonna go in?" Bach asked impatiently. "I mean I know it's a great piece of architecture and everything, but I don't want to get killed by robots tonight."

He was right. They had all been staring at the building from a rooftop across the street for far too long. None of them had good memories of the place or what happened to them inside. Art could feel the trepidation coming from his siblings. They had escaped from here not long ago. Going back in wasn't any of their first choice.

"Yea, we're going in," Art confirmed. "We didn't come all this way to chicken out."

"I don't like this, bro," Ludwig shook his head. "What if this was all just a ploy to get us to come right back here? We worked so hard to get out, and now they have us strolling right back in? I dunno."

"That's not how they think," Clara denied that. "They're scientists. We know that. But they also have hubris. Enough to create us. If that's the case, they for sure believe whatever they create will work. They're not expecting us to come inside."

"Overconfident nerds," Bach shrugged. "Makes me feel a little better about this suicide mission."

"It's not a suicide mission, buddy," Art tried to comfort his brother, not wholly believing his own words. "We didn't achieve freedom just to end back up in a cage. Now come on. We need to stop those damn things. I need a nap."

"You got a point there," Ludwig conceded.

The four of them made their way closer to the front of the building, and they circled around to the side of the building where the loading docks for the labs. At this point in the night, they were quite, and most likely would be until the morning came. There was a single guard in a guardhouse, barely able to keep his eyes open.

"You'd think if they just lost us they'd be a bit more on guard," Lud commented.

"Proof that Clara knows what she's talking about," Art patted his sister on her shoulder. "They think their robots are going to do the job. They don't have to worry."

"Not to mention those are probably contractors," Clara added. "They're just here for a paycheck."

"So let's not hurt any of them too bad," Mozart nodded.

"Fine," Bach grumbled. "Can we get this over with?"

The four of them nodded to one another, and moved towards the door in silence.

**********


The baoding balls rolled rhythmically in the hand of the man behind the desk, who was looking out over the city of San Maria. It had been two decades since he had started the lab here. Back then they were in nothing more than a studio apartment. Five years later they had a modestly sized high rise with manufacturing centers across the world. Five years after that, they received a huge military contract and built this pyramid. Now he was on top of the world. This world, at the very least.

But that wasn't enough.

There was so much that was within Jordan Dyer's grasp, if only he could reach out and grab it. He had waited so long, but his goal was finally within this planet's capabilities.

He needed his creations back, of course. Their escape was only a minor setback for the overall project. Now that they knew success was possible, it could and was already being replicated. But he couldn't take the chance of the creatures becoming public knowledge. The bleeding hearts all over this insufferable globe would shut him down.

Dyer would not let them do this. Not after he had come so far.

He was a serious man, with a sharp, severe looking face reminiscent of a shark framed by small, square glasses. He was of average height, but had a stronger, thicker build than most would expect from a scientist. His drive was what moved him forward. It was nearly unstoppable, held back only by those around him.

Still, Bennett's drones would work. He had crafted a perfect hunter. The experiments would destroy their fair share, Dyer was sure. But IDRG had the manufacturing capabilities to ensure the streaming of robots at them were nearly constant. They would be back in his possession once again soon.

"Sir," the voice of Myles Bennett came over his intercom system. Dyer actually smiled as it did, a rare sight for the enigmatic scientist. Bennett was one of the few people in this world that Dyer found worthwhile and intelligent. He had helped Jordan build this place. Bennett's mechanical and computing prowess almost matched Dyer's own. Almost. He was invaluable to the ongoing work they were doing, and Jordan was happy to have him. "My scanning instruments are picking up something odd."

"What would that be, Doctor Bennett?" Dyer asked half-interested as he continued to peer over the city.

"My scanners are saying the Experiments are inside the building."

It takes a few moments for the words to really sink in. They rattle around in his head for a few moments, repeating them silently. The clink of metal hitting class echoed through the now-silent office as the baoding balls left Dyer's hand.

"You're absolutely sure of this?"

"Yes, sir," Myles confirmed. "I re-calibrated the sensors twice and got the same readings. They're here."

A smirk crept across the face of the director, "Very well. It's time they're introduced to their father. Make sure they don't leave."

**********


Surprisingly, it didn't take them long to make it to the mainframe. Maybe it was that they came on a weekend night and there was less staff here or something. But they barely received any push back from security guards. He only had to knock out a few of the guards with his poisoned touch to clear the way. The effort had left him slightly woozy, as secreting the poison always did. But he was good enough to press on as long as he didn't need to use the ability much more.

The fact that it was so easy tugged at the back of Art's mind like a bad dream. Maybe Bach and Ludwig were right. Maybe this was just one big ploy to get them to come back. If that was the case, the trapped hadn't sprung yet. That made him feel a little bit better. It probably shouldn't have, but it did.

Inside the server room, Clara quickly went to work trying to erase their code out of the system, "You guys are son lucky I'm good at this. Their security systems point to the overconfidence angle. These are all the defenses they trained me on. Well, implanted in my head. Whatever."

"Turnout is fair play," Art responded absent-mindedly. "Anyone feel like this was too easy?"

"Yea, just a little bit," Lud nodded. "I wasn't gonna be the first one to say it, though."

"Way to unleash the jinx, bro," Bach shrugged.

"Well this isn't going to take much longer," Clara assured them. "We'll be out before they even know we're-"

Clara was cut off by a loud slam against the door that they had locked behind the on the way in.

"Okay, Clara unleashed the jinx," Bach added. "You're off the hook, Art."

The pounding continued unabated. The hard metal began to buckle under the strength of the strikes. As cracks began to form in the steel, the frogs could hear the snarls of some sort of beast on the other side.

"Clara, how long do you need?" Art asked his sister, not taking his eyes off the door.

"Just a few more minutes," she responded, still working at the computer.

"Looks like we're going to have a little dance," Ludwig rolled his neck and cracked his knuckles.

"Okay, but if I get eaten I'm haunting you guys."

The door finally gave under the barrage, crumpling in like a tin can. From the other side charged a humanoid lizard that was near seven feet tall. Ribbons of slobber twirled towards the floor from its snout, and a wild look rolled through its eyes and it looked from Frog to Frog. It was a kimono dragon once. Art could tell that much. But it was now nothing more than a feral weapon for the IDRG. And it rushed the three Frogs protecting their sister.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Liseran Thistle
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Liseran Thistle Liseran The Witchy

Member Seen 19 days ago





The lab was feeling cramped and tight, Bobi hadn’t left it in days. Her arm laid flat on a cold, metal table. Her forearm was open and visible, tiny blue wires poking out here and there. She sighed, rubbing the dark circles under her eyes as she continued to work on it. Tiredness was not usually something she felt, but it hit her like a freight truck that night. She didn’t technically need to sleep, though it would help her immensely right now. A soft knock sounded on her door, and her head slowly turned toward the noise. She shuffled over to the door handle, leaving a tiny sliver to see. There, standing in the darkened hallway of HQ was a very young, obtrusive Thomas Beastly. He smiled lightly up at her, being far too short even for his young age. He looked like any normal, teenage boy with dark combed hair, and hazel eyes. Bobi kept a hand on the door, keeping it slightly open, as she stared at him with cold, pools of cobalt.

“H-hey, Bobi! Um, me and the other Agents wanted to get you something, since it’s your ‘Agent Day’ and all-” He said, clutching something small and white in his hands. It was a folded piece of paper, that much Bobi’s eyes could make out.

“You’ve made me a card.”She said simply. She automatically held her hand out waiting for him to place it in her palm, but Tom was so shocked that she actually responded that he just stood there for a few short moments. He shook his head vigorously, then shoved the card over to her.

“I hope you like it! Really, I do. We worked hard on it this year.” He chuckled nervously. Bobi nodded at him, not sparing even a smile, then closed the door gently. She locked it, but for what she didn’t know. The card was nice, Bobi thought, but her mind lingered on it for only a second before returning to her arm that was on the table. Tom seemed to have not noticed that she was missing one arm, for which she was grateful for. She couldn’t handle him being even more weirded out by her than he already seemed to be.

The longer she stared at the arm, the less it seemed to make sense. 8081 was buzzing softly, and she could feel that familiar heat on her back that meant it was close to reaching its limit. Nothing. 8081, a super AI that knew virtually everything about the world, knew nothing about itself. She grimaced, a terrible sense of uneasiness settling in the pit of her stomach. She wasn’t used to such a feeling, but ever since she joined Paradox around 5 years ago it’s been showing up unannounced. Particularly when she was faced with 8081; she felt it claw at her insides slowly.

She picked her arm up, and attached it easily back onto the stump. She winced as she felt the wires twist and snake their way back into their proper places. The pain slowly subsided, and Bobi braced herself against the metal table with one hand as she tried to think on what she would do next. She had no assignments, and 8081 was getting her nowhere fast. All she had left to arguably busy herself with was the card that Thomas brought over, and she didn’t think she could quite muster the emotional strength to socialize with the rest of them. The lab had a tiny cot in the corner a thin, cotton blanket strewn haphazardly across it. That’s where she slept when she stayed in the lab overnight, though she hadn’t been using it for awhile. Just as she was about to take a few steps towards it however, another knock resounded against the door. She clenched her teeth, holding in a silent groan. Leila stood outside, her hands in front of her, leaning on a nice, dark green cane. “Happy Agent Day, Agent Adolow.” She greeted, with a demure smile.

Bobi stood there, trying to figure out why Leila would come to her, and not just call Bobi to her office like she normally did when it was time for assignments. Leile chuckled, lightly. “Ah, as curious as ever. But, I didn’t come here for idle chit chat. You now have a new assignment, but it has to be a secret between just the two of us I’m afraid.” Leila said, walking into the small lab.

“What’s the assignment?” Bobi asked. Leila hummed softly to herself, tracing a hand across the metal table.

“You are familiar with an Agent named Shou Hanamura, correct?” Leila asked. Bobi stood there as 8081 frantically dug up as much information on him, before answering confidently.

“Yes. I am now, anyways.” She told her.

“Great! Because he’s gone missing. And no one can find him. Not even Charlotte.” Leila said, turning to Bobi.

“It’s been a month now, since he and his partner split up.” Leila explained. “He ran away for seemingly no reason other than that he was upset about his partners actions.”

Bobi nodded, folding her arms, still reading over 8081’s findings. “His partner was a Maxwell Heighnsworth? I remember hearing his name around HQ, everyone was talking about him a couple of weeks ago, but…” She shook her head. “I wasn’t paying attention to the gossip it seemed.”

Leila winked, cheerily. “I guess it didn’t seem all that important to you then huh?” She sighed. “But nevermind that, if there was ever anyone who could find him, I believe it’s you.”

Bobi nodded, but there was a nagging sense of curiosity that she felt. “Uh...If you don’t mind me asking...why me particularly?” She said, quietly.

Leila raised an eyebrow. “Well I think it’s fairly obvious. You’re a very capable person, with an amazing ability, and you’ve proven yourself to be able to solve even the most confounded of mysteries.” She said. “This should be a cake walk for the amazing Miss Adolow, should it not?”

Bobi didn’t know how to feel about Leila’s confidence in her work as an Agent. She supposed she ought to feel happy, but lately it’s been tough to feel anything. “Also,” Leila added. “You need to get out some more. I can sense you’re apathy from all the way over here, and it’s distressing.” She grinned. “This way, you will have to talk to people, and the people you talk to will be more than uplifting, I can guarantee you that.”

Bobi let out that groan she had been holding in. Agitation was also a feeling she was getting used to, though slowly it was becoming more and more familiar.“Are you certain-?”
“Yes.” Leila said, before she could finish speaking. “I am 100% certain that you are the right Agent for this assignment.”

Bobi shook her head, “That’s great, but it’s not what I was going to say. I meant ‘Are you sure this Shou Hanamura person went missing?’ Maybe he ran away.” She suggested. Leila cocked her head to the side, in contemplation.

“Interesting theory. You can test it once you track him down.” She said, walking toward the door. Bobi sat down gently on the cot, her eyes trained to the gray walls of her lab. She hadn’t a clue as to where she should start with her assignment, all she knew is that she had a measly week to figure it all out.
.....................

here's bobi's first post and I'm using that image above as a banner so i guess it fits the atmosphere a bit!

also damn thats a dark blue, or rather my eyes are just THAT bad lol.

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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by eravicis
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eravicis resident healer

Member Seen 4 mos ago


and

and
JAI HALE


For Racheli, the last month passed in a blur of events. Most the time it seemed far from plausible as she mulled over it now.

Midas had decided to give her some space ever since she took off to join the heroes. Ms Sparks had popped in to check on her, likely because she didn’t answer the phone. This allowed Rach to fill the woman in on the minor role she played. In return, she received an unsavory amount of information that confirmed her suspicions about her father being alive. Deep down she couldn’t help but realize she had hoped the card had been someone’s sick joke and not the authentic thing.

Her paranoia had increased tenfold causing her to discover Fletch’s real identity when she spotted the woman’s bike in the garage one day. A light popped on and she cursed herself out for her slowness, feeling she should’ve caught on sooner than later. In a small way, it comforted her to know this partnership wasn’t simply a one-sided thing now.

It took yet more time and effort before she was convinced that Jai was trustworthy with samples of her blood. He wanted to create a serum that would repair Fletch in days rather than wait naturally using reprogramed nanites in her blood. It helped her virus was against it all the way.

Racheli’s mind drifted over the details as she sat on the stool, waiting for directions from Fletch.

Ever since that day in the Hounds’ HQ, Kayla had been spending time trying to recover from the injuries she sustained from the fight. She was stitched up by the paramedics on the scene but fortunately kept her identity a secret. While the bullet wound had been explained to Jeremy Taylor that she got caught up in the battle during the battle in Sherman Square, which also explained the damaged bike, but the gashes on her side were concealed very well.

Despite all the caution she had used, that hidden injury could only remain hidden to everyone for so long. And it just so happened that the latest employee of the garage, Jai Hale, had noticed it while she spent time fixing her bike and a customer’s car. At first, she didn’t know how he knew to the point that she didn’t trust him. But as the month went on, she warmed up to his presence in her little corner of the garage. Not that she had a choice, with Taylor assigning him to the electronics side of the garage.

Shortly after Jai and Kayla had met in the garage, her secret identity as Fletch was suddenly revealed. She had been working on her bike at the time when, of all people, Racheli walked in to meet the ‘contact.’ Jai had been out of the room to meet someone himself during the meeting. The metahuman seemed pissed off with the sudden reveal, but the archer had calmed her down and explained the precautions she gave. For the first time since it had happened, she told Racheli about what happened in Pasadena 5 years ago. About Jason. Despite the short time they’ve known each other, Kayla had learned to confide in someone with all the pain she had faced and still faced to this day.

When it came to Jai meeting Racheli, things were… interesting, to say the least. The information on who he was as a person is still something for Kayla’s head to wrap around. But what he offered regarding contacts and possible training was something that she saw as an opportunity. The training was something that a better prospect than what she could offer regarding kickboxing. It took a while for what was said to sink in, but she managed to get the message through to Racheli.

”Ok, now the orange wire should slot into the available port in the connector,” Kayla spoke, feeding instructions to Racheli. ”Once in, the whole connector should be fine to plug into where the ignition should be.”

The archer would have done the whole system herself, but with her gashes still healing and a load of persistence from Jai, she had been feeding instructions to him or Racheli whenever she was in.

For Jai, learning and adapting to normalcy is something that both feels surreal and out of place. Disconcerting in a sense that he no longer has to live in secrecy, the soldier finds himself almost liking the "civilian" life. The interview process for him to work in this garage was simple, and Kayla ended up being his co-worker in working on the electronic components with each vehicle or motorcycle that comes into the shop.

What he didn't expect is for her to come in injured when he first met her, obvious to his sharp gaze. If Kayla so much as lifted or overexerted herself in any fashion, he knows those stitches would reopen and would force the healing process all over again. Briefly, he contemplated whether or not his partner, Leila, would be able to create something that would accelerate the healing process of someone like Kayla.

If it weren't for her meeting Leila, the idea of meeting Racheli wouldn't have crossed either of the soldiers' mind. And that meeting only snowballed into quite the work-in-progress and today was when the experiments were ready for their first and safe human trial.

He's on his way back to the garage with Leila following closely behind. She wanted to see the progress her work has gone and felt the dire need to be there when it's administered. When the garage came into view, Leila skipped on ahead to reach the two that waited inside.

Popping into view with her silvery blonde hair pulled back, she walked into the garage to where Racheli and Kayla were with a sparkle in her eye and Jai impassively greeting the two girls with a curt nod.

"It's ready, ladies—shall we give it a go?" she chirped with her hands on her hips.

Racheli’s indifferent expression hid what she thought, mainly the fact about the nervous she felt when it came to Kayla trying the experimental serum produced from her blood. There was no telling if the intelligence was purged from the virus within and it would only heal her friend. The last thing Rach wanted to see was Fletch turn into some inhuman creature. The images of the virus’ past swirled into her attention before she pushed it away.

She had impulsively already placed in the orange wire, then wrapped up as instructed. Hopping off from the seat, her eyes examined Jai a moment, and she nodded. Her attention turned to Kayla. Silently, the woman was asking if her friend was really willing to take the risk.

[b]“You sure you want to take the chance? Racheli doesn’t seem to have the same faith in your friend as you do…”[b] Came the words from her virus causing Rach’s head to jerk into his direction.

Her eyes heated up with anger and spite, loathing at the image projected about five feet from the ladies. His arms crossed over his chest while dressed in a grey polo tee and black slacks. The man’s appearance held weariness from broken sleep cycles, though they were very subtle and easily dismissed.

“Shut up, no one asked for your opinion.” Racheli snapped.

Kayla watched as Racheli followed the instructions to the letter. Hopefully, that’s my bike now done. But before she could get a chance to turn the engine over, Jai and his friend, Leila, had arrived. The woman Jai was with was the one who had the know-how to change the nanites in Rach’s blood from the state they were into something that can be used to accelerate the healing process. And judging from her chirpy disposition, she managed to accomplish that. Kayla nodded back at Jai, acknowledging his welcome. She still needed to make up her mind about him, but that was due to him being the first guy to waltz into her life in a while. Not since Mark came knocking with Mia’s life.

Before her thought got distracted to her friend’s boyfriend and his condition, a familiar voice came up. Kayla’s piercing gaze quickly diverted to the projection the virus was making. She still had to get used to the idea that Racheli was capable of projecting an apparition due to the virus, albeit not on the latter’s choice. While the virus had been annoying over the past month, it did raise a valid point about risking herself to try something completely experimental. As Racheli scolded the man, Kayla’s face pondered into thought.

”This is a huge risk that I am taking, indeed,” she replied, surprisingly towards the virus. ”For all we know, the virus might still cause some harm to me, even if it does its job in healing the injuries. But still…”

She paused for a moment, her eyes turning back towards Jai and Leila. A small smile crept on her face as she nodded towards them. ”If the implication of this working properly is still on the table, then I’m more than happy to take it. And as Racheli says, no one asked for your opinion.”

Jai's eyes flicked to the appearing visual of a figure, recollecting the first time this had occurred at all. It was a curious phenomenon that he had added to his list of strange occurrences to investigate whenever he had time. (Though he digressed, and it was something to consider when both he and Leila had already analyzed the blood sample that Racheli had been so kind to give.) Based on his physical appearance, he took note of the exhausted state he was in and cataloged it for later analysis.

He didn't respond to the virus' remark, leaving it to Kayla to respond in kind after a short pause and he waited for another beat before deciding to give his comments on the situation. He stood at ease next to Leila, apprehensive to the procedure and was prepared to step in should the need arise.

"If those risks and concerns of either Racheli or Kayla were more prevalent, then Leila wouldn't have gone ahead with the experiment," Jai commented. His dual colored irises fell briefly on the virus. "It's out of your hands now."

Jai faced the girls with the same cool expression he often wore.

"Thank you, Jai—much appreciated," she said dryly, her smile gone. Leila shook her head and turned to face the two girls. Waving a hand dismissively at the projected virus, she took a few steps forward to where Kayla sat until she stood right in front of her. Her brow raised in question.

"Ready? But, quite frankly, do not worry too much; Jai was my guinea pig before you, and he turned out fine," Leila reassured. The words had Jai shoot a look in her direction. "But I'll ask again: are you ready?" Her tone hardened, emphasized in the way her body shifted upright.

Kayla’s gaze turned to Jai as he spoke to the apparition. While his comments didn’t add much to the scolding remarks aimed at the virus, it certainly helped with showing their thought unanimously. And that was something that the archer couldn’t help but silently chuckle at. That was another thing that both Jai and Kayla had in common and after less than a month of meeting each other.

When Leila spoke and approached her, Kayla was surprised at the mention of Jai being the guinea pig for this. While her face didn’t betray much of the emotion bar the slight clench of her jaw, her eyes showed how vexed she was at the idea. ”As long as he was ok with being the guinea pig for the experiments,” she replied, her voice eerily calm despite what her eyes were saying. Then, a thought came into her mind. Why am I suddenly overreacting to the idea? It’s not like I even know them enough to show concern.

Shaking the thought away, Kayla focused on Leila, her jaw relaxing and most of the expression in her eyes fading away. She began unzipping the top of her overalls and slid off the top half of it. Making sure that the sleeves weren’t close to the wounds, partially revealed underneath the sports t-shirt she was wearing underneath; she tied the sleeves around her waist. ”Ready to get an unknown substance that creates that asshat over there injected into me? No, I’m not ready. But let’s get this over with. These cuts have been annoying me for far too long.”

The virus shrugged, his right foot stepped to the side and twisted himself about.

“Very well, the choice and the risk is yours. If you don't mind, I'll remind my host the last time I was tampered with it resulted in our current situation,” one last warning before he vanished from sight.

Leila regarded the area around them and wrinkled her nose. Not exactly sanitary, but it'll have to do.

Racheli nodded at Kayla’s decision but scoffed at her virus’ words. Ignoring him, she walked closer to the other two and continued the conservation. An important question surged into her attention.

“Do we have anything to monitor her if something goes wrong?”

Jai tapped to his temple on the side of his blue eye. "There's my eye," he offered. "I can monitor her heart rate." Though, his eyes narrowed subtly. "And if need be, I'll step in, but let us hope that it doesn't come to that."

Leila shook her head. "No, I don't think so." The blonde pulled out a syringe no bigger than six inches long, filled with a pale red luminescent liquid. Jai held out his hand, and she set it there while pulling out a rubber cord. Tying it off at the top of her arm, she pulled out a wipe and took Kayla's forearm into Leila's hand. Wiping the inner elbow where a small number of veins were visible, Leila finally took back the syringe. "Now, you'll feel a slight pinch."

That was the only warning Leila would give before locating the vein and promptly inserting the needle. There was a moment of silence as she squeezed the contents out. Once emptied, the needle was withdrawn and recapped and set back in the bag she had brought it in.

Kayla looked on as the virus gave his ominous warning about the tampering of the virus. It only added to the uncomfortable position she had to be in with the modified virus to be injected into her bloodstream. Nevertheless, she still set her mind on getting this over with.

While there was nothing in the electrical section of the shop to help monitor her situation, Jai offered the use of his eye to monitor Kayla’s heart rate. She had been worried about any possible side effects that she would face, despite all the testing already done on Jai. Even so… ”Even if something was to happen,” she replied to him, a defiant look in her eyes. ”I’ve experienced worse things.” While Racheli had been the only person she talked to about events in Pasadena, she wouldn’t be surprised if Leila had delved into her history and found the news articles.

When Kayla uttered out she had experienced worse; Rach snorted in disagreement.

“I don’t know of any experience worse than having your DNA rewritten.”

"I don't imagine, as Racheli stated, there is anything worse than having your DNA being rewritten," Jai affirmed.

While Kayla had been tough with most things, the sight of the needle was enough for her to avert her gaze away. It was the only thing that had made her uncomfortable, all the way back to when she was a child. While the warning came, it still made the archer flinch when the needle was pushed into her skin. She felt the contents being injected into her lower arm, her free arm reaching out for something to place over the site of the injection.

Racheli’s eyebrow rose, and her lips pressed tightly into a frown. She didn’t see how Jai could ‘step in’ and stop it. No matter how sugar coated the intention was, they were manipulating Kayla’s DNA. The fact hit Rach like a brick as she realized the pain would be uncomfortable to watch.

Tension spread across Racheli’s surface at watching the red luminescent liquid disappear into her friend’s vein. A small regret at suggesting her blood sparked into her core but found itself extinguished shortly afterward. Too late to go back now. Her protective nature caused her to move closer to Kayla, positioned beside the woman and at the ready.

Leila took a few steps back and away from everyone to watch the proceedings. Taking out a pair of glasses, she donned the slender frames and waited.

With the snap of Leila's fingers, a barely visible film of a shimmering light blue appeared and wrapped around the interior of the room that they were in. Crossing her arms, she continued to utter quiet words while her gaze remained on Kayla. She knew Jai would be prepared for whatever came next.

It had been minutes since the injection had been given to her and she felt nothing. Kayla peeled back some of the bandages to check and see if the injection was working. While the injection went off without as much of a hitch, she still had her doubts. ”Did the virus take this long for the healing process to start?” There had been a hint of worry in her voice, the uncomfortable feeling of the needle still affecting her. A moment later, a warm sensation began to form around the wounds. In her eyes, she could see flesh - her flesh - knitting themselves back together, though the scarring process of the initial healing was carrying on into what was there. Seemed there was nothing to worry about at…

Racheli’s ears tuned into Kayla’s heartbeat and breathing, her eyes closed to block out other distractions her heighten senses might produce. Ba-thump, Ba-thump, Ba-thump… The heart became steady after a few moments. Then all hell broke loose when the serum began its work.

Jai knelt beside Kayla on the other side of Racheli. When it took longer than expected for the healing process to begin, he knew that what was coming was going to be the worst of it. Her heart rate was picking up, and the speed at which her body was recovering was already accelerating."Brace yourself." Jai knew that no matter what he did to help ease the incoming change, there was no helping the scream that would soon tear through the garage.

A blinding pain erupted in her side before Kayla managed to finish the thought. The initial shock didn’t hold back the scream that left her lungs. With all the workers in the garage already gone home for the rest of the day, there was no rush to the door. Her body contorted in the direction of the gashes, her right arms grasping for anything to hold herself up. Her heart rate shot up with the sudden pain as if her left side was bleeding. Breathing heavily, Kayla tried biting through the pain as the flesh accelerated the healing process. Suddenly, her core muscles began to cramp up, the healing eeking its way towards her front. Not only did the sudden pain cause her to scream again but it caused her arm propping her up to give way, her body slumping to the floor.

Instinctively, she closed her body up as the muscles contracted, screams still leaving her frame.

Her eyes widened when Kayla began to scream, the woman tossed into painful spasms then crumbled. Instinctively Rach’s arm jerked out to soften Kayla’s fall into the ground. This pain was all too familiar to her as she watched her friend wither in torment.

“Bear through it. It always hurts the first few times, and doesn’t get better,” Rach said with surprising softness, her figure lowered into the ground.

Her arms wrapped about Kayla’s shoulders in a vice grip. She tried to keep her friend from hurting herself as the storm passed. Her virus, not appearing to the others, spoke in Rach’s head.

‘Cut off her pain receptors or watch her suffer,’ it said coldly.

“I don’t know how,” Rach snapped out loud.

‘Link up, and I’ll do the rest, it’s simple.“

“Fuck you.”

When Kayla fell, both Jai and Racheli reached out to soften the fall. After letting Racheli hold Kayla in her arms (of which, he did not doubt that there wouldn't be any trouble), he blinked and switched his vision from normal to a specific vision that allowed him to monitor further Kayla's progression that Leila had been kind enough to offer for this one time. With her heart rate was at an all-time high, there was nothing he could do to stifle the screams and to calm her heart rate. The best thing he could do would be what came after the changes and healing had finished.

Her eyes widened when Kayla began to scream, the woman tossed into painful spasms then crumbled. Instinctively Rach’s arm jerked out to soften Kayla’s fall into the ground. This pain was all too familiar to her as she watched her friend wither in torment.

“Bear through it. It always hurts the first few times, and doesn’t get better,” Rach said with surprising softness, her figure lowered into the ground.

Her arms wrapped about Kayla’s shoulders in a vice grip. She tried to keep her friend from hurting herself as the storm passed. Her virus, not appearing to the others, spoke in Rach’s head.

‘Cut off her pain receptors or watch her suffer,’ it said coldly.

“I don’t know how,” Rach snapped out loud.

‘Link up, and I’ll do the rest, it’s simple.“

“Fuck you.”

Jai's attention flickered to Racheli when she suddenly snapped in frustration. At that, he could only assume she was talking to the virus like they had been earlier. Keeping his attention focused on Kayla's heart rate and the other vitals that have appeared in his line of vision, he spoke loud enough for Leila to hear him.

"Leila, help her. We're not cruel enough that we should let her suffer."

She sighed. "Of course not. Racheli, let her go—I've got her." Leila stood with her legs evenly apart and adjusted her stance accordingly. Bringing her palms out in Kayla's direction, she used her right hand, and her hand flicked out into hand signs.

At the mention of her name, Rach’s head snapped upward and faced Leila. Her eyes were icy before she closed them. She grumbled while her arms peeled off of her friend and shifted the body toward the woman’s direction.

Once Racheli released her friend, two shimmering light blue rings encircled Kayla's wrists and were followed by two similar ones that were strapped to her ankles. Forcing her to lay down on the ground, Leila overlaid on top of Kayla's skin was the same shimmery light blue film, barely visible that it would slowly aid with the pain. The first time, Leila noted, would always hurt the most, but the times after that would pale in comparison. She needed Kayla's body to remember the pain or else anything else she suffered would be just as debilitating as her DNA being rewritten. The best Leila could do was make it, so Kayla didn't hurt herself.

"Her heart rate is spiking." Jai frowned. In just a few and excruciatingly long minutes, the changes should be done, and ideally, Kayla would be healed.

Kayla couldn’t notice things that are going on around her. The intense pain in her side and stomach had overwhelmed her thinking and her awareness. The muscles had all tensed up as she remained curled up in someone’s arms that she wasn’t able to see or hear. The warm heat she felt before was a blinding inferno in her side as the healing accelerated. Despite all the pain she’s feeling - in a twisted turn of thought - the pain had been a bit of a blessing. For the first time, she was not thinking about anything that had happened up until that point. Her troubled mind was focused on the pain and not the aches of her heart.

With tears stinging her eyes shut, her mind barely registered her closed-off body was forced open. Another scream escaped her throat as her body straightened out, though the intensity of the pain hadn’t increased. Slowly, the heat in her side began to cool down, the healing process almost at the end. The flesh still had some knitting to do, but the scar tissue was visible on the lowest of the gashes. The gash had stopped moving the moment Kayla was straightened out, the shallowest of the cuts now fully healed.

In the briefest of moments, something inside Kayla’s body clicked into gear. As if it had laid dormant from a time unknown, something had registered a problem and now made a beeline to the areas that are being healed. Whatever it had been, it gave off a faint electrical signal as it reached the sight of the working virus and began attacking it.

Leila's eyes narrowed when she sensed the changes within the girl's body. Jai switched his vision repeatedly to cycle through the options to have a better idea of what was happening.

The blinding pain she was feeling shot up without warning. Everything in her body went into overdrive as her screams suddenly increased in intensity and pitch. Her heart rate shot up and beyond what her heart should be beating at. Her temperature spiked up with the sudden change. In her mind, with what little thinking power she had, Kayla had thought that this was it. That her story was to end on the floor of the garage, her body writing and contorting with the attempts to heal.

And then, everything came to a crashing halt. The pain, the intense heat around her healing wounds and the screaming all stopped. Even the faint electrical signal disappeared. The archer’s body stopped writhing and just collapsed. For a few moments, nothing was moving from her.

"Told you… I’ve experienced worse…”

Just under her power, Kayla’s eyes flickered open, stinging from the salt in her sweat. Her lips curled slightly into a weak smile as she tried to focus on Racheli, heavy breathing now leaving her lips. While what she said was verging on a lie - the pain she felt was on par with what she had felt before - she didn’t want to admit it. If she was to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people Jai and Rach were, her personality needed to match it. In a way, she wanted both of them to know that she was able to keep up with whatever they can handle, despite being a simple human with an enhancement to her agility.

"I'd hate to see what worse looks like," Jai stated dryly. Still, the process was complete, and through all of Jai's filtering and with a cursory glance from Leila, Kayla was successfully healed without any issues.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 A Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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Alan Coghlan pulled an aged album from its sleeve. Within a stack of albums that were covered in dust, this one was spotless from frequent use. He flipped the album longwise, inspecting it, as he approached the small turntable mounted on the soundsystem. He lifted the needle and the platform rotated at speed automatically as he placed the album. With a gentle, precise drop of the needle the orchestra, conducted by Gordon Jenkins, broke in. A few seconds later the familiar jazz croonings of the girl Lester Young called Lady Day, the woman born as Eleanora Fagan, the legend the world would know as Billie Holliday began to rasp intimately over the tune.

“You’re my thrill,
You do something to me…
You send chills right through me
When I look at you ‘cause you’re my thrill…”


Amazing what music could do to a man’s soul. He remembered dancing to this song with Margaret years after Billie Holiday sang it, when she’d first introduced him to it. It was a gem unearthed in his lost years, but Margie had known him well enough to know that he would have liked it. A song performed almost twenty years before he’d ever been able to hear it, became “their song”. There was a sense of mystical timelessness that appealed to him. Over three decades after Jay Gorney wrote it with Sidney Clare. A decade after Lena Horne had sung it. A year after Doris Day had sung it. Countless others had sung it since, but none were able to truly make it their own like Billie Holliday.

He remembered the pair of them in a jazz hall downtown, sweeping across the dance floor. He remembered the look in the older woman’s eyes, the sparkle and glow as she looked back at him adoringly. Loving him and the second chances they both had together. He remembered and he could have sworn it was the only time he’d ever flown without the power of the Golden Rod. There was another power between them that night.

* * * * *


Dennis walked through the cemetery with a plastic shopping bag. He trod the familiar path down towards a familial plot. He reached into the bag and pulled out a bundle of white lillies and placed them in a vase set into the marble of the tombstone, removing a bunch of dead stems and throwing them in a bin that was under a tree several plots down. The stems that were left from his own last trip. People were starting to visit less frequently now. In the early days there were letterman jackets from old LHU friends, pennant flags left by cheerleaders, photographs and mail. The most recent thing he’d seen that he hadn’t left himself was an orange crayon - presumably some grade school kid had come along on an excursion and made an etching of the tombstone. These days it was generally all his dead white lillies.

The death of innocence. Again.

He’d asked the florist about what would be the most suitable and she had told him that lillies represented innocence, peace and purity. That sounded as suitable as anything else in regards to Sean, so that’s what he went with. Now everytime he came here it was like he was collecting the dregs of what happens when peace, purity and innocence die. If he hadn’t gotten the phone number off the florist on that day and a cheap one-night stand entailed afterwards he probably wouldn’t feel the need to justify his decision by persisting with the white lillies. But he did, and here he was. Another shame spiral, where Dennis felt guilty so he persisted with another thankless burden from his brother. If he kept buying them it meant he didn’t ask the florist just because he was trying to get in her pants.

“Hey Sean, it’s me again. Just me, I mean. No Grampa. No Mum. No-- well, you get the point.”

“Grampa’s getting another year older, another year crankier. Well, I mean I guess you always got on fine with him, so that probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. Mom’s still back in Seattle with Dad. She says they’re doing fine. I think Dad’s up for some kind of promotion thing over there, according to Mom. I don’t know exactly know what it entails, but that was news, I guess.”


“I’m-- well, I’m Ok, I guess. I mean I’m not dead, so I guess I can’t really complain...”

A gentle breeze blew through the cemetery, holding his awkward words in stark bare relief.

“It’s… exhausting. Sean, honestly. It’s exhausting trying to live up to being just a fraction of you. I know I didn’t really say it enough when you were around, and you probably wouldn’t want to hear it now… but I miss you. I miss you and I don’t know if I really can. I think it’ll kill me faster than anyone else can.”

He held an awkward pause. Dragging out the time. He always felt he should stay longer than felt comfortable. Always felt he owed him more.

“I guess I’ll see you next month. Same time, same place. Heh.” Dennis let out a deep sigh, and after another three beats left the gravesite.

On the way out he passed by the Wall. The Wall contained a number of cemented in metal drawer “urns” that held the cremated remains of the deceased. Once a drawer was used, it would then be cemented closed and a plaque would adorn the urn instead of an ugly drawer-handle.

Dennis reached into his plastic bag and removed a small bouquet of yellow daffodils and tulips, there was no room for vases on the Wall so Dennis leaned a plaque forward and wedged the stems in behind to hold them in place. The remains of the last bouquet had long dried up, fallen and been cleared away by caretakers.

The plaque belonged to the sole resident on this wall whose remains were never cremated. The plaque bore the man’s name, years of birth and death, the emblem of the LHPD and the message “Thank you for your years of unflinching service”, which if anybody bothered to chase down hard enough they would find it had been paid for by a private citizen and not by the Lost Haven Police Department.

They might also find that the small eagle symbol that was next to the LHPD emblem was not affiliated with any branch or unit within the city’s police department.

No words were exchanged. There was nothing to say. Dennis had only ever known the man from stories passed down by his grandfather. Truth be told he couldn’t recall ever so much as meeting the man. But nobody else ever visited this urn so Dennis figured he should.

The florist had said that yellow tulips and daffodils symbolized renewal.

It sounded as suitable as anything else.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Liseran Thistle
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Liseran Thistle Liseran The Witchy

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“So we’re supposed to be looking for someone by the name of....what now? Adolow?” Eris asked, their arms behind their head. Roland and Phoenix had insisted on stopping for a break on the investigation, so they chose a small, quaint dessert shop. Eris propped their feet up on the table, much to Roland’s dismay who gently pushed them off the table.

“Yes. I’ve been trying to find out more on this Jerome Adolow, but so far no luck. We’ll just have to keep searching. In the meantime…” Roland leaned forward. “You two are going to have to question Charlton more about Eric Garland, and that...room.” Eris nodded, turning to where Charlton was standing by the checkout counter, presumably waiting for a receipt.

“I feel I should talk to him about it. I mean, we usually talk about stuff like this so…” Eris said, quietly.

“I feel that is for the best as well.” Phoenix spoke, his hands in his lap. “I...neither of us know Charlton very well, Roland.”

Roland flinched, but nodded. “Yeah, you’re right.” He cleared his throat. Charlton walked back to the table, setting down a cup of steaming tea, his face a dower mask. Charlton looked at them all, somewhat more uncomfortable with their silence.

“So..what next?” He asked. Roland quickly explained that he would be at one of the local stations to set up a little office of his own until they can go back to Georgia, and that Phoenix and Eris would ask him more about Eric. Charlton shifted in his chair when he heard Eric’s name, but soon straightened his posture. “Yes. Of course.”

Roland nodded to all of them, and then got up to leave. Phoenix watched him go, a troubled look in his eyes “Uh..I will go and...do more research on Jerome Adolow, like Roland is.” He announced to the two of them, and then he too followed suit and walked out of the door, leaving Charlton and Eris alone.

Eris turned to look at Charlton, who seemed to not even be able to look them in the eye. “Charlton-”

“Eris, there’s too much history. Too many things that have happened in the past, I don’t think I could unpack all of that at once.” He whispered. Eris heard him perfectly though, and raised a hand on comfort.

“Hey it’s fine. We can work our way up. How about you start somewhere easy, like how you and Eric met?” Eris suggested lightly. Charlton laughed bitterly.

“That is the hardest story to tell, because it is the start of everything.”

Eris looked down, not sure what to say to that, but then Charlton continued. “I fear I don’t have a choice anymore, Eris. I’m going to start with someone else. He was very close to me, though it wasn’t always like that…”
…………………………………..


The wind was a nuisance that night, it was so terrible that it had ripped Charlton’s winter scarf down the middle, fraying it like an old flag on a pole. He could do nothing against the buffeting air hitting him from all sides but brace his shoulders and take the brunt of its power. I can’t believe the weather here, He thought bitterly. He was a young, 17 year old boy, still looking for work in the middle of Canton, Georgia and he was experiencing some of the worst that nature had to offer. The sidewalk he stood on was making his feet numb with how long he had been standing there, waiting for the doors to the old record shop to open.

“Can I help you with something? This is my shop.” He turned around meeting strange, silver eyes. The boy was short, slightly stocky but only a little. He had very light, blonde hair that was neatly combed and cut. The stranger stared at Charlton, questioningly.

“Oh. I came about the job opportunity. I saw your ad in the paper.” He answered. “You need someone to watch your records, right?” Charlton thought the boy looked rather young to own any kind of shop, but judging by the expensive crest on his shirt, he knew age had nothing on money.

“Yes I do.” The stranger said. He looked Charlton up and down, probably judging if he could do anything relating to record keeping. “You don’t seem like the type who likes records.” He said.

Charlton cocked his head, confused. The wind had calmed down by now, and the boy had decided to unlock the doors to the small store front. “What do you mean by that? I know plenty about records.” Charlton said. The boy scoffed.

“Sure you do. With those kinds of clothes? Are you kidding me?” He chuckled, patronizingly. “But it’s fine. I am hiring after all, and I guess someone like you can think of this as a money grab, right?” He smiled at Charlton. Charlton just met his amused glint with level, impassive eyes.

“Do I get the job?” Charlton asked. The boy laughed.

“Of course! The jobs yours. You just have to prove yourself now. Paychecks start rolling in around the fifth, make sure you’re here everyday for the next month and a half.” He said. “What’s your name anyways? I probably won’t remember but-”

“It’s Charlton. Charlton Gaslowe. And I’ll make you remember it.”

The boy smiled, softer this time. “Thaddeus Goodoire. It’s a pleasure.” Charlton nodded at Thaddeus, who in turn just smirked.

Charlton looked around the small store, eyeing the darkened interior. Boxes were piled high in the corner, and Charlton could only guess that they were filled with records of every shape and size. He moved to one pile in the corner, and Thaddeus left him alone for the evening.

As the weeks dragged on into a full month, Charlton saw Thaddeus everyday after that, and their relationship was still strained with Thaddeus essentially teasing and making light of Charlton’s poverty stricken life. One day in particular, Charlton sat at the counter, now cleaned off and clear of any stray records or vinyls laying around, when Thaddeus came into the shop. He was wearing expensive clothing, as usual, and he also seemed to be in a sour mood. Charlton spotted a dark smudge of something on his shirt, and judging by the look he had on his face, it wasn’t anything nice.

“What’s got you in such a bad?” He asked Thaddeus.

Grumbling, and swiping at the stain on his shirt, he muttered “Some brat at the coffee shop spilled coffee all over my shirt when she handed me my order.” He stalked over to the counter. “You probably wouldn’t even know how much it’s gonna cost to get this stain out.”

Charlton was used to the jabs at his money, so he just responded with a weak shrug. “I probably don’t. But I can guess way more than what’s necessary.” He said. Thaddeus scoffed.

“Are you kidding? This shirt is satin, it requires special care.” He leaned on the counter, Charlton scowled slightly at his elbows on the polished wood. “It’ll cost at least 100,000 to clean and press. And that includes the cute little bag they’ll put it in.” Charlton laughed, and Thaddeus glared at him. “What are you laughing at?”

“You. You’re wasting your money for something so small.” He said, smirking.

“You’ve never even seen satin unless it were on curtains in a store. How would you even know how to clean it, huh?” Thaddeus pouted. “Are you implying that you know more than me about things like this?”

“Yeah, basically.” He chuckled. Thaddeus glared at him, before smirking in turn.

“Fine then, since you know so much about clothes this rich, you can do my laundry. How’s that sound?” He asked.

“Nope. I refuse. Go ahead and blow 100 grand on your shirt.”

Thaddeus laughed, lowly. “Oh no. It’s final. You can start with this shirt. I’m going home now, and when I come back I’ll have all of my laundry ready for washing.”

“There isn’t even a place to wash clothes here.”

“You can do it at your house, can’t you?”

“No I can’t, I have other things to do, you know.”

“What happened, just a moment ago you were ready to lecture me on my own clothing.”

“I wasn’t lecturing you on any-”

The door to the shop opened, the tiny bell sounded announcing someone’s entrance. In stepped another young man, this one with equally immaculate blonde, combed hair. “Thaddeus? Is this the dump you were talking about earlier?” He said, walking in.

“Eric, nice of you to finally drop by after all these weeks. I finally found someone to look after it for me.” Thaddeus gestured toward Charlton, who in turned nodded at him. Eric smiled at him, extending a hand.

“Eric Garland, nice to meet you.”

……………………………………………………

Prepare for a little short story with Charlton for the next few posts!



Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by nitemare shape
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nitemare shape

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For Slipstream, the weeks following the downfall of the Hounds of Humanity seemed to move at a breakneck speed. First, the Iron Knight himself had practically showed up on her doorstep in Pacific Point with an offer to join the newly minted superhero team that had been formed following the battle in Lost Haven.

The Guardians.

Though she was new to the whole superhero thing, and she had reservations about her readiness to join such an exclusive club, she reluctantly accepted. She had no way to know what joining this team of elite heroes would mean for her future, but she agreed to join because she thought that maybe being around the likes of Arthur and the others, she might learn a thing or two, and eventually truly earn her place on the squad.

However, even the excitement her inclusion in this new team wasn’t enough to chase the memories of the horrors that she had seen while battling the Hounds of Humanity. The images of those executed in the killing rooms in the lower levels of the Hounds base just outside of Pacific Point were burnt into her memory. She could still smell the sickly copper smell of the blood that had pooled on the floor, and the faces of the terrified victims locked in cages awaiting their own executions was something that she would never be able to forget, no matter how hard she tried.

So like she had done before when things got to be too much, she ran. Up and down the California coast she went, stopping little crimes here and there, helping people when she could. She immersed herself in being a hero, trying to keep herself so occupied that the memories of what she saw maybe haunted her a little less.

But she was still new to this life. She was still raw. Which was probably why the Iron Knight had reached out to her about going to Upstate New York where she could get some training. Arthur had pitched it as “summer camp for supers,” where she would be able to learn combat skills as well as more about her powers, and what they can really do.

Of course, she agreed.

Though she couldn’t really spend too much time away from her life in Pacific Point, as she had events to plan and she had been booked to photograph several events in the PacPoint and Los Angeles areas, she did what people in her line of work do...she found a compromise. She would take advantage of her supersonic speed, and go to the farm first thing in the morning, and return home at night. It was almost like commuting to work each day...from three thousand miles away.

When Slipstream first arrived to the farm, which sat on about ten acres in Upstate New York and was located just off of a little traveled side road, she didn’t know what to expect. The farm itself was full of green fields and had a single story stone house which sat on the property, which was also dotted with various fruit trees. As she made her way to the house, she noticed that there was a wintershed attached to the house, and a greenhouse not far from that. As she made her way toward the house, she saw that there were well tended vegetable gardens around the side of the house, and just as she was thinking about how she wished that there was a place for a vegetable garden at her apartment in Pacific Point, something else made its presence known.

Making its way around the side of the house was a young goat, no larger than a medium sized dog. When Slipstream made eye contact with the animal, she smiled and waved at the young animal.

“Hi there.” She said suppressing a laugh.

However, the young goat just cocked its head as it stared at her, and then let out a shriek.

“BBBBAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” The goat bellowed as it lowered its head and charged her. Taken completely by surprise by the goats sudden advancement, she just stood there, thinking that it would back off. However, the goat did not, in fact, it picked up speed as it raced toward her.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Slipstream said to herself as she sidestepped the rampaging juvenile goat. Undeterred, the goat turned on her, and charged again, only to have Slipstream once again avoid its rush. “Hey, cut that out!” Slipstream said with a laugh as she again avoided the goat’s charge for a third time.

Leanna heard one of her kids agitate, and a girl’s voice, and came around the corner, a chicken under one arm that she had been carrying back to the coop after having escaped. She stood stock still when she saw the clear metahuman outfit. One sharp whistle and a call of “George, stop that,” and the little goat took off around her and back towards the pens. She gave him a boot as he passed. Her violet eyes gave the costume a once over, and she brushed black hair behind an ear with her free hand.

“Can I help you with something, Miss…?” The silent answer for a name hung on the end of a sentence, but Leanna sounded anything but polite. She set the chicken down, eyes never leaving the stranger.

“Slipstream.” She replied awkwardly. “Um...I think this is the right place, Iron Knight sent me for training….god, I’m not sure this is the right place, he said you’d be expecting me. I’m so sorry.” She trailed off as she was about ready to leave the ornery woman before she wore out her welcome.

“Oh that asshole,” Leanna rolled her eyes, put a hand on her hip, and plucked at her clothes. She was wearing overalls and a white tanktop, having planned only to be working all day.

“He probably meant to call and let me know and then got busy with whatever rich people get busy with. If you’re here for the program, however, you are definitely in the right place. I’ve got a couple of forms I need you to sign, especially now that you’ve seen me without my costume on at my house, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Come inside. You want tea or coffee? You eaten yet today?” Without giving the heroine a chance to respond, she turned a heel in her work boots and headed towards the closer back door, kicking a cardboard box she had been emptying out of the way of the second gate around the corner that kept the chickens in the yard.

“Got both,” she called behind her as she walked. “Plus eggs. No bacon, we don’t do that here, can’t stand the stuff, but we’ve got greens, potatoes, and a bit of leftover steak from last night I think.” Despite the ‘we’, it was clear that she was the only one here by the way she moved. Confident, owning every step she took on her own property, without worrying what another might think.

“Tea, thanks. Coffee makes me jittery.” Slipstream said shyly as her stomach let out a slight growl. “And yeah, I could definitely go for whatever you’ve got.” She finished as she followed the woman into the house.

The inside was, while not messy, also not tidy, as living on a farm required certain concessions to animals. Including the bear of an Irish wolfhound who barrelled up to the newcomer until her owner caught her round the chest and picked her up like she was a feather. “She’s fine, Smoky, she’s fine.” The dog got set down again and this time did the shy hello sniifs instead.

The back door had led into the kitchen, floored in echoing hardwood and full of a cozy atmosphere. The smell of fresh coffee hung in the air, put Leanna stepped lightly around a counter and gestured to the little round table with four chair in the dining area as she picked a steel kettle off of her stove and set about filling it with water. Once she had it on, she opened a drawer, fished out a manilla envelope, and slapped it on the table in front of her guest.

“Most of this,” she explained as she busied herself fixing a plate for the girl, “is standard government NDA. you don’t go public with anyone’s identities you may discover due to accident, like earlier, on the farm. You don’t talk about this place even to other heroes without clearance from STRIKE, although now I dunno how you’d get it. Maybe someone at the FBI is handling it now?” She paused. There had been a tremor in her voice for a second. She sniffed and continued.

“While here you follow my rules. Anything I say goes. If I say you’re out of line, you get back inside the lines or I kick your ass. Are you a minor?”

Slipstream listened to the woman go over the rules of the house even as the massive dog Smokey continued to press against her with her nose, making a loud sniffing sound. When Slipstream had agreed to do this, she had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t this.

“Of course, I’d never reveal anyone’s secret identity.” She responded to the woman’s first rule. “No, not a minor.” She answered as she looked over the paperwork.

Government?

STRIKE, or whoever is in charge now that they’ve been wiped out?

What has she gotten herself into?

Leanna caught the slight hesitation in the girl’s voice and slammed her hand on the counter, accompanied by a string of expletives, then came around and sat down opposite Slipstream.

“I am sorry, hon, he didn’t tell you a damn thing about this place did he?” She shook her head, then continued. “My job here is to train heroes to be heroes. I took a bad hit a while back, but I wanted to at least help out, so I volunteered. The government, notably my former associates at STRIKE, helped me buy this farm and I went back to school for a while, but I’m mostly here to help you become better at your job. Usually I get a couple of heroes here at once, hence the ID protection issue.”

“Oh jeez, I got so upset I didn’t even introduce myself. My name’s Leanna Young, but most people in the biz call me Blacklight. I used to run with Icon and Iron Knight and a few others when they were up-and-comers. I’m pretty old, as far as news goes, I guess.”She held out a hand for a shake, and offered a conciliatory smile.

Slipstream was taken aback by the woman’s sudden change in tone, even as she met the woman’s offer for a handshake. It was true that apparently Iron Knight hadn’t really told her anything about where he was sending her, but she somehow knew that it wasn’t because he had been setting her up, it was most likely due to absent mindedness. Then, when Slipstream had been able to process the woman’s introduction, it hit her like a ton of bricks.

“You’re Blacklight?” She asked, then continued without taking a breath. “You were in Lost Haven when we fought the Hounds...You’re a badass!” she said, her sudden excitement was evidenced by her refusal, or more accurately, her inability to stop shaking her hand. “I’m Amanda, it’s sooo good to meet you.”

Leanna threw her head back with a throaty laugh. “Oh, hon, no, I am far from a badass at this point. That was my first action in five years, and if they hadn’t-” She caught herself.

“That’s the point here. You see all the famous guys, and how ‘cool’ they are on the media outlets, and you think that it’s all fun and games and looking good. And it is that. Sometimes.” She stood up, heading back to the kitchen. There was a pause, and then the slap of meat on a skillet and the sudden smell of frying steak.

“But that’s not all there is. There’s the times where it’s you and the people you may have never met, in the shit. People are screaming, and dying, and there’s nothing you can do yet because you’ve got[ to wait for the right moment. And it tears your heart apart. Or the times where you’ve got to make the decision between the bus or the train because you’ve only got enough time to save one. Those are the times that actually stick with you. Those are the times where you find out that being a hero means not freezing, not panicking, just doing what you can for as many people as you can and living with what happens after. That’s what I’m here to do. Help you deal with what will come later, and make sure you don’t freeze when civilians need you.”

She slid back around the counter and put a plate on top on the papers in front of Amanda. It was loaded with mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, half a ribeye, and a mound of chopped carrots and mushrooms. She settled back to watch the girl, waited until she had picked up her fork and taken her first mouthful, and then grinned. “Also, I shouldn’t know your name is Amanda, hon. You’re gonna have to work that one off.”

Slipstream listened to Leanna speak as she took in her first mouthfull of food. It had been hours since she’d last eaten, and due to her quickened metabolism, she was starving. Everything that the older woman said made sense to her, that there is more to being a hero than going out and doing cool things. There was the guilt that you felt because of the ones you can’t save, it was a guilt that she was more than familiar with. It was a guilt that she felt every single time she looked into the mirror.

Then Leanna’s last words registered between bites of ribeye.

“Wait, what?”

“Oh, yes. You slipped up bad and told me your real name. You’ll note that that’s not even required on those forms you’ve still got to fill out.” Leanna sat back, looking like a cat that had thoroughly trapped her prey and was now just toying with it. “So, Amanda, what powers make you a heroine?”

“Oh…” Amanda said as Leanna called her out on her slip up. She hadn’t meant to give Leanna her real name, it just happened once the woman had introduced herself. Maybe she had been caught up by the woman’s sudden hospitality, she wasn’t sure. The only thing she was sure about was that it wouldn’t happen again.

“What powers make me a heroine?” Amanda repeated thoughtfully, then she sat silent for several moments as she thought about her answer.

Finally she answered.

“I’m not a heroine. I’m just someone who was given this power, this speed...I’m just someone trying to make a difference.”

The grin spread wider. “Damn, girl. I was asking what powers you have. So you’re a Speedy Gonzales, then? That explains why you ate a full dinner for breakfast. Alright, young lady, in that case you can help me around the farm today, since you have disturbed my schedule anyway. Fill out your forms, and then I need all the eggs out of the coop, Gwenyth and Shelly milked, and the tomatoes out of the garden and the early peaches out of my peach tree. And before you run off, I need you to know that if any of my animals are hurt, or a single leaf is torn off of my plants, I will run you right up into the upper atmosphere and see how long you can hold your breath before I have to get you back, got it? Any questions about how to do those things?”

Slipstream sat at the table slack-jawed as Leanna gave her the list of chores that had to be done after she had filled out the proper forms, as well as the repercussions that she’d face if she screwed it up in the least.

“Um...yeah.” She replied as she wolfed down the last of her food.

“All of it.”
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In
Space Oddity
Episode 03



THIS EPISODE'S THEME
"It Ain't Easy" by David Bowie




There was a modestly sized, modestly secret alien spaceport in the outskirts of Davenport, Illinois. Much like with the Milwaukee bazaar, its secrecy was maintained through a combination of arrogance, laziness and lots of blind luck. Only two barriers separated the humans of Davenport from their alien neighbors, and one of those barriers was just a young unarmed Vetrefzklan who would politely ask you if you were there for the spaceport. And he was only playing gatekeeper out of the kindness of his reptilian heart.

Within the port, a diverse array of alien ships, each one more colorful than the last, awaited their turn to take off. The Milwaukee merchants were halfway through their collective abandonment of the planet, although many had had no choice but to leave their wares behind. Most ships were not big enough to carry big loads on top of several different sentient species, each with its own unique life support needs.

"I can't believe this has all been happening right under our noses", said Jake, clearly thinking aloud. Gabriel had to smile at the amazement in his voice, and affectionately held the other man's hand a little tighter. "I mean... an entire alien community in the Midwest. With how much stuff gets leaked about everything, you'd think someone would have noticed it."

"Another cosmomancer told me once that it's actually very common", said Gabriel. "She said that most worlds aren't really normal enough that their inhabitants would immediately notice something like this. You know… kinda like how you sometimes don’t see some of the crazy and over the top stuff that happens in a drag show because everyone in there is being at least a bit sickening."

“Dude, you’ve literally been to one drag show in your entire life.”

“One Earth drag show.”

Jake gave him a puzzled look, and for a second seemed to seriously consider asking him more, but ultimately gave up and just went along with it.

Kurrenj Toh, the Graurra merchant, was saying her goodbyes to her fellow merchants and giving her visibly nervous animals some reassuring headpats before they were loaded onto the bloated-looking violet and green freighter that would take her to her home system. The little Thorian Thrasher was not among them.

In fact, the little Thorian Thrasher was being held in Jake's free arm, and appeared quite happy about it. Which really put a damper on Gabriel’s stubborn commitment to refuse to think of the alien creature as ‘cute’ and ‘cuddly’.

The last of the animals gone, Kurrenj Toh turned back to the two humans, her antennae twitching. “We must truly live in a strange cosmic moment. It has been long since I last saw so many of us move in unison in peacetime.”

She paused, pensive.

“Or perhaps it is just your planet. Some toxin in its atmosphere. You should look into that.”

“Well, climate change…” Gabriel started and immediately trailed off.

"You must know something about my buyer, Andromedan", said Kurrenj Toh. "The buyer was human.”

“‘Human’ human or ‘Vobruuf disguised as human’ human?”

“Most Vobruufs are rather unsociable…”

“True.”

“So definitely the former”, said the Graurra. “He came to me, was very friendly, and described what I knew to be a Thorian Thrasher. He then asked if I knew what it was and where he could acquire one."

"If he didn't know what a Thorian Thrasher was, how did he know what it looked like?" Asked Gabriel. "Did he tell you?"

"He showed me some footage", answered the Graurra. "Apparently, during one of your planet's many meta-human incidents, someone saw and recorded one. I easily recognized that beautiful..."

The creature in Jake's arm gurgled rather loud and disgustingly, and the Graurra aborted her effort to compliment the species. She just stared at it for a moment, her eyes looking a bit haunted, then returned her attention to the young cosmomancer.

"Anyway, he promised to pay with genetic samples of some near-extinct Earth species", said Kurrenj Toh. “Which was an extremely generous offer. You would not believe how enthusiastic some buyers in Athaloc and Myllej are about cloning snow leopards and pandas. And good genetic samples of Earth species are a lot more rare in the Milky Way than Thorian Thrashers.”

Gabriel looked at the Thorian Thrasher, and it looked back at him with eyes that were remarkably expressive, although he had a hard time understanding what exactly they were trying to express. Hopefully a puppy-like tenderness, although they were more likely pondering how edible cosmomancers were.

"Do you have that footage?"

“No, I do not.”

“And your buyer’s name?”

"I would argue that his name is irrelevant, since he is dead", said Kurrenj Toh. “I do know the name of his employer, however."

Dead silence, except for the hesitant lift off of a smaller, rounder freighter nearby. One big problem with setting up a semi-clandestine bazaar in a world without a sizeable space flight industry was that you had to settle for subpar, second-hand freighters with no decent maintenance or spare parts within a light year.

“I’m sorry, but are you trying to build suspense?”

The Graurra struggled with the buttons on her speaking device, antennae twitching with annoyance. A crackling that was way too loud preceded the return of her voice.

“Apologies. A malfunction.”

“Oh.”

“I was trying to say ‘Poseidon Energy’.”

"I don't know what that is."

Jake spoke up, to Gabriel's surprise. "I know what that is. I've heard of them."

"It sounds like a corporation", said Gabriel.

"It is", said Jake. “They offered me an unpaid internship once. I turned them down because… you know… working without pay is… bad.”

Kurrenj Toh made something like a chuckling sound. “I like this fellow human of yours, cosmomancer.”

Beside them, another freighter tried to lift off, hovered uncertainly a few feet over the ground for a couple seconds, then crashed as its engines failed rather noisily, colorful sparks filling the air around it. They paid no mind to it. It was the fifth crash so far.

"So, Poseidon Energy."

"They were fairly active buyers in many of our bazaars on Earth", said Kurrenj Toh. "Mostly interested in scanners and laboratory equipment. We all found it a bit odd that they did not jump straight to weaponry or artificial intelligence, but maybe we were just being prejudiced."

"Well, yes, that was very prejudiced of you", said Gabriel without really frowning.

He offered a hug, which the Graurra accepted, because most Graurra loved hugs, and the two parted ways.

Then the Andromedan stood, with Jake by his side, watching as the last few ships of the Milwaukee merchants left Earth’s atmosphere in a slow, mostly discrete, slightly accidented procession. The spaceport was left almost completely barren, a vast cave barely concealed under the grassy field, illuminated only by the stars and the moon.

“So… is this a normal day for you?” Asked Jake.

Gabriel smiled. “I honestly don’t know.”



In the following weeks, Gabriel found that he still did not know what, if anything in his life, was ‘normal’. The aftermath of the Hounds’ attacks had exacerbated that uncertain sensation, the world around him still reeling in ways both great and small, even as the meta-humans and heroes resumed their struggles. The Andromedan found himself strangely isolated in the relative peace, having no contact with his fellow vigilantes or with his fellow cosmomancers. Neither Takol nor the Delphinian showed up, and it seemed as if the rest had taken the recommendation to lay low quite seriously. All he had left to do was deal with whatever strange and potentially dangerous cosmic phenomena turned up within the Earth’s atmosphere, of which there were very few.

His Google searches on Poseidon Energy yielded little information, and most of it disappointing. The only noteworthy thing about them was their tendency to hoard prodigious scientists from top American universities, like a nerdy kind of dragon, producing a lot of research available to the public, but not enough to justify that much investment. They spent very little on lobbying politicians and whatever competition they had was suspiciously uninterested in even acknowledging their existence. In short, they screamed inconspicuous and were, therefor, a bit conspicuous.

By the second week, he realized that he had procrastinated on sending the little Thorian Thrasher back to its homeworld. It remained with him and Jake, constantly demanding cuddles from Jake and occasionally allowing Gabriel to pat it on its gooey head. It was the world’s most grotesque yet well-behaved pet, even if neither of them ever addressed it.

It was a month of long swims, quiet romantic nights in the dorm rooms, visits to his family in Vermont, newly discovered Prince albums, and a couple skirmishes with sapient being traffickers from Cagolon Bia. And every day of that month, the Andromedan was keenly aware of the fact that his world had suddenly gotten smaller, more intimate, and he did not feel entirely at home in it.

Maybe Claudia was right.



“Well, that was certainly an unexpected resolution”, said a distractingly half-nude Takol, leaning his wet, crimson-skinned, broad-shouldered body on the porcelain-like railing of the balcony over the artificial ponds. “Not the part where you were able to end the whole mess without any casualties on either side, of course. Cosmomancers are usually very good at that. But the fact that a pandimensional being was willing to speak to you in particular...”

“You also thought that was strange, then?” Asked Gabriel, floating on his back in the pond directly below, just letting the alien minerals in the purple-tinted water soothe his strained muscles.

“I mean… everyone knows that the motivations and thinking processes of such beings are incomprehensible, but still.”

“Maybe I was the first human they ever met?” Gabriel speculated out loud, swaying his arms a bit to avoid drifting away.

“Sounds plausible.”

“Yeah.”

“Still… you did good. Very good, in fact. You were compassionate, level-headed, but firm. And it worked out.”

“Thanks, dude.”

“‘Dude’, he calls me”, chuckled the alien man, showing off his very sharp teeth.

It had taken the Andromedan and his fellow cosmomancers a few days to find their way back from dark space, back to the Dream Unchained. The fleet that greeted them was not too different from the one they had left behind many weeks before. It was a vast, colorful collection of mismatched space ships, more colorful than any other in the known universe, sailing through the cosmic oceans in no particular direction.

It had the looks of a haphazardly formed armada made from leftover or repurposed ships from every corner of the Milky Way and Andromeda, without a singular, unifying design to its whole. And it was, as far as the Andromedan was concerned, one of the most beautiful, comforting sights he had ever seen outside of Earth.

Around him, Gabriel heard other cosmomancers swimming and chatting, enjoying the calm between storms. Outside, a myriad adventures and perils awaited them. There were wars to fight, disasters to avert, stranded ships to save and many, many more things. Gabriel had quickly discovered that these moments, where they could all just mingle and relax and almost pretend that there were just space wizards having a bit of harmless fun in the comfort of their fleet, would always be short.

He heard a splashing sound, felt ripples in the water, and then Takol was walking beside him, knee-deep in the water, a crown of Micafian flowers on his tentacled head. He really liked wearing those. They smiled at each other, although there was an understanding in Takol’s eyes that said a bit more.

“What is it?” Asked the alien man.

“What do you mean?”

“Humans are very expressive. You are thinking about something. It's bothering you.”

“Well, maybe not bothering me, but…”

"Do you want to go home?"

Gabriel said nothing, even as the other lied down beside him.

“Maybe stay on Earth for a while, spend time with other humans, get accustomed to the normal human lifestyle again?”

“That’s the thing”, said Gabriel, closing his eyes for a moment, taking a few breaths. “I kind of don’t want to, and that worries me.”

“Well, it’s not that uncommon…”

“But Claudia doesn’t feel the same way”, Gabriel interrupted his friend. “She’s still one of us, yes, but she's also fighting for Earth, first and foremost. She’s always there when they need her. And I wonder if maybe the difference is that I’m not completely… human anymore. Mentally, I mean.”

He sighed.

“Now and then I look at myself and feel this question in the back of my head, like a headache”, he said, getting a handful of water to drip on his face and untied hair and rub it in, fingers running through his soaked locks. “What part of me is going to define what sort of Andromedan I am? Because a part of me feels at home here, and another part of me doesn’t want that. That other part of me wants his daily life to be swimming in an olympic pool on Earth and going to church on Sundays and eating human food and just… I don’t know… catching common, human criminals...”

“You dork.”

Gabriel scoffed and sat up, mouth gaping slightly with bafflement.

“Seriously?”

“You’re overthinking it. Hence, ‘dork’.”

“What about you, then? How did you figure out your place in all this?”

“Oh, it was easy for me”, responded the former Andromedan. “I mean, my home planet was destroyed shortly after I hatched, so there’s really no dilemma for me there. The entire cosmos is my home now.”

“What if it hadn’t been destroyed?”

“I’d have probably chosen this life anyway.”

“Why?”

“Because I believe my life has an essential meaning, and that meaning is what I have right here”, said Takol. “I like helping people. Always have. And I have the power to do it in ways few others can. I don’t think any external factor could have changed that.”

Gabriel said nothing, but looked down, expressionless, until a chuckle escaped his lips. And then he grinned at the other, eyebrow arched playfully.

“Aren’t you the same guy who tried to teach me how to pick up a Toblunc girl, knowing that I had a girlfriend back on Earth?”

Takol threw his hands up in the air.

“Not my fault that you squandered the most valuable life advice I’ve ever delivered by being stubbornly monogamous.”



The video was barely an hour old, but it had already gone viral. Even after everything that had transpired the month before, and in the years before that, people did not, could not, treat these things as normal, as just another part of their human lives.

At first the sound was subtle, as was the sight that accompanied it. An inhuman humming, followed by a constellation of weak lights in the darkness. It was not large or bombastic. But in a way, the smallness of it made it all the more disturbing, because it was everywhere. Wherever the phone’s camera turned, there it was: a thick, writhing combination of darkness and light that distorted the space around it, and its distortions resonated in every direction. Its form stretched high into the night sky, from where it had come. And it was alive.

Lake Champlain was unrecognizable under the being’s form, its gravitational power distorting everything around it. Water had crystallized and formed a ring around the being’s most solid and cohesive part, joined by rings of dust, rocks and trees. The very city of Burlington was straining under the force of the cosmic being’s pull, its structures refusing to yield and abandon the laws of nature, the physics that had always been a part of it. The people of Burlington were outside their homes, most of them trying to get as far away as possible from the lake, while others dared to get closer. The being had hurt no one yet.

The military’s drones arrived at the scene fast and, when they struck, they were destroyed even quicker. Manned reinforcements would take longer to get there. If any meta-humans were planning to help, they were still far away.

The Andromedan appeared soundlessly, his purple and black armor exuding a cosmic iridescence as he came through a spherical rift in space, his body floating in the low gravity surrounding the being. And the reaction from the being was immediate.

"Hey!" He shouted at it. "Whoever you are, don't move any further. You're endangering innocent people."

The black and golden mass of tentacles, rock and swirling dust acted defensively, its matter collapsing on itself in a display of cosmic power that could only be described as a tantrum. A tantrum that further distorted the space several miles around, and which involved no small amount of bursts of dark energy, dark matter and some mysterious stuff that omnipotent beings from dark space seemed to always carry with them wherever they went. The sound was a deafening humming and droning, and it felt almost melodious, but not in a way that reminded the human of any song from his homeworld.

“Wait, do you know me?” Asked the Andromedan, a puzzled look on his face. His voice was drowned out, yet it was not unheard. “Why are you here?”

The response was a trail of light that was not luminous in a way that any human could comprehend, coursing through space like tendrils of ink or dust in the clear waters of a cosmic ocean. That trail disintegrated all it touched. It was an act of hostility, one that was both fearful and intimidating, which confirmed the human cosmomancer’s suspicions.

The Andromedan said nothing more for a while. Instead, he gave himself over to impulse, and his body moved through the darkness, coming closer to the being. And when he was finally close enough, he touched it. It felt like touching sand or a thick liquid or a metal, changing states and compositions so constantly and so rapidly that it was almost impossible to distinguish them. Little specks of light, like fireflies, embraced his hand, coursed through his fingers, and they were strangely cold.

The gesture seemed to calm it. Its strange motions slowed. He thought of the people of Burlington, of his family there, and hoped that he could deescalate whatever this situation was.

He made a little cooing noise, almost involuntarily, and that seemed to help even more.

“Hey, it’s alright”, he whispered tenderly, the sound rather muffled by the peculiar composition of the air, if one could still call it that, around him. “Where did you come from? How did you get here?”

The creature spoke, but without using any words. Gabriel was not entirely certain that it even had the capacity to verbalize. And yet it spoke. Ideas seeped into his mind, simple and clearer than any combination of sounds. The creature had a name, although not one that Gabriel could pronounce (and he had gotten very good at pronouncing non-human names), and preferred ‘they’ pronouns, or at least their species’ equivalent of them.

They also found the Andromedan’s hair color rather quaint.

“Thanks”, said Gabriel, his gentle ministrations of the being’s mysterious matter uninterrupted. Gabriel had never read the works of Lovecraft, but he knew an eldritch-like alien when he saw one. Or rather, he knew one when he noticed that their appearance was incomprehensible, outside of the reach of his human imagination or his human senses. Being a cosmomancer meant meeting the occasional one. It also meant that he got to learn unexpected things about them, like the fact that most of them were mostly benevolent, if a bit lacking in empathy, but also very temperamental and easy to provoke. This one, it seemed, was not too different.

They showed him a corner of dark space, beyond the reach of most space-faring species, where it had dwelled for millions of years. They showed him the peace of that solitary void, where they nourished themself on cosmic energies and stray matter. And they showed him a long-dead cosmomancer, the second Andromedan, and the beacon she had left behind. A beacon, made from a fragment of the Andromedan’s armor, which led to…

“Me”, said Gabriel. “My armor.”

They had come for him. He had been visiting his family, and the being had merely followed the connection between that beacon and his armor.

“Okay… but why?”

The being showed him nothing in response. He felt its emotions, however, and saw how those emotions became further distortions in the space around them. Burlington was still in danger.

“I need to know”, he said as he gazed into what he assumed was the being’s equivalent of an eye: a huge, miles-deep hole in its mass that was filled with liquid, iridescent light.

After a breathless wait, a clear answer finally came.

The Andromedan’s bordeaux eyes widened, and he ripped his hand away from the being’s hold. He opened his mouth to say something, but the words remained buried inside him. He struggled, shook his head, and took a hold of the anchor in one of his pockets, using it to help him stabilize the space around them.

“You’re... scared?”
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Featuring - Oswald Croll @DearTrickster




Isaac had been experiencing something of a hectic triple-life of late.

In his hometown of Cooktown he had slowly been re-organizing to better prpeare himself for handling the crime situation back home. In his home world, he had infiltrated virtually every layer of local police, had swapped his own fingerprint and DNA samples for another to prevent identification from any blood left at scenes incidentally and had a computer at his own house that was generally within a month or two of having up-to-date police files.

But all of that had been the result of over a decade of hard work and accrued knowledge of his home town as a vigilante.

Now he’d come to a new world and this world’s version of himself was less bothered by the activities of the local authorities. The Isaac Fontaine of this world had a different enemy in mind beyond crime.

Now he had technological items that could help, the pre-existing know-how for how to go about achieving the goals he felt he would need to, and mind-blowingly, access to even more money as his family was even wealthier here than on his previous world. But none of that would mean that the hard work to re-organize himself would be any less necessary.

Beyond that, he also had to maintain a presence in Cooktown to ensure those with criminal intent wouldn’t forget him. That they couldn’t rest easy.

Meanwhile, back in Lost Haven, the student Isaac Fontaine had a number of trials and tribulations of his own. Whilst regular attendance was not really necessary, he still had to check in on his courses. Due to the attack on LHU, the University had offered no-cost deferrment to students who requested it, but also offered other services and support networks to students who felt they could continue. Isaac chose to take the free time and used what he knew of hs courses via the online gateway to get ahead, where he’d be able to periodically throw out an assignment whenever asked since his busy life often didn’t allow him to keep a schedule on such things.

The other thing he was confronted by was a new Dean. The previous Dean who asked him to coach an LHU rugby team was viciously murdered in the Hounds attack and was replaced by a new one. One who had not been debriefed and constantly pumped by a certain rugby-loving economics student about the low-cost, high-visibility gains that having a successful rugby team could have with foreign students - foreign students from countries that also made up a large proportion of the nationalities which visited as “meta-tourists”; people who would put Lost Haven on their itinerary with the express hope of catching a glimpse of an Icon, Iron Knight, Blacklight, or even perhaps the newest Aquilifer.

As such, not only could he understand why Isaac had been asked to coach a rugby team at all. Let alone now, when the school didn’t even have a football team anymore after the events caused by the Nightmare attack. Isaac wasn’t particularly bothered - all things being equal, he’d rather not have the time-sink and added responsibility - perhaps a greater sign that the universe was done with Isaac in this regard. But the Dean viewed him as someone who had taken advantage of the previous Dean’s naivete, and clearly didn’t care for him. Their relationship really not being helped by the fact that when called into his office, Isaac had a six pack of beer in tow and proceeded to drink them successively whilst the Dean told him in full detail just how unnecessary he felt the whole thing to be.

Not wanting to breach any open-beverage rules that may exist on campus, Isaac finished the entire six pack in his office, only downing the last one after offering it to a mid-rant Dean.

“Look, at the end of the day, I think it’s entirely up to you… But I think you might be making some hard-working kids very disappointed... Cheers!”

As for the Vigilante’s activities within Lost Haven, he’d been busying himself with loose threads not only from the Hounds attack and the fall of S.T.R.I.K.E, but also nagging threads of the Pax Metahumana, and Demon Invasions in Lost Haven. He had invested in teacher’s boards that could take full scans to make note-taking easier for students back in his Cooktown home. One he was working on now featured all the “players” in Lost Haven’s circuit, with the board split between “O” for Old people he was familiar with and “N” for those New people he was only aware of existing in this world. Straddling the line was this world’s Blacklight. He pulled a recently developed photograph down from a piece of string where it had been drip-dried and placed it on the board, writing “Alchemists x 2” with a big circle around it. “Red Witch” was written close by with a string connecting the two.




Time: Late Evening, Night of the Attack on the Hounds’ Base
Location: HoH HQ - Docks, Lost Haven


Frustratingly patting at the wet handprints on his jacket the elderly man’s brow was furrowed with confusion, even with his alchemical applications to remove it. It stayed regardless. He fluttered his jacket of the bits of dust from the Hounds operative he had taken care of, the dust motes swirled in his hand adding the collective chaos of carbon that surrounded his staff.

He barely registered what the masked fighter had said.

"Great... Here I was thinking I'm protecting a decrepit monkey skeleton in a cloak from a bunch of bigoted pricks with guns. Now I'm protecting a bunch of bigoted pricks with guns from a decrepit monkey skeleton…

In a heavily germanic accent Oswald Croll asked, “I beg your pardon young man? I am neither skeletal or a monkey.”

Oswald peeked past Vigilante, no sight of his kin nor her friend. He may have followed exactly the wrong person to this base. “I thought I had bet on the correct horse but it seems my kin is nowhere in sight. Very sorry to trouble you, please be careful of those bombs.” He said, sticking out his hand to shake. “I am not here to fight these men and I must excuse myself.”

The Vigilante stood with his hands out soaking water onto the spillway’s cement.

“Right.” He said, taking in the magic man in all of his ridiculity. “I have lost entirely too much blood to be dealing with this kind of bullshit right now.”

Staff. Long clothes. Magic. Kin. Isaac connected the dots quickly enough.

“I think I know where your… ugh… ‘kin’ might be.” Isaac said through his voice modulator, wincing at the sound of such an awkward worrd. “She’s likely ahead of us. It’s all the same one big complex, and we’re taking care of the exits as we go and meeting up in the middle. I’ll take you there, but I have two rules. One: Stop killing other people, these lunatics have been fighting a public war saying that people like you are dangerous because of the exact god damn thing you just did. I’d rather we make a clean sweep on this and beat them both physically and on message… especially when we’re this close and risked this much. And Rule two: Try not to get yourself killed. Rule two is optional.”




It was the strange hooded man in the cloak from the night when they took down the Hounds’ base. His Omni-tool could snap up to six photographs on regular old film stored within the incredibly useful device. He had no images of the “kin” of which he’d spoken about, but Isaac felt the need to snap a quick one of this more mysterious one.

The pair cut a brief swathe through a few waves of fleeing Hounds until the Vigilante had realised he was alone. The old man had displaced the atoms in a wall and reformed the wall seamlessly again behind him, presumably in search of his kin.

Magic and Metahumans. Wizards and Wonders.

And Isaac Fontaine was once again in the middle of it all.

“Not the only human in the middle of it all though.” He thought to himself as he tapped an arrow with an orange nock and fletchings he had hanging on the “N” side of the board.

The Archer. Last he saw she was banged up. Likely not just new to him, but new to the life itself. He pulled the arrow down and turned it over in his hands whilst pondering the big question. How much should he get involved? He remembered himself when he was just starting out over a decade ago. A stupid kid bouncing around relying far too much on dumb luck as he started out, how easily he could have wound up dead or in jail.

“Ah shit…” He said audibly to himself, as he hung the arrow back up. He had his answer.

He pulled the board away, along with the board for Hounds/S.T.R.I.K.E connections and left open the Pax Metahumana board. The singular image that had become his obsession had been blown up to half the size of the board so he could see it clearly. He knew the man in the photo, he’d seen him before and he just couldn’t place him. It was driving him barmy. He was starting to worry he might have to out-source and start questioning people with the photo. Isaac pulled out a pen and started on a list of people to question. People who first and foremost he knew could be trusted. He couldn’t have ripples leading back to this man, he couldn’t have people looking to take matters into their own hands, and people he felt would trust Isaac to handle the situation without asking further questions themselves.

It was a short list. A name with a circle around it and one with questionmarks after it.

1. Icon
2. Gunny ???


All the capes, cowls and cunning conjurors he knew and this list spoke volumes. Two people. And even then he was reaching, because these weren’t his own world’s versions of these people.

He ran his hand through his hair in frustration.

He added a weird item to his shopping list. Something cheap he had back home, but hadn’t yet picked up here, and went to the closet to prepare for the night.
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The Mandela Effect: Part 1


Emerson Enterprises

Nashville, TN

The last of the lab assistants had just locked up the building and were heading home for the night. They, along with the rest of the lab staff, had been hired by Daniel Emerson to monitor his nephew, Matthew. After a plane accident in the Caribbean that had left Matthew an orphan, something weird had happened to Matthew. In the last year, the occurrence of metahumans have exploded. The staff knew that Matthew was a normal boy before that trip and afterwards he had powers, although they were not sure what exact powers he had. The problem was that they could not just run tests to test his powers because Matthew was stuck in a coma, probably induced by the activation of his powers.

Or at least that is what the scientists thought. A bright light suddenly appeared in front of the security cameras that were monitoring Matthew. Instead of just blocking the feed, the light reflected a loop of Matthew floating in the center of the room. Once the cameras have been blocked, Matthew’s eyes snapped open. He slowly drifted down to the ground until his hands and feet pressed against the floor.

Matthew then jumped to his feet and hurled himself onto the well-made bed that had been furnished in his “room.” Before Matthew leaned up against the pillows that rested against the bed’s headboard, he snapped his fingers, which caused a small portal, similar to the lights that were blocking the camera feeds, appeared next to his bed. He then reached into the portal and pulled out a plastic bin, filled with comic books. But instead of the books published by Marvel and DC comics, the comics in Matthew’s collection was centered on the fictional adventures of real superheroes, such as the Raptor Pack or War-Pulse. But he really enjoyed the stories written about Icon. If anyone could save the day, he could.

In fact, these comics were one-of-a-kind, or at least in Matthew’s universe. A couple of weeks ago, Matthew found a gold mine when he accidentally stumbled through one of his portals and found himself in a different world, a place where there were no superpowers and superheroes were just a creation of fiction. After he found a couple more worlds like that boring, normal one, he had quite the pull-list featuring different versions of the heroes he adored, some more different than others.

Since Matthew basically sleeps all day, he had plenty of time to catch up on his giant, multiversal pull-list. He spent hours poring over these magazines. However, one could only waste so much time reading a comic that takes less than ten minutes to complete. But when Matthew realized he could replace a character in one comic with an alternate version of that individual. For example, he replaced the feline heroine, Bast, with an alternate version of her who was in a romantic relationship with Lyger and went by the superhero handel Anaconda. These “swaps” would sometimes create funny situations. Others were more sombering. Yet other times, interesting situations and conflicts arose. With this newly found power, Matthew discovered countless hours of experimentation. He could, however, never do anything with Vigilante for some strange reason.

After Matthew had used his powers on a few comics, he turned to some issues set in the magical corner of the universe. In the past issue, there were several supernatural folk traveling out west. But Matthew was scratching his head while he read the current issue. The entire group kind of just dispersed after the Hounds of Humanity had attacked. One of the witches had dragged the young werewolf across the country, with the specific purpose of helping her find some magical items. Yet she then abandoned him, out of the blue. She did not even offer to take him home!

“This guy sure looks like he needs a friend right now,” Matthew muttered to himself, “or at least someone closer to his age. Only if I could be there.”

Then a thought came to mind. He had never tried it before, but maybe his powers could also allow him to teleport there. It was worth the shot, anyways. Therefore, Matthew closed his eyes and focused on the scene from the comic. He kept that mental image in his head until, after a few moments, he disappeared. The comic that was in his hand fell harmlessly onto the bed.




Time: Early Morning
Location: Las Vegas, hotel room



Ben’s hand turned the knob then he limped inside. Pain flared up his side causing him to flinch, his arm curled to cradle it as he breathed heavily. His eyes traveled down to observe red seeping through the white bandage. Gradually his legs gave out from underneath him as he sat down. The memory of Duff etched into his thoughts. He had left the old wolf snoring away and curled up in his hotel bed.

He sighed under his breath before he began to move to his feet again. His hand balanced himself against the door as he rose upright, still hurting from the fight. Duff mentioned it would take a few days to properly heal. Thankfully with Barron’s grateful assistance, his parents wouldn’t notice it.

Once at the bed, he stopped. His body promptly belly flopped into the covered surface and considered sleeping for a thousand years. At least, until morning. It was times like this he felt the loneliness gnaw at his insides.

Then suddenly, a swirling vortex of bright blue light appeared near the roof of the hotel room and out of this portal feel a boy, who was no older than Benjamin was. He landed on the floor with a thud.

“I need to perfect that landing,” the boy said out loud as a mental note while he rubbed his back, which he had landed on.

At first, the boy quickly scanned the room to get his bearings. However, when he saw Benjamin, his eyes grew wide in excitement.

“Holy shit! I think I actually break through the space-time continuum! This is so exciting!”

At the sound of the voice, Benjamin’s eyes opened. His arms pushed against the mattress as his teeth bared, his attention located the the source. For several moments his mind seemed to pause in confusion. Seeing a kid close to his own age caused Benjamin to glance at the door, noticing it was still shut tightly. It didn’t help there was no scent coming from that direction.

Still inhaling heavily, Benjamin shifted his right leg off the bed’s edge and rose to his feet.

“You know… it’s really rude to just waltz into someone else’s room.”

Hastily he pulled his jacket closed to hide the bandages keeping his insides in place.

“That was the most nonchalant response to someone falling out of a portal I have ever heard,” Matthew reacted to Benjamin’s response, while he pulled himself to his feet. “But I guess, considering what you have gone through, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.”

“Anyways, I’m Matthew. I read...err...heard that you’re in need of some friends. So I traveled across space and time to come see you!”

Ben blinked. His head tilted to the left and sized the boy up, unsure what to say at first. He was grateful his inner wolf didn’t imprint this time. It might’ve been because he already had a pack with Duff, but he didn’t dwell on it.

“Yeah, I’ve had a long day. Why do you have to gain by being my friend? And considering you seem to know more about me than I know about you, how can I be sure you simply won’t walk away like the rest?” Ben’s anger latched on his tone, but his figure didn’t move.

“That’s such a pessimistic view of friendship. True friends don’t measure their worth by what each other can gain from their relationship.” Matthew answered back. “Can’t someone be giving a helping hand for altruistic reasons?”

“I haven’t met a single person yet. So the odds are not in your favor…” Benjamin countered.

“I mean, you did meet those nice people from Albany. I understand they live some distance away from you, but it wasn’t like they just kicked you to the curb.”

“I almost nearly ate one of them. I doubt they wanted to take care of a teenage werewolf who can barely control his impulsive changes at the time. If they stuck around, I’m certain they would’ve dropped me off like the rest.”

“More like chased a catgirl up a tree, but it doesn’t look like I’m not going to be able to convince you of anything in this regard.” Matthew paused for a moment before speaking again, contemplating his next move.

“Anyways, the first thing we need to do is get you home. It was really irresponsible of your ex-friends to just ditch you out here, far from home. Sure, sometimes family can be complicated, but I’m sure your home is better than living in a hotel in Vegas and running around in the wilderness during your free time.”

“Duff’s training methods might be…,” Benjamin paused long enough to remind himself of his wounds, and not wrinch in reaction.

“Unorthodox, but at least I’m not hurting anyone.”

Benjamin slowly sat on his bed as he watched the boy, still confused at how Matt was intending to get him home.

“There’s still the issue of the imprinting. If I leave Duff, I’ll get depressed. That’s what happened with the last imprint…” He refused to say the White Witch’s name as it still hurt like hell to think about.

“Well, there is one thing I could try?” Matthew pondered aloud. “I’ve only done it with inanimate objects , but I guess it should be worth a shot.”

“Whoa there… what do you mean by that? I swear, if you’re going to try to some weird magic than let’s take a step back. Cause I don’t want to end up as a smear on the wall. I’ve already had a troll try that.” Benjamin’s figure jerked up and hissed in pain.

“Well, nothing back has happened yet, and since I was able to teleport here through a comic book, doing something like this should be a breeze.”

Benjamin inhaled, fighting the urge to vomit from the pain. His fingers pressed into his nose bridge as he thought carefully about his next words. Thankfully he wasn’t stressed enough to change, but he doubted that would last long.

“Are you sure you’re not related in some way to the Ambassador or the White Witch because they are only people I know that uses portals or some type of teleport stuff. Do you even know what you’re doing?”

“Hold your horses, buckaroo! I definitely fall on the metahuman side of things. So there isn’t any magic involved. Plus, I’m not a villain, either! I’m not scheming to screw anybody over. You know what, let me see if I can demonstrate what I mean.”

Matthew then appeared to focus on a spot in the room right next to him. A swirling portal, like the one he had fallen out of, manifested at that location. Matthew then stuck his upper body through the portal for a few seconds, as if he were looking for something. When he pulled himself out, the portal closed right behind him. In his hands, he held two comicbooks.

“Alright, here is an issue of the Sensational Arachne that i canonical with the book I used to get here,” Matthew started to explain as he held up the first comic. Then, he held up a second comic that was aesthetically different from the first. “This other one was written during the 90’s, with all of that era’s stereotypes.”

“Now, with my powers, I can insert the 90’s Arachne into the modern one’s book.”

Matthew then stacked the two comics on top of each other and closed his eyes. A dim, blue light surrounded the books for a few seconds before dissipating as quickly as it had appeared. After Matthew had opened his eyes, he first revealed the cover of the 90’s comic. Nothing had changed. However, when he showed the other book, something had changed.The cover itself was generally intact. But the titular heroine had her appearance altered. She now looked identical to her counterpart from the 90’s comic, ignoring the difference in art style.

“See? So hypothetically, I should be able to do something like this to real people, too.”

“And how do you know there isn’t any ill effect with living creatures?” Ben asked, trying to keep his amazement hidden with his question.

He was slightly jealous as the best thing he could do was get beaten up or deserted.

“I’m sure there isn’t any side effects. And if something bad happens, I’ll just turn you back. How does that sound?”

“And what if you find out you can’t? Do you have a back-up plan?” Benjamin hesitated in accepting this because it sounded too good to be true.

“I mean, if you think the risk is too great, I can just take you home, if that’s just what you want.”

Benjamin rolled his tongue against his inner cheek.

“Let’s try something simple first. Can you make my wounds go away? Heal them or whatever?”

“We could try that first.” Matthew answered. He approached Benjamin and placed his hand on the werewolf’s shoulder. Just like he had done with the comics, Matthew closed his eyes, resulting in the same blue light surrounding Benjamin. As Matthew focused on the werewolf’s wounds, these injuries slowly disappeared, almost as if they had never happened.

“What do you say about that?”

Ben had braced himself. His eyes slowly opened as he felt his wounds vanish, leaving him feeling surprisingly fine.

“Uh… How do I look? The same?” He suddenly asked, half expected he had grown another eye somewhere.

“Oh no! You turned into a girl!” Matthew jokingly exclaimed with a laugh, showing that he was not serious. But just in case, he made sure to make it explicit that he was only messing with Benjamin. “I’m just joking. You look the same. Minus the wounds, of course.”

Ben had considered abruptly checking to ensure his anatomy was correct, but quickly found the joke. His hand balled into a fist as he gently punched Matt’s arm in response.

“That’s not funny,” he snapped then tested out his healed form with a few twists and rotations of his torso. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary so far.

“So far, so good. I seem the same… Now for the bigger test.”

Benjamin looked at Matt.

“Are you ready?”

“Let’s do this.”

Matthew took the same position as he had done when he had healed Benjamin of his injuries. This time, he had to picture in his head the end result. If the young werewolf had never been turned into a werewolf in the first place, then there would not have been any opportunities for him to be abandoned by all the people who had crossed paths with him. But he also had to make sure that Benjamin would remember him. Otherwise, he would have to do the whole song and dance of “who are you?” with Benjamin all over again. Once he had captured the image in his head, Matthew could feel his powers flowing through him. A little blood started to drip from one of his nostrils during the process. Fortunately, the procedure was not long.

“How do you feel?” Matthew asked. His voice wavered a little, showing that using his powers in this way had taxed his body physically.

Ben just stood there. His eyes wandered over the room, confusion on his face and gradually came to rest on Matt. A eyebrow arched before he answered his friend.

“I’m about to ask you the same question. Are you alright? Should you lay down or do you need something? Also, where the heck are we?” Benjamin couldn’t stop his questions from pouring out.

“I’ll be alright. And to keep a long story short, let’s just say we’re very, very lost. Now, let’s get you home.”

“Okay. Are you sure you should this is a good idea, you don’t look so good.”

“I’m fine!” Let’s get you home.”

Another of the spirals portals appeared next to Matthew. He gestured towards the portal, suggesting that Benjamin should go first.

“After you.”

“All right…” Benjamin backed off, through his concern didn’t fall back from his expression.

Cautiously, he stepped into the portal and vanished from sight.
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The Mandela Effect: Part 2


"90's" Aubrey Adkins???

Pacific Point, CA

The sun had just risen when Athena had teleported into Aubrey’s bedroom. For months now, the goddess of wisdom had been aware that a great danger was nigh. Yet, she had not yet figured out a way for her people to intervene without breaking the prime directive that had been established long ago by the godheads of the Athanatoi pantheons.

But when Athena gazed upon her pupil, she immediately knew that something was wrong. She knew that this was not her pupil, or at least her pupil from this plane of existence. Although Athena did not know what was wrong or who had caused it, she nonetheless wanted to get to the bottom of this. Her first suspect was her half-sister, Aphrodite. Even though this sort of trick was a little too intricate for her half-sister, Athena wanted to cross her off as a suspect first. Aphrodite was of course the sort of goddess who would mess with the favorites of the other gods and goddesses.

Right after Athena had blinked out of this plane of existence, Aubrey started to rouse from her sleep. As she sat up and stretched out her arms, her phone dropped from beneath her shirt and landed in the lap of her spidery cephalothorax.

Why were you in there? Aubrey pondered to herself as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. However, when she finally got her bearings, she had an even bigger question than why she had her phone stuffed in her shirt.

“Where am I?” Aubrey mused aloud, scanning the room as she thought. There was an uncanny familiarity to the bedroom, as the furnishings of the bedroom were reminiscent of what she would have preferred in her own abode, albeit them being a little retro for her own tastes.

<We appear to be located in Pacific Point, California and this apartment is leased under your name.> The AI in Aubrey’s phone, Athena, reported this information to the drider heroine.

“Hmm, so now that we know where we are, the better question is how did we get here?” Aubrey posited as she rolled over and crawled out of bed. Her eight arachnid legs lightly touched the carpeted floor as Aubrey stood up.

<There are a variety of possibilities that could explain our situation. First, the Game Genie could have trapped us in a virtual reality.>

“I haven’t been noticing any weird physics, so unless the Game Genie has upped his game, that’s likely not what happened.”

<Or someone might have trapped you in another alternate universe. Remember, Vigilante said that he was kicked out of his native reality and dumped in ours.>

<This could all be a hallucination, but considering that I’m being affected, this option is unlikely. Another possibility is that, mattering on how the laws of time travel work, someone might have travelled back in time and screwed up the past. Because of your healing factor, you might have resisted the change in the time stream.>

“But how would that explain you still persisting? Also, might shirt doesn’t benefit from my healing factor, either.”

<True, indeed. I’ll continue searching for other possible answers.>

“Just out of curiosity, are there any changes or similarities I should be aware of, at least from what you can find from searching the internet?”

<It appears you’re still in a relationship with that William boy.>

“Well, that’s a relief. Would have been awkward if I would have had to romance some other dude I don’t even know.”

<From the text messages that I am now receiving from his phone, it appears you were supposed to pick him up from the airport.>

“I probably can still swing by and pick him up. What time was I supposed to do that?”

<One o’clock in the morning.>

“What!? Shit!” Aubrey exclaimed as she quickly glanced over at the clock, which at that moment read 10:30 A.M. She then scrambled over towards the dresser and pulled open the first drawer. Her eyes squinted as she saw what was inside.

“How am I supposed to fit into any of these?” Aubrey gasped. After she had shuffled through the drawer, she finally found the largest bra in the dresser, which was still too small, and put it on. She felt as if she was suffocating herself, but since she was about ready to dash cross town to the airport, she needed something

“Athena, what’s the fastest way out of here?

<There’s a skylight in the next room. Should provide enough space to get your drider half outside.>

After Aubrey heard this from her phone, she exited her bedroom and entered the main living space of the apartment. As Athena said it would be, there was a skylight on the ceiling that could be opened. She started to approach the center of the room, right behind the couch when she gave her phone’s AI another command.

“Could you send Will a text saying that I’m so sorry and I’m on my way?”

As soon as Athena had completed that task, Aubrey suddenly heard a phone buzz in the living room where she was standing it. She then wheeled around the couch and found a cell phone, that did not belong to her, sitting on an ottoman in front of the couch. A hand from underneath a blanket reached over and attempt to find the phone.

“Oh, thank God!” Aubrey gasped as she realized that Will was sleeping on her couch, meaning that he had somehow made it to this apartment. At the same time, she had freed herself from the torture device that was the undersized bra she had put and draped it over the back of the couch.

“You know you could have crawled into bed with me instead of sleeping on this couch, right?”

“The couch is fine,” Will honestly replied. He was still groggy, rubbing his eyes to clear the sleep from them. But when he felt Aubrey’s chitinous spider half gently rest up against him, he finally was jolted away. After Will had gotten a clear look of his girlfriend, he squinted his eyes. It did not take a super-genius to realize that something was wrong.

“You’re so cute when you look dumbfounded,” Aubrey admitted to Will. She took her index and middle fingers and tilted his head up, raising his eyes so that they finally met hers. “What do you think about grabbing some brunch before we begin our day?”

“Sounds fine to me,” Will responded while he tried to avert his gaze. “Since you’re already up, want to take the first shower?”

“Sure,” Aubrey answered before hopping over the back of the couch as she headed to the bathroom. “Although you’re welcome to join me.”

“I’m fine—” Will said before getting hit in the face with something soft. When he pulled whatever had struck him, he realized it was his girlfriend’s shirt. But when he looked up, he noticed she had already shut the door.

“What has gotten into her—” Will pondered aloud. She had never been this forward. He then flipped the shirt over, so the printed design was facing up.

“I knew I wasn’t crazy!” The t-shirt claimed that the Arizona Cardinals had beaten the Pittsburg Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. But that was impossible! The Cardinals lost that game. Will would know, as he was the biggest Cardinals fan he knew. This just confirmed that something was wrong.


Earlier That Day


It was thirty minutes after one A.M. and Will was still standing in the arrivals section. He had seen a couple dozen people get rides to their destinations, either by someone they know picking them up, ordering an Uber, or hailing a local taxi. But his girlfriend had failed to show up.

Will peered down at his phone again, checking his text messages. He had already sent ten texts to Aubrey, nine of which were asking where she was. He would have sent an eleventh one, but since none of the prior ten had been read, there was not any point to it. If she had not seen them yet, another pestering message was not going to get her to come any faster.

Therefore, Will needed to find another way to his girlfriend’s apartment. He could use one of the on-demand taxi services, like Uber, but considering the time of day and being in Pacific Point in general, that was going to be an expensive ride. Plus, why pay for something when you have a free option available?

By this time, the arrival section was all but deserted. Therefore, it did not take Will long to find a place out of eyeshot of any bystanders. Once he was sure that nobody was around and that he was in the blind spot of any nearby security cameras, he lightly tapped on his wristband, causing a scarlet and gray superhero costume to appear on his body. It was similar to Arachne, except it was made for a male human instead of a female drider. The mask lenses also lacked the golden eyelashes that Arachne had.

Will pulled out his cellphone and used the Maps app to plot a course to Aubrey’s apartment. After seeing the route, he started on his twilight journey.

“This shouldn’t be too bad.”
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Liseran Thistle
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Liseran Thistle Liseran The Witchy

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Mindy laid on the floor, her eyes wide open, her vision dark and unseeing. She hadn’t moved for quite sometime, and the only person to watch over her was the inquisitive Meln, who looked at her from the metal desk with a worried look. The Tala marks around her eyes that Dexarte had traced when they first met glowed faintly, a tinge of blue highlighting them. “Is it working?” Meln asked.

“I don’t know.” Mindy said quietly. “I’ve never tried before now.” She really hoped this crazy idea would work, she was just getting used to the weird crying ability, learning how to talk to a Goddess of the Earth using face tattoos seemed a bit too extreme. Her vision remained dark, yet she knew the marks were glowing. Her eyes felt heavy, and a familiar soft throb of pain ringed under eyes. She could feel them prick painfully with tears; she got up and angrily rubbed at her face. “Dammit. It’s like every time I need to use my eyes for something other than seeing-”

“The tears try to spill out, huh?” Meln asked sadly. He sighed, his head sitting on his folded hands. He leaned over the back of a chair and stared at her. “Is there any other way to contact this ‘Dexarte’ friend of yours?”

Mindy shook her head. “I don’t know any other way! The last time she showed up, she just came from nowhere.” She told him. “Dexarte is the only one I know who can find Bobi Adolow. And Adolow is the only person who knows about what Darius was doing. She may even know who killed him.” Meln nodded solemnly.

“Actually, I just got word from Daraeya, and we know who murdered Darius now.” Dexarte spoke in her mind. Mindy froze, shocked into silence. Dexarte chuckled, “I am sorry for not answering earlier. I was a bit busy with other things. I understand you are looking for Bobi Adolow, but I’m here to tell you that you aren’t alone in your search anymore.”

Meln looked at her strangely, and Mindy cursed in her mind. She couldn’t explain that Dexarte was talking to her now, without Meln thinking she had gone crazy. Dexarte huffed, and appeared before the both of them, spooking Meln so much he fell right out of his chair.

Dexarte smiled mischievously at Meln’s surprised figure on the floor. “Hello.” She said simply, waving a small hand at him. He raised his own nervously. “Anyway, I am Dexarte. I’m here to tell you more about the investigation Mindy.” Dexarte offered Mindy a hand, as she stood up from laying down on the floor.

“Right. Who else is looking for Adolow besides us now?” Mindy asked.

Dexarte walked over to the long metal table where Mindy usually did all of her experiments. She gently moved some of the equipment out of the way, and beckoned for the two of them to look at what she was doing on its surface. Dexarte traced a finger through the dust collecting on the polished metal. “Phoenix and Eris have decided that they have to help you find this Bobi Adolow girl as well, because Daraeya was right. She is connected to Darius Winters, though not in the way she thought originally.”

As her finger ran through the light dust, Mindy and Meln could see it rearranging itself to form a symbol, or rune that neither had seen before. “The murderer of Darius Winters is a rogue God called Tul. He, like me, used to have followers and a temple of his own. And he also had a host body like I have. We don’t know why he killed Darius, but…” She finished tracing the table and before them was an old looking rune that twisted in on itself, and had a very distinctive clover shape to it. “I think I have figured out why.”

“What’s this supposed to be?” Meln asked. “Some kind of emblem?”

“It is Tul’s sigil. All Gods have them, mine is what’s etched around your eyes, Mindy. This sigil was on Darius, I believe it was traced in gore on his neck.” She said.

Mindy looked at Dexarte. “How did you figure that out?” She couldn’t remember her being anywhere in town when Darius was murdered.

“Daraeya used her status as ‘Roland Moore’ to check for anything unusual before he could be properly clean. She informed me of the sigil, and that is partly why I was trying to track down Phoenix.” She told her. “Tul was after someone, and Darius held a God inside of him that could of potentially led Tul to that person.”

Meln shook his head, confused. “Who do you think he was after?” He asked.

Dexarte sighed. “ I fear Tul is after Phoenix. And the God that lies within him.” She said. “See, Dexhi and Tul have a complicated history. I’d get into it now, but the short of it is that Dexhi...embarrassed Tul in front of the rest of us, and as punishment Tul banished him to the bottom of the ocean.”

“So why is he after this Dexhi person now? He got what he wanted, right?” Meln said.

“Not exactly. Dexhi has escaped his prison obviously, but with his escape something else was gone with him. A very important jewel that was essentially keeping him locked down was stolen by someone else, this jewel used to belong to Daraeya, but Tul used it to seal Dexhi away in the first place. He’s looking for it now, and he must think one of us, namely Dexhi, has it so he’s trying to track us down one by one.” Daraeya explained.

“This is becoming a very giant tangled web…” Mindy muttered.

“Tell me about it, we haven’t even figured out about your powers yet.” Meln added.

Dexarte chuckled. “Which is why you have help now. I haven’t explained my idea about the jewel and Tul, but it is a start for a positive motive, something this investigation has sorely lacked.”

“So...do you know where Bobi Adolow is?” Mindy asked her. Dexarte smiled.

“I do, she’s right outside this very building, on an assignment if I'm to be correct.” She said. Mindy and Meln jumped up. Meln gulped.

“Oh no, if Theo and I read those reports right then she could be in danger...the city isn’t safe for supers right about now.” He said, Meln left the room to go and greet Bobi Adolow who was apparently outside.

“Wait, you said she’s on an assignment-?” She turned to meet Dexarte, but Dexarte had disappeared. Mindy sighed, and decided she would find out when she talked to Bobi Adolow.
………………………………….

welp here it is, i don't have anything to say right about now.


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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 A Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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“Are you coming in clearly, Eaglet? Over”

“Yep, I’m hearing you fine, Grampa!”

Dennis swept and dove, the skies his playground, as he began to gain greater control over the Golden Rod on this test flight. He may have still been shaky with a lot of the other uses for the Golden Rod, but flight? Flight he enjoyed far too much. Was enchanted by the wonder that soaring and sweeping through the clouds and the world from above could bring.

“We discussed this, Eaglet. Over.”

“Apologies, Wise Old Owl, that’s Oscar-Mike-Foxtrot-Golf-Victor on the Instructions Roger-dodger Breaker-Breaker.”

“Eaglet… I know you’re treating this like a joke, but the callsigns and signals exist for a reason. Over.”

Dennis sighed, soared up to altitude and gently drifted with the rippling winds. Always such formality.

“Eagle-One, this is Eaglet. I’m receiving you fine. It’s 2019 and expensive high-tech radio technology works fine. Whoduthunkit? Praise the Lord and Guglielmo Marconi. Over.”

“Guglielmo Marconi? I’m surprised you even know that name. I saw your report cards, Eaglet. Over.”

Dennis chuckled at what he hoped was meant to be a good natured jibe at Dennis’ own limitations in his grandfather’s chosen fields of engineering and the sciences.

“English Lit and Communications, Old man. The inventor of the radio would come under the later. Over.”

“Enough fun for now--” Dennis considered breaking in to make a jibe about what counts as fun to his crusty old elder but thought better of it. “--visuals are coming in clear from the micro-camera on your flight goggles, as well. You’re approaching the shorefront. I want you to swoop down and use a construct to scoop up… let’s say 150 gallons or so of water, carry it a little way and then dump it back in the bay. Over.”

“Wait, this is water. It’s a liquid. Can the Rod even do that?”

“If you make a scoop rather than a colander it should be able to do it just fine. End your transmissions with “Over” in the future too. Over.”

Dennis shot out across the bay, and circled down to slow and consider the task at hand. There was no real answer given on how to go about doing this short of ‘don’t make a sieve’, so he was a little cautious about how to proceed. Feeling his uncle’s eyeballs on him, judging his every move he dove down, deciding he’d better get started.

He pitched down with speed, holding the Golden Rod out, as he came low he fired a construct out to catch as much water as he could.

Too much, too fast. His descent was too steep and he hadn’t considered the physics of what he was doing.

The force from the weight of far too much water suddenly became more than he could call upon the Golden Rod and his construct snapped, momentum whipping him back-first into the water at a sharp arc like a broken catapult. Instinct had him throw up a quick tight construct shield around himself, and he skimmed across the surface of the water like a stone, clinging to the Golden Rod for dear life. His construct held up for 3 or 4 unfocused bounces before it shattered and he splashed down, soaked in the water from the bay.

With a gasp, he surfaced, arm punching out of the water as he held the Golden Rod aloft.

“Eaglet… You know what you did wrong there, right? ...Over.”

Dennis spat out a mouthful of water from the bay.

“I’m pretty sure I know everything I’ve done wrong over the course of my whole life… since I just saw it all play out before my eyes again a few seconds ago. I think it started with being born… Over.”

“Eaglet, we’re not even close to being "Over". We’re gonna do it ‘til we do it right. Over.”

Dennis could hear it from the way he’d sent the last transmission. He was speaking through clenched teeth. The old man was smiling at his own joke!

“Having fun there, are you?”

He was met with silence. Too much silence. Wasn’t like his grampa to not come back with some kind of remark.

“Hey… you there?” Dennis reached for his earpiece, starting to worry about just how waterproof the device actually was.

“Yeah. Hold on. We might have to put a pin in it there…”

Dennis could hear background noise as his grandfather presumably was getting further information.

“...yep. Scanner has two metahumans causing a public disturbance near Chinatown. Over.”

“Two? Could it be Miz Demeanour and the one remaining Fel-Honey? Any further information? Anyone we know? Over.”

“Negative. Officer has it as a male aged between 18 and 22 years and a person of indeterminate sex..? Huh. I guess he’s not able to get close enough to tell. Over.” The old man awkwardly fumbling with modern jargon.

“I’m not-- I’m not sure that’s what it means, Eagle-One. Over.” Dennis said, not wanting to go through the complexities of non-binary genders over the radio.

He took two strokes through the water and then threw himself from the water with the help of the Golden Rod.

“Well, they’re on the near-side by Chinatown. From where you are - well, you’re really moving - you should be there in maybe ten or fifteen seconds. Maybe see them in five. Corner of Trenton and Commercial. Over.”

Dennis saw a cloud of dust rising above the building line from a few blocks ahead.

“Any idea at all what kind of situation I’m getting myself into? What powers? Over.”

“Doesn’t say. Officer sounded panicked. His warnings to other officers were just ‘Keep your distance’ and ‘Expect the unexpected’. Over.”

Dennis sighed. “Well that doesn’t help at all. It could be Rod Serling opening a doorway to the Twilight Zone for all we know. Over.”

The warning still wasn’t enough. Dennis shot around the corner and was stunned at what he saw.

“Oh no… This... This is much worse...”

He’d come face-to-face with Darth Vader and… God only knew what else. It looked like… Willy Wonka? Smiling with his head leaning on his hand as he seemed to wait for Dennis’ approach.

Darth Vader suddenly changed shape, taking the form of a young man. No older than 20. Suddenly Wonka took two other forms. A man and woman walking away together as the man turned and looked on at Dennis, as the woman looked back at the man in disgust.

“Ah, the new Aquilifer. We were waiting for someone like you to show up.”

Dennis landed in a way that might have been impressive if it weren’t for the audible “squelch” from his shoes and his sopping wet clothes.

“Would you believe I was in the shower..?”

“Late? Well… A man’s gotta know his limitations...”

Suddenly the young man changed shape again into the form of a young (well, younger…) Clint Eastwood, complete with massive oversized Magnum handgun.

“The world is about to meet Meme-or and the Quote King! And you, Aquilifer shall be the first to fall!”

The Quote King levelled the gun directly at the Aquilifer, cocking it.

So go ahead… Make my day…
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Lyger sat perched atop the satellite array just above the bridge of the Pelican Breeze. The large cargo ship which sat in the Crown Ridge harbor was a hive of activity. From his vantage point, he had seen Rabbit himself greet not only high ranking members of the Disciples, a ruthless street gang that had been growing in power on the West Side, but also Fedor Petrov, the second in command of the Russian mafia, the Bratva, which had been operating in relative silence within not only Crown Ridge, but also Lost Haven, Boston, New York and Baltimore. Rabbit and the men seemed to be in good spirits, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, however, at the same time there was a palpable tension that permeated the air. These men did not trust one another, and they were all anxious to get this meeting over with. After a few minutes on the main deck, Rabbit lead the others down a set of stairs leading to another cargo area below deck, and out of Lyger's view.

Lyger moved from the satellite array to one of the large cranes that sat on the main deck of the cargo ship, surveying the layout of the ship itself, as well as the placement of men along the deck. He needed to get down to the lower deck, but he had to do it quietly. If he was spotted, the men guarding the ship would sound the alarm, and he would not only lose the element of surprise, but most likely he would lose Rabbit, and chances were, it would be a long, long time before he would be able to track the mobster down again.

From atop of the crane, Lyger continued to survey the landscape of the ship. There, he counted nearly two dozen armed men on the top deck. Six of whom were stationed on the forecastle, with the others scattered throughout the deck. Fortunately for him, the majority of the men were scattered about the ship's deck. At the moment, there were only two men standing near the stairwell which led below deck. Unfortunately, they were facing one another, making it impossible for him to slip undetected into the lower deck. Silently, Lyger moved from his position along the crane, and when he was directly above the two men guarding the stairwell to the lower deck, he struck. He dropped down just behind the men, and before they could react, he slammed their heads together, knocking both men unconscious. Then, he made use of a new device that Echo had manufactured for him. She called it a Zip Restraint, though, both agreed that the device needed a better name. The device could be attached to someone, and much like one of his grapple lines, once activated it would propel the subject skyward, and leave them dangling from whatever object it attached itself to. In this case, the girders of the crane which loomed overhead.

Nice job Ash. He thought to himself as he watched the two henchmen soar skyward and come to a rest dangling just below the crane. With the two men out of the way, he slipped down the stairs which led to the lower deck.

Rabbit and the others were gathered below deck. With them, were large crates of what Lyger could only guess were weapons or drugs, or possibly even both. Unfortunately, Lyger's source was a bit foggy on exactly what it was that was being exchanged at this particular meeting. Ultimately, what it was really didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was making sure that nothing in the crates made it off of the boat. As Lyger quietly descended the stairs, careful not to alert the others of his presence, he was able to see what he was up against.

Rabbit and the others stood in groups all facing one another. Had they trusted one another, and not had all their attention focused on what the others were doing, one of them may have spotted Lyger as he used a grapple line to ascend into the rafters.

“This better be worth my time, Rabbit. I'm busy man.” Fedor Petrov said in intentionally broken English. Although the Russian spoke perfect English, he found that sometimes playing to stereotypes worked to his advantage.

“Oh, I assure you it is.” Rabbit told the Russian, though it was clear that he was speaking to everyone in attendance.

“Prove it.” The Disciple interjected.

“Darius, have I ever let you down?” Rabbit replied.

“Don't let this be the first time.”

“Enough of this. What you bring us?” Fedor interjected. “We all very busy men, no?"

“What I bring you,” Rabbit responded, clearly annoyed and possibly insulted by the exchange, though he would never show it. “Is the next generation of high caliber urban weaponry.” He said as he motioned for one of his guards to open a crate. Once the crate was open, Rabbit took one of the weapons from it and began to show it off.

Lyger's eyes went wide as he saw the weapon that was pulled from the crate. The gun itself was slightly larger than an AK-47, and matte black. From where he was, he could see a digital display on the side, though he couldn't make out what it was for. The barrel of the gun was shorter than the typical assault rifle, and just a bit wider. The weapon itself was oddly familiar, and he knew exactly where he had seen it before, or at least a more primitive version– It looked to be the next generation of the weapons that the street gang The Demons had used in the assault on the Lost Haven University Fall Carnival some time back. Those weapons had proven to be devastatingly effective, and as much as he was loath to say it, had it not been for War-Pulse's intervention, the death toll would have been far worse. These weapons could not be allowed to leave the ship, and Lyger was determined to do whatever he it took to ensure that they did not.

“Armor piercing ammunition is a thing of the past. This beauty fires an exclusive plasma bolt that will burn through any armor, flesh, bone...whatever. Once this baby is through with you, there won't be enough left to identify you with dental records.” Rabbit boasted.

“How much?” Darius asked evenly.

“For the Deathbringer, a steal at two million. A piece.”

“That's a bit...rich.” Darius said before a momentary pause. “But if this thing does what you say, it might just be worth it.”
“That is scary name, but steep price with just your word. How about a demonstration?” Fedor added.

“You want a demonstration? I absolutely agree. Naturally, we can't do it here. I'm sure you understand.” Rabbit told the men. “We'll go to the pier, and then you'll have your demonstration. Then...then we can do business.”

From his hiding place, Lyger reached into a small pouch in his uniform and produced a small device, another of Echo's new toys. With little time to waste, Lyger pressed the activation switch on the device, and it emitted a quiet hum, and then went silent. The device released a localized electromagnetic pulse which fried all electronics within the target area, and within seconds, the ship went dark.
As darkness blanketed the ship, Lyger made his move. He lept from his hiding place and struck at Darius with a stiff roundhouse kick which connected to the big man's chin. A splash of blood and teeth flew from his mouth as the large man landed in a heap on the floor.
Then panic set in.

One of Rabbit's body guards reached for his gun and began shooting wildly in all directions. However, the bullets struck the metal hull of the ship and began to ricochet.

“Stop shooting you fucking moron!” Rabbit shrieked as a bullet struck one of Fedor's guards. However, the panicked bodyguard squeezed off several more shots before the words of his employer registered.

By then, it was too late.

One of the bullets struck the container which held the plasma bolts which gave the Deathbringer its devastating firepower. When the bullet hit the plasma rounds, an explosion rocked the cargo ship, causing it to list to one side, while also ripping through the hull. Once the hull was breached, water began to pour in from the gaping hole and began filling the ship.

***


Several minutes had passed since the explosion. While the explosion had caused the lower deck to fill with water, the ship itself was too large to sink to the bottom of the harbor. However, both the cargo and those on board the ship had been flushed out through the hole that was left in the side of the hull after the explosion.

Lyger reached the edge of the pier and tossed the unconscious body of Darius up onto dry land, before pulling himself up. After securing the thug to a near by lamp post, Lyger took a moment to consider what had just happened.

Rabbit was gone. So was Fedor Petrov.

While he was frustrated at his inability once again to put Rabbit behind bars, he had destroyed the weapons that he had been peddling. While it wasn't the victory that he had wanted, it was, nonetheless a victory. And he was reminded of something that Harry had once told him.

Sometimes it's the small victories that are important.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Fallenreaper
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A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing



Location: Lost Haven, from Jai’s garage to the sewers
Time: July- Noon



Racheli’s anger seeth silently. Her fingers dug deeply into her palms. Red filtered her vision, but she bit her tongue hard enough she could taste the vile, black liquid filling up her mouth. Every tendon tensed within her system as she fought her temper’s rising degrees. Kayla’s words pounded into her head’s core leaving Racheli bitter and inadequate. Memories from when she was first infected flooded her attention. All the sights, scents and sensations became vivid causing her to fight back hot tears.

Her mouth coughed up blood, the wet sticky substance washed down the drain by water. Weakness weighed down her body as she crawled across the wooden floor, her strength vanished thanks to the heat. Bones and flesh alike burned with the crackling pain that brought her down.

Despite Kayla’s painful display, the woman simply ejected the virus’ effects like it was nothing.

NOTHING!

The word penetrated her consciousness like a bullet into the head. It left her stunned then ashamed at her will’s failure to fight back and remain human. That sorrow turned into pissed energy, fueling her emotional conflict. A rage under the skin. Subtle signs began to show as nearby metal gravitated toward her, some melted then stuck to her surface.

Knowing she would say something or do irreversible, Rach twisted on her heel. When she reached the door, her hand jerked it open and slammed it shut behind her. The handle retained the dentations of her fingers on its shape. Abruptly, nearby tools fell off the rack at the small wall tremor.

For a moment before Rach drifted out of range, the virus’ eyes lingered on Kayla. Venom and suspicion twisted up his calm demeanor, his damaged pride showed through. His words echoed in Kayla’s with a tone of disapproval.

‘It was kind of you to prove who was stronger,’ he vanished when his words finished.




The July heat hit her head on. The full effect caused her to flinch while she exhaled, and pushed onward. Too stubborn to retreat back into the cool air condition, Racheli pushed into the thinning crowds and blended in. Her path mostly kept her nearest the shade to block out the sun as she shoved her hands into her jeans. Instinctively, her eyes shifted from shady spot to the next before deciding to find somewhere underground.

Nowadays, summertime fell short of the past pleasure it gave her. Her body preferred the cold rather than the heat so any abrupt and notable change in temperature brought anxiety she couldn’t explain.

Another left turn brought Rach into a nearby alleyway where she suddenly stopped. Her head tilted upward and observed the two-story high brick walls, mentally calculating their height. Even she knew how stupid it was to be on the rooftops at this time of day. There would be little shade from the sun overhead unless there were taller buildings around. Shrugging off her brief brilliant idea, Racheli’s eyes turned back to the ground. A slight difference in metal hue caught her attention causing her to close in and crouch down.

A manhole, she realized.

Her fingers touched the bolts only to find them secured in place. She ground her teeth in frustration then twisted one harder. It squeaked in protest before finally loosening under her strength, coming off in her palm and drawing a smirk from her lips. She repeated the step with the other three until all four were removed. Then she threw the lid to the side where it clunked against the wall and dented it.

Not caring about the damage, Rach twisted around and slid down the metal ladder. She bent her knees when she hit the bottom. Her nose scrunched up at the mixture of feces, piss, rot, and stagnant water drifting through the narrow tunnel. It nearly made her vomit as she shut off her smell receptors immediately.

Her mind ironed out the reaction before she drifted into the darkness. The irises gave off an illumination indicating her vision had shifted into night, the surroundings tinted in green and black. Soundlessly she drifted along the concrete walls and floor.

Soundlessly, she drifted down the dark tunnel in search for somewhere peaceful. The chill down here relaxed her since there was no sunlight to warm her, but she disliked the dampness and smell from earlier. Her boots splashed puddles underneath sending the water to scatter.

‘You know, I never expected you would stoop so low as to walk in the filth of a whole city,’ an unwelcome voice whispered in her ear.

Racheli’s head turned to the side but saw nothing. Her lip curled upward, baring a set of teeth and fell back down. She ignored the company that refused to materialize. Gradually a small, square room came into view. From the right was a tunnel streaming forth a waterfall from a pipe into a small pit below. Along the edges were barely enough room to crouch down, let alone walk on. She still managed to find a small corner to fold her jacket and sit, letting her mind reflect on the reasons she felt so much rage.

Minutes passed into an hour before Racheli decided to leave. Her figure pushed up onto her feet as she snatched up her jacket. Abruptly, her skin rose up into goosebumps and her hair at attention. The sensation of being watched washed over her. Cautiously her eyes panned the small room, her vision sought out the source and found nothing. The dull roar of water drowned out any other sounds.

A few seconds passed into moments before she decided she was being paranoid. Racheli wrapped her jacket about her arms and inhaled. She then walked toward the exit.

She nearly made it.

Through the water, a large-scaled and rash-ridden reptile burst through the water’s tunnel. For the most part, it resembled an alligator with a compacted body. Its thick tail propelled it into the small room. The body was about the size of a motorcycle in height with bulky muscles. It had no eyes while its neck appeared to be deformed into jaws from another head. The second head devoured the first, a narrower and more canine-like mouth. It stopped at the skull and neck base.

At catching Rach’s scent, it dragged itself out over the pit. The water streamed down over the underbelly then vanished into the bottomless pit. It wasted no time as it launched itself at Rach’s exposed back.

Her mind ripped into pain when the dagger-like teeth sank into her shoulder.

“FUCK!” Rach screamed out, her voice carried through the suffocating pipelines.

She felt it penetrated through her skin and muscle, crushing the bone underneath in its powerful grip. If she had been able to smell, its breath would remind her of putrid meat and aged water. The weight from the impact tossed her down onto her stomach. Taking full advantage of her downed position, its jaw clamped down tighter. It shifted its muzzle from right to left viciously. Bone continued to crack while it began to loosen from its tendons, the creature intended to rip off a chunk. Her black blood began to eat away at the tissue around the monster’s stained teeth. Smoke started to billow followed by pain causing the creature to drop her, aggressively hissing in frustration.

Racheli smiled as she slowly pulled back upright then bolted for the exit.

Another jab of agony ripped through her ankle, her body tripped forward when one foot fell short. It didn’t move forward. Her head shot over her shoulder to see the monster grip it. A wicked alligator smirk crept across its maw as it jerked its head over its back, bring her with it. Racheli’s body promptly left the floor then sailed into the far wall. She hit hard, her skull made a loud crack.

She hit the ledge before she fell into the wide pit’s gaping mouth and became swallowed by darkness.

The mutant jeered in a victory. A fresh sound of bones cracked and shifted, its understructure quivered beneath the leather hid. Forelegs shortened then the spine straightened upright. The tail disappeared into the shrinking rear, the figure now bipedal. The first head melted back into the first like a lump of candle wax. Gradually it took a human shape while the features sharpened into a feminine shape. In less than an hour, Rach stood where the alligator beast once was.

She casually glanced down the pit’s entrance and waited. Seeing no one crawling back out, she spoke to it.

“I’ll see you later, baby girl.”

With a wicked smirk, ‘Rach’ walked back the way she came.
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