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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Stormflyx
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Stormflyx S U P E R L O V E

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ACT I:
Synthesis





Cedar Fort at night was beautiful, a picturesque utopia of bright neon lights and modern architecture alongside the buildings of years and eras gone by. It was picturesque of course if you viewed it from above, as long as you didn’t get to close, you wouldn’t notice the stains and tears at the fabric of the city. You wouldn’t notice that the further from dead centre that you got, the easier it was to find filth.

The centre was the hub of wealth and those who lived in the flashy towers had the best technology, access to what they needed, and the best security - it really was an Eden for them, for the socialites, high-flying businessmen, and general bourgeoise. They did not struggle for food. They did not know thirst, everything that they could wish for, belonged to them. They had on a silver platter the world that had been promised to them. ‘The World of Tomorrow’ had always been on the horizon, just a wish for a better future, for technology and automation, for freedom and peace, for a greener world. It was all just a wish, only a percentage of the people were elevated. Only a percentage had their wishes come true. The rest were left behind. How could it be, that while so many sat pretty, many more sat in dirt?

With a monorail system in place, the original subway lines were no longer in use - and instead the labyrinthine tunnels then became the structure to house some of the poorest within the city. At least that way they were out of the near constant rain, but it was a literal underbelly for depravity. Nobody chose to live there, the tunnels chose them, grasped at the lost and weary - the hopeless. They would be seduced by the life, the freedom, the people who seemed so decent. That was the trap, and so the tunnels simply digested the souls of those who entered and sent them back out as criminals.

The further one got from the centre, the further one got from society, and miles beyond the last crumbling walls of the city, there was simple a wasteland of abandoned buildings. Industrial units that had been made obsolete by technology. Just barren stacks of brick, slowly eroding with the passing of time. Nobody really wanted to stray too far from the lights, no matter how much dirt they were in. It was better to be at least know the light, than to feel the loneliness of yesterday.




05/20/2047
Outside of Cedar Fort


The warehouse was cold.

Because of course it was. Nobody cared about the outskirts of Cedar Fort, certainly not enough to care about a dilapidated warehouse sat amongst rows and rows and rows of abandoned warehouses. The only differentiating factor that it had was that it was red - or at least it had been once. Now, the paint was peeling away - leaving patches of dirty brickwork and flakes on the ground trodden into the gravel.

Addison sighed, watching as the condensation blew out from her lips. She shivered and wrapped her arms tighter around herself. To the left of her was a box of electronics, and to the right a folding stool she’d brought along for the trip. Even with the tiny campfire, she couldn’t get warm - and it became difficult to know if she was freezing or just completely nervous. She cupped her gloved hands to her face and breathed against them - continuing to pace the floor, but never drawing too far from the flames.

She’d been here for hours, at least that was how it felt. Like she’d been here all day, it had been a while since the sun had set. Addison was hungry too, real hungry. She just wanted to get back to her apartment, lock herself in, make a hot dinner, and forget that she’d ever had a ridiculous idea. It was clear that nobody was coming, that her message hadn’t been heard. She’d even had a moment of anxiety earlier when she worried about whether or not she had sent out the right coordinates. What if a super had arrived somewhere, and was simply doing the same dance as she was right now? Cold, hungry, and waiting in the dark.

Still she waited. She wasn’t going to give up. Her hunger was not as strong as her hope - or desperation, and eventually she got down onto the floor, right by the fire this time. Her brown eyes gazed into the flames and brought a warmth to her face - her cheeks grew rosy in the heat and the light and she found herself feeling calmer for it. She thought of the kids she’d found dead by the water. She thought of the crime that seemed to never relent. She thought of her partner…

Too tired to cry, her lip simply trembled. Again, she couldn’t have been sure whether this was the cold, or something in tune with her emotions. Probably both. Addison brought her knees up to her chest, the heels of her boots scraping the cement as they moved. Her arms shifted around them, until she was in a ball with her head resting on her knees.

She knew the city would be alive right now. The nightlife just beginning, people would be returning to their homes from meals out, children would be fast asleep. Here she was, sat in an abandoned warehouse waiting for hope to walk through the door and greet her. If she was lucky, a single super would arrive. If she wasn’t, some criminals would find her here and she’d be outnumbered, gunned down, and left to rot. Because nobody was coming.

Time rolled on still, and Addison watched as the fire came down to it’s last embers. It must have been at least 2 in the morning, and she’d been there since late afternoon. That settled it. It was done, wasn’t it? “Nobody’s coming…” she said, watching her breath accompany the words in a small cloud.

“Nobody’s coming…”

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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by ML
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ML Attempted Polymath

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"Edward, please stop."

Edward glared at the disassembled suit in the passenger seat. "Gabbie, d'you think you could relax for two goddamn s...seconds?" He hiccuped, fumbling again for his best friend JD. The bottle--luckily closed--had fallen out of his hand again.

"You heard the lady, boss." Dave's voice was gruff, yet melodic. Like Johnny Cash through a vocoder. "We're on the clock, ain't we? Just 'cause I'm driving don't mean you can drink yerself stupid."

"Hah, youuu are stupid," mumbled ET, taking another swig. "I'm in charge, mmmmmmhm. Ooooh Lieutenant. Me, Lieutenant." He broke off in a fit of giggles. "Don't be givin' me orders, Davey. You aren't...aren't my mom-my." More fits. Wasn't he just the funniest fuckin' guy around?

"Edward," said Gabbie. "Please! This is a new low, even for you. You were doing so well, love...what happened?" The suit blinked colors at him--red, then orange, yellow, back to red. An expression of concern from her.

"Boss, yer gonna stop drinkin', or I'm gonna take us right back to HQ." Dave's wheel twitched in front of him, but ET lacked the coordination to grasp at it. "Try explainin' to chief Ong why you didn't even make it halfway there, yeah?"

ET shuddered. Captain Ong--even trashed, ET knew his place. That woman had put down Razortooth without batting an eye. If there was a mortal woman in the entirety of the world who could match wits with supers, it was Penny Ong. No cyber, no powers; didn't stop her from making shots that ET had never seen before. Better to stay on her good side.

"Fine," ET said. He groaned and threw the bottle out the window. Dave, from previous experience, had lowered it previously. It vanished into the night, silent against the highway's roar. ET groaned again, louder this time, and threw himself back in the seat. "How long to See...Cedar Fort?"

"Three hundred and sixty miles, boss. Get comfortable." The radio buzzed briefly, then touched down at a lazy night driving station. "And don't think I dunno about yer backup stash in the back seat. Catch some zees, or meditate or somethin'. Just leave the circuitshredder alone."

ET snorted. As if he could sleep after what had happened.


ET's eyes cracked open. He'd slept. It was almost two in the morning.

Hangover. That's what that mindnumbing pain was. He made a noise halfway between a sigh and a moan, and turned over, fishing into the glove compartment. "Dave, where the fuck are--ah." He pulled out a pack of pills. Two thousand years of progress, and still no catch-all cure for the hangover blues. He popped the Aspirin and pulled water from the back seat. His tongue felt thick as hell, but he managed a few words. "ETA guys?"

"Morning, boss!" Dave's voice was cheery as it could be. "You'd best start slippin' into Gabs now--we'll be there in ten minutes."

"Oh, god. Dave! We've talked about phrasing!"

Gabbie didn't say anything, just opened up in the passenger seat. Of course she wasn't going to say anything. "You're both on thin ice," grumbled ET, but he slide into the other seat.

The suit zipped up around him with a set of whirring and clicking sounds, and in a few minutes he had gone from hungover to monster. He was still hungover, but now he was bulletproof hungover. "Helmet?"

"Helmet check," said Gabbie, and in the span of seconds the uncomfortable hood-thing on the back of the suit had fused together around his head. Then it retracted again, leaving his head free.

"Arms loaded?" ET tugged on the gauntlet on his left. Excellent fit, as expected. "Ah, Gabbie, you do know how to make a man feel safe."

"Thanks, hot shot. That's what they pay me for." She laughed, a kaleidoscope of digital glass. "Arms are loaded. Say the word and you'll be armed to the teeth."

"Swell." He slid back into the driver's seat and looked out the windshield. They were coming up on what looked like an abandoned warehouse. "Classic place for a meetup." Hopefully it wasn't going to turn into a classic place for a bloodbath. "All right, you two. Silence is golden until I can figure out what we're getting ourselves into, check? No distractions."

No response--good. ET swigged one more time from the water bottle, braced himself for the dizzyness, and got out of the car. It was dark, but he could see enough to know that he wasn't alone. Time to ring the bell.

"Hello?" he called. "Officer Reynolds?"
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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Atrophy
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Atrophy Meddlesome Kid

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Maysah never thought she’d be wearing this stupid mask again. Even before she had stuffed it in the back of her closet to mildew inside of a box, buried beneath digital photo albums and handwritten letters, she had always found it uncomfortable. Sometimes, the mask would just get too hot. Other times, it would pinch her hair back just tight enough to punch her a one-way ticket to board the Migraine Express. On the worst of days, a gross film of moisture would form on the material nearest her lips and she would be able to smell her afternoon Americano all evening. Tonight, it was a poorly mixed cocktail of all three. Back in her day, back before, well, just back before, the mask had been necessary. It protected her, it protected her friends and family, and, most importantly, it served as a constant reminder of the weight of the responsibility she had. There was nothing about being a hero that should’ve made her feel comfortable.

“Good thing I’m not a hero anymore,” she muttered to no one as she ripped the mask off of her face and shoved it into a jacket pocket.

Two things hit her at once. The first thing was how, from this view now unadulterated by dark mesh, Cedar Fort looked absolutely beautiful at night. It was a big, bright, neon behemoth of modern engineering and old school hubris, and from where she was sitting up on top of the boom of an old crane she could hardly make out the dirty corruption and polished shit that had built the city. For a moment she felt like how the fat cats in those big towers must feel. That is to say, she felt curious about what would happen if she spat on someone who was walking below her. Would it dissipate in the wind? The poor riff raff wouldn’t even notice a slight had been hawked their way, or at most think maybe it would rain? Or, if she got a good bit of phlegm or maybe a few sunflower seeds, would it pick up enough velocity to bore a hole through their skull and kill them outright? Maysah wasn’t so sure, and the idea of spitting to figure it out simply disgusted her. It was barbarically bourgeoisie and, besides, there was nobody below her.

The second thing that hit her was the thought of how completely idiotic it had been for her to scale a crane on such a cool night, or any night for that matter. Just utterly bonkers. Maysah grimaced as a bit of wind tousled her hair and sent a chill through her bones. Here she was, one of the world’s strongest supes, about to get the sniffles because she thought she was in her twenties again. What was her plan? Wait for a group of people to arrive so she could light herself up like a stupid neon asshole, swan dive from the top of the crane in classic Stardust bravado, and then land with a roll and a flourish? Shields or not, there was no way she’d try that at her age. She’d break a hip. Feeling almost ashamed of herself, she cautiously climbed down the boom.

“How’d you ever become a physicist when you’re this stupid?” she quietly cursed as closed the door to the operator’s cab and wrapped herself in her jacket. She sat next to a bag of her stuff she had squirreled away in there earlier. It was still a decent vantage point, and it had the added advantage of not giving her pneumonia plus the sweet, sweet aroma of stale cigarettes and cave-aged construction worker sweat. “Jesus Christ, Maysah, what are you even doing here?”

What she was doing here was meeting with Special Agent Addison Reynolds. That was simple. Why she was doing it was a bit more complicated. Maysah was pretty sure she didn’t know the answer to that question. If she had to come up with a hypothesis to explain the why, then it probably had something to do with the same reason she had been sitting on top of a goddamn crane at the age of fifty-two: she became an idiot whenever she put on the Stardust suit. It was pretty tight. Perhaps it was cutting off the circulation of blood to her brain. Yet, she had decided to wear it. Maysah didn’t want to burn one of her last glamour pills on what could very likely be a trap, and if it was a trap then she would rather wash blood out of old spandex than new cashmere.

However, if it was a trap then it had been a poorly laid one. So far, nobody had taken the bait. Maysah had arrived earlier that afternoon to set up her post on top of that crane, back when the sun was up and hours of quiet contemplation seemed like a great idea. Yet, so far, as she had shifted on the uncomfortable crane, munched on a lunch and dinner protein bars and really bad kombucha, and kept trying (and failing) to convince herself that Hex wouldn’t want her here, just one person had arrived: Addison Reynolds. At least, Maysah assumed it was Addison Reynolds. In her brilliant plan to arrive first she had forgotten to bring a pair of optics mostly because she did not own a pair of optics because what middle aged used bookseller from Canada owned optics? By the time she’d pulled out her phone to try and snap a photo on the unnecessarily overpowered camera with an even more unnecessarily overpowered zoom feature, the woman was already inside of the red warehouse.

Maysah looked at her phone. It was two in the fucking morning. A bark of laughter echoed throughout the operator’s cab. Had she lost her mind? Maysah had wasted her entire day. She could’ve at least brought a book with her to kill the time. She leaned forward onto the dormant control panel and massaged her temples. She was in Cedar Fort. She could have searched for Victoria. Her old boss was a woman that never could stay out of the public eye for too long. Maysah had watched the interviews she had given after her release from prison. She had watched as her former friend had just lied through her teeth about Stardust. It’d be easy to find her. It’d be even easier to—no. Thinking like that would truly mean that she had lost her mind.

“Wow, Harrison, I always knew you were a bit of a loser, but this is just too brutal to bear. I’m sorry. Nobody’s coming.”

She stepped out of the cab to get some fresh air; it was way too claustrophobic in there. The truth was, she was scared. She wasn’t really afraid of it being a trap. She could easily fight her way out of a trap. Maysah didn’t want to pick up the mantle again, not really, but more than that she didn’t want to get seen by any former peers. It’d be like going to a high school reunion and she was the one that’d never moved out of her hometown, gotten a real job, or married someone rich, attractive, and/or interesting. What would she tell them? Hey, I was framed, but instead of proving my innocence I just gave up. It’s cool, really, I enjoy being a coward. Yeah, right. Maysah couldn’t do it. She leaned against the railing. This had been a dumb idea. Time to go home.

And then she saw the car. The heavily decked out SUV rolled slowly through the stretch of warehouses before it settled in front of the meeting site. The lights were killed, and Maysah frowned as a big fellow in some high-tech body armor stepped out. Their getup just screamed corporate or military, and for the first time that night Maysah found herself concerned about someone other than herself. Addison Reynolds had seemingly blasted a message out at random to anybody with ties to Hex, but not everybody with ties to Hex would be happy with the idea of someone trying to pull his old bruising buddies out of their hiding places. Maybe the man in black was someone who finally decided to answer the call. Maybe he had been sent by some interested party to put both Addison and her phone on silent. Maysah didn’t know. She just knew she wouldn’t be able to live with a maybe.

From the warehouse, it’d appear as if a purple blast of St. Elmo’s fire had manifested itself from atop the rusty crane before it quickly streaked to the ground. Within a matter of heartbeats the neon purple streak had crossed the rather long distance from the crane to the warehouse, its form manifesting into a woman as it grew closer. Maysah skirted to a stop in front of ET, her jacket billowing open to reveal the Stardust outfit below. She was thankful for her decision to wear the stupid thing; imagine doing this in mom jeans. For a moment she hummed with energy like an overcharged transformer before she allowed her “plasma tank” to completely drain. The glow faded and her hair dropped around a face that anybody who played their little game of dress-up would recognize, although it looked much more worn than the one presented in the APB from twelve years ago. The annoyed look she gave ET was, to put it mildly, withering.

“Yeah, you don’t move from that car,” she said with a finger wag. She stepped back and took him in. This guy may have known Hex, but she didn’t know him. She let out a low whistle. “Wow, get a look at you. Fell for that shitty trend back in the 2020’s, did you?” She gestured at ET’s face tattoos. She wasn’t even trying to hide her patronizing tone. “Kind of ironic, considering how hindsight is. Now stay right there, buddy. I don’t wanna have to ruin that fancy suit of yours.”

Maysah took a few steps back into the warehouse, one eye on ET while the other on the dying embers. Why couldn’t they have met somewhere nice? Like private lounge, or Hex’s apartment, or a rooftop? Nothing good ever happened in an abandoned warehouse. She took a second to make sure she wasn’t stepping onto any plastic sheets, and then announced herself.

“Hey, Special Agent Reynolds,” said Maysah. She shot a quick look back at ET. She had really stuck the landing when it came to stressing the special agent part—Reynolds wasn’t just some officer, and she wanted to make sure that he knew that. She also wanted to make sure he wasn’t doing anything stupid. “It’s May, uh, Stardust.” She wrinkled her nose. “It’s Maysah. You found my friend’s dead body? Left me a message? Sorry I didn’t callback. Hey I got a question: d'you call this guy or should I melt the tin man?"
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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by LeeRoy
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LeeRoy LeeRoy Brightmane

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Two bodies lay twelve paces distant in a rundown tenement so very distant from the manufactured paradise of Cedar Fort. One was dead, the other was desperately gripping a piece of paper with the deadman's name on it, terror coursing through every vein of his body and pouring sweat down his face. On the arrival of the note he had been forced to kill the one who he had been leeching off of for so very long. Whose power he was the sole inheritor of, considering the absence of the original owner.

He had panicked, he acted too quickly, he had thought they found him after all of this time under an assumed identity. Instead, they were looking for him. Benny pointed towards the corpse lying across from him and threw the balled up paper in his face. "It was you, you son of a bitch!" Terror snagged his throat and he choked, putting his hand to his face.

Looking at the fingers he'd stolen, he knew there was no going back if he lost this identity. The realization was hitting him in waves, like a rock upon the shore, bits of him were falling away every moment. This situation was doom, extinction, death. His death had finally come knocking on his door to deliver a message meant for another man.

Curling up into a fetal position he dragged his fingertips across his face, breathing sharply and painfully as he choked more and more. The walls began closing in and his vision began to fade into a black tunnel with only a corpse that shared his face on the other end, sweat and tears dripped from his chin onto his knees. It was all far too much for Benny, and his eyes rolled into his skull and he collapsed in a heap on the floor.

In his panic he lost track of time, when he woke he found himself in the middle of the night. The room stank of the early onset of decay among other things, Benny pressed himself against the wall and took a long sharp breath. It was several minutes before he even considered thinking, and the first looping thought was to first resolve this corpse situation.

There was a long pensive stare between Benny and the corpse. "Moving it out in pieces wouldn't be hard."

Nine hours later, he had successfully moved the man's corpse and buried it. It was long and tiresome, he had to conceal himself all the way into the early morning and passed out when he made it back to his room. Another six hours passed in his sleep and he woke to the bitter isolation of this murder room that had been a prison for an unfortunate man. A punishment that Benny had enforced for far longer than the man had deserved. He was a monster, and the silence really drove that mental image in.

It threw him into a panic attack again, and he ran to the bathroom and threw up stomach acid. Cracks in his lips and gnaw marks on his cheeks and tongue burned, his teeth felt like sandpaper, the roof of his mouth was dry and painful. Again, and again, and again.

He stood up, flushed the toilet, and moved over to the sink to wash his face off. Looking in the reflection, a face that was both his face and not his face stared back at him, haggered and bloodshot. Wild eyes glared back into his, he wondered how much of this face was hallucination and how much was truth.

But then.

In a moment of clarity, he looked at the face of the dead man. He looked at the face that he owned now. This man's life was his life now, and there was a thread that needed to be cut. Otherwise people might come back looking for him again. A new identity, a new set of powers, a new face, and destroying every red thread of fate that still lead anyone to him.

Benny scrambled into the living room and picked up the piece of paper, an ugly grin tearing across his face.

Despite everything that had transpired in the past 24 hours, Benny had been presented with a unique opportunity to better himself. An opportunity to find a new identity, with a much better power than the one he'd been scraping by with in this wastrel filled dump.

He had no idea who Hex was, but Benny laughed and spoke, "Thanks Hex, you've been a real pal."
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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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Blue. Cerulean. Azure.

That’s the color of betrayal, he figures.

Betrayal smells like sea salt.

He remembers the bitter tang on his tongue when they fought that day. White encrusting his trinkets while Hex’s throat struggles to chant out spells in the stinging air.

Betrayal looks like falling down an endless void.

The worst part of betrayal isn’t the pain but that you don’t know who’s betrayed whom. Maybe you betrayed him. Maybe he betrayed you. Maybe you betrayed yourself.

Betrayal feels like slamming your body against the rocks.

Betrayal is a paradoxical mix of sudden and slow. You wonder whether you remained ignorant of the clues or whether you were aware of it all the time.

Betrayal is like drowning. Helplessly sinking until you can’t -





“ ALL PASSENGERS. BE ADVISED. WE ARE CURRENTLY ARRIVING AT CEDAR FORT! WE SINCERELY HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED YOUR STAY ON THE INTER-ZONE AUTOMATED MASS TRANSPORT SYSTEM,MANUFACTURED AND DISTRIBUTED BY BY….. “

It takes a while for him to fully wake up but the loud scripted din of the announcer makes him crawl back to consciousness. Lazlo decided at that moment interstate public buses were worse than walking through an art gallery. The stench of seven-day old sweat and bio-eth is heavy in the air. Combined with the limited space, it’s almost downright asphyxiating. The auto-bus is filled to the point where he can barely manages to roll his cramped shoulders. Out of his corner of his eye, he notices a canyon of flashing neon in the distance. The windows are still covered in dew from the storm 30 minutes ago but you can’t mistake Cedar Fort. He bristles in impatience for a moment. Being cooped up in an auto-bus from Hayden Port to Cedar Fort is not an experience that he wants to repeat again. 12 hours feels like 12 days inside here. The bus slows down and he has to wait excruciatingly long before he halt. He breathes as the hydraulic doors unfurl open, soaking in the warm, smoky air of Cedar Fort.

“ Where to begin?” He whispers to himself as his mind takes in the sheer size of the city around him. His stomach is growling. There’s a nice looking pho stand to his left. Only problem is that being a wanted fugitive doesn’t exactly leave you with a lot of spare dough to spend. It’s when he notices his hands are shaking. Not from the sub-zero conditioning in the auto-bus or the lack of nutrition. It’s the feeling of being out in the open, feeling like a stranger in new territory, exploring unknown lands, the feeling of a tourist.

And being a tourist can get you killed nowadays if you aren’t careful.

The last passenger exists the bus and it closes, kicking up a gale of asphalt, old wax paper and mouldy adverts. The passengers scatter away from the bus stop, leaving him standing alone. It’s at that moment that Lazlo decides he needs to make himself feel relaxed. He’s been travelling from Brasilia to the United States non-stop without any breaks.

He needs to find somewhere to paint.




Turquoise green. He pauses and then, shakes his head. No, too nauseous. He takes out another cannon, and shakes it before finishing the last touch with a cone of wet pine green. Prying off the gas mask, he stands back and takes a look. A tree isn’t the most unique of symbols but it’s something that everyone can get behind. Besides, growing cages and keys is something everyone can get behind. His tag is a single element of the college that has been smeared over the corporate billboard. The mess of stencils, wild-styles, drunken throw-ups and the odd holo-tag are a mosaic compared to the soulless night-lights of Cedar Fort that he’s overlooking right now.

Making the painting took moments but moments could be eternity for whoever was waiting for him in Cedar Fort. Sure, he could have integrated a paint gun into his wrists like the rest of his contemporaries but there’s something about the human physiology in art that mechanical limbs and articulated joints can’t replicate. He’s stayed clean of the aug trend that’s infected most of the populous for a good reason after all. The idea of having metal jacked up was something he never had the guts for.

His stomach rumbles and reminds him of what he originally drew it for. Right. Food.

“ Not your best work, Lazlo….” He mutters, fanning a rolled up piece of newspaper over his creation to make it dry faster. “ But ...dinner is dinner….”

His hand sinks into the picture like its a pool of tar. The four steps are second-nature to him now. He closes his eyes and focuses.

Conceptualize.

Nature. Growth. Revival.

Visualize.

Uneven. Branch. Bush.

Interpret.

Sustenance. Nourishment. Filling.

Materialize.


In his hand is a gnarled tree branch, a few fresh leaves with the color of white sprouting along the twigs. He takes a sniff. It smells of autumn and roasted almonds. His stomach stops trembling after the first bite and after the third, it feels like he’s eaten an entire banquet. He looks at his wrist-watch. It’s nearly 2 in the morning.

Well, time to get moving to those coordinates, then. He tosses the branch over his shoulders, letting it fall onto the ground, before strapping the gas mask back on and climbing down the billboard sign. The ladder is rusting from years of disrepair but it just barely manages to hold his weight. He finally makes his way down, feet landing on wet back-alley puddles before navigating his way towards the coordinates that Addison gave him. He feels as if the monolithic ruins around him are eyeing him with every step he makes. Ironically, the desolate urban sprawl feels more alive to him than the inner city centers of Cedar Fort. The inundated streets hide patches of grass and moss grows on the decaying walls.

Yet, it never makes him less vigilant. Caution isn’t a feeling for him anymore. It’s a state of existence that he’s had to bear for years. With the looming form of the warehouse in plain sight, he approaches it with quiet footsteps. He wonders for a moment if maybe he should go in armed. The purple streak of fire cutting through the air makes him jump briefly in surprise. Armed, it was then. He creeps through the back, rolling out a canvas binder out of his satchel bag to reveal Peaceful Asymmetry No .12. It’s undergone several reinterpretations throughout the years but cubism has always been a favourite style of his. He pulls out a sword that looks as if its been stitched from severed glass. It gives him a minor migraine by just looking at it. The sword shifts in shape like a chameleon with every slight movement, morphing between a jagged cut-lass, an ancient chipped zweihander and a needle-thin fencing sword. He tightens the hood around his head out of nervousness.

Peeking out from behind a strip of shattered brick walls, he narrows his eyes at the sight of a vehicle that he's seen dozens of times. After all, being pursued by state police gets you acquainted with their style. Getting arrested by the federales was not what he imagined when he traveled to the states. He’s close enough that he can just make out a conversation between what he presumed was the federale and....Stardust? Hex never told him that he knew her out of all people. The once-famed hero's grouchy tone of voice is a far-cry from the old archive videos that he's seen of her. Clearly, she had a change of attitude over the years as well given how flippantly she threatened the federale.

He shuffles a little to the right in order to get closer, not intending to reveal himself yet. It's when he doesn't notice the rotting plan of wood that everything goes south. 130 pounds of himself pressing down with his worn heeled boot is enough to make a loud, sharp crack that's audible enough to be heard by everyone, including both Stardust and the federale.

Well, being conspicuous went out of the window. He slowly stands up out of cover, both hands raised up in the air with Peaceful Assymetry held in his right. His right hand twitches and the fencing sword warps into an oversized butcher's knife.

" Would you believe me if I said I came for an autograph, senora?" He takes one step forward with trepidation. " How about we start off with you promising me you won't blast my head off?" He then nods towards the heavily armoured police officer. " I wouldn't recommend starting off with him first, even though I wouldn't have an issue with it. Given both of our colorful histories, having the federales on our asses is not what we need right now."

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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by DJAtomika
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DJAtomika Second to Most

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14/5/2047, 2:14 AM
Staithes, North Yorkshire, England


A low, soft beeping roused a sleeping woman from her light slumber. Drowsy and disoriented, she stumbled down the steps of her family home to locate the source of the beeping that emanated from the darkness below. After a few minutes of thorough searching of their house, the woman eventually found the source: a worn, barely-used closet. Inside the closet? A flight of stairs into a basement she barely remembered having. The walls adorned with old, faded posters and banners from times gone by. Utility belts, pieces of dust-covered gear and a corkboard full of notes, coloured pins and wanted posters. And, mounted on a wall, a massive monitor and a computer next to it, a single light on it flashing blue.

Thoroughly awake, the woman approached the computer and pushed a button that she knew was there, obscured by a thick layer of dust. Her memories came back to her in slow waves as the machine booted up and the screen blazed to life. A familiar logo materialised in front of her, followed by a small loading screen as the old machine did its work. Shortly after, the computer's desktop finished loading and she was presented with a familiar interface, with a flashing icon to one side. An icon for an app called...

"The Network..."

She tapped the icon and a window popped up on screen, loading something. The woman enlarged the window with her hands as the audio message finished downloading and it played through speakers that seemed to be in every corner of the room. The message was long and rambling, but the source was unmistakable, judging from the designation on the top left corner of the window.

"Hex...?"

But the voice coming from the message was a lady. A lady who explained herself halfway through the message.

Harrison Moore, also known as Hex, was dead. An apparent drug-induced suicide. The lady was a special agent of the Cedar Fort Police Department who had discovered the hero's corpse and found his journals, containing mad writings about the end of the world. The agent wanted help and she had stumbled upon Hex's communicator, connected to an old, dead Network that bound the superheroes of the US and the rest of the world together. Without any other options, she had recorded a message and uploaded to the Network, sending it to the communicators and computers of all superheroes on its system registry. Including her.

Shirley rubbed her eyes, no longer muggy from sleep. She didn't have much options, but she replayed the message several times, its contents slowly sinking in.
Hex was dead. And this agent needed any available capes that knew Hex to help her in the investigation. A date, time and place were given for a meeting, a week later. The plea was desperate and the emotion sounded real.

There was only one thing she could do.

Shirley swiftly typed in a reply to the audio message, sending it back to Hex's communicator in the hopes that the agent was still there to read the reply. Then she opened a web browser and booked two plane tickets that would land her and her brother within an hour of the time specified in the message.

Then she shut the computer off and went back to bed, but she couldn't sleep until an hour later. Her thoughts were racing in her head as she closed her eyes and tried to relax.

What had happened to Hex? And how desperate was this agent that she had to call for help on an ancient Network that almost no one used any more?


The next day...

"Thank you! Come again!"

Shirley Mackey waved as her neighbour left their family bakery, two loaves of sourdough bread tucked neatly into a basket hooked on her arm. Business was good, as usual; as their village's only bakery, Shirley worked around the clock to make sure her friends and neighbours had bread, cake and pastries to buy and eat while her brother worked his arse off at the docks, helping the local fishermen haul in catches far beyond what their ships could physically carry. Life was peaceful and she couldn't be happier.

Except, well, for the fact that just a few hours ago, a message had come through on a secure channel meant for a life she and her brother had left twelve years ago. After their parents had died in the line of duty.

Shirley's mind went back to the wee hours of the morning, when she'd been woken up by the beeping of the incoming message on the Network's secure app. The agent on the line sounded tired and desperate for help. Reynolds, her name was. She recalled the contents of the audio recording, remembering the most important detail: a family friend was dead in an apparent suicide that reeked of something else. The call for help had, unfortunately, gone out on a Network that not many supers used any more, with the advent of better, faster methods of communication between countries. But the tech and equipment left behind in their family home had its uses; it had intercepted the message and downloaded it while on stand-by mode, saving it for Shirley to view again when she woke up later that morning. She hadn't told her brother about it yet; Shirley wanted to wait until they were both off work and preparing to head home to tell him the news. Which was right about now.

She felt more than heard his footsteps coming up the cobblestone path leading to the bakery. The Mackey siblings lived nearby their workplace, using their house as a sort of secondary workplace to prepare dough for bread and pastry late at night, then leaving it to proof for the next morning. The trip between home and work wasn't too far and the siblings always walked it to get their share of exercise for the morning. Alex Mackey pushed the door of their bakery open gently, the bell above the door ringing with his entry. A moderately sized plastic bag hung from his left elbow as he stepped in, ducking underneath the low entryway. The huge hulk of a man stretched and rolled his shoulders as he helped himself to a croissant, crunching into the flaky, delicate pastry hungrily while his sister watched him with arms folded. A moment passed before he noticed her staring, an eyebrow raised in question.

"What?"

"You're a pig when you're hungry, you know that?"

"That's how you say welcome back? Bloody hell, what's gotten into ya?"

"You're eating food meant for customers."

"Aye, but it's just about closing time, innit?"

With a wry smile, Shirley lightly punched her twin brother's shoulder, eliciting a yelp as he downed the last of the croissant and washed it down with a swig of water from his army canteen.

"How was work today, Alex?"

The tall man regarded his sister in the corner of his eye, before shrugging and sighing.

"Work was work, as usual. Not a whole lot of fish today, but I managed to nab us a haddock for dinner tonight."

"Perfect. You're cooking tonight?"

"Yeah, my turn tonight, as usual."

Alex smiled as he watched his sister count the money in the till and closed up shop for the day. As the siblings started their walk home, Alex noticed his sister's odd behaviour; a nervous, tense look on her face, eyes darting around more than usual, deep in thought. Something was bothering her. He slowed his pace and gently nudged her elbow with his, startling her out of her reverie with a yelp.

"Hey, you alright, Shirl? You're zoning out."

"Y-yeah. Actually, no, I'm not alright. But we should get home first. I'll explain there."

The rest of the walk went on in silence and as they reached home, Alex pulled their dinner out of the plastic bag and set about preparing the fish for cooking.

"So, what's this all about, Shirl? I've never seen you this out of it before."

Shirley took a seat at the dining table with a glass of water in her hands. A weary sigh escaped her lips as she took a drink before responding.

"It's...it's about Harrison Moore. Hex."

At that, Alex stopped. He hadn't heard their family friend's name in years. Not since they'd fallen out of contact a few years after...the tragedy. He stopped what he was doing and turned around, his attention fully on his sister.

"What about him, Shirley?"

"He's..."

Her hands tightened around the glass as her fingertips began to glow with a dim red light and tears rolled down her cheeks.

"He's dead, Alex."

Alex could feel his strength leaving him. The news was unexpected. Unheard of. Hex? Dead?

"He- he's what?"

"Dead, Alex. Suicide."

All thoughts of cooking left by the wayside, Alex joined his sister at the table, sitting down as disbelief filled his face.

"No way... No way he's dead."

Shirley didn't respond. Instead she pulled her phone from her pocket and set it on the table between them. With a tap, she played the audio message she'd received hours earlier. As agent Reynolds' words sank in, she watched disbelief, anger, then grief cross her brother's face. When the message ended, there was a moment of silence. Then Alex pounded a fist on the table, startling his sister as he took a deep breath in through his nose and closed his eyes.

"Fuck. Fuck, Shirl. What do we do?"

"We... I don't think we have a choice, Alex. We should go help her. We owe Hex that much."

A few moments passed as Alex gave the suggestion some thought. There weren't many other alternatives. Hex was a dear friend of the family and especially of their parents. His death could not go unanswered. Alex's fists clenched and unclenched as he opened his eyes.

"When do we leave?"

"End of the week. Agent Reynolds left us a date and time to meet."

"Right. I suppose that gives us some time to prepare. It's about time I went in for a maintenance run."

"I've already booked plane tickets for the both of us. Are you planning to travel to London?"

"Yeah. Don't suppose you need a lift?"

"My cybernetics doctor is in London, so yes. You're heading to Hereford after that?"

"Aye. Gonna touch base with the boys and see about getting my parts tuned."

"Alright. You do that and I'll meet you back in London when you're done. We'll go to the old HQ together and get our gear from there. At least, I hope our gear is still there. Think they'll understand why?"

"They will, Shirl."

And so the siblings set about their work. With cybernetics in working condition, their costumes retrieved and farewells said to their village, the Mackey twins left the UK and landed in the States less than a day before their scheduled meeting with agent Reynolds. Enough time for them to rent a room at a small motel outside of town and for Shirley to catch some shut-eye to fight off the jet lag. But for Alex, his old soldiering ways had left their mark; with nothing but a cheap, disgusting coffee and an equally horrid chicken pie in his stomach, the former superhero got into his rental car and headed for the outskirts of Cedar Fort. His destination: an old, abandoned warehouse, coordinates provided by agent Reynolds.

The Tower was on the move.






21/5/2047, 2:04 AM
Outskirts of Cedar Fort


The next thing that agent Addison would hear would be the low rumble of another car engine, followed by the crunching of gravel underneath wheels as a vehicle pulled up to the warehouse she was camped out in. Then the sound of footsteps. Not light, on the contrary. Heavy footfalls, thumping loud into the night, sounding much like a giant was approaching the warehouse. As Stardust revealed herself in a flash of purple fire and promptly outed the cop pulling up into the warehouse, the footsteps stopped.

Alex reached into an inner pocket of his trench coat and pulled out a worn, old, black domino mask. He gazed down at this symbol of heroism, an identity he'd once embraced with all his heart and soul and a life he'd given up twelve years ago. Turning the mask over in his fingers, he contemplated it. Sure, the people already present would've heard him arriving, but he could just as well pack up and leave. Alex didn't want to step back into the life of a cape. A life he was unceremoniously pulled back into because of the death of one man.

Harrison Moore.

Hex.

But then again, Hex had been a family friend. A good friend who had offered them much guidance after the...tragedy. Hex was dead but Alex owed him enough to look into his death. That was how much he'd meant to him and his sister. And his parents. Right now, Shirley was asleep in some motel in the city while he was out here, burning the midnight oil, as it were, in a meeting that could spell disaster or give him the answers he wanted. Whatever it was, he was here and the only way to go was forward.

With a weary sigh, Alex put the mask on and made sure it sat comfortably on his nose. Then he pulled a cigarette and a small lighter from his jeans as he resumed his approach. The heavy, thumping footfalls of his combat boots against the concrete certainly didn't lend much for any sort of stealth, nor did his nonchalant gesture of lighting up a cigarette, the flame of his lighter illuminating the Union Jack emblazoned on his shirt and the black domino mask perched on his face. He took a long, deep drag and exhaled a cloud of smoke towards the ceiling, not stopping until he was a few feet away from Reynolds.

In front of him stood yet another veteran cape; Stardust, from what he vaguely recalled of the American superhero circle. He tipped his flat cap to all those present, letting the light of his cigarette butt brighten the British flag that was his signature icon. Next to the gentle glow of campfire embers was agent Reynolds from the message. At least, that's what he thought. Because surely Addison Reynolds was a bit too girly a name for the armoured man standing across from him, its glowing highlights a stark contrast to the dark of the night. The crack of a tree branch heralded another arrival; emerging from the shadows nearby, was an anarchist and a criminal. What little Alex remembered of the Gallery incident came to the forefront as Avant Garde revealed himself, the fencing foil in his hand morphing into a large knife even as he held his hands up in surrender.

"What a right little party this is. Bloody hell. Well agent Reynolds, you have the attention of the Tower. I hope you know what you're doing."
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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Rtron
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Rtron

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Two Days Prior

Bang! The bullet slammed against the back wall, the noise echoing mockingly in the makeshift shooting range Eli had made. "Fuck." Eli glared at the pristine target down range, a dozen or more shots scattering along the wall behind it. He was supposed to be ready to take on whatever was so important that it killed Hex, and he couldn't even hit an immobile target. He'd been at this for most of the day already, preparing for a fight. Or so he thought. Right now it looked like he was planning a comedy routine so that this 'Reality Bringer' could laugh to death. He scowled and took aim again, focusing on the target. He was just rusty,that's all it was. Twenty years of not firing a weapon or getting in a fight would do that too you. Just a few more shots and he'd be back to his old self. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Eli emptied his clip taking what he thought were carefully aimed shots. All but one crashed into the back wall the cacophony of noise ridiculing him as the target swayed gently back and forth, a small hole on the very edge.

Alright. That was enough.

Eli slammed the pistol down as his right arm began to writhe and shift with squelching and cracking noises as it changed to what he needed it to be. The stupid fucking sign wanted to make fun of him? He'd give it something to laugh at. He pulled back and threw his arm forward like a pitcher in a baseball stadium. Sharp claws had formed on the end of his fingers and his arm extended forward at a breakneck pace. Eli thinned and shortened as he used his own body to extend his arm the necessary distance. He put out his free hand to balance himself against the table as he began to lose the muscles to keep standing without aid, eyes narrowed in focus. His claws tore through the target with a satisfying ripping noise. Eli gave a small smirk in satisfaction. I was just a little rusty. That's a- His smug thoughts were interrupted as the pain hit him. Eli gasped in surprise as his body burned, everything screaming out against the stress he was putting it through. He yanked his arm back, gritting his teeth as the pain redoubled. He stumbled backwards as his arm slammed back into its normal shape and he fell to one knee, breathing heavily and shaking.

He'd become an old man. Twenty, thirty years ago that wouldn't have even made him break a sweat. Hell, that long ago he wouldn't have even needed to practice. He would have just marched over to this Special Agent and demanded what she knew so he could go gut the bastards for threatening the world and through it him. After collecting a pretty penny from someone, of course. Now he couldn't even hit a paper target or use a basic attack without missing or his body failing him. Well, what had he expected? That after moping and hiding for twenty years his body would just maintain its fighting shape as it always had? Ridiculous.

Eli pulled himself to standing with a groan of pain. Everything ached, but at least it wasn't burning anymore. He rolled his shoulders and frowned as his right one ground to a painful stop. Had he not....? He moved it a couple more times, his scowl deepening. He hadn't put it back together right. He was an old man. "For fucks sake." He closed his eyes and focused for a moment. His shoulder cracked loudly as the bone broke and reset itself and he winced.

He gave a sigh as he went and picked up his pistol. This was as good as he was gonna get. Might as well head to the coordinates now. He'd be early, since he knew Cedar Fort fairly well from his mercenary days, but that'd give him a chance to scope out whoever was waiting for them and who answered the call.

Present time

He no longer knew Cedar Fort.

In the twenty years he'd been gone, the city had drastically changed and he no longer knew it well enough to find his way in a timely manner. Because of course it had changed. Cities do that. Just chalk it up to something else he'd allowed himself to let slip in his old age. He'd spent the past day and a half just trying to orientate himself to the coordinates, rather than scoping the area out and getting the jump on anyone that appeared like he'd planned. The city was even more massive than it had been twenty years ago, with the same breathtaking beauty and poverty that had always classified it. Only now things were even worse. He had accidentally wandered into the defunct subway systems and the desperate people down there thought he would be an easy mark. An old man with some guns? They could take him and sell the valuables.

The smart ones ran away after he killed and absorbed the first two. The rest met the same fate. The police were likely already in the pocket of the wealthy few, so he wasn't surprised to find the rats scurrying in the dark. He was surprised that they were allowed to dig in so much rather than being beaten out by the cops. Maybe they'd gotten soft in the decades he'd been gone.

Eli finally made it to the meeting place, the two cars and voices indicating that he was late. "So much for getting the jump on people." He muttered, pulling his battle rifle out. He didn't bother with generating his costume. He couldn't make the armor useful on a large scale anymore, and anyone who answered this all already knew who he was. His trial had been massively public after all and his identity was readily available to anyone who bothered to do a quick search.

So Eli walked into the small light of the campfire, and quickly took a glance around. He was mostly disheartened. There was that Avant-Garde. Some freak that made his paintings come to life, a murderer who claimed to be fighting for the people against the corporations. He'd only become active after Eli had gone underground, so they'd never fought, but what little information Eli had of him wasn't impressive. It wasn't that he was a murderer, Eli himself was. It was that he tried to pretend he was a hero at the same time he committed acts of terrorism. The hypocrisy was palatable. Next was someone in black glowing armor and face tattoos. His face was vaguely familiar, but Eli had no recollection of working against or with him. A nobody then. Useless.

Eli's paused briefly on The Tower. That was someone he recognized personally. Their exchanges had been brief, as it was towards the end of Eli's career, but at least it was someone who he knew could handle themselves. Young and headstrong though, still a kid. Not someone to rely too much on. Didn't he have a partner he always worked with? Some girl? No matter. She, if he was even remembering the right person, wasn't here.

It was with great relief that Eli noted Stardust. Finally, someone he knew was experienced. A goody-two shoes like Hex, maybe, but he knew from personal experience that she could put up a hell of a fight and that she had enough experience not to crack under pressure. They had fought many times, as he was usually on the side of the corporations she was trying to bring to justice, but they could put that behind them for the Reality Bringer. He hoped.

"So this is all that answered your call? An old man twenty years retired, A terrorist dressing himself as a hero, a nobody who likes shiny black armor, an old woman who hasn't super heroed for almost as long as I have, and a young kid whose more robot than man at this point?" He snorted. "This is gonna be a short revenge/save the world mission isn't it?"

He nodded at Stardust. "Nice to see a reliable face."

"So, Reynolds. Aside from the fact that Hex is dead and a sob story, what do you have for us?"
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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Admiral Moskau
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Admiral Moskau An Admiral of the Binary Seas

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"I want to know⁠—"

A voice said, beginning as a weak rasp.

"I want to know what Hex saw."

Withered biological machinery lurched back to life, rusted cogs rattled into motion, and the voice became an audible whisper. A shroud of midnight drew closer. A figure cloaked in black stepped into the light. The void was a mirror that reflected the faces of the gathered heroes. It watched them. It lingered. Indifferent, unmoved, and unafraid. Strangers. Faces from pixelated screens. Names splashed across headlines. Radical anarchist painters engaging in artistic terrorism beyond modern art. Poorly drawn pictures plastered across the seedier parts of the cyberspace. Something about British twins and private commissions. Rumors traded for digital credits. Conspiracy stories about cops with super suits and sentient AI. Badly written fan fictions involving love quadrangles and Stardust.

She did not know them. She had never known them. Save for one.

"You."

The voice said.

A hand formed into a gun with the barrel pointed at Eli. A thumb moved like a hammer, sending an imaginary bullet racing into his skull with only a modest recoil. The phantom nodded, satisfied.

"I know you."

The voice said growing stronger.

"I know your black heart."

It had been an unpleasant death she remembered. But it was a distant memory. Fragmented, faded, and corrupted by pain. She had been different then. So much wisdom had coursed through her. So much experience. Now she could not remember all the things that she had known. She could only remember that she had once known them. She had been so much more.

She remembered Hex, though. He had killed her. She felt a stirring in her stomach. Butterflies. Dull sensations she had long since banished. Feelings. Embers of emotion glowed dimly within her, slowly thawing the ice that surrounded her heart. Sorrow followed. Unbidden memories escaped past a soul too weak to contain them. She saw his eyes. She saw his smile. Harrison, she thought, wishing that she could forget. She had allowed herself the smallest ration of hope. She had trusted him. She had believed in him. Now she was a prisoner of their dreams, living in a world of ghosts. She would return to the ice. She would kill Hex. She would banish his spirit. She would be free. She would rest.

She remembered the old man standing in front of her, too. He had been younger then. He had killed her. He was cruel. Impassive. He had played a bloody game with her. He hadn't flinched. It was the first time that she had burned in a chemical fire, her own flesh used for fuel. Blood turned base decomposed proteins, deconstructed lipids, and dissolved her. He had melted her into a puddle of boiling blood. There was no joy in his eyes, only purpose. Cold determination. Then he had screamed. He had cowered. He had run. He had lost. She had destroyed the item. She had protected Autumn Hills. A mortal would have cared, would have wanted vengeance, and would have reacted. She did not. Eli looked old. He looked haggard. He looked weak. The memories of her past made no demands. Remembered pains were only curiosities. Reminders that she was no longer alive.

"But no matter. Best not to think on the past too much."

The voice concluded fading into focus.

She buried her memories. She kept the voices at bay. She willed herself to breathe. To move as they did. To care. To feel. To live.

"Tell us what you know, Agent Reynolds."

The voice said, alive again and full of lies.
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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Stormflyx
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Addison rose from sitting, her mouth agape with slight shock, the despair that had been eating at her seemed to have all but gone now. With everything that had happened, it had been a long week but the row of supers in front of her had now made it worthwhile, hell - she barely even felt that chill that had been gnawing her for the last six hours. All that was there now, was the hope she’d been reaching out for.

Ever the optimist, it didn’t occur to her that any of them might have had ulterior motives. They were here.

The brunette eyed each of them individually - the woman that she recognised as Stardust. Older now, obviously, but she still carried a powerful presence with her. Then a gentleman with facial tattoos, in a suit of some kind - Arbiter. He was only human, yes? She thought about it some - glancing down at her own armour, or lack thereof… They were not so different. The Tower was here too, a man that sounded so heavy and his name did speak volumes about him. He was frightening in his approach, but his words were mellow and calmed down her racing heartbeat. He spoke with doubt, or disbelief - but not with malice.

Did she know what she was doing? Perhaps not. In fact, the more she thought on his words, the more out of her depth she felt. She’d gathered these people here and they’d answered her call. But what now? What was next? The cold chill met her once more as she continued sizing them up. Avant Garde was here, she remembered him - she knew that he was wanted for, of all things, vandalism. She gave an out of character giggle at that, a mixture of nerves and incredulousness at the ridiculousness of it. She’d put out a call to supers, not knowing the history they might have with each other too - and she observed that some were already having reunions of their own.

Biomancer, Spellbound. The latter being more on the intimidating side than Addison would have liked from whomever joined her and answered her message. Where was Captain Rainbow? That said, the woman had answered. She was here, and she was going to help. Biomancer, on the other hand… If there were any in the group she wanted to keep an eye on more than others, it was him. She’d had access to Hex’s files… She knew what Hex thought of each of these people, and Biomancer and Spellbound were both featured in his logs quite heavily. As was The Tower, as were Avant Garde and Stardust. Arbiter? Not so much, but enough.

Finally, after they had all addressed each other, and their energies had wound down, Addison spoke. It had been hard to find words, but she did eventually - clearing her throat, the cough reverberating around the warehouse. “Thank you for coming.”

They were expecting her to be every bit the Special Agent she said she was, that she was, and it took several thoughts and internal affirmations before she stood up straight. They had powers and abilities that she did not, and admittedly it was difficult to stand and hold herself confidently amongst them.

“If you’re here, it’s because you got my message concerning Mr. Moore, about your colleague Hex,” Addison began, hands held in front of her. “He was found not long ago, in his apartment. My department wrote this off as being a suicide or accidental overdose - just a normal death… Just another fucking tragedy of Cedar Fort to be forgotten tomorrow” She sighed, bringing a hand to her face - her features sharp, bags under her eyes. “I know it wasn’t. This wasn’t an accident. I believe he was murdered by the being, or by an associate of the being he wrote about in his journals… Reality Bringer Hell, I even think he knew I was going to find him. There’s a lot that he knew.” She stepped back towards her chair, towards the box she’d brought in.

“I… I didn’t tell anyone about his identity. As far as the force in Cedar Fort are concerned - it was a damn overdose of a nobody. I’m under the radar right now myself,” she explained, taking the lid off the box. She’d expected more help, it occurred to her as she looked inside. “I… These are for you all, so we can stay in touch now.” Addison took out six small devices, no bigger than the palm of her hand. Ancient little remnants of technology for decades gone by. Pagers. She readied herself for the laughter, the disbelief. But these were, surprisingly, some of the safest technology now. Completely outdated and used by so few people, on a network that wasn’t looked at. It was like hiding in plain sight. “I know, it’s… old stuff - but hey, kind of vintage?” she shrugged, passing them around. As she handed each super the equipment she realised that this was really happening.

“I think that Hex was trying to stop the Reality Bringer, from his journals I learned that he was in New Mexico only five days before his death…” Her voice trailed off, and she scratched the back of her neck. “We need to go too, retrace his steps. Something happened there. You’re all here because Hex meant something to you at some point, and maybe you want to find out what happened to him -- maybe you’re just here to finish off his work. All I know is, Cedar Fort is about to be swallowed whole by something huge, and I’m the only one in the force who gives a shit now… I can’t do this alone.”

Her brown eyes scanned the small crowd of assembled heroes, and for the first time she smiled. “What do you guys say?”

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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by ML
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ML Attempted Polymath

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ET's hand flew up almost immediately in response to the threat in front of him. Fuck. He was still too hungover for this kind of shitstorm. It was two in the morning, his head was spinning, and apparently every two-bit, washed-up super in history had decided to show up at the precise minute he opened his big mouth. What are the fucking odds? Biomancer, Avant-Garde, The Tower, and a newcomer. Who was next, Silver Glory?

Do you really want to know? Gabbie asked in his head. Unbidden, the helmet slammed shut around his face, the internal HUD-lighting up with a lowpass buzz. Because--

No, I don't. Let me think. Focus on the most prevalent threat. Dave, keep the guns in the car. This is Stardust. He'd read her file. An alleged mass-murderer, incredibly powerful in her prime, and--judging from the display he'd just witnessed--still able to put a hole through him, Gabbie, and the six feet of concrete behind him. On the run, vanished into the wind.

Oh, honey! Maysah, what are you doing? His hands are up, stop being so dramatic. Ugh, this is not good for your mental health, dear. He felt a tug in his head from Stardust's direction. So sorry about this, sir. She's usually quite lovely.

Are you her phone? He asked mentally. ET didn't worry too much about time: the communications were effectively instantaneous between him and the machines, far faster than communication with humans. He thought, they responded, and nobody else knew. His head spun, eyes still shocked from the blast of Stardust’s light.

When she lets me, the voice huffed. It was mid-high frequency, and clear--clearer than most other digitals. She ignores me except when she’s trying to decide how many bad decisions she can make in a minute. A pause. Wait, you can hear me?

Only sometimes, ET lied. It was easier to start with that than to explain why he was ignoring machines. Can you do me a favor and send Maysah a text? Have it say "You can trust him, Maysah." From someone she trusts? It will help her. Well, it would help him, at least. The subtle compulsion in his words thrummed toward the phone, a silent sound in the night.

I can do that, sweetie. This was a pretty easy convince, luckily. Nobody wanted to kill or be killed here. All done! The sing-song tone in the voice was autotuned perfection. True to her word, the audio sensor in Gabbie's sensor suite detected a tiny ping and a little vibration from Maysah's direction.

Mind the munitions, mate. A new voice: this was a tug from The Tower. Where was his partner? Beacon, the lightcaster. They were normally inseparable, according to the file. No need for this to get ugly. You know your odds, eh?

ET sighed mentally. Agreed, *mate*. The voices were coming, and the buzz was going. This could get very loud, but Gabbie had his back. Gabs, can we block out the irrelevant digitals?.

You got it, handsome. The coastal waves of her voice rolled through him, and the voices from outside winked out one by one. That was one of the upgrades she'd walked him through: he had no idea how it worked, but it saved his sanity in a world of dubstep voices and digital advertisements.

Hands still in the air, he willed the helmet to collapse again. "Look," he said carefully. "I'm here from the call, same as you." His eyes darted to Addison: she seemed totally nonplussed by the cold war around her, and was holding out a set of pagers to them. Bless her, pagers. Silent, stupid, workhorse pagers. He looked back to Maysah--Stardust.

"I'm going to take one of those pagers. I'd appreciate if you don't vaporize me.."

“Since you’re here for Hex, I’m not going to stop you,” said Maysah as she stepped to the side and folded her arms over her chest. It wasn’t anything even close to an apology, and her eyes didn’t leave ET as he walked by her.

Not dead yet. Good start to the night. With an internal sigh of relief, ET took the little box from Addison, and retreated a few steps away, toward a wall. If someone was going to kill him, they could kill him looking him in the eye.

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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Atrophy
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Reynolds didn’t get a chance to reply before more washed out supers showed up for the call. The arrival of a couple of familiar faces added some much needed legitimacy to their gathering and, fortunately for ET, mellowed out her jumpiness. Truth be told, the heavy footsteps had initially put Maysah on an edge, but she was quickly pulled away from as a man in a domino mask and rocking a Union Jack stepped forward. She didn’t have to know him to recognize the Tower.

Hex had spoken highly of the Tower and his family to Maysah more than a couple of times, and he’d tried to find a way for them all to connect. Nothing ever lined up, partially due to Maysah being so resistant to the idea of having a meet-and-greet that sounded like little more than a photo op and nothing else. There was one time where Harrison almost convinced her to tagalong with him to some stupid graduation event. She agreed to it as long as she was in plain clothes to avoid any kind of press. Then, she got doxxed and everything fell to shit. It was funny how things sometimes worked out. Harrison had been dying for the two to meet; turns out dying was the only way for it to happen. The Tower tipped his hat at her and headed towards Reynolds; she narrowed her eyes in return.

A twig snapped. Maysah folded her arms over her chest and fixed a frown upon Harrison’s protege as he stepped out of the shadows with his arms held in a “don’t shoot” position as he spoke. They’d never met as far as she could remember, and why would they? Stardust struggled as it was working with heroes that were her equals; there was no way she was going to deal with their superpowered interns. Still, she enjoyed Artistomancer’s anti-corporate antics from afar, although found them somewhat trifling compared to her methods, and would often tease Harrison by congratulating him on raising such a rebel. Harrison only brought him up once after the trial, and that was sometime after he had reemerged as Avant-Garde. She couldn’t tell if he was more disappointed in himself or the boy. Now, she looked at Lazlo, hiding behind a gas mask with a sick looking body that a stiff wind could break in two, and felt her own kind of disappointment. If Hex’s legacy amounted to little more than a strung out terrorist calling himself a revolutionary then what hope did she have of leaving anything worthwhile behind?

“Given both of our colorful histories,” he said. “Having the federales on our asses is not what we need right now."

“If either of us thought the feds could actually do anything, I highly doubt we would’ve shown up,” said Maysah with a scoff as the goddamn Biomancer, of all people, walked in. “Case and point.”

“Nice to see a reliable face,” said Eli after he’d the stones to call Maysah an old lady.

A surprised, singular, staccato laugh burst out of Maysah’s throat and shredded her intense severity to ribbons. She clamped a hand over her mouth, an actual smile poking out from around the edges of gloved fingers as she shook her head in disbelief. The only thing that had ever been reliable about her when it came to the Biomancer was being a thorn in his side. How many times had they fought in the past? Half a dozen? A dozen? It was enough for the memories to smear together into a scrambled mess of blurred, government black sites and corporate compounds while Stardust danced around Biomancer in a deadly game of keepaway.

There had always been a strange excitement whenever she faced Biomancer, partially spurred on by the knowledge that if she accidentally ended up blasting off a limb he’d end up growing it back. She had lost track over what the score was, but despite his little stint in prison it seemed that Eli had won their game in the end—Biomancer was a free man while Stardust was a wanted woman. Maybe she should’ve had Hex work her out a plea deal instead of help her disappear. Maysah dropped her hand to her hip; a smirk was still ironed onto her lips as a voice cracked from outside the fading light of Reynold’s fire. Like the first arrival, Maysah did not recognize the last arrival.

“Oh wow,” said Maysah to Eli, rolling her eyes at him after the woman called him out. “You should have that black heart checked out. You know, given your age.” The corner of her mouth twitched up. “ I’d hate to see that reliable face of yours croak.”

The group shut up as Reynolds spoke, catching everyone up to speed on the whole Reality Bringer situation. Maysah didn’t really give a damn if Cedar Fort was literally swallowed whole by something huge, but she was with Reynolds on one point: Harrison’s death wasn’t an accident. She owed it to the man to find out who or what exactly the Reality Bringer was and to bring his killer to justice, and if that meant rubbing elbows with a bunch of assholes in military grade armor mixed with thrift store costumes then so be it. She wouldn’t even complain too loudly about having to go to New Mexico. Hell, she’d even try and play nice with the man she’d put the fear of God into who was now asking her nicely to not blast him as he took one of pagers.

“Since you’re here for Hex, I’m not going to stop you,” said Maysah as she stepped to the side and folded her arms over her chest. It was only after the man had grabbed his pager and retreated to the wall that Maysah stepped forward and grabbed her own.

“I appreciated hearing that you kept his identity secret,” said Maysah in a low enough tone so that only Reynolds could hear it. Maysah didn’t know much about Harrison’s personal life. She always thought he never really had one, but maybe the guy was hiding an ex-wife and some shitty kids. Her voice grew grave. “Bad things happen when that kind of information leaks,” she said, fixing Reynolds with an unblinking stare. “To everyone involved.”

“Okay, well,” said Maysah loud enough for the warehouse to hear, her voice free from its sharp edges, as she stepped away from Reynolds. “I’m putting my faith in your, Reynolds. Harrison was a…” Maysah wrinkled her brow. Friend wasn’t the right word. “Harrison was important to me. Let’s bring down this Reality Bringer.”

Maysah settled by the entrance of the warehouse to keep an eye out while the others grabbed their pagers. She fidgeted with her own for a moment before deciding that it would be safer if she tucked it away with her phone. It must’ve been damn hard for Reynolds to get her hands on such prehistoric tech, and Maysah didn’t doubt for a second that the side effects of her power would fry the pager in an instant. Maysah reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a black bag that was designed specifically to prevent electromagnetic interference. She shoved the pager in there next to her phone and sealed the bag shut, blissfully unaware that at the moment she had one unread text message from a ghost.
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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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" What a right little party this is."

Lazlo twirled around, the sabre-thin point of Peaceful Asymmetry broadening into that of a scimitar that curved like a snake's fang. The orange glow of the man's cigar glinted off the whorled surface of the trinket. He lowered Peaceful Assymetry in embarrassment, slowly realising who it was. The Tower. Lazlo remembered that whenever Hex mentioned the British superhero during the time he spent under his care, it was always nostalgia that he saw on his face followed by regret. The Third Rail's intel filled in the gaps. Apparently, rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated in the underground after his disappearance in the 2030s. He inclined his head downwards, slightly bowing , towards the Tower respectfully. Three heroes, four if they were counting the federale. Not a bad st-

“If either of us thought the feds could actually do anything, I highly doubt we would’ve shown up,” Stardust glanced over his shoulder, her lips on the beginnings of a smile. “Case and point.”

Lazlo was wondering what she was talking about, slowly turning his head behind him. He gawked behind his gas mask. Dios mios! How many supers had Reynolds managed to dig out with that communique of hers? The fabled Biomancer, Hex's rival, glanced at him with....was that contempt? He was lucky that the aerators in his mask managed to hide his swear as a figure popped out of the shadows. Spellbound. Lazlo was lost amidst the apparent bad history between the Biomancer and Spellbound that the black garbed protege of Hex decided to drag up. He couldn’t have cared less about the ominous words Spellbound uttered until Biomancer piped up.

“ - terrorist dressing himself as a hero - “

Peaceful Asymmetry clanged onto the syncrete pavement in the form of an ornate zweihander, metal scraping against it like a growling beast.

" Look, viejo.” Lazlo began to walk towards the experienced veteran. “ I didn't risk coming here just to hear you - "

His mouth clammed up just as Reynolds began speaking towards the entire group. How the hell had the old man managed to get underneath his skin? The trinket blade shifted into an unassuming pen-knife, Lazlo hiding it out of sight. He listened closely to Reynolds every word, eyes narrowing once she revealed that Hex’s death was possibly on purpose. The Reality Bringer. Lazlo rolled it between his tongue, muttering the name softly. The Third Rail’s intel hadn’t picked up on anyone who bore that name. To imagine someone who could kill Hex, the most powerful magician of all time, the only man who had cast him from America's shores....It made him shudder. If an entire city was about to be swallowed, he couldn't just stand there and wait for the permission of the Third Rail to intervene. No, this was bigger than the Third Rail. The corps couldn't dream of bringing ruin to an entire city.

Lazlo stared outwards at the entire group of heroes assembled behind him and only saw embers, including himself. What were they supposed to do against something that killed Hex? Were they embers raging futilely against the darkness? A spark was enough to start a fire but he'd seen kindle that had burnt endlessly without purpose. Perhaps, under Reynolds leadership, it would be different. Or maybe, they had gone to Reynolds in search of purpose, like him.

As soon as Reynolds mentioned New Mexico, Lazlo's eyebrows quirked upwards. " New Mexico, eh? It'll be nice revisiting the border again. Hopefully, they won't arrest me." He snorted. Arrest him? More like shoot him on sight after what he did in Tijuana. " Again."

Lazlo went forth and gingerly accepted the archaic piece of tech from Reynolds, murmuring a gracias, before shoving it within a pocket. He scratched the back of his head awkwardly before rasping out loud towards Reynolds, small hisses issuing from the aerators in his gas mask. " You've got some cojones, Reynolds. Asking all of us to come here with no reassurance....." Lazlo tilted his head to the side. " I can respect that. Besides, I can't wait to take that Reality Bringer cabron down."

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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by DJAtomika
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"Well. That's a tall order. We don't even know if this Reality Bringer is an actual person or an event."

Alex strode forward and took two pagers; one for himself that he clipped to his belt, and the other went into his pocket for Shirley to have when he went back later, being careful not to crush the tiny rectangular devices in his big, augmented hands. As he walked back to his spot, he thought about what agent Reynolds had said moments prior. Hex's journals had pointed to this so-called Reality Bringer or some associate thereof and then he'd died of a supposed 'overdose'. That in itself was bullshit, he knew that. But who or what was this Bringer that they commanded such power to take out Hex? And, more importantly, make it look like a suicide? The implications worried him.

Still, there was much work to do before they could even reach that conclusion. Alex went over the events leading up to their meeting in his head, while the other, older supers made nervous banter. Hex was dead. Agent Reynolds had discovered his body. Suspected overdose. She had read his journals and found some details about a Reality Bringer. Putting two and two together, she made a hypothesis that Hex was murdered but it didn't fly in the CFPD. So she used Hex's equipment to broadcast a cry for help on the Network, attracting all these washed-up heroes and villains, including himself and his sister, thousands of miles from home. Agent Reynolds had only one hope left; he didn't know her motivations to bring this ragtag bunch of misfits together, but she knew that Hex's death was more than just an overdose. It just didn't make sense. But the only way to find answers was to embark on this sordid journey into the underbelly of Cedar Fort, of Hex's private life and the journals he kept.

And then there was the matter of their company. Stardust. Biomancer. Avant Garde. Some old crone and an armoured, what he assumed was a cop or officer of some form. The three big-name supers, he knew. Hex had spoken at length about Stardust and Biomancer. Alex had even faced down Biomancer once or twice, when the once-villain had sown terror on behest of some terrorist group in the UK who'd paid him off. But Stardust...the extent of her power eclipsed even his, as much as he was built for combat. She could vaporise him with a click of her fingers and he wouldn't be able to lift a finger, which scared him inside. And then there was Avant Garde. A man who could manipulate paint, making the world his own misbegotten canvas at some point in the past. Alex had never personally fought him, but had heard some scattered stories about him along the Network. It was strange, how many people in this room were connected to the dead warlock. But what puzzled him the most was the two unnamed people; the crone and the armoured man. He recognised neither and yet, his appearance being the most mundane of the bunch made him stand out all the more. Alex made a point to ask this armoured man about who he was later, after everyone else had taken their pagers. As he took another drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke to the ceiling, Alex spoke.

"I'm just surprised at who showed up. We're all washed up misfits of society. My sister pulled me out of bed and we flew across the pond to a country we haven't been to in years. But Hex was a family friend. Showed us a direction when we thought everything was lost. I owe what's left of my miserable life to him. Me and my sister do. We'll do whatever it takes to find out who killed him and put them down. You have our support, agent Reynolds."

As the group began talking again, Alex edged his way past the other supers and approached the armoured man, tapping him as lightly as he could on the shoulder, which would feel like Alex was lightly shoving him.

"I don't recognise you from anywhere, at least, not that I know of. What's your name?"

ET winced as the Tower nudged him, a little too strong. The man was echelons stronger than even his augmented self. But, he was non-hostile, which was a start. And unfortunately curious. He gave the Tower a once-over, then pulled his cover story from the file to the front of his mind. "They call me Arbiter." It was true, although nobody outside of his the MCPD would have any record of the name. "Private security. Not really powered, so to speak, but they give me lots of money, and lots of tech."

His eyes furrowed--not unpleasantly--as he remembered the powerset of the Tower from the file. "Nice cyber. Bit old though, eh?"

"Old, aye. 'Bout as old as I am now. But at least the boys at Hereford keep upgrades in good supply. Had to visit them before I hopped the pond."

Alex rolled his shoulders and briefly flexed the cybernetics in his arms, the machines within whirring and making soft noises as the nanites in his skin rippled and his augmented muscles warmed up briefly before cooling down again as he relaxed. None of this would be visible, of course, but the noise would be audible.

"So. How d'you know Hex? Didn't really seem likely that he would work with a small private security outfit."

ET snorted, getting into character. "It wasn't so small. One of the biggest ones, though you'll understand that I can't give too much detail. Strictly speaking, I'm here off the books, and I'd rather keep my personal life and business life separate. It's hard enough to get my suit out of the armory, but the guy there owes me a favor." He tilted his head to one side. Gabbie, can we--.

Done. And just like that, the Tower's body came alive. The cyber didn't seem to realize it was being watched, so ET nudged it gently. What can you tell me about yourself, chum? To the man himself, ET shrugged. "Hex saved my life. I doubt he even remembered doing it, and he wouldn't have recognized me anyway." He patted the retracted helmet behind his head. "But I owe him this much, at least."

"Aye. Well I guess we all owe him something."

Alex didn't realise that ET had a power. A power that let his cybernetics speak for themselves. And as ET nudged the machines within the man, the voice within them came to life.

Ho there, chum. Prodding about the ol' machinery again, are we?

"Mmm." ET said. "Besides, not all of us can be as famous as the Tower. Golden boy of England, tragedy of the Knight Anglais. My condolences, man. That's rough business." He shifted slightly, bringing his arm gauntlet up to fiddle with one of the panels.

To the cyber, he said, You've caught me. A stranger in a strange land, of superheroes and villains. Can you blame me? You're an optical computer, right? Any advice here would be appreciated--you seem like a reasonable chap.

Oho, not just an optical computer, chum. I control all the systems within the big boy here. Optics, muscles and his hardened second skin. The man here depends on me and it brings me great pride to assist a strapping young fellow such as him. Say, how are you even conversing with me?

Alex shrugged and took another puff of his cigarette, politely exhaling smoke up towards the ceiling.

"Shite happens. I didn't ask for all of that bullshite in Utah to happen. But then again, it brought me and my sister peace of mind for once in our lives. It let us live like actual people back home. No faffin' about with superhero politics and villains or worrying about public image. We were people once. Hex's death, it shook us both to the core. That's why we're out here now."

"I can respect that," ET said. He liked this man. If they'd met earlier, things might have been different, but here he sensed a kindred spirit. "We've all gone through our tragedies." His mind pulled up an unbidden flash of Dave, and his head throbbed. "My brother died to a maniac." The memories washed over him for a second, and he awkwardly dug out his flask from who-knows-where. Not too much left in there.

His mind was getting frazzled, keeping these two conversations going. Frankly, I haven't the slightest idea how. It's my gift, I suppose, but only sometimes. Apologies in advance if I suddenly ignore you, it sort of...fades in and out. Like now, as Gabbie read his mind and severed the contact. There'd be time for conversing with the machines when there weren't a bunch of supers to keep tabs on.

ET stared at the flask in his hand for a long, long second, before finally sighing and putting it down. "Thanks for not threatening to kill me. Wasn't easy to get here, and to be honest, I was starting to feel unloved."

"I wouldn't want to kill anyone here. Not unless I had to. But we're all here to find out why Hex is dead. So...let's focus on that, I guess."

Alex dropped the stub of his cigarette and crushed it under his heel, rubbing out the embers onto the cold concrete. That's what they were all here for. Hex.

Time to start getting some answers.
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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Admiral Moskau
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The voice grew in strength, sounding alive again.

"Hex wouldn't. Not like that. Not like that."

The voice grew softer, taking on a decidedly feminine timbre. Momentarily vulnerable as it shook with newly remembered anger. Taking several steps forward, Spellbound stopped dangerously close to Agent Reynolds. She didn't care about the other superheroes. Not even Eli. They were unimportant. They were dying. They were already dead and they just didn't know it. Agent Reynolds knew. She had to know. Dead eyes burned through tempered glass, trying to the divine the soul of the worn down police officer. Reynolds was crumbling, she would not last much longer. But there was strength, there was determination. She reminded the dead wizard of Hex. She was just as hopeless. She still had hope.

"He wouldn't touch the stuff. He was too full of himself. He was too good, he was always too fond of his damn morals," Spellbound said with fresh venom, casting a slow accusatory glance at Reynolds and the gathered superheroes. She hated him. She hated him, but she would not let them believe the lies about him. Hex was not an addict. He had never been. He had never been so weak. Not even at his lowest. Not even at his worst.

With a simple nod, Nina bent down over the box, a lithe hand taking hold of a pager. Tracing the edges of the ancient device, she slipped it lightly beneath a layer of her fabrics, revealing the faintest hint of alabaster skin before she readjusted her costume.

"I owe, Hex," Spellbound mused, letting out a sigh of irritation. "I don't care about this city. I don't care about you. But I owe, Hex. He cared. He deserved better. I'll help you. I'll help you find this Reality Bringer. I'll help you kill this villain."
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Stormflyx
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23/05/2047
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Evening





Everything that Addison did in the days following the meeting was to prepare for the trip to New Mexico. She'd lost contact with the Biomancer on the 21st - too much for him to handle maybe? Maybe he really just wanted to be sure that Hex was dead. The answer could have been anything. Tensions between the heroes that had remained had not gone unnoticed by the Agent, and she'd taken to keeping Hex's journal as close to her chest as she could - referring to his notes and records of them all.

The notes said a lot. If there was anyone that Addison was keeping a close eye on, it was Stardust - she had seemed the most volatile at the meeting, but that said - she was a damn good hero, and it wasn't that she couldn't be trusted, just that the woman was more powerful than a woman should be. Truthfully, Addison respected her a lot, but they had a mission. Hell, the Agent was keeping an electronic dossier of her own on the team. She had to - this was Supers getting back together for the first time in years. She was responsible for that - if all hell should break loose, she needed to know why.

The meeting had ended with the agreement to work together, and it was a shaky agreement at best, as evidenced by Biomancer's departure. At any minute, any of them could decide that something else was worth their time.

That's why she chose Albuquerque.

It made sense, of course, to head that way off the bat. It was his last known destination - and all of the clues that Addison had, and with all of the resources at her disposal, she had tracked the man's location to the desert via coordinates left in his journal. "of fucking course," she cursed, moving across the sand in her vehicle. She had paged the team the coordinates, and she hoped they'd meet her there in a timely manner - unlike the first meeting. Being out in the sprawling open desert left her with a pit of anxiety too. What would actually stop them fighting with each other here should tensions rise again? She pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind, chastising herself for not having a little more trust in them.

It was easier said than done. She was the powerless one, after all.

Which of them would be most likely to kill her and take Hex's files? ET? Probably not. He seemed too good of a man to kill a defenceless woman for something like that. It seemed out of the style of Avant-Garde to try it too. He had been so friendly - or was she confusing simple politeness for friendliness? The Tower would literally manage to crush her if she allowed it. Addison wondered if the sister would be here, Beacon.

The gothic pallor of Spellbound, and her history was perhaps the most interesting of all. In Addison's eyes, it was Spellbound who was the wild card.

Once again, she shook her head - taking to slamming a fist on the wheel to stop thinking that way. If she was having doubts, they were bound to pick it up - and so she let her eyes wander the desert, the glowing orange horizon as the sun dipped behind the monolithic rocks. She'd never been here, and so she wanted to set as much of the beautiful scenery to memory.

After some time, Addison arrived at the coordinates. Exiting the vehicle, she brought her equipment with her - including a geo-scanner that she'd swiped from the department. This whole thing was off the books, she'd taken the damn nerve to simply call in sick, not that they gave a shit - they weren't going to follow this up.

The rocky ground crunched underfoot, her heavy boots pressing them back into the sand. She wore a simple armour that pinched at the contours of her body well in a deep blue shade. A belt around her waist had the holster for her pistol. Her hands were gloved and her thick brunette locks slicked into a high ponytail. For all intents and purposes, Addison looked the part of a superhero, if someone were looking at her from a distance. Something about form-fitting spandex seemed to sing Super.

She flicked the lens of her visor over her left eye and sighed. They weren't here yet, so she took the time to check the area. There would be hell to pay if these coordinates were a dud - because with her human eyes she could see only an ancient looking rock formation and nothing else. Unless Hex liked pitching a tent to look at the stars, there was nothing here to show for his frequent visits.

Addison pinched at the arm of the visor, turning a switch to power up her scanner...

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Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by Stormflyx
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23/05/2047




As the last of the sun dropped down behind the mountains, and the air slowly began to turn cold - Addison’s results trickled through on a tablet she held in her hand. For the most part, it looked to simply be nature. Just a rock sat on dry and cracked earth, that was until the device picked up a shadow.

A shadow that sat beneath the rocks. “Oh you son of a bitch,” she commented - amusement laced her tone and a smirk pulled at her lips. A pang of relief hit her - that it hadn’t been a wasted journey, and there was even excitement. What was the shadow? And how would they get down to reach it…

Alex and Shirley arrived a few moments later, the Tower’s heavy footfalls creating small clouds of dust as they approached Addison’s position. The British duo had parked their rental some distance away, allowing for the pair to approach on foot, drawing less attention than driving up in their car. In stark contrast to her brother, Beacon was clad in more form-fitting, casual attire; a pair of hiking boots, cargo pants, a t-shirt underneath a crop-top jacket, fingerless leather gloves, along with a shemagh, baseball cap and her signature aviator shades.

Her brother, true to form, still wore his Union Jack t-shirt, but he’d left his thick trench coat in their motel room, with the same gloves, flat cap, domino mask, rugged denim jeans and combat boots. His cybernetics, an older generation model kept up to date with shiny new parts, were visible past his short sleeves in the fading evening light as he knelt down next to Addison, the layer of nanites rippling ever so slightly as they warmed up in preparation for potential use. Shirley, meanwhile, stood nearby, arms crossed while she waited for the other supers to show up, using her command of light to dim their presence somewhat to the outside eye. It would look as if the trio were under a tarp made of shadow that blended in with their surroundings as the sun set, Shirley’s powers pushing out the ambient light in their area.

”So, what’ve we got?”

--

Bullshit you're leaving me behind, boss. I don't care if it's conspicuous! 'fit all goes to shit, you're gonna wish I was there. Besides, we're prepared for just such an occasion. Remember the camo-paint package we popped in last year?

Wish I could say I didn't, Ed grumbled, but he sighed instead. Yeah, okay. You're right. He hated when Dave was right. Well, he hated when he was wrong, but when compared to the actual superhumans he was getting wrapped up with, he needed all the help he could get. Alright, stealth maneuvers, or whatever.

Right on, boss. Dave's chassis flickered briefly, then faded to match the surroundings. ET had no idea how it worked, but that didn't matter. Now cloaked, the pulled off the road toward the meeting point. They'd had to drive for days to make it here, but it wasn't like he had anything else to do.

"Ready to suit up, Gabbie?" ET asked out loud. Sometimes it was good to hear himself talk.

"For you, handsome, always.". Her voice was also audible, rather than in his head. Nobody else could hear her, but it did make him feel just a little bit less crazy.

"I'm going to ignore that," he said, lifting the suit of armor up and on to his back. It sealed around him as they pulled up to the target, and he hopped out of the car with an audible crunch. "I guess you're going to want to stick close, Dave. Gabbie, cue the camo." Gabbie had been irate that 'she didn't also get the cool camo bullshit, I thought you loved me Edward--' so she'd gotten a similar, if less-effective upgrade.

ET couldn't see anything, but he could feel The Tower's cybernetics not too far away. And, another set. It hadn't noticed his prodding, so he kept it that way. The less digitals that knew about him, the better. He waved in the Tower's general direction.

--

He’d forgotten how cold night in the desert was. Not that anyone would notice him underneath the cloak of Sight of Night. The oily slickness of the trinket made him invisible to the eyes of everyone else. The cyberized federale, the Tower along with an unknown woman had arrived on the scene before him. He approached the group, unseen underneath his coat of midnight, before unveiling himself in the middle of the group, tossing off Sight of Night. He gently began to fold the enchanted fabric into his pocket before speaking out towards the group.

[color=pink]“Hola, amigos.”[/pink] Lazlo’s words were tinged with the mechanical inhale and exhale of his gas mask. He reminisced in the dry, cold wind that left prickles on his tattooed arms and the way the sand parted underneath his boots, surrendering without yielding underneath his weight. New Mexico reminded him of childhood memories in Tijuana. Yet, it made him uneasy being this close to the border. Hopefully, the federales wouldn’t catch him off guard on this goose-chase that Reynolds had led them on. What would Hex even want in a place like this?

The anarchist artist lazed down on an outcrop of sandstone that protruded out from the sands to the right of Reynolds. The former agent looked as if she’d struck gold. She was holding some kind of device and was staring intently at a lonely rock in the distance. Was that what they had come here for?

“Judging by your expression, Reynolds…” Lazlo muttered, taking out a notepad and beginning to sketch in it. “ I’m assuming you haven’t led us out in the middle of nowhere for nothing.”

---

It was difficult for Maysah to call herself lost as she stared down at the old paper map. She had managed to stay off of the grid on her trek down to New Mexico, burning just one of her dwindling supply of glamour pills to book a room at a rundown motel that still boasted its premium cable channels and by-the-hour room fees. She would’ve preferred nicer commodities, but after literally running the two thousand something miles from a quick resupply back home to Albuquerque, the only thing that mattered to her had been a shower and a bed before she zipped off to wander the desert like a lost prophet. She had managed to pin down the area that Reynolds told them to meet at on the old map, but when that area was “most of the desert” it wasn’t a very impressive feat. Still, Maysah couldn’t call herself lost. In a matter of seconds, she could find her way.

She just couldn’t bring herself to look at her phone again.

Maysah first saw the message that ET had sweet-talked his phone into sending after the warehouse meeting with Reynolds. She was thankful that none of the others were around, because the mess of emotions that flashed upon her face as she saw a text from her dead husband Henri likely would’ve brought some sly comment. The message said, “You can trust him,” a statement so infuriatingly vague that Maysah was able to avoid confronting her unburied feelings by focusing intently on the mystery of the phrase. It was a mystery compounded even more by the fact that Henri’s number was no longer connected. She had tried calling it. It, much like her husband, was long dead...

She managed to narrow where the message came from down to five possibilities. One, Henri somehow managed to contact her from the grave and everything she knew about life and death was wrong. Two, Hex somehow managed to contact her from the grave and was a real asshole, or more likely he had setup a way to message her before he died and was still an asshole. Three, it was a technological glitch. Four, she was going crazy. Five, someone was fucking with her. Whichever it was, Maysah knew one thing: she didn’t want to look at her phone again.

She looked up from the paper map. The sun was going down, casting a picturesque orange glow across the rock, sand, and cacti as the evening’s purple began to take its place. Maysah didn’t know what time it was exactly because, again, she was being a luddite and refusing to use her phone, but she knew she was late. She bit her lip.

“Damn it,” she said as she plunged her hand into her pocket.

---
The group didn’t see some purple streak rocketing towards them with a trail of dust kicking up behind it as Maysah approached. Instead, they’d see a middle-aged woman dressed in a cardigan and mom jeans glaring down at an obsolete smartphone with a somewhat perplexed look on her face as she tried to figure out how to update her own coordinates on the map, most likely muttering to herself. Every once in a while Maysah would glance up with a confused look towards where Shirley’s powers was masking the group, and she let out an audible “oh!” as she stepped past the threshold where their little shadowy hideout became visible. Maysah stuffed the phone in her back pocket, straightened the tiny backpack she was carrying, and slowly made her way over to the others. It was a notably more mild approach than her previous one.

“Oh, you look more normal than I thought you would,” said Maysah to Shirley, mistaking her for an out of costume Spellbound. “Glad you ditched the creepy suit.”

--

”Thanks. Honestly, the suit was weird. But at least it worked with my robot parts.”

Shirley brushed a lock of hair away from her face as Maysah approached their little hidey hole. She’d been startled by the sudden appearance of Avant Garde within her pocket of shadow, although to be fair, her powers were only the manipulation of light, not a force field. If anything, her brother would’ve responded, although he hadn’t. Which was weird.

In fact, Alex had almost ground Avant Garde to a pulp, had his motion sensors not picked up an anomalous reading from the ground as the criminal approached, his footsteps setting off the alarms in the computer in his head. But once the Mexican unveiled himself in the middle of their charade, the alarms ceased.

---

The woman in black had walked across the desert. Crossing the sand from Albuquerque one effortless step at a time. Shrouded in her costume Spellbound vanished into the fading day, her pale features hidden beneath the midnight glass of her helmet. The approaching cold did not bother her. It was familiar by now, if not entirely welcome.

She had taken a train from Chicago to Albuquerque. It was quieter than paying a spellcaster to teleport her across the continent. She had needed to stop in Chicago. There were enough discreet wizards operating there. She needed supplies. Magic did not heed her call any more, but she recalled enough for rudimentary wards and rituals. She would be prepared. Hex had always dabbled in magic that was far beyond him and whatever it was he had found in New Mexico was liable to be a danger even to the undead.

Spellbound did not need magic or technology to find Addison and the other superheroes. She had a map. A map with a large red X on it. She had purchased the map from a thrift store in Albuquerque for the princely sum of $2.50. Magic could be traced. Technology could be intercepted. A map could be burned.

A leather messenger bag was slung over her left shoulder and neatly folded inside were her traveling clothes. It had felt strange to leave her crypt without her costume on. It had been a minute since she had worn civilian clothing. It was not awful. No one had recognized her. She was just another pale emo kid heading towards the border. The steel of her 9mm pistol rested reassuringly against the small of her back. It reminded her she was there for a reason. She did not trust Addison or the other superheroes. She did not fear them. After all, they were dying. But she would not give them power over her. A name was power. A face to recall was power. She would not share. Not yet. Not until she was certain. Not until she knew.

They were loud. So loud. And she could feel a hint of magic. The Paintbinder, she thought with mild disgust. His magic was offensive. He reminded her of Hex in all the worst ways. Beneath her mask she frowned. She was remembering the habits of the living. Making faces was important. Anger was good.

She walked past the others, only stopping some distance ahead of them. She was not interested in their conversations. Not when she could see it. She might have smiled, had she remembered. With a slight turn of her head towards the assembled heroes, Spellbound pointed at the shadow that danced in front of her,“There’s something very odd about that shadow.”

The voice that escaped the black mirrored helmet sounded mildly bored, but very much alive. Spellbound had been practicing. She tried to remember what it was like to be twenty and full of life.
--
Whatever was going on around her, Addison didn’t really register it. Not even that the Beacon was here, all glowing and beautiful. Not when she was looking on the screen, anyway. At least not until Spellbound came to her side, her voice soft and as ghostly as she looked. Addison drew her gaze from the screen and to her with something of a smirk.

“It’s no shadow, look-” she held up the technology for her, and there it was, as clear as day on the tablet as the shape became clearer and clearer. “This is a bunker, a pretty damn big one too… I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we’ve found one of Hex’s secret bases…” she laughed slightly, a shrug of her shoulders followed.

“Just one problem, it’s completely encased in the rock. Unless…” Addison drew her gaze to the formation again, and to the eerie echoes of shadow that were upon the screen, swirling over the straight angles of the bunker. “Unless those aren’t rocks at all…”
--
A random bunker in the middle of the desert. ET didn’t know exactly what was going through Hex’s head when the guy made this, but you had to respect the man’s need for privacy. There wasn’t any signals or voices coming from the rock-looking case, but they could just be shielded like his suit was.

Only one way to go about this. Alright, Dave. Do it to ‘em..

To the others, he motioned toward his mostly-camouflaged car. “Don’t freak out.” At that moment, a tear-gas grenade launched from the car, arcing over them toward the shadows. It was a dud--turned off so they didn’t waste their stock.

Still, using riot tactics on a pile of rocks wasn’t how he’d expected to start contributing to the team.
--
A bunker? Lazlo squinted his eyes and began to notice a wispy outline clouded underneath the boiling shadow. Guess magic was still capable of surprising him after all this time. No trinket that he ever made could match the remnants of what Hex had left behind for them. He was an amateur while Hex was a master of his art. His hand wandered over towards a patch of scarred skin on his shoulder. He’d taught him that after all.

The familiar sound of a whump made him raise his guard as a smoke grenade sailed over his head and landed near the vicinity of the bunker with a metallic ding. He’d almost sunk his hand into the paper to pull out a trinket before realising that it was a dud. Behind his expressionless gas mask, Lazlo rolled his eyes in annoyance. Leave it to the federales to shoot first and ask questions later.

“We’re not going to learn anything if we stand around here like idiotas.” He kept the notepad inside one of his pockets whilst raising his left arm upwards. “Let’s shed some light on the situation.”

His gloved hand reached over towards a tattoo hidden within the crook of his elbow, plunging his finger in, and pulling out a saucer with a partially melted wax candle. Taking out an electric lighter, Lazlo pressed the charred wick of Dying Light against the flame. The trinket grew a soft bell-shaped flame that was light crimson in color. Lazlo raised the saucer upwards and the light loomed upon the shadows, attempting to part it away.

Both the grenade and Lazlo’s art had done something.

The illusion had cracked, and to Addison, it felt as though it was almost too easily done, and she pondered over the idea that perhaps Hex had planned it that way. Then there was the notion that it could have all been a trap…

Nevertheless, she kept her eyes fixed on the scene, Supers at her side. It just evaporated like hot water - the oranges and browns of what had been the rock formation drifted away like steam on a breeze, revealing what appeared to be an open crater in its place - the solid grey roof of a building in the centre.

She was able to obtain a better reading, and it showed that there were a series of potential entrances. It made little sense to the Officer to send them all in the same way.

“Spellbound, Arbiter - take that east entrance, Avant Garde, Stardust - the roof. Meanwhile,” Addison peeled her eyes from the screen of the tablet, and met the siblings with a half-cocked smile. It was excitement and anxiousness in equal measure. “We’ll take the front door. Sound good? Good.”

Addison didn’t wait for her answer, instead making off over the sand. It was time to open the bunker.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by ML
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ML Attempted Polymath

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CURRENT DATE -- 23/05/2047






A solid plan was occurring within the bunker. Several solid plans, actually.

A set of superheroes on a mission to save the world from the end of days. A magician, a technopath, and lightshow on legs. A walking reactor, a walking fortress, and the walking dead. Addison had put together quite the team to handle this threat. Unfortunately, she had also put together the last of the superheroes in the world who seemed to give a shit. A pretty little package, all in one place.

ET felt the danger like a punch in his gut. A new voice in his head, moving at ten kilometers per second.

.//TARGETLOCKSOLIDCOPY.//MISSIONDESTROY.ASSET1632.//MISSONDESTROY.BYSTANDERS.//IMPACTINGINT-MINUS15SECONDS.//
.//TARGETLOCKSOLIDCOPY.//MISSIONDESTROY.ASSET1632.//MISSONDESTROY.BYSTANDERS.//IMPACTINGINT-MINUS14SECONDS.//
...


"What the fuck?" he hissed, before his years of training snapped into him like a shot of Everclearer.

Fuck indeed. Addison had given them fucking pagers for communication. He tapped into his with a single minded fury and sent out a message which he hoped would be received. MISSILE EN ROUTE. BIG MISSILE. 10 SECONDS. FIND COVER AND BRACE. He also reached out to all the cybernetics in the group, and the phones in the group. They were all amenable to his words, given that the alternative was complete extermination. He felt Dave speed into reverse outside. At the very least, he wouldn't lose Dave. Again.

He whirled to Spellbound. "Change of plans. We have to get to cover now." He didn't wait to answer what kind of cover, given that they were in a metal bunker, but he had a feeling whatever was coming was going to make a real mess of things here. He set off down the hall at a sprint, silent as the servos in his suit balanced and weighted him perfectly. At the first door he found, he wrenched it open and yanked Spellbound inside, heedless of any protests.

The room was a dead end. That was fine. They were in a bunker, so a dead end was to be expected. ET turned and heaved the door closed behind him, and then flicked his wrist. Gabbie, enhanced over years by his tinkering, popped a fusion torch into his hand. He proceeded to lock the door behind them in a most permanent fashion. Hopefully it would be enough.

The missile was not nuclear, but it was nonetheless devastating. When it struck the bunker, it punched through a solid three feet of metal at the top of the building. It's momentum was lost, and the missile was stuck in the roof, but the hundred gigajoule payload it contained wasn't so hindered. The explosion would have been enough to wipe a moderately-sized town off the face of the planet. A payload half its size was used in an airstrike in 30 years ago against a superpowered terrorist cell in Europe.

Inside the bunker, roaring flames traveled faster than eyeblinks through the tunnels. Enchantments and spells fizzled away from the raw fury of high-yield explosives. Any doors not fused shut were blasted inward at the seam, as the fires of judgement found their way to the exits of the building, and every nook and cranny besides.

In an interesting twist, there was no mushroom cloud. The explosion was immense, but brief, with no dirt to toss up. A torrent of force, followed by a torrent of fire, then nothing. Some supers would probably have been able to shrug it off, given enough advance warning. They were a wily bunch.

One super, in particular, had survived just fine. In the deepest recess of the bunker, a shattered glass tank spilled a clear, bubbling fluid onto the floor. Cords had stretched from the walls to the tank, to whatever...whoever had been inside.

Now, the room was empty, except for the hiss of pneumatics, and a blaring siren.

ET punched the door off its hinges with a grunt. Maybe fusing himself into the room hadn't been the best idea, but it wasn't like there'd been a ton of time for him to think of a better plan.

The hall outside was shredded, blackened, and damaged beyond repair. Pipes hung from the ceiling, and patches of the floor had seemingly vanished into thin air. "Fuck." he said again, before sending another pager message. Fucking pagers. WHO'S LEFT?
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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“Oh, I dunno, Miss Stardust.” Lazlo shot back with a snarky reply. “ You ever saw a security camera that has a question mark on it?”

Why were the oldest vigilantes always the most grumpiest? Hex at least wasn’t this much of an asshole to him, even though he threw him off a cliff. Don’t push your luck, Lazlo. She might throw you off a cliff. He then looked back at the screen and signed. What game was Hex trying to play with them? If only he had the resources of the Third Rail with them…….

No time for reminiscing. Lazlo looked towards the keyboard and pressed the # button. As soon as his finger touched it, the floor beneath begin to rumble. Lazlo swore. Of all the buttons he had to chose, of course bad luck guided him to pick the fucking self destruct sequence.

“ Don’t look at me. I didn’t know that was going to -”

The crack of concrete was the only warning he had before the ceiling caved in and began to fall onto him. He reached out towards Stardust, only to realise that his two legs were waving in the air. The floor had crumbled apart as well. Shrapnel flung through the air at break-neck speeds, slicing and biting into Lazlo’s skin and flesh. Gritting his teeth, he reached out into his right elbow, touching a tattoo, concentrating, visualizing, imagining -

Then, in a burst of light, Crane of Mache unfurled out, jabbing its beak and wings into the structure and holding it still. Lazlo straddled its neck, looking upwards to see the damage. Around him was a tangle of rebar, pipes and wires intertwined with concrete rubble, only held together by his trinket. It’d only hold for a while but a while was all he needed to get him and Stardust out of the base -

There was a ripping of paper, a rumble that smashed apart his world, searing pain all in one instant before he welcomed the darkness.




When Lazlo woke up, he wasn’t sure whether or not he was still sleeping. A void surrounded him. Everywhere he looked, there was only black. A short strangled laugh escaped his breath, a mixture of relief and fear at his survival. His laughter soon became winded coughing.

" Stardust?" He whimpers out. " Miss....Stardust?"

No one. Only the stink of his sweat, the taste of iron on his lips and the stabbing pain in his chest -

Wait, why was his chest hurting? He feels around before he finally grabs ahold of it. A five foot long rod of rebar protruding through the center of his torso, smeared with stink and gut. He grunts, trying to pull himself up, but every movement only makes the hurt worse. He falls back down, both of his hands moving to clasp his aching forehead.

But only one hand responds. It takes him a moment to realise that he has no left arm anymore. Or eyes for that matter. His left fingers pinch the pulp in his empty sockets. Well, he doesn’t need eyes. Or two arms. He’d gotten out of worse before. He’d manage with this.

The aching in his head becomes a persistent ringing. Bloodloss. Right. Happens when you’re impaled by a metal spike and after you lose your arm.

Moving. Right. He was still moving. Focus on that. If he was still moving, then, he was still alive.

Think, Lazlo, think. You’ve got to have a trinket somewhere.

But what use was manifesting a trinket if he couldn’t visualise it? There’s nothing he can do but wait until he bleeds out, or wait for someone to dig him up and then bleed out. He blinks uselessly, droplets of blood sliding down his cheeks.

What can he create if he sees nothing?

Then, it comes to him.

If I can make something immaterial into material, then, can I make something material into immaterial?

The pounding in his head becomes like a drum. He’s losing time. There’s no time for caution. His right arm levers across his chest and grabs onto the rod, slick with his blood.

Your blood is the pigment. Your body the canvas.

He focuses on the gaping wound in his chest. Reshaping it. Moulding away the rebar. Sanding it down to its base concepts of reinforcement and structure. He feels it begin to flake away in his hand like an old oil painting. It doesn’t stop there. A rush of fear sprouts to him as he feels a sinking sensation, as if he’s stepped into a pool. Drowning again like when Hex threw him off the cliffside. The pounding in his head becomes a relentless screech. No. His hand is gone. He can still make it. Legs. Where are his legs. No, god, please -

In the end, when the rubble is lifted up, all there is left of the Artistonancer is a circled-A scratched into the stone and the rent remains of his left arm.




Wherever he is right now, he feels cold. Then, hot. Then, not. He stands up, palming his still-bleeding left stump. The hole in his chest is gone. That's good. The landscape around him is turbulent, a mosaic of colors endlessly blending and shifting from Baroque to Classical to Cubic landscapes, bending space and time and all notions of physical laws.

Where am I?
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by SgtSlayer
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SgtSlayer Basic Bitch

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CanAm Highway
Albuquerque, New Mexico





Cassey had absolutely no intention of making this stupid trip. Especially not on a damn motorcycle, but here she was, despite her better judgment.

The news of Hex's death was especially hard on her, yet she found a way to numb her feelings enough to not only want to get out of bed in the morning, but to do it successfully.

Damn goodie two shoes. What happened to you? Why didn't you ask for help? I was right here, you dumbass!

Perhaps that was all a big lie, as Cassey hadn't been here in a long time. Technically speaking, she hadn't been in contact with Hex since her fiancee was murdered. Though she'd often stop by his apartment to drop off lunch. Sometimes, he would return the favour and leave a note.

Cassey never replied.

She used to wish he'd stop trying to contact her, and now, it was the only thing she wished for.

The Special Agent's transmission threw a wrench in Cassey's plan to nonchalantly wait for her death. If Hex's demise truly was a cover-up for something else, then she had at least one thing to live for (two if you count Harley). She was going to find the bastard who killed the man who saved her life, and she was going to rip their fucking head off.

The night of the meeting in Cedar Fort, Cassey never made her presence known. She managed to sneak close enough undetected to listen in on their conversation. It wasn't hard to be unseen when you can disappear in darkness.

One of them she recognized by reputation alone, the rest were all strangers. Hex was the only other super she was ever in contact with and besides, Cassey was never big into the team up crap. Not then, and certainly not now. If she was going to have to watch their whole operation from a distance and race to find the culprits before they did, then that's what she was going to do.

Cut to right now, Cassey had tailed on of them, Starfire or something. The grouchy one she got a kick out of listening insult others. So far, the older woman hadn't spotted Cassey. Or if she did, she didn't try to make a rash move to lose her.

This never-ending valley of sand and humidity was definitely not the type of climate she enjoyed. All this sand was going to wear out the leather on her jacket faster and clog up her bike's engine.

This place fucking sucks.

The only other time she was forced to spend time in this hell hole was when Hex had brought Cassey here. She knew where they were headed, and she knew that from the moment they hopped on Highway 6. Cassey managed to follow without being seen. Knowing there was no trail leading to the bunker, she would have to pull away from Stardust and wait.

She stopped on the side of the road, pretending to fix something on her bike. After some time passed, Cassey drove away in the direction she remembered all too well. Once she closed in on the bunker, the woman parked her bike in the dust, removed her helmet, and activated the motorcycle's camouflage function to be on the safe side.

Just as she started approaching the entrance, a gigantic missile crashed into the bunker.

The blast radius was large enough to send pieces of metal and other debris flying in her direction. In an instant, Cassey dropped into a dark puddle that pooled at her feet and easily escaped the flying shrapnel from the explosion. A few minutes later, she reappeared out of the puddle of dark matter as if she was pulling herself up from it.

You better not be dead, Special Agent.

Without Addison, she had no lead and no idea where to start her search. But there was no way in hell that anyone survived that.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Without any other choice, Cassey moved through the rubble that was clear of flames and searched for the detective's body. Perhaps she could find something useful on her body, if it hadn't been completely blown to pieces.

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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by DJAtomika
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23/05/2047, 2:04 AM
Alberquerque, New Mexico


Alex and Shirley had no idea what was coming. But then again, they were, themselves, preoccupied with the secrets of the bunker they were exploring. Unravelling the layers of enchantments and spells that their dead friend had placed upon his hidey hole out in the middle of the New Mexico desert, the Mackey siblings and agent Addison were searching high and low for something. Anything. The front door had led them down a confusing magical path that had held up to Alex's prodding and Shirley's light, and currently they were at an impasse; with Shirley one staircase above their position, Alex and Addison were deciding between a simple fork in the path, unsure of which one to take.

Just as Alex opened his mouth, ready with his decision to move right, an alert sprung into his augmented vision, superimposed against the darkness. It was a bright red triangle with a white exclamation point within it, followed by a simple message.

"SYSTEM INTRUSION DETECTED."

Before Alex could protest or get an order in, the text vanished, replaced by another message

"MISSILE EN ROUTE. BIG MISSILE. 10 SECONDS. FIND COVER AND BRACE."

"Shit- Shirl get down here now!"

Unbidden, his sister was already by his side, having received the same message on her own augmented optics. Wordlessly, Alex gathered Addison and Shirley in his arms, put his back to the stairs they'd come down from, braced himself and waited.

White hot force followed immediately after. Much more than what Alex could withstand. The walking tank stumbled a few steps forward from the initial shock wave and then was sent head over heels by the ensuing wall of super-heated air and flame that rolled through immediately after; the floor he braced himself on being torn to pieces by the blast. Had his footing been more firm, he would have withstood the blast. But instead, with the two women wrapped tightly in his arms, the trio crashed and tumbled down the tunnel, engulfed in an inferno that seemed to last forever, before briefly losing consciousness.

Moments stretched into minutes. Hours maybe. But it felt like the ass end of forever when Alex awoke. The first thing he felt were his systems rebooting after the hard crash that had followed him being knocked out by the missile blast, followed by a rapidly cooling heat and pain in just about every part of his body. Alex waited a moment as he let his cybernetics and nanites restart themselves, taking in his surroundings instead. He was buried under a pile of rubble; concrete, some steel reinforcements, stone and sand. There were a myriad of sounds around him; flames flickering somewhere, pieces of rubble falling from the ceiling and the sound of someone groaning. A lady.

"...Shirley."

Alex wasted no time in pushing himself up off the floor. The visage would've terrified lesser men; a hulk, more machine than man, skin rippling like liquid metal, emerging from being buried by rocks and concrete as if he had been resurrected by God himself. His trench coat was ruined; pieces of fabric drifted from his shoulders to settle on the ground amidst ashes. His hat was gone, as was most of his shirt and cargo pants. The rubber soles of his boots were melted and they were just about ruined as footwear could be. But the one image that hadn't left at all was the Union Jack, still displayed loud and proud on his chest. The walking tank quickly located the source of the noise that had woken him and found Shirley's arm, poking out of another pile of rubble. Her hand was aglow with a faint blue light that stood out from the dark oranges and yellows of the ruins.

"Shirley!"

He rushed over to where his sister was, quickly pulling bigger pieces of rubble from atop the mound she was buried under to free her from her prison. A few moments later, Shirley broke free from her own burial site, coughing loudly as she cleared rocks and dirt from around her, assisted by her brother. Her attire was similarly shredded, but to a lesser degree than her twin brother, thanks in part to the cybernetics she had. At least they mostly stayed intact around her more private areas. As she caught her breath and extricated herself from her rocky prison, Alex was already on the move. His enhanced optics scanned the area, attempting to locate their other companion. But, in stark, grim contrast to Shirley's mostly uninjured state...

Alex pulled a large piece of concrete away from where he'd found Addison Reynolds using the x-ray option in his optics. The special agent was barely breathing, and the cause was apparent: unlike the Mackey siblings, whose second skin of nanites was hardened against physical damage, Addison was only human. A roaring inferno that had barely harmed the twins had severely burned agent Addison's body, not beyond saving but without medical aid close at hand, it was clear that she was not long for this world. As Alex knelt to check if she was still alive, a ragged cough escaped her lungs as the agent weakly lifted a hand to grab what was left of his collar. He leaned down close, understanding the gesture, his ear next to her burned, cracked lips as she whispered to him.

"...find...Hex's...killer...avenge...him..."

Alex closed his eyes as he felt her last breath kiss his ear and then vanish into the hot air. A shudder passed through his shoulders as his sister placed a hand atop them, a few tears rolling down her ash-stained cheeks.

"...she didn't deserve this, Shirl."

"I know. We didn't even know. Had no time."

"Aye...still felt like I could've done something more."

"You did all you could. We did. The least we can do is honour her dying wish, Alex."

The siblings were silent, for a time. Nothing but the flicker of dying flames and the soft patter of pebbles on concrete. Then a harsh vibration cut through the somber silence. Alex patted his belt where the pager agent Reynolds had given him was, still clipped to the front of his cargo pants, protected from the fires that had raged only moments earlier. One simple message was displayed on its small monitor:

WHO'S LEFT

Alex rose from where he was knelt by Addison's body, pager in hand. With fingers still charred by flame, he typed in a reply that he sent to everyone else. Then he sighed and reached down, gathering the fallen agent's body into his arms, before turning to find their way out of the ruined bunker.

TOWER+BEACON ALIVE. ADDISON KIA.
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