Hidden 2 mos ago Post by ML
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"Jesus Christ." ET muttered. He'd jumped when Void had shown up, but come on: there'd been no one, and then there'd been someone. It was eerie, and spooked his caffeine-fried, sleep-burned synapses.

"Look," he continued, fixing Stardust with a pointed stare. "Don't be killing anyone. For all the bluster and extraneous acting, the shadowman is right. Going in guns blazing is a surefire way to get Carolex, the other big six, and Envoy herself to shred us into atoms. Nobody actually knows what her powers are, or how they work. We're basically planning this fucking heist in the Garden of Eden."

"He's also exaggerating." ET put a hand to his face and shook his head slowly. Caffeine-withdrawal headache. Fucking great. "Most companies and individuals--even the Big Six--don't have paper-mache nukes. What they might have is a Ritual Circle with a tripwire that...turns us into mummies," he said, nodding acknowledgement to Void. "Usually," he stressed, "magic is weird, complicated, almost impossible to get right, and more trouble than it is worth." Not in this case, he supposed. Carolex Experimental would have devoted plenty of funds to magical safeguarding, especially if Void wasn't the only magical-criminal in the area. Statistically, there might be...two or three others?

He was going off of experience in the MC: Magic was a tempting escape for the...challenges of everyday life. In Midwest City, he'd seen plenty of rituals-gone-wrong, or demons-half-summoned, or Wiccan Sex Magic where the unfortunates had been melded at the hips. But he wasn't an expert--ET figured that had been Hex's area of expertise. He paused, then patted down his pockets briefly. Was it still there?

It was. He pulled out the notebook from Addison's body, and flipped it open. "Fuck," he mumbled, as symbols and ancient languages crisscrossed the pages. "So I've got this fucking notebook," he growled, tossing it onto the table. "Judging from it trying to steal my soul, it was from Hex. Might be useful if we're going to have to deal with magic, since Hex was the closest thing to a magical mastermind I've ever heard of."
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Maysah began to think that perhaps getting catcalled into catching a bullet would be a mercy as Void continued to filibuster. This kind of lecture was largely wasted on her, and it was largely based upon assumptions that she knew not to be true. They were going up against one of the Big Six. Any yuppie with slicked back hair and a seat on the board of one of those companies was a lunatic tripping off of a power fantasy. Besides, she had ruined her career fighting corporations like these. She didn’t need to know every which way they’d screw her because she had already been through them all.

Her brow furrowed into a v-shape and it stuck there as Void kept talking hypotheticals upon hypotheticals. Was he attempting to make a point, or did the sound of his own voice mend his precious ego that had been wounded by getting shot down? They had been inventing ways to kill her for over twenty years. She had been shot by guns, blasted by hand lasers, thrown around like a ragdoll by a mutated scientist, and just hours ago was practically hit point blank by a miniature nuclear warhead. Yet, somehow she had survived long enough to ironically get talked to death by this man here about all the possible things that would, yet again, fail to kill her.

A short huff of air, the death of a stifled laugh, escaped from Maysah as Void went on to threaten her with EMPs. She’d love to see if an EMP would be able to counter-out a perpetual EMP. She squinted her eyes shut tighter as a hand went up to cover a smile. Yes, how could big bad Stardust even dare to think about hurting the poor innocent make-believe single mom who had, in this dumbass scenario, just tried to murder her with a magical bomb?

Another hand went up to her face as she started to shake in her seat. Oh, oh, alas, these poor innocent civilians who willingly punched the clock to work for an evil empire, oh, how the world will weep for them and cry out why, Stardust, why!? Yes, yes, this was it, this was her start of darkness, all because she didn’t let a man harass her. What a monster! What a frosty bitch! Damn it, Stardust! Why did she murder this man because he had negative pick up game? Why couldn’t she just take the compliment? Alas!

Arbiter spoke up, telling her not to go killing anyone. Wow, thanks for the support. Glad she followed him to Denver. She shook her head as he continued on business as usual. She couldn’t take it anymore. This was why she never could be part of a team. She lowered her hands from her face. Her cheeks were red. Tears were pooling at the bottom of her eyes. Void was still there, but it didn’t matter anymore. The corner of Maysah’s lips twitched.

And then she exploded into a howl of laughter. It was an uncontained, uncontrolled, full on laughing fit complete with blown out equine heehaws and sharp snorts. Maysah doubled over as she smacked the table and flopped back in her seat. She didn’t know what exactly it was that got her but goddamn did it get her. The lack of real sleep didn’t help. She wiped at the tears flowing freely down her face, caught one look of Void, thought for a second that he was actually about to start fucking talk again, and erupted into another laugh session. It was uncomfortably long for everyone involved. Maysah was in actual physical pain by the time she had wrestled it down to a soft chuckle.

“Holy shit. Holy. Shit! I haven’t laughed like that in ages. Oh my god. Thank you,” she said, mostly to Void. It was the first time her partners heard actual glee in her voice. “Are you sure you aren’t a hero? Because that? That was just an incredible speech. Seriously. Bravo.” She lifted the drink he had gotten her in a mock cheers. “Really, I take it all back. I have seen the error of my ways. I was in the wrong. I’m totally going to fuck you now.”

And with that Maysah sneered, turned the drink, and poured it right onto the floor. She set the empty glass on the table, snatched up Hex’s notebook, and stared Void dead in the eye, “Since you’ve been doing this kind of thing for years I doubt you’ll need to study up. Besides, the lady needs another drink.”
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by ML
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"Enough," Peterson said. "I didn't invite you here to fuck around and--"

Void had a smug little grin on his face, Stardust looked about ready to snipe him through the eyeball, and ET found himself wishing to god that he'd just gotten himself suspended when Captain Ong had come calling. He could have been four shots into his happy place back at Midwest Multibar and Grill, or shooting the shit with Andrew and his wife. Instead, he was playing babysitter to a bunch of people who could kill him as easily as blink at him.

All this for a fucking dick measuring contest between Houdini and a walking plasma storm. ET reached out with a sudden vehemence, and before he knew what was happening, he'd sent an executive order down the nightclub's throat. TONDE collapsed. A sudden failure in the power management system sent sparks sizzling across the dance floor's lights. The music crashed altogether, and every light except the one above their table went out in a crackle and a hiss. The robot-controlled bar spun into a haywire fit, shattering the glass bottles on the countertop. Every tuxedo-clad server drone in the building screeched once, and then dropped, lifeless, to the floor.

"Look," he hissed, and pointedly reached out to Stardust's hand holding the book. He plucked it out of her fingers, and leaned back stiffly. "I don't think we have a fucking choice here. We'll have to try and raid Carolex. But it is three in the god. Damn. Morning. Since nobody seems willing to contribute to the mystery of why we almost died, I'd like to get some sleep." The caffeine in his veins would not make that easy, but he was determined and foolhardy. It'd work.

Peterson's carefully crafted face of neutrality slipped as the chaos unfolded around them. His eyes flicked from ET to Tower to Stardust, then back to ET. The four of them were now quite alone in the room. The man's eyes slid down to a ring on his finger, and he relaxed somewhat, but nodded. "Two doors down the street, there is a hotel that I use. Excellent service. I'll put in a request for you all to get separate rooms. Should be ready by the time you get there. We'll reconvene at A Morning Cup in eighteen hours. Will that be enough?

ET did the math. Nine PM. "Yeah. That'll work." He stood, then paused and glanced at Tower and Stardust. "Look," he said. "This is not ideal. If y'all disappear overnight, I won't blame you. I'm gonna see this through, though. For Addison." And so that Captain Ong doesn't excommunicate me. He left without waiting for them.

"Captain, what the fuck have you sent me into here?" He folded his hands in front of him and looked down at the smartDesk in his hotel room. Captain Ong's impassive face looked back at him. He'd just finished recounting everything that had happened, including his probable breach of cover in the nightclub. It wasn't like either of them had actually expected him to keep the cover of being non-powered. It would have come out eventually. But still, maybe they wouldn't notice.

ET snorted. Right.

"Turner, your guess is as good as mine." A shiver of emotion flashed across Ong's face, and she brought a hand to her forehead. "A missile? A coverup? Carolex? You know I can't give you a green light for that, right? Not only are you out of your jurisdiction, we put you under an assumed identity. If it gets out that a MCPD officer was going on raids across the country--" she held up a hand as he opened his mouth. "Look, I'm not arguing the importance. This is a secure channel, isn't it?"

ET nodded. One of his many talents: totally secure, end-to-end-encryption that only he could process properly. Ong smiled tightly. "Right. You almost got nuked out of existence, and clearly whatever was in that bunker was worth risking another regional war between corpos. I just can't given you an official go-ahead. Do whatever you can. I'm not ordering you to, and you can come back if you want. I don't think it's worth the risk, but you're already there. Just know that if it goes south, nobody will be able to cover for you. Remember those old Mission Impossible movies?"

"Yeah." They'd been an old precinct favorite.

"That's you now." Ong nodded curtly, then cut the link.


P R E L U D E T O L A R C E N Y
CURRENT DATE -- 24/05/2047, ~9 PM


A Morning Cup was, ironically, another nightclub, though it was more accurately a jazzhop-bar. It was infinitely more white-collar than TONDE, being near the industrial complexes populated by infinitely more white-collar employees. Having rested, shaved, eaten, hydrated, and not had any alcohol through sheer muscle force of will...ET liked the place.

He settled down at an outside table, waving away a pretty, young waitress with an easy smile. She actually blushed, and for the first time in days, ET felt almost like a man, instead of a sleep deprived lagoon monster.

Honey, you are always a man. Gabbie's voice was thin, refracted through ice. She and Dave were parked near the Carolex Industrial complex in one of the apartment lots. It was public parking, and they had the cloaking engaged. ET had figured it would be safe enough to keep them there.

He'd been the first to arrive, but he liked being punctual. It was time to get this show on the road.
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The snide grin on Maysah’s face only widened as Peterson spoke up, but she didn’t take her eyes off of Void. She was curious to see what the man would do. It was a test, almost, although a test implied that she had intended to set him up in this situation all along when in reality she was the one who had her buttons pushed. Unfortunately, when Void had stepped up that locked Maysah from ever entertaining the possibility of backing off. She was a matador and Hex’s notebook was the red cape. All that was left was to see if Void was more bullheaded than she. Maysah gestured to her empty glass. It was his move.

Maysah’s head snapped away as TONDE broke first. Something pulled the plug and the whole bar shut itself down in such a furiously self-destructive manner that it couldn’t have been the normal protocol of signalling to time displaced drunks that it was past closing. The carnival of lights and noise was now dead, the only source of light coming from the single bulb above their table. Maysah glanced up at the solitary light with a frown and let Arbiter pull the notebook from her fingers as he growled. So that’s what Arbiter could actually do, then? She knew he was more than just a stiff in a super suit. The test was now over.

Satisfied, Maysah leaned back in her seat and reached for her glass, cocking an eyebrow when she saw that it was empty. Maysah followed the old drinking rule of “when you don’t remember drinking it, it’s time to stop”, but normally she felt more drunk when it would come to that point. Funny that. She folded her arms over her chest and stared at Arbiter. Perhaps she should stop poking at the man so much. Her healthy suspicion coupled with just the simple pleasure of winding the man up was fine when it was just the two of them, or just the two of them and the Tower there to keep the peace, but it did them no good to squabble in public. Especially not in front of Peterson.

“Of course,” said Maysah at Arbiter’s insistence on getting some sleep. It was strange. She knew she had been arguing with him, but she felt no anger towards him. Naturally, she wouldn’t dare to give him an apology, but she’d accept his excuse. “We’re all in need of some actual good sleep.”




Maysah didn’t get good sleep. It wasn’t that the room Peterson had set her up with wasn’t adequate, although there was a sort of gauche tackiness to the decoration that suggested the room could be rented by the hour. The bed was comfortable enough as long as she kept that previous thought out of her mind and the amenities were, at the very least, existent. There was a faint pink glow to the room that emerged once she kicked off the lights, the pollution of neon advertisements forcing their way past the blackout curtains to get to the consumer. Still, Maysah was out the moment her head touched the pillow. Regardless, the sleep wasn’t good.

Their house together hadn’t been large but it was exquisite and solitary, located in a forest clearing at the end of a winding drive. The windows were so numerous and so enormous that it’d be more accurate to say that it was made of glass and a few planks than to say it was constructed out of cedar. Henri was a proponent of minimalism, so every room was neat and smartly decorated with the exclusion of her study, although he always found time to tidy up the chaos of “the Stardust Cave” as he insisted on calling it. Really, beside her one room it was his house. He did everything in the kitchen, he cleaned the bathroom, he remodeled the children’s room into a personal gym once that dream was realized to be irresponsible. He put a lot of work in making their home a home. Once she was Stardust, she hardly even had time to be there let alone think about dusting.

She was running down the driveway he’d happily shovel for an hour every time it snowed, despite her offer of torching it with her powers. The moon was full and she could see the house clearly as she turned around the final bend. The huge windows to the dining room, the ones that he insisted were great because of how much natural light they let in, were shattered inwards. She went through them. All was dark inside except the flicker of the television in the other room. Henri had been opposed to getting a TV, but there wasn’t a night when she came home from fighting crime where she didn’t find him staying up to watch for news of her accolades. She dropped her shield and slowed down. Maysah knew what she was about to walk into but still screamed as she turned the corner. It always surprised her by the amount of viscera Soothslayer left dripping from the ceiling.

Maysah woke up with a jolt of panic that was louder than any alarm and more energizing than any shot of espresso. Her body ached. Realization eased the pain in her chest as she leaned back against the headboard and breathed. It had been a while since she had that nightmare, although she never kidded herself once that it would ever be gone. It was this damn job, as if she needed her subconscious to remind her of the terrible things the corps would do if you dared to oppose them. She looked at the aging woman in the mirror above the dresser and frowned. What more could they take now? She had a few hours to kill, and going out wasn’t an option.

So, Maysah decided to find out the answer to that question, even though she feared that it’d be nothing.




It was difficult not to look at the message anytime Maysah pulled out her phone. You can trust him. Unlike her previous question, this one still had no answer. Maysah could remember the directions to A Morning Cup from here. She sighed and locked the screen, momentarily startled by the sight of Maria in the reflection. No matter how many times she saw that face looking back at her she’d never recognize it as her own. Thanks to her supply of glamour pills being down to the last two, she wouldn’t have to ever overcome that hurdle. Of course, she’d have new problems to deal with once she ran out, and they were the kind that’d be a little harder to jump over than a hurdle. All in good time. She had to survive tonight.

Fortunately, she was nailing it on the surviving aspect so far. She had managed the short walk from the hotel to the jazz club without a scratch on her, although she did have to fend off several promoters that were bombarding anyone who got too close with flyers for various clubs. By the time she was outside of A Morning Cup she had a healthy stack in her hand. With so many places to have an awful time at, how did any of these clubs stay open? She squeezed her way inside through a gauntlet of expensive haircuts and tailored suits while a baritone saxophone loudly died to find Arbiter had gotten them a table. A kind gesture, considering he hadn’t offered to give them a ride.

“Do you find it as worrisome as I do that our benefactor isn’t already here?” asked Maysah, joining Arbiter at the table. “I suppose if a betrayal was lined up corp sec would’ve kicked in our doors during the night. Still. Things haven’t really gone our way so far.”
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24/05/2047
TONDE


Alex kept his arms folded, even as a man appeared spontaneously out of nowhere. He had an image to maintain, damn it, and the appearance of another super wasn't supposed to phase him. But he'd done several detailed scans of the area, why hadn't this man showed up on his optics? He briefly scrolled through logs of supers with any powers that could confuse or obfuscate cybernetic optics and found several, alleviating his worries at least for the moment. A few of those supers he'd known or heard about; doing things like fooling infra-red or x-ray scanners or even enhanced optics like his.

He didn't really pay attention to the talk after that. He was more focused on pulling up what information he could on the new arrival. Facial recognition almost instantly tagged him as the lead suspect in a number of robberies, homicides and missing persons reports in several places in the US, but not much else came up after that. Mostly rumours and hearsay among the bigger PMCs about some new super with the ability to obfuscate and conceal himself from virtually every kind of surveillance device known to man. A formidable power to be sure, but what came up on his optics told him that this man, past the powers, was still just a man. A bullet in the right place would end his career in the criminal world faster than anything. Alex made sure to save the man's face and bioelectric presence into his cyber's systems, just in case.

Then someone made a play. Someone powerful enough to knock out just about everything in the club save for the single light bulb above their table. Alex felt the wave of electromagnetic energy pulse through the entire building and his back's contact with the wall behind him was enough for him to feel it. No hard reboots, no alarms, but he felt his optics glitch out slightly, along with everything else cybernetic about him. His second skin of nanites rippled and hardened all over his body for a split second before his systems got a hold of the situation and regained control. The Tower immediately scanned for where that wave had come from and his optics settled on Arbiter.

His gaze narrowed at the cop. Did he do this? The question was briefly shoved to the back of his mind as the meeting seemingly wrapped up after the show of force. Hotel rooms were recommended and a rendezvous given. A time and place at a smaller bar in the city. Alex pushed off the wall as he made sure the hotel rooms were indeed being booked for them silently using his cybers, then dusted his hands off and placed his empty glass of water on the table. The big man left last; he sure as hell was going to make sure their new contact wasn't going to stab them in the back.

For Addison. For Hex.


Shirtless, Alex slowly paced his hotel room. A burger wrapper, french fry carton and empty cup of soda sat on the coffee table. The meal had done little to soothe his nerves. Ever since he'd gotten to his assigned room (and ordered food along the way), he'd been itching to get answers. Mostly on their comrade, Arbiter. Who was he really? He sure as hell wasn't some backwoods cop with a shoestring connection to Hex. That much was obvious. And what were those powers he'd displayed earlier at the club?

Alex sat down in one of the two armchairs in the room and let a long sigh escape his chest. He knew Arbiter was in the room next to him; Alex's room was sandwiched between Stardust's and Arbiter's, and he could also see the man through the walls. His optics allowed him the benefit of x-ray vision so he knew precisely where the cop was: sitting at the smartDesk and talking with someone. Not like he could hear the conversation but the movements of the man's lower jaw suggested conversation. So Alex did the only thing he could: use his own systems to dig around for information.

He moved to his Desk and, after a brief moment syncing his cybernetic systems with the hotel's internal system, took to the phone immediately. His sister picked up on the second ring.

"Shirl?"

"Alex." She breathed a sigh of relief over the call. "You're alright. Thank god."

"Yeah, I'm fine." He lowered his voice. "Listen: do me a favour. I need you to look up our cop friend for me."

"Who, Arbiter? Yeah I can, but why?"

"I have a suspicion he isn't who he says he is. He shut down a club today by standing up and slamming his hands on a table. And I mean electronically. I felt the EMP wave come from him."

Shirley squinted at the screen and screwed her lips in a frown.

"That bad, eh? You suspect super?"

Alex nodded. "Yep. That's why I need you to look into him for me."

She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. It was abundantly clear that she was also running on little sleep and a bundle of nerves.

"I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, go get some sleep. Isn't it 3 AM for you?"

"Ish. Send me what you find and I'll have a look at it later."

"Alright. Oh, Alex?"

"Yeah?"

"You got any leads?"

He shook his head. "No, but we've got a job to do to get us a lead. A drone from Envoy's fortress crashed in a Carolex facility. We're going to...steal it."

Shirley's eyes widened.

"Carolex? One of the biggest supercorps in the world?! Are you insane? Are your friends insane?! You remember what happened when that corp wanted to test its new security measures."

He knew. All too well. One of the few scars he did have was from a Carolex hyper-sonic high explosive squash head anti-super round fired directly at his chest. Obviously the strength of the round was dumbed down because he was just a test subject loaned to the corp by the British Military for a weapons test, but it still had hurt. Penetrated his first and second layers of armour and did him some damage. Fixed without a worry, of course, but his chest still bore the vaguely circular scar and burn marks from the round.

"I know, Shirl. I...am not gonna say that I might come out of it without a few more scratches. But we have Stardust with us, along with some guy named Void who can conceal himself from cameras and hypersensitive optics. And we both know Maysah. She's powerful. Way more powerful than both of us combined."

"Yeah, and remind me again if her reflexes are superhuman? Or if she's hardy like you? She might not survive a few of those Hyper-HESH rounds you know. You might not either."

Alex sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose, eyes closed.

"I- fuck, Shirley. I don't even know what we're doing here. This is like, the furthest we could be in finding out who killed Hex and Addison. But if it gets us a lead, I have to try."

His sister's expression softened in the call.

"Stay safe. After that missile...and since we're apart right now, I can't be there to help you."

"I know, Shirl."

Alex placed a hand to the holographic screen and Shirley reciprocated the gesture; their palms together even though they were several hours apart.

"You stay safe too, okay? We'll be back together soon."


24/5/2047
A Morning Cup


Alex arrived next, having stopped by a clothes store to make a few more purchases so he had some better clothes than his superhero get-up. Simple stuff; a t-shirt with the American flag emblazoned across the front, blue jeans and the same work boots from earlier. His imposing figure made his journey through the obnoxious flyer-givers, suits and expensive cologne a lot easier; people parted when a tall, obviously augmented for strength, man made polite nods and soft 'excuse me's to the crowd in the bar. Once he spotted Arbiter and Stardust, he made a beeline straight for them and took a seat at their table, trapping Arbiter between himself on one end and Maysah on the other.

"You can say that again. Why are we even agreeing to steal this drone back from one of the biggest bio-tech engineering corps in the world?"
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H I G H R I S K .// L O W R E W A R D
CURRENT DATE -- 24/05/2047, ~9 PM



"We're going to steal it, because I can't think of a better, less-stupid way of getting the info we need, in the time we have," ET said breezily, smiling wryly. "I think it's safe to say that someone is on our trail: someone tried to kill us. I'm willing to bet that whatever was in that bunker that so badly needed to be destroyed...well, it's worth learning about. And, given that our entire mission here started with a "Reality Bringer" anomaly, I am willing to bet that this is pretty important. Hex wasn't wrong often."

He stopped talking as Peterson eased up to them, taking the final chair. "Glad you're all here. Here is the plan. The three of you will enter the building, take down the defenses, and retrieve the drone. My man Void will assist you where necessary. There is another man on the inside who will also help. sound good?"

At ET's nonplussed stare, the man burst into self-satisfied chuckles. "Oh, I am hilarious, aren't I?" He pulled out his phone, tapped a few buttons, and a 2D holographic projection hit the table. "I'll send a partial map of the facility to your personal devices. The mission will start at twenty-two hundred hours, or in an hour."

"Is that secure?" ET asked. "We're sort of in public right now, yeah?"

Peterson smiled at him easily. "Do you think I haven't cleared the area? I have sixteen of my finest locking down the entire block. Besides, most of this is public knowledge to anyone who is from here."

The pretty waitress passed them again, and this time she glared at him, then winked and faked a blush, and then glared again. What the fuck? ET thought. Then she was gone again, serving a customer who was looking at them just a little too frequently. And he'd thought himself back to his suave old self.

"We start at that time because there it is the latest my inside man can stay in the building without raising security concerns. To form a true plan, I'll need to know your abilities. I think from what I've seen, we have quite the shot here, especially with the good Doctor on site."

ET froze. "I have a set of very advanced powered armor." Giving up his powers now would be...well, actually, it wouldn't matter too much. He'd already blown his cover that morning. "I have a way with machines," he admitted slowly. "Sort of an interpreter for them, and a commander, in the right circumstances. Technomancy, if you want to get technical." He hoped that would be enough vagueness.

Peterson nodded with approval. "Makes sense. That is a huge win for us." He and turned to the others expectantly.




The inside of Carolex Experimental's Defense Solutions Complex was filled with brightly lit office spaces, comfortable break rooms, well-stocked vending machines, and obscene layers of technological security.

To get in or out of any of the office spaces, an ocular scan, fingerprint, and ID card were required in parallel. Losing any one of these methods of identification was grounds for termination, except in extreme special cases. To get in and out of the test and storage facilities attached to the complex, an ocular scan, fingerprint, ID card, written order, and full-body cavity search were required, before changing into a set of special, pocket-less clothes, and descending ten feet into the warehouse.

At every point except this single point of entry, multifaceted layers of lethal security patrolled the grounds. In short, Carolex Experimental did not fuck around. These protection features represented the company's lowest level of operational security, for work which could be considered mildly confidential.

A soothing voice crackled over the office-space intercom. "This is Jasmin Nawar." The highest level manager of the Defense Solutions Complex. "To all C.E.D.S. currently on site, please report to conference room three-zero-zero-one for an emergency briefing. This is non-negotiable. Those who ignore this announcement while being on site will be terminated immediately. Thank you!"
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The easy and repetitive sounding thrum of a machine inside a glass case filled the otherwise silent lab of the chemist. It was dimly light save for the LED strip lighting across each surface - a mixture of shades of greens and purples that bordered the equipment. Perfect for concentrative working. The entire back wall was a built in terrarium filled with all manner of plants and rocks, but the rest of the lab, save for the expensive equipment, was stark. Cold, white, hard surfaces.

No windows.

The woman sat at her desk with perfect posture and a notepad and pen in hand. Sure, Carolex was filled with all manner of technology, but sometimes the old ways were the best. Besides, writing notes was about the only time that Hannah allowed herself to remove the gloves. In that sense, writing things down was her escape from the conforming material. Her cage. A thumping electronica spilled from her headphones, and betrayed her serene and dreamlike expression. She was deep in thought as she let her pen glide over the paper, drawing up a series of formulas as easily as some might write a simple note for groceries.

She was pretty when focused. All soft red curls and an even softer expression.

From afar, the hard colour of her eyes wasn’t so harsh. The way that the contacts blocked out the true colour of her irises, and yet left behind the impression that they weren’t her real eyes. It was an obvious attempt at masking just another insecurity. Just like her hands. The scars across her knuckles, and above her finger nails. Long gone were the days of applying polish.

With a sigh, she put the pen down, briefly allowing her eyes to close. It had been a long day, a very long day. Hannah surmised that from her notes, and judging by the motion of the pumps in the machine, it would be longer still. The formula wasn’t finished yet, not even close. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d slept in her lab, most likely not the last. As the music continued in her ears, she climbed out of her chair, and took a walk across the empty floor of the lab, waving her arms lazily at her side to stretch them. If there hadn’t been cameras in every corner, she might have felt fit to dance to herself. That wouldn’t be the first time either. The time it was used to mock her was the last.

No, instead, she simply paced the floor, stretching her neck this way and that, wiggling her feet with each step in a languid fashion before leaning over the ledge on the wall where a window would have been. Hannah closed her eyes and breathed out, letting it blow a raspberry from her lips - and that was where she stayed, meditatively until…

CLICK

The invasively bright lights flashed on so quickly. She practically jumped out of her skin, her heart immediately racing from the shock, and her eyes stung as they were forced to adjust to the light. In the doorway, a colleague. His face said it all. He was pissed - and his mouth was moving fast but of course she couldn’t hear him until she finally slid off the headphones with a shaky hand--

“...alarm going, and you’re not even out of your lab! You’re not special, Doubles -- get it together and move your ginger ass out of here before we’re all thrown out.”

Hannah flinched at his words, and she opened her mouth to speak but the words died in her throat, and then his anger got the better of him again only this time they came out laced with spite and strung on a mocking tone.

“Duh-duh-did you h-h-hear me?!” he spat viciously before shaking his head and pounding his own way down the corridor in the direction of the message.

Her hands came up to her chest and she looked around at her lab nervously. Suddenly everything felt like it was shrinking towards her and she felt a familiar panic in her chest. There was no time to spare, however, and she grabbed her gloves and made her way hurriedly to the emergency meeting.
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Hidden 28 days ago Post by Atrophy
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Atrophy Meddlesome Kid

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Maysah’s face wrinkled into a smile at the sight of the Tower wearing an Old Glory t-shirt. She was somewhat disappointed that the Brit didn’t try his hand at imitating a southern fried accent to completely sell the disguise. Unless, worried Maysah, that it wasn’t a disguise but rather just what the Tower thought was fashionable, and perhaps his suitcase was packed with designs of maple leaves, rising suns, and three legs. She tugged at the sleeves of her white wool sweater , noting the hypocrisy in her critiquing another’s choice of clothing.

The Tower asked the only question that needed to be asked: why were they doing this? Maysah’s answer was different from the one Arbiter gave out. For starters, just because Hex wasn’t wrong often didn’t mean he was never wrong. Harrison was the one to convince her that the best course of action after the corps made their move against her was to disappear and live the last twelve years of her life as an useless husk. More importantly, if the drone had the kind of information on it that Peterson said it did then Carolex deserved to have it swiped out from underneath their noses. Her eyes narrowed as the man himself joined their table. She wasn’t so sure that Peterson deserved to have the drone, either.

“To form a true plan, I'll need to know your abilities.“

“Some information broker,” said Maysah as she leaned back in her seat and folded her arms as Arbiter spoke up.

“...Technomancy, if you want to get technical," he finished.

“Cute,” said Maysah.

She had eyed Arbiter with suspicion as he spoke. It was nice to hear him admit that there was more to him than a haircut and a suit of armor, but the truth was all a little too late. Her eyes darkened. Could he have possibly been the one too—she shook the thought to the back of her head. Accusing Arbiter could wait for after they had stolen the drone. She didn’t want their infighting to destroy what small chance they had to get information surrounding the mystery of Hex’s death. Maysah also didn’t want to answer the question.

“The big guy does exactly what he looks like he does,” said Maysah, flippantly jerking a thumb over to the Tower. He was capable of a lot more than her oversimplification implied, but she’d leave that up to the Tower if he wanted to actually elaborate. “I’m your typical quick, blaster type with a master’s in aerospace engineering and a bad habit of breaking any piece of technology I touch."

"Really, I wouldn’t pick either of us to come to a surprise party, let alone sneak into a corporate headquarters to steal a macguffin. I’d apologize for ruining any plans, but thankfully there isn’t one yet,” said Maysah with a wink. She put her elbows on the table, laced her fingers together, and rested her chin on them. “On the bright side, I doubt we’ll have any trouble handling what comes next once we cock up whatever brilliant plan you expect us to just whip together in under an hour.”

At least they would have no trouble unless they drew the attention of Envoy, that is, but some things were better left unsaid.
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Hidden 8 days ago Post by DJAtomika
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DJAtomika Second to Most

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24/05/2047
A Morning Cup


Technomancy. So that was it. Alex folded his arms and leaned back in his chair as Arbiter explained his powers. A few dots in his mind connected themselves; the anonymous message warning them of the missile strike, the strange presence he'd noticed hacking into his systems way back when they'd first met. The club. It explained a lot; for a man able to control pretty much any computer system in the world, the cop was surprisingly...not subtle about the use of his abilities.

Then Maysah introduced her abilities next, although Alex knew that there was more to the "quick blaster type" lady than it seemed. He had a dossier on her, back when he was still in the Knights, and she was one of the more powerful Blasters in the US. He knew that if she wanted, she could put a plasma blast clean through his heart, something his second skin wouldn't save him from. He was quietly thankful that they were on the same side and that he could just as easily redirect her powers elsewhere if she shot at him.

At the rather flippant and brief "yeah he big" explanation given by Maysah about his own powers, Alex let a harrumph escape his chest. He straightened in his seat and, almost as if the speech was practiced, detailed his own abilities.

"Walking Fortress: Tower of London-class reactive, regenerative armour plating. Centurion-spec cybernetics. No onboard weapons, but I don't need them."

He leaned forward slightly, placing his hands on the table.

"I'm a tank on legs. Built and designed that way. Point me in the direction of something that needs breaking, and I'll break it."

Alex leaned back and resumed folding his arms. "Although, if we're doing a covert operation, I presume I'll be the last resort. I'm too big and loud to be stealthy. I know that much."
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Hidden 3 days ago Post by Necroes
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Necroes The Fourth Seal

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Doctor Geoffrey sat down at the big lunchroom style table. Even so late at night, the building was alive with people, so the cafeteria stayed open. Which suited the doctor's needs just fine, as most of his time spent away from his lab was time spent eating meals. While it certainly did not cling to him as it did to others, he had learned in his early years that late night work powered by take-out on a regular basis was just a bad idea in general. Anymore, he much preferred a meal made with fresh ingredients, even if it cost more.

Sitting down with his tray, he looked over his choices. The night staff had prepared a southern themed menu that night, which included a variety of appetizing dishes. Upon his plate, the doctor had collected; a burrito, stuffed with red beans, rice and spiced meat; two corn-shell tacos, loaded with fresh vegetation; a serving of guacamole, with fresh-made tortilla chips; two fried chicken breasts, covered in white gravy and black pepper; three buttermilk biscuits, each smeared with apple butter; a small bowl of chili; and a slice of apple pie, for desert.

When the announcement played, the Doctor was crunching on tortilla chips, dripping with chili and guacamole. Naturally, that meant he had not gotten the message. Everyone else in the room had stood up and left, though, which he did take note of. Even the kitchen staff, he noticed, as he continued to eat. With no one else in the room, he shrugged his shoulders and started on his chicken. Certainly, this warranted investigation, but the lack of screaming and explosions made it difficult to consider it an urgent matter.

"Doc," came a familiar voice from behind him, one of the security team. He was approaching, and sounded concerned. "Didn't you notice-Woah... Damn, miss a few meals, Doc? Spread like that, I get why you didn't hear it. Hey, let me help you pack this up, we'll drop it in your lab on the way. Big meeting going on, and everyone has to come."

It took a moment to place the voice. More than a few of the security team had become familiar with him, and many of those had similar accents. By the time he'd swallowed his mouthful of chicken, though, he knew. The man was civil enough, but he really would shoot if someone refused an order from his superiors.

"Roskins!" He began, hands dropping the chicken to wipe them free of grease. "So kind of you to offer. How's Jessica, and your little boy, uhm... Richard? Did he like going with you, to the game?" As he spoke, he stood. The two exchange pleasantries, talking about the young man's wife and child. They did as was suggested, and stopped by the lab to drop off the food, before leaving to the meeting. Several other guards joined them on the way, each joining in the small talk. By the time they got to the room, the Doctor had gathered an escort of twelve armed men, and they were all smiling when they entered.
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