Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Retired
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Retired "Hayao Miyazaki"

Member Seen 11 days ago

I couldn’t see anything. There was no light, and the overly cramped space I found myself in reminded me of that trash compactor scene in A New Hope. It had been several minutes now since I had been stuck in here and it didn’t look like I would be set free as quickly as I’d like. But the darkness and severe lack of elbow room weren’t the worst of it. No, that’d be the hand on my butt.

I shifted my weight in an attempt to escape the grasp. “Carlie-eee,” I whined in a hushed tone.

The soft giggle of my girlfriend sent a flutter through my heart. “What’s wrong, babe?”

She followed the question with a light squeeze that made me swallow any response I could have come up with.

Carlie Cooper. Studious, serious, and very handsy. We had been dating for about six months now and Carlie had made it abundantly clear early on that her love language was physical touch. Not that I minded, of course. Not usually. But hiding in a tiny closet in my only slightly-less-tiny dorm room wasn’t my ideal scenario.

“We’re supposed to be quiet,” I finally managed to breathe out.

I’m being very quiet, silly. You’re the one making a fuss.” I could feel her warm breath tickling the back of my neck.

I felt her slowly slide a hand out of my back pocket, but not before giving me a final squeeze. Playful as Carlie might be, she always respected my boundaries. It was one of the many things I adored about her. Some of the walls I put in place were to protect her from my other life, and dating someone who pushed those limits would be a recipe for disaster.

“How much longer do you think he’ll be?” Carlie asked.

He would be Harry Osborn. One of my best friends who I hadn’t seen in more than half a year. Today marked his return from a rehabilitation center upstate, and we had planned for him to meet us at noon. It had been fifteen past when Carlie ushered us all into our various hiding spots after concocting a hasty welcome home surprise plan. Carlie and I had scored the closet, while our other two cohorts were tucked under the bed.

“Knowing Harry? We could be here another hour easily. I love the guy, but he’s never exactly been punctual.”

Harry and I had first met in tenth grade. The son of a billionaire, Harry had never let our different economic or social standings get in the way of our friendship. We had spent practically every day of our lives together until our respective graduations, and then we continued the adventure by dorming together at Empire State.

That’s when things kind of fell apart. Harry had fallen into the party lifestyle not long after our first semester. I knew he’d been attending frat parties and clubbing, but I never realized just how far into a pit of bad choices he had fallen. The drugs got ahold of him and by the time I noticed it was too late. It took a near-death experience for him to come to terms with his addiction and get the help he needed.

It’s my fault things ever got that bad, though. I had gotten too focused on my other life. Being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man had been my own addiction of sorts in that first year of university. I spent more time in costume than I did in class or with my friends. If I hadn’t neglected Harry, then maybe I could have kept him from spiraling down that dark path. It was a mistake I wouldn’t make twice.

“Shhh, I think I hear something.” Carlie’s voice pulled me out of my thoughts.

She was right. I could hear the doorknob of my dorm room twist.

“Hello?” A voice called out from beyond the closet door. A voice I had heard only on the phone a handful of times in recent months.

I burst out of the closet, too eager to see my friend to wait for the moment Carlie and the others had coordinated.

Harry stood there with a perplexed expression as he watched me tumble out of the tiny space, nearly somersaulting as I tripped on some discarded clothes. The confusion quickly turned to amusement as he spied my girlfriend pop out of the closet behind me. Carlie gave a friendly wave.

“I hope I’m not interrupting,” his grin widened as he added, “I didn’t see a sock on the door, so…”

His voice trailed off as I wrapped him up in a hug and lifted him an inch off the ground in my excitement.

“Woah, buddy. You been hitting the gym?” Harry laughed and did his best to hug me back.

“You ruined it, Parker.” Flash Thompson slid out from under the bed.

Lily Hollister, Carlie’s best friend, pulled herself out from the bed behind Flash and immediately began smoothing out her long, blonde hair. “Surprise, I guess. Nice to see you again, Harry.”

Harry tried to peek underneath the bed before raising an eyebrow at me. “How many people are you hiding in here, Pete?”

“Just us. It was supposed to be a surprise party kind of thing,” I explained sheepishly. “I guess, I uh, was a little quick on the draw.”

Flash stepped up to Harry and stared him down. “Osborn.”

“Nice to see you, too, you big lug.” Harry pulled the taller man into a brief embrace.

We’d certainly come a long way from high school. Back then Harry and I had been nerdy outcasts, and Flash had been the bully making our lives Hell. But since starting college and getting out from underneath the thumb of his father, Flash had turned himself around. Now, he was one of my closest friends, and Flash had been the one to save Harry’s life during that awful night.

And Harry, well, I had to admit he looked good. Probably the best I’d ever seen him. In the final months before he went off to rehab, he had lost a ton of weight and had grown irritable and withdrawn. But as I looked at him now, I saw a confident young man in great spirits. He looked to have put on a lot of muscle and overall seemed much healthier, physically and mentally.

The four of us spent the next few hours in my dorm catching Harry up on all that had gone on in the last eight months since he’d left. How Flash was now the starting quarterback for the university’s football team. How Carlie and I had started dating. We never addressed the pink elephant in the room, our topics of conversation stayed light and positive, and honestly, it rarely entered my mind after the first hour. I was far too happy to have my friend back to worry about the past. He was better now, and that’s all that mattered.

Things were finally going my way. I found myself dating an insanely smart, incredible girl; my grades were trending up; one of my dearest friends had returned; and my efforts as Spider-Man were beginning to pay off as the stranglehold the Maggia had held on the city was steadily loosening.

This was my year. I felt at the top of the world, and I couldn’t think of anything that could possibly knock me down.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Redcord


Member Seen 8 mos ago

SHEILD safehouse, Brooklyn New York

The T.V was buzzing in the background.

It was a strange thought to him. They had once been rare, solely the domain of those who could truly afford them. Now, though, now they were as commonplace as coffee. Neatly replacing the radio, at least in most things. They were like automobiles in that sense, Steve guessed. Time and advancement made both an expected commonality. And he had practically skipped over the development of both.

The shield sparked off the brick as it bounced around the walls. Each hit gave out a ringing sort of noise. Not the hard clang you’d expect out of metal. But this wasn’t any ordinary thing. The vibranium shield darted about like some sort of demented boomerang, chipped edges off the bricks it hit before it soared back to him. With an ease borne of bone-deep experience—and the bruises from failure—Steve caught his shield with one hand.

He felt a true smile come onto his face when he looked at it. Out of everything that could’ve lasted the test of time, he wasn’t surprised that the shield made it. Himself, on the other hand…well, he was sure SHIELD’S doctors and scientists were puzzling over that. Like he admittedly was. All that time beneath the ice, and the world still turned. He just had to figure out how to catch up.

Maybe the director's invitation was the right thing…

He looked up to the T.V again, that marvel of technology quietly delighting him. He had grasped the basics on how to operate it, and had been switching the…channels? Yes, the channels at random. Letting it play for a bit before moving on. His smile flickered when he saw what was on. He didn’t mind the news. Found it rather important, actually. Practically an institution. But he was getting used to the future, and the…family? Superhero team?

The group. The group that was on WHIH Newsfront was, so far, a rather excellent symbol for the sheer oddity of this new age he found himself in.

The Fantastic Four was an interesting name, but he’s heard worse. The people in it, though…apparent super genius who, in part, reminded him of Howard Stark. If a lot more disheveled. Doctor Storm, cold and curt, if perhaps a little correct. Her brother, he guessed, Johnny was reminding him of certain men he met on the frontlines, in a way he wasn’t sure was good. And then this Ben fellow…

Well. He apparently liked being called ‘The Thing.’ That said enough, Steve figured.

He had been only half listening to the broadcast, focused as he was on his shield and devouring some of the more current date history. They were a strange bunch. More like celebrities than superheroes. Flashy entrance. Bright, big story that everyone seemed ready to believe. Set themselves up neatly with some good business moves. Strange folk. But they were downright cuddly compared to some of the other things he’s learned.

Mutants. The word was incredibly loaded, from what he could gather. Their treatment, the way not only people, but the government handled them was just beyond abhorrent. Power could be dangerous. He wasn’t going to deny that. Not with what Schmidt had done with his. But this? This heavy-handed treatment of the government's people?

He had to take a moment when he had caught up on some current affairs. He had been working through the decades, but he had gotten too curious about modern day affairs. It was just…Well, he half-expected some people to start goose-stepping whilst they screamed out their hate. There were ways to deal with the situation, and this wasn’t it. He was still trying to wrap his head around it.

Steve turned his gaze to the T.V again, catching the last words the host, Christine, had managed to get off before the Fantastic Four abruptly vacated their seats.

"Yes, well, we hope you'll come back soon and--...I'm sorry, we've got a breaking news report. Sources are reporting an explosion and multiple gunshots here in downtown Manhattan. Police are attempting to cordon off the area, but eyewitnesses claim a super-human is on the scene, and--...Doctor Richards? Where are you going?"

Steve frowned at the words, his shield heavy in his hand. That wasn’t too far off. He looked down, bringing his other hand up to hold his shield in two hands. He had just cleaned it, so the vibranium glinted in the light of the safehouse. He was still getting his bearings in this strange world. SHIELD wanted him to stay put until they figured some things out. Keep an eye on him. He couldn’t quite blame them.

But people were being hurt. And he was close by.

Decision made, Steve turned around and began walking towards the safehouse's bedroom. He had left his uniform there. If he was going to do anything, it’d best be with that on. The press conference would have to wait, cameras and questions and all those little things.

He had his duty to perform.

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

Member Seen 21 hrs ago


arc 1: furnace
issue - dead and alive?



PROJECT ABSTRACT: Project Sliver Centurion is currently infeasible due to a lack of infrastructure dedicated to miniaturization of current Stark Industries proprietary technologies. Prototype models developed cannot be feasibly scaled down for production purposes and rely on materials that are inadequate for mass manufacture. Currrent power sources cannot reliably sustain operation times for duration required by military and law enforcement personnel.

PROJECT AIMS: To develop personnel exoskeletons that fulfill three primary criteria for broad usage across civilian law enforcement and military applications whilst also satisfying broad roles across each field.

Mass Production


ADDENDUM 18.7.95: Can someone please make this file higher clearance? All of the intern techies keep bombarding me with questions about why we’re stalling development on this and I’m real sick of it. Every greenhorn these days think they’re the next Tony Stark…..

The steady sound of fans that had filled Tony’s ears for so long halted. Then, the inside of the server farm filled with an eerie red glow as klaxons started blaring.


“Fuck, fuck, fuck - ,” Tony hurriedly drops the palm repulsor, unlatching it from his hand. It bounces off the tiled floor. He can see the inside of the lens smoking away like the spout of a kettle. He stifles his inventor’s instincts, brief musings on using higher-quality silicates to reduce heat issues. There’s no time for that. He has to get out of here before Stark security swarms the area. He looks to where the woman is lying -

Well, where she should have been still lying unconscious. Instead, there was a smashed server rack in place of where her body was. Tony looks around wildly, trying to figure where she went to when the heel in his stomach answers it for him. He tumbles to the ground, gasping for breath. The bottom half of his body is paralyzed in pain. It feels like a cannonball has struck him in the belly.

“ You got lucky, Hogan,” Through the pain, Tony felt a hand roughly grab him by the chin and pull him up. “ But you blew your chance. Should have killed me when you - “

The masked woman paused in the middle of her sentence suddenly. Tony watches her entire body seize up like a deer in headlights. She looks….shocked? The pressure on his chin relaxes and before he can ask her why, laser dots prick across his forehead and her hair. At the other end of the server hall, a quartet of Stark security guards

“ Put your hands up. Both of you right - “

The masked woman tossed something on the ground and grey smoke immediately filled the entire room. In the thick haze, Tony could hear sounds of coughing and wheezing. Lights flickered on and scythed through the fog frantically. Then, the yells started and stopped as soon as they began. The sounds of screams were silenced one by one. The smoke dissipated and Tony saw the masked woman, fist hung by her side and splattered with flecks of blood. The Stark security guards were a comatose pile of limbs and legs, all incoherently groaning in pain.

The masked woman’s head twitched and inclined to the right towards him. Tony gulped as she turned around slowly, her movements ragged with fatigue. She took her silenced pistol out of her holster and aimed it at his face.

“ Come with me or I’ll kill you right now,” The masked woman spoke matter of factly.

Tony gulped. “Any other incentive you can offer?”

He didn’t even know why he asked when he knew the answer already.

Being kidnapped by a psychotic masked assassin surprisingly wasn’t the worst moment of Tony Stark’s life, all things considered. The first was waking up from a night in Vegas only to discover himself in a taqueria in New Mexico. The second moment was under a permanent seal of confession between him and Pepper that would never leave the light of day. Sure, none of the prior experiences involved the risk of death but at least it approached some semblance of normalcy.

For the next hour or so, Tony and the masked woman carefully sneaked through a labyrinth of tight air vents and under patrols of guards in the halls of the Houston server farm. The masked woman was liteful beyond compare, dancing through shadows and under laser grids, whilst Tony felt like a kid riding a bicycle for the first time. The masked woman would stop him whenever he would take a step in the wrong direction and proceed to guide him slowly. Tony didn’t even know why the merc was willing to tolerate this much ineptitude from him. Hell, when he nearly set off the laser tripwire in the cafeteria, she looked as though she was tempted to put a bullet into his lap.

When they finally made it half a mile away from the data farm, past the blockade of police cars and SWAT vehicles, Tony collapsed on the ground wheezing. They had both sheltered away behind the alley way of a Waffle House.

“ Why didn’t you kill me back there?”

“ I saw an opportunity…” The masked woman replied carefully “....and one just landed in front of me..”

“ Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just a data entry intern - “ The masked woman interrupted Tony, crossing her arms in disbelief.

“ Who masquerades as Tony Stark? What are you doing here in Houston?”

“ Oh, you know.” Tony said lackadaisical. “ Had a mid-life crisis. Thought I’d pivot my career.”

“ By hacking into Stark Industries largest data farm?”

“ A big pivot,” Tony shrugged before answering back. “ So, here we are still talking. Let’s cut to the chase. You want something from me, don’t you?”

“ It’s not what I want from you, Tony,” The masked woman leaned down, staring at him inquisitively. “ It’s who you’ve been pretending to be….Iron Man.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Natty
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Member Seen 7 mos ago

Illyana held firm as the subway worker stumbled away into the darkness, harnessing the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak as best as she could in order to keep her prisoner at bay. It squirmed viciously from side to side, the bands searing around the demon’s limbs and singing the cloak that covered him. Despite her efforts, she knew she was working on borrowed time here; the demon was too strong to be held for long. All she needed was enough time to get it alone.

She still wasn’t entirely sure which layer of hell this demon had escaped from. Her mentor had sensed the presence of a rift to the underworld opening and had Illyana portal to the scene of the crime immediately. Rather than a creepy old cult as she had expected, it turned out to be the result of a group of ill-advised college students stumbling across an old tome and getting too curious for their own good. Thankfully they’d been quick enough to stop a full gateway to hell opening in downtown Manhatten, however one or two of the bastards had still slipped through.

Strange had deemed her ready enough to chase after this one herself whilst he dealt with the other. However, as she stood here wrestling with it, her mind was filled with nothing but doubt.

It was this doubt that finally caused the fiery tendrils to finally break. The demon roared as it lurched forwards, wrenching its arm free which it then used to claw away the rest of its entrapments. Illyana stumbled backwards as her spell faded, her usual emotionless face now sporting a look of terror. She lurched her staff forward as the demon turned towards her, letting loose a bolt of radiant energy from its tip.

It ducked with ease. Despite its size, it was fast.

She fired again, taking a step backwards. Another miss.

The demon grew closer.

Before she could fire a third, her foot struck the track below her feet, causing her to fall. She let out a shriek as her back hit the metal of the ruts, yet before she could react further, she caught a flash of the creature’s red cloak above her. It was making its move. She barely had enough time to move the body of her staff in front of her, before the demon lunged down at her. The beast’s claws bore down on the obsidian rod, with Illyana using all of her strength to keep it raised and the creature off of her. It snarled down at her as she held it back, the stench of its breath wafting over her.

Her body ached as the beast weighed down on her. Just like before, she couldn’t hold the demon for long. Nor could she cast another spell whilst in such a state.

Thankfully she came equipped with other gifts.

Taking a breath, the floor beneath her illuminated in a warm yellow glow, as she sank downwards into the floor.

As the demon slumped downwards onto the tracks in confusion, the yellow light illuminated once more from the tunnel’s ceiling from which Illyana began to fall. Her body spun as she moved through the air as she focused. The radiant energy she had been blasting from her staff began to build once more, with the forked prongs of her weapon glowing in light.

Then as she neared her target, she swung.
The crack of impact was shattering, thunderous. The demon was launched down the tunnel several metres, scraping along the floor before colliding heavily against a wall, the bricks around its impact beginning to crumble immediately.

Illyana felt her heart leap a little. She’d done it! Yet, as quickly as the beats rose, they once more sank, as the demon’s body quickly began to stir once more. It launched out a fist from beneath its cloak, angrily striking the wall behind it. Letting out a roar, it lunged from where it sat, bounding up onto all fours before beginning to race towards her.

Illyana froze as it moved, not knowing what to do. If that last strike hadn’t done much, what else could she throw at it?

As if to answer her question, the screeching whistle of a subway train echoed from a nearby tunnel.

Gritting her teeth and saying a silent prayer, she opened another stepping disc. The distant screech of the subway train’s wheels was no longer distant, as the locomotive erupted out of the yellow light and into the tunnel. The demon had no time to move as the train rocketed through him, with the racketing of the carriage covering up the sound of its body being ripped to shreds.

Illyana simply watched in stunned horror as the train somehow managed to gain balance on the track and race away down the tunnel, quickly leaving her alone in the darkness. Her eyes took in the bloody carnage that seemed to be what remained of the beast’s body. A chump of darkened grey flesh. Shreds of red fabric. It was certainly gone.

She leaned forwards, hand resting on her stomach as she fought to catch her breath again after everything, her heart still racing. She could only pray that her actions weren’t about to cause a massive collision somewhere down the train line.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by udonoodles
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udonoodles the adults are talking

Member Seen 25 days ago

S T A R K I N D U S T R I E S P R E S E N T S . . .


A thin-faced, black haired man stared through the one-way glass at Victor, thumbing the arm of his glasses and staring dumbfoundedly.
“What the hell is that?”

“It’s a radio, Adrian,” Martinella sighed, arms crossed. “He asked me to take it apart so he could put it back together.”

And that was exactly what Victor was doing. Humming a Cole Porter classic to himself, he ran his finger along the underside of what appeared to be a power cable. As he went, he left behind sparks of white-hot heat, soldering the wire to the circuit board below once it made contact.

“Why the—” Adrian scoffed, guffawing in incredulity. “Why would he ask for that?”

Dr. Mancha pinched her brow, visibly unimpressed. “Because when you create an intelligence intended to mimic a human brain as closely as possible, one of the unfortunate side effects is that they tend to get bored from time to time.”

“Bored? he’s a robot,” Adrian hissed through teeth more often gritted than not. “He’s not supposed to get bored,” An undertone of nervousness crept into his impatience. “Nothing with a one-of-a-kind goddamn fusion reactor in its chest should have the capacity to get bored.”

“Oh, so when Newsfront wants to know, he’s a new form of life. But when we have to actually treat him like one,” Martinella held her hands up, mimicking Adrian’s tone. “He’s back to being just a robot.”

“And who told you we were aiming to “mimic the human brain”? If you’ve been listening to the Newsfront segments, then you should remember that we wanted to go beyond that.”

“Yes. And the team’s idea for going beyond the capabilities of the human mind was a teenager in desperate need of Adderall without the ability to take it. So, again, bored.”

“He’s not a teenager, Martinella. Some of the algorithms and mental processing systems used to program his thought patterns are older than both of us. He’s perfectly capable of—”

“Professor Reginald Aubrey Fessenden was the first person to broadcast their voice over radio.” Victor looked up from his work, staring off into space as he recited the fact. “On Christmas Eve 1906, Professor Fessenden played "O Holy Night" on the violin, and read a brief passage from the Bible.” With his knowledge espoused, Victor set back to work.

“...Okay,” Adrian acknowledged trepidatiously. “That was creepy as hell.” Maybe she was right about the Adderall thing.

Martinella just sighed, rolling her eyes. “He knows we’re here. He’s trying to make conversation.”
“Well, he’s terrible at it. And "he knows we’re here” is the creepiest way you could have phrased that.”

“Well, maybe Victor’s terrible at it because we keep him locked in a room all day, Adrian. Maybe that’s had an effect on his social skills, Adrian, what do you think?”

“I think you’re a regular Doctor Frankenstein, Martinella-”

Click, whirr, buzz.
“The electrical components have been assembled! Now, I’ll test it.”

“Impressive time,” Martinella remarked coolly.

Adrian cast a hasty glance around Victor's chamber. Not a single tool in sight. “How did he—” Adrian leaned forward, tapping the button to enable the intercom. He fumbled with the microphone, bending it upwards to accommodate his beanstalk-like frame. “How did you get the screws in, Vision?”

Victor smiled, cocking his head. “I used my fingers,” he raised a hand, keeping each finger held up and then bringing them down in a wave, timing it so that each finger made contact with his palm at the same time. “Just a simple twisting motion.”

Adrian turned towards Martinella, furrowing his brow and mouthing “What the fuck?”, probably imagining that simple twisting motion being put into action on some poor sap’s neck.

Martinella shrugged, smirking.

Their silence was interrupted by a sudden crackle, and the warping of noise to noise as a voice made it through a sea of static.
“I'm sorry, we've got a breaking news report. Sources are reporting an explosion and multiple gunshots here in downtown Manhattan. Police are attempting to cordon off the area, but eyewitnesses claim a super-human is on the scene, and…”

Victor frowned. “That doesn’t sound like Reed Richards.”

One of the Vision’s most lauded abilities during the initial publicity circuit was his crisis response time. Stark Industries proudly proclaimed that, by their estimates, the Arc Reactor could enable him to reach speeds equivalent to that of a fighter jet when necessary. “By their estimates”, of course, was the bit they said under their breath—they were eager to actually test it, but there was the ever present danger that the Vision didn’t quite have the holistic control over his body’s functions required to not immediately liquefy his spine on acceleration. A survivable injury for someone whose body fit together less like a fragile piece of pottery, and more like a child’s jigsaw puzzle, but synthetic spines didn’t exactly grow on trees.

They could, if the Farm Tech and Botany Division would get off their asses and stop playing with their little mushrooms, Adrian had once remarked.

Regardless, they had some very lofty promises to catch up to. Fortunately for them, they were safe from a grilling when it came to speed—not on actual merit, but by the grace of Howard Stark’s ghost, Waterside Plaza happened to be a fifteen minute drive from Midtown Manhattan.
Victor, fuelled by the fun-sized equivalent of a nuclear reactor, and unbeholden to traffic laws save for “try not to hit any pigeons,” could clear it in a little over five.

Zeroing in on the scene of the attack didn’t prove difficult. Throngs of cars and pedestrians hurriedly rushing away from the carnage became specks of foolhardy bystanders eager to catch a glimpse of superpowers at play. It was an easy trail to follow, only further assisted by the cracking of gunfire.
From on high, someone with vision as keen as, well, the Vision’s could easily survey the situation.

Now that was interesting. From a cursory glance, it appeared that a gang of armed thugs were attempting to steal a Roxxon energy tanker. But from that sentence alone, a being of logic such as himself could easily deduce holes in the story. Whether gas or liquid, whatever was inside that tanker was either highly flammable or highly explosive. To fire guns so haphazardly around it was wildly dangerous—if the integrity of the tanker was compromised, the goons could lose a lot more than just their cargo. Yet, they had thrown the truck onto its side and now appeared to be attempting to syphon out its contents. It was a wildly dangerous, woefully impractical plan with several much simpler, more lucrative alternatives—which meant something else had to be going on. There was more to this than a stickup for fuel.

Victor had entered the planning equivalent of his approach when, out of seemingly nowhere, a great skyfaring vessel swooped down into his airspace. Immediately, his attention was snapped away from the fight and towards the airship—and somewhere in Stark Tower, Martinella Mancha’s analysis of his mental state was vindicated.

His eyes were alight with excitement—and actual light, given he was refocusing the aperture of his ocular subsystems—as he watched the Fantastic Four take their place. The Fantastic Four. And Reed Richards! He mostly cared about Reed Richards. Given that he was irrevocably burned into Victor’s brain, anyone that remotely resembled Howard Stark scientifically garnered his immediate interest.

This was going to be fun! Also, terribly daunting. And wildly dangerous. He may die! Uncertainty brought such a maelstrom of emotions. There were at least five happening to him, right now. He could actually, literally feel the manufactured simulacrum of adrenaline coursing through his veins.

Slowly, silently, Victor hovered down from on high, above the Fantastic Four’s landing spot. He paused, staring down at them. He swallowed.
What was he actually supposed to say? Was there a procedure of introduction? Did he have to greet everyone individually, or would just one, general “hello” do the trick? Was hello appropriate during a superpowered standoff? Maybe a “greetings”? “Salutations”? “Hola”, as Stark Industries’ PR were eager to get him to say?

Tentatively, Victor lowered himself down to the ground, red boots plodding to the ground with two muffled footfalls. He adjusted the cells in his body so as to slick his hair back hands-free, and stepped forward. He leaned in, across the Fantastic Four, and drew an open palm across his face as a hello.
“Hi. I…” He paused, furrowing his brow. “...Work here. Are both groups present the bad guys, or are we cooperating with one of them?”
Victor smiled sheepishly, before remembering where he was. He straightened up, taking two steps forward and holding his hands out. His fingers crackled with an arcing blue energy, the Arc Reactor thrumming and glowing through his suit.

“It’s interesting that the tanker hasn’t exploded yet,” he announced loudly, still ready for a fight. “I shall kick any asses in its vicinity and move it to a safe location. If that is agreeable? I’ll defer to seniority.”
He had, unintentionally, just called them old. Which, relatively speaking, was partially false, given the age of his kernel. But he meant it as a show of respect: Like he said, he’d take orders from the most experienced, which just happened to be the man most closely intellectually resembling his allegorical father.
He didn’t yet have the vocabulary to begin deconstructing that one, so he’d file it away and not think about it.
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Hidden 11 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Mintz
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Member Seen 3 hrs ago

A crisply dressed individual departs from Oscorp Labs, taking a moment to sweep his brown hair to the side as he entered the gloriously busy streets of New York, and was quick to hail a taxi. This man was Quentin Beck, known mostly as the Chief Engineer of Oscorp Labs as of late; goes to show how much his other careers meant nowadays. As he finally flagged down his ride and gave his directions, he couldn't help but sit and ponder his current situation.

With the man behind everything, Mr. Osborn himself, taking a backseat to the company in favor of his political agenda, things had steadily grown static and unmoving in the workplace, a stark contrast to the rapid progress they'd managed to achieve in years past. It certainly stifled Beck's creative energies as well, working in an environment like that; still, one had to make a living, and he really couldn't ask for a better one that this.

Really, it was no wonder how he ended up getting involved in something like this now, with all these factors. It was only natural to find ways to curb your boredom, after all.

They had arrived. For a place as wide and sprawling as The Big Apple, this location was surprisingly remote; little street activity beyond a few casual passersby, and the occasional rat. Gotta love New York. Still, the isolation was what made this place ideal for him. As Quentin exited the vehicle, the driver was quick to speak up. "You, uh....Ya gonna be okay out here?" It was only natural for him to inquire. Beck was still dressed to impress, and needless to say, it didn't fit the relative squalor of the surrounding area. In response to this, he just gave a charming smile. "No, this is fine, though thanks for the concern. Treat yourself." Approaching the driver's window, he gave his payment and more than a little extra in the form of a 100$ bill. Whether the man viewed this as an act of generosity or hush money, Beck wasn't particularly concerned, though he did get a bit of amusement from the brief look of surprise on the man's face before he could recover. "...Many thanks, sir. Stay safe." Tipping his cap, the taxi wheeled out from the location, leaving Quentin alone with the strangely quiet warehouse. Not wasting a single moment, he strode in like he owned the place.

Because he did.

You would have never guessed from the exterior, but inside? Inside was where the magic happened. Six individuals seemed to be working away at a variety of tasks; a middle-aged woman was working on some strange, elaborate costume. A young man scanned through some monitors littered with news outlets to keep up with all the latest information. A younger woman was tinkering away at some hefty-looking drone crafts alongside an older, squirrely man with glasses. Lastly, two more individuals were hard at work as personalized stations, seeming to pilot the aforementioned drones, testing all their myriad features, from their cloaking fields to their silent running, their Holographics-based illusions and even their (wildly inefficient) energy-based weaponry. As Beck entered the room, all eyes laid on him, if only for a moment; many of them had to immediately get back to their work, so as to make sure no mistakes were made in their process. The younger man keeping track of current news, however, hailed him over. "Mr. Beck, you're gonna want to see this..."

"Whaddaya got for me, Doug?"

He made his way over to the set-up as Doug replayed some footage from today's news. Looked to be an interview with the Fantastic Four. Quentin couldn't repress a derisive snort. There was plenty of crazy stuff in their modern times, but he still struggled to imagine a group of super-powered freaks coming from some alternate dimension. Still, at the very least, he couldn't deny their effectiveness. But no, the interview proper wasn't what Doug had pulled this up for.

"I'm sorry, we've got a breaking news report. Sources are reporting an explosion and multiple gunshots here in downtown Manhattan. Police are attempting to cordon off the area, but eyewitnesses claim a superhuman is on the scene, and..."

"Huh." "Yeah, 'huh'. If what I'm seeing online is right, too, then that Vision thing is also hitting the scene." Huh. The Vision...Quentin had some interesting thoughts about that, for certain. Sure, he was undoubtedly little more than some STARK propaganda to push into the superhero scene when all was said and done, but the entity itself was something that warranted some investigating. He smirked; today just got a whole lot more interesting.

"Janice, get the costume ready; how's the electromagnets coming along for the boots and gauntlets?" "Er, well, they should be in working order, but..." "Good. I'll be needing them for this. Shanice, Will, how're the drones coming along? Combat ready?" The man with glasses spoke up, with a slightly nasally tone of voice. "Well, as per usual, the energy weapons based on STARK tech is still pretty inefficient. If we could figure out a more compact and powerful energy source..." He trailed off, leaving the younger woman some speaking room for herself. "At the very least, the projection system is up to snuff like usual, and we got the dents out from them having to eat lead last time. The silent running is working as intended, and I was able to improve on the cloaking field." She beamed with confidence, clearly pleased with her own work, even if her elder at the workbench was unpleased with other aspects of the creations. Beck snapped her a thumbs-up and a smile. "Quality work as always, Shanice. Keep up the good work." He turned his attention to the two drone pilots, who had now taken a break to put their full attention into the conversation.

"Vicky, Gutes, how're they feeling? Running well? We're definitely gonna need the both of you on your A-Game for a fight like this." Victoria seemed confident and ready to proclaim as such, but the older man, Gutes, spoke up first. "Beck, are we really doing this? Taking out petty robbers or street thugs is one thing, but this has an honest-to-God superhuman involved. Isn't this...Out of our paygrade?" It seemed Gutes spoke for some of the others as well, with Janice and Doug shifting awkwardly. Well, good thing he had the perfect ammunition to throw at him. With a smirk, he walked forward to stand face-to-face with Guterman, looking him dead in the eyes.

"Gutes, we always knew that one of these days, we'd have to raise the stakes if we want to really be noticed. Now's our best chance!" He flung his hands out, motioning towards the monitor with the now-paused interview. "We'll be fighting alongside The Fantastic Four, for chrissake! Are they weird? Totally! But people know them! If Mysterio fights alongside them and actually does his part, then people will have to notice us. And not only that..."

He motioned towards another monitor, where Doug had pulled up the information of The Vision's arrival. "STARK has their new favorite war machine out on display today...But we have a chance to one-up it. Are you all really gonna deny that opportunity? To stick it to that soulless company that threw you out like yesterday's garbage?" Beck was absolutely playing it up...And they were biting it, hook line and sinker. Begrudgingly, Gutes shook his head. "...Just don't fuck it up, Beck." With that, he went back to his station, preparing for the oncoming trial. Shanice and William seemed to work with renewed fervor, hastily prepping the drones for the fight, as Janice just sighed, putting on the finishing touches before she faced the mastermind of their group with the costume in tow. "Let's get you into place, Mysterio."

Okay, as it turns out, just having magnetized boots didn't make it too easy to ride drones moving around 30 MPH, though he was quickly getting the hang of it out of necessity; they really needed to invest in some kind of jetpack or propulsion system at some point instead...Still, the enigmatic Mysterio kept up appearances as the fine people of New York saw him drifting through the skies, hurtling towards the crime scene.

He was undoubtedly the last on the scene, it seemed, but that gave him a good vantage point of the situation from a bit afar before he made his proper arrival. Several armed thugs, some of them packing equipment that seemed, perhaps, a little too advanced for their ilk. Intimidating? Certainly. But not out of the realm of possibility for him and his skillset. What was, however, was the eight-foot tall yellow freak of nature. Not to be confused with the orange one. One of the drones made out the grisly scene at a distance as Victora relayed some of this information to him. "One of the assailants is already dead. Looks like that superhuman has a...Concerning amount of grip force." She could say that again; Mysterio made a mental note not to get too close to that behemoth. Or for his drones, for that matter; it was likely he could actually deal them some damage, and then his jig would be blown right up.

Still, something didn't seem right about this whole scenario; what were these well-armed goons doing assaulting an energy tanker? Sure, the fuel could sell for a high price, that much he was certain, but firing off around something that volatile was ridiculously reckless, and something told him these guys were a touch too professional for something like that. Not to mention the giant beast of a man who'd emerged to defend the truck. That was raising its own questions...And Mysterio knew his answer.

"Vicky, have a drone run a scan over the general area, for any bystanders who are out of sight, as well as contraband. Something more than meets the eye is going on here..." The caped figure muttered in his helmet, only to be heard by his far-distant confidants. "Will do. What's the plan of attack here?" He gazed over the area once more. Without a doubt, he could say with assurance he couldn't properly take on the that yellow brick wall over there, nor was he eager to try. He could leave that to the Four, or perhaps The Vision; whichever came first. More realistically, he could handle civilian rescue and try to uncover what exactly was happening here. Beyond that...Perhaps he could handle some of the crooks, but he wasn't putting his money where his mouth was for that.

"We play it close to chest. Find innocents and get them out of the danger zone, and then we play interceptor for the gunmen as best we can. If we're lucky, we can apprehend a few without much hassle, but we need to make sure not to overextend here; this is a volatile situation." This time it was Guterman who spoke up. "Loud and clear. Now, how's this entrance gonna go?" Though his tech team couldn't see it, underneath the glassy, opaque dome that fit over his head, Mysterio smirked.

Overhead of The Fantastic Four and The Vision appeared to be a cloud of green mist, which quickly coalesced, forming into a vibrantly viridian portal, from which emerged none other than the green-clad Mysterio, descending from the skies in spectacular fashion; it was eye-catching, if nothing else. He turned to his fellow heroes on the scene, giving them a brief bow. "Apologies for the abrupt arrival; you may refer to me as Mysterio. But beyond the niceties, I am here to aid in this endeavor, if you will have me." Turning his gaze from them to the myriad goons and the menacing enforcer superhuman, an unseen grin crosses Mysterio's face. "Shall we, as they say, take out the trash?"
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Roman
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Roman King of Dirt

Member Seen 16 hrs ago

#1.01: You Want It Darker
Previously: None

Creation is a Divine act. In the Beginning, when there was only Nothing, God came and Created Something. It was His first act, and it defined what it meant to be Him; to be God was to Create, and to Create is Divine. So it is only natural then, that Creation is sought by all beings, like it was sought by God. When Satan rebelled against God and was cast into the deepest bowels of darkness, he Created Hell. When further angels fell, those that had aligned with Satan, they Created their own domains within Hell. And when Mephisto found himself lying defeated on the burning cold stone of Hell’s depths, he Created Blackheart, his son and progeny.

Aah, Blackheart; admirable, exquisite Blackheart. A finer child no demon could ask for, such was the pitch-darkness of his soul. A perfect mirror held to the basest of Man’s desires and ambitions, Mephisto poured into him all the evils of worlds both mortal and divine. Into Blackheart went all the evil witnessed, all the evil perpetrated; all the evil that would be done, all that could be done. When Mephisto was finished, he admired his Creation, and for the first time experienced Envy; Blackheart was his perfect self, to be lived by another.

Blackheart stood tall and strong on the floors of Hell, and regarded himself - this new body, this new mind, these new thoughts and feelings. He regarded his father, Mephisto.

And wherefore hast thou birthed me, Father? He asked.

To make good thine potential, Child. Mephisto answered.

Daimon Helstrom woke slowly, his dreams filled with the only thing they were ever filled with: fire, screaming, his sister, and his demon father. Even now, some half-a-decade later, Daimon was still haunted by the night that his father returned, and all that had been laid low by his reappearance. The house they had lived in at the time sat to this day a smoldering wreckage, embers within still glowing so many years hence. The neighborhood paid little attention to it - the house existed in a sort of blind-spot, an itch behind the eye when you looked at it; when one passed by, it lived in the peripheral, inflicting a vague, mercurial sense of unease and disgust. Anyone who could bear to look at it for long enough would start to taste sulfur.

Daimon thought of his mother. Visiting hours were short, and she was often unreceptive to seeing her son. This pained Daimon, but he understood why; her face, to him, was a trigger for the trauma of that night, that he had to re-bury every time they spoke. He could not imagine that his visage was any better for her fractured mind.

He thought not to dwell on it any longer, and sat up, letting the sheets slide off him as he left the bed. The cool morning air gave way to goosebumps up his arms and across his shoulders, but he quickly shrugged it off, snapping his fingers and muttering under his breath as he stepped into the front room; the curtains pulled themselves back sharply, flooding the room with early sunlight, and flame erupted on the hob beneath the stove-top coffee pot. Daimon rubbed his eyes, beckoning slightly with an open hand as he stood at the counter - from his desk in the front room, yesterday's shirt lifted gently off the back of the chair it had been draped over and floated toward him. He slid his arms through the sleeves as the coffee began to boil, and buttoned with one hand while he poured out the first cup of the day into a well-stained mug. A few cubes of sugar splashed coffee over the rim, and Daimon absentmindedly twirled one finger over the surface of the liquid, compelling it to stir itself, as he groggily made his way back to the desk he had departed not even 6 hours ago. Files and notes were strewn across the worktop, and a heavy, leather-bound tome laid open in the corner, biro sandwiched into the center crease. There were various notes scrawled in the margins, musings and ruminations scribbled hastily in a way that would make the elderly librarian he had purloined the book from incredibly angry.

Daimon sipped on the coffee, willing himself to wake up as he perused the files. Very little had been trickling in from his office; private investigation often wasn't a lucrative business, especially if you lacked any public notoriety, and especially especially if your newspaper ad featured "expert in occult business and demonology" in the listing. For the most part, this bothered Daimon very little; less business was less talking to people, and less talking to people came with two advantages: more time for his personal study into Hell, demonology, and his father, and also less talking to people.

The disadvantage of less business was irritating little 'BILL DUE' letters through the door, of which Daimon had amassed the beginnings of a small collection. They sat in a neat stack in the drawer of his desk, and as he drained the final dregs of his coffee, he heard the rattle of the letterbox that surely signaled another. He stood, letting go of his empty mug and waving his hand in the same motion, setting it on a path through the air toward a refill as he went to collect the post.

There was no debtor's letter, however - no post at all, none of the usual cold-call nonsense. Instead, there was a small stained envelope, with only Daimon's name penned across the front, and no delivery or return address. It wasn't even stamped; he flipped it over in his hand, catching the returning refilled mug from behind him in the other. His eyes narrowed; the wax seal holding the letter shut bore an impressive crest, marked with sigils that held familiarity to Daimon but were nonetheless unrecognizable as any known runic script, from either this plane or any other. He set his mug aside and carefully broke the seal, fishing out the letter from within the envelope. He drained coffee as he read through, while at the same time, with ever-increasing pace, finishing getting dressed.

Dear Daimon,

My son is missing. I understand that this is likely not unusual for you to hear, being in the business you are.

What is unusual is I cannot remember my son's name.
Many times, I cannot remember I have a son at all.

But there is an empty bedroom in my house, and a wardrobe full of clothes I do not wear, and Mother's Day cards addressed to me from a name I do not recognize.

My husband is afflicted worse than I; when my son's absence finally wells up within me enough to recall, he rejects the notion entirely. I show him the clothes, the rooms, the cards; it is like he cannot see them at all.

Please - find my son. Return him to me, so that I might be convinced of his existence.
If you wish to help me - if you can help me - then visit me.
You can find me at my curio shop, on West 37th.
Ask for Amelia.

By the time he finished the letter, his shoes were tying themselves as he stuffed it back in the envelope, and thrust the envelope into his pocket before he left.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Retired
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Retired "Hayao Miyazaki"

Member Seen 11 days ago

You haven't lived until you've experienced the thrill of hurtling through the New York City skyline at over eighty miles per hour. Adrenaline junkies get off on skydiving or bungee jumping, meanwhile, I'm swan diving off the Empire State Building on the daily. The Big Apple was my playground.

I let out a whoop as I sailed over Times Square, my web-line carrying me in an arc that brought me just a few dozen feet over the countless heads below. I could tell who the tourists were from the ones that looked up, with fingers in the air, and jaws on the ground. By this point just about every New Yorker was used to the familiar sight of their friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.

"Burn in hell, mutie scum!" A voice shouted from below.

Okay, so I wasn't friendly in the eyes of everyone. What's that saying about winning the hearts and minds of the people? Pretty sure the original context was about converting your enemies in war into allies but let me say whoever came up with the phrase wasn't in a media war against J. Jonah Jameson. Though, it was less a war and more of a massacre.

That man was singlehandedly responsible for convincing the city I was a literal mutant spider. As in a six-foot-tall arachnid with human proportions. Nightmare fuel, honestly. Jonah had even put up a billboard with "MENACE" plastered over my photo - photos that I took! Winning the hearts and minds of the people was a little trickier when you had to constantly reassure them you weren't there to steal their babies and infest their homes with hybrid man-spider eggs.

The man was also my boss's boss which made the annual Secret Santa gift swaps just a tad awkward.

It wasn't as bad as it used to be, at least. When I first started wearing the tights it seemed like the whole city despised me. Now, it was just the vocal minority. A very loud, very annoying vocal minority. I swear, every time I save someone from a mugging and they start reciting Trask's anti-mutant rhetoric toward me I want to barf. And I really don't want to think about how much a dry cleaner would charge me to get vomit out of my mask.

In the last couple of years, though, things had gotten a lot better. I even had allies in the NYPD who looked out for me. But I'll always cherish those fond memories of when the boys in blue liked to use me as target practice.

Speaking of, the radio in my earpiece chirped to life, and the NYPD's Major Crime Unit emergency bandwidth it connected to alerted me to a crime in progress. Without looking, I stretched out my left arm and fired off a web-line that snagged a nearby building and altered my course. According to the dispatcher, there was an incident going down in Waterside. Reports of heavy gunfire and an explosion. Just another day in the Five Boroughs.

To think, I used to just swing around the city aimlessly in hopes of stumbling across crime. Admittedly, not the hardest thing to find in New York. You could spit in any direction and it'll splash on the boots of some mugger or another. The radio was a more recent addition in the last couple of years, along with a handful of other technological improvements I had managed to stuff inside this little old suit of mine.

I was closing in on Waterside when something caught my eye. Below me, two figures were shoving their way through bystanders as they booked it down the street. Their matching black and white outfits gave them away as scandals of the costumed variety. Actually, it was the large duffle bags slung over their shoulders that seemed to be overflowing with jewelry as they fled from a severely out-of-shape security guard shouting at them in between wheezes, but I'm still chalking that one up as a win for my excellent deductive powers.

Waterside could wait a minute, I wanted to make sure everything was okay here. The last thing I'd want was to hear on the news later that someone got hurt chasing after those two.

I swung into action, literally, angling my path to cut off the runners. I flipped off my web-line, snagging both duffle bags from their carriers, and landed on a storefront wall about five feet ahead of the thieves.

"Where are we headed in such a hurry, boys? Is there a buy one get one discount I don't know about at Costumes-R-Us?"

I took a closer look at the two. Both were clad from head to toe in black with white design elements covering their torsos. One had what looked like triangles or crescents trailing down his shoulders and arms. A utility belt hung on his hips strapped with various thin, long pouches. The other had large, concentric circles plastered directly on his chest. Along his forearms, I spotted a series of silver bands that reached up to the elbows. Both wore helmets marked with their respective designs.

"Fuck me dead, it's the webhead," Triangle-dude groaned as he and his cohort skidded to a stop.

The other echoed that sentiment, "shit, let's get outta here!"

"C'mon, guys, there are kids around here. Let's keep the language PG. We wouldn't want to disappoint my sponsors." I gestured toward the quickly emptying sidewalk around us as the bystanders tried to put distance between them and us. By now, New Yorkers knew how to react to a confrontation amongst costumed folk.

"Nah, mate. We ain't gonna bail," The Terrible Triangle told his partner, a smile twisting on his exposed lower face. "I reckon we can take him this time."

I cocked my head. This time? I had definitely never seen these dorks before, and... wait...

"I know that voice," I said, looking closer at that smile. "Freddy, is that you?"

I pointed at Circles-Man. "And that must mean you're that other guy, uh," I snapped my fingers as if I was trying to recall a distant memory. "Alice. No, Andrea. April?"

"It's Anthony, you little shit!"

"Calm down, mate. Don't get your knickers in a twist, he's riling you up on purpose. Besides," he added. "We don't go by those names anymore."

I tossed the duffel bags over my head and webbed both to the wall high out of reach. Dropping down next to the pair, I walked around them in circles. At this distance, I could tell the fabric of their suits was lightly armored. In the handful of times that I had run across these buffoons, they had never been geared up like this. Frederick Myers and Anthony Davis were just your average would-be-heisters who liked to hit up pawn shops and jewelry stores every time they got out of prison. I had barely ever had to lift a finger to stop them, they usually did a pretty good job of getting caught on their own.

"Okay, Freddy, the outfit's super cute and all, but I'm running late for another date, so if we can just hurry this up I'd appreciate it," I tapped my wrist to indicate the time. "Tell you what, I'll close my eyes and count to ten, and you can try to get away. Ready? One... two..."

I closed my eyes while counting, my fingers gently resting on the triggers for my web-shooters ready to bind them both before they could get too far. I'm not sure where they got their new outfits but these two were still the same clowns I had dealt with before. The only danger they posed was accidentally tripping on their shoelaces and losing a tooth.

"Five... six..."

My body was already moving as that familiar tingling sensation tickled my brain. If my spider sense could speak, it'd be saying 'danger, danger, Peter Parker!' My eyes fluttered open just in time to catch the streak of angled metal flashing past my face. Serrated edges narrowly missed my cheek as my torso twisted out of the way.

Alright, so, maybe I spoke too soon.

The base of my skull felt alive with lightning as my senses alerted me again. I leaped into the air, flipping over that same bladed object as it went whizzing back down the path it had come from. Had I not moved in time, it would have embedded itself square between my shoulder blades. I landed on a lamp post and watched as the man caught the strange weapon with ease.

Okay. So Myers had come a little better prepared this time. I guess the outfits weren't just for show after all. As confused as I was at this turn of events, I didn't want to show it. I just had to keep running my mouth until I could piece things together.

"Now, I know math might be a little hard for you, Freddy, but I didn't get to ten yet." I scanned my eyes across them both, re-evaluating what might be threatening about them.

"Nice one, Boomerang," Davis encouraged his partner.

"On my mark, you hit him with the big one, Ringer."

Myers seemed to be ignoring my jabs now. Something about him had changed in the year since I'd last seen him. He seemed much more confident and assured. If there was one way to fix that, though, it was my big mouth.

"Wait, wait, wait. Pause. Timeout." I pointed a finger directly at Myers. "You named yourself Boomerang? Did you throw a boomerang at me? Doesn't that seem like a stereotype for an Australian? What, was Kangaroo taken?"

That seemed to get his attention. I could see the muscles around his mouth twitch and contort as he struggled to maintain his composure.

I kept going. "I mean, really, how unoriginal could you be? Let me guess, your catchphrase is a quote from Crocodile Dundee. And don't even get me started on how lame of a name Ringer is," I added gesturing my thumb towards Davis.

I could see Myers inching his fingers into one of the belt pouches on his lift hip. I assumed to grab another of those razor-sharp boomerangs like the one he still gripped in his right hand. I didn't want to let him get another chance, so before he could react I fired off a blast of webbing that stuck his hand to his hip.

"Now!" Freddy-Boomerang shouted as he simultaneously flicked his right wrist and released the boomerang he had still held.

It came rocketing toward me much faster than it should have been able to given how poorly leveraged that throw had seemed. I pushed off of the lamp post and easily dodged it on the first passing. Rebounding off of the wall of a nearby building, I twisted around in midair preparing to catch the boomerang with a web-line as it looped back. Instead, my spider sense went off again, but I was in too awkward of a position to avoid whatever new threat was coming my way.

I barely had enough time to register the danger before I felt something hard impact my back. The hit knocked my aim off center, and my web-line went wide. The boomerang continued its narrow arc and sliced through my right shoulder, cutting through the nonreinforced section of my suit.

I tumbled to the ground just in time for my spider sense to warn me again. Time seemed to slow down as my heightened senses kicked into overdrive. As I pushed myself off the concrete sidewalk, I caught sight of Myers cutting his left hand free with the boomerang that had just left a considerable gash across my shoulder. Next to him, Davis had taken an aggressive stance with his arms outstretched, closed fists pointing at me. Those silver bands that had wrapped around his forearms looked to have expanded in size and were circling his limbs, freely hovering in the air through some unknown method.

One of those silver rings was rapidly approaching me. I tucked and rolled, dipping underneath the hoop, and launching myself toward the two of them. I heard the explosion behind me and felt a light shower of concrete strike my back as the ring detonated on impact, shattering the sidewalk. I closed in on them quickly, too quick for either to react, and I reached out my hand to snag the belt away from Myers.

Instead, my face crunched against a solid surface as I halted abruptly in mid-air just inches from them. I groaned as I dropped hard to the ground, nursing my injured shoulder. I looked closer and saw the air around me shimmering. That's when I noticed the massive, silver circle that had been set up on the sidewalk under me.

A trap. These two chuckleheads had trapped me.

I spun around and pressed my hands against the air, finding solid contact. I could feel a slight heat and tingle against my palms. Some kind of energy field. How the hell had these two bozos gotten their hands on this kind of technology?

"Not so talkative now, are ya," Boomerang stepped up to the forcefield, laughing, and rapped his knuckles against the cage I found myself in.

"Try laughing at us now, asshole!" Ringer chimed in from behind his partner, his middle finger waving in the air.

I slammed my fist against the shield and watched the energy dissipate across the enclosed field but hold firm. I had to find a way out fast. If brute force wouldn't do it, there had to be some trick to how the ring was able to form a self-sufficient energy field. I just had to find it.

"Let's go. Coppers will be here soon."

The two of them approached the webbed-up duffle bags and used a bladed boomerang to cut their stolen goods free. With their loot secured, they took off down a side alley.

I watched, in utter disbelief, as Frederick Myers and Anthony Davis ran off victorious while I remained trapped like a spider in a jar.

I finally found my voice again as I managed to utter three words:

"What. The. Fu—"
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Sep
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Sep Migs Mayfield - Core

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21,989 // ORBUCEN

Richard could feel the eyes burning on him as he walked through the streets, the gravitational shield still keeping the members of this worlds government safe. The same people who had selected who would be saved, and ensured that if they could not be safe then nobody was going to be.

Danger Richard Rider, you must pay attention at this time.

There was a boom up overhead, and a crash as something fell from the sky into the ground before Richard. He held up his hands to get everyone to stop.

"What in the world?"

No Richard Rider, not off this world.

Out of the crater crawled a massive creature, he had seen his fair share of monsters and beasts throughout the years, from abominations of science to aliens and even one or two magical beings but something about this one seemed wrong. It had froth around its mouth, and a rage behind the eyes that he found unsettling.

"Unidentified Alien-" Richards voice boomed through various different translations all at once. He wasn't entirely sure of the science behind it but he didn't have time to stop and question it everytime he was speaking to some new alien. Especially one that looked distinctly mad. "-I am Nova Centurion 11249-44396. I am tasked with saving as many people of this world as possible. Step aside immediately."

The alien roared at him and charged.


His entire body glowed as he was struck by a single fist. He was sent flying through the delegates, and there was the distinct possibility that he collided with at least one of them. Climbing out of the building that he ended up in he shook his head. "Holy hannah, how hard did he hit us?"

Still determining, however I would advise you do not allow him to hit us again that hard.

"Gee thanks, I'll work on that."
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Bounce
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The Xavier Institute

Westchester, New York | Issue 1.03: Anne [ Previous / Next ] | Post Theme

“Your transcripts arrived from your school.”

Miss Anne was their teacher.

...and also their guidance counselor? To be honest, Toro was rather confused about this. But, this definitely wasn’t a normal school.

The boy sat across from the woman’s desk, his feet dangling as they didn’t quite reach the floor. The hoodie was flipped over his head, his eyes focused on the floor in front of his chair.. The classroom was empty, save for the two of them.

Toro had actually never been in a school this small. There were only a handful of desks in the room. His usual schools had varied between twenty or thirty kids in a room.

“Your math and science scores are good,” the woman continued, turning her attention to the laptop that was in front of her. When she’d looked back over at the dark haired boy, she remarked, “I was surprised English and Spanish seem to be where you struggle.”

The boy just continued to stare down at the floor.

“You don’t like reading, do you?”

The question prompted him to raise his head just slightly. “Like... a book?” he asked meekly, his eyes only briefly meeting hers before darting off to the side again. “I guess I never thought about it.”

“Do you like Harry Potter?”

As though startled by the question, the boy looked up. His head went back, the confusion plain on his face as he answered with a question. “Like, wizards and stuff?” Now she had his full attention. Sitting up a little straighter, he looked back at her as he hesitantly answered, Ajá, I guess..?”

Pushing the sleeves of her blouse back along her forearms, the woman leaned forward as she pressed the topic. “Did you ever read any of the books?”

“I saw the movie,” the boy answered.

“Which one?” the woman countered wryly.

The boy just blinked. “¿Cómo?” he uttered innocently.

Flashing a genuine smile, the woman leaned back and then reached down to open a lower drawer in her desk. A moment later, she slid a book across the desk. The title read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “You can start with this, then,” she stated evenly.

“Eh!?” the boy uttered, staring dumbfounded at the task.

That was a lot of book. "¿Seria?" he asked, looking up at the woman, but she’d already turned her attention back to the laptop screen.

Finally, the boy took the book in his hands. As he sat back in the chair, eyes downcast on the cover, a quiet voice asked, “Is this really a school?”

Pausing her typing, the woman turned her attention back to the boy. “What else would it be?”

Pulling his legs up into the chair, the boy sat cross-legged as he seemed to hunch down, as though trying to make himself as small as possible. “I dunno...”

“Tomás, will you look at me?”

Reaching up with both hands, the boy pulled the hoodie over his head tighter. “A prison?”

The woman cocked her head to one side, at first unsure she’d heard him. “Why would you be in prison?” she asked patiently.

The child across from her didn’t respond.

Stepping out from around her desk, the woman dropped to a knee next to his chair, leaning down so that she was peering up into the hoodie. “Tomás, why would you be in prison?” she repeated in a firm, but calm voice.

The boy shifted uncomfortably atop the seat, pressing his face against the cover of the book to keep from looking at the woman.

“‘Cuz I set things on fire,” a whisper answered finally.

“Tomás, look at me.”

It hadn’t been a request.

Sheepishly, the boy raised his head up. Tears were starting to run down his face, a mixture of fear and confusion is his eyes when he finally glanced up from the floor to meet the woman’s eyes.

“You’re not in trouble,” the woman stated, reaching out to lay a hand on his arm and give it a squeeze. “This school’s here to help you learn. About math. About English. And about how or why you’re able to set things on fire. And then, from there, we can work with you so that you’ll only do it when you want to.”

The boy shifted uncomfortably in his seat, looking back down.

Rearing back up, the woman stepped back behind the desk. “Its okay to be scared, but just like studying for a test, with a little work you can control your powers,” she offered, dropping back into her seat. “They’re actually quite incredible. We thought you just had the ability to manipulate fire, or maybe just immunity to it. Creating fire is quite a complex process.

Peeking up through the hood, a myriad of different emotions seemed to be playing out behind the boy’s frightened eyes. After a moment, he simply asked, ¿Qué?

Tapping in a few notes into the boy’s file, the woman remarked, “Because you have to be generating not only the fuel for the process, but also the means of its ignition. And that’s just for the combustion.”

The boy just blinked. “Oh,” he answered simply.

No, he hadn’t followed anything she’d just said.

“The only individual that comes to mind with a power like yours is the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four,” the teacher offered, closing the laptop and then folding her arms down on the desk as she turned her attention back to the boy to ask, “That’s cool, isn’t it?”

Instead of answered, the boy’s attention seemed to land on her forearm.

“What’s FoH mean?”

Quickly, the woman used her other hand to push the sleeve of her blouse up over the gothic cross artwork on her arm. “That tattoos are a mistake,” she answered cryptically. Then, deflected the question by deadpanning, “Do you have any?”

“¿Qué?” the boy uttered, at last starting to relax and sit normally in the chair. “I’m twelve!” he answered flatly, a slightly giggle escaping.

“There is one thing,” the woman noted, gesturing at the boy. Or, rather, at the hoodie he was wearing. “Each time you ignite, what you’re wearing ignites as well.”

Si,the boy answered, blushing faintly as his eyes darted away again. He'd already burned through three sets of clothes that they'd given him.

Des was starting to become adept at using a fire extinguisher.

The worst had been when they'd been in the cafeteria, and Toro had been trying to hold onto the charred remains of his clothing. Standing in the middle of the school with only extinguishing foam covering his bare butt. Or the rest of him.

“That’s one way of avoiding doing laundry, but I don’t recommend it,” the woman offered in the same wry tone of voice. Then, she added, “We can make you some clothing that won’t burn up when you ignite, but we’ll need to run some tests to measure the temperature at which you burn so we make sure its safe for you to wear.”

“Tests,” the boy echoed, confused. Inclining his head, he asked, “Like, a quiz?”

“Not... exactly.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Natty
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Member Seen 7 mos ago

The warehouse was in a much different state upon Illyana’s return. As her stepping disc faded into nothingness, she found that the candles and their many holders that made up the former ritual space were in pieces around the room, as well as beautifully drawn circles and symbols that had once taken up the majority of the floor had now been smudged, leaving the floor looking like a Jackson Pollock painting. You’d think it was a bloodbath if you didn’t know it was fortunately just red paint.

The focal point of the room now, floating above precedings, was a luminous polyhedron, that seemed to spin slowly in place. Its edges glowed a rich orange, with its triangular sides translucent enough to just tease a hulking mound within. It took Illyana a few seconds to realise it was a figure within, giving a slight jump as whatever it was slammed a scaly black hand against the walls of its prison.

The slam didn’t go unnoticed, with it also catching the attention of the warehouse’s other inhabitants. They shrieked in terror from against the wall where they stood cowering, before being quickly silenced by the man who stood before them.

"This is not a toy.” Doctor Strange drifted effortlessly through the air above them all, his cloak billowing behind for dramatic effect. He was dressed in his oh-so-familiar blue robes, with his usually finely swept-back hair now a mess atop his head. He certainly didn’t look happy.

Gripped firmly in his left hand, and pointed accusingly at the college students before him, was what appeared to be a leather-bound tome. Its brown cover was embellished in gold, yet even from here, Illyana could see that the book had a sickly aura to it. She’d seen many books like this in her time. From both Strange’s library, as well as her previous master’s.

"If a single crack opens between here and hell again, this thing will come right back.” He didn’t even need to raise his voice. From the authority and anger that he held as he spoke, even Illyana was slightly worried. “And that time it'll have your scent."

“But… But we tried to free them?”

Evidently, some of them were braver than she had expected. Strange however was unfazed by the comment, merely shaking his head as he crossed his hands behind his back.

"Yes, tried and failed.” Her mentor stated in frustration. “And they are not kind to those that fail them."

As if to prove his point, the polyhedron behind him racketed from side to side, as the beast within seemingly dived forwards into the glowing panels, as if ravenously trying to lunge for its prey. The shining construct lurched forwards as if it would break apart, before finally returning back to its place as if nothing had happened.

Shouts and cries once again erupted from the small group, with even the outspoken one from before backing down and joining in. Illyana however could only attempt to stifle a chuckle, her eyes fixated on the hand motions that Strange was doing behind his back, his fingers fizzling with the same orange of the prison momentarily. Like all magicians, the man had his party tricks.

Satisfied that the group were scared enough, his hands moved back into view, before he pointed at the wall behind them. Instantly the brick wall they were cowering against began to shift, with the bricks quickly rearranging themselves to create a doorway into the cool air outside.

Now go.” Steven boomed. “I don’t want to see you again.

They didn’t need to be told twice, and within only a couple of moments, they had scarpered to safety out through the hole, the stampeding of their legs growing quieter and quieter.

As the bricks began to put themselves back into place, Illyana finally decided to step out from the shadows and into view, her hands giving a slow clap to her mentor, who at this point was looking extremely smug with himself.

Vell done. I don’t think the ginger one vill be sleeping for a week.

Strange smiled in response, turning towards her.

Thank you. Thank you.” He made a mock bow towards her. “That acting class I was dragged along to in college finally paid off.

She smirked, turning to face the demon in the glass shell before them.

It’s not true vhen?" She asked, tilting her head slightly to get a better look at the creature. She recalled that it looked remarkably similar to the one she had just fought herself.

"Oh not at all” He confirmed, taking a step towards the construct, waggling his hands in preparation. “But figured a magical Scared Straight might do wonders for that crowd."

She nodded, failing to understand the reference he was making. He continued, not noticing.

No, once you do that incantation we practised last week, they’ll go right back where they came from with no memory of their time here. Simple”.

Yet as simple as it sounded, Illyana’s face quickly paled at his words, as the realisation hit her.

The encantation worked on the other one right?” He asked, his back now to her as orange lines of energy began to encircle his outstretched arms.

Her mind returned to the sight of carnage after the train carriage hit the beast. How she’d seen the scraps of fabric from its cloak. The chunks of flesh. And then her leaving, believing he was done. How wrong she had been.

Of course.” If there was one benefit of her time in Limbo, it had made her into a decent liar.

“I know what I saw Parker. I’m not crazy.”

The two subway workers moved down the tunnel in unison, their flashlights engulfing it in light ahead of them. John King, the man who had just spoken up, stood to the rear of the two, shuffling nervously.

“Bullshit John.” His cousin scoffed loudly as he took the lead, marching on forwards. “I swear to god if I skipped out on seeing Sara for nothing I’ll..-”

“Relax man” John juggled momentarily to catch up. “That thing is definitely still down here, and if we find it, we’re fucking rich!”

Parker let a smile move over his face as he turned back to John.

“Then we never have to work down here again!” He proclaimed, slapping his arm around him.

“Hell yeah.”

Their conrobbery was interrupted as a low roar echoed around them from ahead.

The two moved frantically. John aimed his flashlight around wildly, searching, whilst Parker’s hands moved to the back of his jeans.

“Why the fuck did you bring a piece, Parker?” John cried, pointing towards the weapon in his hands.

Parker merely brushed him off, stepping forwards, the firearm raised. His steps were steady. His breathing was quiet.

Then he saw something ahead of him on the ground, slumped on top of the tracks. It took him a moment to realise it was literally more than a heap of cloth. He crept forwards to inspect it, his eyes continuing to dart around the tunnel before him as he did so. It was only once he was upon it that he finally looked down upon what he had come across.

He was indeed right in that it was a piece of cloth, however, upon deeper inspection, the blood-red fabric seemed to be neatly woven into some sort of cloak.

“What the hell is this?” Parker Robbins asked aloud, his hands running over the cloak’s scarlet hood.
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Guardian of the Universe

Member Seen 2 hrs ago

"So what are we thinkin,' guys?" Johnny Storm asked his compatriots, globes of flame encircling his hands. "The usual?"

The arrival of the Fantastic Four had turned the fight between the gunmen who had assaulted the Roxxon tanker and the huge armored figure protecting it into an intense standoff. None of the masked attackers had fired off another shot, but neither were they lowering their guns. The armored brute stood his ground, daring anyone to give him an excuse to start swinging his massive fists.

"I'm in favor of the usual," Sue nodded with a confident grin. "Contain, ascertain, and detain. Doesn't look like it should be much trouble."

"Dibs on the big fella," snarled the Thing, just as eager to commence with the action.

"Let's not jump to conclusions," Reed Richards countered. "Let's see if we can de-escalate the situation. I believe there may be more going on here than--"

"Heads up, we've got incoming!"

Tentatively, Victor lowered himself down to the ground, red boots plodding to the ground with two muffled footfalls. He adjusted the cells in his body so as to slick his hair back hands-free, and stepped forward. He leaned in, across the Fantastic Four, and drew an open palm across his face as a hello.
“Hi. I…” He paused, furrowing his brow. “...Work here. Are both groups present the bad guys, or are we cooperating with one of them?”
Victor smiled sheepishly, before remembering where he was. He straightened up, taking two steps forward and holding his hands out. His fingers crackled with an arcing blue energy, the Arc Reactor thrumming and glowing through his suit.

“It’s interesting that the tanker hasn’t exploded yet,” he announced loudly, still ready for a fight. “I shall kick any asses in its vicinity and move it to a safe location. If that is agreeable? I’ll defer to seniority.”

"Hey! Who are you callin' 'senior,' junior?" the Human Torch said with indignity.

"Ahhh, don't mind him," the Thing waved the Torch off, "he's just cranky cuz he got his first gray hair the other day."

"HEY! That's not--"

"The Vision, I presume?" Mister Fantastic interrupted, his elastic body stretching and warping to slip past the Thing and Human Torch and nudge them each to one side. "Reed Richards. A pleasure to make your acquaintance. I've been rather impressed with the advancements in cybernetics and digital intelligence that Stark Industries is developing. If it's not too much of a imposition, I'd very much like to compare your design schematics with some of my--"

"Reed! Focus!" The Invisible Woman interjected, turning their attention back to the gunmen and the brute. "We can trade notes after we've dealt with the active threat, all right?"

"Of course, my apologies," the elastic man said sheepishly, before shaping his hands into the shape of a megaphone. "Attention, all of you! There is no need for further violence. Put down your weapons, surrender peacefully to the proper authorities, and we won't have to--"

Reed's call for de-escalation was interrupted by a swirl of green clouds overhead.

"Awww, ain't that a shame," the Thing muttered.

Overhead of The Fantastic Four and The Vision appeared to be a cloud of green mist, which quickly coalesced, forming into a vibrantly viridian portal, from which emerged none other than the green-clad Mysterio, descending from the skies in spectacular fashion; it was eye-catching, if nothing else. He turned to his fellow heroes on the scene, giving them a brief bow. "Apologies for the abrupt arrival; you may refer to me as Mysterio. But beyond the niceties, I am here to aid in this endeavor, if you will have me." Turning his gaze from them to the myriad goons and the menacing enforcer superhuman, an unseen grin crosses Mysterio's face. "Shall we, as they say, take out the trash?"

"Ah, screw this!" one of the gunmen yelled as he raised his rifle at the crowd of superheroes. "I'm not goin' back to prison!"

With a loud staccato chatter, the burst of gunfire effectively ended any chance of a peaceful resolution.

The rest of the gunmen followed suit, the air suddenly filling with hot lead. Before they could reach their targets, the bullets pinged off of seemingly nothing, changing directions as if they had hit a solid wall. Some ricocheted outward, towards the few civilians still out on the sidewalk, only to bounce back again. Some shot back and forth across the street like high-velocity pinballs, never reaching the sidewalks before another invisible wall deflected them away.

"I've got the area contained for now," came the disembodied voice of the Invisible Woman, straining from the number of force fields she had to hold up. "Disarm the shooters first, take out the active threats! Then we deal with the Roxxon truck and the big guy if he wants trouble! Johnny, draw their fire!"

"On it, sis!" called out the Human Torch, taking to the air as super-hot plasma coated his body. In response, most of the attacking gunmen opened fire on the flaming figure arcing towards them. Johnny made no attempt to dodge the incoming bullets, as the radiant heat from his personal plasma field was enough to vaporize the bullets before they could reach them.

"That's our opening!" Reed called out, his torso stretching out into a long flat sheet to wrap around one of the gunmen, while his right hand shot out well past him, wrapped around a light pole, then clocked a second gunman from behind. Two down, a dozen to go. "Vision! Mysterio! Let's see what you can do! Ben, if the large one gets aggressive--"

"Way ahead of ya, Stretch," the Thing said, squaring off with the hulking armored man. "So whaddya say, Pipsqueak? You gonna play nice an' just answer a coupla questions once we're done with these guys? Or are you gonna--"


The gunfire was temporarily drowned out by the thunderous impact of the armored man's fist colliding with Ben Grimm's jaw. The craggy orange hero reeled, kicking up chunks of pavement as he tumbled before slamming into one of the garbage trucks that had penned the tanker in.

"The name's not 'Pipsqueak,'" he growled, looming over the Thing, "It's Armadillo. And like I told them, you don't know who the fuck you're messing with."

"Ahh, see, that right there?" Ben said, a grin splitting his rocky face as he picked himself up. "That's what I was hopin' you'd say."

The two charged at each other again, trading blows that sounded like cannon fire across Waterside Plaza.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

Member Seen 21 hrs ago


arc 1: furnace
issue - first degree

“ Potts, be a dear and go deliver these documents to Mr Ratzenski. Tell him it concerns our acquisitions in Tehran.”

“ Yes, Mr Stane,” Obidiah watches from his mahogany desk as his secretary promptly exited the office swiftly, hands parted out like a bird ready to take flight. It had been six months since Pepper had been reassigned under him from Tony. The bubbly enthusiasm that had been present when Tony was still around had been replaced by a withdrawn coldness. Obidiah considers for a moment whether she suspects foul play and then dismisses the thought. He likes Pepper.

If he were to kill her, who would bring his cappuccino in on time?

He sorts through his morning copy of the Daily Bugle, his brows furrowed at the various pictures of costumed figures that adorned the headlines. More and more of their ilk were popping up now. It irked him. Such uncontrolled power was merely used for fighting burglars and saving kittens from trees. The ubiquity of the phenomenon had even reached Stark’s RnD. The Vision Project had gone public to massive reception and already, his divisions were hammered with calls from military contractors on potentially outsourcing the tech to the Sokovia Conflict. He ignored the sports section and flipped through the politics section about a certain rare earth issue in South Africa that Stark Industries was briefly mentioned in.

The intercom then buzzed with static.

“ Mr Obidiah, Mr Hammer is here now.”

Obidiah flipped the papers closed and replied back.

“ Send him in now.”

Obidiah soon regretted his words as it only took a few seconds for Justin Hammer to arrive noislily into his room. The business magnate of Hammer Industries pushed open the door. Odious amounts of concealer and hair gel lathered his face until he looked like a wax doll. His fashion style was counterintuitive to what most people would have of a CEO of one of the largest companies in the world. Compared to Obidiah’s power suit, Justin wore a thick collared fleece turtleneck and a set of blue chinos that made Obidiah’s eyes water in horror. Obidiah wondered if the CEO purposely dressed himself like that to annoy him.

“ Obi. Obi. Obi, my man. Thought you’d keel over by now with everything that's happening in Stark,” Justin swaggered in, feet noisly slapping his carpeted floor. He laid back on the chair and saddled his two feet onto Obidiah’s desk. Taking out two cigars, he waved one to Obidiah invitingly. “ Need something to cool your nerves?”

“ Not one to indulge in smoking, I’m afraid,”

“ So, are we still up for that round of golfing on - “

“ Justin, I know you didn’t come all the way from Palo Alto just to have small-talk.” Obidiah leaned forward. “So, talk.”

“ Fine.” Justin crushed the butt of his cigar into an ashtray, taking his feet down from the table and removing his shades. His eyes were the color of grimy copper. “ Stark Industries fell 52 points ever since these terrorist attacks. You’re the anchor on the NASDAQ. Your contracts have been dried up since this Iron Man fella appeared on the streets. Everyone’s betting on you to lose. Like, I hate to point out the obvious but you think you’re going to survive beyond the 2nd quarter?”

Justin still wore the same grin but his eyes glinted coldly. Obidiah merely didn’t respond, processing Justin’s words, before standing up and walking to see the view outside his office, his back to Justin.

“ What exactly are you proposing, Justin? A buyout?”

“ I’m proposing a life buoy for your sinking ship. Make the merger with Hammer and do what Tony never had the guts to do.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Roman
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Roman King of Dirt

Member Seen 16 hrs ago

#1.02: We Kill The Flame
Previously: #1.01

Amelia's shop wasn't hard to find. It stood, dusty and dark, amidst boarded-up units and a couple of run-down bodegas; a few dive bars and a derelict betting shop stood out as the key highlights of an otherwise dead street.

A small brass bell rang dull and muted as Daimon pushed through the door that was more dirt and duct-tape than serviceable wood. He stood amongst a thrall of forgotten knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, feeling claustrophobic between tightly-packed racking shelves and glass cabinets. The low ceiling did little to help the overall oppressive atmosphere of the shop, and Daimon ducked beneath a beaded and obviously-fake mini-chandelier light-fixture - price tag faded and dangling - as he approached the counter.

"Amelia?" Daimon called out to the empty air. There was a dog-eared book laid open on the counter and half a mug of lukewarm coffee next to it; whoever was here couldn't be far. A small call-bell stood on the glass to Daimon's left; he pressed it, but instead of the expected soft 'ding' it only elicited a small and quiet crunch sound that felt distinctly organic. A few cockroaches fled from beneath the bell and disappeared out of sight, undoubtedly into the bosom of thousands of their brethren. Daimon shivered in disgust. He knocked on the countertop instead, three sharp raps echoing through the shop. "Hello?"

There was a rustling from beyond the doorway behind the counter, followed by shuffling footsteps, a few bumps, a significantly louder thump, and then the appearance of an unkempt, grey-haired woman. Her arms were laden with a large stack of books and small boxes that careened this way and that as they towered over her head, threatening to topple completely with every step. Daimon quickly moved around the counter, seizing her first by the shoulders to steady the teetering woman, before taking a sizeable chunk of the stack from her and setting them down on the counter as she did the same. The books for the most part seemed to be leather-bound antiques and collector's editions, while the boxes were non-descript, un-marked, and rattled when he shook them.

"Can I help you, young man?" The woman asked, not even looking at him - she was back to her book, her eyes flicking across the page quickly as she brought the remains of her coffee up to nicotine-stained teeth. Daimon frowned, retrieving the letter he’d received this morning and putting it down over the book she was reading.
“I’m Daimon Helstrom. I think you want my help.”

The woman sported a frown of her own, eyes flicking over the words on the letter as she read and re-read the contents.
“How unusual.” She finally said, with an apathetic tone that indicated it wasn’t unusual whatsoever, and handed the letter back. Daimon sighed.
“Are you Amelia?” He asked, the beginnings of irritation bubbling beneath the surface of an otherwise calm demeanour.
“Sure am.” Amelia replied, nose still in her book.
“And your son is missing?”
“Sure ain’t.”
“So he’s been found already?”
“Mister, I don’t have any kids.”

Daimon grumbled, realising he should have seen this coming. The letter had already spoken of fleeting and mercurial memory; it should have come as no surprise that she remained burdened by some bizarre affliction.
“If you don’t have any relevant business sir, I’ll ask you to leave.”

Daimon grumbled again and seized Amelia’s face in one hand. She spluttered in surprise and protested, but Daimon held her strong. Their eyes finally met, and Daimon saw it undeniably: a fog behind the eyes, a muffling cloud that sat within Amelia, quelling this and that, preventing undesirable thoughts and emotions. It was vile magic - but magic all the same. He began to whisper gently, chanting quiet rituals as his free hand spun fingers about Amelia’s head. Slowly, Amelia calmed, her voice growing soft and her protests ceasing; the more Daimon chanted, the deeper she fell into the trance - and then, shadows appeared in the wake of Daimon's tracing fingers, smoke coalescing behind his movements and being drawn into his palm. Soon, there was a visible wreath of a thick, gray, smoke-like substance about Daimon's hand that glimmered in the light, and seemed to pulse and throb. It was the essence of a hex, and without it she was free to think clearly. As Daimon ended the chanting and spun the cloud about itself, tightening it into a compact, thread-like material, a long-absent lucidity returned to Amelia; at which point, she promptly burst into tears.

"Charlie!" She cried, screaming names through heavy sobs that wracked through her body and shook her shoulders. She looked so much smaller now, like she'd withdrawn into herself. Daimon held her by the shoulders as she wept, unsure what to do. She heaved, fat tears pooling in her eyes and pouring down her cheeks; it was several uncomfortable minutes before she began to settle, and even then tears freely flowed ceaselessly, and her words were intermingled with sniffles and spoken in a weary, cracking voice.

"My Charlie...gone, for weeks now - dead, I know it. A mother knows it! In her bones, in her stomach, in her breast. It sits deep in you, deeper than you thought you were, than you thought you had. It's the worst thing there is. All the love poured into your child, come back as pain, as absence. My Charlie's dead, and I have to keep on living."
She collapsed onto a stool that sat in the corner, and Daimon knelt in front of her.
"And I was numb to it - but you did somethin' didn't you. Took the numbness away. But you let me remember him. Let the grief in."
She paused, taking a deep, ragged breath.
"I can't tell which is worse."

Daimon took her hand, squeezing gently. He was accustomed to grief.
"I'm sorry. I'm too late to help Charlie - too late to help you - but I can help others. Charlie will not be the only one torn from his family. And your clarity - it will pass to your husband. You can grieve together."
Amelia attempted a smile, but all it did was put a new face on her woe.
"And I suppose that's the best I can ask for. I guess you - you can see his room, his things, maybe they'll help. We last- last- last saw him..."

Amelia wept again, tearing her hand from Daimon to bury her face in her palms, saltwater dripping through her fingers. Daimon waited.

"We last saw him on 8th avenue. Walking home from school. From there...it's all hazy again. That fog looms over everything."
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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

Member Seen 45 min ago


"Frenchie, this is crazy! These are not street thugs, these are real capes and cowls, gods and monsters, superpowered villains!"

The line the sniper had been waiting on. The line that always gave way to checkmate, no matter when it was used. If he were in any kind of mood to revel in it, he might even smile as it drifted across the battlelines.

"Marc... Steven... Jake... I hardly think you're in a position to identify what counts as crazy. Oui?"

Of course he was right, but that was besides the point.

"And we've dealt with our share of Gods and monsters often enough already. Au jour le jour, no?"

He started the rotors on the Mooncopter.

Within an hour it would be torn to shreds around him, at HIS hands. Simon Maddicks. The Killer Shrike.

"This is our quotidienne..."



It still hurt. From below the knee. The pain where there was nowhere to feel pain. The phantom limb. Just like the pain he still felt even though Marc was long gone.

"C'mon! Harder old man! I know you still have more in you than that!"

Jean Paul emphatically through a whirling heel kick at the heavy bag. Stopping just before he hit it, with exquisite control.

"Enough with the 'Old Man'. It is not you, Rob, and it rings false."

"I think... it is enough for today. If for no other reason than because I might be tempted to show you just how much remains in this old man. And I would hate to ruin such a pretty young face."

It hurt. He was still thinking of Marc. Of the Killer Shrike. Of what was taken from him. Quick to distract to mask the hurt. The loss.

"Aww... you're such a sweetheart."

"Sweatheart, no. We work tonight, and I'd hate to have to try and explain the bruising. Telling the customers of our fine establishment you dropped a tray of h'ors d'oevres, I suspect."


Jean Paul sat on a low bench and rubbed at the prosthetics.

"Is it still hurting? Because--"

"I know."

"--said it would--"

"I know."

"--phantom limb--"

"Je suis consient--"

"--it's not uncommon--"

"I know. I KNOW. I'm aware. Je suis consient! I know all of this. You're talking about things conceptually that I know and have to deal with daily. No old man. No mothering. Find a happy middle ground, Rob."

"Oh God, I'm mansplaining your injuries to you!"

"I... guess..? Is that even a thing in our current relationship situation?" Jean Paul had not been 'out' as long as Rob and was far less comfortable navigating the social waters. When he was younger the lifestyle was taboo, Rob was of a younger time, a time where he could be far more comfortable in his skin.

Rob gave a singular laugh.

"It is patronising though. But understandable. You are a personal trainer after all, I'm sure you have to be like this with a lot of your clientele. And I'm sure that for a lot of them it's helpful. But you're not telling me anything new. It is... a lot."

Rob squeezed his shoulders from behind. He sensed words probably weren't going to help how Jean Paul felt right now. Silence gestures could do more.

"And it's not 'injuries'. Injuries heal. My legs aren't coming back. This isn't about finding a way to build back strength as they mend."

"It's about finding a way to keep moving forwards. To keep taking steps without them. And I have. And I can."

Jean Paul leaned back into Rob's hands.

"And you've helped with that. But the pain that still lingers. The ghosts. Some days they are just more difficult than others."

"I can walk, I can run, I can kick. But that pain some days will still irritate and nag like--"


"Ha!" Now it was the frenchman's turn to laugh.

"More than most, it's the man without legs who know the importance of balance." Rob said.

"Poignant. Philosophical sounding almost, even."

"Yes, I'm sure Sartre said it." Rob smirked. "No. It couldn't have been. Because if it was Sartre I'm almost certain it would have been you saying it to me."

Jean Paul threw a towel at the younger man's face who easily sidestepped it and laughed.

"The thing about the balance is it's not year-to-year. It's day-to-day. Minute-to-minute. And with THAT you help."

"Even if you are a young bouffon..."

"Bouffon, imbécile, idiot..." Rob said, immitating the older man's deep french accent. "Why, whatever could these words mean?" He laughed.

The older man threw an arm around him. Enough words. And the pair made their way to the locker room, to get changed for the dinner shift.
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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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Erik made it back to the estate without further incident while still ingesting.. well, everything from earlier. So little detail on the new Brotherhood, but there was just enough for insight from the former leader. For one, and perhaps a crucial fact, the group was willing to kill anyone that invalidates their existence. Being filled with narcissists was dangerous enough. But, of course, there was more. Their leader undoubtedly had the wealth and notoriety behind their name to be granted the guild's services. And the fact they were actively seeking out every possible info on their target meant they were more than ready to strike. All because their ego was hurt by Professor Lang's disregard for their pathetic organization.

It has become so pathetic. What a pity. Erik told himself with a hint of sadness at what the Brotherhood had become.

He made his way inside the institute to inform his friend of everything he had learned so far. But then he noticed a teacher and a student in one of the hallways. Erik recognized the teacher upon closer inspection as Danielle Moonstar. She was relatively young to be teaching, but her performance during the first week was quite impressive to him. Plus, her age made relating with some of the students easier. Other than that tidbit, there wasn't much else Erik knew about her (and the other teachers, as a matter of fact). He, for some reason, thought it was better to keep his distance from the institute itself despite multiple objections from Charles.

So it made sense that Erik didn't know the student at all. But it became obvious that the young teen was upset. He was sitting against the wall with his arms around his knees, staring at the floor instead of Danielle. She frowned and then processed to sit beside him, inclined to speak first. "I understand these last couple of days have been... demanding for you especially. But that gives you no right to ridicule another student for their looks."

The teenager's eyes shot back up. "It isn't my fault for being uncomfortable with so many eyes staring at me all at once!"

"He only wanted to ask if you had a pencil, Joshua." Danielle sighed. Her annoyance was clean. "You went too far with the insults."

"Can't you blame me for losing my nerve?" Joshua asked genuinely, his eyes looking back down and away from his teacher.

"You almost made him cry though." Danielle stood up, glancing at the classroom door, before taking a deep breath. "Look, you must understand that your fellow classmates are also struggling. You have to be more considerate of them just as they are considerate of you. More so towards students who can't hide their mutations. So here's what's going to happen. You will apologize to Trevor for what you said to him right after class."

Joshua frowned, still looking down at the floor. "And if he doesn't accept it?"

"That's for him to decide, not you or me." Danielle answered straightforwardly. She offered a hand for her student to get up and motioned toward the classroom. "Let's get back to class, okay?"

"Okay." Joshua accepted his teacher's hand and made his way back to the classroom. Danielle followed behind with a soft smile on her face from her students. Erik, still standing in the stairway, was astounded, to say the least. He made a choice to focus on assembling the X-Men from the ground up. It was the right choice, in his opinion. After seeing firsthand the pain Joshua was going through, some part of him wondered if he should've gotten more involved with the institute. But he knew for a fact that everyone (students and faculty alike) had viewed him as head security. Still though, being a teacher would've been quite a pleasant experience.

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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Retired
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Retired "Hayao Miyazaki"

Member Seen 11 days ago

It had taken me nearly five minutes to escape from Ringer’s contraption. Ringer. Look at me, legitimizing those guys by using their new codenames. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but then again I was the chump who had just got clowned on by Frederick Myers and Anthony Davis - the peak of criminal dunces.

Even worse, in the end, I hadn’t even managed to find a way to free myself from the trap. It had just deactivated itself a few minutes after the two thieves fled. One moment I had been pounding on the solid energy field, the next my fist had passed harmlessly through the air as if there had never been any resistance in the first place. The silver ring that had taken up the entire width of the sidewalk contorted itself back into its more diminutive, wrist-sized form, leaving me to look the fool.

By then, it had already been too late to follow Myers and Davis - Boomerang and Ringer. The two had put enough distance between me and their lame new names that it would have been a needle in a haystack situation. Just another failure in the Spidey department. I should have placed a Spider-Tracer on one of them when I had the chance, but I had vastly underestimated the pair.

Which left the critical question that needed answering. How had they gotten the drop on me? Not to toot my own horn but I am pretty amazing. Spectacular, even. Yet Tweedledee and Tweedledum not only managed to escape, but they had also captured me with the proverbial egg on my mask. It was the gear they had, of course, that gave them the edge they needed. That much was obvious. The concern then was how they found themselves in possession of such equipment. The boomerangs weren’t terribly complex, sure, but Ringer had been rocking some pretty advanced technology. Tech I didn’t understand. Yet.

If there was one place I could trust to help me get a better grasp on mysterious technology, it was Horizon Labs. That had been my first stop after regathering my wits. Horizon and its staff had helped me more than a few times over the years. Usually, they provided me with the materials I needed to upgrade my suit or fiddle with my web formula, but on occasion, the staff themselves had proved instrumental in helping me get the upper hand against the Maggia.

I had hoped to find Doctor Curtis Connors. The doc was primarily a geneticist and biochemist, but the man ran one of the premier research and development laboratories in the world. Horizon was responsible for some of the most advanced technology that had been introduced in the last decade, and while much of that was due to the company’s enigmatic founder and head, Max Modell, it would be a lie to suggest Doc Connors hadn’t played a significant role. I trusted the man to be able to reverse engineer the energy field device.

When I arrived at the Labs, however, Connors had been nowhere to be seen. Debra Whitman and Michael Morbius, the doc’s research assistants, had been around, though. The two of them had proven to be trustworthy and reliable in the past, so I left Ringer’s defunct gear with them under specific instructions to give it to Doc Connors as soon as he came in. With any luck, he’d be able to run some tests on the device and provide me with some better insight into what I was dealing with. I could have stayed and done the work myself, but I had other leads to chase down.

Which is what led me to my current location. 1 Police Plaza; home of the Major Crimes Unit and one of my most loving and charitable allies.

“I don’t have time for your shit today, Spider.”

Okay. One of my most charmingly irritable allies.

“Aw, c’mon, Captain. You always have time for your friendly, neighborhoo—”

Captain Jean DeWolff barely flicked her eyes up to look at me, sprawled out on the ceiling of her office as I was. “Do you have any idea the shitstorm I’m dealing with right now? I have paperwork coming out of my ass after the mayhem in Waterside earlier today.”

“A new gang making a name for itself by nearly destroying an entire city block, and on top of that, more than half a dozen enhanced individuals slugging it out causing even more havoc,” I could feel the exasperation oozing from her every pore as she spoke. “The mayor is expecting an update on the situation in an hour, so whatever it is you’re here for I don’t have the time to play nice right now.”

“Jean,” I said softly, dropping from the ceiling to take a seat across from her. “I get it. You’ve got a lot going on right now. The last thing I want is to add to your plate, but I do have a legitimate request for help. There are a couple of new costumed criminals running around the city today, and I need access to New York’s Finest’s database to figure out a few things.”

“Yeah,” Captain DeWolff said. “I heard about you getting your ass handed to you. Witnesses say you didn’t even lay a finger on the perps.”

“Hey! I’ll have you know I just got a manicure this morning, and the lovely nail technician told me to avoid punching evildoers today. You know how the old adage goes: beauty before crime-stopping.”

“Enough,” the MCU captain held up her palm and sighed. “If it’ll get you out of my office so I can focus, fine. What do you need?”

I tapped DeWolff’s open palm with my own in a high five before she could pull away. “You’re the best, Jeannie.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“I recognized the two guys I tussled with. Frederick Myers and Anthony Davis. Petty thieves that have been in and out of prison more often than I change my underwear. And let me tell you, I’m very hygienic.”

“You got beat up by those two idiots?” She raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

“They ate their Wheaties today. Look, I just need to take a look at their records. See any known associates, find out who they had contact with during their recent stint, and look through their past crimes to find patterns. They had a life, as unremarkable as it may have been, before I started busting their chops, and somewhere in that I’m sure will be the answers I need.”

“Fine,” she repeated. “But you’ll have to wait. I’ll put Watanabe and Gonzales on it and have them pull anything relevant from the records that fit your criteria. They’re on scene in Waterside Plaza right now, so don’t expect any results until tomorrow. Okay?”

“Sir, yes, sir!” I saluted the captain.

“Great, now get out. I’ve got a date with a very irate mayor to prepare for.”

Date. Now that was a thought. I had one of those myself that I was almost running late for, and I still had to swing by the dorms to shower the humiliating stink of defeat off of me.

With any luck, Carlie wouldn’t be too upset with me for being a little tardy.
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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Mintz
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Member Seen 3 hrs ago

Okay, well...Perhaps he should've seen something like this happening. The scene had dissolved into absolute chaos, with the Four doing their damnedest to contain the situation. If it weren't for quick thinking on the Invisible Woman's part, chances are Mysterio would've been riddled with bullet holes. Or, well, he would've been if he was actually the one down there. Of course he didn't descend straight into a potential hellstorm of lead with his flesh and blood body! It was just one of the drones pulling off as a fake double while the real illusionist crouched at the top of one of the nearby buildings, scanning the area for opportunities to intervene.

'Let's see here...Well, Victoria hasn't gotten back to me, so I'll just have to work with what I've got. What would pay off right now is something flashy and disarming, to buy some time away from the gunman. And I think I've got just the thing in mind...'

With his plan of action fulfilled in his mind, Mysterio spoke into his helmet, reaching out once more to his tech team. "Guterman, Victoria; we're gonna need a big play to buy the heavy hitters some breathing room. Do we have enough drones for the big one?" Victoria was the first to speak up. "It would take most of them; would also mean we need to delay that area scan you wanted. But if that's fine..."

"Do it."

The false Mysterio on ground level with the rest of the heroes made his move; whipping around to face the majority of the gunmen, he began to weave his hands in strange patterns, mystical-looking green sigils gleaming in the air. At first, it wasn't exactly clear what he was up to, but it became far more obvious as a daunting shadow fell upon the street. "Let us see how these thugs contend with this..." He muttered to himself, eager to see the fruits of his labor.

Unsurprisingly, most of the gunmen who weren't trying to shoot down the Torch lost their focus, confused by the sudden darkness dawning on them. As they gave a cursory glance upwards, the results were instantaneous. "What the hell is that?!" "D-don't just stand there, shoot!" "Damnit, I didn't sign up for this!" Looming over the would-be assailants, and even the street at large, was an inhumanly massive version of Mysterio himself, his domed face gazing balefully down at the myriad aggressors. In their panic, many of them began their new assault on the gigantic sorcerer, only to find their bullets to be...Less than effective. Of course, it was impossible for them to tell from the distance they were firing, but the shots only hit empty air; it was all false. But they bought into it, and that gave Mysterio his own sort of power over them. Sometimes, even the threat of something can be dangerous...

The giant doppelganger, having already sponged up his fair share of lead, began to make the threat a bit more tangible. Slowly, one of his massive hands began to descend, threatening to crash into the wave of armed crooks. Many of them were, unsurprisingly, not bold enough to stare down such danger in the face, abandoning the attack in favor of sprinting full-speed away from where they believed the humongous fist would land. Feigning strain at maintaining this 'spell', Mysterio took this opportunity to rally some of the civilians who were still flat-footed. "G-Get out of here! We can handle this, just evacuate the area!" His call seemed to snap the bystanders back into reality from the shock of the incident, and they took his advice to heart, fleeing as fast as their feet could carry them. Alright, that cleared up some of the problem...

However, things rarely went as smoothly as heroes wished; one of the braver (or perhaps stupider) amongst the gun-toting thugs was still standing his ground in the face of the oncoming fist, a wild grin on their face as they fished out something from their side. It was a grenade...Of a sorts, though unlike any Beck had ever seen. "Let's see how ya like this!" Arming it, the mercenary hurled it through the air, and it sailed true, connecting with the illusory fist in a fantastical spray of weaponized cryogenics. 'Damnit! While it missed the drones, if we don't do something involving that stunt, the illusion might lose some of its strength; doubt they'll buy it quite as much if it just miraculously didn't freeze over..'

Thinking quickly, the real Mysterio spoke back to his team hastily. "Giant Mysterio's right hand needs to be frozen. Now!" He was fortunate his team acted as quickly as they did; the benefit of hours of practice in effect. Just before the white haze surrounding the explosion of the unusual weapon could fade, they had fabricated their new lie, as the massive Mysterio reeled back with his hand completely encased in ice. This was a problem, but at the very least, it was a weapon that wouldn't be used against the rest of them now. Still, he'd need to act quickly; the time this stunt bought would all be for naught if he let this stand. The grounded Mysterio spoke out to the one man present who could solve the 'problem' here. Luckily, with how scattered the group was now, hopefully this call for aid would not prove problematic to the overall combat. "Torch! Can you thaw it?!" As if to bring the focus to it (well, more than there likely already was), the gigantic illusion swung its thoroughly frosted hand about, as if trying to shake off the deep freeze it was undergone. In the meantime, the true version of this hero began his descent to the ground-level; looks like he'd have to get his own hands dirty too, at this rate.

It took the real Mysterio...Longed than he'd care to admit to get down from the building. If there had been a spare drone, perhaps he could've made a more effective descent using it, but they were more than preoccupied. Doing so, however, he witnessed one of the more frazzled members of this raiding party flailing his way down the alleyway he was moving towards. This...Could prove useful. Lunging down from on-high, Quentin collided with the gunmen, bringing them both to the ground. "Agh! What th-?!" Before he could finish the sentence, he was brutally smashed in the face by the ironclad fist of Mysterio. He'd be out for a time, and with a broken nose to remember it by. Quick to clean the blood off, he spoke up to his team once more, his gaze glued to the unconscious gunman before him. "Can we spare a drone from the big guy? I've got an interesting plan in mind..."

While he absentmindedly heard his crew speak, readying a drone to his location, Mysterio casually took the man's firearm, as well as his belt, which seemed to be lined with a few interesting pieces of their own, though none exactly like the one that had been pulled on his illusory dupe. As he latched it on, the drone had made its way to him, as his appearance seemingly shifted to be almost exactly 1:1 of the unconscious grunt. With this, he was going to nip this assault team at the bud...
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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

Member Seen 21 hrs ago


arc 1: furnace
issue - first degree and a half

“ Oh?,” Obidiah said, a dangerous playful lilt to his voice. “ And pray tell, what do I earn from this wager?”

“ What do you earn?” Justin scoffed, looking at Obidiah like his head had grown three times in size. “ What do you earn? You earn our shares, you salvage Stark’s Industries reputation in the market, your investors will gain confidence to burn their expenses and you won’t cause a riot when you have to layoff your workforce by the time next quarter. Hell, I’m throwing you a lifeboat on a platter with a cherry on top, Stane.”

Justin’s arm swung from the arm rest like a pendulum. Behind his golden shades laid eyes that glimmered inside with a dozen different barbs, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. He’d practiced well in advance for what he thought the old man would say and consulted with his legal team on the ways the old man could slither out of this.

Carrots ready to lure and sticks to bat away tongues.

However, Justin couldn’t have predicted what Obidiah said next.

“ I appreciate it, Justin, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no.”

It was matter of fact, conservational. His offer was treated more like some gossip on a weekend brunch rather than the mother of all financial gift horses given to a failing company. There was no treble in Stane’s voice. His eyes didn’t blink. No bead of sweat on that shiny bald head of his. As far as Justin could tell, Obidiah Stane was completely sane.

Then, why the hell had he slapped away his offer?

“ I thought’d you learn by now that you can’t afford pride in this business, Stane,” Justin ground out, stifling his rage. Obidiah swirled around, head tilted down at Justin’s relaxed poise like a vulture.

“ Business?” Obidiah shook his head slowly. “ Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. No. You see, that’s the difference between you and me, Justin. This game can afford pride. What it can’t afford are small minds such as yours.”

Justin was now feeling smaller and smaller under Obidiah’s hawkish look. He chuckled with false bravado, taking another draught of his smouldering cigar.

“ Whatever, Stane.” Justin flicked the cigar away on the floor and stood up, brushing his coat. “ As soon as you tank the NASDAQ, you’ll be wishing you took my offer. See you when you’re ready to sign the papers.”

He turned around, leaving one last leering sneer towards Stane, before walking away.

“ By the way, Justin…” Obidiah’s I heard about your new project of yours that you’ve been dangling in front of Washington. You’re planning to do a field test with state police to target a certain little…friend of mine.”

Hammer’s hand froze just inches away from the doorknob.

“ How the hell did you - “

“ Call it insider trading. Say, how much have you burnt in RnD trying to perfect that exoskeleton tech? What’s your backup plan if it fails the demo, Justin?”

“ I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” Justin replied stiffly.

“ Anyway, rest assured, if all goes well, Justin, I’ll be there to sign those papers you talked about at 24th Worchester Street, Odega.” Obidiah paused and snorted in faux embarassment. “ Oh, I’m sorry. I must have confused your address with your son’s address. Tell me, how is he doing these days?”

The door closed with a bang. Obidiah smirked, looking at the crumpled leather seat which Justin had just occupied. Justin’s cologne still hung around in the air like a thick musk. He’d have to ask Potts to get the cleaners in here. His eyes wandered over towards Justin’s dropped cigar and picked it up between the crook of his middle and index finger. He twirled it around from the burnt ashen end to the gnawed end where Justin’s molars rended it down to mulch.

A twist of his fingers crumbled it to dust.

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