Hidden 5 mos ago Post by RBYDark
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RBYDark Demigod of Spite

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Nkiruka, Mikael's latest source, was quite pleased with himself as he got the notification about the money. He'd honestly lucked into the situation, having left the bar after some attempts to gather information, and then who should he see but 'the Rat' himself sticking out of a dumpster as another Variant - one Nkiruka had never seen before - was engaged in a fight. Of course he livestreamed it. The two chatted for a few minutes afterwards, Nkiruka briefly stepping back to let the truckers by. He couldn't catch their words fully, but he did catch their actions: Remy throwing something into the dumpster, the unknown man handing Remy - a card, maybe? It looked flimsy but it could have contact information on it. He ended the stream, figuring it'd be boring to just watch him follow the two. He was quick enough with the record button if they did anything interesting. To his dismay, though, the two were splitting up - he pressed himself flat against the bar wall and feigned interest in his phone as the unknown Variant left the alleyway. Which one to follow? He couldn't waste too much time deciding. He quickly texted his benefactor.

THEYVE SPLIT. FOLOING RAT. POS CONTACT INFO With that, he darted into the alley and stopped by the dumpster as a twinkle caught his eye. He examined it briefly: a rather expensive-looking smartwatch. Was that what Remy had thrown away? Interesting. He set it back down and walked after Remy, keeping a short distance and his footsteps soft. Some of these side streets got quite winding, he'd discovered over the years, and just when he thought he knew everything about the city, something new would surprise him. He let himself admire the architecture rather than stare too intently at Remy; there was always that old sensation, the 'eyes watching you'.

Remy soon exited the alleyway, heading towards a large burning building, and Nkiruka knew he was going to lose his chance. He jogged up to Remy's side.

"Hey there. Remy, right? Mind if we talk?"

"Sorry, you got the wrong guy," Remy shot back. Who was this guy? How did he know his name? And why was he looking for him? He began to quicken his step.

Nkiruka kept the smile on his face. Ok, maybe he should've seen that coming. Now to determine the best way to counter without escalating...

"No, I'm pretty sure you're Remy the Rat. I blog about Variants, and you've been suggested a few times. Biggest reason I don't post you is that no one can seem to agree what it is you do." He chuckled as he followed after. "Everything from invisibility to making things explode. You might get a kick out of seeing the list sometime. Honestly, until ten minutes ago, I really wasn't convinced."

"I'm not a variant," Remy denies, feeling a little mystified. Why would anyone be looking into him? "You got the wrong guy."

"You're not? I mean, if you don't want on the blog, that's fine. I respect privacy." Nkiruka shrugged. "Though, quick question - why throw out the smartwatch? Back at the dumpster."

"What smartwatch? I don't have a smartwatch!" Remy snarls. "Get away from me, mister!"
Why was this guy watching him?

Nkiruka raised his arms in surrender. Right, so he was going about this the wrong way. He could double-down with the recorded livestream, he could back off and see if he could catch up with the other guy, or try a different angle. No matter which one he picked, snarking back would obviously be the wrong option.

"Well, I'm getting paid to scout out Remy the Rat, who's a Variant, for a guy looking to hire him. I guess if you're not him, we can wrap up our business. I'll just have one final question and that'll be it."

A piece of bait. With any luck, curiosity and desire would overcome his defensiveness.

"Hire?" Remy choked, turning to face him. Oh god, not again....! "Mister, I'm just a kid! I don't care who you're working for or how much money they got, I don't want to sleep with them!"

Nkiruka looked up sharply at that. "I'm 95% certain he's looking for a bodyguard, not a prostitute." Did he even want to know why this guy had assumed the worst? "I'm not into human trafficking. Right now, I'm just collecting information."

Some people at the edge of the crowd were glancing their way - Remy was being a little loud, he supposed, but pointing that out would likely make him louder. He rubbed a little at the right side of his face - his glass eye was feeling itchy now.

Remy stares with his mouth open at Nkiruka, then sprints away, screaming "Pervert! PERVERT!"

Hm. Enough to pay most of his bills for the month. Not getting his ass beaten. Funny how money made what should've been an easy choice tricky.

"I'm just looking for information!" Nkiruka called after Remy, not quite willing to pursue him. There was still that issue of Remy admitting (somewhat garbledly, on stream) an inability to control his power, whatever it was, and it seemed to rely on contact. Making things explode was still on the table. "I was just looking for information," he repeated to the people who were staring at him, many none too friendly. "I interview local Variants and post information about them to my blog. That's all - Variance and Vigilantes, I don't suppose you've heard of it." He was hardly the only Variant source online, but he did focus on New Haven Variants and tried to get their side of things. For now, just drop the job angle, they didn't need to know. When no one sparked recognition or interest in his defense, he ducked back into the alley and bolted, to the sounds of a few footsteps behind him.

It was half an hour later that Nkiruka stopped running, certain he had not been followed any further. He sighed and pulled out his phone to text about his failure.

DINT BELIVE JOB OFER. THINKS UR LOOKIN 4 SEX. SORRY BOSS He sighed as he sent the message. And as for the other guy... something about him looked familiar, now that he thought on it. THINK I KNOW OTHER GUY. CHEKING FILES

He pulled up his blog and scrolled through the list of the Variants he knew about. Despite the guy’s protective nature, Nkiruka was almost certain he wasn’t a Noble. Not to enforce stereotypes, but he was just a little too ragged. Pariah Underground, probably, though not someone he’d interviewed yet. He wasn’t that familiar. The search didn’t take that long - there were only a hundred or so Variants on his blog. Energy manipulation was even rarer. When he did find him, well. Running quite a distance worked up quite a thirst. But if he’d been drinking something, he would’ve spat it out or worse, dropped it.

U DONT WANT THIS GUY. HES CRIMINAL With the message, Nkiruka sent a link to the profile on the still-unnamed Variant, his photograph one of him apparently holding an officer hostage, metal pipe sparking at the man’s neck.

That said, it did invite the very singular question of why the Variant had apparently saved Remy. But would the interview be worth it?
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Expendable
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Expendable The Certifiable

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Remy darted across the street and grabbed the sign post, panting hard as he glanced behind him, but there was no sign of Nkiruka. He'd gone maybe a block, but he needed food, now. Turning, there was the corner entrance of the Blue Seal Pharmacy, one of the few bodegas that wasn't a giant vending machine. The owner didn't like street kids coming in, and definitely wouldn't like the state he was in, but there was little choice.

Hauling out one of the c-notes Harry had pressed on him earlier, he stepped inside and immediately caught the eye of the owner behind his protective plastic shield.

"Get out!" Saul Henderson thunders, getting off his stool and grabbing his bat. "Out right now, you hooligan, or I'm calling the cops!"
"I've got money!" Remy cries out, crumpling down to the floor while holding the bill aloft. "Please mister, I'm hurt, I'm hungry, and I need a place to hide from some perv."

Saul pauses, taking in the boy's face starting to purple, his messed up clothes, and the bill. "Perv?"
"He just came up to me in the street, I was just walking towards the fire, told me he wanted to hire me...!" the boy wept. "I think he'd been watching me for a while. I was afraid he...."
"He do that to your face? You want me to call the cops?" Saul gruffly relented, putting the bat back under the counter and glancing back at the other patrons.
"So some bot comes and hauls me off to child services?" Remy shook his head. "Please sir, I just need some food."

Shelves under the counter held various candy bars, Remy leaned over and grabbed two energy bars, then put the bill on the counter. Issac looks down at it, then looked up, "That's not going to last long. Jimmy! Fetch this kid a sandwich and a carton of milk."

There was some rustling in the back, then a young man wearing an everwhite-tee and an apron appeared with a foot long cold cut sub and a carton of milk. He whistled when he saw Remy on the floor, kneeling down while Remy was chewing on one of the bars. "Damn, boy, who gave you that?"
"Truckers," Remy managed, gulping it down. "They caught me dumpster diving outside the Watershed, one of them gave me this." He gratefully took the milk out of Jimmy's hand and got it open, drinking it down.
"Maybe you should see a doc..."
"No!" Remy sputtered, milk dripping down his chin. "They'll call child services to come and get me! You don't know, mister, it's not safe in there. I'm better out here."
"Saul, this kid's gonna need more than a sandwich...."
"Please, I'll be fine!" Remy said, pushing himself up.

"Show him to the back," Saul sighs waving at the doors in the back corner. "Get him cleaned up a bit and let him eat his sandwich while he warms up. I promise, no cops."

Jimmy offered his hand, and the boy crammed the other bar into his pocket and let Jimmy lead him to the store room.

Dorothy, one of the shop's graying regulars, came up as Saul was ringing up Remy's purchase. "You're not going to charge him for that, are you?"
"Don't worry," Saul said, "This time I'm giving him the employee and desperate kid discount."
"Well, I want to pay for sandwich," Dorothy insisted, reaching into her purse.
"Dorothy, it is not necessary, I assure you," he smiles thinly.
"Well, what about some soap and some washing tabs? He's got to keep clean!"
"Yes, that's fine. Could someone fetch me those?"

A young man and his date pushed through, putting a bar of soap and a box of washing tabs on the counter.
"Thank you young man," Dorothy smiled, giving his girlfriend and approving look as they slip out the door.

"John," the girlfriend said when they were outside, "Are we going to leave that boy there like that?"
"I'm already dialing," he replied, holding up his phone.

"Thank you for calling the New Haven Police Department," the voice menu announced. "If this is an emergency, please press 9. If you wish to report a homicide, please press 1..."

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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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Letter Bee Filipino RPer

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Mikael Peacemaker

Mikael's response was:


Bile was rushing to his throat as he continued, YOU GET FULL HAZARD PAY, MAYBE MORE. SORRY FOR PUTTING YOU THROUGH THIS RISK.

And Mikael paid the full $1500 'hazard pay' and an extra $200 before going to a nearby wastebasket and vomiting into it. Gross, gross, gross!

Yes, he liked both boys and girls, but he was not going to misuse his power and wealth to - He vomited again at the thought, well aware that he may have stained his friend's (yes, he thought of Nkiruka as a friend) reputation. But the primary source of his feelings of disgust was the fact that if he had fewer morals, he might have - No, no, no, no! He was not that kind of person! He was not that kind of person! Gross!


Yes, that entailed scrapping the dubious and borderline-illegal efforts he had just started, but he was prepared to do that for Nkiruka; that guy did good work and he could not bear to have it ended just because of his blunders!

Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Teyao
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Cleaning his equipment while he waited for a job was something of a routine at this point and something he was grateful the other older Variants in the Underground had inculcated in him when he was just starting. It didn't completely erase the boredom that crept up every time he was in this position but it at least helped him calm his mind.

The sudden ringing of one of his phones was not loud but the small space of his ´secret base´ still made it sound like it was something more urgent, letting his tools on the table he answered the same sentence he had been using the last 3 years.

"This is Dianus speaking"

Simple and without any fanfare, the best to let the other person try to take the lead in the conversation which in his experience helped people in explaining their desired contracts better and left a lot more room for negotiation down the line.

His rates were known to be fair and he could just refuse if he wanted.

"I got a job for you"

A crisp voice answered, male and somewhat rushed like the speaker was trying to get this call finished as soon as possible.

"I am listening"

"An... employee of a collaborator has recently come across a new skill in his field that makes him valuable to us, sadly, being as young as he is he got into his head that he had to take a vacation as quickly as he could and I and my collaborator would like to speak with him again as fast as possible, face to face"

Ah so they are Syndicate then, only they would be this brazen as to ask for a runaway in such a way

Still, better make sure they knew he was not willing to take the job in a way that didn't make him look weak or dismissive of them, Syndicate is always nasty business and he would rather not interact with them more than necessary.

"I am afraid I can't take this contract, I transport uniquely merchandise and contraband, not people."

Don't say sorry, that will make it sound like you owe them something and that is the last thing he wanted. But he would throw them a bone anyway to make things smoother on his end.

"I have a gentleman agreement with a fellow businessman called Murder Express and he is the one you seek if you desire to transport people."

He will refuse of course.

He had interacted enough with the man(?) to get a measure of him and the occasional times they had interacted it was obvious he feels nothing but contempt for those on the more illegal side of Variant activity.

"I see"

The line goes dead after those words and he could feel the stiffness on his shoulder relax, he had stopped dealing with Syndicate a while ago so for them to contact him was unexpected, they were either desperate or were hoping to cast a wide web to catch their runaway Variant.

Still a new variant and a young one at that... this was actually pretty fucked up wasn't it?

Shit, he couldn't just let it pass and do nothing can could he? But what could he do? Coming into conflict with them would only cause them to sic one of their attack dogs on him and that would suck.

He needed to divert their attention away from him somehow, but for that to happen he would need something that pulled more of their attention, something they couldn't ignore.

Or someone

At once a plan started to form in his head, a plan that hinged on the cooperation of someone he was almost sure would be willing to help if he explained the situation considering their reputation.

"There was a fire going on wasn't there? If there is one place he would be it would be there"

Opening a portal he started making his way across the city.

It was finally time to meet the Vanguard.
Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by RawrEspada4
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-Wednesday May 15th, Just after 7pm, North Warehouse-

JT lay soaked in sweat and tangled in the sheets of his bed, the shirt that he had worn to bed that morning tossed to the floor as the heat and humidity had climbed throughout the day. Asleep and totally disconnected from the world around him it was the blaring of police sirens speeding through the streets outside that served as his alarm clock. Upon recognizing the sound that had driven him to consciousness Jason rolled out of bed, adrenaline pumping bringing him to full alertness in a matter of seconds, a feat that would have normally taken near an hour and at least one cup of coffee.

Sliding into his shirt and shoes with near zero hesitation Jason found himself taking the stairs out of his basement domicile two at a time before ever realizing that the sirens were now moving away from him. With the realization though his sudden burst of energy left him as quickly as it had arrived he collapsed down onto the stone stairs that served as his entrance and exit to the musty, decrepit basement he currently called home. It was his fourth such residence since he arrived in New Haven only a short two months ago. A combination of paranoia and fear had kept him on the move since he had arrived. Initially finding places to crash in the Shanty he had recently moved to this new hovel when he had spotted some goons rocking the blue & white that signified Clear Line affiliation.

Honestly he had no clue what he doing here in New Haven. Running had really been his only option but he quickly had found that it wasn’t just The Syndicate or Clear Line he had to run from. Someone, in one of the organizations, had leaked an honestly absurd amount of video evidence of him working enforcement for Clear Line that had taken him from being hunted by criminal elements to being wanted by both M.A.D. and the police too. All of this coursed through his head as he removed his shoes and jacket before collapsing back onto the mattress that served as his bed.

Moments after returning to the mattress the sound of new, distinctly non-police sirens echoed through the streets of Warehouse. The combination of sirens intrigued Newt so sitting up against the cool wall of the basement he slipped his Omni-Lens on and started pulling up local news for Midtown, New Haven. Initially there wasn’t much, an accidental fire at a chemical research lab, people were trapped inside but for the most part they’d be normies and at the end of the day they weren’t that much of a loss. But scrolling through social media coverage of the event a new narrative was quickly taking hold. People had seen variants fleeing the scene, Variants who through the ever vigilant eye of social media were quickly identified as belonging to the Variant network known as Pariah Underground. The same Variant group that JT had been hoping could help shelter him from the reach of The Syndicate and the law while he tried to figure out what to do going forward.

As soon as the first source identified the Variants fleeing the lab as Pariahs Newt had started putting his shoes and jacket back on. If these guys were truly Pariahs then helping them might prove to be his best chance in. Once again he found himself running up the cold, hard steps leading out of his so-called home but instead of being driven by fear there was a since of hope and even excitement. Flinging the cellar’s double doors open, and not worrying to lock it behind him JT focused on his own personal relative gravity, something that always caused a deep tightening feeling deep in the pit of his stomach, lowering it to just below zero as he flung himself off the ground and up into the evening sky of New Haven.

It was dangerous to be using his variance so openly like this, flying in near broad daylight, but it was the quickest way to speed through the city sans any form of motorized transport. As he he neared the apex of his leap he could visibly make out the flames of the lab raking the skyline. Slowly increasing his gravity he gently touched down on a roof before making the needed adjustment to the angle of his flight path and once again leaping into the sky.

Once near the scene JT landed on a nearby building deciding that building hopping would be at least a little less suspicious than flying over the heads of law enforcement down below. Atop what appeared to be a squat office building he observed the surroundings down below he could make out a pink haired woman and next to her what appeared to be a child dress up as a super hero. Of course Nobles would be here, he mused to himself, race traitors out to catch their own kind. At the end of the day it just meant he would need to be a tad more careful about being identified. As he took in the site of the Nobles, his mind was derailed by the sight of a large, really, really, large black bird taking off from a nearby alley carrying a pair of passengers. Figuring that at least one of the fleeing Variants was likely to be a Pariah JT quickly started after them, leaping from building to building towards the alley, and the direction that they had flown, his hopes raising with every bound.

Reaching one of the buildings that formed the alley below he peered down into the ever-darkening abyss, and quickly made out the signs of a struggle. A pair of crimson spears littered the ground, the dumpster had been bashed in and knocked out of alignment with the wall that it would, he assumed, normally set against. But the most obvious tell was a red haired woman who had been rendered unconscious and left against a wall. Not even two blocks down from where the obvious struggle had taken place he could see cops approaching. There wasn’t really time to weigh his options so without thinking JT dropped from the building into the alley controlling his decent by augmenting his gravity as he fell.

His landing was signaled by the crunch of detritus under his heavy boots and a shout from the police, quickly followed by an increase in the sound of their boots crunching down the alley towards him and the girl. Grabbing her under one of her shoulders Newt began immediately lowering the effect of gravity on both of them before kicking off the rough gravel that made up the ground and propelling them both into the sky.

Landing on a nearby building JT was at a loss as to what to do with the unconscious woman and additionally now had to contend with the cops giving chase, before the idea had even fully formed in his head he was back in the air on his way to the hole in the ground he was currently calling home.

Hidden 5 mos ago Post by The Man Emperor
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The Man Emperor Your Mom

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”Ah- Y’know, can’t complain. Easy day today, got a hot date with an acid-spitting lab robber, the usual. Underground treatin’ you right?” Grassbones asked, saddled between Murder Express’ “shoulders” as they climbed into the sky.

His cigarette went out against the wind.

Murder Express paused for a moment, trying to recall which one of the lab robbers could spot acid. He already dealt with Ruby and Graffite (Graphite?) back there, so that left… Flea and Noxia. Which one of them could spit acid again? Oh well, he couldn't be arsed to remember. Probably Flea.

"The Underground is swell to me," Murder Express answered. "The local leaders did just give me their praises after some recent… operations. Though the Scourge, as usual, has been threatening to expose the rest of us through their shenanigans. Things are trouble enough for us outcasts at the moment, then these people make it all worse! Oh, what a pity."

”Yeahhh. I feel you. Hard enough just tryna keep cover these days with all the drones and whatnot, ain’t any easier when these jokers make an ass outta everybody else. They’ve gotta be doing this for a reason though, I wanna find out.”

"I concur," Murder Express replied. "The only possible reason for this brazen lab burning would be some kind of nefarious scheme, perhaps to bring about… world domination. Or something like that. Though I must say that these two Scourges, Noxia and Flea, would be… dangerous to me, personally. But that won't stop me!"

”Shouldn’t be too hard. Big thing with Flea is he jumps a lot. I’m fast, but I ain’t that fast. I can dive bomb him if I jump off your back, and then give him the ol’ one-two so Nox’s all that’s left. Dunno if you’re stayin’ for the fight, but don’t let Nox see you comin’ or she’ll melt you real quick.”

"I see," came the answer. "And just in time, we're over Bywater now. And now…"

The great raven gazed downward, searching for their targets in an aerial reconnaissance. "Ah, there they are."

The mist intensified, a flock of ravens materializing in order to act as ablative armor should any acid streams come at him. As for Grassbones, he now has the opportunity to drop.

"Make sure to do a superhero pose when you land," Murder Express jokingly said. "That should throw them off!"

”Good call.” Grassbones peered down into the darkness below and saw them. Flea and Noxia running for dear life into god-knows-where. Once Murder Express got close enough, Grassbones pulled out a lighter and lit his cigarette once again, before taking a swan dive off of his ride.

He fell for what could have been a few thousand feet at most, cradling the cigarette with one hand, and landing with a loud thud just a few feet in front of where the two Scourge were headed.

”Well well fucking well. Somebody’s in a hurry tonight. It’s dangerous playin’ with chemicals you don’t know anything about, fellas. How ‘bout I take that off your hands?”

Noxia and Flea skidded to a halt when Grassbones hit the ground. Both wore a look of confusion and annoyance.

“What the hell?” Noxia yelled as she clutched the duffel a bit tighter around her shoulder.

“Oh, it’s that, uh, skeleton dude. Mind getting the fuck outta the way, Bonehead?!” Flea shouted at the smoky vigilante. He glanced into the sky to see where GB dropped from and spotted the flurry of black feathers that can only be from one particular Variant. “Looks like the Bird Brain is here too, Nox,” Flea said, nodding up at Murder Express.

“Save the chems…I wanna see if bones can melt…” Noxia said, tossing the bag to Flea. He caught it and quickly threw it over his shoulder before leaping high into the air and onto the nearest rooftop. “You want these, you gotta keep up!”

A sly grin crept across Noxia’s lips as she wiped a bit of acid from them with her clawed hand. “You dropped in on the wrong party, hun. I’m gonna enjoy this…” She darted toward Grassbones while taking a deep breath in. As soon as she was close enough, she breathed out and released a spray of acid in the skeleton’s direction.

”Heh.” Close-quarters fighting was Grassbones’ comfort zone, and it was only natural that someone who could spit acid would want to capitalize on that. When she made a rush for him, Grassbones threw himself at the ground in a way a person normally shouldn’t be able to. He swung his left arm towards his right knee, bringing his right leg up, which caused his body to twist parallel with the ground. As he did this, he was falling, and spun clockwise. Once Noxia was close enough, that spinning motion turned into a 360-degree kick to her ankle.

The idea was to use Noxia’s momentum against her, and use his own weight as a pivot point, resulting in Noxia throwing herself backwards. Grassbones would’ve counted it as brownie points if she fell with her nose in the dirt and smeared acid across her face.

Nox expected some sort of counter to her full frontal attack, so she wasn’t caught totally off-guard. However, she wasn’t able to fully dodge the ankle kick, and she was clipped as she vaulted over the attack, causing her to twist in the air and land in a sketchy crouch. The acid spray had missed her target and instead coated a small area of the ground to her left which was now sizzling as the acid corroded the street.

The momentum from that kick resulted in Grassbones having the push to bounce off of his back foot, and dart towards Noxia, who landed wobbly on the ground. After roughly 10 steps, he hurled himself forward like a cannonball, shifting his weight once he left the ground so that his feet were pointed at Noxia. What followed was a flying drop kick aimed at her entire body, as he hoped to land it before she could get back up.

Noxia recovered a bit more slowly than she would have liked as Grassbones launched his follow-up kick. She was, however, able to fully rise to her feet and brace herself rather than dodge the kick, so she quickly crossed her arms in front of her chest to block the hit. The impact was enough to take her off of both feet, and she flew back a few feet before landing on her back. Refusing to be caught off-guard a second time, she used the momentum to throw her legs up, roll onto her shoulder, and launch herself off the ground with a back handspring. Noxia landed properly this time, digging her clawed hand into the pavement to halt her backward momentum. Just as she was readying a counterattack, she heard sirens beginning to close in.

Damn, cops…this bony bastard is lucky…

Nox’s opponent was obviously quite formidable and the fight would take much longer to settle than she had time for. She made a quick scan of her surroundings for a way to end the fight before it ramped up any further. There was a streetlight directly to her right and she saw an opportunity.

“Enough with the gymnastics, smokestack!” Noxia took another deep breath in and expelled a stream of acid onto the streetlight near the base of it. The metal immediately started to corrode and she swiped the spot with her clawed hand causing the pole to buckle. It fell at just the right angle to potentially land directly onto Grassbones, though she figured he would simply move out of the way. It was more of a distraction for her to be able to escape and avoid the authorities.

Seeing the pole collapse as the acid ate into its structure, Murder Express resolved not to get anywhere within spitting range. While his gravity related health issues were nullified by his transformation, that didn't mean that other things couldn't harm him, especially not acid that could destroy metal. Instead, he summoned yet another unkindness of spectral ravens, sending them in a wave of claw and beak. He figured that they wouldn't be able to harm the reptilian scales on Noxia, but he could at least inconvenience the Scourge's escape by covering them with dark excrement. Not to mention that Flea might jump on him, which made this venture rather risky.

Grassbones, meanwhile, easily leapt out of the way once the pole collapsed. Upon seeing Noxia get harassed by more of Murder Express’ birds, he decided to use the opportunity to get a good swing in on her. He took off charging towards her as fast as he could, and aimed to swing a haymaker at her stomach to knock the wind out of her… Assuming reptiles had lungs to hold wind.

Noxia swore loudly as the swarm of black birds interrupted her getaway. She swiped furiously at a few of them before ending up facing the direction of Grassbones who was coming in hot with a gut shot. She caught the blow full-on and collapsed to one knee clutching her midsection. She wasn’t expecting such a scrawny Variant to pack that much of a punch, and she swore under her breath as it was knocked out of her.

Flea hadn’t gotten too far when he noticed that no one was coming after him. He heard the streetlight collapse to the ground from a few buildings away, and he turned to see his partner-in-crime being double-teamed by the two meddlesome Variants. He wasn’t about to leave her to suffer, so he leapt back to her rescue. Noxia glanced up as Flea landed on the roof directly above the fight. Through sheer rage and adrenaline, Nox was able to muster enough breath to yell out to her fellow Scourge.

“Don’t you dare come back for me! Can’t you hear the sirens?! Finish the mission!” Nox shouted up at Flea just as he was about to leap down and join the fray.

Flea grimaced as he considered her words. He knew she was right. After getting this far, it would be foolish to let both of them get caught up. Nox would be able to handle whatever came next. And he had no idea whether Ruby and Graff got away. He had to treat this as if he were the last man standing. Flea gripped the bag of chemicals tight to his body as he leapt with a good bit of his strength, soaring past his previous stopping point and landing about half a block away from the action. He glanced back once more as the sirens closed in on the scene, let out a huff of irritation, and continued on his escape.

The cacophony of the tires of several vehicles screeching to a halt was more vexing to Noxia than the pain in her abdomen. It was the auditory signal of both a failed mission and an impending incarceration, and it made her blood boil. She found the strength to tumble away from Grassbones before he decided to throw another strike. She stood up and took a ready stance, though her breathing was a bit labored since she was still recovering from the punch. Both New Haven PD and MADmen poured from their respective vehicles and brandished rifles and pistols at the reptilian girl. The weapons were loaded with both stun and Variant suppression ammunition since this was not a shoot-to-kill situation.

“Don’t try anything stupid! Get back on the ground!” one of the officers shouted.

“Fuck you!” Noxia yelled back as she spit some acid onto the ground toward the authorities. A handful of the officers fired on her, and in her slightly weakened state, she hadn’t the energy to attempt to dodge the incoming darts. She let out a shriek as the voltage from a few stun darts coursed through her body, and she collapsed to the ground. The suppression darts affected each Variant in a different way, and in Noxia’s case, they diluted her acidic secretions down to nearly water. At this point, she was fairly easily detained and moved into one of M.A.D.’s transport vehicles.

"It seems that we too must make our exit," Murder Express simply stated as he landed near Grassbones, motioning his shadowy head towards the police cruisers. "Shall we, friend?"

It's unfortunate that they're no longer in the position to pursue Flea. One can only hope that they'd see the results of whatever chemicals he hauled off in the next few days…

Grassbones lit another cigarette and watched the boys in blue and black cart Noxia away. ”Underground’s gonna get the flak for that stunt they pulled. Hate to see it. Let’s get lost before they bug us.” Grassbones hopped onto Murder Express’s back. Their work here was done to the best of their abilities. Ruby and Noxia were guaranteed to be locked away. Graphite was a possibility, but Flea? Well, there was always next time.

And then they flew off into the night.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Expendable
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Expendable The Certifiable

Member Seen 6 hrs ago

The back room had shelves full of boxes, bags and cans, but tucked down the far end was a small kitchenette with security monitors, and an exit door. One of the camera images showed an ally, while the rest was different views in the store.

"Saul likes to keep an eye on things when he's back here," Jimmy shrugged. "You want some more milk?"
"Pl..please," Remy said, watching as the clerk opens a refrigerator door and emerge with a carton, handing it over.

"Thank you."
"So kid," Jimmy said as he watched Remy eating. "How long you've been on the streets?"
"I dunno, couple of years I guess," the boy managed between mouthfuls.
"Was it your parents?"
"You know...?"
"I don't remember them," Remy admitted. "I woke up in bandages, I think a hospital just kicked me out or something."
"Jeez, that's rough, kid. You got someplace safe?"

Remy paused, staring back at Jimmy.
"Yeah...." he said slowly.
"Just askin'," Jimmy replied, holding up his hands. "Ran away for a couple of months with this girl, thought we'd join a circus. Instead, we got suckered into a carnival and they bled us dry while running us ragged. Talk about embarrasin'."
"So you're a carny?"
"Naw, carny just wasn't for me."
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Fish of Oblivion
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Fish of Oblivion Potassium

Member Seen 4 days ago


A few minutes out from the commotion that had taken place on the floor of the bodega, things seemed to have calmed down a bit. With the kid seemingly content and at ease in the back, and nobody in the shop the wiser about the police that were on their way, a sense of normalcy returned.

"I still think we should cut our losses."

"Yeah, but you say that about every idea I have. Anyway, we're here, so no good crying about it now."

A sense of normalcy that was promptly shattered by two voices from the street outside the bodega, somehow loud enough to be distinct even as they were muffled by the concrete, glass and metal of the storefront.

"Just sayin', Frankie.” The first of the voices was nasal and almost lazy-sounding despite its volume, as if its owner thought they had a laundry list of better things to do than whatever business their companion had in mind. “It didn't work at the other places and it ain't gonna work here."

"You talk about a lotta things, but you never say much, do ya?" The second voice, meanwhile, was likewise nasal but a lot more energetic and cutting, as if its owner was teetering on the edge of some kind of episode. There was a brief pause, before they continued: "Alright, if Dean's done-"

"Stupid idea, Frankie-" The first voice- ‘Dean’, it seemed?- cut in-

"If Dean's done- Sammy, it's just like we said.” ‘Frankie’ replied, the edge in their voice briefly boiling over into a screech before it settled back down and he continued as before. ”You stay out here and keep an eye open for any wiseguys and we go in and talk business."

"Yes, Frankie." A third voice cut in, this one deep and smooth and only just audible by comparison to the other two.

"See anyone suspicious, and you let us know right away, yeah?"

"Yes, Frankie."

"Attaboy. Dean, you coming or what?"

"Yeah, sure, let's get this shitshow over with."

A moment passed in silence. The sound of footsteps could be heard as one of the unknown people outside- likely ‘Sammy’- skittered away in a hurry, but even that quickly passed as it got further away. Another passed, the silence becoming heavy-

And then the door of the bodega swung open with a jingle, revealing two of the three individuals that had been talking amongst themselves outside.

It was as if a fever dream had become manifest. Whatever the two beings were, they certainly weren’t human; the proportions weren’t impossible, even if they were far shorter and more squat than the impression their voices sold of them, but the green hue of their bodies rather precluded that even before they stepped forward and the two strange disk-like structures atop both their oversized heads became visible. Their unblinking eyes darted about the bodega, turning every which way in their sockets as they darted from product to product, customer to customer- finally coming to rest on their mark, Saul.

“Salutations, good sir!” A thin line on their face opening up into a grin that revealed a disconcertingly human-looking set of teeth- incisors, canines, premolars, the whole nine yards- ‘Frankie’ was the one to break the heavy silence, the manic edge to his(?) voice almost gone as it took on new inflection and diction; still rapid-fire, but now far more deliberate despite that. “Am I to understand that this fine establishment is a place in which money may be exchanged for goods and services?”

“Yeah,” Saul rumbled as his eyes narrowed at the pair of little green men. “I’m guessing you two aren’t from around here, is ya?”

Under the shelf, his hand slid towards a button.

“Ah, don’t let our preferred manners of elocution deceive you, myself and Dean are as much New Havenites as any of you fine folk!” At least for now, however, it seemed as if the bizarre entities didn’t mean any harm. “Born here, certainly, debatably bred, so to speak. The old lady doesn't have much time for us these days, but we're enterprising men-about-town, so we make do."


“Who are they?” Jimmy demanded, staring at the security monitor at Frankie and Dean.”
“Never seen ‘em,” Remy said, putting down the half-eaten sandwich.
“Am I seeing this right, are they green?”
“Looks that way.”


At the front of the store, Saul glanced at the storeroom door, then shrugged at Frankie. “If yer money’s good and you and your ‘associate’, was it? As long as you behave, I won’t give ya the bum’s rush. That okay with you, Mister…?”

“Frankie,” the strange being quickly replied, nodding vigorously. “Yes sir, I see you’re a man of proprietary, truly a rare thing in this day and age, so I assure you; this is legal tender acquired through entirely legal means. Myself and Dean here have been through the wringer today trying to convince some less-than-accommodating fellows of the same, so you have my word as the boss of The Rat Pack-”

“You don’t need to keep adding that part-” The second being huffed, speaking up for the first time since they came into the bodega-

”Can it, Dean!” Only to be cut off by a sudden jarring screech from their companion, whose eyes almost bugged out of their sockets as they clenched their teeth in fury. An awkward moment passed, and as they collected himself they looked around, cleared their throat and continued. “My apologies, that was improper of me. You have my word as the boss that we won’t cause any trouble for you, your customers or your fine establishment here. Simply allow us to peruse your wares at a leisurely pace and we’ll soon be on our way, money exchanged and goods in hand.”

Saul’s face split into a wide grin. What the hell, he had insurance.And he had to admire how these two stayed in character.

“I like you,” Saul nodded. “Seein’ how we’ve got the ground rules set, I am honoured that you and your associate Dean have decided to grace my shop this evenin’.”


“Is he…” Jimmy paused, leaning forward trying to catch a better glance of Saul in one of the cameras, “Is Saul smiling?”
“He doesn’t smile?” Remy asked, blank faced.
“Almost never, not since… Well, never.”


“Much obliged, good sir. You’ll not regret your kindness this evening!” And with a final nod, ‘Frankie’ waddled forward into the bodega, their head turning back at an unnatural angle to stare back at Dean as they went. “... Hey, do you remember what we wanted to buy in the first place?”

“What, you forgot?” ‘Dean’ responded, as they likewise made their way from the entrance of the store to follow the other strange being towards the wares on sale, snorting with derisive laughter that revealed their own uncannily human teeth. “... Naw, I forgot too.”


While Remy and Jimmy had been transfixed by the scene unfolding on the back room’s security monitor, it may have escaped their notice that something unusual was happening more than a little bit closer to them. At first, it had been faint; the sound of shuffling footsteps and something rummaging about in the clutter outside that could just as well have been mistaken for the sounds of activity in the bodega itself. As the two strange, green beings on the camera feed finished up their dialogue with Saul and walked forward into the shop, however, it was hard to miss the sudden crash of something being overturned in the alleyway outside the door at the very back of the room.

“Aww, fiddlesticks,” came a deep, smooth voice, followed by the sounds of something rustling as metal rolled about on concrete.

"What's...?" Jimmy manages when the monitor disappears from its bracket, leaving the two of them staring at the cables and bolts that had been cut cleanly.

Remy, his eyes bulging, squawks as he falls backwards as a sudden weight appears in his messenger bag. With a splintering sound of glass and a whiff of hot electronics, he lands on the bag and winces.

"What...?" Jimmy demands, turning to stare down at the scruffy boy, reaching into his pocket.
"I think it broke," Remy said,handing him the other C-note, then scrambles to his feet, bolting towards the release bar on the security door.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by RBYDark
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RBYDark Demigod of Spite

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Flip waited for what felt like far too long for a response but what could have only been a few seconds. Between his own excitement and the crisis before him, adding in Breakneck already getting someone out, time seemed to slow down, and he figured it would be nice to get Noble approval, but perhaps the best way to do that was to show what he could do. Right, he could do that. Without waiting another second, he ran towards the burning building, pulling up his scarf over his nose - Vanguard #255: The Rise of Vapora had emphasized the importance of covering one’s nose and mouth to reduce smoke inhalation, a far deadlier problem than the flames themselves.

“See you on the flip side!” he called as he entered the building. Honestly, stuff like that was why he had yet to change his name. It wasn’t a name that commanded respect or even hinted to his powers, but it did make for good banter.

Inside was as bad as the outside promised. People were flooding out of the stairwell and Flip quickly got out of their way. The elevator doors had been forced open - he suspected Breakneck had something to do with it. But it was important now to make sure everyone got out. It was times like this he wished for clairvoyance or bioscanning or even receptive telepathy, something so he wouldn’t have to manually search the building. But he had to make do. Start with the top floor, he figured - the smoke might be thickest and the heat worst, but maybe his psychic shield would protect him.

The flood of people had slowed to a more reasonable rate, and Flip slipped past with his small stature. The railing was quicker and easier to avoid people than the steps themselves. His telekinesis quickly tucked the loose ends of his scarf into his jacket. After all, Breakneck 126: Versus The Firebug! had made clear the dangers of loose and dirty clothing in a fire, and while the stairs were not aflame, it was better to be prepared. A few levitation bubbles hastened his ascent without tripping over anyone, and the last flight of stairs was deserted. Trying to open the door showed why: something was blocking the door.

Shoving against it telekinetically a few times finally revealed the problem as the door opened a crack - fiery debris had fallen in front of it. He gave it a telekinetic shove of its own and finally opened the door. Several people stared back at him as he stood frozen for a moment, trying not to gag on the smell of smoke and burning hair. His brain then caught up with him and he quickly moved out of their path, keeping the door open for them. He was not surprised when the people moved as one, rushing onto the flight of stairs away from the fire.

“Hey - excuse me - hey!” Flip’s efforts at communication went unheeded as the scared workers ran by him. He tried not to huff - it’d waste valuable oxygen and just make him look bad. He just wanted to ask if anybody had been left behind. Again, it’d be down to manual searching. Once the people had all begun their trek downstairs, he entered the top floor. He’d felt the heat radiating off the door, but inside was incredibly hot. His shield didn’t seem to be protecting him. Dammit. He soldiered on regardless. The first two doors led into lab spaces - empty but for mouse cages, which made him cringe before carrying on - but the third led into an office space. There was a door inside that, when opened, revealed two employees holding up a third, blocked by a flaming drop ceiling tile. A quick telekinetic shove cleared the path for them, and Flip was grateful they were willing to carry out the third employee. He was starting to feel a touch dizzy. He unzipped his jacket and tied it around his waist, tucking in his scarf to the best of his ability.

The office space led into a (thankfully empty) lab space, which led into a service corridor. He perked up at that - it’d be a much quicker way to check the rest of the floor. Clearing his throat to suppress a cough, he continued searching. How big had that initial crowd been? He knew the size had been decently large - had that been most of the employees? Everyone but those three? He didn’t know much about research labs, but maybe they were smaller than he expected.

It was then he heard the cough.

Well, the coughing fit. It had to have come from one of the open doors along the service corridor. Not Door 1, or 2, or even 3 - and Door Number 4 was the spot. A man in a lab coat appeared to have collapsed. Flip rushed over to him. He was still conscious, though only barely.

“Can you-” Flip coughed and tried to shake the sensation off before he coughed even more. “Can you stand?” It was a bit of a silly question, though he took it as a good sign when the man at least tried before groaning and falling back down. Flip tried to lift him; it didn’t work, but it gave him an idea. He summoned a levitation bubble and pulled the man over it, steadying him with telekinesis. A second bubble under the man’s legs successfully got him off the floor, and Flip ‘pulled’ the man to the fire stairs. The railing was high enough that he could roll the man out under it and use telekinesis to keep him on the bubbles as they gently fell towards the ground floor. Only now did Flip give into the urge to cough, almost doubling over with the force of the action. Ok, the heat and smoke might be getting to him, but he’d only done one floor! Mostly done one floor, even, he still had rooms to check! He caught his breath, adjusted his goggles and scarf, and headed back in to finish searching the top floor.

This was going to be his big introduction to New Haven. He couldn’t let the city down.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by The Man Emperor
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The Man Emperor Your Mom

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Sometime in the past...

Zahariel flew back down the roof of his store, the darkness of night cloaking him from all prying eyes. There shouldn't be any at this time, anyway, as everyone around should either be asleep, drunk, or busy with something else. Plus, his establishment was further embellished by the expansive leaf cover of the vines and hedges that sprouted from the roof and sides. Several trees were set on the pavement in front of the store, which gave even more cover.

The great raven stretched his wings, feeling a bit sore after piggybacking at least two people back and forth from and into the city. Some Variants needed to be extricated from society, and so he brought them to the Underground elsewhere. And now, he didn't expect any company.

What he didn't expect, though, was that his sole employee had left something of his in the store, and would be on the way to get it back. And he didn't have great hearing.

Grassbones lept from rooftop to rooftop across New Haven. The night was growing longer, and most of the lights on the street were out by now. He dropped down into an alley and used a key to open the side door, and let himself in to retrieve something he forgot about. Thankfully, all the lights were off, and Zah was gone. Grassbones walked over to the counter and grabbed his phone. Of all the things to forget, it was that. What he didn’t know was that he wasn’t entirely alone. It was a bad idea to smoke in a flower shop, so the calcified caper didn’t have a cigarette between his teeth at the moment.

Sure enough, just as Grassbones took his phone from the counter, Murder Express dropped in from the large open hatch of the store's roof, gracefully gliding down to the expansive center aisle. It took him more than a while to spot the skeletal figure in front of the counter, but when he did, he nearly choked in awe. Why are they here? Who is this? How did they get in here? Only two people had keys in here: Zah, and…

"What the hell," Zah simply muttered as the two saw each other. "How'd you get in here?"

”Ah- Hey Z. Just forgot something and- What’n the hell?!” Grassbones didn’t realize at first that he was in the same room as Murder Express… In the shop where he worked. ”How’d you get in here?!”

Zah shook his head. "Through the hatch in the roof."

The Murder Express blinked once and then twice. "You don't know that there's a hatch up there, do you. I never told anyone that. Oh, well."

The great raven paused for another moment remembering that the skeleton's voice is so familiar. It's the same voice that he'd hear every day, all day. "Ah, I get it now. Shawn is the Grassbones. You are Shawn, and you are the Grassbones. At first I thought that you killed him and stole his keys. But then, the voice got me…"

The “voice” Zahariel was referring to didn’t sound anything remotely like what a human being should be able to manage, but the way he spoke was a dead giveaway. Grassbones stared at Murder Express for a moment, trying to wrap his head around this, before he eventually just evaporated into a cloud of smoke. From that cloud emerged Shawn Raymond, Zahariel’s coworker. ”Well. This is weird, huh?”

"What are the bloody chances, ey?" Murder Express laughed heartily before morphing back into his human form, with the black, inky mist acting as a smoke screen for whatever internal transaction he might have. Zahariel then emerged from his own cloud of darkness, holding a cane that supported his weight on his left hand.

"Fate must have intertwined and set our paths together," Zahariel began, slowly walking up towards Shawn with the same unsteady gait that he'd be associated with. Gone was the quiet majesty of the great raven; there's just Zahariel, the Martian that always needs pills.

Zah spared a glance to the flowers on the side before looking back at Shawn. "So, can I trust you to keep this whole thing as a little secret? Just between us? You know that I sometimes… pop in the news. And so do you."

”Heh. Yeah. Yeah- Hell, never took you for the kinda guy, man. What’re the odds? You and me, same work, same work too. It’s a small world.”

Shawn stuffed his phone into one of the pockets on his “costume.” It looked a lot better when he didn’t have skin. ”I won’t tell anybody, as long as you don’t rat me out either. Doubt you would, but I gotta keep it close, y’know?”

"Sure, sure, my man," Zah nodded, though he winced as his nodding caused him to have a crick. "Secrets are my specialty, after all. It comes with being a member of the Pariah Underground and an extra-planetary immigrant, after all."

He'd already told Shawn that he's Martian by this point. Thinking up excuses as to why a guy his age was on medication didn't really work out, so he just said the real deal.

"So," Zah cupped his hands together, pouting. "Are you… going somewhere or…? I'd just say 'see you tomorrow', but, you know, maybe we can, ehem, cooperate when it comes to our 'secret lives'."

”You think so? I’m down. We’re both helpin’ people, so why not?” He asked, ”I was just gonna head on home, but I can hang around if you need something done. Birdman-you, not flower guy- you.”

"Very nice!" Zahariel excitedly answered, shaking Shawn's hand until it nearly came off. "So, I've actually finished my errands for the night, so… we can begin working together on both fronts tomorrow. This is going to be fun, yeah?"
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by RBYDark
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RBYDark Demigod of Spite

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Mitchell was outside in moments, Breakneck looking for anyone who could take him off her hands.

There we go.

A cop had just slammed his cruiser door shut, hand still outstretched as Breakneck closed the gap. With the world still in slow motion his startled jump was extra comical, the Noble ignoring his snail’s pace shock as she set the victim down.

“Heart attack. Stay here.”

Back inside and through the halls faster than sound itself, shifting her way through more stragglers pushing towards the exit. Breakneck kept an eye on the walls as she ran past useless fire alarms and extinguishers, the blaze far too large to be simply choked out by foam. What she needed was a defibrillator, and she found it by the first-floor women’s restroom.

There was no need to bother with a handle, the stainless steel case simply wrenched open and the AED within pulled free. It was pressed into the cop’s hand within the same second, Breakneck spinning on her heels before he even processed her reappearance.

He’d figure it out, she still had work to do.

A speed of sound search told her that the first floor was devoid of anyone unable to help themselves so she moved on, simply jumping from the ground to the mezzanine above. Pushing her way through the last few people trying to get out she saw another Variant, bright blue and orange uniform standing out from the crowd.

She’d didn’t recognize him as anything more than the boy he was, a kid playing hero because he didn’t know any better. Her lips were a thin line behind the opaque visor of her helmet, Breakneck watching the child disappear onto the final floor.

The second floor was Records, a tempting target indeed. There were data stacks to poke at, filing cabinets to dig through, papers not yet consumed by the blaze, all sorts of secrets hidden away by Imperial Bioengineering. Ignoble would have quite literally killed to get their hands on them, and Breakneck was more than willing to peruse.

But the kid was out of depth somewhere within the building. Information could wait, he couldn’t.

She found him only moments later, his breathing uncomfortably ragged.

“You need to leave!”

She had to shout over the roar of the fire, gripping her fellow hero by the shoulder. “This smoke could be toxic, you’re already choking out!”
Flip, for his part, would normally be ecstatic that he was having the opportunity to speak with a Noble, much less a Noble of Breakneck’s stature. Even right now, he couldn’t help but be a little excited Breakneck was talking to him (and a little grateful he was wearing his goggles and his scarf was pulled up over his nose; he was pretty sure he’d look like a starstruck idiot otherwise). Then her words sank in and he set his jaw. Ok, that was enough of being a kid, time to be a hero. And hopefully not cough so hard he'd throw up. Heroes didn't get sick.

“That’s a negative, ma’am. I haven't finished searching the top floor." He punctuated the statement with a few coughs, swallowing down the coughing fit that wanted to escape after them. "The concern's nice, but we should finish eva-" A cough interrupted him, followed by that fit he thought he'd avoided. "We need to get everyone out," he finished weakly, voice cracking as he spoke. All this coughing was making his head spin. He just needed to buckle down and get back to searching. He tried to pull away from Breakneck.
She wanted to point out the absurdity of searching when he was speaking to someone who casually broke the sound barrier, to suggest that he let her handle it by way of physically carrying him back outside. Even if his Variance included super-strength it was unlikely that’d he be able to wiggle free before she plonked him onto the pavement.

God, that would have been the right thing to do. Kids weren’t supposed to be first responders, that didn’t change just because they had superpowers.Teens weren't famous for their self-control or fully formed reasoning at the best of times, letting one run around an actual disaster did no one anyone favors. What was he trying to do, be a hero? Get famous? Whether his reasons were selfish or selfless, he was stupid. Breakneck needed to be the adult and get him the hell out of there!

She considered all of this before he even had time to cough, her grip refusing to break as he tried to escape. “Everyone including you! You can barely stand and you want to rescue others? You’re just going to endanger them.”

There was the crack of a support beam buckling under its own weight, the fire weakening everything it touched. “You have no equipment, no training, you’re out of your league!”
Flip frowned at her words, unable to figure out an argument that didn’t boil down to ‘you too’. Some small bitter part wondered if she’d be doing this if he was a Noble like her, but that was as close to a defense as he could find. And that was just childish.

The crack of the support beam made him startle and his shield chose to kick in then - something like a sensation of body-wide static cling enveloped both Flip and Breakneck for a moment before flickering back out, much to his chagrin - it had dampened the heat, it just didn’t want to stay on for anything but what his mother would probably refer to as a ‘mechanical hazard’. It probably just enhanced the perception that he was just a frightened know-nothing kid. Well, fine, maybe he would be one.

“You take me outside, I’ll run back in.” He cleared his throat, pushing down another coughing fit. He knew that was childish and distracting and probably not fair when, well, she wasn’t wrong - his ‘equipment’ was a scarf and goggles, hardly comparable to a fireman’s full getup, all his training came from comic books, and he was competing with the fastest human on the face of the planet. And honestly, if his family found out he’d risked his health to help lab workers, he’d probably get punished. But still.


“There’s gotta be something I can do to help.” This time, the coughing fit would not be denied, and it was difficult not to double over from the force of it. She was just going to ignore him, he was sure now, he’d be probably dropped at a policeman’s car, and this ‘grand debut’ would end with him running with his tail between his legs before he got arrested and unmasked.
“If you’ll run back in you’ll be committing suicide.”

It was a harsh thing to say but Breakneck saw no other outcome. He hadn’t been in the building long at all and was already coughing violently, what did he expect to happen when he had to carry out some unconscious lab tech? “There’s not enough clean air and it’s only going to get worse, all you’ll do is give the coroner more work.”

No one could accuse N.O.V.A of being a beloved organinaztion but they had a point when it came to licensing. Freelancers weren’t told that they were too young to throw their lives away.

“If you wanna help ask some of the employees if they know anything, they might have seen how those Scourge started all this. The cops are going to be too busy to chase down a non-Noble right now.”
Well. That was a harsh response to his childish threat. The comics had always made Breakneck seem much calmer. Then again, nowhere in those comics was she telling another (fellow?) hero to vacate a scene before they went and died.

He perked up a bit at her second offer. Scourge, right. He’d answered this call assuming a robbery in progress. He’d sorta forgotten that when he saw the building on fire. And he knew a lot about the Scourge (or at least he knew as much as was publicly available). Of course Scourge members would start a fire. It was a bit of busywork, he was sure, but it beat getting thrown off the scene. Or getting arrested, that concern had definitely been there. But if she was sure, and if it really would help, he’d ask around. He’d need a moment of course, couldn’t be doubling over in front of the civilians. Heroes commanded respect, which was hard to do when you were coughing your lungs out. Not that he cared much about respect otherwise, but people tended not to answer questions if they didn’t respect you at least a little.

“I can do that, yeah.” He glanced at her hand still on his shoulder. “Can I let myself out? I promise I’ll go straight-” He paused. “Mostly straight out. I levitated a guy down the stairwell and I don’t think he can walk out.” It would be really awkward if he had brought that guy out and then forgotten him to the whims of the burning building.

“Thank you.”

She meant it, grateful that she wouldn’t have to explain to a parent how she had let their son immolate himself. She removed her hand, freeing him so that he could escape into the fresh air.

“Get him and go, as fast as you can. I’ll finish the search here.”

Breakneck gave the kid a nod, turning to go clear the floor. She had wasted too much time with him already, she would have to trust that he made the right call.
Flip nodded and exited the top floor. Rather than waste time on the stairs, requiring even more breathing of hot smoky air (the smoke was beginning to slip out from the fire doors), he jumped down the middle, catching himself with a levitation bubble as the ground floor rushed to meet him. The guy was still there, though moaning. That was a good sign, right? He didn’t think unconscious people moaned a lot. Then again, he couldn’t say he had a lot of experience with unconscious people.

“Don’t worry, sir-” he coughed, increasingly annoyed at his condition. “You’re getting out.” He summoned the levitation bubbles back under the man and towed him out like that towards the others. They mostly looked confused, except one woman who stepped forward with a puzzled-sounding "Eric?" Probably his name. Flip stood up a bit straighter as he stepped aside to let the woman check on the fellow employee. He tugged his scarf back down so he could speak clearly, and cleared his throat. It was starting to hurt, probably from all the coughing.

"Excuse me, did anyone see the fire start?" His voice came out a little hoarse, which was actually helpful - it made him sound older. There was some murmuring among the employees - nope, not me, I didn't know there was a fire until a ceiling tile dropped down, nuh-uh - until one employee made an affirmative sound. The group parted to let the employee come forward - a ragged woman with a purplish bruise on the side of her face. Flip couldn't help but wince at the sight.

"I was processing some slides when one of them came in and knocked me to the ground. I don't remember which one it was. But they went into the flammables cabinet-" Flip had to keep his face straight and bite back the question that they'd labeled where they kept flammable material. Sounded silly to him. "-and pulled out the xylene canisters. They were already splashing it around when they left the room. I'd just gotten back up when the fire reached my area." Xylene, got it. Whatever that meant. Hopefully the firefighters would understand better than Flip did.
She watched the boy throw himself to the ground floor, noting the bubble of orange energy he summoned to slow his descent. He had some neat tricks up his sleeve to be sure, but he was still far too young to be running into burning buildings.

Part of being a hero was knowing that some of the people you inspired would take it too far, emboldened into thinking that they could do it too. No matter how many times Breakneck said not to do what she did there would always be someone looking to make their mark.

There was nothing she could do about that now. The little freelancer hit the ground floor “long” after Breakneck went to finish the job, the world slowing to a snail’s pace once again.

Checking the floors was trivial, Breakneck speeding through faster than those last few stragglers could process. Save for the man the tag-along was dealing with everyone still inside was moving outside under their own power, which meant that she could focus on her secondary objective.

Fire was creeping into the Records department by the time she made it back, frozen-in-time flames just barely edging past the boundaries. She ignored it as she sped through, dodging server stacks as she scouted the room. Her once-over, ostensibly for civilians but really for cameras, proved fruitful.

There was one embedded right under the doorway, jutting out just enough to peer into the room. While barely a square inch in size Breakneck had no doubt that it could observe the entire area, had it been active. But with her sharp eyes and abundance of time she could see that the IR lights within had burned out, killed by the extreme heat rising through the building. The Scourge had killed more than just the HVAC, even if they hadn’t meant to.

Why had the Scourge attack Imperial Bio? More importantly, were any of Imperial’s eggheads on Ignoble’s hitlist? Almost certainly so, but confirmation was needed. Breakneck started with the filing cabinet closest to her, opening it and flipping through its contents in the blink of an eye. Then the next one, and the next one, and the one after that, learning nothing that interested her.

But the fourth cabinet had something of note hidden between financial records and payroll papers. ‘Speciment Collection-Whole (see Consent HEF3-2078)’ courtesy of Vertex Sourcing.


Ignoble had picked up plenty during their dealings with the Syndicate. Vertex was the front for another network of smugglers, the sort who generally dealt with high-end electronics or stolen pharmaceuticals as opposed to heroin and handguns.

This warranted deeper investigation.

The files were roughly folded and tucked inside Breakneck’s flightsuit, a gloved hand closing the cabinet as she strode to the door. She had plenty to look into now, and whatever Imperial Bio was doing, it’d be found out. But for now she had a building to evacuate.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Fish of Oblivion
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Fish of Oblivion Potassium

Member Seen 4 days ago

As Remy and Jimmy entered the alleyway past the security door, they would no doubt observe a scene of carnage; one more common-or-garden than the disaster taking place a short distance away, but carnage all the same. One of the trash cans out behind the bodega appeared to have toppled over, its contents strewn across the concrete ground and the ramped walkway leading up to the door. Fortunately, there was nothing too unseemly- the worst of the store's refuse went in the locked and mercifully not overturned dumpster, with the trash can being more for convenience, but a menagerie of moldy, half-eaten food left by people passing through the alley and broken glass and split cans carelessly dumped there by the same was hardly an appealing sight to behold.

What was about as unappealing a sight was the individual standing just behind the fallen can, their stubby arms in the air and their oversized, bugging-out eyes darting back and forth between the avalanche of waste and the two who had just come out into the alley.

"Now fellas, I realize this ain't exactly a pretty picture." It seemed as if there was a third bizarre individual who had arrived with the two currently browsing the bodega's wares, and while physically they were identical to 'Frankie' and 'Dean', it was hard not to notice the dramatic difference in personality: and the slow, lumbering timbre they spoke with. "But there ain't nothing afoot here, I just had myself a little acc-i-dent."
Back in the bodega itself, 'Frankie' and 'Dean' had decided that while they both had equally little idea what they'd set out to purchase with the money they'd acquired earlier today- "Long-lost in the haze of rejection and the ensuing passion," as Frankie put it- if they'd finally gotten their foot in the door they'd be remiss to not come out with something for their troubles. After three minutes and four arguments in which they bounced from magazines to soda to the weird off-brand construction toys near the register and back, they'd finally come to something resembling an agreement and moved on to the chiller with cold cuts.

They were a few minutes into a new argument- which cuts to get and what bread to have them with- when they felt a sudden jolt of fright that caused their impossibly round ears to stick up. They shared a confused glance, wondering for a moment what was so existentially terrifying about their debate about coppa and bresaola, before realization hit them.

"What is it, Sammy, the cops?" Frankie asked, raising a stubby hand to his head to focus on talking to their lookout.

"... Oh yeah, I was meant to be lookin' out for them." The response came after a few beleaguered seconds, Frankie and Dean's ears twitching as they received the communications from outside and fed it into their brains. "Naw, I just thought I saw a rat and knocked over a trash can."

"Should have got me to be the lookout," Dean groaned. Frankie glanced up at him dubiously- all these hot takes, and he'd have been happy sitting it out?- but a moment later he looked back down and focused on his other 'sibling'.

"Now look, Sammy, accidents happen, it ain't no big thing. But the fella in charge of this here outfit is the only one we've met all day who hasn't had his head up his ass. Take care of business so we can keep doing business, yeah?"

"I know, Frankie, but how's you supposing I should do that?"

"Come on, Sammy, you big palooka." Frankie sighed. God, to be sadled with such steaming malalukes for brothers. "You know what to do."
"... Oh, right." All while that conversation had been going on, 'Sammy' had been staring into space, their 'ears' twitching away as they seemingly completely forgot about the two humans present to speak to thin air.

That in itself was confounding, but it didn’t stop there. When they'd spoken before, it had been with a mouth more than a little too small for their bulbous head. But now that same mouth opened wider than should have physically been possible, the orifice expanding like an iris or camera shutter to almost encompass their entire face, revealing oversized and very noticeably and distressingly human-looking teeth.

But even that paled in comparison to the fever dream that laid behind them. As those horrible teeth came into view, something extended from the 'throat' behind them. At first, it seemed to be nothing more than a long tube, perhaps a tongue- but as it fanned out into the shape of a funnel, it was hard to miss the countless lamprey-like teeth embedded into every available inch of the structure's interior, nor how far they extended back, the depth of its 'throat' stretching into a long darkness revealed by the faintest hint of some eerie light at its terminus.

With a sudden rush and intake of air akin to a vacuum being turned on, the bizarre organ began to pull in the ocean of refuse laid out before it. The 'teeth' inside spun and shredded it down into something that resembled dust more than ground-up refuse as 'Sammy' seemingly devoured the contents of the can that they'd knocked over, the source of the vacuum pulling it deep into the depths of their jaws.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Eclektik
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Eclektik Donnie

Member Seen 2 mos ago

– Midtown –

As the sun completed its descent below the horizon, New Haven was blanketed in the darkness of evening. Lina used the dark to her advantage as she skirted quickly through the edge of Midtown, taking the utmost care to stay out of sight. Fortunately for her, the authorities had not noticed her leaving the scene with the duffel bag and, therefore, hadn’t given chase. She had dropped from the rooftops to street level a few moments back, and was holding down a low profile while moving hastily toward the Warehouse district. The Underground had a few safehouses tucked away in the area for her to lay low, though neither of them were current destination. She had actually carved out her own little hideaway a while back to serve as ‘base of operations’ when she needed it. In fact, Lina had a few of these around town, her main one actually being closer to Bywater. It would have taken much longer to backtrack to her primary headquarters — especially with her recently acquired cargo— so she decided to go with her alternate quarters.

As the evening grew steadily darker, Sear began to move toward the less occupied part of the Warehouse district. The lighting was much more sparse which deterred many people from passing through or hanging around. She eventually arrived at an old, long-abandoned textile mill. The doors and windows had been boarded up or sealed off, and there didn’t appear to be a way to enter the building on ground level without breaking in. Of course, that wouldn’t have been an issue for Sear, but she preferred to keep up the appearance of the building being unoccupied. A catwalk stretched across the upper level of the building on one of the outside walls, but the stairwell leading up to it had completely collapsed making the catwalk inaccessible from the ground. Scaling buildings was a breeze for Sear, so she surveyed the area to make sure she was alone and made her way up the side of the wall by using a pair of superheated knives as makeshift handholds. She vaulted over the side of the railing of the catwalk once she reached it and landed with a light metallic thud. Even though the stairs had been long gone, the platform itself had managed to stay relatively intact; it also helped that Sear had taken the liberty of reinforcing the welds and replacing some of the more rusted metal. The catwalk actually led to a couple of offices on the upper level that overlooked the rest of the factory floor. She hadn’t bothered to block or lock the office doors since they were rather difficult to get to without Variant abilities or just sheer climbing ability. Lina glanced around once more before entering one of the offices and carefully closing the door behind her.

The power to the mill had been disconnected ages ago, so the building was nearly pitch black on the inside. Lina gave her right eye a few moments to adjust to the lack of light before making her way down the steps to the ground level. Her eyepatch had night vision integrated into it, so she didn’t have a need for a flashlight. She weaved her way through the machines covered in years worth of dust and grime until she came to a certain one near the middle of the factory floor. She grabbed one of the wheels of the machine and turned it in a sequence of clockwise and counterclockwise movements mimicking a combination lock until a mechanical sounding click was heard. The machine actually served as a secret entrance to a subterranean hideout that Lina had constructed underneath the factory with the help of a few other members of the Underground. The floor underneath the machine shifted as it slid backwards to reveal the hidden ladder leading down into the hideout. Once she climbed down, the machine slid back into place over top of her, leaving her once again in darkness. She took a few steps forward through a short passage that opened up into the main room. As she entered the room and triggered the security sensors, the room was slowly illuminated with the warm glow of a few LED lights mounted into the low ceiling. To the immediate left was a decent-sized generator attached to what appeared to be a fairly large solar panel. The generator filled the otherwise silent room with a low electrical hum. In the far corner of the room, there was a small alcove with a sleeping pallet, surrounded by a few boxes of supplies and gear, and a small desk with a computer. A set of weapons had been arranged neatly near the pallet, within easy reach in case of an emergency. Against another wall was a long metal desk with several papers strewn about one half of it, most of which appeared to be hand-written notes. A map of New Haven decorated with several pins and markings hung on the wall above the desk. Lina tossed the duffel bag onto the desk and rolled her shoulders and neck, relieved that she could finally drop the weight. She walked over to the computer, powered it on, and performed a cursory diagnostic check on all her systems. The mechanism that controlled the hidden entrance didn’t require any immediate maintenance and her security systems appeared to be in good shape. Her generator, however, was reading at below half power as it had been a while since she came to this particular spot. Sear walked over to the solar panel and placed her hand directly on its surface. Her eye glowed bright orange as she released a flow of solar energy onto the panel’s cells and charged them until the meter read full. The panel and generator were sufficient to uphold the power needs of the secret base while also allowing it to run completely off the grid.

Once she was satisfied with the state of her lair, Lina proceeded to get down to business. She walked back over the duffel bag and unzipped it. ‘Case’ was probably a more appropriate term as it had a large foam insert inside specifically designed to carefully carry glass bottles. She removed one of the bottles and gave it an initial examination. The liquid inside was completely clear and the outside label seemed to be replaced with another that was totally blank except for a large red “X”.

Yeah, that’s not suspicious at all…

She was leery about opening the bottle and giving the contents a smell test, but she figured it was a necessary next step since she couldn’t identify the chemical from the outside. She slowly uncapped the bottle, raised to just underneath her nostrils, and gave the liquid a light sniff…

Odorless…of course…

They weren’t making this easy. Lina decided to try something slightly more effective before taking the chems to one of her connections for a proper identification. There had definitely been no shortage of lab break-ins by one group or another since the discovery of Variance, and Lina had the pleasure of ‘interrupting’ a few of them. Most of the time nothing really came of the encounter besides an arrest, but Lina had managed to swipe a couple of souvenirs for herself each time. She rummaged through her stash until she found a couple of such souvenirs: pH strips and a small dropper. She wouldn’t get much out of the test, but she figured it was a start. She made her way back to the table, carefully filled the dropper with the chemical and placed a few drops on a couple of strips that she laid down. After a few seconds, her brow furrowed in surprise.

”No fucking way…”

* * * * *

– Midtown –

The scene in front of the lab was pure chaos. The streets were crowded with rescued lab personnel, first responders, and several government agents. Onlookers were being kept in check by the authorities as they vied for the best angles for their Optica and Blabbr uploads. Numerous news drones littered the immediate airspace as they flew as close as they dared to the blaze. Despite the best efforts of the fire brigade, the fire remained barely contained.

After what felt like an eternity, a massive rescue vehicle barreled onto the scene with sirens blaring. It was a transport vessel for a small fleet of AI-controlled firefighting drones. The fireproof drones were quickly deployed and flew directly into the burning lab. The drones were basically flying fire extinguishers equipped with devices that dispensed a dry chemical cooling foam throughout the most critical parts of the inferno. As the building was systematically swept, the fire died down completely in a matter of minutes.

Even though the lab had suffered an incredible amount of damage, it wasn’t enough to condemn the building outright. It would, however, shut down the operation of the lab for several weeks for repairs.

– Midtown, near Lakeview –

As the events of the evening began to wind down, Michelle Collins paced calmly throughout ‘The Hive’ of Central Command at MAD HQ. Even though the entirety of the Scourge hadn’t been caught, it felt good to have at least a couple of them behind glass. It wasn’t a total loss and Michelle was proud of her team.

“You all did excellent out there. All teams report,” Michelle ordered.

“Noxia was apprehended after a bit of a fight, but Flea got by us. He also has the stolen chemicals from the lab. We still have drones out searching, but I doubt he’ll be found. He knows how to avoid them.”

“Never say never, captain…we’ll get him. Great job, Alpha Team,” Michelle knew how slippery Agile variants could be, but speaking negatively into any situation was against her personal and professional code. “How about you, Bravo Team?”

“Things got pretty heated here. The Scourge was already in the middle of a fight with a couple of vigilants when we arrived on the scene. Or perhaps they were here to rain on their parade, because the chemicals have not been recovered. According to Graffite, the one guy we did capture, the chemicals were taken from them by another Variant who’s probably long gone by now. Also, another Variant we hadn’t seen before came and scooped up Ruby before we could grab her. We’re assisting NHPD with the pursuit.”

“Godspeed, Bravo Team. Keep me updated.” Michelle cut the call and addressed the room. “Stay on, Bravo Team. We’ve had too many get away from us tonight. Let’s get it together, people.”
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by RBYDark
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RBYDark Demigod of Spite

Member Seen 0-24 hrs ago


“Oh no no nononono- ”

The biggest mystery, really, is how has this never happened before.

It was supposed to be a simple grocery run. Jimi honestly had no ill intentions on entering the store. He just wanted to grab a few cheap staples that’d replenish his cupboards, maybe some spices to make said staples more palpable, and actually pay for his groceries since he had the money for it. Mostly, he just wanted to keep a low profile, get in and get out without risking arrest. Maybe he should’ve paid more attention to that woman who did a double-take when he grabbed the peanut butter; he’d honestly assumed she was looking at the prices, which had made him grimace as he realized how much they’d increased. For the moment, he’d forgotten he was a wanted criminal, and he hadn’t remembered this fact until he’d gotten in line for the cashier, and the woman followed him a bit too closely. He’d tried to back up, he really had, but she just peered more suspiciously at him.

She knows you’re bad, the demon in his head had remarked, and she won’t leave you alone. Bash her skull in. It was a testament to either Jimi’s inner strength or inner resignation that he didn’t visibly react to such a suggestion. Instead, he had, somewhat annoyedly, said, “Can I help you?”

Maybe it was the hint of irritation in his voice, or maybe something in his expression clicked for her, because she had finally drawn back with a look of horror. “You’re him. The scout.” It took a moment to digest that non sequitur before he realized where he had heard it before: police chatter whenever he was on the scene. He’d apparently picked up something of a reputation, a sign that some crime was about to unfold.

“Um,” was his incredibly intelligent response.

“Someone call Security!” And he had flinched as she yelled in his ear. “There’s going to be a robbery!” That had gotten some attention - a lot of confusion, and, to his dismay, a look of dawning recognition from the cashier as she picked up the phone. He had pushed his way forward, nearly dropping his basket of rice, peanut butter, beans, oatmeal, and seasonings as he did.

“There’s no robbery - I’m just buying groceries!” And it had to be something in his tone or the way he carried himself with something akin to frustration and desperation that one of the people he pushed aside had his cell phone out, and Jimi vaguely caught the standard spiel for 911. “There’s no robbery!” he repeated, heart sinking. “No crime’s being committed!” Besides your very presence. A crime against society and nature. He turned back to the cashier and pulled out the wad of cash. “Look, let me just pay and go.” The cashier had backed up as far as she was able without abandoning her post. Movement past her caught his eye - a pair of gentlemen in dark clothing and sunglasses.

“Oh no no nononono-”

The biggest mystery, really, is how has this never happened before.

Jimi swallowed, unlimbering his metal pipe and charging it instantly. He felt a chill sweep through him as he used his own body heat to gain a charge. He could hear the shoppers jump back now that his identity was confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt. He probably couldn’t afford more than three charges without putting himself out, but the thought of getting captured-

The thought of what the demon might do to escape-

Look, he just wanted to buy the stuff and go home, okay?!

”Now just what in the world is all this?” Said a mechanized voice from right behind the boy. When the hell did he get there

A 6 foot tall titan made of steel loomed over Jimi and the security guards, plates of gray and black armor slid over each other seamlessly, in a very rectangular fashion. A helmet the same way with red eyes looked at the growing crowd expectantly. The veritable statue leaned on what seemed to be a hammer, whose head was glowing red and resting on the floor.

Everyone in New Haven recognized that armor. It was Vanguard.

”I couldn’t help but overhear the commotion. Is everything alright?”

Jimi startled as the mechanized voice spoke, dropping his basket, fumbling with his pipe, and whirling around. Vanguard. Vanguard was here without any warning. How did a giant-ass robot man manage to sneak up on him? He gripped the pipe like a baseball bat as he held it closer to himself, not even sure if it’d do any good. Somehow, it seemed unlikely the man with the power armor had not already taken into account and nullified the effects of electricity on his power suit. And without being able to touch the man himself, he could only try chilling or overheating the armor, both of which he doubted he had the capacity to do effectively. Why’d it have to be Vanguard?

“Vanguard! Good to see you,” one of the security guards said as way of greeting. The other only offered a nod of acknowledgement, clearly less starstruck. He was the one to speak next.

“Got a call that the Scout’s here.” He gestured to Jimi. “You know his type - where he goes, crime’s quick to follow.”

“I just came here to shop! There’s no crime going on!” Jimi protested, resisting the urge to swing the pipe when the man he interrupted offered a severe gaze.

”Alright, everyone relax. Take it down a notch, now.” The giant metal behemoth said, in a tone entirely unbothered by everything happening right now. ”That’s no way to talk about a kid. Look at him. You have weapons, and he has a metal stick. He doesn’t seem so dangerous” That meant a lot coming from the man with the biggest weaponized stick in the city. He then asked patiently, ”Son, do you want to step away from this and leave with me? You aren’t in trouble, but you don’t seem welcome here.”

“I’m 18,” Jimi tried to protest. “I’m not a kid.” God, it sounded whiny and childish. He almost wished he could somehow take it back. But at the same time, he knew he wasn’t some harmless child. There was a reason he wasn’t living with the couple he considered his parents, after all.

Stop talking, the demon in his head hissed, and learn to take a lifeline when it’s offered. Do you want to start a fight? It seemed like rare good advice, or at least harmless. Jimi looked to the crowd of concerned and frightened people - none concerned for him, he was certain - then to the cashier and guards, then back to Vanguard. He set down his basket, slipped the pipe back into its belt loop, and mutely nodded yes.

The machine that resembled a man just nodded, and picked up his hammer to sling it over his shoulder. ”Right, then. This one is off the hook for now, officers.” With that said, Vanguard walked away, slowly enough that Jimi could follow. ”Walk with me.”

Shortly after, Vanguard led Jimi to a nice part of town, to a small restaurant with tables set outside under umbrellas. He parked his metal coffin with legs beside a table, and climbed out of its back like it was a sewer manhole. The entire city knew Vanguard’s face, as he had been seen both in and out of his Orion-5 armor multiple times. By the look of his face, he hadn’t seen a razor in the last ten years. He was an absolute bear of a man clocking in at exactly six feet tall without the armor.

”Let’s eat, and you can tell me what the deal was over there.”

Jimi of course followed after Vanguard, though not before shooting his grocery basket one last mournful look. He’d really been looking forward to those. Seemed like he’d be visiting the shitty convenience store back near his home after all. That reputation wasn’t unearned either.

Stand up straight. You’re walking with a damn Noble, and the only thing standing between you and that bludgeon of his is whatever he wants from you. So when you finally say yes like the coward you are, the least you could do is feign some dignity.

Jimi winced but did stand a little straighter as they walked, hoping Vanguard didn’t notice the change. The demon wasn’t exactly wrong - since running away from home, people didn’t exactly hang out with Jimi for his company. And those who did wanted a kind of company that had made Jimi rather miserable. Most likely, Vanguard had saved him for his own purpose, even if that purpose was information.

As they walked, though, their surroundings got nicer. Businesses and townhouses seemed cleaner, far fewer windows were barred, and even the bars that were present were as decorative as they were functional. They finally reached a restaurant where, to Jimi’s surprise, Vanguard exited his armor.

Stop staring and behave goddammit. What in the world does he see in you?

Jimi rapidly averted his gaze - though he sneaked a peek or two as he sat down. He’d never seen Vanguard in person and somehow, he was surprised he didn’t look older. It made sense, he was born after Variance was discovered, but he had just seemed like a long-standing fixture of New Haven.

Then Vanguard asked his question. Jimi swallowed. How to answer?

“...you know I’m wanted, right? Mostly for aiding and abetting.” Several times over. He resisted the urge to rest his arms on the table so he could faceplant comfortably. “I guess I got recognized. But I wasn’t doing anything wrong this time, I swear!” To keep from fidgeting, he grasped the edge of the table in front of him. “I just wanted to shop somewhere different. The convenience store a few blocks from home isn’t stocked half the time and the other half, it’s getting shoplifted. It’s not like anyone can call to get it stopped, most everyone who shops there has done something to earn a warrant for arrest, and besides, it’s snitching,” he finished half-heartedly. Yeah, the schoolyard chant was right: snitches ended up in ditches, but again, he wished it didn’t sound so childish.

”Hmm.” Vanguard locked eyes with Jimi during his explanation. There was no trace the usual attitudes authority figures had when hearing a story like his. He just passively listened. ”Tell me something, then. What’s a boy your age doing helping others commit crimes? Does your family know you’re wanted for such a thing?” He leaned in and asked that question quietly, to ensure no one overheard their conversation.

There was no disbelief. That was nice. The eye contact made Jimi instinctively avert his gaze, though - it had been a long-standing habit since he’d woken up that day eight years ago. “With any luck, my parents don’t know. They’d probably blame themselves, and- and that’s not true.” His shoulders dropped a bit. “I’m hoping I’ve never made state or national news. They’d come to New Haven for me.” And they couldn’t. It just wouldn’t be safe for them.

”I’m getting the impression you ran from home. I’m not going to ask why you did, after all, we just met. Surely you have your reasons. But is this really what you want out of life? No place to go home to, having to run for your life every time someone recognizes your face? Listen…”

Vanguard looked around to make sure that no one was actively paying attention to them. ”I am a Noble, but I also know many people in the Underground. I can put you in contact with them, or I can find other ways to help you. Either way, I can’t very well just let you stay like this, now that I know. I’m not throwing you in prison, either.”

Jimi looked up. “I know people in the Underground. Mostly Scourge members.” He chuckled weakly at that. “I know it’s not much of a life, but it’s the one I gotta lead, you know?” He didn’t sound proud of that fact, more resigned. “It’s better for everyone this way.”

This one can’t be saved. Might as well put him out of his misery, and the city’s as well. The thought seemed to come out of nowhere in Vanguard’s mind, and was accompanied by a rather vivid and gruesome image of how he might accomplish that deed. Making it worse was that even in the visualization, the boy wasn’t fighting back - just cringing and accepting the fate sentenced to him.

The thoughts were jarring to Vanguard, he never thought such a thing about anyone, let alone a kid like him. He had to mentally take a deep breath and think about how to approach that. ”That’s an intimidating power you have. You’re a mentalist. There’s no need to be defensive. I only want to help you somehow.” Despite having something that vivid go through his head, Vanguard didn’t even seem slightly bothered by the boy.

Jimi paused and slowly shook his head. “The doctor called me a distortionist. Hot, cold, and electricity.” He hesitated, looked around, and leaned in. “Did... did you hear it? The... the demon?”

He’s crazy. Demons aren’t real.

”The demon? That wasn’t you in my mind just now? Or is that just one power you have?” There were some odd cases where variants developed powers that were entirely unrelated. Being a mentalist and a distortionist in that category sounded dangerous, in Vanguard’s eyes.

“I swear it wasn’t me.” Jimi seemed to be having trouble keeping his voice down - perhaps it reminded him of an old argument? He took a few seconds to breathe.

The voice in Vanguard’s head remained suspiciously silent.

“It wasn’t me. There’s a demon - I don’t know where it came from, it’s been with me as long as I can remember. It used to talk just to me, but in the past few years, it’s been reaching out to others.” He looked back down. “It’s why I left home. It was threatening Mom and Dad, and giving them nightmares about what it wanted me to do to them.” Even if the story sounded genuine, there was just the fact that it was far more likely he had developed uncontrolled powers that reflected his negative mental attitude than it was that he managed to defy science and become possessed. Nothing in his story proved otherwise.

”And this… demon says things like that to you constantly? I’m no doctor, but you need help. That might be the life you live, but it shouldn’t have to be. I can pull strings, in more than one place, and figure something out for you that gets you help. Preferably, something that doesn’t involve you having to steal food just to not starve.” From the tone of his voice, Vanguard sounded well and truly genuine about helping this kid he just met.

“I was gonna pay,” Jimi protested, hoping Vanguard wouldn’t ask where he got the money to pay. Both sources of his recent windfall might not be received well. “And...” Here, he hesitated again. He wanted to say no, that he was better off alone and isolated where the damage he could do was limited. What if the demon hurt whatever good person Vanguard put him in contact with? It was, as his mother used to put it, a non-zero chance (not that she ever referred to him when using such a phrase. She’d never known about the demon, just this homeless Variant kid who appreciated it a lot when given a little). But Vanguard’s patience probably had limits. He didn’t want Vanguard to decide he was hopeless and have him arrested. “Well... that is... I’ll give whatever a try, I guess?” It seemed like the right answer.

”That’s what I was hoping you would say. I know a handful of heroes in the Underground that would be happy to support you, and I don’t just mean the kind that wear masks. You already said you’re familiar with the Underground, so it might be easier to get you in contact with them. As for what comes after that, you could have a real shot at being one of the heroes in the masks yourself. Like me. But I’ll warn you that it isn’t easy, for a lot of reasons. Nobles will want to take the credit for anything you accomplish whenever they can, the police won’t do you any favors, and you’re largely on your own if something happens to you. I try my best to use my Noble status to keep N.O.V.A. looking in the wrong direction whenever the Underground or the Scourge do something that could draw attention. It’s not easy, but you’d have a chance at a better life. And you could have access to help with that demon of yours.”

That wasn’t the answer he was expecting, but he’d already said he’d give whatever a try, right? So it was a little late to protest. And yet... “But - what if someone good gets hurt because of me?” The rest, while it sounded frustrating, wasn’t quite as big a concern for him. What schooling he’d engaged in had taught him some of those lessons already. “Because of the demon, I mean.” There was admittedly less moral concern about a regular criminal or a Scourge member getting hurt by the demon. Maybe it wasn’t fair, but society had already made clear its indifference to people who were deemed ‘bad’.

”If people are hurt by your actions, then you should try to set things right as much as possible . The role of a hero is difficult, but it’s not something you have to do alone. You can have other people looking out for you if you earn their trust. There’s a lot of variants who choose to put their powers to good use despite their powers having some ugly parts. I knew someone once who had a power that caused other people to feel badly nauseous just by looking at her. She had to keep her skin covered completely from head to toe, but she was one of the best heroes I’ve seen in years.” Vanguard explained, ”If all else fails, turn to the Underground for help, or turn to me for help. There are ways of getting yourself help, you just have to take the jump and look.”

Oh boy. This one really believes in you. Well, someone besides you has to be pulling down the average IQ score.

And wasn’t that a scary thing in its own right? Being believed in by someone else. Every instinct told Jimi to chase Vanguard off. And he had a pretty good idea how. His grip on the table tightened - not enough to cause damage, he didn’t have superstrength, but enough to be noticeable.

“I can’t just ‘get help’.” He let go of the table to make the air quotes. “It’s not that easy. The Underground knows I’m the bad guy. Because I’m a bad person.” He began to count off on his fingers as he spoke: “I want to hurt people, and people get hurt because of me. I don’t care where money comes from as long as I get some. I don’t listen to other people and don’t respect them.” His tone had flattened some, but Jimi considered that better next to the alternative of crying as he laid down his flaws. “I’m ungrateful, disruptive, and nothing but trouble. That’s why I commit crimes - I’m a bad person, and I can’t change that.”

”And who did you hear that from? Scout, you’re a kid. I know you said you’re 18, but you’re a kid. You’re not evil, and you’re not a hardened criminal. We live in a world that hates people like us for several reasons, and you having to resort to crimes just to eat? That is the least of those worries. I’ve been labeled a terrorist more times than I can count, even by the people I work alongside, because I’m a Variant. You aren’t a bad person, you’re a victim. I’m not about to act like I know your entire life story, but I have a feeling you only do the things you do because you don’t have any other choices.” Vanguard remained astonishingly patient throughout his response, ”You’re not able to change that on your own, but it’s still possible. And I’m able to help you with that. All I need from you is for you to give it a chance, and I can take care of the rest.”

You’re falling for this, aren’t you- yes, yes you are. Christ almighty.

Jimi would’ve wondered how a demon could invoke a holy name, if he wasn’t trying to keep emotionally stable. For a man who said he didn’t know Jimi’s life story, he made a lot of accurate guesses, and he was still willing to stick around and help the poor bastard who called himself Jimi and occasionally argued with a voice inside his head. He took a few deep breaths to try to steady himself.

“Thanks.” His voice cracked on the word, and it was about all he could manage, looking anywhere but at Vanguard as he tried to steady his breathing.

Agree and I will personally see to it that it shatters around your ears. It’ll go horribly and you’ll have every bridge burned that you could’ve used before. If you think now’s bad, wait until no one wants anything to do with you.

“I’ll... I’ll try?” It came out a lot more questioningly than Jimi intended, though he could not deny that threat had rattled him. God, when was the last time the demon threatened him specifically? It usually stuck to threatening everyone else. Still... it’d been a long time since he’d been promised something better. Something kind, even if it’d require hard work on his part. The offer itself was a warm comfort, and the idea of things getting better was, well, even better.

Listen, he’s a liar and a fraud. You know this. Kid’s gotten himself a record as long as a football field. He’s not going to be able to change into what you think he can be. The thoughts crept into Vanguard’s mind, not quite as pushy or extreme but with a touch of the alien, of not quite belonging.

”That’s all I’m asking for. You just let me worry about the rest. I know a couple of people that can get you a place to stay if they know I’m the one who sent you.”

Jimi nodded. “Thanks.” He tried to put the grumblings of the demon out of his mind, with limited success. He’d angered it, he knew that. This was something he was going to pay for later.

But, maybe for now, he could live with it.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Expendable
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Expendable The Certifiable

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It was memorizing for a moment, watching Sammy's mouth open up and that strange funnel come out and began to suck up the spilled garbage.

"Ah hah," Remy managed, feeling sick to his stomach with fear, "I... think it's time to go!"

He turned, heading towards the street. Hoping he'd make it to the street.

"I just want to go home...!" he wailed.
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