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Love Street
Lincoln Park, Tenebrae

He made a tsk-tsk sound with his tongue that reeked of condescension. His credibility with her had not started out high and it was swiftly plummeting. "Making me repeat myself on our first day. I’ll forgive you, but it’ll cost you the first move."

The man, Arc apparently, held up his hands. The black cloth that coated his arms vibrated ever so slightly. It had a similar appearance to the very slight blur that surrounded Gloria's form when she phased. She only really noticed it because she was so used to see her own body go in and out of focus in a similar manner.

"The win conditions are to 'lay me out flat', though at this point it's unlikely that you'll even touch me."

He was apparently quite literal in his words. That presented a problem. On the surface, the win condition should have been easy. Gloria was no stranger to taking on guys twice her size and knocking their feet out from under them was rarely a challenge. But the confidence and bluster that Arc exuded suggested he possessed some information unknown to her which would complicate the task. Presumably, what she was missing was information about his own superpower.

He could simply be extremely sturdy, a power that granted such excessive athleticism that it was nearly impossible to make him lose his footing. But his proclamation that she wouldn't even be able to touch him suggested something completely different. It implied some kind of area of effect ability, control over wind or sometime similar which would make approaching him a challenge. The most likely option, considering the construction of the briefcase, was the simplest one. He had electrical powers, a perfect foil to her own. It wasn't the only foil but it was the easiest one to observe from a distance. After all, his name was 'Arc'.

As soon as this thought had passed through her head, Arc's gloves began to disintegrate. Like some bizarre parody of an hourglass counting down time, the black cloth from his fingertips to his shoulders tumbled into the air as a cloud of fine dust. He threw his now bare hands outward, scattering the tiny, reflective particles into the room in a haze.

Gloria reacted instinctively. She sucked in a clean breath before the particles reached her and then phased, falling backwards through the bar stool she had been sitting on and through the bar itself. In the moment before she lost sight of the interior of the building she saw Quinn suck in her own breath and lung across the table to cover Jinny's mouth and nose with a bar napkin.

That's my girl. She thought with a smile as she tumbled backwards.

Gloria fell through the bar into blackness, her hands outstretched behind her head. The moment they were through the bar, they became solid again and when they touched the cold floor behind the bar, she pushed off, launching herself into her feet. In all honesty it was more of an acrobatic party trick than a combat maneuver but she used whatever tools she had.

She stood up behind the bar, keeping Arc in her view as her eyes scanned the bar for something she expected to be there.

He was still in gloating mode. He was so sure that he had her entirely figured out. "Freedom. Control. These two things were the world to me before I met him. Now? They come as easy as rain on a stormy day. You should consider yourself lucky, he’s offering the same to you. His vision of the future puts you and I at the height of success, no longer dogged around and put down, hiding like street rats." His head inclined toward her. "All he is asking is cooperation to usher in that future."

Gloria barely heard what he was saying. As he spoke she grabbed a rag from the bar and nonchalantly wrapped it around one of the newly opened bottles of a Bacardi 151, a high proof rum, before she poured herself a shot. She inclined it towards him and downed it in one move, casual as could be. Rum was definitely not her drink of choice and it burned as it slid down her throat. She usually preferred an electric green shot which tasted like green apple candy but in this instance the important thing was a high alcohol content.

As she was downing the shot, her thumb slid through the rum bottle where she popped the pouring spout out from the inside. In the same movement, the rag she'd picked up the bottle with phased through the glass, half poking out the top of the bottle somewhat unevenly as cracks started to form in the glass from the imprecise phase job. At the same time with her other hand Gloria snatched up a disposable lighter the bartender on shift kept behind the bar and set the rag alight.

In less than three seconds, in what was clearly a very practised procedure, Gloria was holding a lit molotov cocktail. She knew she had only a few seconds before the cracked bottle ruptured from the heat and the damaged Gloria had done when she'd phased the rag through it. Without pausing to think, she lobbed the firebomb at Arc with all the force she could muster, ready to duck if he displayed an ability to redirect it back towards her. Though she rather suspected it would explode midair if he tried. It might even explode midair before it actually reached him but whether it struck him or not, the flaming alcohol would be something he would have to deal with.

In the moment that the bottle was airborne Gloria felt the hair on her arms stand on end, like she'd just brushed a static charged fleece over her skin. A piece of the speech Arc had given which she had mostly tuned out while she prepared the cocktail filtered back into her brain. 'They come as easy as rain on a stormy day.' He had weather control abilities. He commanded wind, rain, and most unfortunately of all, lightning. A storm was coming.

Love Street
Lincoln Park, Tenebrae

Gloria watched the man take a long, slow sip of his drink. He was in the driver's seat of this conversation and he evidently knew it, was savouring it even. Clearly satisfied that he'd made her wait long enough to make a point of who was in charge, the man set his drink down and turned to look at her; no, not look, stare. He scanned her up and down, taking in every inch. She didn't like the look in his eyes, he was sizing her up, looking for a way to bring her down.

“I’ll be honest, the gift is bait. I just wanted to see you with my own eyes.”

His voice was deep but it had a bite to it. Like someone used to cracking the whip on those below him. He wasn't sizing her up like an opponent, he was sizing her up like a mouse to be batted around. Gloria didn't like being played with.

“The boss has taken an interest in you and asked me to invite you." he continued "But I have high standards for him, and I have to know what’s worth his time, and what isn’t.”

He slid the briefcase he had resting on the bar a foot over so that it rested in front of her. "If you pass, you get to keep what’s in this," he said, patting the case's sleek leather, "as well as handsome pay for a few contract jobs, easily three times more than what they’re paying you." He gestured toward Gloria's squad behind them.

Gloria's eyes glanced sideways, first to the briefcase and then to the Valkyries. Jinny, Sonia, and Siobhán were talking and laughing loudly over their first round of drinks but Quinn sat slightly apart from them in the wraparound booth, staring at the strange man Gloria was conversing with. Her eyes only lost focus on the man for a second. The more he spoke, the more like a threat he sounded and Gloria wasn't going to let a him blindside her.

"And if you don’t pass, well... I guess we’ll see when we get there." He said, lounging back on the elevated bar chair.

The offer wasn't entirely unwelcome, Gloria was certainly interested in the money, but there was something she valued just a little bit more, her freedom. She had an understanding with the Valkyries' leader about the kinds of things that she would and wouldn't do. Admittedly it wasn't an exhaustive list but the leader knew that Gloria didn't do hits, she didn't hurt kids, and she didn't hurt parents in front of their kids. Not that she hadn't killed people. There had definitely been jobs she did where people ended up dead because of her actions, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. But Gloria didn't take jobs were someone being dead was the end goal. Of course she wasn't stupid. She knew that just because she refused to do a job, that didn't mean the job wasn't getting done but her hands were clean of it. This stance had probably cost her chances at promotion and at a larger cut but Gloria valued the ability to say "No" more than she did riches. The proposition that this crescent wearing stranger was spouting was sounding more and more like a "get in line or disappear" kind of operation.

"And does what you've seen so far make you think I'm worth his time?" she asked. The question was nonchalant but there was a bite in her voice, indicating that she considered this spectacle to be a waste of her own time.

The man reached his hand up and pulled his hood off his head. Underneath his hair was black and wiry, pointed in a dozen different directions. It gave off an unkempt look that was purposeful in how accidental it was trying to be. Without the hood casting shadows over his face Gloria could see a silver diamond shape dominating the iris of each of his eyes and he had a tattoo of a blazing sun on the side of his neck. His face was obscured with a domino mask from within which his diamond eyes glinted. In one swift motion he stood, swept the bar stool around him, and slid it neatly under the bar; giving himself room to maneuver. Gloria recognised it before he said anything, it was a battle stance.

His next words only confirmed what she could already tell was coming. "Phantasm, your first job is to duel me. If you can lay me out flat, you get the reward of it. And if you need motivation, I can provide it if you simply deny me. Any questions?"

Gloria gave a one eighth turn toward the bar. It was enough that it looked like she was disregarding him as a threat but still allowed her to watch him closely in her peripheral vision.

"You know, it's not really a gift if it comes with strings attached, it's a bribe. And in this case, it seems more like a gambling pot."

Gloria put her hand on the briefcase, she felt her hand tingle with a kind of soft vibration and as she touched her fingers to the leather, they sunk through its surface as if it wasn't there, like it was made of water. It may not have compared to the euphoria that she'd experienced when on Cypher but there was something comforting about that feeling of moving through solid matter, it was like slipping into a warm bath. Her hand hadn't even sunk an inch into the case however when she felt a sharp jolt and she yanked her hand back instinctively. She wasn't a stranger to the feeling of an electric shock. High voltage currents were one of the few things that stopped her abilities in their tracks and she wasn't keen to experience what would happen if she kept pushing again.

Gloria turned her chair to fully face the stranger. She leaned back against the edge of the bar in a posture that suggested she didn't really care about what was going on. "You really have done your research Mr...?" she let the question hang in the air for a fraction of a second.

"The name's Arc," he supplied "Right Hand of the Shadow Knights.”

She continued as though she hadn't heard him. "What are the win conditions? I assume your 'boss'" she said the word like it was a laughable title "doesn't want your head on a pike as proof that I'm 'worth his time'. So at what point have I won? First blood? When I knock you to the floor? Or should I make you scream for your daddy?"
@Estylwen Will the briefcase open if Gloria tries the latches? If she attempts to phase through it, is the inner layer electrified? If the answer to either one of those is no then what's in the briefcase?
@sassy1085 I had a character I was really excited to try out and now it looks like the thread might be dead before it was even properly posted.
@sassy1085 So check back in at the end of the semester?
@Misery How are things?

Love Street
Lincoln Park, Tenebrae

"You guys want to hit the town?" Gloria asked with a half smile on her face.

Her squad had been run pretty ragged for the last week on assignments from the Valkyries' higher ups. The gang knew how much value Gloria and her squad had so they gave them the time to rest when they needed it. Jinny, Sonia, and Siobhán looked up from what they were doing with fire in their eyes.

"Where you thinking?" asked Siobhán, a pale irish girl maybe a year older than Gloria who had light copper hair shaved down one side of her head.

"We hit up the Haven in Lincoln Park, then if we don't find any trouble there we go dancing."

"Sounds good to me." said Sonia, a black girl who'd cut her hair short in a pixie cut.

The three girls gathered their things, leaving the room to get ready for the night ahead.

"You sure a night out is all your after?" The voice came from the doorway. The fifth member of the crew was standing there. She had grease smudged over a pair of overalls and was wiping engine oil off her hands with a rag that was almost as grease stained as they were.

"What else would I be after Q?"

Quinn's jaw was set as she walked towards Gloria. She raised her hand to touch the tight dutch braid that Gloria's hair had at been pulled into down the back of her head. If it had been anyone else Gloria would have grabbed their wrist before they got that close but Quinn was different. They were closer than that, or at least they had been before Gloria had been caught.

"Katty, I know what you look like when you're ready for a fight. What are you looking for tonight?"

Quinn was the only one of the squad that called her Katty. She was also the only one that knew it wasn't Gloria's birth name. The others called her Cat, or more often simply Walker. Gloria sighed. Quinn knew her too well. The dutch braid was what Gloria wore underneath her Phantasm hood. It kept her hair out of her face when she was moving around and it was a hard target to grab a hold of. It's how she did her hair when she expected to be in a serious scrap.

Gloria looked down, unwilling to meet Quinn's eyes. "If I'm lucky, there's no problem. If I am lucky then there's no need to get everyone hyped up over nothing. If I'm not then I'm going to need some backup nearby. If all goes well then we are going to get plastered and light up the dance floor. Then I'll let my hair down. Deal?"

Quinn nodded. "If we're going out I'll need an hour to freshen up. Grease monkey isn't exactly a night life kind of look."

As Gloria watched her girlfriend leave she considered the message she had received earlier that day from not just an unknown number, but an unlisted one.

“Come with or without your friends, I have something that I know you’ll like. Not a weapon, per se, or a drug, but of use to someone of your... skill set.” Along with a time and a place for the meeting.

Gloria thought she could predict what it was about. It was a Cypher dealer looking for a high profile "return client". Cypher was a metagene stimulating drug. It was incredibly appealing to dealers because it was quite addictive, gave a high like almost nothing else on the market, and pushed a metahuman's power output into overdrive which meant when clients ran out of money they always had services to barter with. Gloria had been on it before she'd been sent to juvy. It was quite a high and there wasn't a feeling that matched the energy that seemed to flow through her veins when she passed through solid matter and it crumbled to dust in her wake. But the Valkyries' supplier had been cut off while Gloria was inside and the higher ups didn't appreciate members using someone else's product. Whether this was a supplier looking to hook the gang up with a new support chain or simply a dealer thinking he could get rich off a high profile mark she didn't know, but either way, coming to her with it was a huge mistake. Cypher withdrawal while she was inside had nearly killed her and she was not interested in putting herself in a position to be that weak or that dependant ever again.

* * * * *

Ninety minutes later the squad parked their motorcycles at the Haven speakeasy. Gloria had worn the most functional elements of her Phantasm costume, lacking the mask and cloak that gave her something of a grim reaper appearance she simply wore the practical boots, and motorcycle gear underneath. The rest of her costume was stored in the side bag of her bike in case she needed to make an exit. In the vein hope that this situation wouldn't turn ugly Gloria had worn a club friendly top beneath her leather jacket but her hope that she would end up taking her jacket off and let her hair down was quickly dwindling.

The place was lively tonight, though that was hardly a surprise. This was one of the few places where metahumans could just be themselves. You had those with gills or scales who on any other day would be concealing them beneath baggy clothing lounging on bar stools and laughing with their friends. The bouncer for the club was a man who was almost cartoonishly large in an Andre the Giant sort of way. While he no doubt got stares everywhere he went during normal hours, here he was just another guy.

As they walked in Gloria grabbed Quinn's shoulder. "Q, get the girls a table and order up a round to start the night off. I'll..." Gloria's gaze went past Quinn's head to a man sitting at the bar and the red crescent that adorned him which the message had said to look for. "I'll be with you in a minute."

Quinn turned her head to follow Gloria's gaze to the man sitting at the bar. She turned back to look Gloria in the face. "One minute, I'll watch your back."

Gloria nodded before heading towards the bar. She sat down next to the crescent marked stranger. "You called, I came. For your sake, you better hope this isn't a waste of my time."
I don't know that gold is what Phantasm is after but she'll definitely throw you under the bus if it furthers her ends.
@Shu What do you say? You wanna be friends? Or grudging allies?
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