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March 1st, 9:22 AM
Kasimir Castle, Gotham City


”...What the hell?” mumbled a very groggy Karen as she stared out the window of her guest room within the castle. ”Why did Zoey bring out the tank again? It’s not even July.”

After completing her morning rituals, she changed into a green tank top and blue jeans before heading down for breakfast. On her way down, she decided to check her phone for the news as she had gotten into the habit of doing in her years of heroing—at least before her isolation. That was when she noticed something odd.

She had over a hundred facebook alerts. What the hell?

Looking on her page, she was immediately horrified by the slew of vile, racist, sexist, and generally homicidal and rapey messages that had been left for her while she was sleeping. She could feel her eyes tearing up at the sheer volume of malicious intent streaming her way, until she noticed a common pattern between many of them—they kept mentioning Mal.

”...What the…” she muttered, unable to stop herself from swiping over to Mal’s facebook page.

If hers was bad, then his was at least ten times worse. She had met hardened prisoners with politer vocabularies than these people. Colorful threats abounded such as, “I’ll pull your fucking tongue out through your desicated asshole you stupid scar-faced little shit!”.

She then checked up on Zoey’s facebook. No comments, but she suspected her PR people had cleaned it up, as it was oddly barren.

What the hell was going on?

When she reached the kitchen, she asked Henry, “where’s Mal? I really need to talk to him right now.”

“Young Master Malcolm is in the living room watching television, I believe,” said Henry.

“Thanks—I think I’ll be skipping breakfast, I kinda lost my appetite on the way down,” explained Karen, turning to head towards the living room. Hearing how somebody wanted to use her little brother’s intestinal tract to lynch him didn’t really put her in the mood for sausage links.

Entering the living room, she saw Mal lounging on the couch in front of the TV with an insufferably calm look on his face, the dogs slumped across him. It seemed like he didn’t have a care in the world at the moment.

”Mal?”

”Morning, Sunshine.”

The boy in question responded in his usual way, though he didn’t turn to face her or wave- not due to anything she’d done of course, but rather because doing the former would’ve put his face in dangerously close proximity to the rear-end of the corgi that lay stretched over his shoulders while the latter would be next to impossible to pull off without waking Buttons, who’d opted to bury himself into his shoulder for a nap or disturbing Gwen, who was using his lap and hand as a pillow while very clearly only pretending to be asleep (made evident by the freakish gymnastic spasms her tail went into every time he so much as twitched).

Evidently, the Kasimir pups were still hellbent on making up for time lost cuddling.

”From your tone, I take it you’ve had a gander at Facebook recently?”

Karen frowned at his nonchalant tone, her eyes narrowing on the back of his head. ”You could say that, yeah—I had more than a hundred alerts worth of death threats, rape threats, and threats to do things I don’t even think you can do to a human body! And yours was even worse, somehow! What the hell’s going on?”

A little frown made it’s way across Mal’s face at that, as he extricated his arm from the border collie to his left’s grasp to pull Ker off his shoulders so he could actually turn and face the wizard, despite the immediate protests of the two canines (and the suspiciously smug sounding ‘Hmph!’ from the only one left undisturbed).

From the bags under his eyes, it was pretty clear he hadn’t gone to bed yet.

”Yeah… sorry about that. They really ran wild through my friends list for a while there… and there’s only so many people on there, so I guess they could take their time with it.” Malcolm stated with a light shake of his head followed by a sudden dodge right as a stubborn corgi leapt up to try and reclaim it’s throne. ”I can explain, but ya might wanna take a seat; It’s all kinda… really dumb.”

Karen glanced at the sofa, wondering if there actually was anywhere for her to sit. The dogs pretty well had everything occupied. Making her way over, she gently moved Buttons out of her way and took Buttloaf into her arms to stop him from squirming so much. His small, stubby tail waged excitedly.

”Fine, let’s hear it—why was everyone losing their shit last night?”

Mal frowned a little deeper at Karen’s tone, those freaky eyes of his looking her over as he was apt to do.

Accelerated heart-rate.

Slight straining of the adrenal glands.

A light depletion of the tear-ducts, she had either been about to cry, or actually had been crying earlier.

All of which painted a picture that made him feel like three kinds of an asshat in that exact moment. Something that clearly showed on his face as he turned his head to stare at the floor, even as he complied in the simplest way he could think of.

”GRIMCOM, bring up bodycam footage, Naught-Two-Two-Eight-Two-Six. Mark at Two-One-One-Five hours. Authentication; Sierra-Echo-Mike-Papa-Echo-Romeo-Foxtrot-India.” The boy all but mumbled at the television, which instantly cut away from the usual broadcast of ’Giant Robot Kung-fu: 2046’ to a still-image of the hors d'oeuvres table at the Imperial Gotham. ”Begin playback.”

Again, the boy went right back to being quiet. The only hint of whatever was going on inside that computer-like brain of his being how the massive mutt on his lap quietly began to snuggle closer.

But he did finally speak. Almost a whisper, though his face remained as stoic as ever when these things happened.

”...I really am sorry about all this, though.”

Karen quietly watched the ensuing chaos on the screen in utter silence. What started out as a simple charity event—boring, but harmless—soon devolved into a clusterfuck of jealousy-fueled rage, threats, and general fanaticism, all because Mal had spoken to some woman whom they were all apparently enraptured with.

Even Lady Arcana had never ensnared people so thoroughly as this woman. While, from what she could see, this “Aelia de Herlua” was indeed quite beautiful; the way they were acting was more akin to a slavish sort of worship than simple attraction.

Wincing slightly at the image of the blonde woman as she stepped out of view of the hors d’oeuvres table, Karen glanced over to her little brother. ”What’s she doing to them? Was it some form of magic charm?”

”As far as I could tell, yeah.” Mal responded matter-of-factly, settling back into his usual calm when at work. ”No pheromones, no chemicals, nothing really going on inside of her to indicate a metagene but…”

Mal stopped for minute, furrowing his brow a little as he scanned the image his eidetic memory brought up in his mind’s eye.

”...What was going on inside her was… wrong. Some… pulsing shit at her core-- kinda looked like you when you’re wearing a cloak and lightning bolts-- but it got more… disorderly as it spread out across her body.” The boy added, moving to stroke his chin with one hand, but switch to the other as Gwen locked her arms around the first. ”Even moreso when I started seeing it floating around in the heads of the rest of the party-goers.”

Another pause. The boy clicked his tongue in thought.

”...I got the impression she wasn’t aware of it, either.”

Karen paused, something in particular Mal said having caught in her ear like an annoying itch. She had still heard everything he had said, but that one particular thing had lingered with her. ”Mal, are you trying to tell me that you can see magic? Like, actually see it?”

How the hell had she not noticed that before now? They had worked together more than a few times these past five years, it seemed ridiculous that she wouldn’t have caught wind of that.

”I… guess?” Mal responded, cocking that famous Kasimir brow the whole while. ”It’s a little odd, but ever since I picked up that scrying stone to call you a while back, I’ve started seeing things in the background I’ve never really noticed before-- kinda like looking at an old photograph and suddenly catching something you missed; you know in your head it must’ve always been there, but it still changes how ya view it.”

As for an explanation as to how and why, the boy could only shrug.

”Don’t ask me how; I’m just as confused as you are.”

Karen flinched slightly when he mentioned the scrying stone, her mind racing back to his call on that day roughly two months prior. Glancing off into the distance, out the window at the far end of the living room, her shoulders slumped. ”I see… so it was back then that you started noticing?”

”Mal, I never really got around to saying it, but...I’m really sorry for how rude I was to you back there. I was just… really out of my head at the time. It really did feel like I was a different person entirely from, well, Karen,” she explained, chewing on the side of her lip as she often did when she felt awkward. It felt a bit strange drudging something like that up after so many weeks, but she’d only just recently realized how mean she had acted.

For a moment, Mal’s eyes simply shifted towards the infamous Kare-bear. Looking on stone-faced as she bore her little heart about it. Something clearly twitching at the back of his throat to get out, but quickly squashed back down just as swiftly as it had nearly arose as his eyes turned back to the television in silence.

”I’d be… I am a colossal hypocrite for pulling you away from your work.” The boy finally managed to get out, eyes still set away from the girl and his tone even. ”But I’m glad you actually heard me out all the same.”

His jaw tightened a little.

”Whatever... that was, wasn’t you- And I sure as shit didn’t want it to be.” He continued as his bag-ridden eyes finally turned back towards her, tone unusually soft for the hard glare he was giving her ”I’ve told you before; ‘Who we become when we forget who we are isn’t worth the sacrifice’. That’s not a lesson I’d ever want you-- or anyone-- to learn the hard way.”

A few seconds of silence followed that as the boy stared her down... until his free hand slowly rose into the air and flicked Karen right on the nose. Heralding the triumphant return of Mal’s characteristic cheeky grin.

”Mal I—buh!” Karen stopped, reaching up to rub her nose.

”So don’t worry about it, dumbass. I’ll live.”

Shaking her head, she settled back on the couch. Buttons was now slumped across her lap, so it was really all that she could do. Well, no, there was one other thing. Pulling her phone from her pocket, she opened chrome. ”...Let’s see if we can’t find out a little more about that woman.”

Searching for the name…

”Err, Mal? How the hell do you spell her name?”

”Fuck if I know, but with how she is with people, Google’ll probably give it to you just by typing in ‘A’”

Pursing her lips again, she typed the name out to the best of her abilities. It was, of course, quite wrong—and yet google still recognized it enough to autocorrect her. “Aelia de Herlua.”

”Told ya.”

Karen looked increasingly baffled as she read. ”So...she’s the daughter of this megacorp CEO. So what? Why is she so popular? Does she act as their public face here, or something?”

That’s when she noticed something in her original search—a video had been released about the assault at the charity event. It was, apparently, some kind of Public Service Announcement by that woman. ”Mal, look at this!”

Clicking on the link, the video began to play, with the woman’s face immediately at the front and center.

”Greetings, mo—err, citizens of Gotham City. I am Aelia de Herlua of Herlua Industries, and on behalf of my family and our company, I am here to condemn the senseless violence that took place yesterday at an event that was meant to commemorate those who bravely gave their lives during the One Week War.”

Hearing her speak, and seeing her clearly on screen, Karen had to admit she was certainly beautiful—but not to the point where she felt compelled to drool on her feet like many of the guests at the charity event nearly did.

”Firstly, we wish to issue a formal apology to Malcolm Talliron-Kasimir for the unfortunate events that transpired that evening. We in no way endorse the actions of Brian Lafayette, and our company will no longer conduct business with him or his estate,” she continued.

That was when Karen noticed it—the camera had started moving. Off her face, slowly, subtly. As she continued on about how opposed to violence she was, the camera found itself focused squarely on her chest. Aelia, seemingly oblivious to this at first, finally reached out to redirect the camera back to her face about a minute later.

Her lips now held a slightly terse frown as she spoke. ”The Kasimir family has often used their considerable wealth to pursue the betterment of mankind, and do not deserve the scorn that has been levied against them in these past twenty-four hours.

The camera then flashed to an image of her shapely ass without warning. ”Let us put aside our hateful words and come together to—oh, really now?”

The picture shook violently, the sounds of rustling being heard, and then the video ended abruptly.

A long silence followed that. Absent of even the sound of any of the gaggle of mammals on the couch breathing... as on by one, all the assembled canids on the sofa turned their eyes upward, toward Mal. Waiting. Somehow knowing what was coming.

”...What the fuck was that?”

"A mage. The exact wrong kind to get mixed up with, too."

Came a response that no one was actually expecting, echoing from all corners from the room... as the dormant embers in the fireplace on the far wall slowly began to glow, kindling forth a gentle flame that, by means beyond mortal comprehension, spoke with a voice that was powerful, but just as soothing as the soft crackling of the fire.

"Got a minute, son? We need to talk."

February 28th, 11:32PM
Kasimir Castle, Gotham City


“Are you sure you don’t want me to send Vincent to find him?”

”It’s fine, Malcolm can handle himself. Vincent is better put to task here - has he begun prepping the extra security?”

“Of course, Miss Kasimir.”

”Excellent. I’m going to go start up the Reporter Buster.”

“Please don’t, Miss Kasimir, that could be considered threatening.”

”What is the point of buying an old WW2 tank if not to threaten reporters?!”

“... Please, Miss Kasimir.”

The desperation clung to Nicole’s words as she eyed her employer, though Zoey for her part had her gaze plastered to her phone - the one that wasn’t embellished with a symbol of Grim. The young woman beside her had the data pad poised, no doubt ready to send missives as needed - or to bid the Kasimir Head of Security to come and talk their mutual boss down from doing something stupid.

As though it would help when it came to her sons.

… Son.

”Have you already contacted our media contact?” Nicole quickly buried her nose into her datapad, nodding quickly.

“Yes, and I assume Miss Jasper has sent you word?”

”Of course. Everything is taken care of on that end.”

“Great.” A few moments passed, silence between the two women. Nicole occasionally glanced up over her datapad, obviously wanting to say something. Finally Zoey sighed, lifting her gaze to ask Nicole what was bothering her - but before she could say anything, Nicole blurted it all out in a rush. “You’re taking this very well, considering, Miss Kasimir.”

Zoey blinked her steel-blue eyes, and after a moment dropped her gaze back to her phone.

”I’ll do better once Malcolm is home safe and sound.”

“Of course, Miss Kasimir.”




Meanwhile...


”Ah, Master Malcolm, dignified as ever I see...”

To Malcolm’s credit, he at least attempted to give his personal butler perfectly unflappable statement something resembling a witty retort… but, well, there was an awful lot of dog between the two of them at the moment. His ‘pooch’, Gwen-- a mutt of what appeared to be a coywolf and some kinda massive black dog-- had known he was coming home before Sasha’s little Corolla had made it around the turn off towards the castle (as she always seemed to) and parked her keister down in front of the door (as she always did) signalling the other two Kasimir hounds, Buttons-- fuzzy master of begging for table scraps and going too fucking fast-- and Ker-- the biggest belly-rub slut to have ever strut around on four stubby legs-- to form up beside her (as they always had) to sit and await their mark.

They had the boy on the ground and covered in fur and dog-slobber before his hand had even left the doorknob. So instead, all the Englishman got was a strained muffle that somehow managed to sound bitingly sarcastic all the same.

Business as usual in the castle, all things considered.

”Evenin’ Alec.” Mal finally managed to get out only after removing the overly-affectionate corgi from his face and putting Buttons in a gentle headlock to keep the pooch from continuing to accidentally head-butt him over and over again. ”You would not believe the night I’m having.”

”Does it have anything to do with all the death threats you and your mother have been receiving via telephone for the past two hours?” The greying east-ender inquired even as he reached forward to help the boy lever himself out from underneath the massive coywolfdog that clearly had no interest in letting the lad go without a furious struggle-snuggle. ”...And why I’ve spent most of my night off on the roof in the pouring rain with a loaded Barret?”

The Kasimir ward had the decency to pause at that, even as he finally managed to get himself free for a few seconds, only for Gwen to jump up, lock her forelegs around over his shoulders and begin drowning him in ‘mlems’.

”Weeell, I did nearly get lynched by an angry mob less than twenty minutes in because I dared to mention the weather to some rich lady instead of immediately kissing her ass and then had to take down Discount Enrique Iglesias on my way out the door soo…” Mal explained as the big, cuddly monstrosity in his arms finally settled for nuzzling into his shoulder instead of assailing his face with affection. ”...Maybe?”

The two just stared at eachother as the sheer lunacy of that statement hung in the air for a full minute of silence that went undisturbed by even the dogs.

”Master Malcolm, with all due respect... what the hell?




Though Malcolm tried his level-best to at least try to be somewhat quiet and inconspicuous with his entrance into the Grotto, the trio of panting, jubilant dogs that had been deprived of his company for over a month and refused to let him out of their sight handily made that a futile endeavour.

Why was he trying so hard not to draw attention to himself? Well, part of it was just force of habit- Living as he did and doing what he did made him subconsciously walk with an almost silent gait at all times anyhow… but having had a clear view of his Mum’s heartrate all the way down here made him just… slightly more conscious about it than usual.

The fact that he’d been watching her fuel up and prep a fucking refurbished and clearly modernized M18 Hellcat the entire time didn’t really help.

Zoey Kasimir tended to get a little… extreme when her kids were involved.

...Well, her kid.

This was going to be a fun talk.

Clearing his throat to make his presence known (with just a bit of unease that Buttons immediately picked up on and began reassuring him with a few licks to the hand), the boy said only two words.

”Evenin’, Ma.”

As soon as the words left Malcolm’s mouth, his mother did the inevitable and stilled. It was only for a second, but that was all it took. Zoey carefully extracted herself from the the final check ups on the Hellcat, her once pristine white shirt having the cuffs rolled up and smeared with grease. When she turned, her steel-blue gaze falling on Malcolm, something visibly loosened in her posture.

”Malcolm,” For a moment the relief was naked in her voice, and she abruptly strode forward, the grease-smeared hands falling to his shoulders as she checked him over. ”I shouldn’t even ask knowing you, but you are alright?”

For his part, Mal… well, even though he knew a verbal ass-kicking was inbound, couldn’t help the characteristic little grin that crept across his face as his mother began fussing over him in the usual fashion, as his hands instinctively found his way to hers, giving them a little squeeze.

”I’m fine Ma.” The boy stated simply, giving a little chuckle as he gently removed her hands from his shoulders. ”Gonna take a bit more than a pop-star out of his mind on cocaine and magic to put me down.”

Of course, in all the warm fuzziness of that deeply primordial, instinctual response to his foster-mom’s worries… it took a half-second for his mind to suddenly catch up to him and begin screaming directly into his psyche, though he showed no outward signs of any of the blind panic suddenly firing through his head.

His right hand. His right hand which had been in bandages since before he’d even gotten on the boat home… was now holding his mom’s.

This was a bit of a bad time to have that conversation.

”So, uhh… when did we get a Tank Destroyer?” Mal asked, cool as a cucumber as his hands promptly released hers, or at least went to.

”Five years ago, when those leeches were harassing us.” Zoey didn’t have to say which incident specifically. They both knew. However rather than linger on it the billionaire had brought her son’s arm forward, insistent though not forceful as she examined the bandages. She muttered softly, taking in the material, the sit of them against his skin, even gently touching it in her investigation.

”So,” Zoey straightened, looking down at her youngest son and raising the ever perfected Kasimir brow that her boys had inherited, the one she was always so secretly pleased to see reflected back at her on Malcolm’s face. ”These are a few hours old, if I’m correct? Perhaps from before that little party?” The brow crept ever higher.

”Malcolm Talhaiarn-Kasimir, do I need to assign a bodyguard to you?”

A low sigh escaped the boy.

Omission was one thing, but he would never lie to his mother. Nevermind to her face like this.

”It’s… not from a fight if that’s what you’re wondering…” Mal responded truthfully, though still dancing around the subject ”A friend of mine from Orin’s turf took me out for ‘Survival Day’ on the eleventh. It’s like their thanksgiving- Only with more partying and a lot more alcohol. Makes it hard for even a guy with a brain like mine to remember exact details.”

He paused and bit his lip, trying to find a proper of putting this. Zoey’s eyebrow couldn’t raise any higher.

”And during that I sorta… agreed to participate in an old Atlantean ritual...”

At that, he cleared his throat a little, being just a little uncomfortable.

This was probably going to be unpleasant.

A crimson eyebrow twitched.

”Malcolm,” Zoey began, slower and more delicate than was probably necessary. Her eyes flicked, searching her son’s face before she cleared her throat. ”... Did you get someone pregnant?”

”Wait, what? No, no, no… God no!”

”Orin always has so many people hanging off him, I assumed that it was just part of Atlantean Culture! And you know, if you did you could tell me-”

”I mean, the complete absence of personal space is bu- guh- fffff-!” Mal growled, sputtered and groaned his way through trying correct his Ma, growing increasingly red in the face. A rare treat, for anyone that actually knew him. ”It’s just… gaaaah!”

The boy took a second to breathe out one long exhale to catch his thoughts. Even while quietly admiring his mother’s astonishing ability to be the only person on the face of the goddamn planet he’d met so far to be able to put him in this kind of state.

”...I didn’t get married. And I certainly didn’t get anyone pregnant... It’s just a little... well, it’s complicated. But it’s not anything like that.”

Another sigh escaped Zoey, more than a little relief tinged there. She didn’t think it had to be said that she would adore any grandchild brought to her… but she’d at least like to meet the mother first.

Giving one more gentle pat to Malcolm’s hand, Zoey withdrew.

”Sit with me please, Malcolm.” The redhead pulled over one of the mechanics benches strewn around the room -where else would she put a tank than with the rest of the cars after all? She sat, crossing her legs and humming thoughtfully as her gaze drifted upward, collecting her thoughts.

”Malcom,” She finally began, the care taken to picking her words obvious, ”I know I haven’t exactly been a perfect mother. That I can be overbearing, and I’m sure you’ve found nearly all of the trackers I’ve slipped on you, let alone those I just asked you to carry for my peace of mind.” Zoey trailed off for a moment, clearing her throat.

”But I don’t do this because I don’t trust you, or that I think you’re incompetent. You’re growing into a fine young man that doesn’t need your mother hovering over your shoulder. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever stop worrying over you - whether I know what you’re doing or not. The instant I met you I knew you’d always be in danger’s way. You have the same thirst for justice that I do.”

Zoey paused, raising a hand up to rub at her brow and swipe the back of her hand against her forehead - leaving yet another long smear of grease across her pale skin.

”What I’m trying to say, Mal, is that you don’t have to tell me what’s going on in your life if you don’t want to. I’ll worry over you just the same. I just want you to know if you ever need another person, to back you up or just be there for you, your mother will always be here for you.”

Despite the usual self-control he took so much pride in, Malcolm couldn’t help the sharp intake of breath that followed his mother’s words.

He suddenly felt… kind of like an asshole. And for the first time in a long time, at a loss about what to do.

At first, he just stood there, clenching and unclenching his fist out of habit as he bit down a little on his lip… then sat down right beside his mother to do exactly the same thing in a new position… with the addition of his other hand now beginning to lightly rap it’s fingers on the surface of their little bench.

Then with a little exhale, he did something that was fairly new- Gently looping his arm around Zoey’s shoulder and pulling her into a sort of half-hug with their shoulders touching and her head resting slightly against his (due to her still having a few inches of height on him) as he softly stroked the top of her head.

Just as she had done for him when he was a boy.

Then, finally there was truth.

”A year and a half ago, when I went under the sea with Vanguard after Orin’s kingdom basically tore itself a new asshole. I followed my mandate; doled out supplies, cared for the sick and wounded, pulled people out of the rubble… all that fun stuff that found it’s way into the news cycle.” Mal began, pausing for a moment to collect his thoughts on the matter with a little click of his tongue before continuing ”...But the longer I stayed down there, the harder I worked the more I… saw... the more I got involved.”

The boy’s hand fell from his mother’s hair to gently drop down on her shoulder, as his computer-like brain went into overdrive trying to sift through his eidetic memory and put the sensations, the hows and the whys within into a comprehensible sentence.

”Started simple enough at first- Letting Orin know whenever I saw something bad about to happen. That evolved into occasionally defusing bombs left behind by Meraists that clearly didn’t get the memo about the surrender and then, well…” The boy started again, face screwed up in an almost comical expression as he wracked his brain for a explanation that would at least sound somewhat sane… before finally slacking as he just got to the bloody point. ”Stuff happened, one thing led to another and at some point I was quietly inducted into the Argonauts-- A branch of the Altantean Special Forces-- under the name ‘Mako’”

At that the boy released his mother’s shoulder and sat up just a little straighter, hands folded in his lap and head facing straight ahead.

”Essentially, I became a weird mixture of knight, cop and commando… and honestly, I was pretty fucking good at it.” Mal finished up his long winding explanation, slowly unwrapping the bandages around his hand. ”So much so that when I went back down there to actually go to school and wound up back in the thick of it, one of my old teammates asked me to stay down there- To settle down and make a career out of it. I honestly thought about it, but knew where my place was, so...”

Finally, the boy turned his head to his mother again and offered her his now-exposed hand… with the still-healing brand of a skull clenching a dagger in it’s teeth, surrounded by a band of Atlantean writing topped by the royal trident burned into his palm.

”She decided that if I wasn’t going to stay in Atlantis, a bit of Atlantis would come back with me… and, well, those people love their symbolism.”

Throughout Malcolm’s entire explanation Zoey remained quiet, letting him get everything off his chest. When he finally revealed the still healing mark on his hand however she let out a sharp inhale, her hands raising to cup her son’s, long fingers gently touching the mark seared into his skin as though testing how bad it was. A few moments of silence passed as the older of the two soaked up the information just given to her, digesting and rolling it around in her mind. Finally she raised the hand that had been tracing the mark, pressing her thumb and pointer finger to the bridge of her nose.

”Well. That’s certainly… a lot.” Zoey muttered, taking in a deep breath and gathering her thoughts, much like Malcolm had before her. Another moment passed. ”I can’t say I’m particularly happy about it,” The billionaire finally confessed, only to straighten out and look at her son, despite how he continued to stare straight ahead.

”But I am happy that you trusted me enough to tell me, Malcolm. Bombs, spies, brands … I was expecting you to get a tattoo to show your wild side in college. Not … participate in a warrior’s engagement ceremony with someone I’ve never met. Is she nice?”

Mal gave a little snort at that.

”Bit taller than you, drinks twice as much, has literal shark teeth but a beautiful smile, three consecutive Pankration championship belts hanging on her wall, an amazing singing voice, and…

Mal leaned toward his mother slightly, fixing her with a comically serious expression that slowly melted into a cheeky little grin.

”...If I married a woman like that, ya really think I’d be doing anything but dancing around the place like a happy idiot?”

Zoey snorted lightly in return, smaller and more feminine - as much as the action could be. Well-bred manners, and all that.

”I suppose you have me there.” She noted, before sighing. The laughter that might’ve been building melted off of her, and the redhead sighed as she ran her hand across her face. ”Malcom,” Zoey began again, pausing to gather her words. It was a lot to process.

”... Can you at least take a tracker out when you do this? The one that tracks your vitals?”

Malcolm sighed a little at that, but acquiesced.

”Sure Mom, but, well… I don’t think I’m going back down there again.” The younger Kasimir explained, scratching the back of his head a little in thought. ”I really had to put a lot of thought into turning that offer down. If I go back to Atlantis and get back to it-- because you damn well know I would-- I don’t think I’d be able to say ‘No’ again.”

A little shake of the boy’s head followed that, followed by a little chuckle as he began to wrap his hand back up again.

”And my place is here. Always will be.”

”... I’m glad, Malcolm. Even if you go off and become the next Grim, you’ll always be my little boy. Half-drowned and all.”




Half an Hour Later…


Beep. Beep. Beep…

ORIN. What the fuck have you been letting my son get up to?!”

February 28th; 7:46PM
A Traffic Jam on the Avalon Expressway


Sasha Jericho was not happy... Then again that was probably to be expected of any Bludhaven Cop stuck on the Avalon Expressway performing a task doubtlessly considered profane, if not outright heretical in her hometown-

Driving to Gotham.

Or at least, trying to through the usual unrelenting sea of dumbasses and lunatics that usually found themselves parked, screaming and generally losing their minds behind the wheel on the only direct route to her destination that didn't involve a lengthy trip through the mainland across Bristol County on roads that were pretty consistent in their shittiness. Even before a bunch of Greek Gods and magical monsters had tried to kill them all.

A low, seething growl escaped the woman as she gripped the steering wheel of her old beater with all the barely restrained contempt for the rest of the people trapped on that aging amalgam of crumbling concrete and rusting steel hanging precariously over the Freaking Atlantic Ocean with her.

'Not happy' might've been a bit of an understatement.

She was absolutely livid.

Though to be fair, it was only partially the fault of the raging sea of bumper-to-bumper traffic and roadrage that surrounded her.

No, it was the why.

Why was she sitting here on this bridge, garbed up in her stuffy dress uniform, in the shitbox car she hated, on the bridge she loathed, driving to a place she despised? Because there was a charity event held every year in Gotham (because of course it would be), and after five years of dodging her bosses attempts to get her there, she had finally run out of excuses.

And why specifically did she need to be there? Because it was a charity event for veterans of the One Week War, because the Bludhaven Police Department was flat broke and really needed some goddamn money if it wanted to keep paying out the pensions and disability claims that little craptastrophy had left the force and because, as she was... gently told, her face evoked sympathy.

...Which was a real gentle way of saying some crazed bird-lady had scooped her eye (and some of her brain) out of it's socket and she somehow didn't fucking die.

Real gentle.

A low sigh escaped her as her head lightly thumped into the steering wheel, which was going unused in all of this gridlock anyway.

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE...!

"...God fucking dammit."

If there wasn't at least some free drinks at this little shindig, she was going to fucking snap.




February 28th; 9:26PM
Parking Lot, Imperial Gotham Hotel, Gotham City


It took two hours.

Many detours.

And a whole hell of a lot screaming at her GPS, but Sasha had finally made it.

...Now if she could just work up the nerve to step out of her car, march her six-foot-two self through the rain, inside and upstairs, she could actually get this over with.

As it stood however, she was apparently content to sit there in absolute silence, save for the sound of the strained breathing through her clenched teeth and the slight, rubbery squeaking as the rubber of the steering-wheel voiced it's protest against the white-knuckled grip of her hands.

Going to the Station, doing her job, being out in the public eye was one thing... but going to a party full of rich dickheads in Gotham for the sole purpose of being gawked at and pitied was... Well, that was another thing entirely.

She bit down on her lip. Hard.

The Law-woman wasn't sure whether or not she was grateful that this big, fancy hotel apparently didn't have a valet or someone to take her car.

Partly because it gave her en excuse to sit here, wait and/or waste time looking for a parking spot.

Partly because she was pretty sure she was about to have a fucking anxiety attack, and she'd rather not have to deal with that right now. Here. In front of a hotel absolutely bustling with the local media in a city she was raised to abhor.

A cold sweat overtook her, as her forehead once again found itself pressed against the steering wheel.

'Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck...'

-Tap! Tap! Tap!-

"FUCK!"

Instantly, her heart launched itself halfway up her throat and damn near took the rest of her vertically with it, her seatbelt clearly being the only thing that kept her from ramming her own skull into the roof of her car as she turned her one good eye, wide and wild with panic to the source of this interloping sound, and found...

Malcolm Fucking Kasimir. Standing at her passenger window.

A moment passed in complete silence, the scarred boy standing there, unflinching and unmoving. Her frozen in place, with what she imagined was an absolutely hilarious expression as she sat there and tried to remember how to breathe.

...Eventually, she found the will to push the button on her arm-rest that lowered the barrier between them. But not quite enough to actually say anything to the world's toughest teenager that stared right back at her with a still unmoving, completely calm expression.

"...You alright, Officer?"

"Yes."

She answered reflexively. Curtly even. Not to offend the lad, of course- he'd always seemed a good sort with all that charity and humanitarian work he and his mom had been doing these past five years in Gotham, Blud and everywhere in between up to and including the bottom of the goddamn Ocean. But, well...

If she didn't want to be seen by anybody in her current state, the kid was exactly the wrong kind of person to be around right now.

To her credit, the boy seemed to accept that response; cocking a brow, pursing his lips and nodding along.

"Bullshit."

The boy's tone carried little room for argument; and despite their difference in station, adult and youth, Officer and civilian... she found herself at a loss for words.

'...Shit.'

She'd heard the kid had a way of reading people.

The famous and famously scarred teenager seemed ready to continue his interrogation, when he abruptly paused mid-thought, head suddenly perking up and tilting to the side slightly as if he was listening for something.

That was a relief.

The fact that the 'something' the boy had apparently been listening for was some snappily-dressed figure with a ludicrous blonde pompadour that came barreling out of the hotel and across the parking lot towards them screaming and holding a kitchen-knife was slightly... less so.

Time seemed to slow as adrenaline and years of training kicked in, outright overriding her previous anxiety. One hand went right to her gun as she barked at her hither-to interrogator to get the fuck out of the way... which the teen simply ignored, calmly turning on the spot and casually lifting his hands out of his pockets. Snarling, Sasha clicked off her seatbelt and groped around for the door handle with her free hand, hissing and swearing at how difficult this simple action had become since she'd lost her depth perception and the peripheral vision to one side of her head, finally giving up and breaking her eye away from what was going on to find the damned thing.

No sooner had she finally extricated herself from her automobile, gun drawn and ready to go in a matter of seconds that felt almost painfully like hours did she find... Malcolm. Standing over his would-be assailant apparently none the worse for wear as he calmly adjusted his tie as if nothing had happened at all.

Which she found just a little odd, considering his would-be assailant was now laying on the ground, groaning and crying a little as he covered his clearly broken nose with his free hand.

His other? Pinned to his ass. With his own knife.

A moment of silence followed that particular little visual bombshell. Until she finally found herself again.

"So, uhh... you alright?"

"Yup. You?"

"Fuckin' Peachy."

Another beat of silence over the whimpering of the man on the ground followed that. The whirlwind of lunacy this night had become in a heartbeat apparently taking a bit to fully process in what was left Sasha's brain, ruling out any possibility of a sensible series of words for it.

The boy, on the other hand, seemed to have a much easier time of it.

"We should probably leave"

"...What?"

That brought her screeching back to reality as she suddenly stood upright and finally holstered her weapon as she walked over.

"Kid. I just witnessed an attempted murder. Now, my jurisdiction or not, I'm still a Cop and-"

"So are they." The boy stated calmly but with a little more force now, thumbing up towards the window of the second floor... where she found, among the crowd of people who stood glued to it, an assortment of GCPD suits staring right back down at them, faces twisted in a collection of expressions that seemed to read... abject disappointment.

"Okay, what the hell?"

A sentiment that only grew as her eyes fell to the ground to look upon their would-be assassin.

Though perhaps for a different reason.

"Okay, what the hell?"
February 28th; 7:34 PM
Deck of the RAS Nautilus, Approaching Gotham City Harbour


”Gotham. Thank Christ.”

A trio of words Malcolm honestly never thought he’d ever find himself saying out loud, yet here he was- Stood on the observation deck of the now-surfaced Atlantean transport as it made it’s final approach to the sprawling metropolis that was his adoptive home, which slowly rose up on the horizon like some big ugly mass of light and smog.

His father would lose his mind if he’d ever heard him utter that.

The twelve-hour voyage had been… much less eventful this time around; given the option of staying in the city where they were almost all old enough to legally drink and party with impunity or spending half a day in a claustrophobic tin-can racing through the crushing depths of the ocean to visit their parents, most students were quite emphatically in favour of the former, making for a somewhat quieter ride back to the surface. Sure, he had his usual celebrity things to deal with, a few selfies here, an awkward conversation with someone there but it was downright mild compared to the trip down when the Nautilus was absolutely filled to bursting with young adults who’d seen his face pasted all over magazines, television and the internet for the past six years.

Not to say he wasn’t known by the people below the surface, mind you, but that was… different.

He tenderly rubbed at the bandages on his right hand at that thought.

Very different.

Still, with home now in view at least, it would probably be a good idea to make sure the groggy, grumpy seasick beast that’d followed him all the way here was actually awake and not snoring loudly and open-mouth drooling all over her seat like she was when he’d left her in their cabin a few hours back.

A cursory glance behind him through the ship’s hull confirmed that, yes, that was indeed something he’d have to take care of.

’God… dammit, Karen.’ The boy thought with just a slight twitch of his brow and a hint of dread.

His sister in all but name was emphatically not a morning person. At least not in a big damned submarine, anyway.




”Karen...”

Nothing.

”Hey, Karen.”

Still nothing.

He felt his brow twitch a little, just slightly annoyed at the drooling, snoring mess of a girl before him he’d spent the past seven minutes and thirty-four seconds trying to politely wake before reaching out and grasping her shoulders in the most… genial way possible.

”Hey. Bubble-Pop. Ruck the fuck up”.

...And gave her a not-so-genial shaking.

”Ngghh…” groaned Karen, one eye half-opening to glare at him irritably. ”Wha…? What is it?”

Raising a sleeve, she drowsily wiped the drool from her chin and shook her head. It seemed to take her a moment to remember where exactly she was, her eyes briefly darting about the cabin she had been seated in. When she caught sight of the rain outside, a look of relief overcame her formerly grouchy face.

”We’re here, finally!” she said, standing from her seat. Stretching no small number of pops and cracks out of her body, she stepped around Mal to leave. ”Come on, I need some fresh air—even if it’s Gotham air.”

At this, Mal just slightly shook his head but followed behind all the same. Stuffing his hands into his pockets as he went.

”Y’know, ya might’ve wanted to mention that sea-travel didn’t agree with ya.”

Karen shot him a sharp glance, ducking under the bulkhead—after grabbing her bag— as she exited the cabin for the airlock. ”I didn’t know that sea-travel didn’t agree with me. I’ve honestly never traveled under sea as...well, like this before.”

”Did you bring an umbrella, or do I have to try and conjure one?” Karen asked him.

At all that sass, Mal just snorted at Karen and pulled a fold-out model produced by his mom’s company from his coat’s inner pocket.

”Of course, Your Highness...” He sassed right back at her, in his typically ‘Malcolm-ish’ way. ”...Wouldn’t want a bit of acid rain ruining all that bed-head you’ve got going on there.”

Karen stepped under the umbrella and nodded for him to continue walking. ”Honestly, I’m so sick to my stomach right now that my hair’s the very least of my concerns. I dread stepping back on that thing in a week.”

Being unable to simply teleport to wherever she wanted to go had apparently been quite the jarring experience for her after all these years. Having to travel like a normal person was quite new to her.

”Hopefully this feeling wears off quickly,” she continued to grumble.

”Well, we could just use the teleporter in the Grotto next time.” Mal stated with extremely well-concealed mirth as he calmly zipped up his coat and started up the stairs to the airlock. ”...If you’re so opposed to conventional travel, that is.”

”It depends—how opposed are you to me projectile vomiting in your face?” asked Karen with equal mirth.

”Whaddaya think the umbrella’s for?”




The harbour was, as could be imagined. Wet. Very wet. Owing to both the rough seas hammering against it’s edge and the typical Gotham ‘welcome’ of thunder, lightning and a shitton of rain.

Also, the traffic, if just how long it was taking their ride to arrive was any indication, Malcolm mused as he stood there under the glass ceiling of the passenger pick up area, with the hood of his coat still pulled up after having left the umbrella for Karen’s use, having been just a tad more prepared for the local weather then she was, apparently.

Still, it was nice to be back above the waves and breathing non-recycled air for a change— even if it was filled with that famously polluted Gotham stink that warred incessantly with that of the raging seawater up the pier behind them.

If one could even be bothered registering that with all the cacophony lights and sounds that had become the Gotham waterfront in the Post-War years, where even in this weather, businesses, merchants and people of all types- legal to questionable- from all types of places- near, far and downright strange- went about their nightly routine without even a hint of slowing down-

Some Chinese guy, an Italian and what was clearly a goddamned Minotaur in business wear stood on the corner under an awning, drunk as all hell trying and failing to sing Auld Lang Syne and to get anyone who passed by them to join in on the fun. Or maybe just teach them the words. Either or.

A harpy that a more fight-ready part of his mind recognized as being suspiciously similar in appearance to one that broke into his mom’s place and tried to kill them six years ago stumbled out of a bar, caught sight of him and staggered across the street to make a… frankly disarmingly bad attempt at either picking him up or picking a fight— hard to tell around that shitfaced slur— before being gently shooed away by an Atlantean Marine who’d also been on the Nautilus to see the surface on his leave days.

Something he did often enough, apparently, that when he entered that very same pub that harpy had just left, he was greeted with a thundering cheer (and at least one thrown bottle to the face) audible even from across the street.

Right before someone was abruptly ejected from that same pub via the window, to even more cheering, before being helped back to his feet and led back inside for another round as if this was just another daily occurrence and some Magi patron within pieced the window back together with his magic mojo.

Average weekend on the Gotham Waterfront after the One Week War, all things concerned.

With a little chuckle, even in the midst of all this thunder and rain and madness, Mal had to admit-

’It’s good to be home.’

But still, it’d be better to be dry and out of this damned rain, he’d have to admit as his eyes went back to scanning the proverbial horizon for that damned car again.

”That accident on Fifth and Wayne finally cleared up.” The boy finally spoke to the girl beside him, eyes locking onto something in the distance. ”Won’t be too long now.”

Karen quirked a brow at her brother, frowning. ”Are you already looking to jump back into things? We haven’t even been back for an hour..”

Though, in reality, her objections might have simply been due to her current inability to contribute much to the hero scene. At the moment, she was simply normal homo magi—and not a particularly powerful one, either. If she went out trying to fight crime as she was, there was little doubt that she would get badly hurt, if not killed.

”All I want right now is some of Henry’s food,” said Karen, referring to Zoey’s private chef. ”I love Atlantean food, nothing compares to Henry’s cooking.”

”’Back into things…?’” Mal snorted in response with a little shake of his head. ”Karen, if the past month has taught ya anything the past six years somehow haven’t, it’s that the fight never ends. Regardless of where I am.”

And, turning his head to fix the blonde with a little smile that was both rueful and somehow… almost relieved, he added-

”And it never will.”

Though, before that particular avenue of discussion could be fleshed out further, their ride finally arrived, kicking up no small amount of water as it came to a stop in front of the passenger shelter.

”Well, looks like you get your wish, Karen. Henry’s always had a soft spot for ya, so he’s probably been frantically cooking up a feast ever since I called ahead last night and said you were coming.”

The boy stated with a little laugh; truth be told, Henry had a soft spot for everyone who ate his food, but Karen seemed to get just a bit more in the way of portions for reasons he was pretty sure had everything to do with her systematically de-hooliganizing her pseudo-brother over the past few years. Something the high-class chef was more than a little grateful for.

”...So, shall we?”
Backroom, Argos Gymnasium
February 10th, 3:33 P.M.


A small part of him had hoped the quick shower would’ve helped him come up with some way of even trying to broach this particular topic. A smaller, but louder part of him wished he’d climbed out the damned window and made a run for it.

But all the same, there sat Mal, now all squeaky clean and not smelling like ass, cross-legged in his computer chair in his little storage-room turned (surprisingly tidy) home. Staring straight down at the bloody ground, that metahuman brain of his running about a million miles per second trying to figure a way out of just what he’d gotten himself into.

But there he sat, unmoving.

Uncomfortable, yes. But unmoving.

”So, uhh… yeah.” Mal finally (failed to) start, clearing his throat. ”Just, err… I’m not exactly sure where to start…”

”Well, with things like this, it’s usually best to start at the beginning, right?” said Karen, smirking.

Mal raised a brow at her for that, but said nothing. Simply settling on fixing the girl with a cold glare for a few seconds before nodding along.

”...Alright, fine. You’d need the context anyway.”

Shutting his eyes (a useless gesture for the boy, but a natural impulse all the same) and leaning back in his chair to mull over the words in his head for a few seconds, Mal finally got started.

”Well, to start, if we’re going from the beginning, I should probably tell you that I’ve never actually met my real parents.” The boy stated neutrally, finding a spot on the ceiling to focus in on for this little bout of storytime. ”My Dad, or the guy who became my Dad, actually found my still soggy, newborn ass out in a dumpster behind a biker bar and across the road from a Denny’s in the middle of a blizzard seventeen years ago.”

Just the tiniest hint of a grin formed on Mal’s face at the mention of his old man, but he continued nonetheless.

”He was a good guy, Jack Talhaiarn; homeless, old, freezing his balls off… but the first thing he does when he finds a naked newborn baby, screaming in a pile of trash, is decide that he’s not gonna let him die.” Mal explained, that little smile of his growing wider. ”You’d’ve liked him, I think. A weird blend of Marine and teddy-bear, he was; Strong, tough... built like a fucking tank, in fact. But always calm, controlled… understanding... and more kind and giving than a man who lived in a fucking alley really ought to be.”

Karen smiled at this. Memories of some of the kinder individuals she had met in The Wedge pushed their way to the surface. They were odd ones, truthfully, given the hellhole that they lived in. But then, she had always been told that she was a strange one as well. Maybe, for some people, being forced to endure terrible situations just made them want to soar ever higher.

”He sounds like a pretty awesome guy to have for a dad,” she said. Certainly better than her own had been.

Mal grinned in a nostalgic way as he continued to stare up at the ceiling.

”That he was... Not to say he was all soft, mind you; when I screwed up, he wasn’t above a little cuff up the back the head and an old-fashioned military talking to. When he was teaching me how to read, or fight or generally do anything goddamn useful, he made sure I actually learned, whether I wanted to or not. And I’ll admit, there were a few times where I was being a little shit and wanted to do anything but.” The scarred teen reminisced, a a slight chuckle escaping his throat. ”But he always had my back- I never doubted that for a second- and any time I was actually in trouble, it was my Old Man I could always turn to to save the day.”

Another little silence followed that, as Mal found himself in his own head with a weirdly (for him) kiddish grin now downright splitting his face as he sat there, still staring up at the ceiling.

”Of course, he had some help along the way raising my little hooligan ass, there were the Mikhailovich boys… didn’t speak a lick of English between ‘em ‘cept what they needed to insult eachother, but could MacGuyver damn near anything from nothing. My Aunt Lin who could make a feast outta whatever you could grab out of a trash-can, a few others...”
The rambling teen paused again, eyes flicking back toward fully one half of his current ‘family’ in the midst of all this rambling about his last.

”I learned a lot growing up as a kid who technically didn’t exist in the eyes of the government... Hell, I was speaking at least five languages, by the time I was four. Kind of a necessity growing up as I did… but it was a good life- rough at times mind you- but good.”

Karen had listened quietly at his described his early life with his father. Given that he had arguably had it even worse than she had in The Wedge, it felt a little silly for her to be jealous over their relationship. Especially since common sense would dictate that their time together did not last…

She wasn’t about to rush him to that point, however—better to let him enjoy his happy walk down memory lane for as long as it would last.

”Four languages is a lot for anyone to know,” she noted. ”Especially when you’re that young.”

”Yeah… well, ya absorb a lot when you’re young and surrounded by it constantly. Or maybe I was just a bright kid, even before my brain got kicked into high-gear, I dunno…” Mal agreed with a little laugh and a smile… that grew just a little bit rueful as it wound down, slowly being supplanted by a particularly grim expression. ”But I’m talking yer ear off ‘bout crap that doesn’t really matter anymore. I should get back on topic.”

The boy shuffled in his seat, clearly uncomfortable about this next bit. But continued all the same… but only after a long pause and averting his eyes away again.

”The night before I turned eleven, me and the rest of the alley kids were all sitting around the fire listening to my dad playing Cash on an old guitar we found a while back and MacGuyver’d back into working order. The Slav Twins were screaming at eachother, while working on something in their corner, Lin was cooking up something while humming along with whatever my dad was playing, I had my ol’ dog ‘Fleabag’ in my lap and Lin’s daughter-- who I remember having a pretty massive crush on-- huddled up next ta me for warmth. All in all, a happy night in the mind of Lil’ Boy Me.”

He had to pause again.

Now came the hard part.

”I remember… Fleabag suddenly got really antsy. And suddenly everyone got real quiet… Mal continued, clearly struggling a bit to speak as his hand unconsciously drifted it’s way towards the burns on his shoulder. ”I remember turning around and seeing this… thing that sort of looked like a person shambling towards us. Some guy who’d been so badly burned, his skin was still bubbling, even as it was falling off in chunks at his feet.”

Malcolm leaned back in his chair again, swallowing hard.

”And then he showed up… this huge guy in a mask who looked at that other guy, then at the rest of us... and started giggling.” The boy told, possibly not aware of the absolute, vice-like grip his free hand had on his knee as he spoke, an unreadable but unpleasant look forming on his face as he seemed to be trying to bore a hole in the wall off to the side of them by his glare alone. ”And then he levelled his flamethrower at us.”

That glare slowly turned it’s way towards Karen, not relenting in the slightest.

”I can’t remember much of what happened after that--I think I hit my head on the ground when my dad snatched me up when he saw the flames coming--But what I do remember is all the screaming, the smell and waking up under what was left of my Dad and anyone I’d ever cared about the next morning.”

A little shiver of something went up Mal’s spine as he leaned forward finally, seemingly drilling a hole into Karen’s eyes with his own as he did so.

”...Does that answer your question?”

Karen returned his stare for only the briefest of moments before pulling him out of the chair and into the tightest embrace she had yet to give him—which was really saying something for a notorious cuddlebug like herself. Rocking in place for what must have been at least a minute of silence, she slowly released him. There wasn’t really anything she could say that would be an adequate response to everything she had just been told.

The only thing she could think to do was tell him about her own experiences.

”...Nothing so horrible ever happened to anyone I knew personally. The closest for me was that boy, Timothy, or those people eight months ago, she explained, trying not to focus on either of them too deeply at the moment. ”I was spared from seeing my mother’s death first hand, but I heard the gunshots that killed her from our home while she was on her way back from the Bodega Aurrera—this was just after they bought out Walmart.”

She stared up at the ceiling, trying to clear her head for the next part. Talking about her mom’s death was one thing; she could handle that. She had made peace with it. Not so much everything that came after it.

”I...took it pretty hard at the time, but my papa… he took it far worse; he took it out on me,” said Karen, closing her eyes. That was probably a mistake, as the darkness was soon filled with flashes of his oncoming fists, raining blows down upon her. Of his drunken spit flying every direction, his eyes wild and unfocussed.

She shook her head. ”It...was only when he was drunk, of course. Otherwise he just mostly ignored me, unless he wanted food. That continued for two years, and I remember...I used to have nightmares about him becoming so angry that he...didn’t stop. That he just kept on going until I was finally dead.”

”Thankfully, it never came to that...thanks in part to Zoey.”

By the point Karen’s arms had ripped him out of his chair, whatever spark of anger he had in him had quickly begun to wane.

By the time she began rocking in place, shivering and recalling her own youth, it had vanished entirely.

So, without preamble or ceremony or any flowery language you’d find on any myriad soap opera… Mal slowly, silently wrapped his arms around the girl and pulled her into an embrace of his own. Not quite as tight, but warm and—for someone like Malcolm, especially—genuine.

For a moment, he said nothing. Just sat there calmly stroking the back of his sister’s hair and holding her… until finally-

”Well…” He began, a dark little note of humour in his voice ”We’re just a pair of poster-children for childhood trauma, ain’t we?”

Karen smiled at this, nodding slowly. ”I suppose that’s why we’ve managed to get along so well all these years. Though I never knew what exactly you had gone through, I could always tell you had been through something really traumatic.”

With a little snort Mal finally released her… well, mostly- still keeping his hands on her shoulders as he spoke, something resembling a sad attempt of a grin snaking it’s way onto his face.

He couldn’t help it, it was like second nature to him to kick his own thoughts down and put on a brave face when he saw the girl like this.

”Now, now… stop that. We’re gonna be here all day, at this rate.” Mal stated with a little upward twitch at the corner of his lips ”...And I can’t exactly fix your spine if we’re both in here bawling our eyes out, now can I?”

Karen chuckled at this, easing back onto the bed she had been sitting on. Swinging her legs over it to present her back to her little brother, she rolled her neck from side-to-side. ”Alright, fine...but no promises on me not crying anyway if you’re too rough on my back.”

A laugh followed that statement.

”To be perfectly honest Karen… this is probably going to really suck for the first half-hour.”
3:06 A.M.
Aquarius Apartments, Bazar Quarter, Poseidonis


Orin stared blankly at the scene of unfolding chaos in front of him, mentally facepalming as the crowd devolved into panic. Well, if Malcolm wanted to go loud, Cuttlefish could get very very loud.

Slipping a new disk into his palm, Orin took a second to deactivate the cloaking field on his suit, leaving him perfectly visible in the armored plating and the twisted tentacle mask. He threw the disk to the floor which erupted in a show of bright and conflicting colors, catching the attention of every terrified party-goer in the area.

”EVERYBODY FREEZE, ATLANTEAN ARGONAUTS. STAND DOWN, THIS IS A SPECIAL FORCES OPERATION. DROP ANY WEAPONS, RAISE YOUR HANDS, AND GET ON THE GROUND.”

The gambit seemed to work… For a moment. The stunned crowd was beginning to slow, some of the nearer guests were holding their hands up and squinting through the invasive lightshow, it was going better than expected to be honest. Then the remaining guards in the room charged, knocking people to the ground and sparking the panic again. Orin leapt into action, meeting them halfway with his magically enhanced aqua-blades. This would be no trouble at all, even discounting Orin’s own magically enhanced abilities.

The regent of Atlantis had spent many of his formative years learning multiple fighting styles and strategies, and these were mostly mooks. Though some of them showed startlingly competent training, most of them fell without incident. The few smart ones had managed to pull their pistols out and had begun firing before Orin could close the distance, but between the plated armor and his own naturally resilient skin, the magically-enhanced bullets were leaving little more than welts.

During the commotion, it almost seemed quieter without the unwelcome assistance of a third party member. In the scuffle and shuffle, Static had moved out with some of the fleeing guests. The earpiece had been friend to bits and left on the floor. Three words told him all he needed to know about one of the Argonauts, and Malcolm was completely right. He didn’t feel like leaving was a bad idea. They had things under control without him, and they’d wrap things up in the same way.

Though it wasn’t perfect, Virgil did put effort into masking his energy output as he left the building. He was a distraction, and obstacle, an idiot, and an asshole. It was the same mistake in a new environment.

Nothing had changed.

Orin remained focused on the fighting happening around him. He and Malcolm had worked together quite closely in the aftermath of the Atlantean Civil War, close enough that the king trusted the young man’s judgement and skill in situations like this. He could focus on this seemingly endless onslaught of roided out bodyguards, and they would sort through all of them later to find out who knew what.

Lashing out with unnatural speed, Cuttlefish gripped one of the nearby enemies by the shoulder and shoved him backwards. Orin’s enhanced strength sent the man flying into his compatriots behind him, clearing a path through them for just long enough that the armored king caught a glimpse of a shady figure lurking in the corners of the room, snaking towards the exit. An Atlantean obviously, most likely Tritonian judging by his dress. That would make sense considering the weaponry this group had. If anybody was in charge here, it was that man.

Keying on his earpiece again, Orin spoke surprisingly clearly, the battle having heightened his senses. ”Mako, I have eyes on what I believe is the leader. Taking snapshots now and sending them to your headset. Moving in to intercept. Are you and our little wizard still with me?”

A low snarl escaped the armoured boy in question, already caught between checking Karen over and keeping an eye out for any more armed goons coming their way… well, now that he’d been snapped back to reality that is.

Probably not a good idea to dwell on that. He didn’t particularly have the time.

This was just not his day.

”Image received. Just gimme a second, Our Little Wizard is in a bit of rough shape.” Mal replied with a little grunt as a little chime sounded off in his ear, a translucent image of a man he’d spied Karen and Ophelia talking to earlier coming into existence in the top left corner of his visor ”Static, you’re still at the exit, right?”

Silence followed that.

Followed by a violent churning of something in his gut.

”Static?”

Again, nothing.

Malcolm could almost hear his blood pressure rising as his head snapped back to the suddenly quiet (or rather, what he suddenly noticed was quiet) doorway to the penthouse… and the fried, trampled upon remains of a communicator laying on the floor… and the statically charged furniture and scattered objects his eyes registered forming a path down the stairwell and generally away from all the mayhem they had found themselves in with it’s source a retreating, but faded humanoid shape that was still well within the five mile range of his vision.

Even for Mal’s computer-like brain, that took a hot minute to process.

Virgil had bailed.

Virgil had bailed.

Virgil had caused all this shit and then bailed.

To the sometimes Argonaut’s credit, the primal scream that built in his throat only came out as a little ‘hiss’ that visibly shook his whole frame as he turned back to his sister, a slight flicker of light making itself known from beneath his visor again as he spoke in a… surprisingly quiet, almost hesitant tone.

”Karen, I need to know- Can you handle yourself right now?”

Karen had placed her hand on the wall, working to regain her sense of balance. Her head was still spinning a bit from the right hook she’d taken from the drug pusher. Her back and neck were killing her. Still, that wasn’t what she was focused on right now. No, her eyes remained squarely on her little brother.

”Can you handle yourself right now?” she asked pointedly. ”If I leave this to you, will you be able to control yourself? You nearly killed that man.”

It didn’t help that she knew he had did so for her sake; that made her feel at least partially responsible for what happened.

”Answer the damned question, Karen!” Mal shot back quickly. Perhaps a bit harsher than he’d intended.

She frowned back at him, but did her best to straighten up—this elicited a few additional pops from her back, and quite a few jolts of pain to accompany them. Nevertheless, she maintained her posture.

”I’m not going to die, no,” she finally replied. ”So yes. I’ll be fine.”

For a few seconds, Mal just stared at the blonde in silence. Caught somewhere between the anger at the situation they now found themselves in, the necessary harshness his years of experience and training had all but programmed into his brain to deal with these situations and, quietly, a profound tinge of shame for his lapse in self-control that he really didn’t have time to deal with right now.

He also didn’t like yelling at Karen.

Despite how often he’d done so today.

”Alright.” The boy finally affirmed with a quick nod, handily burying whatever was going on in his head and getting back to the task at hand, head snapping back to the action and scanning over the room for a few seconds before finally locking onto the familiar shape. ”He’s headed for the doors, got anything left that’d make that difficult for ‘im?”

Karen traced Mal’s gaze to the retreating image of Herod, the man that had greeted her at the entrance when she and Ophelia had first arrived. What did she have that could stop him in his tracks? He was an Atlantean, and probably the leader of this whole operation. She doubted that her sleeping spell would be able to overcome his will. Still, there were other things she could try.

Extending her hand in the direction of Herod’s feet, she muttered quietly, “Pleko….”

The laces of his shoes immediately untied themselves, and then intertwined with each other to bind his feet together. With a startled gasp, the man fell forward onto his hands, his eyes staring in confusion at his footwear’s spontaneous rebellion. It took him only a moment to use his superior strength to rip said laces free, but it had bought them a few precious seconds.

”Well, that’ll do it…” Mal stated with a half shrug and something approaching humour, before keying in his communicator and addressing the King of the Ocean in that same harsh, militaristic tone as before ”Big Boss, Tango’s on the ground. Let’s grab him.”

Cuttlefish began moving as soon as he got confirmation from Mal, shoving another pair of bodyguards into a nearby wall and descending on the struggling Tritonian like a leopard seal on an injured crab. ”Cover our backs Mako. I’m hoping grabbing this one will take the fight out of the others, but we may need to cover our retreat.” Orin said before planting a boot on the well-dressed Atlanteans chest, kicking him back to the ground before bending over and grabbing him by the collar of his well-fitted suit and hauling him upright, pinning him against the doorframe.

”Everyone stand down!” the Argonaut said, deliberately speaking in English. Orin had a sneaking suspicion there were ties to Tritonian extremists at play here, and bridging the gap between Atlantis and the surface would only help Orin’s cause. ”You are under arrest by the Atlantean Argonaut Civil Forces for possession and distribution of magically-enhanced narcotics. This apartment will be seized by Atlantean authorities and searched thoroughly. Everyone here will be questioned and the innocent among you will be released quickly. Any further resistance will be met with the same.”




Those who had escaped the chaos that Static created were on the ground at this point, rushing and fleeing the scene before the police showed up and started cuffing people. Static, being apart of the group on the way down, hung his head low and stayed in the back. He didn’t utter a word until he was outside.

Many of the college students who were scrambled all over the entrance of the building seemed lost and turned around. Static could easily understand why. After everything that happened, their minds were in a tizzy. The least he could do before heading off the grid was to guide them back home safely.

”Hey.” He tapped one fearful student on the shoulder and pointed towards the university. ”Head down that way, University ain’t that far from here.”

“Yeah, thanks.” The young adult nodded nervously and took a friend by the shoulders, leading them away from the scene.

Static made sure to let as many people as he could know how to get back to the university. His instructions weren’t perfectly detailed since he did fly, but they were just enough to help people get back safely. Others caught on to his conversations, listening in and following the groups. There weren’t many left after he was done talking to people, which, if he could do anything right tonight, it would have been the one thing where he wasn’t actually doing much of anything.

Turning around, his eyes moved skywards to the penthouse. With a silent curse under his breath, he closed up his open jacket, took off his hat, gloves, and goggles, and headed away. He couldn’t bear to think about what he had done tonight, he couldn’t even face Mal. Maybe the next time he went AWOL, nobody would actually find him.

He let out a hollow chuckle at the thought. Someone always found him, whether he wanted it or not. Richie, Mal, Grim that one time, he really couldn’t escape people. But if anything about this night told him something, it was that maybe the hero life wasn’t for him.




To Orin’s credit, namedropping the goddamn Tagmata Argonávtis for a second time in ten minutes seemed to drive home the point that keeping up the fight against them was probably not going to end well.

The splayed piles of limp, unconscious men lying about the place only served to enforce this notion.

As did the fact that it took only two (maybe three) of them to do it.

For his part, Mal remained mostly silent as he went about the room, zip-tying together the wrists and ankles of all the unconscious people who’d been trying to kill him, his ‘sister’ and the King of the Goddamned Ocean in cosplay naught but a few moments earlier so that they wouldn’t make a go for round two when they woke up. All the while trying his level best not to look in Karen’s direction.

Still, with everything that had transpired tonight, he did need to let off some steam now that no one was trying to kill them.

”<Ya know what, Boss?>” The younger Argonaut addressed the elder with something that sounded like a particularly exhausted mind attempting humour. Making a point to speak in Atlantean, so Karen’s non-Shazam’d ears wouldn’t understand it ”<Is it just me and my chaffing armour, or was this a lot easier a year ago?>”



2:55 AM
Rooftop outside Aquarius Apartments, Bazaar Quarter, Poseidonis


All at once, every muscle in Malcolm’s body went tense. And for the first time in hours it had nothing to do with the insufferable chaffing of his suit.

Before the living electromagnet had even spoken, the armour-clad teen was on his feet, alerted to his roommate’s approach by the residual electricity that danced across his vision clearly headed behind him… well, that and the incessant buzzing in his ears.

’Oh my fucking Christ…’

To his credit, he managed not to say that out loud… Or scream it at the top of his lungs- as he so wanted to..

Instead, he kept his eyes locked on the party across the street and though clenching his fists, letting out what was clearly a particularly pissed-off breath and screaming all manner of profanity in his own head… remained civil as he answered the hero.

...Or rather, he tried.

”You fuckin’ dumba- ‘Mako’ all but snarled through his voice modulator but managed to catch himself with a little hiss through his clenched teeth as he glanced over his shoulder, waving Static down ”Would you get down here, cut the ‘Theatric Entrance’ shit and kill the lightshow before you draw every working set of eyes in a two block radius?

Orin, whos attention had been focused on the party in the apartment across the way suddenly was pulled back to their current location by the voiced behind him. Turning, he saw Malcolm in heated discussion with another costumed figure. Considering the newcomer hadn’t attacked on site, he was most likely along the more ‘moral’ side of things, but Malcolm had a point. He was drawing a lot of attention. Stepping away from the edge of the roof, Orin began walking quickly, his long strides taking him in a circle around the pair of whispering teens. This suit was designed for invisibility and surveillance, and practically and combination of the two. Coming back to his starting position, Orin flicked his wrist and slid a small disk from a pouch on his forearm. Tossing it on the ground between the two bickering heroes, he cleared his throat, shimmering back into view.

”My associate has a point. You draw too much attention friend. Fortunately, this should help.” With a snap of his fingers, a chameleon shield went up around the trio, throwing up a projected image of their surroundings while hiding them from all but the most advanced view.

”There. Now that that’s taken care of, it seems we should clear up some misunderstandings. I expect we’re on on roughly the same side after all, considering nobody’s gone for weapons yet. Let’s work this out. Hopefully before whatever those young ladies took over there hits them like… What was it? A freight train?”

“Shit.” Static mumbled to himself, watching another come out of the woodwork. Upon the request of the first one, Virgil jumped off his board and stood with the two armored individuals. There wasn’t much he could do against two. They both seemed like out of his league, but the first one had something about him that stood out.

“Wait…” He put his hands up and looked at the second figure. “Hits them? Is this a drug thing?” They didn’t put up guns or arms, so obviously they didn’t want to hurt Static. At the very least, they didn’t want him to become collateral in whatever was going on. Clearing his throat, he shook his head at them. “Of course its a drug thing. It always is. So what’s going on?”

”We don’t know yet.” Mako answered plainly if a little abruptly as his head turned back towards the direction of the party… only to find that whatever distortion field that Orin had thrown up was kicking up enough juice to be opaque to his eyes- making him more than a little agitated to be wasting time with this right now, of all things. Especially with Karen in there. ”Which is why we’re watching. Quietly.”

Static nodded. Made enough sense, but they’ve been watching for a long time, and haven’t picked up on much. “Then we’re watching the wrong thing.” he suggested to them. “If there’s drugs in there, someone has to be moving them in. Unless this is like a whole den and the good stuff’s already in there, there’s no point in watching the party. We gotta watch the doors.”

He felt like he was actually doing something. He liked school, he liked normalcy, but being a hero was why he stayed up late at night. These two atlantean heroes seemed to welcome a stranger well enough, which helped in making Static feel a little more at home underwater.

Mal’s brow twitched at that, unseen beneath his helmet.

”As a matter of fact, we’ve already got someone on the inside gathering intel.” ‘Mako’ explained frankly as he crossed his arms ”The original plan was to act as back-up in case anything went wrong. But now that plan’s gone out the window with civilians in harm’s way...”

At that, Mal leaned forward slightly, indicating to himself and the ’Mighty Cuttlefish’ with his thumb.

”So when the word’s given, we are going in. By the books.”

”By the books. Right.” Static muttered only to himself, as if that meant anything to him. Now that he was able to get a good look at this armor up close, he was starting to notice how similar in design and architecture it was to the rest of Atlantis’ overall design and aesthetic. Not even in a way that would suggest them being normal Atlanteans, but this armor looked like it had weight to it. These people were someone. ”I’ll let you guys take the lead on the whole drug raid.” He nodded to mostly himself in reassurance before looking back at them. ”Yeah, yeah. Where do you need me?”

Orin smiled wryly behind his tentacled mask as he watched the mounting tension between the two boys. Teenage ‘big-dogging’ as he’d heard some of the surface-dwellers refer to it. So long as it didn’t get in the way of the mission at hand, there was nothing harmful about it. He turned back to the building across the street and stepped out of the cloaking shield he had set up, taking in the scene of the party.

”I can see multiple entrances, at least for myself. I can slip in practically anywhere, nobody will spot me. The two of you might have a harder time sneaking in. Which begs the question: Is sneaking in out of the question? Or shall we simply flex our muscles and burst inside?”

”We shouldn’t bust it up. Not without knowing what sort of firepower they have inside. Not to mention civilians.” Static let out his opinion with a finger and a thumb on his chin. There was already someone on the inside, probably there to verify that drugs were already in circulation at the party. Maybe they could lend their hand at seeing what kind of guns were inside. ”Plus, we don’t even know what the drugs are doing to people. If they freak, they could attack us first.”

”Agreed.” Mal nodded with a little sigh, he wasn’t exactly too happy with the idea of bringing Virgil on board their little ‘Sting’. Knowing better than most the guy wasn’t exactly the most… subtle person he’d ever met (sorting through all of Mal’s things with strangers aside). ”Alright, so here’s what we’ll do-”

”-No time, I have one of those pills.” Karen’s voice suddenly filtered in through his ear… with what was clearly a whole lot of vomiting going on in the background. ”Hear that?”

<”Ya got that, Big Guy?”> Mako fired toward the Incognito King in his own tongue <”Almost showtime.”>

Head snapping back towards the hero in front of him, he brusquely opened one of the pouches on his belt, fished out another communicator and held it out for the lad.

”You. There’s an arcogenerator under a manhole in the parking lot on the other side of the building. Get in there, wait for my signal, and disable it when I tell you.” Malcolm barked in an almost military fashion, the rapid approach of ‘GO TIME’ instinctually kicking down any thought of grumption and hesitation before his head turned back toward Orin ”Big Guy, pick an access point, I’ll go in from the other side and we’ll move quick and quiet in a pincer movement. Sound good?”

Orin nodded and stepped up onto the edge of the building. He tapped the earpiece Mal had given him to make sure it was securely in place, then turned towards his companions. ”I’ll be on the leftmost balcony. On your signal, I can move in anywhere inside.”

Turning back to the ledge Orin crouched down and leapt into the open space, his powerful legs propelling him through the air. Though not as powerful as Tanks leaps, Orin could clear quite some distance. However, landing could prove to draw some attention. To slow himself down, Orin spread his arms halfway through his arc and activated the ‘fins’ on his suits. The winglike membranes spread to connect his arms and body, catching the wind and slowing his descent so that he landed softly on the semi-crowded platform. His suits advanced camouflage system allowed him to blend in perfectly with his surroundings, standing by a deserted section of the railing to keep a close eye on the party up close...

Static was already gone by the time that Orin had jumped. Communicator in ear, he had already took the long way around the building to not get spotted. Slipping down to the ground and using his control over magnetic fields was child’s play to move a manhole cover. The vigilante slipped into the sewers to locate the generator in question. His ears were still tuned to the earpiece, making sure he didn’t miss his mark when mako would finally call out to him. Once in position, he tapped his ear and made his location clear. ”In position.” he reported quietly.

With a grunt, Mal was on the move not long after the others, leaping off the edge of the building and keeping largely out of sight as he maneuvered his way around to the far side of the penthouse, grappling and clinging to the underside of the balcony opposite Orin’s. Still not activating his suit’s own reactive camouflage knowing that, unlike the King’s own gear with it’s modern, ultra-compact arcogenerator, he was running with a magi-capacitor that was older than most languages above the waves. One that had a limited capacity.

Luckily, he had no intention of drawing this out.

Still, it paid to take the necessary precautions.

”Bubble-Pop, can I get an analysis on that drug real quick?” Mako called over his headset, making a point to avoid calling Karen out by name on the channel ”I’d like to know what we’re dealing with. Preferably before we go into the breach.”

”Yeah, I’m in the middle of it right now,” she said, the sound of Malcolm’s scanner running in the background clearly audible. It only took a moment to run its course. ”...Alright, uh...it’s an arcane stimulant with a neural sedative. Not sure how that works, but that’s what it said.”

”Greeeaaat… so we have no idea how crowd control’s gonna be.” Mal replied, shaking his head a little but accepting this kind of complication as the usual state of affairs in his life ”Situation normal; all fucked up... Sparky, you in position?”

”Hit me with the say so.” ignoring the nickname, Static look a look at the acrogenerator once more. Surely, he just needed to fry it, cause a disturbance. This should let the two others break in and handle thing. ”Yo, inviso-dude. Ready?”

Cuttlefish ducked down as a nearby party reveler swept an arm out, nearly colliding with the hidden king. He chuckled to himself and tapped the earpiece, counting on the suits built-in noise dampeners to keep him from being heard by the nearby people. ”I am in position. On Makos mark.”

Turning his head to take one last assessment of where all the players were inside; his targets, his civilians, his Kare-bear... Mal allowed himself a deep inhale and a slow, calming exhale as the reactive armour of his ancient suit quietly hissed itself to life.

”Sparky…” He finally called out over the comms, voice actually filled with something less than pissed off intensity for the first time in a while. ”Welcome to the fucking Argonauts. Now drop that shit.

With a mighty exertion of power, Static threw his hands forward and let the spark fly at the generator. What a kickass line that was by the angry one, he could almost forgive him for being a big of an asshole as some others he knew. Overloading a generator was easy. No matter who made it, no matter how much it could take, this was something Statis was good at. Of course, you couldn’t overload a generator without a little….

BANG!

0250 HRS
Rooftop Outside Aquarius Apartments, Bazaar Quarter, Poseidonis


Had the visor of his prometheum helmet not been in the way, Mal would have rubbed at his eyes. As it stood a little grunt as he shifted his legs slightly to attempt to find some comfortable position to stay in in this armour that was just tight enough to be uncomfortable would have to suffice.

Stakeout duty was always just so much fun.

Having spent the better part of a few hours now crouched in silence (by sheer virtue of running out of things to talk about) with the invisible and avowedly incognito (and possibly napping) King of the Ocean Cuttlefish to his right, a growing pile of empty vessels of the Atlantean equivalent of canned coffee his 'partner' grabbed out of a vending machine from the street below to his left and a whole bunch of other people having fun across the street to his front, Malcolm allowed his mind to wander just a bit. Despite his best efforts.

Some kid wearing a lampshade as a makeshift loincloth was dancing the samba atop some expensive-looking furniture to the amusement for a few girls and the chagrin of a pair of burly, well-dressed and overly-cologned gentlemen who abruptly showed him the door.

An older, professor-looking bloke was seated in a hot-tub smoking some form of herb even he didn't recognize with his students.

A particularly amorous local woman seemed to be chatting up everything on two legs at the bar.

'...When was the last time I actually went out to a party, anyway?'

He racked his powerful brain for answers... and came up depressingly dry. Not a good sign for a guy literally incapable of forgetting anything.

Sure, he sat around and hung out with Irene and Anatoly once in a while back in Gotham, but that hardly counted. Neither did those fancy dinners he had to go to as Zoey's ward, constrained with formality and having to pretend to be some high-society schmuck and all.

It was around the time that Karen and Ophelia began to dance, and sing along to the music playing in that fancy-ass penthouse that the growing momentum of the boy's thoughts abruptly struck an epiphany.

'...Holy shit, I have no life.'

A morose chuckle met that realization as he shook his head slightly, stomping that feeling down and going back to dutifully eyeing up the goings-on of a bunch of people having way more fun than him.

Y'know, typical Mal stuff.

But for the life of him, he wasn't exactly seeing anything particularly nefarious going on. Sleazy maybe, but not nefarious.

Hell, the most eye-catching thing to his increasingly distracted mind going on in there right now was that Atlantean woman from earlier had found someone, a college girl, to get to know better at the bar... who seemed to be having a good time with all that attention.

The armour-clad teen's gaze abruptly halted at the sight, his brow furrowing beneath his helmet.

'Waaaaaaiitaminute...'

She was having a real good time.

Her body was pumping out endorphins and adrenaline at a rate that really shouldn't have been possible with the three strawberry daiquiris in her gut while the neurons in her brain were slowing down to a crawl in a fashion that really shouldn't have been possible by alcohol alone.

The end result? A girl who was probably a ninety pounds soaking wet with a head full of braces and clearly-a-nerd syndrome having the energy in that moment to run a triathlon end-to-end at a dead sprint also too sedate and placid from the chemical cocktail in her brain to remember her own goddamn name.

"...What the hell?"

Mal got his answer, it seemed, as a capsule slid down the barely-cognizant girl's throat via the other woman's tongue. To meet with the two others he hadn't noticed were already in her stomach.

Right around the time her immune-system began to shut down. And some hazy, non-physical force he couldn't quite identify slowly began to pulse through her veins with greater and greater force.

Standing up slightly, the Watchdog's eyes scanned the rest of the room for more people in similar states of disarray, finding at least half a dozen other girls starting to at least show signs of what that unfortunate young miss at the bar was going through. Slower, perhaps due to a lower dosage.

'Well, shit.'

"Karen. Not to ruin your little tango with Ophelia there, but I'm seeing at least six girls in the building with ya who seem to be on the precipice of one hell of a trip. Each with a pill in their gut." He stated into his earpiece, quietly chiming Orin CAPTAIN CUTTLEFISH into the call as he did so. "That geeky kid at the bar whose been swapping spit with the fancy local lady for the past half-hour has at least three in her and looks ready to drop."

'Mako' shot his invisible-to-everyone-else partner in crime fighting a quick glance as he adjusted the straps on his wrist-mounted grapple, a slight edge coming to his voice.

"That serial lip-mauler has a pocket full of those pills, probably your best bet to get a sample. And get that girl some air."



11:15 PM
Rooftops, Bazaar Quarter, Poseidonis


’The more things change the more they stay the same…’ Mal couldn’t help but muse in the confines of his own head, even while rolling to make his landing on yet another industrialized-coral rooftop.

Different city, different continent, hell, even different barometric pressure and here he was jumping from rooftop in some swanky-ass armour like a complete jackass.

If nothing else, Mal’s life was consistent.

A quick glance below through the building found Mal skidding slightly and taking a hard left, vaulting off another ledge and landing with practiced quiet on top of one of Poseidonis’ many public hover-trams. Lingering there for a moment or two as it rounded a turn and firing off his grapple towards another rooftop to keep up with his quarry, both of whom were currently sharing oxygen with the three Spanish gentlemen he’d observed in the club in the confines of a hovercar he couldn’t miss, even if he wanted to- What with the pulsing music from within forming a sort of rippling effect across his vision and what registered to even his eyes as a particularly gaudy bioluminescent paintjob.

Another grunt escaped him as he made landfall on what he could only assume would be his final destination if everything went according to plan.

...Mostly because this armour, paradoxically ancient in design but so far ahead of anything on the surface that it flew straight into the territory of science fiction… was really riding up on him in uncomfortable places.

Apparently he’d grown up a bit over the past year.

Puberty truly was a cruel and fickle mistress.

Pushing that thought to the far rear of his mind, the armour-clad teen allowed himself to relax and take an (admittedly, slightly awkward) crouch as the object of his pursuit parked itself at the foot of a towering, chrome-coloured skyscraper across the street. Taking advantage of his eyesight to stay out of theirs, camping out on the far side of the roof to observe them all directly through the building itself.

A finger rose to the side of his helmet, a quiet chirp echoed within as he did so.

”Alright, Karen. In position.”

The air behind Malcolm shimmered and warped as a figure phased into view. Malcolm, of course, would have most likely seen the figure coming, as invisibility and cloaking technology could only go so far when dealing with someone who could see into the fabric of the universe.

The man, clad in black-plated, form-fitting armor strode up beside the crouching teen and crossed his arms.

”So, doing some late-night hunting?” The distorted voice asked from behind the demonic octopus mask. He crouched down and activated the cloaking field again, his armor plates fading to the color of the rooftop and taking on a pockmarked coral appearance as he did so.

”It’s good to have the watch-shark back in the city, Mako.” Cuttlefish quipped, reaching over and clasping the younger man on the shoulder. ”But I am curious about the visit. I’d have thought you would be busy with your studies? What are we doing out here?”

”Ori?” Mal asked aloud through his voice-modulator as his head turned slightly to face the much taller man at his side… and the claws along his armoured fists quietly sheathed themselves before he raised a hand and gave his surrogate uncle’s a little pat and squeeze on his shoulder, posture relaxing slightly for the first time in hours. ”Yeah, sorry about that. Would’ve called, but it’s been a helluva day.”

Releasing the Ocean-King’s hand, Mal’s head slowly turned forward again as he kept talking. A slight note of humour making it’s way through the distortion of his voice-modulator.

”Long story short; Karen thinks she might’ve stumbled upon some kinda drug ring. Or her roommate did at a party last night, anyway.” ‘Mako’ stated plainly, shifting a little to at least find some comfort where he was sitting. ”So we’re giving it a look... and trying to be quiet about it.”

The teen’s head turned slightly again towards the Octo-Masked King, though his eyes stayed rooted forward.

”-Rather not spook them and drive them further underground thinking there’s a mob of capes and tights after them.”

The eyes of the disguised King of Atlantis narrowed behind his mask as he looked down at the moving hovercar that presumably contained Karen and her roommate.

”A drug ring… This would be Ophelia, not Hannah, I assume?” Orin asked, hazarding a guess. ”I made it my business to familiarize myself with the applications of our surface students, it seemed prudent. Just like your plan, a daring nighttime sting operation into the suspected heart of a drug-running ring. You do have a flair for the dramatic, Mako.” He said, a grin creeping into his voice.

”Fortunately, I am a sucker for a good cop show.” Orin admitted, standing up. The suit’s reflexive camo shifted to hide his silhouette against the domed sky, and Orin scanned his eyes along the street. ”Would you mind another partner to watch your back? I’ve been cooped up for awhile now and I’d like to stretch my legs a bit.”

Beneath his mask, Malcolm couldn’t help but grin a little himself.

”Hey it’s your city, Uncle Ori.”

”Hey now, I’m undercover. Call me Cuttlefish.”

”...Wait, what?”




With their eyes fixed to the ground below, it would almost be hard to see the small purple blur that made its war across the night sky. Static Shock was making his own rounds around the city, doing things like he used to do before even Gear was apart of the team.

The shock box had been put away for now. He’d come back to Richie is he came across anything, but right now he was just looking for some trouble. Cars, people, everything blurred around him, but was made easier with the new glasses he wore. Easier on his eyes and better for when he was casting lightning out of his fingertips.

“Come on, come on. I know you’re out there somewhere…” Static muttered to himself, his eyes keen on finding danger. A hand dug into his pocket to fish out his shock box once more. Opening it up, he flipped through a few settings and pulled out a long antenna.

His hope was to find any possible roaming signals and catch them. Maybe it would be the criminals he was having a feeling for, maybe it would be something else. Whatever it was Mal was being so tight lipped about had to be happening somewhere in the streets, and Virgil was going to be damned if he didn’t have a piece of it.

But then it happened.

On one of the rooftops was an armored figure. Virgil slowed to a halt hockey-style and put the Shock Box away once more. In its place was a set of binoculars. They weren’t glamorous, but they got the job done.

Virgil slowly backed away. Not only did they look like serious business, but they were simply watching the city. They were looking for something too. This was the trail that Virgil was looking for.

He mulled the possibility of swooping in now and taking them on, but if he followed them to wherever they were going, he’d progress a lot easier than if he fought them. He’d simply have to follow them and see where they were going.
February 7th; 1:33 PM
Lycus Dorm, University of Poseidonis, Atlantis


Mal's eyes remained locked forward, still seemingly boring a hole straight through the wall where she'd been standing with the express intent of burning them and everything behind them for another three miles straight to the fucking ground. Even if the rest of his face remained entirely neutral the whole while.

After a long, dragging few seconds of silence the teen finally spoke, addressing his roommate still standing in the doorway without even looking up at him. His tone, though still outwardly calm, rapidly beginning to warp and twist into something far more malevolent.

It was sometimes easy to forget that, through all the jokes, laughter and banter, Malcolm was still a very angry young man, deep down inside. He just made a point of keeping it in check.

...Until someone pushed the right buttons, that is.

"Get in here. Close the door. Now."
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