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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."
February 7th; 1:32 PM
Lycus Dorm, University of Poseidonis, Atlantis


Whatever master plan Mal had been about to impart upon the blonde's pretty little noggin came to an abrupt halt as he registered the rattle of his bedroom door out of the corner of his eye, made silent by the device still mounted on the wall. The Kasimir ward instantly fell silent, leaning back onto his desk and hands folding neatly in front of him as his face took on a blank expression.

Idly, his eyes traveled down to his watch, where they lingered for a solid half-minute of increasingly tense silence before slowly knitting shut as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Five minutes..."

That low, growling whisper was barely audible over the sound of the biometric lock on his desk drawer disengaging and rolling out before the battle-scarred teen wordlessly stuck his free hand inside and fished out one of his old earpieces.

"We'll talk later." Malcolm stated flatly, reaching out and deftly dropping the thing into one of Karen's jacket pockets before she could get a word of protest in, though the glare he locked onto her right then and there probably would've done the job anyhow "But for now, you have some shopping to do, don't you?"

Though still as outwardly cold and collected as he'd been this entire time, the vast reserves of Mal's patience that had kept him (relatively) civil through this whole ordeal had very clearly just about run dry. The fact that the constant orange glow hidden away by his contact lenses had slowly begun to creep out back into plain sight, slowly snaking it's way up the blood-vessels in his eyes was only the most obvious clue.

Slowly folding his arms with a sense of calm and control that was beginning to look more and more forced as the seconds ticked by, the boy then casually gestured toward the door with his thumb.

"Go."
February 7th; 1:31 PM
Lycus Dorm, University of Poseidonis, Atlantis


"You do not get to extol me about your own common sense right now." Mal replied curtly. "You lost that luxury about ten minutes ago."

Lowering his hands to the desk he was leaning on, where they almost immediately began tapping against it's steel frame to the habitual tune of some beat he'd long forgotten the origin of, Mal cast another glance to the side, eyeballing Virgil through the wall again and weighing his options.

Part of him wanted to go out there, grab the guy by the collar and drag him in here for this kind of talk.

Another, more rational part of his psyche reminded him that a walking, talking tesla coil was not exactly the most subtle thing to bring to the table in a situation like this, where they didn't necessarily want to advertise with big neon signs 'HEY, EVERYBODY! THE BIG DAMNED HEROES ARE HERE!' if they wanted to find a lead they could pursue later.

...And another, quieter part of him was still just a little pissed that one of his closest friends hadn't spared a single thought of caution before wantonly foraging through his belongings with someone he barely knew.

What if they had actually found something? Sure, Virgil didn't care much about who knew about his gifts, but someone like Mal didn't exactly have that luxury, dammit.

Knitting his eyes shut and taking a long, controlled breath, the Watchdog of Bludhaven finally spoke.

"Okay. This is how we're gonna do this..."
February 7th; 1:31 PM
Lycus Dorm, University of Poseidonis, Atlantis


For his part, Mal just stared Karen down in silence as she explained herself, arms crossed head tilted slightly to the side and a look in his eyes advertising very clearly that the young Latina was going to have to try just a little harder to regain his trust after a stunt like that.

But had he any intention of arguing any further with her, he didn't show it, as his brows furrowed at what exactly the blonde was telling him led her down this course of action. An only semi-voluntary hum rattling in his throat as his eyes momentarily shifted toward the sound-proofing device he'd fished out of his toolkit and slapped on the wall as his roommates were shown out, before his vision shifted to give both men a once-over through the wall, to see if they were trying to listen in or not, still more than a little annoyed for their part in this whole invasion of his privacy.

"Where?" Mal asked in that familiar tone that only really made itself known when he was 'working'. "And when?"

February 7th; 1:27 PM
Lycus Dorm, University of Poseidonis, Atlantis


Mal's brow twitched again as Karen not only heaved the heavy duffel-bag, lined with armoured plate, stitched with prometheum-based fibres and kept shut by a padlock with a built-in biometric scanner with the express intention of keeping people out of it onto his bed... but then went ahead and opened it.

The boy took a long breath to calm himself. He could already feel a storm of a headache coming on.

'Clearly going to have to reset who has access to my shit after this...'

Stepping forward and setting his bag down on the counter of the communal kitchen, Mal's eyes shifted slowly, deliberately between the Dakotan and the Norwegian before resting on Karen again. Head tilting to the side slightly as he spoke again with that same razor sharp tone.

"Could you two give us a minute? I think I need to have a word or two with our Kare-Bear here..."
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