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Nora
Denver Streets

The sun was still high in the sky as Visage departed from the Rocker's headquarters. So much work done in one day, without so much as a second wasted. It was a very refreshing feeling, though she had no time to revel in it. That would ruin her streak after all.

She moved, drifting from one alley to the next, as she retraced her steps. Ducking down after a few minutes, she made sure she was alone before she continued. Hidden where two buildings meet was a black canvas bag, sharp bits of rough clothing visible from where they poked against its edges. It was slightly damp on the bottom from where she had stuffed her jeans. Again, Visage glanced around, before slinging it over her back, and continuing her walk though the Rocker's territory.

She wanted to laugh, to giggle and hug herself, it was just so damn exciting. Restraint had been so difficult, the urge to plant a node on Furnace, on Protean, on anyone and everyone ever present. But no, she had to do this right. A master power demanded control, not just of others, but of one's self as well. Detecting if someone had been compromised by a master power was just too easy, as the precaution taken by Director Kens had proven, but there was an out. Dormant master powers were very hard to detect, and weeding candidates that were compromised by that sort of power out of potential missions was near impossible to preform with 100% certainty.

Her power could turn into a virus, with compromised individuals unknowingly spreading nodes. It was a bit of a giveaway that they couldn't see while she was preforming her limited clairvoyance, but it was still a useful tool. For a major amount of time, she had considered countering perfect responses to her powers, assuming that a full swat team would be going against her, equipped with tinker-assisted vision.

That wasn't the standard fight however. She would slowly become a known entity as her career continued, leading to more and better responses to her presence at any given fight. That's where the importance of misinformation came from, investing in security by obscurity. From the simple stuff, like keeping information about her powers off parahumans online, to interfering with Watchdog.

The city had melted around her, her thoughts consuming her. Steps and countersteps ran parallel tracks in her head. In all honesty, her minute predictions weren't very accurate. Visage was willing to accept that too, but her broader insights weren't particularly bad. She knew, for a fact, that caution would help her more than recklessness. If the specifics escaped her, so be it.

Thinking about it, the Vegas capes were the ones to emulate, with all the ones worth noting being largely poorly understood. Fighting unknown entities was very difficult, and so she had to adapt to that lifestyle. The largest disadvantage villain groups had were resources. When push came to shove, it was easy for the hero side to ask for favors. From the villain side, letting fellow teams lose encounters also meant less competition, and a good chance of gaining territory.

Nora reviewed her knowledge of Purge, from the many message boards she had visited. He had a mafia aesthetic, but it wasn't 100% confirmed he was from any actual mafia family. At least not personally confirmed. Taking information found online with a grain of salt was important. The amount of salt she had to take to weigh against information about his power was very small, however. His power seemed to be a thinker, specializing in hiding his presence at a crime scene. Any crime that was known to be associated with his gang lacked any and all evidence. Gone without a trace, every time. The lack of evidence lead to a lot of speculation, with the most popular theory agreeing with Nora's current view at the time. All-in-all he was a careful B-lister at best. Then again, many people might call the Rocker's B-listers. It'd be hard for Nora to make a counter-argument to that, honestly.

The world filtered back into focus as the bar loomed in front of her. Mask still clinging tightly to her face, she walked forward, already having planned out her entrance. The street was clear of cars when she crossed it, sprawling out into dinghy streets in both directions. She opened the door swiftly, letting it close from its own weight behind her. The bar had few people this early in the day. The place looked barren, the thin chairs scattered around the tables not helping that aesthetic. There were seven tables, by Visage's count, and not a single person sat at any of them. The bar held two people, gruff, strong men. Their clothes were nicer than the shitty beer in front of them. Probably old vices, like the menthols one of them smoked.

She stuck out, plain and simple. She sat next to the one on the right, and only her confidence stopped them from trying to sate their curiousity about her immedietly. She orderer a martini, and the bartender couldn't be hassled to ID her. She turned towards the men, eyeing them directly. "Are you Purge's lieutenants?" Visage aeked, her voice steady.

Hermes:
Laying the Groundwork

@Old Amsterdam

An audible groan escaped Herme's lips as Protean made his quip. Pushing forward, he took a step before teleporting to two of the most active guards. He grabbed their sleeves, and focused on one of the cells. Pushing past the mental barrier, he teleported again, and stayed suspended for longer than he expected. Just as he wondered how far he had actually pushed himself, he appeared in the stark white cell.

That was farther than he remembered.

He teleported again, as soon as he could, choosing the safe position he had watched from before. It seemed to take less time on this one, but he tried to ignore this fluctuation in his power. He reappeared, and again focusd on the room. One had been trying to escape in his direction, but the mover grabbed him by the collar. Dragging him back, he threw him against a wall, before kicking him in the face. Out cold. He walked forward, looking nonchalantly upon Protean's work.


Everything was happening so fast, Epsilon was feeling overwhelmed. It was Martyr, she was sure, The Community had twisted him, and she felt a similar grief to losing Sonar in the field. Everyone fought back so damn readily though, working together while she just watched from afar. She shut off her nullification field, gazing over the large number of Deans. Then something caught her eye, a Dean surviving a car being thrown at him, as if he had a different power than the rest. She pulled out her goggles, the white noise of everyone around her getting louder and less intelligible. A sea of green met her, every Dean glowing as brightly as. . . Messiah. As Protean. That wasn't right though, the goggles didn't react to squirrels, it didn't react to rocks, it shouldn't react to Master minions.

Epsilon collapsed onto her knees, bile burning her throat.That doesn't make sense, that doesn't-they're meat mush, they're-they're not. She remembered a passing moment, talking to Dean about his power. He was so uncomfortable throughout, and when she proposed testing the clones he seemed appalled at the idea. The noise was reaching a crescendo, and Epsilon was struggling for breath now.

""They're people." She mumbled, her voice too low for the live mic to pick up.
Nora
Protectorate Headquarters and Rocker's Headquarters







Focus shifting, Zach looked over at the newcomers. Ignoring the angel, he moved forward, picking another gun off a twitching thug. He fired into the air five shots ringing off before the clicking of an empty magazine reminded him of its limited capacity. ”I'm perfectly keen on the idea of knocking every fucking one of you unconscious. Just throw down your weapons and leave." He shouted, with no bullets responding to his call. It was mostly over then, that was good. He unclipped his baton, staring at the newcomers. ”You two should probably evacuate, and you, girly, don't know shit about us. It's already a bad day, lets keep it from getting worse" His voice trailed off near the end as another unintelligent individual rushed him, knife raised. He ducked under the cut, letting it go over his head as he extended the baton; it caught the man's arm, making him release the knife.

A voice called out from above, the string girl it seemed. He shrugged at her, not getting the full conversation, and therefore not knowing how to react. His power would prevent any real danger from appearing from those strings, so it didn't particularly threaten him. The derangement he had been given was also in full force, with his shard encouraging the fighting as well without his knowledge.

Hermes:
Laying the Groundwork

@Old Amsterdam

A simple nod was elicited in response to the warning, and another for the order. Soft footfalls accompanied their ever so lonely presence. Hermes motioned to go first, going silent for this part of the mission. Pushing on the double doors, he peaked inside, clearing the room, before motioning to Protean the all clear. He teleported forward, into a spot that covered him from the hallway, letting him lean further in as his larger teammate followed. Peaking around the corner he could not only hear music, but muffled chatter. The silent approach was working so far. Almost under his breath, he conveyed the situation to Decoy. "Twenty individuals, hard to tell how many are armed. I can take out two before they're alert. Advice? Or a holding cell I can place an armed individual?"

The channel he was on connected solely to Decoy, with instructions to pass on relevant information to his teammates. He leaned back around the corner, taking a stressed breath. Though he wasn't supposed to be giving orders, he still motioned for Protean to take a complimentary position to his on the safer side of the hallway. It was habit, being control of the operations he conducted, and his power offered such scouting abilities that he was more often than not the one with a lot more information than everybody else.

There was a certain amount of dissonance, that now even Chatterbox's power couldn't overcome. Thinking over sentences again, they were worded specifically, but they sometimes were contradicted by knowledge already gained. Chatterbox made the claim his team was prestigious, but at the same time Epsilon, one of the biggest cape nerds present, didn't know any of them off hand. His power would push back, covering odd phrasings like that just enough to still affect her, but still. It was a strange mix of emotions for Epsilon, and she was tempted to report it.

She suddenly leaped out of cover again, sprinting to help intercept the villains who had moved further into the building, her gun almost slipping out of her hands at one point. The soldier followed her dutifully, his automatic rifle at the ready, armed with nonlethal rounds. Epsilon glanced back, meeting his eyes again with a quick timid glance. Refocusing, she narrowly avoided running into a forklift. Her face flushed under her mask, as she continued in the flanking direction.


The victim Zach had been assaulting had gone limp, and he looked around. The numbers had dwindled. He heard yelling overhead, and couldn't quite care enough to look up. He tucked away his baton onto his belt, before picking up a gun the man had dropped. It was a glock variant, loaded with actual rounds. They intended to kill or maim it seemed. He raised the gun, firing into the air above three times before it clicked with dissatisfaction matching his own. The catharsis was interrupted by a lack of bullets.

”It's over. You lost." He said in the moments of silence following. Another gunshot sounded, and pinged off his shield, before creating a cloud of dust beneath him. Another barrage of gunshots were fired at not Zach. He glanced in the direction some of the guns were pointed to see a quite intimidating figure. Pristine, an angelic figure in the most literal sense. Yellow hair floated around her, an unseen wind supporting strands just enough to make her seem all the more holy. Next time I should listen to the mission briefing. Didn't expect to fight literal Angels.

Hermes:
Laying the Groundwork

@Eklispe@Old Amsterdam

He readied his elbow, throwing it backwards with some force before teleporting up onto the catwalk. He reappeared, and a moment later his elbow had broken a Community member's nose. Hermes reached out to grab the man's shirt, and teleported him down to the ground floor. He let him collapse onto the hard floor, the still conscious man trying to stifle the heavy blood flow as he got used to his new surroundings. Hermes pulled back the hammer on his empty revolver, standing straight up and pointing it at the goon. "Lets keep it nice and quiet. I don't want to give you a concussion." The man opened his mouth to speak, and Hermes by tightening his grip on his gun. Instantly the goon raised his hands, letting blood splash over his clothes and drip down his chin. His lips quivered, detaching more droplets of blood from his bruised lip. "We don't need this anymore, so lets just talk." The mover said, tucking the gun away in his holster. In response the criminal yelled out, and Jaunted kicked out. The second his foot touched the man, he teleported them to the nearest police station.

A long breath escaped his lips as they arrived, the screaming continuing throughout the void he was sure. He threw his handcuffs attached to his belt to the nearest officer, motioning towards the very silly man. Focusing on the previous location, he teleported back to the warehouse. He arrived amidst Protean and Inkscape, the two heroes treating him the same way they always did. A caution surrounded the orders they gave him, always something they could double check later. It would be so much simpler if he could just do 99% of the work. "He didn't cooperate. Next one coming up." He eyed the man on the cat walk far above, gauging the speed at which he was walking. Raising his foot, he kicked out at about chest level, midway through tripping the little trigger in his mind. He appeared out of thin air, a couple feet off the ground as his foot connected with the man's face. He reached out to keep his balance with the handrails, before moving forward to grab the man's leg.

They appeared at the top of a twelve story building, the man struggling backwards as the world reformed around him. "Now for fucks sake, just talk-" The man wasted no time screaming out. How stupid are these fucking-GAH He grabbed the man's leg, and teleported them to the police station again, right next to the man he'd already teleported here. "Another." He said, teleporting away almost instantly.

The hero appeared again, his body language screaming of agitation. "Why do the gangs hire such dumb pricks?" He mumbled, looking between the two heroes. His costume choice hadn't been much of that. He wore black, tight clothing over various bits of body armor. A PRT communicator was inside his right ear, barely visible underneath the thick helmet he wore. It covered the back of his head better than the front, covering only his eyes with a dark blue visor. A thick belt sat on his waist, tightly pressing against his skin, in the places it didn't dig in. A holster sat there, with an empty revolver present more for intimidation than anything else. Two flash grenades hung on the left side, along with a small medical pouch filling out the back.

"Wait-yeah, they also hired me at one point." He admitted, a long breath escaping his lips, holding back a laugh.

Talk talk talk talk. Did this guy ever love the sound of his own voice. When he yelled shame, Ira flinched at the loud noise. The soldier next to her kept her steady with his presence and his unflinching resolve. He kept going, talking about an eventful escape. The kind of thing Epsilon absolutely loved the sound of spoiling. She shifted slightly, pressing herself against one of the warehouse shelves, large boxes blocking view of her from the other side. He continued on and on, and words seemed to stick in her head. It was a subtle thing, hardly noticeable. Shame, not eventful. She kept her eyes on the soldier, watching his reaction. Nothing. They were fine, they were fine. Barely audible, Epsilon heard the sound of footsteps drawing closer, though the sound stopped soon after. She shifted the grip of her gun in her hand, trying to calm her unsteady breaths. Her hands were clammy, the grip unsteady. The steps played out again, and this time Epsilon picked out that there it was a pair of steps. Retreating, maybe. They might've stepped into the field, but the young tinker filed that down in her head as unlikely. Now that Epsilon replayed his words in her head, she noted the word escape again. It was doubtful they had full coverage of the building, and that was not good news.

Moving quickly now, she motioned for the soldier to follow her in a pretty obvious come on motion. He responded immediately, watching their back while moving backwards at a decent clip. She wanted to put herself in a position best suited to stop their escape. Just the smallest fraction, Epsilon slowed down, dread clawing at her with glancing blows. They couldn't stop them, especially Epsilon. Powers. Powers implied power, but it just wasn't the case for Epsilon. If anything she felt just a powerless now as she di-back then. She saw Margrave just as a door opened on her right. Epsilon shifted, pulling her gun up, before recognizing Messiah's costume. She had missed some of the conversation, it seemed, but now Messiah gave a simple command. Move in on them. Epsilon nodded, her resolve hardening once again. Lifting her left hand, she activated the comm piece, and spoke to her teammates. "I'm gonna try my best to make them literally powerless, guys. We can win this,

Despite the brave front, only being employed because of her position as second in command, she didn't quite believe it. She moved to a location in the opposite direction of where she had been running earlier, slipping between two shelves, and quickly crossing the empty space where no shelves were standing. Time to flank them as safely as she could without getting shot, and crossed another gap before stopping to throw them off. If they had been leading her, she would have a moment of confusion. It felt like she was trying to predict fifty moves ahead, without knowing if her opponent was even at the table.

Zach Kozel:
A warehouse

@Gardevoiran@Spiffy@Xandrya

The young man stood in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the store, patiently awaiting Farce's confirmation. As soon as the radio flicked on, he moved, not waiting for actual words. Confidence in his safety was obvious in every step, in how he took in the situation. This was the simple stuff; his shoulders were rolled back, his back straight, his breathing steady. He pushed the front door of the building, letting it open a bit too hard and slam against the wall inside. Instantly the people inside were hostile, hands hovering above, or readying weapons. More than one pistol was aimed at the ground in preparation of a fight. When Zach extended his baton, they responded by raising their weapons and shouting commands. "Drop your weapon", "The fuck are you thinking?", "Who the hell are you?", Why couldn't they ever have creative responses to his presence.

He moved towards a large group of the thugs, shifting to a sprint once he was close enough. Their inability to use guns was broken all at once as a shot rang out, then three more. His power stopped one, the two other bullets too far off course to hit him. He reached a man who was steadying his pistol. Zach didn't hear the bang, his power blocking it off in anticipation, and didn't even see the bullet as it was deflected off to the right side. His baton came down hard just above the man's ribs, eliciting a yelp of pain. He hit the ground hard, and Zach hit him again in the shoulder, seeing it instantly turn red with a small amount of blood looking from it. This was going to be a long fight.
Decoy, my man~

The HUD inside the PRT's vehicle had a slight delay. Ira had been staring at it since they had set off, and had noticed it once they had gone over a bump. The camera was late in displaying that, and had to take a fraction of a second to refocus. From there Ira had kept her eyes locked onto the display, watching the path they were taking. It was a bit disorientating to feel the vehicle turn on a busy intersection, and have the camera not display that acceleration immediately. The display showed the vehicle turning onto a less populated, poorly maintained street, and Ira-er-Epsilon refocused. She traced her eyes across everyone present, taking each of them in as a whole, and trying to judge their body language. Epsilon wasn't very good at it, and so got very little information. Her team members just seemed generally tense, all in their unique ways.

The young tinker shifted from leaning forward on her knees to leaning back, but felt the metal of her nullification device hit the wall behind her. It was bulky, and had changed quite a bit since its first inception. What had once been a suitcase was now spherical, and awkward shape to pack, but great for keeping a high ratio of volume to surface area. On the top it had a small handle molded into it that it could be carried with. It had a longer battery life, though the distance hadn't been changed. Decoy had insisted on a remote tracking device and satellite controls built in, which Epsilon had immediately agreed to. It was near impossible to hijack the device, for after three minutes without access to a satellite it would shut off. All of that had been the easy part.

Epsilon sighed, going back to leaning forward as the vehicle came to a stop, her eyes focused on the floor. Some unknown signal from those around her caused Epsilon to glance up at the HUD. As she did, a man ran through a door with a smaller individual on his shoulders. Parahumans. The tinker's mind raced, recalling the news from the last month or so. It was a mover-or stranger-or brute-or breaker. It could be a lot of things, actually. Ira defaulted to Stranger breaker, and extrapolated. It seemed really inconvenient to carry someone on your shoulders like that, so either the girl had a very strong power that facilitated her entry, or she was the one with the stranger breaker powerset. At least, that was her first impression. Gunshots sounded from within the building, breaking Epsilon out of her spell. She had been sitting farthest from the door, and she moved now a bit late as the rest (sans Tulpa) exited the vehicle.

Tiger Lily had run off already, and a worried look crossed Epsilons face beneath her mask. That girl was very reckless, and it twisted Epsilon's stomach a bit. The masked crusader listened to the information provided by Tulpa, nodding to herself as she surveyed the outside of the building. She unclipped the goggles strapped to her belt, positioning them over her mask's eye slits, and 'enjoyed' them even further restrict her vision. She scouted again, the digital interface reminding her of the van's HUD. Tiger Lily popped up green as she crested the building, and the harsh green of those close to her distracted her a bit. Everyone started moving out of sync, Margrave talking to Overlook, who's voice elicited a pang of regret in the back of Epsilon's mind. She shook her head, her hands brushing against her white mask's hard exterior as she removed the goggles, reattaching them to her belt, Tiger Lily and Messiah had immediately separated, leaving Epsilon to decide who to follow, or if she wanted to further break the plan. Thinking quickly, she motioned to the lieutenant set to stick with her to follow.

She walked up to the door that the bulky man and young girl had gone through. First she tested it, pressing her hand against it to see if it would allow her to pass through as well. No luck. Next she undid the leather strap holding her pistol down in its holster, pulling the gun (loaded with nonlethal animation) into a safe-but-active position pointed at the ground. Epsilon motioned with her head at the door, the second time more exaggerated. She wanted him to open it. He hesitated momentarily before nodding, approaching and kicking the door directly above the handle. As the door fell inward he shifted to be on the opposite side of Epsilon while she took up a modified weaver stance, her gun pointed at the inside of the building. "Immediate area around the door two of the unidentified para's entered from is clear." She spoke, moving to safety before fumbling with the device on her back. "Activating nullification field in T-minus five, She said quickly, flipping the activation timer. She didn't actually know what T-minus was supposed to mean, but it sounded right.

Epsilon moved her entire head to focus on the soldier. He looked back at her, constantly studying her it seemed. She mouthed the words "Two. One before moving forward, the nullification field blossoming out around her. Those teammates within range would feel it wrap around them, snuffing out their connection to their passenger. He followed close behind, making use of his height along with the fact that she was crouching down slightly to give him a better angle. The rifle he was holding whipped off to the right side as she cleared the left. She was thankful that it was a small alcove, the various shelves and boxes forming a blind spot around them from everything but the catwalk high above. She glanced up, scanning quickly for any threats, as the Lieutenant went about the business of making sure they were completely safe from surprise assaults.

Zach Kozel:
Strip Mall

@Gardevoiran@Spiffy@Xandrya

Zach sat, hunched over the counter, his eyes glued to his hands. He felt like he was stuck in a loop, not able to move past the spiral his mind had entered into. Troll was no joke, and despite Judah being an empath, he was quite shitty at comforting people. Zach statement about the girl being alive had been more to reassure himself than anyone else, and now he was trying to consider the fact that three people may have died because of his actions, or lack thereof. A rapping on the windows elicited a small head movement from Zach, and he slowly stood as Judah entered. He eyed the dog, SpFrarce, and the newcomer as they entered, before moving to follow without question. He seemed even more separated from reality than normal as he climbed into Judah's vehicle. He finally noticed his phone vibrating, and checked it to see the missed text from the twins.

Within a few minutes they had arrived, Zach not one for considering his actions nodded in response to the words Judah said, without absorbing any of it. His emotions were so tangled together, he would be very hard to read with or without powers. Zach climbed out of the vehicle a couple beats late, as the new girl asked if they were prepared. He nodded in response, actually considering those words. Without a mask, he removed the baton attached to his belt and flicked it outward. He mouthed let's go and began walking towards the building indicated by his teammates body language.
Sarah Reiter

Killer Lessons and Killer Looks

Arc 2, day 1
Time: 12:00 pm
The words “Exeo” and “Dead” in the same sentence were like a punch to the gut. The young woman froze, her every feature rigid. The eyes that were so expressive before communicated cold understanding. This wasn't something that happened, it wasn't unlikely, it was hard to believe period. Now that Sarah was looking (or maybe because she was) everything screamed the death at her.

Amana.

Understanding, not in an abstract way but in a deeply personal way. It wasn't just that it was that way for everyone, it was a literal direct understanding. She knew, the god-queen truly knew her. The science behind it was insufficient to mask the great understanding contained within her. Reverence wasn't the word. The ability to go against Amana's will made absolutely zero sense.

The door latched behind Sarah before she realized she was home. It was like the ten minute walk had disappeared, the surroundings a blur. As if trying to detach the thoughts from her head, Sarah shook her head. It helped a little, and she moved to sit down at the kitchen table. An Exeo was dead. It was like a broken record, skipping, repeating the phrase over, and over, and over until the words meant nothing. A roar of white noise, a roar of the impossible, and the roar of nothing.

A knock at the door roused Sarah, and with no light in her eyes she walked to it. It swung open to reveal a human man, graying edges creeping in faster than he'd like. His prime was more than ten years ago, and his eyes spoke of a gentle life. He was wearing a full suit, appearance pristine in an artificial way. He spoke, his voice sounding equally artificial; it was fitting. ”It's time to train, come on, go get ready. Can't mope around all day. Lose the mask too, it's creepy.” Sarah nodded slowly, hardly processing the words all the while. A sarcastic clearing of the throat roused her, and she moved back into the apartment, heading for her room.

The door shut behind her quietly, trapping Sarah with her thoughts again. There isn't time anymore for focusing on the dead. She thought, but not quite believing it. She unbuttoned the skirt recklessly, throwing it onto the bed. She pulled open a drawer, collecting flexible shorts from within, and sat down to pull them on. With a hop in her step, Sarah stood and moved to the next room. The man looked up at her, and the name Alex echoed in her head.

The room shifted, but not truly. He had moved the two of them to a white walled training area. Red lines cut the room into neat squares. The sides of every square were 10 feet long, the ceiling not even visible. Lighting came from nowhere in particular and yet lit everything equally well. Her teacher stood thirty feet from her, his position not that of a fighter. The weight of the jacket was comforting for Sarah, and her confidence rose when she met her tutor's eyes. His eyes spoke of a respect earned, not through power, or through wealth. Respect earned through deeds. Respect earned through understanding.

A slow movement brought Sarah's right hand off to her side, the halberd appearing as her hand closed around it. Vis flowed with purpose through her body, tripping gates on its path. The mask was removed, the change happening from bottom to top. Hard black edges climbed her legs, the markings thinly reaching out to her fingertips from where they were visible underneath her sleeves. The contrast between her fair skin, and the black lines was striking. Every hard line on Sarah's face was accentuated by a darker design. Two of them framed her beautiful blue gem, meeting its middle at a 45 degree angle, and forming a faux tiara in the process. It broke off from that angle right above her eyebrows, framing her cheeks.

The challenge was simple, she just had to land more than a glancing blow. As soon as she did, the sparring session would be over. The first time, almost a year ago now, had to be ended because of her own exhaustion. She had slowly whittled him down over the months of training, and was now at the point where she could hit him within the hour. In her head she repeated the rules that he had instated: No Vis sense: Go at it blind, as a good enough magic user will be trying to mask their vis anyways. If they're not, it's just another advantage for you. No lethal attacks: There were a couple safeguards in place just in case someone went too hard, but it would hinder future training if either of them were dead. No using vis to increase your own stamina. The fight could last a very long time if they had access to that, and it would be a shame if either weren't fit to protect themselves in the time it took to recharge their stores. The final rule was simple: Give up when too tired to fight.

With a defensive stance Sarah approached Alex. The range that his bare fists provided was not even half of the range Sarah's halberd provided. Her right hand clasped the halberd lower than her right hand, the left meant more for guiding than providing force (though it did). For Sarah it was a truly unwieldy weapon, only manageable because of the Vis imbued into it. When she couldn't apply enough force, she could simply make it go a bit faster. When it was knocked aside by shield or parry, she could stop its momentum that much easier. When it wasn't long enough, she could give it the extra inch or so that was needed. She twisted the halberd, haft over blade in a small spin, while cautiously watching her teacher. Back to the normal position Sarah waited another step before swinging the blade forward. The haft settled on the right side of her leg, her feet bracing as soon as they landed.

Another step was enough, and Sarah thrust her halberd forward-Alex instantly struck it off to the left with his right hand, leaning forward while favoring his left side; his legs were positioned to better take the hits she was dishing out. Quickly recovering from the unexpected force, Sarah took another step forward, and swung the halberd like a pole axe. This time he took a step back, rotating so his left shoulder was farther from her than his right. Hesitantly he raised his hands, crouching down a bit. The axe barely missed, and Sarah made the effort to stop it. He moved forward now, trying to rush in to land a blow. With a burst of speed Sarah swung the halberd back, the weapon's blade coming within inches of his chest before he thrust out a palm to deflect it upward. Thinking quickly, she guided the weapon over her body with the force, before letting it go. It sailed over her shoulder, and Sarah ducked out of the way of his punch. Except he hadn't thrown a punch, he had kicked out at her chest, which was now where her head was.

The force of pulling herself down didn't do much to reduce the dizzying hit to her temple. She rolled hip-over-hip, before scrambling to stand. Holding her head with her left hand, she used vis to steady herself. Small things to correct her position, as Alex kept approaching. She raised her head in time to see a punch coming towards her, and she barely had time to duck underneath the blow, reducing the distance. The blow still scraped the top of her head, pushing her a bit off balance. Her hand became engulfed with fire as she pushed vis into her jacket, the oppressive heat filling the air. She pushed it at his stomach, as he grabbed her hair with his left hand. It was a game of chicken, and Sarah had to perform one motion while he had to do two. The fire pressed against his stomach would've burned her too if it hadn't been for her jacket protecting her.

They were back in Sarah's apartment instantly, and while Alex kept his balance, Sarah fared worse. She fell to the floor, barely catching herself with one hand which wasn't quite enough. Rolling onto her side, Sarah stared up at the ceiling, her hand still pressed against her face. With loud footfalls, Alex reached down to Sarah. He didn't offer a hand up, but instead touched her forehead. The Vis didn't reach his eyes as he healed her body. She let it happen, feeling things rebalance themselves. It was like the slow disorientating recovery of stepping off a rollercoaster.

As the world was rebalanced, Alex removed his hand and moved a step away. A large burned area on his exposed stomach was being healed quickly, fabric restitching over it. "Nice work, though you're still a bit predictable with that halberd-" the weapon appeared in his hands as he spoke, and he handed it to her with two hands, "-just keep practicing. You'll make a great fighter, given enough time. Luckily you have plenty of that, dontcha?"

Sarah nodded in agreement, her face flushed from the effort of the fight. She stood up, moving to get a glass of water, as Alex moved towards the door. ”I'm heading out then. I'll see you again, same time Wednesday.” He said, letting himself out.

”See you Wednesday.” Sarah said without looking, the tap filling a glass of water noisily. She drained it quickly, before filling it again, her breathing labored in the interim. The door closed softly, and after another beat it latched. Sarah set the glass down on the counter, before reconsidering, and beginning the process of washing it.

Finishing, she moved to her room, removing the rune jacket. She stared at the patch near the left pocket, focusing the vis in her body on the task. Slowly she crafted runes into her lower back, the act made more difficult by the thoughts of the dead Exeo at the back of her mind. It took a couple minutes, but soon flawless black lines sketched out a will on her back. In Sarah's mind it was the purest expression of the laws of physics. The will of a universal energy made legible. In this intricate, beautiful writing she had written a ward and some illusionary magic. It changed less, removing the markings across her body, and the gem from her face, but not changing the shape of her features. If one knew the particular racial differences between Prae and human, then they could make an educated guess, but even then there were humans born with Prae like facial structure, not the norm, but still within the standard deviation. The ward was the same as always, replicating a non-magical human's vis.

The rough texture of the material grazed her hand, and she drew in some of the reserves of vis within. It energized her, and gave her a bit of a rush like a child with candy. With a bit more of a pep in her step, she moved to her closet, looking at the dresses hanging there. The first couple starting from the left were more formal, with the collection growing less formal the further you traveled down the row. Her hand brushed the shoulders of each, drifting across the material, stopping every so often to take in a particular dress and frame it in her mind. After a minute she decided, removing a dress carefully from where it hung, and holding it against herself.

It draped across the bed as she set it down, before moving on to take of her clothes. She changed quickly, taking care of the mess of her clothes immediately by putting into a hamper. The undergarments were switched from white to black, and the dress came next. Without bothering to check how it looked in the mirror, Sarah moved on to her hair, brushing the tangled mess it had become into something more manageable. Makeup was next, not too much, but enough to highlight her eyes and lips. The cold tile didn't affect her too much through her socks, which she slowly switched out for leggings ending just above her knees. They wrapped up on the outside a bit more, secured with silver thigh chains.

The next thing to be draped was a shawl over her shoulders, the bottom hem an eye catching white. It mixed with purple as it went higher, the gradient evening out to a black around her neck where it was secured with a choker. Now she looked in the mirror, quietly studying her reflection. The actual dress was a mix of purple white and blue, with black tears running across it at an angle. It reminded her of space. Satisfied with the dress and shawl, she moved on to putting on her heels. Sarah wasn't particularly tall, and heels helped a lot in that regard.

Looking back on the experience in Victorius Secret, it was strange that Sarah had stayed as long as she did considering how timid she could be. Though the shopkeep was a comforting presence, he had (basically) called her Prae. In retrospect, she could have brought it up to Alex, but at the same time he had never been one for idle conversation. She stood smoothly, looking again in the mirror. She was lost in thought as she headed out of her apartment, planning on getting something to eat before the grand (re)opening.

Sarah Reiter

An Early Start

Arc 2, day 1
Time: 6:10 am to about 9:00 pm
Steam clung to the ceiling, clouding the bright light above. Sarah thought about Icarus as she turned off the shower, and grabbed the towel to dry herself off. "It's a bit of a stretch," She mused in her head, "to compare steam to Icarus." It was cold outside the shower, which prompted Sarah to hurry. The towel did it's job wonderfully, though her hair was still wet after the rest of her body was dry. She was tempted to generate hot air to dry it, just to hurry the process along, but she opted for the hairdryer instead. Besides, what would her guest think? She opened a nearby drawer, and removed it, plugging it into the outlet next to the sink. Sarah looked around idly as she dried her hair, taking in a now familiar scene. The room wasn't excessive, much like her entire apartment, but completely unlike where she had been raised. The sink wasn't marble, but a simple metal design. The floor was a cheap tile, that if treated too poorly could sustain serious water damage. These things didn't draw Sarah's eye as much as the smaller things. The small amount of dust on top of the toilet's basin, the dirt accumulating at the edges of the floor. Little annoyances that didn't occur when you had hired help.

Belatedly, Sarah realized her hair was dry. She unplugged the hairdryer and stored it away, before removing her brush from the medicine cabinet behind the mirror; she started straightening out the knots. She watched herself in the mirror, studying her Prae features. It was something her parents would want her to do, know who she was. What she was. The next step would be unthinkable to most Prae. She set down the brush, and centered herself. Draped over the empty spot on the towel rack was her jacket. She touched the sleeve gingerly, and drew a bit of energy for the catalyst. It always felt strange no matter the regularity of the action. Pushing energy through the jacket, she found the gate she was looking for. The levy broke with the smallest interference from her vis. A ward formed quickly, pushing out around her body, centered on her belly button. The next spell was cast immediately after the first, her cheekbones growing dull, her gem disappearing, and the markings on her legs fading into her fair skin. She walked back over to the mirror, studying her own body. Same as always, a beautiful mask. Being 'alone' in public as a Prae was so very hard, but with this she was just another human. The ward didn't block out all vis, but instead painted the picture of a normal human.

Her hand fumbled a bit as she reached without looking for the clothes folded on the counter beside the sink. She glanced down, and picked up the pieces one by one. Layer by layer, various underwear, skirt, tank top, and then her precious precious jacket. Admittedly Sarah felt the tiniest bit more drained than usual at the minute. She had to make use of a full body illusion spell last night because of him. Sarah opened the door slowly, pulling it into the bathroom, and entering her bedroom from the side. He was laying on the bed on the side farthest from the shower. He rolled over as she took her first step from tile to carpet, looking her up and down. Brown hair, brown eyes, and skin that spoke of foreign lands. It was the eyes that had convinced her both times, though she had played it coyly. He was shy, or had been at first. He was almost naive enough to miss the looks she had been giving and the flirting she had done.

"Damn. Twice I don't get to wake up with you beside me." He said, his voice just loud enough to be heard, “worse yet, you’re already dressed.” Sarah had the slight suspicion he had been practicing that sentence, though her face colored despite herself.

”It’s so much easier to talk when my lips have been loosened by those silly drinks.” She thought, moving gracefully around the bed towards the door on the other side of the room. She kept her eyes on his. Attempting to seem cool as she ignored her own red cheeks. She sat down next to him on the bed, and moved her lips to the side of his head. ”You better be ready to leave by 8:00.” She said, the tone of her voice making it clear she was only half teasing. The carpet caressed her feet as she walked out of the open bedroom door, straight to the kitchen.

The creaking of the bed springs alerted Sarah to his presence. As she opened the fridge he leaned his head over the door, looking down at her. ”Your room is rather sparsely decorated. Judging by that, and the fact that I’ve only seen you at the club twice, I’m guessing you’re new in town. That, or a recovering chronic shut-in.” His voice hadn’t changed, still quiet. Just quiet enough that you had to strain to hear it, but not low enough that you would actually misunderstand. It wasn’t how he talked at the club, he had to shout to be heard there. It was a nice contrast, and piqued her interest more than a little.

”Not new in-town, kind of a shut-in, and kind of offended” She said, smiling momentarily, before poorly hiding it. She removed the butter and eggs, and used her foot to close the fridge door. He stood straight up before his perch was removed from under him. He leaned against the counter next to the stove, expecting this part of the routine. Sarah obliged, setting the eggs and butter next to the stove, and removing a skillet from a nearby cupboard.

He glanced down at the stove, as she turned it on and placed some butter on it. ”Do I get to learn your name this time? Or is the third time the charm?” He moved away from the counter, circling around her and giving her an inquisitive look. ”He’s definitely thinking of these in advance.” Sarah thought, refraining from answering his question. She cracked an egg carefully, dropping it in the skillet to cook, while acting very focused. He responded by throwing his hands into the air, and sighing melodramatically; he walked back to the bedroom. Out of the corner of her eye Sarah saw him walk around the bed, before entering the restroom.

”How did I not notice he was naked?” She wondered idly.




The food on Sarah’s plate was half gone before he had finished showering and drying off. He walked out, and she could hear him putting his clothes on from the various quiet rustling noises. He walked out while buttoning up his pants, the wrinkles telling a story of being left on the floor all night.

His unbuttoned white dress shirt helped to reaffirm that narrative. She spoke up as their eyes met, a smile trying to make an appearance and showing at the edges of her lips. ”Sorry about not getting you breakfast this time. Stuff to be done, and in the rush I forgot to get more eggs.” She gestured at the empty carton peeking out of the almost full trashcan.

He glanced over at it, before shrugging, and sitting down at the opposite side of the small wooden dining table. ”I’m not accustomed to eating this early anyways, so don’t worry about it. Besides I ate plenty last-” He started grinning, cutting himself off from saying it; Sarah looked away, trying and failing to hide her face. ”No but seriously, I understand. I’m going to head out now. Have a nice day, no name.” Sarah recovered while he spoke, nodding in agreement. Sarah was soon alone with her thoughts, as he made his way out of the apartment.

She meditated on the night as she ate. Every so often she glanced up at the clock, slightly worried she’d be late. At around 7:30 she got up, and walked over to a locked door. She set her hand on the handle, pushing vis into it. The rune within responded, unlocking itself and Sarah entered the room quickly. There was a workbench centered on the wall opposite the door, with various drawings scattered around its surface. The workbench had a bulletin board on top of it, leaning on the wall behind it. There, detailed very extensively was a drawing of her coat. It had taken six months to diagram the thing out, and more than two years to actually start the enchanting process. She had tested it out on a couple electric circuit simulators online, making sure it returned true values and false values when needed. Even a single mistake could’ve set her back months, more if found late enough.

Sarah’s attention detail and commitment to the project made sure it was perfect the first time. The left side of the room had various pedestals, meant purely to separate the runes lying there visually. The system, when given a supply of vis, would generate runes in designated places, according to template runes she made personally. It wasn’t that complicated in execution, but more a mental puzzle. Trying to figure out how to get the expected result without making the entire act of undertaking the process useless.

The efforts had paid off, however, and now she was barely indistinguishable from human even when it came to casting magic. She could throw a fireball or ice spear like the best of them, real physical things that hurt-or so she was told. She was still working at better understanding how humans appeared when casting magic, as the process seemed so alien. Her best disguise was still a human with no magical tendencies, though that was also one of the safest disguises in her experience.

Her halberd lay in the corner, its position making it out to be an unused relic. Honestly the act of keeping it on hand was a pain, but safety was important. She could fight well without it, but even better with it. She lay her hand on the large handle, lifting it casually before spinning it so the blade was facing upward. Again she focused, the vis targeting specific runes throughout her coat. The weapon disappeared into a pocket dimension, and her stores of vis suffered for it. :No clubbing tonight, I need to keep myself topped off on vis,” She noted idly, moving out of her workshop, and letting the door close behind her. Its lock clicked into place as Sarah picked up her small black bag, and opened the front door.




It was overcast, and the oppressive sameness of it was something that still bothered Sarah. ”It couldn’t be a bright cheerful day, no, it has to look like a funeral is about to start every damn day” She thought, annoyed. The walk to class was consistently uneventful, which was nice. No one kept their eyes on her for long enough to make her feel uncomfortable, it felt like there was a bigger bubble outside the literal bubble that was the ward. She was just another human schoolgirl, she wasn’t special or better than anyone.

It was 8:56 when she arrived on campus, and three minutes later she arrived at her first class of the day. It was her only early class in the week, though she did have a night class later in the day. The advertisement for said class was very vague, but she went out on a limb. With her luck it’d turn out be about philosophy of magic, or worse religions and magic. God she hated that class; the textbook was very poorly written. It wasn’t just dry, though it’d make better kindling than reading, it was also poorly sourced. Bias shone through really heavily, and it felt more like a sermon than an educational text.

The seat she took was one of the empty ones near the front. The class she was currently attending was a History of the races III which she tested into. Truthfully Sarah didn’t have too high a hopes for it, but the textbook was actually pretty interesting. She settled in, listening attentively to the professor and taking extensive notes the entire time. She could already tell that she wouldn’t have to study for the test. The act of note taking guaranteed that, as she knew she’d remember the material better after writing it down.
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