Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

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Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

Postby Visavis » Fri Mar 29, 2013 7:59 pm

shaydeswhisper: Perspectives May: Post here!
I really loved some of the stories that the other Perspectives contest has generated so I want to try it again. Last time we got to see ourselves through the eyes of another Reciprocator. It was a very difficult exercise but as I said we got some good results from it. Thanks to everyone that joined in, and as I just said in the other thread the winner will be announced soon.

This month I'm going to make things a little easier. We will all be writing about our own characters, but with a twist. As heroes, our characters save lives every day. We are going to explore what those we save think about us.

Your assignment, if you choose to except it, is to write about your own character, but through the viewpoint of someone you rescue. You can make it a first person account, or a third person narrative told from their viewpoint. The main point is to examine what the one you rescue might think of you.

Do you scare them? Do they think you are goofy and ineffective? Are they awed by you?

Deadlines for this contest will be at 11:59 PM EST, May 31. I'm not entirely sure who will help judge and all that, but the prize will be 4 million influence. This time since you are writing about your own character we dont need to have a signup, but I would be curious to know how many people intend to give it a go. Feel free to leave any comments or questions here or to email them to me.

Thanks!
Yuki
Last edited by Visavis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 1:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

Postby Visavis » Fri Mar 29, 2013 8:09 pm

Cyberette: Another day at the bomb infested office.
((Apologies in advance if I offend anyone with poor writing, or misrepresentations of character. I don’t really think I’ve done anything out of line, but… I didn’t ask, and I apologize. But. Without further ado…))



The world was in static chaos all around Terry Dandle; the office in a shambles. The morning’s paperwork strewn about, torn and crumpled. Large gouges in the side of his fine pressboard desk. And dirt. Lots of dirt. For some reason the dirt everywhere upset him. Mostly because he knew that it wasn’t usual. And for some reason it helped him realize that the bright yellow barrel with the digital clock ticking away the rest of his life was more real than he had wanted.

He wasn’t the only one in the room. There was Mary Bechwood. They had just had lunch together yesterday. They joked about how things never seemed to change around the office. That maybe it might be time for another goofy Hawaiian shirt day, or a company barbecue…

She looked at him desperately, pleading with him through her eyes to rise to action somehow, To think of something. But there was something else to the look. That was the scariest thing about it; the awareness that they were helpless. The other three… men in the room had already made it perfectly clear that any amount of struggle would just result in another death.

Terry let his eyes wander to the motionless hand not but 15 feet away from himself. The hand of Scott Freemont. The lifeless hand. The man was Terry’s superior. A real stand-up guy. Too stand-up. They decided to electrocute him to death when he struggled. His screams still rang through Terry’s brain. The smell was still in the air.

But then there were the three there, with their patchy brightly coloured and oddly shaped hairstyles, And these big …things coming out of their shoulders. Crackling with Energy. Popping every once in a while. Every pop made Terry jump something awful. They had come in through the floor. A veritable sea of lunatics and deadly clowns bursting from the floor like it were some kind of spider’s egg-sac. They didn’t waste any time, for a while anyone they ran across was immediately attacked. Beaten. Killed… And they laughed about it.

Terry was down on the ground floor when it happened, fetching the next batch of reports from Linda Mitchel… whom he hoped got to safety, but had no way of knowing at this point. For some reason Terry was compelled to come back to the office. To check on Mary, Scott, Frank… So that they knew to leave. To flee. Like he should have done from the beginning.

But then it came. It was slow. It creeped on the building like a migrating rock concert. A veritable cacophony. For a while, Terry thought the intercoms were acting funny, like someone was piping music through them. Then suddenly it burst loudly into the building.

o/` -ar machine this brings to life/ opens up one eagle eye/focusing it on the sky/ as Ninety-Nine Red balloons go- o/`

There was a welling… a building throughout that verse. The next word to come was distorted, amplified. And it shook the building, He could hear a great crashing, and yelling from below. Large objects hitting the walls from below.

Then a wave of crackling electricity, small arms fire, and large poundings mixed with curses overlayed through the rest of the… song. But all of it seemed to just encourage the song to grind out the remaining notes more intensely.

o/` -orry worry super scurry/ call out the troops now *IN A HURRY*/ this is what we’ve waited for/ this is it *BOYS* this is *WAR*/ the president is on the line..o/`

Then silence.

For a long moment, it was silent.

In the distance the elevator pinged.

Then nothing.

Suddenly the intercom squelched to life. A woman’s voice followed soon afterward.

“Attention all you Freakshow. This just in:”

The voice changed to a deep, ominous voice,

“MY MEN ARE HERE! I AM HERE! BUT SOON… *YOU* WILL NOT BE HERE!”


It clicked off.



Some moments later there were voices in the hallway.

“ –eep it together. 42nd. Down that hall. Check the offices. Kit. Go with him. Cyber, You’ve got that office, then meet me down the hall. If you see any more explosives, call it out.”

“Piece ‘o cake. Dis’ll be over’n a minute.”

“Sure thing.”

“Ah-ffirmative, Beamer.”

Terry looked to the closed office door as her heard a low whine slowly grown in volume, then stop. The three ‘Freakshow’ in the office had grown silent, and crouched behind the desk, waiting.

There was a loud crack as the door burst open, revealing a tall robot woman in blue, black and gold armour. There was a pause, as her glowing green visor Locked on Terry a moment, Then a quick glance to Mary, and the bomb.

“Vince, we’ve go-“

The Freakshow lunged over the desk, Screaming obscenities.

But their attacks were deflected by some kind of humming field. They stared at her, and braced to attack, again, raising their arms out to her all at once.

o/` ya knock me off a my feet now, baby—HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE o/`

The power of Michael Jackson’s high pitched squeal shuddered the office. The sensation was strange. Terry could feel it pass over him. He felt the reverberation and heard the sheer volume of it, but not much else. The other three, however weren’t so lucky. Sent reeling back into one another.

The robowoman at the door seemed to generate some kind of energy ball in her hands, and tossed it at the sailing bodies. There was a rush of air on impact, and an explosion which caused Terry’s ears to ring, muffling everything around him as he watched the three ‘Freakshow’ sail through the air yet again. One stumbled back to his feet and staggered around, But the Tall Robot lady ignored him, and rushed over to Mary, and released her from her bonds. Saying in a strange man’s voice,

“Pork chop sandwiches! Oh shit, get the fuck outta here! Whatta ya doin’ go, get the fuck out of here.”

But it clicked off as Mary stared at her blankly, her lower lip quivering.

“Hey,” the woman’s voice began, “You’re going to be okay, just get to the ground floor and exit the building. Quick!”

Mary nodded and ran for the door, pausing to look back to Terry.

But Terry finally felt as if everything were going to be Okay.

The Staggering Freakshow seemed to regain his bearings and screeched angrily raising his fists to her as the things at his back crackled intensely.

She looked to Terry, ignoring the Freakshow a moment to pry his hands free of the rope, “You’re going to need-“

There was a mighty crackle, but the electric web seemed to spread out harmlessly around an invisible barrier.

“-Your hands to cover your ears.”

She turned, quickly as Terry took the hint. He felt the air hum, and suddenly grow silent. Then there was a tremendous booming noise that he felt deep in his chest as she leaned forward, on foot braced behind her to steady her body. The Freakshow took it full in the chest and crumpled.

She motioned for Terry to leave, “You gotta get out of here, there’s not much time.”

“Wh-who are you?” Terry asked, as he wobbled to the door.

“I’m a Reciprocator.” She responded before calling into the air, “Got a bomb in the office. Taking care of it, now.” There was a response of some kind from within what Terry finally recognized as a helmet instead of her actual head.

“I mean what’s your name?”

She shooed him off, “Cyberette. Now go! If you haven’t noticed, there’s a bomb in here! Git!”

Terry ran out the door, and passed a man With Brightly Glowing eyes, A giant Orange cat, and a woman with a galaxy of purple around her and glowing eyes to match as they poured into the office after his departure.

“Awe. Dem’s in here is already knocked out.”

“You got it, Jess?”

“Yeah, I got it. Just gimme a sec.”

“Good job, Kid.”

They’d saved his life; the Reciprocators. They saved the building.

((Also, any feedback is welcome, of course. Anything you feel is missing, lemme know. I know it's kinda minimal... but. I procrastinated. Hope you liked it!))
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Re: Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

Postby Visavis » Fri Mar 29, 2013 8:39 pm

Roguish1: Payback's a Bitch...And Her Name's Tegan.
"No, I--I think I can take them," the feminine voice lighted over the comm frequencies. "In fact, I'm quite certain of--*BZZT!*" The line went dead.

"Ma'am? Ma'am!?" the frantic voices came back over the communicators. "Ma'am!?!"

"Objective: Accomplished. Hostage: Apprehended."

"Oh, shit...We’ve gotta get someone in there, now! This can’t happen again.”
“I know just who to call…”

***
"Directive: Position: Hold." The Communications Officer was grinning. He'd dreamed of this day for a long, long time. The woman just stared.

"But...but, I've not done anyth--"

"Status: Silence. Hur hur hur hur! Object: You. Object: Prisoner. Possession: Ours."

"It won't go unnoticed, you know...Do you realize who I am?"

"Feelings: Hope. Time: Soon. Objective: More: Soldiers. Object: You. Name: Insignificant."

The woman glared. Insignificant?! Insignificant!?! This Rikti bastard really had no clue. She sat on the floor, arms crossed, somewhat pouting. Her self-inflated view had just been popped by...an alien. After a few moments, she glanced around at the Rikti...then she saw it. The Death Mage.

"No...oh, God, no...!"

"Yessss...." The Mage hissingly sneered. His bony fingers reached for her soft, delicate cheek, stroking it lightly before she yanked her head away. "Oh, tut, tut. No reassson to be sssso....prim and proper now..." A Guardian grabbed her by the shoulders and hissed a laugh in her ear. She turned her head slightly away.

"Do your worst..." she sneered out in a whisper.

The Death Mage grinned, "Oh, I plan too, my lovely....I plan to..." A crash above them distracted the mage only slightly. A few ancient words in a dark language and several behemoths and lesser daemons were at his side, hissing, sizzling, and smelling of sulfur. The woman tried to keep her calm. Perhaps that noise was her rescuing party...

...or perhaps...it was just more Rikti...

She closed her eyes and sat with her hands in her lap. Her fingers idly touched a vial in her pocket. She'd made a promise and she was going to keep it. Another crash--this one closer. The woman smiled slightly and looked to the Communications Officer. "I told you..."

"Status: Silence!" The Officer looked at her, then at the daemons surrounding her, then nodded to his, er...aliens... to follow him and check out the source of the noise. "Object: You," he spoke to the Death Mage. "Position: Hold. Action: Return: Soon."

That was the last the Death Mage saw of Tu'Krak, the Communications Officer. But, that was only the second of the noises he heard before his compatriot's disappearance.

The woman grinned. "I told you... My disappearance would not go unnoticed..."

"Yesss...." The Death Mage hissed. "Bring your friendsss....bring your heroessss....we shall dessstroy them allll...."his voice turned into the maniacal laugh of someone who thinks they've won--when clearly, the tables were about to turn.

That's when the woman saw it. Well, her... A very tall woman with dark hair and a tan complexion--but what Jane noticed the most were the intense, blue eyes. The woman just mowed through the Rikti like they were butter and she were warmed knife. Once Tu'Krak fell, this unlikely rescuer turned to face the daemons.

Jane could tell the woman had faced demons before...The glint in her eye--the set of her jaw. Jane smiled. "It seems, sir, my rescuing party is about to kick. Your. Ass."

She smiled as the woman called out some rather disparaging remarks, mostly surrounding the maternal morality of the Death Mage. She laughed at some the insinuations made by the gutsy woman and watched as, one by one, the demons crashed to the ground in a heap. The guardians all thought they could stop the unstoppable force, but they, too, fell.

Finally, the Death Mage had had enough. "Let'ssss finish thissss..."

"Yeah, whatever. Payback's a bitch an' her name's Tegan...." A powerful punch to the Mage's face sent him flying. Jane made a note of the name. Once the Death Mage lay face down upon the ground--with Tegan's boot on his head--Tegan made one last statement: "Go back to hell where ya belong." Then, she turned her intense blue eyes upon Jane.

"You Lady Jane?"

"Yes, ma'am," Jane said as she stood, extending her hand.

"Ain't got time, chica... we got company. Duck!" She grabbed Jane's head and ducked her behind herself as a stream of Rikti came pouring towards them. Jane grabbed her pistols and started firing. "...the FUCK are you doing?! Stay down!"

"I'm trying to help!"

"You ain't! Just stop! Let me handle this! You're....squishy! I can at least take a hit!"

"We have to keep this sample safe!" A blast from a Rikti pulse rifle sent Jane flying against the cave wall. "Oof!"

"God damn it! Would you fuckin' listen to me for a change?! Get the fuck outta here!" A blow from a Behemoth made Tegan blink back some tears. One punch from her, and all was retributed.

"A-are you sure? I mean I cou--"

"You're still here?!" Tegan screamed as she put her fist through another mage. "I'm gonna tell you this one last time. I don't give a fuck who you are or you think you are. What I want you to do is get. The fuck. Outta here! NOW!" She reached over,dodging a shot from a Behemoth and hit the transporter beacon on Jane's belt....

Back at the Headquarters for the Midnighter’s Secret Conclave, Lady Jane stood in front of her comrades and assistants…and boss. A few scratches, a plasma burn, a torn uniform, and several bruises and cuts on her face, she weakly recounted what happened after this…Tegan girl showed up.

“So, I’m sorry, Lady Jane, she burst in and started swearing. At you? You’re the superior officer.”

“Something tells me rank means nothing to her,” Lady Jane smirked through a bruise at her mouth. The Auto-doc hummed as it worked to repair her wounds. “She fought valiantly. I couldn't believe how many of those Rikti she fought off single-handedly! Hero-1 and Omega Team could have used someone like her."

Uninterested in what she was saying, the Admiral cut her off, "What did you do with the sample?"

"I gave it to her. She'd fought so hard and so brilliantly, it would have been a shame not to..."

The man’s eyes went large. “You what?! She’s reckless on a goodday! You expect her to actually take care of that sample?!”

“Yes,” Lady Jane looked up, a bit of defiance in her eyes. “I do expect her to take care of that sample and accomplish the directive given to her. She is not incapable of accomplishing tasks,sir. She is, after all, a Hero of the City. One is not given that title. It is, in fact, earned.”

The Admiral sighed. "What do you recommend, Lady Jane? A commendation? A medal of honor? She failed to get you to where you needed to be, choosing instead, to send you back to us."

”She did the best she could under the circumstances, sir,” Jane spoke firmly. “We had an ambush of Rikti. There was not much else she could do. I wasn’t about to give up on the fight. I suppose she saw that I was badly injured and made a decision based on her available information.”

The Admiral thought. The Auto-doc buzzed. Lady Jane closed her eyes. Finally, the Admiral spoke the awkward silence that had settled upon the Midnight Circle. “Did you happen to get the name of this …masked hero?”

“She wore no mask, sir,” Jane spoke idly. “She said her name was Tegan. Her uniform was black with blue and gold accents. I’ve seen it before—Reciprocators.” The Admiral quirked a brow. Jane continued. “I looked her up in the computer. It seems her Hero License reads ‘The Serial Avenger.’ Her name is Tegan Viola Morris. If you require more information, I’m sure I can acquire it.”

“No, no, that will be fine. I’ll speak with the Black Starbeam regarding her attitude and actions.”

“Her attitude?!” Jane exasperated. “Her attitude?! It is that same attitude that kept me from dying, sir!”

“It’s inappropriate for a hero. Especially one of lesser rank than—“

“Than me? Than you? Sir, I am still alive because of her.”

“I’ll mention that in the facsimile.”

Jane blinked and stared at her commanding officer. As he turned to leave, the Auto-doc beeped and the robotic voice thanked her for choosing the Auto-doc 3000, expressed its hope that she felt better and bid her good day. Jane heard very little of the robotic voice. She simply stared after the Admiral who seated himself at his desk, preparing the facsimile.

Jane hopped from the table and went to her own office. There she sat and drew up a letter of commendation. The Admiral could say what he wanted, but he wasn’t there. The letter was addressed to The Black Starbeam… with a copy going to Tegan V. Morris.
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Re: Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

Postby Visavis » Fri Mar 29, 2013 8:42 pm

Flame_Kitten: Fumiyo
*A Reporter’s handheld recording of an interview with a person at a office building assaulted by a group of creatures known as Ghosts*

Its was a normal enough day. I got up. I dressed, ate. Walked out of my apartment, down the street and out the door. Went to turn left, saw the thugs turned right instead. Just in time thankfully as a fireball crashed into them. I hope the shrubbery didn't get burnt. I walked around the long way of my block, stopping for some coffee at a new street vendor since I couldn't get to the Cafe today. I then proceeded to my office building a few blocks away. Its really hazardous for us citizens, Always trying not to be caught in the crossfire, look.. There's another hero using large explosives in a populated city block.. *sigh* Oh well. They do mean well. Momma always said it was intent that made the deed. I get to my office, go up to the fifth floor and walk through the maze like structure that I never really did understand, to the very back room, up a small flight of stairs, past the several cubicles and into the server room. Toss my empty coffee out, and I take a seat. Only to find the ground... As the entire building shook heavily. I could hear stampeding feet, and then sudden several of greenish figures appeared all around me... Ghost? But they only existed in that mystic Croatoa place! Or at least that’s what the Paragon Travel Channel said.... Never can trust TV these days... I kind of just crouched there on the ground as the jeered at me, threaten me... Talking about how they'd kill me. Then I saw something else.. And as I shall it the air began to get really cold. These ghost had barely lowered the air temperature, that which was coming differently was.. Maybe their leader? What no.. it was clearly a she, and just as incorporeal as the others, through she had some sort of uniform on.. A giant fist in the center of it... A Hero? She didn't make a sound as she seemed to study the room. And then everything was a blur. The blue and grayish lady sudden struck, and the ghost were flying away. Another one was sent downward, seeming to break apart after a nasty kick to the head. The others swarmed here, five left. The all seemed to get tripped as the incorporeal lady did a sweeping move. And then I heard something... She was humming! Just as plain a day as if nothing was wrong humming.. It was a slightly creepy hum through, but it did make me feel safer oddly. Suddenly there was only two of the green ghost left. They tried to blast the other one down, but they couldn't hit her as she evaded them and countered. A over head arm swing took out one of them, followed by a snappy kick to the other leaving it dazed for the finishing move of that flying jump kick. Everything just seemed to slow back down to normal when it was done.. She floated there serenely, slowly turning as if scanning the area. Facing me, she stopped.. and smiled. "Greetings child. I trust you're okay?" was what she said. Her voice was soft, Wispy.. Lilting like a softly sung song. I kind of stumbled over my words, not really able to speak, but I think I squeaked out a who/what are you.. Her smile turned sly and she told me "You need only know I'm a Reciprocator, Fumiyo the Spirit Monk. Come now, lets get you out of here. There are more." And with that, she floated onwards, ignoring the doorway, leaving me to scramble to keep up with her. She did float at a slow pace letting me keep up with her. It wasn't exactly the kind of harrowing experience one sees on TV ghost story programs... Her presence was reassuring more than anything, through the chilly air was annoying. We were ambushed twice. Both times it was over quickly, as if she'd seen every encounter a hundred times.. Maybe she had. She was a ghost. As I reached the door, she began to fade away saying "You should be safe now dear. Do take care." in that lilting wispy voice and she was gone... I stumbled out the front door to find police, reporters and bystanders... And well, then you reporters asked me to tell my story and I did. A Reciprocator named Fumiyo the Spirit Monk saved me. And I thank her.
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Re: Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

Postby Visavis » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:03 pm

Static Bolter: Home Alone
Gemma yawned over the large, dusty book she was reading,fidgeting in her seat. Mother Macomber and all the others had gone out to ‘test’ some heroes, and left her to guard their home. Ha… babysit was more like. Worse still, she had to read through five chapters on storm summoning before they got back so she could demonstrate what she’d learned to Sister Allen. She turned her eyes back to the page open in front of her and sighed.

What little concentration she had left was broken by noise from down the hall. Perhaps they were back early? Sister Allen wasn’t going to be happy with her performance…

----------------------------------------------

Gemma pressed herself against the wall of the main hall. She’d piled up what she could at the side entrance to the cave and cast a small sealing spell over it to try and hold it fast. The Red Caps’ chatter on the other side of the barrier was faint. They were still happy with the toys they’d discovered in the other halls. The main corridor however was still open, and the sounds of laughter and destruction were drawing nearer with each passing moment. Gemma squeezed her eyes shut, grinding her shoulder blades against the back wall as though trying to dig her way out through the cave wall.

The harsh voices cut off suddenly with a cry of either exultation or anger. The sounds of destruction continued a few moments more, then went silent save for a regular thumping, like footsteps, but too fast to be natural. They were almost at the cave mouth. Gemma bit her lip in fear, locking her eyes to the opening in time to see a black, blue and red blur burst forth into the room before catching itself on a tree root and immediately coming into focus at the sudden change in speed. It was a woman in a hero uniform, her leg caught under the root bringing her to a complete stop. Her face was a mask of surprise as she fell forward, flinging her arms out to catch herself and thumping unceremoniously on the floor. She rolled over with a groan and sat up, her limbs twitching and jerking oddly. Gemma watched on as she stood and dusted herself off, looking around at the hall. “Uhm… hello?” The odd woman asked. “Anyone in here? I think I got them. It’s safe to come out.”

Gemma stepped forward out of the shadows on the wall. “Thank the mother for that. Are you a hero? You shouldn’t be here.”
“Well… neither should the Red Caps.” Came the reply. The young woman started twitching oddly again, looking sheepish. “Actually, I’d stopped by to ask if I could borrow a book. Err… looks like I picked a bad time.”
Gemma raised her hands in what she hoped was an allaying gesture. “No tat all. You picked the perfect time for me. I was scared those Red Caps were going to come in here and kill me.”
The twitchy woman grinned reassuringly, gesturing back over her shoulder. “Well they all burrowed off into the ground after I filled the corridors with lightning.”
Gemma tensed immediately. “They burrowed down?” Her voice sounded small and shaky in her ears as she turned to look at the corridor. “Oh no… quick! We have to get out of here, they’re just going to come back, bigger and stronger!”
The other woman looked confused, then her face fell. “Oh crap I forg—”

The ground erupted, spilling forth twisted limbs and grinning faces. Gemma’s odd guest leapt back, almost faster than the eye could follow, locked her hands together and lifted them over her head, then brought them down upon one of the Red Caps’ jaunty hats. There was a bright flash and sparks scattered as the Red Cap was thrown back down the tunnel on to a number of his brethren. She cast out her hands, electricity lacing out from her fingertips to incapacitate two others. Gemma’s mind raced to remember some of her studies. The last Red Cap in the cave turned and raised one of his wicked daggers at her, and she waved her hands frantically, casting the first spell she could think of. Light flashed in his face and he stepped back screeching and covering his face. His footing lost, the Red Cap dropped down into the hole in the floor, knocking down those who had reattempted the climb.

Looking down, Gemma could see their beady eyes staring back up at her, and getting closer with each second. Her attention was dragged away by the scraping noise beside her.

“Uh, think you could give me a hand with this?” The jittery woman asked from behind the big cauldron she was pushing towards the hole. Gemma sheepishly came and joined her, the two women heaving it over the edge. There was a loud CLANG and some pained cries.
“Enjoy all that iron, jerks!” The twitching woman called down, running her hands through her hair tiredly.
“Mother Macomber isn’t going to like that we broke her cauldron…” Gemma complained.
“She’s got another one.” The stranger shrugged and pointed over at the large one that currently formed the main part of the barrier to the other hallway. “C’mon, we’d best get out of here, that thing won’t stop them for long.”

The barrier exploded inwards, bookshelves splintering, the hard iron cauldron toppling to the side. The heroine rolled her eyes heavenward murmuring. “Why did I say that?” then turned to Gemma. “Get back!” Gemma watched as the young woman was lifted off her feet by a blow from the biggest, meanest Red Cap she’d ever seen. She connected with a large tree root before hitting the ground in a jittery heap. The Red Cap laughed heartily, capering over to her. Gemma was frozen on the spot, unable to help, unable to even cry out. A large gnarled hand reached down to lift the woman up like a limp rag and grin at her malevolently. She suddenly lifted her head and grinned back then wrapped her limbs around his arm and released a concentrated electrical charge into him. The Red Cap screamed in pain, his body shuddering. Eventually he shook the woman off, throwing her roughly against the wall before diving down into the earth. She sprang to her feet, rubbing at her side with a pained expression, and limped towards Gemma. “Quick! Get the Cauldron!”
Gemma rushed to help,looking confused. “What are you doing? We should be running!”
The woman heaved her shoulder against the heavy, iron cauldron. “Trust me.” She said, near breathless from the exertion. “I’m a Reciprocator, we do this every day.”
She pushed again, bringing the cauldron to rest upside down over the disturbed earth where the Red Cap made his exit. She leant against it tiredly. “…And it almost always works.”

The ground started heaving again, yet was cut short by aloud DONG noise. Gemma couldn’t help but laugh, and picked up a splintered plank from the remains of one of the bookshelves. She hammered it against the side of the cauldron, making the iron ring loudly. “Hah! Take that you filthy garden gnome!” Her rescuer gingerly prodded her ribs with her fingertips. “I uhm… think I might go home… if you’re okay here dear. I’ll pop by another time for that book.” Without waiting for a reply she launched herself off down the cave tunnel, towards the exit. Gemma looked around at the now completely devastated room and groaned. “Mother Macomber’s gonna kill me…”
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The Rescue of Jennifer Watson

Postby MrMundane » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:09 pm

Jennifer looked up at the noise, squinted and watched the grill wrench open with the sound of ancient gears straining to work. Framed in the doorway, backlit by flickering firelight, was the silhouette of a man in a bowler hat. He was carrying a shovel.

It had to be ... "Mr Mundane? Oh my god, John!" Jennifer leapt to her feet, but before she had moved two steps she saw two robed figures step out of the darkness behind the hero and push him into the cell. He turned, watched the grill slam down into its locked position, and waved to the two guards as they wandered off into the darkness of the tunnels.

"Oh," said Jennifer, then, not sure what else to say, she said "Oh" again.

The man tipped his hat to her. The illumination in the cell was weak and irregular, and the hero was nondescript and vague at the best of times, but Jennifer was pretty sure it was him. Not too many average-looking, grey-suited, bowler-hatted men got about Paragon City with shovels.

"Hello my dear. Jennifer, isn't it?" His voice was quiet and calm, but Jennifer detected a note of pain in it, as if he were forcing himself to sound normal.

"It is, yes. Jennifer Watkins ..." As she drew closer to the hero who had once saved her life she trailed off into silence. His suit was ripped in several places, and she could see blood seeping through some of the tears in his shirt. A big bruise was starting to form on the side of his face. Once of his sleeves was charred. "I ... er. I sort of thought you might be here to rescue us."

"Well, that certainly is - was - my intention."

"Okay. Only it doesn't appear to be going so well at the moment. What with you being in here, in the cell, with us, and all."

The grey man nodded. "Things certainly look grim," he agreed. He backed up close to the cell door. "I don't think there's any chance of getting out of here," he said in what seemed to Jennifer to be an unnecessarily loud voice.

"Oh. Right." Jennifer looked around at the other prisoners, slumped against the walls of their rocky nook. Most of them had been here longer than her, and they were well past the point of getting excited whenever the cell door opened. A few of them were looking at the new arrival with interest, but that interest was fast waning.

"Oh! But you have backup, right? The Reciprocators? Are they coming to help, like last time?" The last time John had rescued her, he had gone down under a large number of zombies, at which point the cavalry had arrived to finish the job. The Reciprocators didn't do things alone, Jennifer knew - they were a team.

"Nope, I'm all alone, without a team." Again with that loud voice. "Noone else knows I'm here." He appeared to be listening at the door for something. Listening carefully, Jennifer also heard it: the sound of shuffling feet slowly walking around outside the cell.

Mr Mundane nodded, apparently satisfied, then came over and slumped down against the wall next to her. Jennifer dropped back to the ground, her adrenaline-inspired burst of energy effectively deflated. Part of Jennifer's mind was scared to die, afraid of what was going to happen to her. Most of her, however, was being journalistic. "Cape Killed in Cave Calamity", she thought. "On Tuesday, beautiful, talented, well-liked reporter Jennifer Watkins, 32 - no, 26 - was killed alongside Mr Mundane during a botched rescue attempt ..." She shook her head - needed a hook. "The Paragon Times asks: 'Are our heroes heroic enough to protect our citizens?'"

"That's a bit harsh, isn't it?"

"Wh- Oh!" Jennifer covered her mouth in embarrassment. "I'm so sorry! I was just ... thinking. Aloud."

Mr Mundane patted her on the shoulder, then went back to his staring into space.

No, not staring. He was mumbling something. Was he counting?

After a couple of minutes he sat up and stared at the grill. Nothing happened for a few moments, but then some sort of Thorns mage, flanked by four robed Guides, wafted almost silently past the cell door and off into the darkness.

As soon as they had passed, Mr Mundane turned to her. "I need a bobby pin," he whispered to her in a low voice.

"What?" Jennifer was confused.

"You know, a hair pin. Short piece of metal, bent in half." Jennifer was staring at him blankly. "People use them to hold their hair in place?" he asked hopefully.

"I know what it is," Jennifer said. "I ... er, I don't wear them."

John closed his eyes momentarily, his easy smile slipping. "I can see that dear lady - you have quite short hair. Someone else in here must have one. Or a paperclip. Or anything made of thin wire along those lines. Go ask around. Be quiet," he nodded his head towards the cell door.

Jennifer blinked a few times. "Oh. Oh, I see! Okay." She dragged herself to her feet and did a quick circuit of the prisoners. She noticed John had walked to the centre of their irregularly-shaped cell and was sketching out lines with his finger in the air, mapping the room. By the time she was done, John had selected a fairly non-descript section of wall and was scrabbling at it with his fingers, poking all the seams and pieces of rock.

"I got these," Jennifer told him, holding out a collection of bobby pins, a stick of chewing gum, a yo-yo, several pens and a small pair of children's safety scissors.

Mr Mundane looked at her. "Thank you very much, but I really only needed the bobby pin."

"Oh. Okay," said Jennifer. "So you won't be needing this then?" She held up a traffic cone.

"Wh-" John shook his head and blinked. "Why on earth do you have a traffic cone?"

"I just thought if you were going to go all MacGuyver on us, these might be handy."

The hero looked confused for a moment, then smiled. "Thank you, that's very good thinking, but I'm not MacGuyver. He used science, and improvised. I know bugger all about science, and I assure you, I'm not improvising."

"You mean you planned to get beaten up and thrown in a cell?" the reporter asked incredulously.

John grimaced as he continued his examination of the wall. "I'm prepared to reveal that this is Plan B. Plan A was to sneak into this Thorns complex, locate the release mechanism for this cell, get the prisoners - that's you - out, and then worry about the mages. However -" John paused and grunted as he tried to tug on a particular rock embedded in the wall, about a foot from the ground. "However, I couldn't find the door control, so ... here I am. Give me a hand with this, will you?"

Jennifer nodded, grabbed the rock that Mr Mundane had identified and they both started pulling on it. It wasn't a big rock, but it was quite resistant to their efforts to dislodge it. After about thirty seconds of pulling, John grabbed Jennifer and they both dropped to the ground. A second patrol passed the door, headed silently in the same direction as the first.

"How did you hear them? They're so deathly quiet," Jennifer asked in hushed amazement. "Have you got super-hearing which you've been hiding from the media? Inquiring minds want to know."

Mr Mundane grinned. "Nothing like that. Their patrols follow a regular pattern, that's all. Thorns initiates are very, very disciplined, they never rush, they do everything precisely, so if you know the pattern, you can predict their movements."

"And you know the pattern?"

The hero's grin widened. "I told you, I'm not improvising."

"If you planned all this," Jennifer asked, her reporter's mind clicking into gear, "why didn't you bring a bobby pin with you?"

"Ah .." mumbled John. "I ... er ... I did. I just can't find it. I think I lost it in the fight. Shhh ..." He placed a finger to her lips, just as a third patrol, this one much smaller, walked past the door in the opposite direction.

"Okay, that should give us about ten minutes before the next pass." He turned to Jennifer, who was staring at him. "Oh! I do beg your pardon," Mr Mundane stammered, pulling his hand back from her lips. Jennifer just cocked an eyebrow at him.

Between them they managed to leverage the rock off the wall. It turned out to be a facade covering a rusted metal control panel. As they worked, the Reciprocator explained in hushed tones what he was doing, and Jennifer filed that information away for later use once they were out of here.

"The Circle of Thorns moved in here only recently. Before that, this was a Council bunker, but it's been in disuse for over ten years - the Council simply forgot it was here. However I happen to know two experts on Council bunker design."

Jennifer rattled through her mental filing cabinet of dossiers on the 'Cips. "That would be Kitsuki and the ... you know, the kid, with the ... hair? The one who isn't Fusionette."

"Yuki," John nodded. "That'd be them. So I happen to know that there's a panel built into these cells that can be used to disarm the ceiling trap."

"The ... er, ceiling is trapped?" Jennifer looked up at the roof uneasily.

"Oh ... I thought you knew. Don't worry about it."

"I'm afraid I am going to have to insist on worrying about it. What sort of trap? I can't see anything other than rock and ... Oh dear."

John put his hand on her shoulder as she stared up at the tonnes of rock suspended above the room by a criss-crossing arrangement of metal struts. "Jennifer: Look at me." He put a hand gently on her cheek and forced her to look away from the ceiling. "Listen. The reason we are trying to free you all first before storming this place - the reason why I had to make those guards believe I was here alone - was because if the Circle mages suspect that their sacrifices are going to be taken away from them, they will drop the rocks in this room and kill you all.

"But listen to me: This trap was set up more than ten years ago. It might not even work anymore. But we didn't want to take the chance, so Kit and Yuki found out how the trap works, they told me, I practiced disarming it, and now I'm here to take care of the trap and get you all out of here, okay? Trust me: we know what we're doing."

Jennifer found herself calmed, more by the calm, even tone of his voice than the words he was saying. Because the words weren't actually as reassuring as the hero seemed to think they were.

"So that's why they sent you - because if you were caught, the Thorns wouldn't think their base had been compromised by a hero."

John nodded.

Jennifer thought of the great risk Mr Mundane was taking to free them all, until her journalistic experience kicked in again, showing her which questions to ask. "You said we are 'sacrifices'?"

John nodded again. He'd pulled a small pocket knife out of his jacket and was using the blade as a screwdriver, to loosen the covering of the control panel. "Yep."

Jennifer wished she had her notepad with her. She felt like she should be writing this down. It would certainly have calmed her nerves to have had that old routine to focus on. "Why so many people? Is it a very big ritual they want to perform?"

John nodded again. The panel had come loose now, so he levered it off and placed it on the ground. The inner workings of the control panel were badly rusted. "The Thorns believe that the Council have harnessed the power of a greater demon, one who lives under the volcano. They believe it is his magic that gives the Galaxy troops their dark powers, and his evil will which animates the werewolves and vampires in Striga."

"So why do they need sacrifices?" It seemed to make sense. Jennifer cross-referenced this idea with other stories she had written on the rise of the Council in Paragon. She'd always suspected a supernatural link.

"The Thorns believe they can wrest control of this demon from the Council. They plan to make a large number of sacrifices and then use that released spirit energy to break the Council's control. Then their demon-binders can negotiate a new contract with the demon." John was using his knife to pry bits of rusted metal out of the inner workings of the panel.

Jennifer shook her head. "'Council Deals With Devils - an expose by Jennifer Watkins'. This little jaunt may have been worth it after all, to break a story like that."

John chuckled. "Don't get your hopes up my dear. The Circle of Thorns got it all wrong. There's certainly something big and powerful underneath that volcano, but it's not a demon."

"Oh? What is it then?"

"I'll tell you some other time. Right now I need you to take your hand off my arm."

"Oh!" Jennifer withdrew her hand in embarrassment. "I'm sorry, I just ... I guess I needed ... you know, human contact ... Sorry."

John turned to her. "What I mean is, I'm about to try to disengage this mechanism. If this doesn't work, a jolt of electricity more than capable of killing us both will zap through my body. You don't want to be touching me if that happens." John turned back to the panel, bending the bobby pin into an arc shape. "Once I'm done here, however, I would be more than happy for you to return your hand to it's previous position, as I found it quite comforting."

Jennifer blushed, then backed away from the crouched man in the suit. He breathed deeply - probably steadying his nerves - before gently placing the bobby pin into the mechanism. There was a spark, a flash, and the hero was knocked back onto the floor. The journalist instinctively threw her hands over her head, expecting the roof to cave in, even though she knew covering her head wasn't going to make a huge amount of difference if that quantity of rock fell on her. When nothing happened for a few moments she opened her eyes and sighed in relief. Then she remembered John, and rushed over to where he lay on the ground.

"John! Are you okay?" She touched him and received a mild static shock, so she pulled away.

The man's hands were shaking a little, and he was breathing heavily, but he seemed otherwise fine. "I'll be okay. I got more of a shock shaking hands with Byron than I did off this thing," he said, gesturing shakily at the wall panel.

"Who's Byron? If he's a hero, I don't know that name."

John looked sideways at her. "Never mind. Someone. Back in England."

Jennifer nodded, but she filed that bit of info away in her "possible leads" mental filing cabinet for later follow-up - she was a pretty good reader of people's reactions, and if that wasn't someone covering up something they didn't want the press to know about, she would give in her badge. Not that she had a badge - she had an identicard with an unflattering picture on the end of a lanyard. But she didn't think 'giving in her identicard' was an idiom the reader would really latch onto.

"The important thing," he continued after pulling himself to his feet, "is that the roof trap is now disabled. That means I can call for backup." He leaned weakly on the reporter for support as he lifted his foot and pulled his shoe off.

"What are you doing? Do you have a comm unit hidden in your shoe?" Jennifer asked.

"Actually, yes. Yes I do." He flicked the heel open, revealing a compartment with a comms unit in it. "The rubber heel should have protected the comms from the electric shock, and this way I could be sure it wouldn't be taken off me by the guards if I were captured. Which I was."

"Ah. The old 'hiding the comms unit in the shoe' trick. I should have known." The two prisoners laughed and then John activated the comms.

"Yuki, are you there?"

A tiny, tinny voice came back over the link. "John, is that you?"

"Yep, it's me. I'm in the cell. The trap's disabled. There are fourteen people here. I can't open the door."

"Did the trap go off?" Even with the poor quality of the sound, the concern in her voice was evident.

"No, it missed me by that much," John grinned, doing his best Don Adams voice, which wasn't particularly good.

"What? You mean it went off?"

"Er ... sorry, forget that; before your time. No, the trap has not gone off, I've disabled it."

Jennifer patted John on the shoulder. "Kids these days, eh? No appreciation for the classics." John smiled at her. For some reason, making him smile made her feel better.

There was a mumble of conversation in the background, then a stronger woman's voice came over the link. "John, are the prisoners mobile?"

John shook his head, then remembered that wasn't the most illustrative of indications when communicating via audio link. "Sorry Kit, all but one of them have been drugged, or hypnotised, or ... whatever it is these guys do. They are conscious and responsive, but only barely - they've only barely registered my presence."

In the background Jennifer could just make out Yuki's voice saying: "Isn't that normal for him?" before Kit's voice drowned out the rest of the conversation.

"Okay, we can't track your location, so we're going to have to look for you. That means you'll need to hold tight."

"Yep, understood Kit. I got lost down here, but if it's any help, you'll eventually come to a big cavern with a pool of water in the middle. We're in one of the short corridors off that room."

"Okay John. We're coming in now. Kit out."

The hero flicked his shoe closed then slipped it back onto his foot, tapping it on the floor to make it fit. "I hate this," he mumbled.

"What's the matter?" Jennifer asked in concern.

"Whenever you retie one shoe, the other one feels too loose. So now I have to retie the other one too. It's such a bother."

Jennifer looked at him. He was serious - he was actually bothered by the tightness of his shoes, and was retying the other even as she watched. She laughed, and he looked up?

"What's so funny?"

The reporter shook her head. "Sorry, but you really are Mr Mundane, aren't you?" The hero looked confused. "Never mind. What happens now?"

"Now," he flopped down on the ground, his back against the wall, facing the cell door, "we wait."

"Sounds like a plan." Jennifer sat down next to him - very next to him - and was surprised when he slipped his arm around her. John closed his eyes and rested his head back against the hard rock.

"So," Jennifer said after a moment, "do you come here often?"

John grinned at her. "No, this is my first time. And I've got to be honest, I never want to come back, ever again. The service is atrocious."

"Your part's done now, isn't it? We just wait for rescue? So we can relax here for a while until your team mates get here? Because if so, there are some questions I would like to ask you - in the public interest, of course."

John shook his head. "I fear we will not have time for that, Madame Journalist."

"Oh? The Reciprocators will be here that quickly. I guess you figured out the statistical probability of them choosing the right corridors and arriving here swiftly?"

"Not quite. When my friends stormed the front door, the alarms would have gone off. Once the Thorns realised that a squad of 'Cips were here, they would have tried to trigger the trap in this ceiling - ritual sacrifice harnesses much more spirit energy, but any number of deaths will give them some energy to work with, so long as the mages get here quickly enough to use the energy."

"So ... Oh." Jennifer's stomach sank. "You mean a bunch of mages and their guards will be here soon to use our spirit energy?"

John nodded. "And once they realise we aren't all dead, they'll ... well, they'll kill us manually."

Even as they were speaking Jennifer could hear a lot of padded feet running down the corridors, coming closer. Mr Mundane heaved himself to his feet, picked up his shovel and walked gingerly towards the door.

"John, you can't. Look at you, you're injured and running on empty. You can't fight!"

John smiled tiredly. "I can't not fight, Jennifer. If I don't, who will? Anyway, I suspect the Thorns aren't going to give me a lot of options."

"'The Importance of Being Mundane - by Jennifer Watkins.' Today I learnt what it's actually like to fight villainy without the aid of super powers ..." she muttered to herself as Mr Mundane rather absurdly tried to straighten his suit and tie.

"Don't worry," John said. "I don't need to beat them all. I just need to keep them from getting through the doorway until my friends arrive." He sounded as if he were trying to reassure himself as much as her. "They're frightfully good at what they do. They'll be here soon." The footsteps had reached the door. She heard mumbled, angry voices outside, then a key turned in a latch somewhere.

Jennifer looked up at the noise, squinted and watched the grill wrench open with the sound of ancient gears straining to work. Framed in the doorway, backlit by flickering firelight, was the silhouette of a man in a bowler hat. He was carrying a shovel.

((This story is dedicated to the memory of Get Smart, tragically taken from us by Hollywood in June, 2008.))
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A night by the Aquaduct

Postby Black Starbeam » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:15 pm

((It's cliche, I know, but it suits the character.))

One footstep, then another echoed over the sound of water cascading over the concrete shoreline behind Elliot Croft. He clutched his blanket closer to himself, drawing it up to his unkempt beard. Few people with good intentions were likely to be walking around near the Aqueduct in Kings Row at this hour. He crouched down, getting as low as possible against the humming generator. The noise was annoying, but at least the generator was a source of warmth against his back. It may not be winter, but the nights still grew cold in Kings Row.

The footsteps grew louder and louder in the night air. They stopped suddenly and were replaced with the grinding of metal on metal. The sound of a series of people pulling themselves over a chainlink fence, swinging themselves down from the top as the fence strained to keep them supported followed by the thud of booted feet impacting with the gravel below as they dropped to the ground. Five figures outlined in shadow stepped through the night laughing loudly to each other at some unheard joke.

"Drunks" Elliot considered. Drunks were almost as problematic as the alternative, but less likely to notice him if he stayed silent. He shifted, trying to avoid moving further as the shadows came closer. John had been beaten badly by drunks a few months ago. The bruises still glowed strongly on his arms and cheek. Tony had been beaten by a gang a week earlier. The morguewagon picked him up the next day.

"Hey! ere's one!" came a shout from a rough voice. Elliot wanted to shudder with fear, but stayed still, grasping to the slight hope that it was something else they'd spotted. The other five walked over and stared into Elliot's pile of bedding and possessions. In the light filtering down from the streetlights on the street above it became clear that they were not random drunks. Four of them wore bone plates over their faces as a mask. More frighteningly, the fifth did not.

It was six years now, since he'd lost his job. He'd lost his family too. Joanne had taken the kids to live with her parents. He wasn't welcome if he couldn't provide for their daughter. He'd lost his home in the war. That wasn't a big loss. He was one payment away from losing it to the bank. Then he'd come here to live, amongst the other men desperate to continue surviving. His son's blanket was all he'd managed to salvage from his house. It draped across him now, tattered and grimy, barely keeping out the wind That was now to be his shroud then. A fitting finale.

Two of the Skulls pushed the one without a mask forward towards him. "Ya want in, ya need a face kid. Go get one." He looked nervous. Nervous but proud at the same time. Elliot imagined his son as being the same age by now. He shook the image from his mind. Better not to equate this thug with his son. His son would be a doctor, or a lawyer. He'd help people, not harm.

He slapped the bat against his hand uncertainly as he moved forward, as though expecting Elliot to jump at him. Elliot wasn't going anywhere. His resignation set in. Perhaps the next life would be better than this one after all. The youth kicked at Elliot harshly with a booted toe, hitting him firmly in the ribs. The first kick was followed by another and another, followed by the bat striking him again and again.

It seemed endless. A cycle of pain. A constant barrage of blows, striking him in seemingly random places about his body. The other four cheered him on as they watched, not getting involved. Their facemasks didn't hide their smiles though as they watched the violence.

After what seemed like hours though, their smiles died. A soft thud on the generator behind Elliot made them take notice. The area filled with a soft yellow glow, then without a word, a thin beam of energy split the air, striking the youth on his hand. He yelped with the sudden pain, dropping the bat to the ground as he clutched at his hand. He doubled over and stepped away from Elliot. Elliot knew the stories from the others, but he hadn't believed them. The Protector was a myth, dreamed up to make the other derelicts feel safer. At best, he was like every other registered hero and stayed safe in bed at night, leaving the streets to the scum, caring only for those who paid their rates to the City.

The generator thudded again as the weight lifted off it, a figure in a tattered and torn coat lunged at the other four Skulls, ignoring the one clutching his hand. He landed elbow first on the skull plate of one of them, shattering it. The Skull staggered back, screaming and clutching his face. A shard of bone from his victim's skull protruding from between his fingers, embedded in his cheek. Another had his head grabbed, driven down to meet a knee driving upwards at it. Again a mask shattered. Elbows and knees flew until each Skull found himself with a shattered mask, bone shards embedding themselves in their skin and leaving wide gashes.

The four rolled on the ground in pain. The man stepped over into the light, towards the youth as he moved towards his bat. He grabbed the youth by the hair, forcing him to look up into the glowing eyes. The threads of the Protector's coat dangled in the windless night, his sleeveless arms pulsing with muscle as he stared down at the thug.

"Still want your mask?" he asked, gesturing back at the four rolling on the ground in pain.
The boy shook his head very quickly.
"Then go home. If you even think about looking for one somewhere else, I'll be there."
The light from his eyes increased sharply as he finished his sentence. The boy stared up in fear. A pungent stench filled the area.
"Now, go home, apologise to your mother and make something of yourself."

The boy ran away as fast as he could, leaving his fallen comrades to their fate. A thin burst came from the Protector's eyes as the boy ran, making him jump as he felt the short, sharp burn of the lasers.

The Protector smiled. At least, he may have smiled. His face was almost completely obscured as he moved down to Elliot, his bare feet sliding along the gravel. He was dressed in the clothes of a homeless man. A trenchcoat, once fine, now faded and worn. Sleeves long since gone, shoes long since lost. His trousers were tattered by his feet and his leather belt was faded and cracking. Any shirt he'd once worn was gone, seemingly discarded as useless or impractical. Perhaps it was just too worn to be of use.

"He'll think thrice." The Protector extended a hand. Elliot pulled his own grimy mitt from under the blanket to grasp Black Starbeam's own, shaking it before allowing himself to be pulled back up to a seated position.
"Thanks." Elliot spoke through what seemed like a broken jaw and two cracked teeth.
"I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner."

Elliot stared at the man his friends had named Black Starbeam. Was this hero actually dressed like a derelict? Like one of them? Was he actually apologising for not being helpful enough? The thought rocked his idea of heroes. He'd been a Paragonian all his life. Heroes did what they did. They did a fairly good job, but at the end, they were mostly interested in themselves and publicity. Apologising wasn't in their best interests by any stretch.

"What's your name, pal?"
"Elliot. Elliot Croft."
"What do you do, Elliot?"
Elliot glanced around, indicating the small area he'd claimed for himself.
"And before you lived here, what did you do?"
"Marketing."
"Were you good?"
"Good enough to get fired."

Starbeam pulled a roll of money from his pocket and dropped it in Elliot's lap.

"For medical expenses. Once they're covered, try and find yourself a place to stay with it."

Elliot tightened his jaw before realising that it was a bad idea to move it.

"I don't want your charity."
"Call it compensation. If I was earlier, there'd be no bills."
"This wasn't your fault."
"Then call it a loan. Use it to get yourself on your feet and pay me back when you've got your life sorted out."

Elliot stared at him. People never gave things away. There was always a catch. But the money was worth whatever the catch may be. This was a chance at getting things together again. Calling his wife. Playing ball with his son.

Starbeam disappeared as Elliot glanced down at the money, wrapping his hand around it. He looked back up, considering words of thanks, his mouth left open as he realised his rescuer had left. No chance for further argument then.

He glanced over at the three writhing Skulls as they slowly faded from view and were transferred to the Zig. It seemed that the best thing to happen to him today was getting attacked.
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Re: Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

Postby Visavis » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:18 pm

Officer Zap: Law Enforcement
Case Number: 080627-111A
Attending Officer: Dt Sgt Malcolm Riener
Witness: Dr Alfred Xanthis
Precinct: Talos Island
Date: June 27th

Statement:


I don't remember much from the start, that is, I don't remember anything unusual.

From the start then? Right.

My name is Alfred. Alfred Xanthis. I work at the university, researching genetics and mutations.

I was marking some term papers on Wednesday night - I think that was the twenty fifth or something - so I was late at the lab. I locked up like I always do, said goodnight to the security guard, and started to head towards the station to get a ride to home. It was around half nine, I think. I vaguely remember some footsteps, and what sounded like a dog snuffling, then the next thing I remember was waking up lying on the cold metal floor in this small room. All that was there was a metal bed set in the wall, a bucket, and a big metal door with a peep-slit in it. That was the only source of light.

I'm not sure how long I was out for, but I knew I was screwed. I tried calling for help, banging on the door, but all I got was an occasional thump back and some muffled orders to shut up. It was a few hours after I started calling out that I first saw someone - there was this awful clanking noise, and then the door swung open. I couldn't make out much because there was a bright light in my face, but there was a really tall shadow of a man in the doorway who dropped a bowl of gruel on the ground in front of me and told me to eat. Then they left and the door was locked again.

I ate the gruel - I was hungry. Then I went asleep, maybe it was drugged? When I woke up, I was sitting in a room with an open door and a small lab - it looked fairly high tech, not like what we have at the university. There were three tall men standing nearby - two outside the door, and one next to me. They were all wearing this black leather gear.

The one next to me pointed at the terminal and gave me some sort of instruction to analyse a few genetic samples. I was told I was "chosen to be granted the honour to work" for them, for the rest of my life. I, well, I didn't resist. I sat down, and I looked at the samples. Who was I to argue? The man left after that.

An hour or so later, I felt something metal clasp over my mouth and a voice almost breathe words near my ear. "Please, do not struggle, I am here to help", I think it said. I sat still and didn't move, then I felt whatever it was let go of me. I think I saw a vague shimmering near the door, then there was a bright flash at the back of the neck of one of the guards, he slumped in the air, and out of nowhere an armoured figure appeared, leaning against the door frame. He was clad in some sort of black armour with gold boots and gloves, and had this fist symbol on his chest. I think I've seen that somewhere before, but I can't recall where.

The second guard reached for his weapon and the new guy kicked it out of his hands. I couldn't hear well, but I think I heard him tell the guard that we were leaving, and that he'd need all of his friends if he wanted to stop us. He may have also told him to "Run along". The guard turned and ran away, and the newcomer LET HIM!

He pulled something from his belt and tied up the fallen one, dragging him back inside the room, then told me he was with you guys - the PPD. He also, uh, offered me a cookie. It was about then that I wished I was back in my little cell.

He told me to follow him and left the room - so I did. I wasn't sure what this tin man was on, but he didn't seem the sort to take no as an answer. He seemed completely oblivious to the surrounds as we walked through what I now could see was a vast underground complex, filled with metal buildings that had strange logos stamped everywhere. I think he was asking me about my work on genetics and how I was finding the university, but I don't quite remember if there was anything major in the discussion, although he had an interest in one of my old papers on mutagens. He seemed fairly friendly, as if we were taking a stroll in a park and discussing professional differences - he was even walking with his hands clasped behind his back, I remember that! Weirdo.

It was after we were walking for a while, I noticed that we'd seen none of the black garbed men - there were noises from down side corridors, but nothing from the big spaces we were walking through. I pointed it out to the man, and he suggested that they were probably going to throw us a surprise party. I....I started to fear for my life, I must say.

The corridors and tunnels started to become rocky, and the tin man seemed to slow down, talking a little less and stopping ocassionally with a hand up, as if listening. He stopped at one point and kicked apart a wooden crate, handing me two of the larger planks, then moving on. I could smell a bit of fresh air ahead, and it was right about then that he stopped and looked at me. At least, I think he looked at me, all I could see was my reflection in the visor of his helmet. He said something once, and sounded like a different man to the one who had been talking to me for the last ten minutes. I don't think I can forget what he said:

"In the end, a man needs to decide if he lives or dies by himself. All you need to do balance yourself solely on that wood for a minute. When you see me hit the ground, do so. Simple, hai? Stay back, but keep an eye on me"

I nodded at the time, thinking he was nuts. He nodded back, then took a moment to stretch his arms and straighten his cape. With a small wave, he then strode around the corner, whistling some sort of tune quite loudly. His boots rang on the metal walkway, then suddenly stopped.

When I peered around the corner, I saw him standing with his hands on his hips. I also saw two small metal buildings and a walkway, beyond which was a greenish metal door, which was closed. There were also.....black garbed men, lots of them, standing with guns, as well as some sort of...dog things?

I heard him call out to the group of them, saying he was from the Police and that they were all under arrest. They seemed to laugh quite a bit. Have you ever heard dog-man-things laugh? It sounds like death. Messy, painful death.

He ran in and started kicking and punching people, like one of those kung fu movies? Only he was also shooting lightning from his hands and knocking people flying. I saw him jump into one of the buildings, heard some gun fire, then saw him running across the bridge into the other one chased by some of the black garbed men, followed by more gun fire. Things went silent for a few seconds, then I saw him come bursting out with a swarm of them surrounding him as he fought his way to the path beneath the bridge. He turned and looked at me, seemed to stand still for a few seconds while little bolts of lightning ran up and down his arms. One of the bigger black garbed guys tackled him to the ground, and I quickly jammed the wood under my armpits and lifted my feet from the floor.

There was a...flash - the floor seemed to hum, and then all the other people started twitching and jittering in this awful dance for what seemed like hours. I closed my eyes, I couldn't take it any more - and then I heard some rhythmic thumping noises and could smell burnt fur. When I opened my eyes, I saw everyone lying on the ground in a heap. The tin man was kneeling over the large black garbed one who had tackled him, and I saw the reason for the thumping sound - he was pounding on the man's chest with his fist, pausing every now and then.

I gingerly put my feet down and saw that the end of the planks were blackened a little, before running over to the tin man. I screamed at him to stop, that he was already dead, but he ignored me and pressed some fingers against his throat. After a minute he looked up at me. "Not any more. Didn't expect him to have such bad timing" was all he said, then got to his feet and began slapping some sort of tags from his belt on the people lying on the ground. After a couple of seconds there were whumping sounds and the bodies started disappearing with small flashes of white light.

"Did...are you incinerating the bodies?" I asked him.
"Arresting" he replied, stopping to nudge the dog-things with one boot, "Apart from these. Best to leave them here, I think"

I couldn't believe what had happened.

"You're with the POLICE?" I almost screamed. I was hysterical. You would be too!
"I work in law enforcement" he replied, in that same bland voice, as if nothing had happened. "Now, let's get you to the station house so you can report your kidnapping"

And that's how I came here. That's my complete statement.



-------


The small, balding man signed his name shakily at the bottom of the statement and pushed it across the desk to the detective sitting opposite.

"That...that's it" he almost squeaked, swallowing nervously

The detective scanned over it quickly, an eyebrow arching at particular moments.

"I...see. Very thorough. Thank you for that - we can file this and start pressing charges. Most of those people delivered to our cells a few hours ago will be put away for a long time"

"S-s-so, he really WAS with you guys?" The balding man didn't sound so sure.

The detective nodded, chuckling a little. "I can assure you that Senior Officer Masatoshi does in fact work with us. He's....quite efficient at enforcing the law".

The blanding man swallowed again, sweat breaking out on his forhead. "I-in that case, I...uh....I have some unpaid p-p-parking tickets I'd like to declare..?"
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Visavis
 
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Re: Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

Postby Visavis » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:38 pm

shaydeswhisper:
((well this didn't turn out as good as I had imagined it would be. Hope you enjoy))

Joseph laid on the ground curled up in a fetal position as the six outcasts that surrounded him continued their assault. His whole green skinned body felt like one huge bruise as he was kicked and punched repeatedly. The sinister laughter of the men echoed in emptiness of the moonlit streets of the hollows. He always thought the phrase "having your life pass before your eyes" was stupid, but that was exactly what was happening now. As he felt his consciousness slip that's exactly what happened.

When Joseph was young he never new his father. The only male role models he had was the string of boyfriends his mother had, and his big brothers. For the longest time he did everything his brothers did. He followed them around and worshipped their every move. He started to mimic everything he saw them do, trying despretely to win their approval. So naturally when they started to get into Superdine, he followed right along.

He lead the troll lifestyle for many months, running along in a gang with his brothers. Despite how unwelcoming the trolls were for him being such a "runt" he tried hard to prove himself to them. He took more and more Superdine until eventually his skin started turning green, and he grew the horns the trolls are so well known for. He withstood the constant harrassment and beatings that the trolls, and his brothers, gave him. To him it was all worth it, just to have a place to fit in.

He had no problem living the troll lifestyle. Until one night his gang decided to attack a family just trying to make their way to the subway in Skyway City. He could only stood horrified as his "friends" beat the mother and father, as the as the couples young daughter screamed and cried. The little girl even grabbed ahold of him and begged him to make them stop. He saw the light fade from the girl's father's eyes, and ran away. He never looked back.

Now he lives life alone in the hollows. He scrounges from day to day, sometimes eating from dumpsters to stay alive. He hasn't taken another hit of Superdine since then, but the damage to his body and mind had already been done. He misses his brothers, despite everything they've don to him. Most of all he hates the solitude. No one in the city likes trolls though. Especially the heroes of the city. He isn't a stranger to getting beat up, simply for being a troll.

That is exactly what happened tonight. Jospeh was making his way across the Hollows, trying to get back to the abandoned building he had been staying in. Usually he was quite careful not to be seen, but this particular night he took a wrong turn and ran right into a group of Outcasts. He didn't even try to fight them, he just ran. They caught up with him though, and started to beat the holy hell out of him.

He could feel his life slipping away as the Outcast continued to hit him and kick him relentlessly. For a moment he thought he was starting to hallucinate as he saw the small form with glowing blue eyes descending from the sky. He thought perhaps it was some angel coming down to take him... wherever you go when you die. When he saw the form land on the head of one of the Outcasts he started to realize what was going on. A "hero" had come, probably to finish what the Outcasts had started. He curled into a tighter ball and cursed his luck.

It was hard for him to see exactly what was going on. The blue-eyed form was quick on her feet, shooting ice and waves of cold at the Outcasts. Joseph wasn't sure who he should be rooting for. Knowing full well his "rescuer" would turn on him as soon as the Outcasts were down. He watched as one by one the Outcasts were taken down. Finally the gang members that weren't already face down on the street decided not to test the young woman any more, and took off running. The girl turned to look him over, the glowing blue eyes fixed on him.

"Please, no hurt!" He begged. That didn't really work with the Outcasts, but he figured he would try anyway.

The girl blinked once, then leaned down toward him. He curled up in a tighter ball, and tensed his already sore body waiting for the worst. When more pain didn't come he opened his eyes and turned to look up at her. She seemed to be looking him over. She reached out one of her hands to touch his face and tilt at toward her as she looked him over. Her cool touch was a sweet relief on his aching skin. He was genuinely confused at her concern and spoke again.

"N..no hurt?"

She shook her head and answered him.

"No, you've been hurt enough. I'm taking you to a hospital"

"No hospital", he replied. He knew full well that would just cause trouble.

The girl frowned at him. She was close enough now to see her face. She was probably only a year or two younger than him. She was very pretty, even with the frown she wore on her face. He took the opportunity to just look at her while she seemed to be thinking. Finally she spoke again, her breath was oddly cool on his face.

"Alright. No hospital, can you stand?"

He nodded, and tried to get to his feet with her help, then passed out.

*****

He woke sometime later in an unfamiliar place. Someone was dabbing at the wounds on his head and face with a cloth. After a moment his eyes began to focus and he saw someone that looked like a nun leaning over him, tenderly caring for his bruised face.

"Where... where I am?" he said, struggling to get the words out.

"You're at Sacred Heart cathedral, in Kings Row. Please try not to speak. Just know you are safe, and you will be cared for."

The nuns tone was pleasant, suprisingly so. He was a troll after all.

"How... I... get here?" He asked struggling to speak. This was another effect of the drugs damage to his mind.

"Yuki Frost, a friend of our church brought you here and asked us to care for you. Now please just relax, you had a rough night"

"Yuki", he repeated softly.

Joseph, wanted to say more, but took the nun's advice. Soon he drifted back into a sleep. He started to dream of the blue eyed angel that had plucked him from certain death.
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Visavis
 
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Re: Perspectives: The Rescued (May '08)

Postby Visavis » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:55 pm

AlwaysAPrice: Androgyne - Fifteen Minutes

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Fifteen Minutes

posted by JenerationWhy @ 8:14pm EST

Like most of you few who read my drivel, I live in Paragon City. Day in and day out, we're eyewitness with nary a flinch to things that would make people anywhere else in the world doubt their sanity. Our local news reports on giant octopus attacks and zombie uprisings with the nonchalance most other cities' broadcasts reserve for informing the public of Toys-for-Tots drives. Here, you get used to it – you stop questioning the things you see and just accept that this is what happens in the City of Heroes. We understand the meaning of "expect the unexpected" better than anyone.

Today, though, for the first time, after living here for all my 22 years, I can honestly say I don’t believe my eyes.

(read more)
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I realize I should know better than to go to the bank in person, especially here. It’s the 21st century. Telephone and online banking, ATMs -- I didn’t even have to go in to open my account in the first place! Hell, I could probably handle it all through my cell phone now. Still, I'll go sometimes. Just to get out. I could have my paycheck direct-deposited, but I go downtown to the Canyon and pick it up at the office every payday. I take it to the bank, I deposit it, I spend a little time filling out the little slip, deciding how much I'll set aside for bills and how much will fund the week's indulgences.

The whole thing is something of a ritual for me, just a little something that gets me out of the house on a regular basis. Reminds me there's a world away from the computer besides work. Tending to all the little nuisances from the comfort of home may be convenient, but it lacks that sense of accomplishment you get from actually leaving the house, going somewhere, and seeing even the most mundane task through to completion. I value convenience, but sometimes I don’t just want things done, I want to get things done.

Anyway, this morning I didn't even get as far as the deposit slip.
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Everyone's heard that cutesy saying about everyone who decides to live in Paragon gets their "15 minutes of peril". It's really popular with people who used to live here, but got out before anything actually happened to them. People like my cousin, who moved to L.A. to "follow his dreams" but wound up doing the same pointless job there he berated me for staying in here while he waits for his agent to call. Every time some hurricane or flood or tornado makes the national news this dick gets on the phone with me to laugh at the people vowing to rebuild. "That's what you get!"

Sorry. I just got off the phone with him. Guess what he had to say?

A lot of the time it's the same people who visit Paragon like it's a theme park. They flock to touch Statesman's cape and try to get Mynx to pose with their kids, who are wearing those oh-so-precious blue cat-ear headbands. They start recording every mugging they see on their cell phone cameras in case a hero shows up – never occurs to them to use it as a PHONE and call 911. At least they're usually too scared to come back, wondering all the flight home why they looked like such an easy mark for that Hellion gunning to earn his horns.

...way off track. My point is, I didn't used to think I thought that way. I know the dangers of living in this city, but I thought I just knew how to live with it, thought I was alert. I know how to put out that attitude on the train or walking through the city, that little mindset adjustment you make to give yourself that swagger that makes the thugs think twice – like maybe you're an off-duty cape.

Now though, I realize I did think exactly like that. It does seem to happen to everyone, and I bought into the folk odds that said I wouldn't end up in one of these situations again because I already had my 15 minutes three and a half years ago at homecoming.
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So, yeah. On to what happened.

The loudmouths entered first, just after I found a pen that actually worked. They ordered us to lie on the ground face down, not waving guns but backing their commands with a threat anyway: flames, frost, sparks danced around their fingertips as they pointed to people and told them where they wanted them. I think they were part of that mutie gang, the Outcasts, but they weren't wearing their colors – they had just been hired on for crowd control, we soon realized.

We cooperated, of course; it's what you do, mutants or not. They go over this kind of thing in school starting pretty early around here. All of us, the customers, were down before they got around to really yelling. A couple of them had to backtrack and decided they were yelling at us anyway because we were “looking the wrong way” or something.

One of the guards got off a shot into a frosty Outcast's shoulder, and he couldn't have picked a worse time. That was right when their boss got there, a thickly built redheaded guy one called “Rude”, another called “Randy”, another called “Reilly”. Rude Randy Reilly wore these huge copper gauntlets – I'd expected them to be rolling with a mutant boss, but he was more of a gadgeteer I guess. He didn't even care that one of his thugs was shot, he came in pissed off and stormed through the lobby with fire jetting out of the gauntlets, slamming burning fists into anyone still standing – only the guards...I was going to, but I don't want to say "thankfully," that sounds kind of horrible. Then he was gone, pounding his way to the back of the bank, to the vault.

The Outcasts talked a lot of crap, trying to rile a couple out-of-towners who didn't know how to deal with this kind of thing, who were just whimpering agreement to whatever the robbers said while they clung to each other. The Outcasts were just trying to piss them off, get one of them to get up and give them an excuse to burn or shock them. Despite what I said before about out-of-towners, I felt bad for them -- that the rest of us were relatively calm probably only made it worse for them. The robbers kept that up for a while, prodding almost everyone in the bank in turn with threats, collecting wallets and making a big show of reading our addresses out loud like they were gonna come for us later.

Since they made so much noise, it was really obvious when they all went quiet at once. Suddenly, all I could hear was the shaking breath of the teller lying next to me and the intense hiss of Riley's fire jets from the back, probably melting right through the vault door.

I didn't really want to question our reprieve from the Outcast idiocy, but my curiosity got the better of me. I turned my head as slightly as I dared to try and look up at the Shocker standing at my side, opposite where the teller lay. There wasn't any electricity dancing around his fingers now; they still twitched but in a markedly different way, uncontrolled, reflexive instead of voluntary. His arms hung slack at his side, and as I chanced turning my head a little more, I caught sight of his face and felt a chill run down my spine. Sweat beaded on his forehead and his eyes were open so wide I could see the white all the way around his irises. The expression on him was one of sheer terror – tension throughout his entire body screamed that he wanted to flee, but whatever had captured his mind wasn't letting him.

I glanced around, bolder now. All the Outcasts were in the same state, some of them cowering, others stumbling about in a daze trying to flinch away from things we couldn't see. I was about to get up, bolt for the door, when the thing that had terrified them spoke.
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Last year, when Tom Booth started that Facebook group for the "survivors", I wrote up that bitchy screed that got me my first Digg. I'll have to go into the archives here and look it up later (the police station doesn't have public wi-fi apparently so I'm stuck with what's on the new laptop), but I think I called that little pity party a "steaming pile of hangers-on and angst vampires." I still stand by most of what I said: I looked at the group at the time and just going off ages I could see half the people hadn't been there. In fairness, before SkywayRay16 DIVES down to the quick comment box to play douchebag's advocate, some of those could have been family members of the dead. Still, by the time I looked the group already had twice as many members as there had been people who actually escaped.

It always bothered me that he used the term survivors, too. None of us survived anything. We ran. We got away. We escaped. The massacre didn't start until after we ran and Adams' gunmen chained the doors. The only “survivors” were the two people who perpetrated it. Hell, it has more right to join that group than any of us do.

Yeah, us. I'm joining as soon as I get back online. For all the slimy sorrowmongers I despise, there's people there who need to know about this, that is if they don't already and I just missed the damn memo. That, and I think I need to talk about it now. (Can you tell??)
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When I first heard the voice, I thought it was a woman's – it was a voice like silk wrapped around stone, dulcet tones that shrouded but didn't soften the promise of pain in their words. “Everyone stay down. This ends now.” It was familiar, in that tickly kind of way that's usually reserved for trying to remember on what kid's show you saw the creepy rapist on Law & Order before. I looked towards the entrance, but caught only a glimpse of a slender, caped figure disappearing with a shimmer, like a dissolving mirage. A whisper of a breeze shot through the lobby the next instant, air displaced by the figure's reappearance. Teleporter.

I turned back to see the cape standing in the middle of the lobby, its back was to me. Its hands were thrust in the air at odd angles, gauntleted fingers coiled in a way that immediately reminded me of a puppeteer manipulating marionettes. Its hair was short. I would have thought it gray if the bank's lights didn't bring out a trace of wheat. It wore black and blue from neck to toe; beneath the hem of the cape I could see its boots were the same golden metal as its gauntlets. The colors, the pattern of the cape, they were familiar but I wouldn't peg them until I saw the emblem on its chest.

A soothing green radiance began to shine from its body and its caution to us hostages of a moment before sank in. I dropped back low to the ground and held a hand to my brow to shield my eyes in case its powers were particularly bright. The shine shifted, the light flowing like liquid up its legs and down its arms, contributing to a brighter glow in the torso. Only a few seconds after the glow began, the radiance flared, turned a sicklier shade of green. The cape suddenly snapped its arms out and – I really thought it looked like this at the time – assumed the pose of the crucifixion, complete with head dipped down to one side and feet tightly together, as the glow burst out from its upper body in concentric waves.

It was radiation – I could feel it in my teeth, that same tingle I got in the back of my mouth when my science class toured Terra Volta on a field trip in the 8th grade. It washed over the torsos of the Outcasts, the only ones standing. It served to snap them briefly out of their terror and they scrambled, trying to get their bearings even as they clutched at their burned midsections in obvious agony. The one nearest the back of the lobby ran, stumbling into the doorway to the passage Reilly had gone down. I think he tried to yell for help, but the cape just lazily rolled its head to tilt now towards the runner, brought a hand forward and curled it back into its sinister puppeteer's claw. After a snap of its wrist, the runner went rigid, making sickening choking sounds as he tried futilely to scream for help through a paralyzed throat.

A bolt of electricity sizzled across the room above me and seared into the cape's shoulder. I almost laughed at the sound it made then, but that sense of familiarity was still tickling me to distraction. That sound was a tsk, a single scolding cluck of its tongue. Its arms dropped from their dramatic pose as it seemed to realize the Outcasts weren't going to just offer up their wrists for cuffing. There was no air of disappointment accompanying that realization. The glow began again, this time concentrating in its hands, and it began to whirl through the room hurling bolt after bolt of that corrupt green luminescence (note: all else aside I totally win a bet by using that word in a post before the end of the month) at our captors.

I hugged the ground as did the other hostages, all of us grateful for the cape's intervention but fearful of what would happen if a stray bolt hit us. I caught only glimpses, my attention drawn to the intricate dance of its hands.

The glow would abate as its hands spidered through the air, skittering across a web only it could see, and those intricately subtle gestures always resulted in terror, paralysis, or blind staggering in the Outcast who had earned its attention. During the assault, it launched its blasts with its hands at odd angles; it took a moment but I realized the fact that the rays only seemed to clip the limbs of the Outcasts wasn't the result of a cape with shitty aim. No, it was deliberately grazing them, whittling them down, using surface burns to force their submission. It toyed with them, like a cat with a stuffed mouse.

All the while it performed its furious radioactive Kali dance (I have no idea how else to describe it) through the lobby I was trying to get a better look at it. Between the way it sidestepped through places unseen to move from target to target, the billowing of its cape behind its extravagant motions, and my own wincing away from the brightness of its rays, I just couldn't quite get a lock on its face. I finally started to focus instead on answering the simpler question: was our savior a man or a woman?
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I think that was when it began to dawn on me. The instant I put my curiosity to words in my head. That was when the question of the voice stopped being a tickle at the back of my mind and started to be an insistent, grinding knuckle right between my ribs that wasn't going to pass. Something in me knew then, knew, but consciously all I immediately understood was that I didn't want to see its face anymore. I didn't want to see its face ever.
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The last of the Outcasts collapsed. They all still breathed, but it came ragged and pained to all of them; the fight had been burned out of them one teasing brand at a time. The lobby was under its control -- from the back, the sound of the flame jets abruptly cut off and was replaced by a victorious cackle that seemed to rise and fall in contrast with the blaring of the klaxon indicating the vault had been breached. Only Reilly was left, no doubt busy in collecting his haul without any clue of what was waiting for him.

I scanned around me as I rose, cautious. The other hostages were getting to their feet too, murmuring reassurances among each other. Some offered thanks to our rescuer, quietly. I don't think I was the only one unnerved by the playful way it had dispatched our captors. The teller and I eventually got back to our feet after a moment of awkwardly both trying help the other to their feet as we each stood on our own. I think we had a bit of a moment there, and he was pretty cute, but that dissolved as soon as I looked towards the lobby entrance where I had first glimpsed the cape.

It was there, finally still. Not Kali-dancing, crucifying, puppeteering, not shimmering through space or time or whatever the hell it did. It did not glow. It just stood there looking through us towards the back of the bank, its face at last unobscured. I lost my legs.
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I always wondered how they identified the dead. Whether they even could. What do you think it's like for a parent to have to bury their child with someone else's face?

I remember after the blast. I waited outside the gymnasium for hours, praying for the last time in my life, for hours, that just one of my friends who stayed behind had lived through that hideous flash of green rotglow that lit the windows. All they brought out was body bag after body bag. One of them wasn't zipped up all the way. I saw its face -- I mean, I saw its face, where that dead kid's should have been. That was the last time I'd seen the face I saw in the bank today.
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It's not blonde anymore. Its hair's gone a queer pale ash, not quite gray but not quite platinum. No bleachy sparkle to it. You'd never know it used to be that neon straw Dennis the Menace color. That was its color when we had 11th grade Spanish together at Lewis High. A year before it killed over sixty of our classmates at the homecoming dance.

“All of you, go.” It gestured to the door and walked back into the lobby, and most everyone immediately complied with its terse dismissal, no doubt thrilled to do so. I was still sitting in the middle of the floor where I landed when my legs turned to jelly. It was walking right towards me. I was in its way, I think. The cute teller had stayed, was asking me something, but I couldn't hear him.

It stopped. A few feet in front of me. It wasn't staring past us now, it looked me in the eye. It showed no recognition, but then we had never been friends -- even those who weren't in a class with it knew about it at our school, the strange kid that nobody knew if it was a boy or a girl. It exhaled, its nostrils flaring for a second with exasperation and asked, with all the genuine concern of an afterthought it would forget having voiced before I finished answering, “Are you hurt?”

I just froze.

You hear that all the time. “I just froze.” I never knew what it meant until now. Even at Lewis High, when the guns came out, I didn't freeze, I kept my head down and ran like fuck. I was running from guns then, though. We didn't know about Hess then, we didn't know what it would do, but God did we find out. Now, God I wanted to run like fuck, but I just froze. I think my mouth might have moved. The teller was looking down the corridor that led to the vault, pulling on my arm, but nothing was registering.

It reached for me and I unfroze.
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Red light! Green light!
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Those of you who know me IRL – (insert your own crack about who-else-would-read-my-blog here) – know that I'm not a loud person. I don't shout. I don't holler. I don't yell, even when some of you fucks really piss me off (hell when that happens I get even quieter).

When it reached for me, I screamed. I don't know why. I mean, of course I know why. Three of my best friends died that night along with sixty-four others. I meant I don't know where it came from. I've never heard anything like that sound come out of myself, ever, in my entire life. I think I had so much crashing through my head at that moment (there's another phrase I always run across but didn't quite grasp until today, “cognitive dissonance”) that nothing could make it past the whirlwind of questions I needed to ask but not of it. Everything about this was wrong in all kinds of ways, and I was doing that thing I do where instead of voicing my questions I grill myself in twenty different directions in my head to try and puzzle through the answers myself, and my brain just ground to a halt when the question of who that thing before me was had resolved.

Then, when it reached for me, all the questions crumbled away. My vision irised down and I thought I was about to faint, but I didn't. My sight just tunneled in on its hand coming closer -- in the same instant I flashed back on its face on the body in the bag that night, and the storm of questions just blew away, none of them mattered. It came so hard, so sudden, I thought I tore my vocal cords, “DON'T TOUCH ME!” I felt my chest harden, I wanted to start crying then but I think I kept at least that much self-control.

It recoiled. I don't know if it was the volume or the words themselves but it looked like it had been slapped. I wish I had slapped it. I would have been proud if I wasn't so fucking terrified of losing my face. God knows what else.

I felt a sharp pain in my back. I never realized I was moving but I had scrambled back and thudded into the edge of the entrance to the corridor that led to the vault. I could hear footsteps from here, distant but getting closer.

The look on its face after the surprise faded was not as satisfying. It turned my stomach, actually. I remember it clearly, not blurrily – so I guess I didn't cry? Not in front of it. It gave me this contemptuous look, so unmistakably disgusted with what it saw, the disdain so palpable I wanted to turn away, scrub my face on my sleeve. I forced myself to stare back now, my teeth bared like an animal – I don't know, it seemed like the thing to do. To balance the weakness I'd already shown? Whatever. I couldn't believe how withered I felt inside, to have this murdering thing looking at me like I was a puppy that just shit on its fucking rug.

It spoke again, bitter but calm. “I'm not here for you. I'm here for him.” Silk and stone. “Go, Jennifer.” It nodded to the teller. I don't remember standing, maybe he dragged me, I don't know. Things blurred. It knew my name. Remembered me. But I didn't have any horror left. I was back near the entrance alcove before I knew it, in the teller's arms, he was pulling at me but I was holding onto the frame of the doorway like...well. Part of me wanted to see?

The last thing I saw before I lost my grip and he muscled me out to safety was it playing its hands through the air as if plucking the strings of an invisible harp, and some kind of shining darkness? spilling out of the air and clinging to Reilly as he charged in with a bag of money over his shoulder like some demented Uncle Pennybags.
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I'm shaking as I type this. I just finished giving the police my statement, and trying to get some answers out of them about what I just saw. I was scared, before, I have no problem admitting that. I was terrified. Now, I'm just furious. I want to throw things, but I'm still at the station so that probably won't go over well. They said that Vanguard cut a deal for it. Immunity or asylum or clemency or something like that. This fucking abomination that murdered the High Park Five and massacred the Lewis High Homecoming, the Androgyne, is back in Paragon City. It's not just free to roam about on its own recognizance, it's a goddamn Reciprocator. ...and it may have saved my life.
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Visavis
 
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