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  • Steel City

    So last night we tried third edition. I had sworn I wouldn't, but the shininess of Emerald City got me.

    We transplanted the events of the Silver Storm to Steel City, in the place of Detroit, and I arbitrarily declared this was a sequel of sorts to the Champions campaign I ran in the 1980s. Certain in-jokes then happened (two of the PCs are children of NPCs from that campaign).

    The original description, written by one of my players, can be found here. I decided to put one I had written in its place. I'll eventually do that for the second one, too.

    Silver Storm Warning

    Chiclet looked out over the Grand Circus park at the Occupy Steel City rally, now in its fifth day. The news reports put the attendance at five thousand, but she saw only about two, and it was a lovely Friday at lunch time. At night, Uncle Vito said it went down to about four hundred. He had said an exact number because he counted them, but Uncle Vito had super speed and tended to do things like that.

    Uncle Vito wasn't really her uncle, of course, just another of her parents' friends, one of the city's large colony of retired supervillains. She didn't have powers, anyway: not even super techno, like her mom. Kind of unfair, that was life.

    She raised her voice to sell more coupons for drinks and lunch. They'd printed them on the second day, made arrangements with the vendors. Occupy rallies attracted police, so doing things the straight way made sense here.

    An androgynous person like a Patrick Nagel drawing come to life gave her a temporary tattoo; she glanced at it. Lawyer stuff. She tucked it into a pocket of her purse: her family knew lawyers, if it came to that. She glanced across the street, at Uncle Jerry in the alleyway.

    He made a darn good wino, though Chiclet knew he'd given up drinking when her folks retired.

    A cute girl in a sundress bought coupons for a drink and a lunch. She fumbled with the money, gave Chiclet a one instead of a ten, then apologized ("all the money looks the same"). Colour blind? No, Canadian.

    Couples milled around on lunch dates. The police were there—some of the streets were blocked off because of traffic—and Chiclet moved a bit to avoid being caught by a television news crew. What do you use? Videotape? Get into the twenty-first century, people.

    The androgynous lawyer person was scanning the crowd with a phone. Looked like a BlackBerry. Puh-leeze. Android or go home.

    A Hightecker van making a delivery obscured her view of Uncle Jerry for a moment. He got up, fumbled and made the sign for "rest room" in the process, then staggered off.

    She sold six more coupons while he was gone, and noticed that the People Mover had dropped off even more people.

    Then the van exploded.

    * * *

    Hadley had hopes that Sonia might be worth telling the truth about him and his family; certainly their first date had gone well enough that this was (sort of) a second date, visiting the Occupy rally together. When it came, the explosion was so loud that everyone stopped, and everyone in the park stood motionless for a moment, while the silver clouds boiled out of what had been a working van. He couldn't even tell what company it had been with and he dimly thought that might be important.

    Then somebody screamed, and lighting hit someone right in front of them. And someone else. And someone else: lightning bolts dangled like a fringe over the park, hitting people everywhere.

    "First aid?" Hadley shouted to Sonia. She nodded. "Me too. Start there." They ran to the first person, now down on the ground, a derelict black guy in castoff camos. The goth guy just ahead got hit by lightning, too. She checked for respiration on the derelict while he headed for the goth guy. "Hang on!" he shouted. "I'm coming!"

    He stopped.

    The goth guy was now floating ten feet off the ground, yelling, "Now Lord Etheric has the power he has always wanted!" The goth guy cupped his hands together, then released something like a swarm of glowing insects. They spread out fast, fastened on to people like stinging insects and people started screaming.

    "You could be helping!" shouted Hadley, over the screaming and noise.

    --and lightning hit him. It held him there motionless for what seemed like minutes. He was dimly aware that Sonia had touched his back to try and keep him from falling over. The electricity (if it was electricity) was beautiful.

    The lightning stopped and the world faded to something like normalcy.

    "How are you still alive?" asked Sonia.

    "Dunno," said Hadley. "But I feel fine." Better than fine, really: he felt that nice tight empty feeling that came after a long period of eating right and working out, but amplified.. He hadn't felt this good in ages, not since he was rowing competitively. "You help the others."

    He swung at the goth guy, who was floating out of reach, and then pointed at him. "If you have powers, you have a responsibility--"

    His finger went off. A bolt of electricity shot from his finger into the sky like a reverse lightning bolt, missing the goth guy.

    He stared at his finger.

    * * *

    Vieno saw the chaos. A number of people in the park had drawn pistols; the police were tasering people. One old woman had pulled out a stun gun and was using to ward off all the nonexistent attackers. The squid guy with tentacles looked like he was going to hit someone nearby, which meant putting away the cell phone and taking action.

    Off to one side, Vieno saw lightning hit one of the portapotties, which exploded, splattering everyone in line, and leaving behind a woman clutching the hand of a toddler. The toddler's pants were around his ankles.

    Vieno leaped over someone else who was kneeling, saw lightning hit another person who almost instantly fused so he had something like a chrysalis around him, jumped over another woman who was lying on the ground moaning about the tigers, and lightning struck.

    Vieno felt muscles contract and then loosen, then rolled like you should after a fall. Everything looked sharper, brighter, clearer, and the world around slowed just a little bit.

    Cool beans, thought Vieno. I think I just had an origin.

    Vieno celebrated by planting both feet in the squid guy's face.

    * * *

    Chiclet looked at the pandemonium and tried to catch the eye of Uncle Jerry, but he wasn't there. She didn't know the tentacle guy, so he might be safe to hit. Her mother had whipped up a self-defense gadget for her that should be good--

    Then lightning hit her and everything went dark.

    * * *

    Why is there dirt in my mouth? thought Izzy. I was running for the octopus guy, jumped in the air to get over that…cocoon or whatever…and lightning hit me. But I'm not dead. She got up slowly and looked around.

    She was in a crater, about twice as wide as she was tall. She looked over the edge. The old lady with the stun gun had sprouted oily-looking white spines. Maybe the lighting did things to my head? thought Izzy. I'm hallucinating and in a hospital somewhere. At least there's no dirt in my mouth now.

    The octopus guy hit someone else and had grabbed a hostage--a young man who looked like he was on missionary work for some church. Religious literature lay scattered on the ground. Izzy didn't know what she could do against an octopus guy--he probably had powers now--but she couldn't do nothing. She dove for him in a flying tackle, and missed--

    --and didn't land.

    I'm flying. She laughed. "I'm flying! I hope this isn't an hallucination!" She could turn just by thinking about it. I wonder what other powers I have? She glanced down her chest--nope. Boobs weren't bigger. That was good; she liked her girls the way they were.

    The goth guy cupped his hands together and opened them, releasing a swarm of glowing insects that were suddenly everywhere. Some of them landed on Izzy and had no effect; one sliced a chunk of the androgynous lawyer's ear, but the damage healed almost instantly; the ones that landed on Hadley just sizzled and fried. People who weren't so lucky started screaming.

    * * *

    Vieno said, "Use your words! What do you want?"

    The young missionary screamed as though he were being squeezed and a tentacle lashed against the young flying woman. It might as well have been an overcooked spaghetti noodle for all that it did. Yup, thought Vieno. Origins galore.

    The squid guy wasn't talking…and then tripled.

    Three of him stood there, three hostage. The flying girl had moved on so there was no way to tell which of the three hit her. Ah, thought Vieno. Someone with new light powers is trying them out.

    Apparently the flying woman didn't have trouble telling them apart, because she grabbed one of the squid guys, squeezed, and misjudged her strength, because the squid guy fell down almost immediately. The missionary guy looked shaken. The illusory duplicates vanished.

    Vieno immediately shifted focus. Some woman was yelling.

    "—a meek victim of circumstance! Now I am death. Now I am magnetic. Now I am…Death Magnetic!" Street signs, umbrella struts, things made of metal flew to the woman and made a kind of armour, shaping themselves to her body.

    "That's a stupid name." Vieno covered the distance easily. "Do you mind if I say that? Death Metal. How's that going to look on a card?"

    A hot dog cart flew at Vieno, apparently of its own volition, but missed. "Or did you get the order of the words wrong? Maybe you were excited. Is it Magnetic Death you wanted? Because people are just going to call you Fridge Magnet."

    She ignored Vieno and flew to the street.

    Note, Vieno thought. Talking doesn't seem to get anyplace with these people. Hitting does.

    * * *

    Something hit Hadley from behind, and he rolled onto the ground, surrounded by fur and claws and teeth. He had the impression of a humanoid honey badger. He felt something against his arm for a moment. A humanoid female honey badger. None of the attacks seemed to penetrate his force field (I have a force field? Keep doing it, force field!), so he shot the goth guy again with a sound like frying bacon. The goth guy went down, thumping to the grassy ground.

    The honey badger woman squared off against him in a pose Hadley recognized from college martial arts. And then she tripled. Hadley shrugged. If one couldn't affect him, why should three?

    She attacked him with a vicious series of attacks that didn't penetrate. Behind her, though, Hadley could see a trail of a half a dozen bleeding victims. The badger woman suddenly moved to the top of his to-do list.

    * * *

    Fridge Magnet levitated a bus and started taking it apart. This wasn't going to be good for the people on the bus, Vieno knew, and wished for the wings that were sitting at work in a closet. They were alien tech, a gift from a previous client. Well, another route: off that sawhorse, up the lamppost and onto Fridge Magnet's shoulders.

    Best end things quickly, thought Vieno. It's not like she'll have trouble hitting me. Vieno launched a flurry of blows against Fridge Magnet's head.

    On the plus side, Fridge Magnet dropped the bus--with people in it. Vieno couldn't think of a way to stop it--when the flying young woman caught the bus and set it gently down. Strong and flies, thought Vieno. Good powers.

    On the minus side, Fridge Magnet suddenly zoomed up, and the ground shrank beneath them. They were so high so fast, that Vieno suddenly had trouble breathing.

    A fall from here? thought Vieno. Might be bad.

    * * *

    One of those blows might get through; that would be bad, thought Hadley. Maybe if I think a little differently--

    The honey badger woman's next blow went through him. Um. I'm…insubstantial or something. Well, that will keep the furry thing occupied.

    A beam of laser light hit him square in the chest and hurt. Hadley thought, Crap. I can still be seen, so light-based attacks-- He traced the line of the beam back to a hippy-looking guy at the edge of the park.

    All these people crazy at once? Maybe they're being mind-controlled, Hadley thought. Somebody got mind-control powers and figured they'd try'em out. He scanned the crowd looking for something that looked a bit off.

    * * *

    Ah, thought Vieno. Fridge Magnet has fashioned armour for herself. Maybe I can knock her unconscious and use her armour to protect both of us when we plummet to the earth. Like body surfing. But painful.

    As plans go, it was sucky, but better than nothing.

    While every blow Vieno tried to land against Fridge Magnet bounced against the impromptu armour, Fridge Magnet didn't seem to have any problem pummeling Vieno with pieces of armour that flew off to hit and then replaced themselves. Vieno's vision went blurry and there was a clicking sound. Good, she missed, thought Vieno and then realized that the sharp edge of Fridge Magnet's armour had actually cut off Vieno's face…and it had healed.

    Okay, the fall might be survivable.

    * * *

    People were lying unconscious or injured all over the park. Swarms were trying to get into the People Mover to escape, and they were jamming up against people trying to leave the People Mover tower because it had been hit by lightning and was leaning. The lightbender that Hadley had already spotted had decided to surround himself with duplicates.

    "Hey! Flying girl!"

    "Woman!"

    "Check out that chrysalis, there. Looks odd. Check it! I'll handle the illusionist!"

    Hadley thought, Okay, I can't see which one is him, but maybe I can fry all of them. He thought about the area, about the space, and thought about the electricity in it.

    The duplicates vanished, and the remaining illusionist fell down…but also, streetlights all over the park popped. Traffic lights exploded. The entrance and exit lights over the People Mover blew out and the escalators inside stopped. His "area" was larger than he had intended.

    This is definitely bad, thought Hadley.

    * * *

    "What are you? Some kind of bad cosplayer?" called Izzy. The badger woman bounded at her and connected, but the claws didn't damage Izzy at all, though they did rip her sundress. Izzy ignored it. She doesn't seem like she can hurt me, and she's busy. Fine. Let's deal with the root of the problem.

    Izzy got her fingers into a rough spot on the chrysalis and pulled, snapping part of it open--

    Inside wasn't a person at all but a writhing mass of worms.

    How do you punch a worm? she thought. Instead she hastily closed it. Her first thought was to take it to UNTIL…except the nearest UNTIL base was over the border, and she didn't know where the American equivalent was. Gah. She kept ignoring the badger woman and instead started slamming the chrysalis against the ground, hoping to knock the worms inside senseless.

    The worms stopped moving, but the chaos didn't.

    * * *

    Vieno feinted and then drove a knee into Fridge Magnet's temple.

    They started falling. It looked like maybe a mile to the ground.

    Okay, part one of the plan completed.

    At the half mile mark, Fridge Magnet's eye flicked open. She shot up, but Vieno, who hadn't been expecting it, didn't, and was suddenly falling free as Fridge Magnet left.

    Vieno spread arms and legs to maximize air resistance, and wished that the Occupy movement had bouncy castles. I can practice law from a wheelchair, right?

    * * *

    Hadley tossed a lightning bolt at the badger woman. If she'd just stay down… He knocked her off the flying woman.

    Instead, the furry woman attacked the leaning tower of the People Mover. Her claws sliced through the concrete and rebar and the tower started to crumble. It moved enough that elevated rails popped off their supports.

    The train in the station couldn't move. Another train was gliding in, powerless.

    Izzy hoped she could clip the badger woman on her way up to the train rails, but she missed. Rails are more important anyway. "Make better choices," Izzy called after the scampering furry. "Do good!" She got the railings and pressed up and over, holding them against the supports.

    Annoyed, Hadley shot the furry badger woman. She bounced a few times before rolling to a stop. "Turn yourself in!" said Hadley.

    The badger woman staggered to her feet. "I give up," she said, and fell face forward.

    Izzy was holding the trestle and rails when another changed person flew up. "I'll take them. You continue to fight the good fight down there."

    He could fly; Izzy believed him. She let him get a grip on the rails and then took off. He grunted as the rails fell down a foot. Izzy quickly grabbed them again as the train rolled in, bumping against the train already there.

    "Hmph," he said. "Guess I'm not super-strong." He smiled at Izzy, who was straining to hold up the train and trestle and rails. "Why don't you give me your number and we can find out what I can do." He smiled; she rolled her eyes.

    * * *

    There was a splat sound in the middle of the road. Hadley turned and looked. The person who had fallen might have been a man once. Or a woman. Or something humanoid.

    As he watched, pieces moved and flowed. Eventually, the lawyer person sat up. "I am so tweeting this." He or she reached for the cell phone and pulled it out, looked at it, and then looked up.

    "Hell," he or she said. "It's busted."
    Last edited by kipling; 06-21-2014, 08:30 PM. Reason: Experimenting with thread title...still
    Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

  • #2
    Re: Steel City

    MarsTech is now Hightecker, Maximilian Mars is Everett Hightower, and other names are changed because one of the players also has the Emerald City book, so the changes keep them in a bit of suspense.

    Sorry that I didn't realize there was another Steel City on the (old) boards, but I think you'll be able to tell us apart.

    SAT is a pretty straightforward alternate name for AEGIS; I'm not sure if I'll transplant the Freedom League or rename them, or come up with something else. Probably a transplant with background details changed.

    I apologize that it's in some ways a straight enactment of the Emerald Knights path, but maybe the changes made to accommodate a different location and the past history that the campaign from another game system combine to make it more interesting.

    I believe that most of the campaign material is visible to, well, anyone over at Obsidian Portal, at http://steel-city.obsidianportal.com but as the person who owns the campaign, I've never tried looking at it from someone else's account. So use caution in going there (as with all links you find from an unvetted source).

    (I mean, I like to think I'm a vetted source, but, hey, caveat your emptor.)

    Also, in terms of flavor, please remember that we're Canadian, so some of our details about the USA might be wrong.
    Last edited by kipling; 05-08-2014, 09:48 AM. Reason: Name change
    Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

    Comment


    • #3
      Episode 2: Aftershocks

      Also written by James, with some fill-in by me.

      A perfectly good plan ruined by the party Leeroy Jenkins

      Lights up on a park still filled with the carnage left after the Silver Storm. Both Izzy and Vieno are helping to the best of their ability; this takes the onlookers by surprise because neither of the two masks in town are particularly helpful (in their defense one is an unpowered crime fighter whose range is limited by all the retired supervillains in town and the other seems to be a sewer-dwelling muck monster).

      Volt is nowhere to be seen. Of course, it is easy enough for him to vanish: turn off the aura and he looks like a regular person. Lucky for him he did this before the press arrives or he'd be stuck with the Fame complication like Vieno and Izzy.

      Sadly, not only is Vieno's worst suit a write-off, their BlackBerry died in the fall Oh, well, they wanted a Q10 anyway. How do other supers manage not to have to buy a new cell phone every couple of days?)

      Both Vieno and Izzy talk to reporters, though Izzy is busier doing things like lifting ambulances into and out of the area. Vieno sees no reason not to talk frankly with the reporters. Or any reason to do the whole secret ID thing at this time. This will never come back to haunt them, I am sure.

      A little later, while loading the chrysalises onto pickups (stacked two deep, ten to a pickup), to be taken to the hospital, Izzy notices a beat up looking guy watching the goings on. Whoever he is, he disappears about the same time one of the trucks full of people who ended up in a chrysalis drives off. This seems to be coincidence, not causality.

      Cohen of Ytterby and Cohen, or as Vieno knows them, Boss 1 and Boss A, drops by to give Vieno the day off and to drop Vieno's wings off so they can get home, on the theory that they will be mobbed otherwise, because Vieno's new face is all over the news. A conversation about how all this will affect Vieno's workload ensues; someone just got to be lead on the pornstar--er, adult performer--case instead of Vieno. That will never affect their chances of a bonus.

      Cohen is very insistent that Vieno get a medical check-up. Vieno has clued in that they had an Origin but because they cannot see themselves cannot tell how much they've changed.

      In fact the paramedics are giving all the changed people a quick once over, although in Izzy's case they cannot take blood because the needles break on her skin and it's not something she knows how to turn off.

      While Vieno is waiting their turn, Vieno happens to be seated next to the aggressive old lady with the tazer, who now has spines. The spines are at elbows, backs of hands, spine, knees, with spurs on the heels as well, and have small but visible droplets of some oily substance on them. Vieno touches a point with their finger, as one does, and their finger goes numb. Since the last person to do that was "incapacitated", the paramedics check off "immune to poison" for Vieno.

      The paramedics (Priya "Bolllywood" Shankar and Mike Hamner) are annoyingly keen to whisk Vieno off to the hospital, at least until Vieno offers to sign a waiver releasing the paramedics from any responsibility if Vieno suddenly liquifies.

      Vieno has a conversation with a blind woman who claims her seeing eye dog can read minds now. It isn't clear if the dog can and only communications with her master or the blind woman is delusional but someone is able to pick fairly obscure facts from Vieno's mind. Unfortunately because they are caught up in the whole thrill of the afternoon, it doesn't occur to Vieno to warn the woman not to tell everyone about this. Oh, well. I am sure that will never come back to haunt Vieno.

      Izzy overheard Det. Nicholson telling one of the beat cops some salient details:
      • The van was in fact a Hightecker van.
      • The driver looks to have been dead before the explosion.
      • The van was carrying storage tanks, all of which are now empty.
      • Hightecker is owned by Everett Hightower, who is not officially a person of interest in the case...unless they come up with something bulletproof.


      The Storm affected other parts of the city, but nowhere as severely as the park.

      A surprising number of black SUVs show up. Some of these are FBI. Others are Homeland Security. There's another fracture line along experience: while the younger people are excited at prospect of sudden career advancement looking before them, the upper ranks all picked Steel City because nothing ever happens there and they are not happy that this has changed.

      Special Agent Marwick of the FBI seems friendly and as it turns out he knows Izzy's dad. Marwick gives Izzy a heads up about issues vis-a-vis her being Canadian and Homeland Security, and their powered-armor minions SAT are around.

      (There used to be a US government agency called PRIMUS that got disbanded because they turned out to be run by people who were disturbingly fanatical by the standards of the Bush minor Administration. SAT got expanded, and then absorbed into Homeland Security. PRIMUS had the philosophy "make our own supers" and SAT had "powered armor and big guns will do.")

      Sure enough, Homeland gravitates to Izzy. Vieno gets Izzy to hand over a dollar as a retainer and vows to protect Izzy's rights. This would be mean more if Izzy actually had rights in the US, which of course she doesn't.

      Marwick tries to give them a heads up about Izzy's father but gets blown off. None of the Homelanders are aware enough to notice how smug Marwick looks.

      Homeland is very insistent that Izzy spend the night at their HQ in the special cell. Vieno offers to tag along, which causes a problem because it is clear both Vieno and Izzy are boosted and as it happens, only one of the two power nullifiers the Homelanders have in Steel City actually works. ("I want to talk to Tompkins when we get back, because this is unacceptable.") Izzy is reluctant to put on the nullifiers but happily it doesn't come to a head because Vieno convinces the Homelanders that since the pair are cooperating, there is no need for the nullifiers at all.

      If the paramedics were around, they might check off "superhuman levels of persuasion" for Vieno.

      Because it seems like a good idea to get the pair checked medically and because the local Homeland office is not set up for it, they decide to send Vieno and Izzy off to the hospital before bringing them to HQ. The unlucky Agent Gonzales is assigned to baby-sit. ( Only one agent, because frankly, their entire fleet of powered suits is not going to work (they'll have to get more shipped in); the two are co-operating so far; and what powered suits they have are being used to help in the clean-up.)

      In the waiting room at the hospital, the two heroes get thanked, and see on the TV lots of their own action, captured as video; news reports asking if they will be the new Steel City Sentries, and interview clips with the mayor (who is busy directing things) and with Hightower. Hightower claims that he's as baffled as the rest of them, it's not related to any work they were doing, but he'd love to thank the new heroes in person.

      While waiting to be checked out, Vieno recognizes the Steel City Sentries name: there used to be a local group of supers, now disbanded. An amusing idea for a career change occurs to them. Health services have a long list of origin checklists for them ("Are you burning but unhurt by an unquenchable fire?") After getting clean bills of health, the trio head over to be interrogated/debriefed or they would have except at this point Vieno gets very, very insistent that they stop for a quick snack at the Chinese restaurant they are passing. (Hero Point!)

      Izzy and Gonzales snack. Vieno has seven servings from the all you can eat buffet before reluctantly stopping.

      When Gonzales gets up to use the washroom, the staff offers to cover Vieno and Izzy's escape. When Vieno turns this down, the restaurant offers a favour from the Gentleman's Imperial Trade Association -- a completely legitimate group of community-minded businessmen -- because the owner's grandfather was in the park and the owner appreciates that they are not now going to a funeral.

      Once the group gets to the local Homeland/SAT HQ (a repurposed IRS building), Vieno and Izzy get to pretend their enhanced senses don't let them overhear the heated discussion between agents. The place isn't yet designed to handle people like Izzy because Steel City is supposed to be a city that does not have people like Izzy. Without nullifiers, all bringing her to their HQ does is make it easier for her to take it apart from the inside.

      Because he is low enough rank to get stuck with the blame, Gonzales is put in charge of baby-sitting Izzy. To avoid expensive damage to the building, they decide the budget will stretch to getting her a hotel room. But first, the questioning.

      The debriefing consists mainly of questions about affiliations and powers. Unfortunately for them neither Izzy nor Vieno can answer the power questions. Much is conjecture because there has not been time to do a proper assessment. Eventually one of Izzy's answers reveals that her father is a high ranking UNTIL officer back in Canada. They immediately release Izzy; all talk of keeping her in the US is dropped. Izzy, being careful to stay legal, takes public transit back across the bridge to Windsor.

      Vieno straps on the wings, flies home to their home, which is in a converted warehouse in the Abandoned Warehouse District. Real estate is practically free there and the only disadvantage is the near total lack of services (although the utilities have not yet crumbled in that part of the city). Only part of the building is habitable as such; it's a fixer upper. (The area has been rezoned as residential/industrial.)

      Vieno updates their Facebook status to reflect that they had an Origin. About five other people have done the same. I am sure there is no way that will come back to haunt any of them.

      Izzy heads back to Canada to work on a paper that's due. The border guard recognizes Izzy from the news. A pleasant chat ensues, during which Izzy is questioned about her new powers; the border guard informs her that Canada requires visitors to declare lethal powers at the border and also tells her to call her MPP if there's an issue. (I should have said MP; in Canada, border stuff is a federal issue.)

      Once she gets across the border, Izzy has a long phone chat with her father about powers and all that jazz. Being a conscientious dad with Connections, he sets up a battery of tests for Izzy that night, selecting Doctor Specks as the person lucky enough to lose their Friday night to this because Traynor doesn't like him. (There was apparently an incident at the last Christmas party.).

      Izzy gives her dad the sample of the mysterious silver dust she collected after the Storm and she hasn't told anyone else about. UNTIL whisks it off for analysis.

      Similarly, Vieno explores their own powers: they are fast, strong, incredible agily and they heal quickly enough that it's actually hard to do damage faster than they heal. On the minus side, the hunger is almost unending and kind of bothersome; a couple of cartons of Ben and Jerry's is OK before bed but in the morning they are ravenous. Luckily for Hightower's minion Bruno Lorring, he shows up after Vieno has finished a couple of breakfasts, what Vieno had set aside for lunch and also dinner.

      Lorring has an invitation from Hightower. Hightower wants a chat with Vieno and Izzy and since it seems like Hightower might know something despite what he has claimed, Vieno wants a chat with him. Vieno calls Izzy on the number Vieno got from Izzy the day before to pass on in the invitation and discuss strategy.

      As it turns out, while Vieno is barely competent at digging stuff up, Izzy is good at it and she turned her skills on Hightower. He and his company take care to have good PR: Hightower and his company claim to be green, socially conscious and all that crap.

      An interesting tidbit Izzy came across that I don't think she shared is that Hightower used to be named something different and his old name is sealed by court order.

      As soon as she gets across the border, Izzy gets this sort of phone call from her father. "I have the results from last night." "Yeah, Dr. Specks told me the powers thing." "The other thing. We'll talk about it when you get back to Windsor."

      Despite it being Saturday, the Hightecker complex is hopping. The employees don't seem to be there because they are required to be but because they genuinely enjoy what they do for a living.

      Alas for the meeting, the supervillains who live in the area are very concerned about the whole "mass origin" thing and they've sent a team of specialists, the Fraternal Order of Evil to have a quick chat with Hightower to make sure he really does not know more than he is letting on. Vieno, who hears the chatter at the criminal justice buildings, knows that the FOE is a loose organization of criminals run by The Big Brain. "Membership" means they help you out on jobs, or pull you in to help someone else out on jobs. ("Fraternal" because marketing is a dead art. These guys seem more mercenary than evil and also at least one of them is a woman.)


      The group that FOE sends consists of Tempus (master of time and I think space), Gargantua (he gets big!), Cannon (some kind of cyborg), Cyberknight (a woman in powered armour, I think).

      It's not impossible this could have taken the form of a tense but comparatively violence-free conversation except for two things: the bad timing they have in showing up at the same time as Izzy and Vieno and the misjudgment that Gargantua's raw power justifies bringing him along.

      The plan was probably for Tempus to teleport them in to grab Hightower and then teleport back out. Sadly, Gargantua is aware that his grow-biggery is only useful outdoors but he doesn't want to be left out of the fun so after growing to full size, he rips the wall of Hightower's office out. It is just this kind of subtle misstep that can toss a plan into a cocked hat.

      Vieno tells Hightower to leg it and then feints, planning to hit Cannon. Gargantua grabs Hightower.

      Cannon takes a shot at Vieno, misses, and totally kills Hightower's desk.

      It's really hard to miss Gargantua so Izzy decides to be careful about where she hits him, aiming for the funny bone. This is successful(ish) and--probably for the best--Gargantua doesn't drop Hightower from three stories up.

      The armoured woman is considerate enough to make it clear that she is the group's leader and also provides Izzy with a chance to show off her truly phenomenal defenses by getting in front of a plasma blast.

      Izzy tries actually talking to FOE. It does not work any better than Vieno's attempt to talk Squidly down the day before.

      Tempus opens a hole under Vieno who plummets down it like their player rolled a 1 for acrobatics. Once Vieno is safely contained one floor down, Tempus closes the hole again.

      Vieno takes the time to tell the woman whose office they have just appeared in to evacuate the building, then breaks the office window, pops the wings and flies back up one story. Since Vieno didn't have the wings yesterday, there's no reason anyone would expect them to do this.

      Oddly the building completely lacks a super-villain attack protocol so the woman just pulls the fire alarm before demonstrating a turn of speed that shows why you should wear running shoes or at least flats to work.

      Gargantua didn't get the memo about hostage value so he carefully places Hightower back in the remains of his office so Gargantua can use both hands to swat at Izzy. This does not actually help Gargantua hit any more effectively but it probably saves Hightower's life.

      Spotting the leader of the group, Izzy makes a grab for Cyberknight. No luck. Cyberknight in contrast manages to curl Izzy's hair with a well-aimed zap (One of the recurring themes this week was Izzy is much easier to hit than Vieno and a toughness of 14 isn't as good as it sounds if the player gets bad rolls].

      Since he has absolutely no idea Vieno can fly, Tempus has no reason to worry about them flying in though the hole in the wall or giving Tempus some free retrophrenology, which is probably why it works so well (From Vieno's point of view, away).

      [Actually, it worked horribly so I spent a hero point to reroll, then rolled a 20]

      Gargantua and Izzy get into a slap fight. Izzy gets smacked silly, which probably explains why she missed someone the size of a building.

      (Cannon is doing something during all this but I never found out what. As soon as the chance comes up, Hightower legs it. Yay! One less squishy to worry about.)

      While barely conscious, Tempus is aware enough to fight defensively. Doesn't help against another critical. Tempus, the means by which FOE gets around, falls over. At around this point Cyberknight decides the job has gone sour and she starts trying to organize a retreat.

      Cannon decides to see if someone as nimble as Vieno can dodge a grenade. Not as such, as it turns out. It's a good thing Vieno heals so quickly.

      Probably because they know she's a brick, Izzy comes in for an excessive amount of attention: Gargantua smacks her around and Cyberknight manages to hit her with a pathetically flimsy net. Izzy gives Cyberknght a long, hard stare for that last but sadly what was left of the Rothko on the wall suddenly bursts into flame. Ah, it was probably a print. Or at least insured.

      The sprinkler system works. Yay!

      Vieno has a lot of experience at smashing their hot, sweaty body into other people's hot, sweaty bodies in confined, poorly lit spaces and so it's easy enough to parkour over to Cyberknight to lay her out with two well aimed blows.

      Gargantua is smart enough to grab Cyberknight so he can run off with her but not smart enough not to put her right back down when Izzy taunts him about running away. Vieno's ear drums have grown back so they hear Cannon's audible sigh of frustration at this. Cyberknight is out of Cannon's reach but Tempus isn't so Cannon grabs Tempus, runs out of room into the office complex and despite Vieno's attempt to chase them down Cannon and his cargo escape.

      Vieno wastes a certain amount of time trying to work out if the elevator is empty or full of invisible people. They conclude "empty". Probably for the best they don't know the security camera in the elevator caught them multiattacking an empty room.

      Izzy and Gargantua proceed to pound each other into jelly; Vieno ruins the game by clipping the big G in the head or rather Gargantua does by rolling really badly on his toughness role (It's good thing for Vieno nobody seems to have high levels of impervious). Turns out Gargantua reverts to human size when he is out cold, which is handy.

      Less than a minute and a half has passed since the wall came down.

      While Izzy's powers of recuperation are not in Vieno's league (4 levels of regen versus 10), they're pretty good so she soon heals back to full.

      Vieno does wonder if all this was a set up but the cost of the damage to the building, and the risk to the genuinely terrified innocents makes it unlikely. Vieno calls calls SAT in. SAT gets to decide which of Cyberknight or Gargantua get the nullifier cuffs. (Answer: put the working ones on the smart woman and the broken ones on the dumb guy who may well accept the lie that his powers have been nullified at face value.) Not that it really matters when there's a teleporter running around free but SAT might have managed to keep the two prisoners for a few minutes longer.

      Hightower seems sincere about not being responsible for the Silver Storm or for this. He guesses (correctly) that the local villains may have wanted to talk to him about the Storm.

      Interesting bit of gossip: one of the trucks taking the victims in chrysalises to the hospital just up and vanished.

      A group of out-of-towners calling themselves the Confederacy of Justice shows up. Vieno barely has time to think negative thoughts about someone using a term way too close to "Confederacy" for their liking before the Urban Avatar is mind-controlled by person or persons unknown and goes berserk.
      Last edited by kipling; 05-08-2014, 07:26 AM.
      Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

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      • #4
        Re: Steel City

        Notes--

        Of course, the Confederacy of Justice is a renamed Freedom League, and the members are just renamed members of the League.

        Forgot to hand out a hero point at one point, which might have changed how things work in the later battle.

        In this game, the city's criminal activity is controlled by these factions:
        • The Tongs and ... er, Gentleman's Imperial Trade Association
        • Malokov Mafiya
        • Vittori family
        • The Fraternity of Evil
        • Retired supervillains. They don't want anything to happen that will interfere with their retirement or bring heat on the area, and they tend to be very similar to FOE but with slightly different goals. You Don't Do Things In Their Neighbourhood.


        The stormers and other groups (such as the posses and biker gangs) might come into play now that the status quo has been shaken up.
        Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

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        • #5
          Episode 3: Misunderstandings Galore

          Izzy threw herself in front of the huge slab of concrete and spread her arms and legs. She thought she could lift it easily--

          The weight slammed into her and pushed her backward, back towards the Hightecher employees who had gathered in the quad. She didn't want to push hard against it, because if it broke—

          The huge chunk of path pushed against her, and she tried to slow it down, but these powers were still new to her. How strong could she push? How fast could she fly to resist it?

          She felt something—someone—against her back. Push harder!


          Six seconds ago.

          "Parker, we knew we couldn't trust you," said the archer as the concrete-coloured man set down the glowing platform. On it were the archer, a cloaked young woman, and a man in tights and goggles.

          Izzy whispered to Vieno, "Who are they?"

          "Confederacy of Justice. Quarrel, Gramarye, Urbanity, Ricochet. Seriously? You've never heard of them?"

          "I'm Canadian." Actually, she did remember them. Sort of. Her father had mentioned them.

          "There were three groups in the sixties who unified, though I think the 'Confederacy' part was just to get traction in the south—"

          The concrete-coloured man screamed, "Get out of my head!" and ripped up a huge chunk of the concrete path, threw it at Everett Hightower.

          Urbanity's teammates stared at him agape. Then Ricochet said, "One of them must be a mind-controller. Take them down, I'll get the innocents out." And he was gone.


          Now

          Vieno strongly suspected this was all some kind of badly thought out hazing but if not, then taking the crazy guy down fast was more important than avoiding being hit. They surged to Urbanity and walloped as hard as they could. Despite connecting well enough to stun a tank, this had absolutely no measurable effect.

          The archer shrugged and said, "My thought too. And I can guess who's helping," as a bow appeared in his fist, and he launched an arrow at Vieno, who suddenly found themselves wrapped in a bolo.

          "Hey!" Vieno said. "We're the good guys!"

          Volt had finally walked over from the parking lot, rounded the corner and saw…Izzy holding up a deadly slab of concrete, Vieno bound by a…bola?... and several dozen innocent bystanders, along with Hightower. They're like children, he thought. Get two together and there are fights. He willed his protective aura into being.

          "They all say that," said the cloaked woman. "By the shining shackles of Sitakreon, I command you to be still!" Bands of glowing red light, looking like improbable Christmas ribbons, flew from her gesturing hands and immobilized Vieno, who toppled to the ground.

          Vieno saw that neither of them did anything about Urbanity, which suggested A: hazing, B: They're all trying to kill Hightower, or C: jerks. Vieno shouted again, "Hey! Clowns of Justice! We're the good guys."

          The bystanders vanished as Ricochet carried them away.

          Originally posted by GM
          Fiat that Ricochet could get all the bystanders out of the way. He does have superspeed and an impossibly high Quickness.
          Urbanity sank into the ground. Then concrete-pale hands appeared around Hightower's ankles and pulled, as though trying to force him through the pavement. Hightower's eyes widened as if he were suddenly in great pain, but he managed to gasp to his communicator, "Shut down Athena and Hephaestus now!." But whether his words were heard or not was unclear; the noise from Izzy tossing aside the pavement blotted some of them out.

          Quarrel darted to the grass and said, "They mocked me for having an explosive arrow—let's see if this slows Urbanity down for a second. Concentrate on the brick at range." He fired so that his arrow sank into the ground, under the path. The explosion buckled the pavement and threw up dirt.

          At least Hightower wasn't pressing against concrete any more—Izzy wasn't sure if that was better.

          And how did that help? thought Vieno as they tried a concrete-shattering blow against the shining shackles of whomever. Hightower's hurt, so I guess it's not a hazing. "See if Hightower's super," she grunted but no one heard her.

          Volt thought, Mind controller? Okay, needs to be near here. Mental powers are usually line of sight— He started scanning the rooftops and upper windows, looking for someone suspicious. Hmmm…some kind of weird electrical activity…tingling…from this building. "Something in here," he called, and adjusted himself so that he moved through the wall.

          Gramarye held off for a moment, visibly trying to decide between the fellow crackling with electricity and the brick, like she had been told.

          Ricochet darted in and feinted at Izzy, hoping that the shot would set up the brick for a shot—but instead the ground flowed around Hightower and he fell down. Izzy darted forward, heedless of how open she was, and grabbed Hightower around the chest. She started to pull up, gently at first: she didn't want a human taffy pull. She shot up with Hightower and with Urbanity dangling from the man's twisted ankles.

          "I'm taking him out of range," she shouted. "If you do anything against me, I am going to be very mad!"

          Vieno hit the shackles again to make them fall off; then they popped up, ready to defend. Definitely jerks.

          Inside, Volt found a security guard watching two technicians shut down a piece of equipment that featured a large torus.

          "Supervillain attack outside," said Volt. "Get them to safety."

          The guard said, "Hey, you're that guy who helped at the park. Saw that. Procedure in a fire is that I'm supposed to make sure they shut this down and then escort them out."

          "Security center?"

          "Hall, left, through two doorways." He watched Volt pass through the wall and muttered, "We have got to upgrade the hardware if there are people like that around."

          Quarrel looked at the three disappearing figures. He remembered the crosswind and fired the net arrow that would string across the two buildings. "Gramarye? I can't fly."

          "I'll watch," she replied and started to rise. She wasn't as fast as the other woman, but she kept an eye on them. The group stopped at five hundred feet above the earth, hovering over the building that Volt had gone into.

          The security center was unguarded. Volt laid a hand on it and felt what it had recorded.

          Originally posted by GM
          Stunted comprehend machines.
          No; no one suspicious had gone in, though he noted that the mayor had been in to visit Hightower early that morning. He left a back door in case he needed to get back in. He did notice that the security computer was kept separate from the computers that controlled things like the experiments.

          Vieno said to Ricochet, "Why move the bystanders? Why not move Hightower to the other side of the world?"

          Ricochet said, "Because my teammates can't move that fast, and I didn't need a possibly-mentally-controlled Urbanity moving through the earth trying to reach him. I was pretty sure that…Hightower?... could take care of himself."

          Vieno filed that hesitation away for future reference.

          Urbanity shook his head and let go of Hightower's ankles. He floated there.

          "You okay now?" asked Izzy.

          "I think so." Urbanity fingered his communicator. "I seem to be clear now. I'm going to stay here until you give me the signal." He frowned. "I'm—I'm sorry. Tell them that, too."

          Izzy couldn't resist. "Well, they couldn't have gotten through if you didn't have such a weak mind." She set Hightower on the roof, and he buckled and almost cried.

          "We have," he said, "have a first responder set up…building 3…until the ambulance gets here. I have something to say." Izzy scooped him up and flew off.

          Volt poked his head out of the building wall. "I don't feel it any more. The electrical disturbance…it's stopped."

          Still, thought Vieno, the mentalist has to be near here. Vieno spotted the blind woman and her guide dog walking across the parking lot; Vieno bounded over to meet them. Vieno stroked the dog absently.

          "Who is it?" asked the woman. Vieno identified herself. "Oh, good! Just who I was looking for."

          "Yes?"

          "Augie had a seeming. I had to tell you. Someone in a metallic suit, laying waste to things. None of you has a metallic suit, right?"

          Gramarye swooped down. "Miss? Tell your dog to get out of my head."

          The compulsion to pet the dog went away, like a lightswitch had been flicked.

          "Nice dog," said Vieno carefully.

          "Thank you," said the woman. What had she said her name was yesterday? Richards, Richardson, something like that? "Since yesterday, people have been so kind to Augie. It was traumatic, that storm."

          Meanwhile, in the emergency care room, the hypo hissed as it injected sedatives into Hightower's arm. "I don't have much time before the drugs… I'd like to fund a superhero team. I want to set up a trust independent of me. I don't want them to say that I'm influencing the team. I'd like you to be on that team. All three of you. Bruno has the paperwork the lawyers drew up. And, uh, annnnd…" His eyes rolled back in his head.

          "Lawyers? You should spray for those," she said, but he was asleep.

          Two paramedics came in to take him. "I'll fly the ambulance there," Izzy said. "It's faster."

          "Sisters of Mercy General is the closest," said the one. "On three…one, two, three." They transferred Hightower to the cot. Three minutes later, she was back. There was a jet there now, parked in the little quad.

          A masked woman in a dark cloak greeted her. "Isabel? I'm Corbie. Thank you for handling the situation."

          "A situation your team created."

          "And we've apologized." She half-smiled. "Your father and I have corresponded. I'm glad to see his daughter is doing well."

          "How did you know we were here?"

          "Vieno's Facebook status. You should tell her to stop that." She turned to the other members of the Confederacy of Justice. "We should go."

          And within seconds, it was just Vieno, Izzy, and Volt. "Security Center?" asked Volt. "Maybe three pairs of eyes will catch something that one didn't."

          Bruno returned with paperwork, and Vieno asked him. "Sure, you can look, but you'll have to sign these releases and NDAs. Security footage includes corporate secrets." Vieno scanned them. In case of criminal affairs, they could speak of that matter, though they had to notify the corporation before notifying the police.

          I think that's unenforceable, thought Vieno, but standard. Interesting that they were prepared for the question.

          They chatted about the offer while reviewing footage.

          "I don't want to be beholden to anyone," said Volt. "I'd rather not work for the city."

          "Except that no matter what, we're beholden to somebody, pointed out Izzy. "This way, we get police powers."

          "They can fire us," said Volt.

          "If they don't hire us, they can sue us. At least with a legal relationship to the city, they have to jump through hoops if they want to do anything other than fire us."

          "I suppose…" He looked at the paperwork that Bruno had provided. "Maybe a membership service relationship?"

          Vieno had some thoughts on that.

          * * *

          Mr. Dion Palmer met them outside the Stewart Reed building. He was wearing a suit, even though it was Saturday, and his head gleamed like it had been freshly shaved: he looked Hispanic for some reason. "Well, if it will help make up your mind, we can tour the Sentries headquarters."

          "It has squatters," pointed out Vieno. "The city only owns it because of a tax dispute."

          "But we intend to keep it. And there are no squatters on the first floor. We've managed to rent that. And the headquarters on the top floors of the building are padlocked and you need a special passcard to take the express elevator there. Fortunately, I have one." He slide it through the card reader and the elevator started to move. "I'm sure that as soon as people know you're in the building, rentals will be easier."

          "Really?" asked Izzy. "What if we get attacked?"

          "Insurance is covered in the lease agreement, and there is a certain prestige to being near the city's super team."

          Izzy nodded but didn't believe him.

          They rode up to the twenty-fifth floor. "Odd," said Palmer. "It should take us to twenty-six. The Sentries headquarters is on twenty-six through thirty."

          Volt looked at the card reader. "Don't bother. It's been tampered with."

          "I'm sure it's because the security system is being brought out of mothballs. There's a stairwell, I have a key for the lock."

          The chains that held the lock were dangling.

          "Stay here," said Volt. He walked through the door and up the stairs. In the foyer of the headquarters, he could hear someone…maybe a teenage boy…singing a Britney Spears song. He couldn't tell which one; they all sounded the same to him. He kept walking until he could hear someone else.

          "That's in the way. I think it's an AIM Reactor. Can you move that, sweetie?" came the electronically filtered voice. There was a scraping sound, as of something massive being moved.

          Volt backed out. Palmer screamed when he reappeared.

          "Sorry," Palmer said. "Nerves."

          "Why don't you wait downstairs?" asked Izzy.

          "I think I will," he said, and left.

          "Thanks to that, they've heard us," said Vieno. "Let's go."

          "Look at this stuff," said Volt. "It's like in mint condition for nineties tech."

          Just before they came around a corner, they heard the filtered voice say, "I'm not done yet. Can you handle them, hon?"

          They walked around the corner into a huge room illuminated by blocks of lit plastic, and with several massive pieces of Kirbytech scattered about. An armoured figure was lying on the floor, elbows deep in a computer panel. Between the battlesuited figure and them stood two people: a glowing translucent girl of maybe fourteen, and a teenage boy with red skin and big ram horns.

          Vieno sighed and wondered, Did I ever tell the others about the dog's prophecy of doom? I don't think so. Too late now. "She's not touching the ground. Immaterial girl, I presume?"

          "I thought you were supposed to file down the horns, fella," Izzy said. "They tell me that's the routine."

          Volt said, "None of this is going to be mint in five minutes, is it?"

          The figure on the ground said absently, "I could tell you it's all a misunderstanding, but I don't think you'd believe me. Take them down, kids."
          Last edited by kipling; 06-21-2014, 08:25 PM.
          Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

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          • #6
            Episode 4: Reforming the Band

            Chiclet

            Chiclet dreamed she was wrapped tightly in her blanket, and tried to turn over but couldn't. This pushed her to wakefulness.

            Not her bed. Not any bed: She was in a box, lined with some cheap foam padding and with what felt like fresh corn husks all around her.

            Well, this is an exceptionally crappy coffin. Last I remember is the Occupy rally.

            Her parents had always taught her to assess the situation first. She could hear street noises. Okay. Someone swearing—that sounded like Uncle Jerry. Uncle Jerry was a stand-up guy, but he could have been paid to kidnap her. Money was its own loyalty in his circle.


            Sentries HQ, the computer room

            A chill fell on the room, and Izzy was dimly aware that the translucent one, probably a ghost, was scarier, but the adrenaline going through her system was more than enough. From the corner of her eye, she saw Volt hesitate.

            When Izzy saw the demonic teen walking toward her, she pursed her lips, and blew. The sudden torrent of air passed through the ghost, not surprisingly, but the force was so great that the demon fell down and back into a huge piece of Kirbytech. From under the console came the helpful comment, "Magnetic grapples. Always useful if you're doing work you don't want to be yanked from. Remember that, kids."

            The demon grabbed the tremendous block of equipment and threw it at Izzy. She managed to catch it—just—and wondered how strong this guy was. She wasn't sure she could throw it—and the demon was standing again.

            How did he do that?

            Izzy saw Vieno leap forward and try to catch them with a leg sweep. As if Vieno had learned nothing by watching, the ghost was unaffected but the demon went down again and Vieno bounced across the room, dodging back and forth in an attempt to be hard to hit.

            Volt fired, but his aim seemed to be off, or the room had sophisticated anti-electric shock mechanisms. His bolt fizzled.

            Suddenly there was another man in the room: a ninja or something. His spear sliced through Vieno's T-shirt and scratched her side, but the wound healed almost instantly, and he was gone again.


            Chiclet

            A false bottom. The crate was in a false bottom, so she got the lid off (quietly), and wriggled free of whatever was holding her legs (she couldn't see) and crawled out of the box. She was in a minivan. She had helped her mother load and unload this kind of item when they needed to get something to or from Canada without the border guards knowing about it. She paused beside the crate and listened intently.

            It was like she was standing outside, though she knew she was lying in the van.

            Uncle Jerry leaned against the side of the van, pretending to read a newspaper The van was one of theirs. There was a middle-aged Hispanic man talking into his phone—she shifted her attention to him for a second.

            "Villains. Fighting. Can you get it on the security cam? It would position them well— Yeah, Four to three, but one's not fighting."

            Hmmm. How high could she move her "eye"?

            Up, up, up—at least to the top of the building. And inside. She saw the fighting, knew of over half the combatants….she knew the ghost and demon were children of friends of her parents, on the other side was a woman she had met at the Occupy rally. She didn't know which side to try to help.


            Sentries HQ, the computer room

            The ghost was still scary but not doing anything else. It seemed too much for Volt, who sank through the floor. Izzy mentally shook her head as she staggered over to the demon and kicked him solidly, then dropped the heavy Kirbytech machinery. It happened to fall on him. She flexed her arms, willing a little feeling back into them.

            Apparently in irritation, Hellteen heaved the Kirbytech device back up at Izzy, who backhanded it aside. It shattered into a dozen pieces when it hit the floor, each probably only a ton or so. The floor didn't even tremble.

            Vieno took another swat at the demon and missed but flipped over him in order to get their back to the wall, to make it harder for the invisible ninja—


            Chiclet

            Chiclet moved her attention. No one behind the van, and the people on the street seemed to be staring at their phones, watching the fight. "Why don't they do something about that ninja guy?" said one man to his companion.

            Who's streaming it? And so the guy is only invisible to people, not cameras?


            Sentries HQ, the computer room

            Having finished what she came to do, Thornbird crawled out from under the console and saw that almost everyone was standing. She snorted in irritation, and lifted her arm to fire at Izzy, who was briefly illuminated in actinic light. Izzy was unharmed…but her clothes were destroyed. She moved her hands to preserve some sense of modesty.

            Eclipse flickered into view, held his hand out so they looked to him like they were around Vieno's head, and pinched. Vieno hesitated for a moment as sharp pain shot through her head.

            Izzy grabbed the prone demon, who started wriggling to get free (and looking with great interest at parts Izzy was forced to reveal). Reminiscent of a poltergeist movie, a ton of shattered Kirbytech slammed into Izzy and staggered her for a moment, enough that he managed to squirm out of her grasp.

            "You're not supposed to look," chided the ghost, Immaterial Girl.

            Hellteen sighed, stood up, and exhaled fire. The flames passed through Immaterial Girl and hit Vieno, Izzy, and Eclipse. Izzy tried to protect Vieno from the worst of the hellfire.

            As the flames guttered out, Izzy looked dazed. Eclipse might have taken advantage of that, but he too looked dazed, and only managed to flicker out of sight.

            Vieno was only lightly on fire, and tumbled through the air to avoid the invisible ninja and possibly put out the flames, heading across the room so that the demon couldn't hit both of them.


            Chiclet

            Carefully, silently, Chiclet slipped out of the van. She did have to pay attention to where she was going, even stopping "throwing her sight" to move. She looked around. The sidewalks were full of people, but none of them seemed to notice her. She stepped onto the sidewalk, spotted Uncle Jerry, was torn between running forward or back.

            A man bumped into her and didn't apologize. Another walked past and stepped on her foot. I'm invisible, she thought, and then, Sweet. She had been waiting all her life for powers: when both your parents have them, it seems unfair not to have any yourself.

            "Miss? Would you move?" said a tourist taking a picture with his cellphone. He glanced from the viewscreen. "Where is she? My damn camera must be broken—"

            She dodged back behind the van. Like the ninja guy, Hikaru. Right, Eclipse. Psychic invisibility.

            Maybe she had mental powers. She "threw her sight" back up to the computer room--


            Sentries HQ, the computer room

            Chiclet picked someone at random. Hellteen. She concentrated on him, and he winced as if he'd been hurt. Score! thought Chiclet.

            Rolling her eyes, Thornbird fired off a volley of plasma blasts as beautiful as they were ineffective at Izzy and Vieno. Unfortunately for Izzy, Eclipse collected himself enough to brain-crush her: Izzy was completely surprised to find herself lapsing into unconsciousness.

            Volt, having collected himself, reappeared at the doorway and firesda bolt of lightning across the room at the ghost. He missed, but he had her attention—the Immaterial Girl grabbed him with telekinesis and threw him into a wall with a heavy thump.

            "Sorry, mother," said Hellteen as he stood up, and opened his mouth to exhale fire again—opening himself to a flying kick to the head from Vieno. He fell to his knees.

            Chiclet thought about him again, and he fell over.

            Vieno shrugged off Eclipse's next head-crushing attack and spun out of the way of Thornbird's next plasma blast.

            Volt sucked on his lower lip in concentration, sighted down his finger and sent a blinding bolt of lightning through Immaterial Girl. This time he connected, and trailing ribbons of ectoplasm, she floated to the ground and did not move again.

            Thornbird said, "You gotta know when to fold'em. We'll be back for the kids if they don't escape on their own. Dear?" She blasted out of the room, flying on something gravitic.

            Perhaps Eclipse was gone; perhaps not.


            Chiclet

            Seconds later, a woman showed up at the back of the van. She was carrying an attaché case. She gazed and talked to a spot several feet to Chiclet's left. "Ah, dear. You got better. My husband says you're here." She smiled. "We did get you this far, so your parents owe us. We might need that soon. Now, we have to be going." She walked up, past Uncle Jerry, who sputtered for a moment, and she drove off in the van.

            Chiclet had no idea what was going on. She decided she needed to talk to her folks. She rose from the ground. Extra sweet! She could fly! Ten storeys should be enough.

            Her father answered. She identified herself. "Chiclet, sweetie, I'm glad you're better. Where are you? Windsor?"

            "No, outside the Steward Reed building."

            "Oh, crap, not that thing again. When will she let go?"

            "Dad, I have powers!"

            "That's wonderful, sweetie. Stretching? Strength?" Those were his powers.

            "Some kind of mental things." She gave him a quick rundown, and then said, "So what's been happening? My phone says it's Saturday."

            "You got hit at the Occupy rally, you got powers, a hundred people got powers. The Chamber's essentially done, the mayor is talking about reactivating the Sentries."

            Chiclet swore.

            "Actually….see if you can get on that team. You have no record. They're in disarray. Join'em. It would be good for use to have someone on the inside."

            "Now? I can't…you know…come home first?"

            "Strike while the iron is hot. While they're disorganized."

            "All right." Chiclet levitated up, found an open window near the headquarters, and headed in, trying not to brush against the bum standing by the window. She found a rag and fashioned a makeshift mask. It smelled terrible and it was stiff in places. Who knew what was on it.

            She thought for a moment and Excellent! shields appeared. Then she floated into the old headquarters, through the open door and to the computer room. She knew where it was.

            There they were: the naked woman, now clothed in the man's shirt, which reached halfway down her thighs; the other…person (Is that a boy or a girl? wondered Chiclet) in his leather jacket; the man, now shirtless and surprisingly buff.

            The androgynous one was talking into the phone. "I know you have only one power damper, but we have two villains. One strong, and one who can walk through walls. Choose wisely."

            She—he—no, they listened for a moment. "And what did she say before she escaped with the only working power damper?" They ended the call. "Honey Badger escaped. Said it was mind control that she attacked us but she liked the violence, changed her mind about paying her dues to society. And she took the only working power damper."

            "Let me see. There's a lot of stuff here and it might still be useful," said Volt.

            "Can I see your phone for a moment?" asked Izzy, the one that Chiclet had met. Izzy took a picture of the shirtless Volt and mailed it to herself. "Thanks," she said as she passed back the phone.

            "The camera might not be great. I had to find one of the older ones I had lying around, because the fall yesterday destroyed my new one."

            But Izzy was already under the console, her legs crossed, trying to see what Thornbird had left or removed.

            "Uh…Introductions. Izzy, I'm Vieno, and that was Volt who left, and that's Mr. Palmer, from the city," as the Hispanic man walked in.

            Palmer said, "So? You see we need a team of heroes."

            "I'll join," said Chiclet. "That's why I came. I got the one guy, the demon guy, and I thought I could be a help."

            "Excellent," said Palmer. "There will be forms on the website by Monday. Application forms. Rigorous testing once we get all that in place."

            "Your name?" asked Vieno.

            "You can call me Ninety-Nine Per Cent. Because I figure I'm part of the 99% and maybe that's how much of my brain I use."

            Izzy slid out. "I can't figure out what she did, if anything." She shook Chiclet's hand. "You know that's a misconception, the ten percent of your brain thing."

            "Still true for the Occupy thing. And we all met there."

            Volt came back into the room. "Found them. Had to jigger the armory door. They seriously need to upgrade the security system. Mark three power dampers. And the batteries still work. They made these babies to last."

            "Will they hold the ghost and the demon?"

            "Mark twos wouldn't, but mark threes will. And the chunky look just adds to the charm."

            Palmer looked around. "You broke things."

            "I know," said Volt. "I think that's a quantum Wheeler-Everett device there that split up.

            "The AI would know how to fix it. We could power it up—"

            "No," said Izzy. "Someone's been tampering with the computer system, we're not starting any AI until we know it's clear."

            "And," said Chiclet, "we should contact the remaining members of the Sentries and get their permission to use the name."

            "The city owns it," said Palmer.

            "Still," said Chiclet. "We don't want hurt feelings."

            "Are they still in town?" asked Izzy.

            "Two are," said Chiclet. "One owns a limousine service and the other helps out in a soup kitchen."

            "She's not well," said Palmer. "I think she can barely lift a pickup truck now."

            "And contact the two heroes known to be working in town," added Vieno.

            "Hero. We're not sure about the other one," said Chiclet.

            "So. You'll join," said Palmer to everyone.

            "I'll ask about it. I'd like to, but…I'm Canadian…there might be legal hassles," said Izzy.

            "Hey," said Vieno, "if you found power dampers— We saw a meeting room, meet me there." They ran throughout the headquarters and finally found a room with scraps of Uberwear and costumes, though little that was complete. Gathering a bundle, Vieno went back.

            Vieno handed Izzy a shirt and a pair of panties. Chiclet got a mask. "There were a lot of glue-on animal ears, I don't know why, but at least it will replace the mask."

            "Thank goodness," said Chiclet. "It smelled." She took the mask, turned so the camera couldn't see her face, and swapped masks.

            "We'll have you measured," said Palmer. "Uniforms."

            "If I join," said Izzy, "I have some ideas. I want to be called Canadian Lass."

            "Really?" asked Vieno.

            "You're kidding," said Volt.

            "You're named Volt," Izzy replied.

            "Point."

            Chiclet felt a vibration at her hip. "Excuse me. " She turned invisible, confident that people couldn't hear her then. It was her mother. "Just heard a rumour. The compact's fallen apart. FOE and the others are going to be holding auditions. You're going to be busy."

            "I won't come home, then."

            "Not for a bit."

            Surprisingly, the supervillains didn’t make their move until Tuesday, during the press conference.
            Last edited by kipling; 06-21-2014, 08:18 PM. Reason: fixed misspelling
            Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

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            • #7
              Episode 5: The Audition

              Auditions for the Big Show


              Izzy pushed aside the offered costume. "I'm not wearing that."

              The hawk-nosed woman from the city seemed offended. "They worked all night on that. There isn't time to get anything else."

              "It's ugly. And look at it: it looks like regular cloth. What if I get into a fight? I've already been naked in one battle, I don't want it to happen again. Where's the Uberwear?"

              "Underwear. The bra and panties are Uberwear. If you're in a fight, this costume will tear." The woman said conspiratorially, "Battle damage tests well."

              "I passed along the sketches of what I wanted. This looks like the outfit of a janitor who moonlights as a stripper!"

              "It's the mayor's design." She waited while Izzy fastened the bra in front. "Besides, we can't afford Uberwear. The lingerie was a gift." The woman glanced at the clock. "The press conference starts in five minutes."

              Izzy grumbled. "At least I already gave them a name."

              * * *

              The mayor spoke, and the length of the speech indicated he was going to run for re-election. He proudly introduced them: "Hooey—how do you say that?"

              "Huitzil," said Huitzil. "It's Nahuatl for 'Hummingbird.'"

              "Are you Na-whatsit?"

              "No, but my title search showed there was already a 'Hummingbird.'"

              The mayor nodded, still smiling, but sweat was starting to appear on his face.

              "The whole package…or at least Ninety-nine Percent!" Ninety-nine Percent might have smiled (with the mask, you couldn't tell) but she waved.

              "The live wire of justice himself, Volt!" Volt looked too disgusted by the mayor's words to wave.

              "And our very own immovable mountain of right, Isabel Traynor."

              "That's Canadian Lass," she said.

              The mayor covered the microphone. "Later." He smiled to the reporters. "These brave men and women are hooked into the police radio system, and can respond wherever evil—"

              "Excuse me?" said Ninety-nine, tapping her watch. "We've got a hijacking downtown right now and costumed supers seem to be involved. We have to go."

              "Thank god," said Volt, sotto voce.

              "A hijacking in the middle of our press conference? What a coincidence, " said Huitzil.

              "The roof," said Ninety-nine. "That's where we parked the hoverbikes."

              "Meet you there," said Izzy, and she took off, with Huitzil following at half her speed.

              * * *

              From high above, Izzy could see the basic situation: An overturned semi, a black SUV that ran into the truck, and at one end, two men in skintight uniforms moving boxes intothe back of a minivan. How odd, thought Izzy. That minivan won't hold everything the semi has. Also around the truck were two steampunkish figures, a three-headed woman, and what looked like a termite mound made of oil. She wondered if maybe she could hear anything down there.

              "I hate these uniforms," said one of the men carrying boxes.

              "I hate how it looks on me," said the other. "I'll bet Hendrick wants us to wear them just because he looks good in his."

              A dinosaur—sorry, a humanoid alligator…or something—was carrying three boxes out of the trailer. "So, this mook thing?" he asked in a bayou accent. "Does it pay? I don' fit in to tractor cab no more."

              The steampunk woman with the parasol looked up, and Izzy got the impression of being looked at. "Company," she said. "Remember the plan."

              "If followin' the plan get me a job—"

              Plan? thought Izzy.

              "Good luck," said the man as he lifted his big metal glove. Lights played up and down the sides and behind a wire grating sat clockwork gears that began to spin.

              %Hi,% thought Ninety-Nine Percent in her head. %Now that I can see everyone, I've set up a mental link. I'll be on that roof over there, Volt's landing across the street.%

              %Because we can't use our phones,% thought Huitzil.

              %No deeper!% thought Volt. %This is an invasion of privacy.%

              Izzy circled around again. She could see the others approaching, so time to interfere with the criminals—

              "I'm on it," said the three-headed woman, and she shot into the air.

              The street was lined with parked cars, as Izzy zoomed by them. No pedestrians; good—they'd all hidden. The oily mound started to grow taller and wider but thinner until it was a sheet two storeys tall, but Izzy concentrated on the people. She wanted to get the edge of the mound, bring it down—

              —when the man tagged her with his glove, and her clothing disintegrated.

              "Hey!" she said. "That was a new uniform," Ugly, but new. At least her underwear was Uberwear. She angled up, up, up—and a blast of golden radiation hit her with the force of a flamethrower. It might as well have been a warm summer's day, as far as Izzy was concerned.

              "Someone to rassle," said the alligator. He dropped the crates he was carrying, cracked his knuckles, and moved so that he wasn't in a direct line with the other three. "Come to Jean-Louis, mon petite—"

              Huitzil also flew the length of the street. Huitzil hit a glancing blow to the man with the power glove, but didn't seem to hurt him. The woman with the parasol and top hat said, "That car exploded," and pointed at one of the cars—

              —that erupted into a ball of flame. Huitzil twisted, managed to avoid the ball of flame, and thought at the others, %Someone check for innocents!%

              %I checked,% Izzy assured Huitzil. %We're good.%

              %She couldn't have known that. She endangered people. Concentrate on her.%

              Ninety-Nine got the hoverbike settled and took up a position kneeling behind the wall, so she could see everything. Volt settled for street level, but set his hoverbike down just around the corner, and ran through the building.

              Huitzil was lower and slower, so made another pass, trying to hit the woman but missed. Meanwhile, the man had assessed them and apparently realized that being able to destroy non-living material was pointless against this group. Instead, he trotted over to a manhole cover in the road, knelt, and touched it with his right hand. It disintegrated, like Izzy's clothes.

              The woman looked up, noticed Ninety-Nine Percent, and said, "That wall crumbles away, so she has no place to hide." Sure enough, the wall fell in a sheet of gravel, leaving Ninety-Nine to stretch herself prone on the roof. The gravel plunged three storeys and pinged off the sidewalk, like a tiny hailstorm.

              Blaster shots blossomed in the sky from the thugs two buildings over from Ninety-Nine. One shot caught Huitzil in the leg, and pain blossomed there, followed a second later by the smell of burnt cloth and flesh. %Ow. Ow ow ow.% Huitzil thought. %Not as bad as falling a mile, but that smarts.%

              Izzy dived at her, screamingly fast—only to stop suddenly as the humanoid alligator got her arms, as if he'd been waiting. He was heavier or stronger than she thought, because she spun around and dragged him only a few meters. The tarry thing touched her toes, and that made her nervous.

              Golden plasma rained down on her again from the flying woman, but it had no effect. Am I immune to it or just lucky? Izzy wondered.

              "Hey!" said Volt. "You have to pick on someone who's been grabbed, Tarball? You can't hold your own against one man? Like me?" The tarry thing wavered. He shot a bolt of energy at the tarball but missed. %Damned nerves,% he thought.

              Ninety-Nine looked at the woman in a way meant to crush her ego, but the mental blast just slid off. %Of course,% she said to the others. %If she can impose her will on reality…%

              Huitzil was coming around again and from this angle recognized both the steampunky man and the two mooks who were carrying crates. Huitzil suddenly thought, Can I hit a client? Or an ex-client? Because two of them had been clients of hers: The mooks had been part of a class action suit against a supervillain for promised employment benefits; the firm had lost that one.

              (GM's Note: Complication: That's not my Rogues Gallery, those are my clients!)

              Distracted, Huitzil missed the woman handily. The upper-storey mooks had no such distraction, and opened fire again. Blaster bolts bloomed again, and avoiding them shocked Huitzil back into the fight. Pay attention to everyone, not just the target of the moment.

              "We need better cover," said the man, and traced a circle on the truck, making a portal they could enter. "Then the mindraper up there can't see us." He stepped inside.

              Before stepping through, the woman said, "Shame she got tangled in some power wires," and Huitzil felt the wings stop, all tangled up, though the power lines had been nowhere near. Huitzil had enough time to say, "I reject your binary gender norm—" when the roof arrived. Huitzil bounced three times before coming to a halt against the opposite corner of the building.

              %Huitzil?% asked Izzy. There was no response.

              Then: %Ow ow ow ow. Why don't they make rooftops out of rubber?%

              Content, Izzy thought, %Ah. He's pressing here. % Izzy knew the wrestling hold, so she twisted just like so and threw the Alligatorman into the tar blob, freeing her while knocking it off her feet. The golden woman shot as Izzy again, but Izzy had her back to the woman and didn't notice.

              Volt hit the tar blob without worry; the Alligatorman was invisible from his viewpoint, and Ninety-Nine Percent concentrated on crushing his mind. The tar thing collapsed into a puddle around the alligator-man, who was struggling free.

              A barrage of blaster bolts hit Volt, who had been trying to be easy to hit for the tar thing, and all of them connected. He went down on the sidewalk, with the smell of phosphorus around him. His familiar crackling shield disappeared.

              Huitzil judged the distance: she could make it just by jumping, and then she could go through the hole that the man had made. She didn't need the wings for that. She leapt down, ricocheted off a street light straight into the semi, right into position to feint at the woman.

              (GM's Note: Extra effort and stunted Extraordinary effort for the extra moves.)

              The man swiped at her wings, and the harness disintegrated. The wings themselves, as alive alien biotechnology did not, and they tumbled to the ground.

              The woman looked at Huitzil and the fallen wings and said, "All this fighting has weakened the ground so there's a hole into the sewers right under you," but Huitzil was too fast to fall in.

              Huitzil grinned and unleashed a flurry of attacks on her, deliberately focusing on her at the cost of being nearly defenseless to the man. She fell to her knees on the edge of passing out—which is when the man said, "Remember Captain Oblivion and Epiphany Jones," and jumped in the hole.

              Huitzil was going to follow, but remembered that the others were outside. Isn't there a monster in the sewers here?

              * * *

              Ninety-Nine Percent recognized the SAT agent closing in on the SUV. Agent Gonzales. Her mother had quizzed her on the current law enforcement types starting when she was twelve. He was advancing in a standard two-by pattern with some woman, and he'd made it to the SUV with the three thugs hiding in it.

              They looked like they were going to leave because Gonzales hadn't quite got his gun trained right and—

              —Oh. She wasn't needed. Izzy had just ripped the rear off the black SUV.

              Neither of the two remaining villains had been particularly effective. She couldn't see the agents from this angle and they couldn't see her, so she thought hard about the golden woman, who was in a position to actually blast her.

              The golden three-headed woman flew away. Calling it a bad job? wondered Ninety-Nine. Or something else?

              When she looked back down, the alligator-man was gone, too. But—oh, this was interesting—the agent in the car had just handed over a briefcase to Agent Gonzales, who passed it to the other agent. Ninety-Nine couldn't resist. She broke the mental connection (all the other villains were gone, anyway) and looked in the briefcase. There was enough light from the crack where the halves met that Ninety-Nine could make out a vial of silver dust, in foam.

              Hmmm.

              Izzy was talking to Gonzales now, and she could hear:

              "Protocol," said Izzy. "Do you mind showing me identification, because I don't know your partner."

              "Good job. This is Agent Groh. Groh, Traynor," said Gonzales as he showed his badge. "Are you going to do anything about those guys up top?"

              "Huitzil will." Ninety-Nine couldn't see Huitzil, but the shooting had stopped. Ninety-Nine moved her remote senses over so she could see Huitzil as well—ah, she'd used what looked like parkour to go up the side of the building and disappeared into the open window. Izzy had called SAT headquarters. "I see." To Gonzales, she said, "Hands up. You look like Gonzales, but –"

              The woman with the briefcase started to grow. Ninety-Nin e wondered about that. What was she going to do? Run away? It's not like people wouldn't notice a thirty-foot woman with a tiny briefcase, and she couldn't get somewhere to shrink back. Really, some people didn't think about the implications of their powers— An out-of-towner, for sure.

              Gonzales' face had melted, in the process of changing to someone else. See, that would have been effective, done elsewhere, Ninety-Nine thought, and shut him down.

              * * *

              "We were mind-controlled!" said one of the thugs to Huitzil. Racks of gowns stood near them in the dress shop, and Huitzil could smell mothballs and a covering layer of something artificial and floral.

              "Totally duress," said another, and all four of them nodded. Racks of gowns stood near them in the dress shop.

              "Can you take our case?" asked a third.

              "No," said Huitzil. "For two reasons. First, I'm not a criminal lawyer. Second, I might be called to testify against you."

              "We could sue the city," said the fourth, hopefully.

              "Oh," said the first, "if we roll over on the boss—"

              Huitzil said, "That's not a career path you want."

              "We got the idea from the Demons' Union."

              "You're unionized?"

              "Not quite. We're in the process," said the third one, almost guiltily.

              "You know that contracts made with supervillains can almost never be enforced."

              * * *

              The radio on the hoverbikes crackled into life. "Um, Izzy? There's someone to see you."

              Izzy said, "Gilly? What are you doing there?"

              "Can we talk? Also, there's a woman here to fix the computers. A Ms. Fanshawe. F-A-N—No? How do you spell it? F-E-A-T-H-E-R-S-T-O-N-E-dash-H-A-U-G-H."

              A huskier woman's voice said, "It's a British thing. My parents were British."

              Ninety-Nine did not share that the woman sounded like her mother.

              "Okay, here are the four," said Huitzil, down on the ground. "Apropos of nothing, Ninety-Nine Percent, reading their minds without their concent would be a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights."

              "I promise not to read their minds," Ninety-Nine said. Because I already did. So the Grandmaster is bringing in out-of-town help. Interesting.

              Izzy said, "Gilly, take this woman to lunch while we—"

              "I can't. I kind of hoped you would take me to lunch. See, I have a proposal for you."

              "I have a sandwich," said the other voice. "I can wait. Have to charge you for the time, though."

              Izzy sighed. "I'll be right there." She looked at the others. "Can you guys wrap this up? And someone help Volt."

              * * *

              Huitzil called the city. "You can't spell 'fight' without massive amounts of paperwork," she told the others.

              The recording started. "All our offices are closed for lunch from noon until one. If your need is urgent—"

              Huitzil thought about it. She knew someone's cell at the city offices.

              * * *

              "So I was thinking, you could help me get my green card because there's no way I can get my thesis done by the deadline." Gillian looked down at her salad and tried to spear a cherry tomato, which rolled away from her fork.

              "Gilly," Izzy said, "I don't even have a green card yet. I'm doing this on spec right now."

              "I can work the radio."

              "How did you get in, anyway?"

              Gilly shrugged. "Wasn't locked."

              "Security system is computer controlled. Right."

              * * *

              Now in the headquarters, Huitzil said in the phone, "Is this Featherstone-Haugh person yours?"

              "No," said Palmer. "I talked to the guy who does Windows 95 repairs for us, and he said he couldn't do it. So I called the CoJ and got the name from them. They've moved on from the same hardware we have, but I figure that's about as good a recommendation as any, right?"

              "It's a Windows 95 AI?" asked Huitzil.

              "I don't know," said Palmer. "I was in advertising in those days. Had nothing to do with the city."

              "But she's legit?"

              "I called her, said she should repair the computers, check for the whatsit that whozit might have put in or taken out, and not to turn on the AI without your permission."

              "All right." Huitzil looked over at the woman, who had a paper napkin on her lap while she ate a thick sandwich on a crusty bun. Huitzil's stomach rumbled. "He says you're good. You can start."

              "When I'm done eating."

              "By the way," said Palmer, "to make up for your absence, the mayor promised one on one interviews with each of you to the journalists attending. Our office should be contacting you shortly."

              * * *

              Huitzil said, "You know the dog had a prophecy about Thornbird?"

              "I think she has the powers, and is projecting them onto the dog," said Volt.

              "Who?" said Ninety-Nine Percent. They were in the kitchen, gathered around the counter island. "And what's in your coffee, Huitzil?"

              Huitzil explained about the dog, Augie. "And it's chicory. I don't drink coffee any more."

              "Let me investigate," said Izzy. She moved over to the computer. "So we know she's called Thornbird. And we know that I have level 5 security clearance since I got powers." She entered her credentials into the UNTIL database.and pulled up the file. It was heavily redacted. "That's odd," she said. "At level 5 I should see most of this stuff. There should be only light redaction." She skimmed the slight amount of clear text. "Chaos ray, Doctor Prometheus, and Robert Murcheson. That's not much."

              Gillian said, "Call your folks."

              Izzy said, "Sure," and left the room for some privacy. When she came back, whe was wearing an odd expression.

              "What?" said Gillian.

              "My mother--who so far as I know doesn't even have a security clearance--said she couldn't tell me until I was level nine."

              * * *

              Two days later, Izzy still hadn't managed to get Gilly home. She called a meeting of everyone in the group...the Sentries. They met in the main foyer; Izzy hauled the robot receptionist to a closet so there would be enough seating. Ninety-Nine Percent was there (Does she have no home? thought Izzy); Volt was reading an old--in his words, vintage--manual. Huitzil took the seat the robot receptionist had been in. Gillian was there.


              Izzy said, "She can't focus on her thesis because she's obsessed with Eve Online. And, since she's spent her half of the rent money on this stuff, it affects me, too. But I'm not authorized to give a job here." Gillian stood to one side and looked ashamed. "She's got enough time, barely."

              "In some dimensions, I've read that time runs faster," said Huitzil. "So she could finish the thesis in what seems to us the blink of an eye."

              "I think only the hell dimensions are like that," said Ninety-Nine Percent. "Makes the damnation last longer."

              "According to the manual," said Volt, "the security vault has a pocket dimension. No instructions on how to access it, though."

              "Focus, please," said Izzy. She shrugged. "Which is what Gilly lacks."

              "Is that all?" said Ninety-Nine. "I can fix that. A little tinkering with the gray matter and she'll have focus."

              "Really?" asked Gillian.

              "It's a bad idea, Gilly."

              "You're not touching me," said Volt.

              "You can do that?" asked Gillian.

              Well, I've never done it before. I've only had these powers for a few days. "Sure," said Ninety-Nine.

              "Don't do this, Gilly."

              "But it has to stop once I have my degree," said Gillian. "A limit like that will make it fine," she told Izzy.

              "Sure," said Ninety-Nine, who had no idea if it would or not.

              "Sounds good to me," said Featherstone-Haugh, who had slipped in without anyone noticing.

              "Aren't you supposed to be working?" Volt asked Featherstone-Haugh.

              "I've got another three minutes on my break. Take it easy; this job is going to take days."

              "Go ahead," said Gillian.

              "Gladly," said Ninety-Nine, her hands glowing with psionic energy.

              (GM's Note: Stunted the power.)

              "I've got a bad feeling about this," said Izzy.

              There were a number of "Hmmm" and "Oh" and "Move this" mutterings from Ninety-Nine, but finally she lifted her hands away from Gillian's head. "Done."

              "How do you feel?" asked Izzy.

              "I feel fine. But you know, if I'm going to be done on time, I'd better get started on my thesis." Gillian left, smiling.

              Izzy sighed. "I'm going to call my folks, make sure someone checks on her every four hours."

              There was a blaring sound and a flashing light on the receptionist's panel.

              "What the—" said Huitzil.

              "Hell," said Volt.

              "Troubalert," said Featherstone-Haugh. "At least, that's what I call it."

              "Part of your testing?"

              "No, it's hooked into the 911 system." Featherstone-Haugh touched a button. "You play the message like this." The speakers blared static, and then:

              "St. Claire University. Quad. Three police officers down. Suspects identified as Atlantean. 911 recording follows."

              There were the sounds of battle. "We need backup!" came a male voice, and in the background, a woman saying, "Do you not recognize the Staff of Treating? We want only our son!"

              Volt said, "I'll stay here and monitor." He looked at Izzy. "Now that Gilly can't."

              "She wasn't even qualified—Ah, forget it." Izzy flew up.

              "Thank goodness my wings are back from the shop," said Huitzil.


              * * *
              Izzy saw the rubble at St. Clare College first: a building near the quad had been burned down, and she assumed the Atlanteans had done it, but the presence of KEEP OUT! tape indicated that the damage there had been done days ago. The quad at St. Claire College was bounded by buildings, a green sward with four trees, bounded on all sides by buildings. The spaces between the buildings were partially blocked by three SCPD police cars and one overturned campus police car. Several policemen were lying there, and Izzy checked first to make sure they were all right. "They just…_fell down_," said one cop while he was reloading."

              "Leave it to me. Rather, leave it to us," said Izzy, because she could see the others arriving.

              A couple that she assumed was Atlantean huddled under one tree. The man was deflecting bullets that were fired at the woman. Confident that she could stop the bullets, Izzy landed.

              %We're here,% said Ninety-Nine in Izzy's head.

              "Are they mad? We hurt no one. We have the staff of treaty!" said the man.

              "You're the one who turned over the car?" said Izzy.

              "It was in my way, and the people had left it!" said the man. "I am" and the name was a series of clicks and whistles that Izzy couldn't even memorize. "This is my wife," and more clicks and whistles. Izzy thought she recognized a glottal stop, too. They hadn't covered Atlanteans in her courses; that was situational training.

              %Checking that out,% said Ninety-Nine.

              "We want our son," said the woman. She looked over at one of the cops and he fell over.

              %Mentalist; I felt her using that,% thought Ninety-Nine.

              "Stop that," said Izzy. "We can't convince them you mean no harm if you're knocking them out."

              "He meant to harm me. I read it in his mind." Izzy held up a hand. "All right. But he didn't bother to wear a telepathic shield. If you don't do that, you're inviting someone in."

              "!Moek'kar has sent a great monster to destroy the city, and we must get him out," said the man. "He refuses to go until he finished his exam."

              Prompted by Ninety-Nine, Izzy said, "We can have them let him write the exam later."

              "Excellent. It is Diplomacy 423, his last class. He is writing the exam now."

              "Oh." %Can someone find out where Diplomacy 423 is being written?%

              %On it.% Ninety-Nine dipped into a few minds. It was wrong, she knew, but it was also fast. She relayed the building and room. %Right in front of you.%

              "Let's go," said Izzy.

              * * *

              Ninety-Nine knocked, because Izzy wasn't sure she wouldn't break the door. A skinny bearded man in his twenties cracked it open. "Yes?" All of them were there, as well as a police officer, Officer Nolan.

              "We need one of your students. Family emergency." The woman clicked and whistled. "Right," said Ninety-Nine. "The Atlantean."

              "Kevin?" The man turned back to the class. "Kevin Atlantis, please come up here."

              "Oh, god, it's my parents. I'm just checking the paper over now. Be there in a minute."

              "Why is this !Moek'kar guy going to destroy the city?" asked Izzy.

              "You are in violation of the treaty. You dump toxic things in our water."

              "How long has this been going on?"

              "Ninety years."

              "So it's not new?"

              "No. But !Moek'kar is ruler now, and he has vowed to take action, so he summoned the monster."

              "Who is already surfacing," said the woman.

              "Surfacing where?" said Izzy.

              Kevin handed his paper to the proctor, then turned back. "Hey, Brittany, see you at the kegger on the weekend, okay?"

              "We must rush!" said Kevin's mother.

              "Where?" asked Izzy again.

              Kevin said, "Let's go, then. It's like you _want_ to embarrass me." To Izzy, he said, "Zug Island."

              Ninety-Nine got that far-away look. "Yeah," she said. "It's there. It's big. I mean, really big."
              "Don't worry about us," said Kevin. "We can get a cab."

              Izzy said to Nolan, "No one got hurt, and I'm sure the Atlanteans will pay for the car that got damaged. And we're going to need all of you for the evacuation if we don't manage to stop it."

              Nolan looked at her, then at the Atlanteans, whose gill slits were now flapping. "All right, go. I gotta call this in." He shook his head. "I am so screwed."

              But the heroes were already gone.
              Last edited by kipling; 06-03-2014, 10:42 AM.
              Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

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              • #8
                Episode 6: Interlude, with Monster

                This one's short, because it was one big fight against the monster

                Interlude, with Monster



                That's big, thought Izzy as she flew nearer. Both arms and the head were out of the ground now, and half of the train tracks across the industrial landscape had snapped like guitar wires. They had already emptied the train and were going to put people on it, but the train would have to back up.

                How long does it take a train to stop? Two kilometers? Three? So if they back up fast and there's another train coming in already slowing down because this is a Just In Tine facility…boom.

                She could see two security guards, both elderly. The tall moustached one was getting people on the boxcar--it had held something like electronic components--The stocky one was bravely about to fire his pistol at the monster.

                Bet it has no effect, she thought.

                Huitzil had suggested she go ahead and start distracting the monster so people could get clear, but she wasn't sure that was the best thing she could do. The train couldn't back up safely, and everyone on it could be hurt. No, the car was almost full now, and the other two cars were filling fast, and with a minimum of jostling. The sight of the monster coming from the ground probably didn't hurt, or the digging talons, each as long as a limo.

                "You and you!" she called. "Uncouple the car. I'm going to carry it." She swooped down, hoisted the car easily, and took off with it.

                * * *

                Huitzil arrived in time to see Izzy—er, Canadian Lass—flying off with a railway boxcar, so presumably Izzy had some plan… Huitzil wanted Ninety-Nine Percent there to re-establish their mental link, so everyone could "talk" again.

                The monster's thighs were still in the ground. Huitzil decided not to wait. This might just be a confused calf-monster separated from its monster mother instead of a rampaging beast of destruction, but why take chances?

                Also, the glowing sigil on its chest indicated that someone owned it. Or that was its name. Huitzil didn't recognize the sigil.

                Cock arm and—

                It was like slapping an office building: the monster never noticed.

                I could ram its eye and it wouldn't blink.

                A bullet from a security guard's pistol whistled past. "Hey!"

                "Sorry!" he called. "Trying to get the eyes. Vulnerable."

                It tunnels through rock; I'm not sure the eyes are any more vulnerable. But Huitzil moved to the non-city side. Best to lure the monster off in the less-populated direction.

                Huitzil's next blow might have had less effect. Great. That probably made it stronger. %Ninety-Nine? Your turn.%

                %On it.% Ninety-Nine Percent had a clear view of the monster, now. Humanoid, check. Fifty feet tall, check. Knee deep in land as it crawls out, check. Glowing sigil on its chest. Check. I'll bet that's our boy. She cast about for the monster's mind--

                --and found it too slippery. %Too alien,% she said. Or three days practice isn't enough. Nah, too alien. Probably has two brains, like a sauropod.

                Volt gunned the engine and swept around the monster in a wide circle. There was a way of changing the taser so it was like an electrical straitjacket, and he used that. It held the beast in place--

                --and then the beast shrugged, shattering the ionized paths that held the electricity. It swatted at Huitzil, missed, and knocked over a locomotive, sending the thing flying to the edge of the island.

                %Great technique,% said Huitzil. %Can you immobilize it after it moves so we can take advantage?%

                Izzy came back and saw that the second railway car was full, but the security guards were still there.

                "Jack," she said, reading the man's name tag, "Get on the train."

                "It's our job to stay and protect the place."

                "For me?" She did her best to look cute and appealing.

                Jack melted under the onslaught of cuteness. "Well...when everyone else is out."

                "Great. Go stand by the third car, there." She lifted the second car.

                Huitzil looked at the thing stepping out of the hole and dive-bombed its foot, tripping it and sending it sprawling into one of the factory buildings. There was a huge crash as the center part of the building collapsed, and a cloud of dust. Concrete shattered, wires hissed, and the area was invisible for a moment.

                The monster punched the ground, making the island shake. None of the heroes were affected--they were in the air--but all of the bystanders were knocked down, unable to keep their feet, and the force of the thing's punch was enough to knock them unconscious.

                %Well,% said Volt.%That's bad.% He wove the taser snare again. The beast was immobile and prone, so both Izzy and Huitzil dove to attack.

                %It's the dim humanoid shape in the dust, right?% said Izzy.

                %Just hit!% thought Huitzil.

                As near as they could tell, their blows had no effect. In the distance, they heard screams and the sound of thudding metal as the shockwave propogated down the railway track and derailed a train.

                %We should help,% said Huitzil.

                %We're kind of busy,% said Izzy. %Have to be emergency services' job. Hit it again!%

                Volt saw the monster shatter his taser snare again, and managed to get the hoverbike between him and the enormous paw before it hit, sending him tumbling through the air toward the border. Fortunately his seatbelt kept him with the bike, which hissed and spat as parts gave up under the tremendous force.

                %I can't go to Canada!% he screamed. The hoverbike slowly settled to the ground. It wasn't going to rise again. Volt got off, slightly shaken.

                %I can't seem to get hold of its mind, like it's being mentally controlled, or something,% said Ninety-Nine. %Maybe if I can make it more vulnerable to mental attacks--%

                %Will that help?% asked Izzy.

                %Can't hurt,% said Ninety-Nine.

                "What if we hit it at once?" asked Huitzil, out loud.

                "If it hits us, it'll squash us," said Izzy.

                "Do we have any other choice?"

                %Let's do it,% thought Izzy. %Huitzil, on your signal.%

                The thing shrugged off the taser snare again and lurched to its feet, but mindful of his teammates, Volt wove the snare back up.

                At Huitzil's signal, both drove hard into the prone monster, hitting it so hard that they knocked the beast over, all hundreds of tons of it. Its eyes rolled up and closed.

                The monster fell, as if in slow motion, onto the other manufacturing building, which supported its weight for a quarter of a second, and then collapsed with the sound of thunder, sending another cloud of dust into the air.

                When they could hear again (predictably, Huitzil was first), they heard the sound of one person clapping.

                A middle-aged woman stood there beside a yellow SUV, clapping. She had an oxygen tank in her car, and a tube ran to her nose. Other than that, she looked healthy.

                "Good job!" she said. "Atlanteans will know better next time, though."

                "Who are you?" asked Izzy. "And are you sure it was Atlanteans?"

                "Sigil is Atlantean. I don't read it, but I can recognize that." The sigil on the thing's chest was fading. "Grace Kitteen. Formerly Bastion. Came to see the new team, maybe lend a hand if I could. You don't follow through quite enough. Takes power away when you need it."

                "You were a member of the last Sentries?"

                "That I was. Me and Roy the only ones left in town."

                "Can you show me how I should be punching?" asked Izzy.

                "Sure, as long as it doesn't take me away from the soup kitchen work. Roy's got a chunk of land he never uses any more, we can use that. I got the keys."

                "What do we do with the monster?" asked Volt.

                "Just a second," said Huitzil. She called Palmer and asked.

                "FEMA," he said. "Once the governor declares a state of emergency for the area."

                "Has the governor?"

                "Well, not yet. The mayor is probably trying to get through to him right now."

                "What do we do with it in the meantime?"

                "Well, I have some PDFs they provide--let's see, natural disaster, nuclear attack, here it is, giant monster. You want me to send it to your phone?"

                "Please," said Huitzil.

                "What about the other train?" asked Volt. "We can't leave the monster here."

                "We're the only ones who can handle it," said Izzy.

                "Oh, I remember these talks," said Grace.

                "This PDF has a number for FEMA," said Huitzil, and called.

                A bored-sounding man answered. "Nature of the emergency?"

                "Giant monster. About fifty feet tall."

                "Radioactive or toxic? Breath ray?"

                "I don't think so. It burrows."

                "What we normally do with those is, we airlift them and drop them in the Marianas Trench. Unless they're aquatic. Is it aquatic?"

                "I think so."

                "Then what you want to do is get a hundred repulsors, fasten them, and lift the thing into low earth orbit."

                "Won't that kill it?"

                The man chuckled bitterly. "Oh, no. Those things never die. They might look like they're dead, but they never die."

                "We don’t repulsors like that."

                "Well, we got some Sikorsky models we can… Is there an official request yet? Okay, then unofficially, what we can do is send some up for maintenance. If they have to move the giant monster to land, well—"

                "Can you do that?"

                "You want to wait until the governor manages to declare a state of emergency?"

                Huitzil said, "Good point. Tell them to home in on this phone."

                The monster's eyes flickered open.

                "Oh, god," said Ninety-Nine. "Places!"

                But instead the monster rolled over and began digging. Soon it was gone, with only a layer of disturbed earth and wrecked buildings and train tracks to show it had been there.

                "I gotta get back to the soup kitchen," said Grace. "I'll phone you, we'll set up a time."

                "Thanks," said Izzy.

                The radio on Ninety-Nine's hoverbike came to life. "Agent Gonzalez here. How you doing with that monster?"

                Huitzil flew over. "All done. Another problem dealt with."

                Volt muttered, "Delayed is more like it."

                "Good. Because you know all those Stormers we've been locking up at our facility? We're under attack. Somebody's trying to break them out."

                "On our way," said Izzy.

                "Does it ever let up?" asked Volt.

                "No," said Huitzil. "They don't want us to make lasting social change with our powers, so they keep us busy with threats like this."

                "Who?" asked Izzy. "The bankers?"

                "The establishment," said Huitzil. "The man."

                "It's also the day we're presented to the public," said Ninety-Nine. "Every group that wants to make a name for themselves is going to do something today to show us up."

                "Staged arrival or all together?" asked Izzy.

                "You go ahead and scout," said Ninety-Nine. "If I'm right, there'll be more of these today."
                Last edited by kipling; 06-08-2014, 06:35 PM.
                Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

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                • #9
                  Episode 7: Auditions 3--Call Backs

                  The four of them arrived at the SAT building at the same time, by virtue of the fact that Izzy towed them; the two hoverbikes had convenient handles welded to the front, almost as though someone had faced this problem before.

                  They saw a figure hovering over the SAT building, but the SAT building was only two storeys tall, and a block wide; there was a taller building behind one end; Izzy carefully set the two hoverbikes there. Police had already cordoned off an area half a block wide around the office building, but that didn't mean the

                  %Hey, Dreadnought,% said Ninety-Nine Percent privately over a mental link. %Whatcha doin'?%

                  %Chiclet,% he said. %You finally got powers. Not like your folks, though, huh? Last job to free people, and then the Compact is dissolved. We go our separate ways.%

                  %Why not call it done and go home? Big escape rocks the boat. Let straights believe there's peace and unity and we can all work easier.%

                  %Silver Storm and the death of Golden Dragon together pretty much nixed that. If you're not going to go home, have to take you down. Big Brain says so.%

                  Volt got off the hoverbike. He could tell that something was happening…Dreadnought had rotated to face them.

                  Huitzil and Izzy—sorry, Canadian Lass—were already in the air halfway to him. He opened up with a barrage of machine gun fire at Izzy. It didn't hurt her, but it rattled her enough that she just missed him.

                  %Sorry, kid. Just a job. Your mom still available to do repairs after this dust-up?%

                  Huitzil easily hit him, and it was like a child rattling a stick off a fencepost.

                  Dreadnought then sent a carpet of missiles to the roof of the taller building where Ninety-Nine and Volt stood. Ninety-Nine got out of the way, and Volt didn't, but he was mostly protected by the hoverbikes.

                  "Aw, man," Volt said. "Those were mint. Well, one of them." To Dreadnought, he said, "You, I don't like," and he went intangible.

                  Ninety-Nine cut the mental connection and opened the mental link to her teammates. %Open gang warfare soon. They're cooperating to get these guys out of jail.%

                  %I think he needs a bit of juice,% said Volt, and aimed a bolt of electricity at Dreadnought. It apparently had no effect.

                  No, two figures: Death Magnetic was there, too, but closer to the small treed park at the other end of the block. Now her armour looked intentional and complete.

                  Izzy—Canadian Lass—took another swipe at Dreadnought but bending the cannon while he had no resistance was a surprise: he just rotated in the air. If I were designing that suit, gyros would hold him steady, she thought. The cannon was electrified, she realized as she grabbed it, but neither of them were grounded, so it didn't matter.

                  Rather than risk harming Izzy, Huitzil covered the distance to Death Magnetic. "Hey, Fridge Magnet! I've got a score to settle! You broke my phone!" Huitzil punctuated the comment with a powerful blow that connected with the armour. Death Magnetic didn't move, held up by a web of magnetic force.

                  Death Magnetic smiled, flicked her hand, and a car flew up from the street below, heading for Huitzil. It missed and from arc, it was now ballistic and falling free, toward the spectators who had gathered halfway up the next block.

                  %Crap,% said Huitzil. %Can someone get that?%

                  %On it,% said Ninety-Nine. The spectators were scrambling now. A bolt of lambent red energy shot from Ninety-Nine's hands and encased the falling car. Not wanting to waste the vehicle, she slammed it into Dreadnought's back, sending both Dreadnought and Izzy flying forward. Izzy didn't lose her grip.

                  Volt didn't want to hurt Canadian Lass with his taser snare, so he blasted at Death Magnetic. She was wearing metal, after all. The distance was too great, though. %Wait,% he said, %there are others?%

                  %Inside,% said Ninety-Nine. She couldn't take a peek and maintain the mental link, but if someone went inside--

                  %Okay,% said Volt. Intangibly, he started dropping through the tower. Unfortunately, he was above the women's restrooms, and he gave at least one woman a start as he fell. Fortunately, he was facing the wrong way to see anything.

                  Huitzil tried another shot. This one connected, too, but squarely on the armour. Death Magnetic flicked her other hand, and the working hoverbike flew from the tower and into Huitzil's back. "I have another, dear. Maybe that will break more than your phone." The hoverbike tumbled down through the roof of the SAT building.

                  Over on Dreadnought, Canadian Lass shifted positions. "This was a prototype, wasn't it? I see things that would be fixed in production." She levered herself against the body of the armour and twisted the cannon barrel into a U-shape. "I think Mythbusters showed that would still fire, but your aim will be terrible."

                  %Almost there,% said Volt. Volt came through in an office. He kept walking once he heard, "Dad? Why won't you help?" from the ghost, Immaterial Girl.

                  "Because it's not Dad. It's his brother, Uncle Takeshi," said Hellteen. Volt peeked through the doorway.

                  Hellteen was pressed against his bars, watching. Immaterial Girl followed as the dark-clad ninja guided escaped supers to another room. Volt recognized Cannon, Gargantua, the two who had pretended to be SAT agents, "Lord Etheric," and the squid-like one from the park.

                  "But he could help!"

                  The line-up of supers headed into another room. Immaterial Girl flitted back, and started pacing between her cell--the door was still locked--and Hellteen's. Clearly she could have escaped at any time.

                  Hellteen wasn't going anywhere, and Immaterial Girl didn't seem like she was going to abandon him; Volt pressed on to find where the escapees were going.

                  Up over the building, Huitzil finally hit an unarmoured spot: Death Magnetic's face. Death Magnetic looked blankly for a second and then started falling. Huitzil let her, and hung there in the sky, panting, wings beating hard to stay in place.

                  Dreadnought broke free and dove for Death Magnetic. He caught her in mid-air, and protected her as he crashed through the roof of the SAT building.

                  %Well,% said Ninety-Nine. %Now we've got two holes to choose from.% She jumped off the tower, floating to the roof of the SAT building, and looked through the hole Dreadnought had made.

                  "You don't leave that easily," said Izzy out loud, and she dove for the hole as well.

                  Huitzil had flown down too, but the hole wasn't large enough for the wings; instead, Huitzil had to stop and figure the best way to parkour down to the inside of the building.

                  All of them saw it: Below and slightly to one side of Dreadnought's hole there were a series of holes, as if the earth had erupted through the foundation, making an enormous straw that connected the SAT building to...somewhere underground.

                  "Through and down," said a man standing at the edge of the hole. He had wild brown hair and loose purple robe-like pyjamas, liberally fastened with clasps of precious gems. Escaped supers began to jump and slide down the hole. The man glanced up, saw Canadian Lass approaching, and then his skin and hair changed colour, from the colour of loam to the colour of granite.

                  She paid no attention to him; she grabbed Dreadnought firmly: "How about if I peel you out of that can?" Dreadnought swung one metal fist against her head and her vision clouded for a second but she didn't let go; instead, she scrabbled for a grasp on the rocket launchers, hoping to tear them off.

                  The rock-hard fist that hit her was totally unexpected. Pain blossomed along her back and she collapsed into Dreadnought's body. "Why waste your time with imposters, when Lord Quake is here to deal with you?"

                  %Lord Quake?% said Canadian Lass over the mental link.

                  %Out of towner,% replied Ninety-Nine Percent. %Claims he's last of the stonekin.% Out loud, she said, "Hey, Quakey. I'm crushing your head." But his mind was too alien, or she didn't have a good enough grasp, because it didn't seem to hurt him. I have troubles with nonhuman species, she thought.

                  Canadian Lass tried to use Dreadnought as a bludgeon to hit Lord Quake, but she missed because Dreadnought was struggling too much, firing his propulsion systems and whatever else he could manage.

                  Lord Quake made a swooping gesture with his hands, and the earth swallowed her up to the neck, encasing everything but the arm holding Dreadnought and her head. "Let the substrata embrace you."

                  Huitzil was inside, now, and thumped the apparently-unconscious Death Magnetic. "I think you're faking. Stay down."

                  Canadian Lass tried to use Dreadnought to break the stone, but only succeeded in pummelling him to unconsciousness. Or so she figured, from the sudden cessation of movement.

                  Volt managed to wrap Lord Quake in electricity; he shrugged once, and the bands of force were gone. "Au revoir," said Lord Quake, and he jumped down the hole, which sealed after him. They had two unconscious villains to show for it.

                  Ninety-Nine Percent turned off the mental link and switched to remote viewing. The gang of escapees headed for the sewer system.

                  Huitzil studied the rock for a moment, found a weak spot that Canadian Lass couldn't reach, and applied force. The rock cracked, and Canadian Lass could get the rest off.

                  "Canadian Lass, fly me. I can track them, but I've only got a range of about a third of a mile," said Ninety-Nine. "You others, find the staff. They have to be here somewhere."

                  * * *

                  The escapees came up in a warehouse on the east side of town. Representatives of the different groups were there, for the stormers to choose their allegiances. With the exception of Lord Quake and Uncle Takeshi, all were local. She noticed that the Big Brain was there.

                  "Take them?" asked Canadian Lass.

                  Ninety-Nine shook her head. "Too many. We know where their headquarters is, now. They'll be gone by the time we get back with the others. Pick them up and we'll go back to our headquarters."

                  * * *

                  Volt found the SAT teams bound and gagged in an office room, not far from where the hoverbike had landed. Only Gonzales was unconscious; he'd clearly been beaten, probably after managing to radio the heroes. They got Gonzales medical help, and then headed back to the headquarters with the other two.

                  * * *

                  Coming in from the hangar, they heard sounds. Following them, they found that the foyer was packed with people in homemade costumes, all clutching sheets of paper. Featherstone-Haugh was sitting at reception. "Oh, there you are!" she said brightly. "Someone had to act as reception. I'll bill you less for this time."

                  "Thanks?" said Izzy.

                  "What is this?" asked Volt. Then he spotted Sonia, the young lady he had been with in the park on Friday. He stepped behind Ninety-Nine, the tallest of the three women, and resolved not to speak again. Sonia had touched him while he was getting his powers; it stood to reason that she had gotten powers too.

                  Sonia stood next to a punk woman with tattoos of chains on her, behind them stood another fellow was wearing a domino mask, torn jeans and a singlet that showed his knife tattoos. There was a teenager wearing a Black Hole tee-shirt. A young man was holding a drink in a glass and making the fluid surge up out of the glass and back down, so he clearly had fluid control powers of some kind. Next was a teenage girl in a sort of gypsy frock. The next guy in the line was alternating between taking the appearance of the teenage girl ahead of him and the person behind him, a humanoid canid. Behind them stood two older gentlemen, probably not together.

                  "Applications," said Featherstone-Haugh. "City put applications up on the web site."

                  Huitzil checked on her phone. There they were. "Forms. Job application forms." The first couple of people in line held up their papers.

                  "Do we get hazard pay?" asked Izzy.

                  "Well, you don't even get pay," said Huitzil. "You haven't got a green card."

                  One of the older men in a suit held up his hand. "You would be Isabelle Traynor? I'm Aldo Mizzuccelli, from INS. We figured you probably didn't have time to come to the office."

                  "I am," said Izzy. "Sorry it's a little…haphazard. We've got a meeting room somewhere back here."

                  "We'll handle this," said Ninety-Nine. Volt nodded, wondering if maybe he was needed elsewhere. Izzy and Mr. Mizzuccelli went back to the meeting room.

                  Sonia said, "The problem has to be serious if you got called away during your own press conference. So you need help."

                  "Right," said Huitzil.

                  "Of course," said Ninety-Nine, sensing an opportunity. "We'll be sorting through the applications for our, uh, Future Heroes Foundation, and training you all—for a fee."

                  "The website says it's free," said the young man with the daggers."

                  Huitzil checked. "Yes, it does."

                  "Of course, the initial consultation is free," said Ninety-Nine smoothly. "But this is a dangerous business. You might have noticed that Canadian Lass' city costume has already had to be replaced—"

                  "This is crap," said the drink guy, and left. His application paper fluttered to the floor.

                  "Sorry you feel that way," called Ninety-Nine after him. "We'll still protect you. If we can."

                  Huitzil asked the punk woman, "Powers?"

                  "I got these chains." Her tattoos unravelled off her body and stretched out to touch the far wall. "They do what I ask." She looked hopeful. Izzy noticed she was careful to keep the other woman between her and the man behind them.

                  "The Future Foundation will train you—" said Ninety-Nine.

                  "Cool it," said Volt.

                  Huitzil added, "Says here the mayor also has a say in our membership. 'Anyone approved by the mayor's office or the existing team.' That's going to cause problems."

                  "Do you think I'm not good enough?" asked the punk woman.

                  "Hey, Ally, calm down," said Sonia. "She just needs some meds. You took your meds today, right?"

                  "Of course I took them! They just—they don't last now!"

                  "That's okay, we'll just get—"

                  "Maybe I don't need them now! Maybe it's all your fault. Everyone's." She turned and walked out.

                  "Well, that was helpful," said Featherstone-Haugh.

                  "Sorry," said Sonia. She handed her application sheet over.

                  Huitzil glanced at it. "You bring origami to life?"

                  "Stuff I've folded," said Sonia. She reached into her purse and pulled out a small folded paper bird. It took off from her palm and flew around the room. "Does whatever I tell it to."

                  "Okay," nodded Huitzil, and asked the singlet-wearing young man, "And your tattoos? They come to life?" Really, he might have been a gang member in another context.

                  The man swore, and added, "No. They generate knives. I can control'em and cut through damn near anything with'em, too."

                  "Could have used them today," said Huitzil. "Great. I have to ask: are any of you minors?"

                  The two obvious teenagers stuck up their hands. "For insurance reasons, we can't hire you. When you're of age, though, come back."

                  "The Future Foundation will train you, though, and accepts monthly payments," added Ninety-Nine.

                  "Hey," said Huitzil. "Read my mind." Looking in, Ninety-Nine heard, %Quit it with the Future Foundation. We have no paperwork. Don't make promises we can't keep.%

                  Ninety-Nine replied, %What'd LBJ say? Better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in. This way we keep track of them, and pay our expenses for doing so.%

                  %We don't have paperwork yet. No promises. They have email addresses on the forms, if we set up a Future Foundation, we can email them.%

                  %Fine.% Ninety-Nine broke the mental link and thought of the things she could do with a list of civically-minded sheep. Her thoughts were cut short by the buzzing of her phone. "Excuse me." She stepped into the other room and made herself invisible. She trusted that her mother would erase any recordings from the system in her guise as Featherstone-Haugh.

                  Huitzil took all the forms and shooed people out, promising to contact them by the end of the week.

                  Somewhere, a toilet flushed. "What is that?" asked Volt.

                  The remaining gentleman said "Alarm" as Featherstone-Haugh said, "Troubalert." She looked sheepish. "You can set the sound, so I've been playing with it."

                  "Change it back," ordered Volt. "I didn't get your name, sir."

                  "Roy Elson. Formerly Blue Dynamo. Grace said I should look you up, and I didn't have any meetings this afternoon, so I figured no time like the present."

                  "You," said Volt. "We should hire you. Consultant."

                  "No," said Elson. "My ex-wife gets half of anything I do connected with superheroing or the Sentries. I don't want her to get a penny."

                  "Really?" asked Huitzil. "That's why you gave up superheroing?"

                  "And the team folded, but that was the main reason."

                  "What if we used your company exclusively when we need a taxi?" asked Volt. "You know stuff we can use."

                  "Like accessing the pocket dimension in the vault," said Huitzil.

                  "There's a button, near the top. Placed where you can't hit it by accident. I'll show you later. No, not even that arrangement," he added to Volt. "She has sharp lawyers, and they might be able to make something of that. I know they're sharp; they used to be mine." He held up his hands. "Now I'm just a businessman."

                  "Replay what was on the alarm," said Huitzil. Elson reached forward and fiddled with a few controls. On the screen on the back wall, they saw Hightower leaving the hospital…and saw the giant brain floating nearby, and Hightower kidnapped before their eyes.

                  In the other room: "Hey, Chiclet," said her editor at io9. "So why are we being scooped on superhero news in Steel City? I thought you were on it."

                  "I am. I've got, uh, personal interviews set up with them, and real in-depth stuff—"

                  "So why don't you have anything on the Big Brain taking Hightower? The Gray Ghost already has it."

                  "I'll have something for you by the end of the day. I promise."

                  "I have to protect you against the higher-ups, you know—"

                  "Gotta go—by the end of the day." She dashed into the foyer. "Big Brain just took--"

                  "Three crimes," said Huitzil. "Hightower kidnapped, Lord Quake in the diamond district, and the ninja guy at the art museum. Do we split up?"

                  "Don't be stupid," said Ninety-Nine. "One's a person; the other two are just things. We get Hightower."

                  "Where's Izzy?"

                  Izzy appeared, a foot off the ground. "Come on….we know where the Big Brain has his hideout."

                  "Your green card?"

                  "Set…same deal as for co-op students. Let's go!"

                  (GM's Note: Little more fictionalizing than usual. Didn't have access to any notes other than my mindmapthing while writing this up. I might discover later that I've left something important out, in which case I'll edit this. Also, sorry this is late: election here and Father's Day both got in the way, seeing as I was working the election and am/have a father. Do people actually read this?)
                  Last edited by kipling; 06-16-2014, 03:16 PM.
                  Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

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                  • #10
                    Episode 8: Everybody Flee! The Homecoming Queen Is A Tree!

                    Well, at the last minute, two of the four players couldn't make it but the other two were already at my place. Instead of the big set piece I had in mind, we did a flashback. There were only three previous days of superhero experience to choose from, so we invented this sequence from Saturday…


                    Episode 8: Everybody, Flee! The Homecoming Queen is a Tree!

                    (A Flashback, and apologies to Julie Brown)

                    Ninety-Nine used her remote senses to examine the hole. The hole was rough and unfinished, and headed all the way down to the sewer system. "Gotta be a big person to carry off an engine block like that."

                    "This is going to make me miss the reunion," said Vieno's mother. She stamped her foot. "Dammit. Tommy Moynaghan said he'd be there." To Ninety-Nine Percent, she said, "I dated Tommy, all through senior year. He was on the football team."

                    "But who?" said Vieno, ignoring the comment. "They could have just taken the CD player and probably got more money."

                    "I'll look." Ninety-Nine searched the area, walking back and forth to extend her range by a little bit. "A walking tree. Out of range, now. Booking it, while carrying an engine block."

                    "A walking tree in the sewers?"

                    "I know what I saw."

                    "But the reunion—" said Vieno's mother.

                    "We'll fly you," said Ninety-Nine Percent.

                    "We will?" asked Vieno.

                    "Someone's trying to keep her from the reunion. An engine block is not a casual theft. Even if we could get a cab to come here, to the abandoned warehouse district, what are the odds it would be attacked before she got there?" said Ninety-Nine Percent. "Silver Storm. Superpowers for several hundred people who didn't have them before. And in a small percentage of cases, getting powers makes you nutso for a little while."

                    "Really?" asked Vieno.

                    "Really?" asked Vieno's mother.

                    "I can cite you references," said Ninety-Nine.

                    "Sure," said Vieno. "Mother, would you like to stay for dinner? I've already ordered a few things."

                    * * *

                    They sat around Vieno's dinner table, Korean food for six set in front of them.

                    "So you think the little black one?" said Ms. Lipponen asked Ninety-Nine.

                    "With the jade. For your eyes.

                    "Tommy will love that look. He always liked my eyes."

                    Vieno said grumpily, "Isn't Dad…worried?"

                    "About what?" Then the penny dropped, and Vieno's mother looked aghast. "I'm not like that. Good Lord, have you no faith in me? I'm not some swinger, like Strom Thurmond. God, if we'd only known that in the eighties, along with the daughter… No, your father doesn't want to go because he only knew them for the one year. When he was an exchange student."

                    "And you fell in love then?" asked Ninety-Nine.

                    She snorted. "Not at all. I was dating Tommy. When Vieno's father decided to immigrate to the US, he looked us up. I was just graduated from university and single, so I agreed to squire him around, and, well…" She smiled.

                    "I don't want to hear this," chanted Vieno in a sing-song voice.

                    "Yes, child. You're so sensitive." Ms. Lipponen rolled her eyes.

                    "You're my mother. And ancient."

                    "Not even fifty! And I can tell you every person in my graduating class." She started to list names.

                    "It's okay," interrupted Vieno. "We've heard. They're all you've been talking about for three hours. It's like a soap opera."

                    "You have to know the background," said Ninety-Nine. "Now, Karen was the one who had the affair on Mark?"

                    "Yes! So Mark decided to date—"

                    "Oh, God," said Vieno, and put another helping of galbi on the plate in front of her.

                    "Vieno!"

                    "I'm very hungry now, mother. I just keep eating. Fighting supervillains will do that to you."

                    "Ninety-Nine fights supervillains and she doesn't eat like that."

                    Vieno looked daggers at Ninety-Nine, who smiled angelically.

                    "Time to wash your hands and get your face on," said Ninety-Nine. "You don't want to be late."

                    "What about the car?" said Vieno.

                    "Insurance will cover the damage. They said so," said Ms. Lipponen.

                    "You leave it in my parking lot until the adjustor comes on Monday, and it's going to be stripped."

                    "You're the one who chose to live in the abandoned warehouse district."

                    "Is the roof strong enough? I can put it on the roof," said Ninety-Nine.

                    "Perfect!" said Ms. Lipponen.

                    * * *

                    The reunion was at the school, on an estate by the edge of town. The school was private, and had a large walled estate surrounding it, with trees around the school itself. The other two buildings were off in corners, and the gates were open to allow cars. None of the trees near the school looked ambulatory or familiar.

                    Besides protecting Ms. Lipponen from the wind, Ninety-Nine decided to use her untested illusions skill to make everyone look just a bit better. She spruced them up and then set the hoverbike down on the grass median separating the two halves of the parking lot. Some attendees shrieked and many ran up to meet them.

                    "Boopsie!" A big man in a tan blazer met them. He helped Ms. Lipponen off the hoverbike and gave her a big hug. Then he and Ms. Lipponen looked at each other, smiling.

                    Vieno coughed.

                    "Right," said Ms. Lipponen. "Ladies, this is Tommy Moynaghan. Tommy, this is Vieno, my—" Vieno looked at her. "—and her friend, who goes by Ninety-Nine Percent."

                    "Nice to meet you," said Ninety-Nine.

                    Tommy looked her up and down and then focused on Vieno. "So this is the famous Vieno. You've been on the news."

                    Vieno shrugged, then said, “Why is there an engine block behind that car?”

                    Everyone looked. Tommy Moynaghan swore. “Now I can’t get out.”

                    “I’ll move it,” said Ninety-Nine. The engine block floated onto the grassy median.

                    “What kind of car is that from?” asked Vieno, dreading the answer.

                    One of the men said, “Mercedes,” and named the model of Ms. Lipponen’s car.

                    Ninety-Nine said mentally, %I'm going to scout the grounds. You escort your mother inside. I'll keep the link open so you can tell me if there's a problem.%

                    %Don't worry.% Vieno looked again at Tommy Moynaghan, who had taken Ms. Lipponen's arm and was walking her in. %I'll keep her safe.%

                    * * *

                    There were two other buildings on the property: a headmaster's house and a groundskeeper shed, but neither of them looked suspicious. Ninety-Nine made another pass over the roof. roofing material was scattered there: a pile of sand, two buckets of tar, and three broad brushes. Ninety-Nine looked at it, found a certainly-dry patch, and landed. Next she'd check the inside of the school, starting with the top floor. Assuming the door to the roof was unlocked—

                    A thread of sand snaked out along the roof and tried to close on her ankle. She floated up until she thought she might be out of range.

                    %Animate sand on the roof,% she said mentally. %Might be trouble. I'll let you know.%

                    "Hey," said Ninety-Nine. "You want to talk?"

                    "Hey," said the sand, and reformed into a humanoid shape, dark as obsidian. Ninety-Nine recognized him now: Jet, one of a group of five who styled themselves after the five Chinese elements. It tilted its head and looked closely. "There's what, two of you? Yeah, we'll talk. Why don't you both come up here?"

                    %Stay with your mother!% she said to Vieno.

                    Jet said, "Do I know you?"

                    "I thought the compact was there so that people wouldn't, you know, shit where they eat?"

                    He shook his head. "Personal. Eden's got this hate on for some woman. Only chance to do something about it and show some guy from high school….yadda yadda yadda. I agreed to help, but I didn't agree to listen." He shrugged. "With the Silver Storm, the compact will probably end anyway."

                    "You think so?" said Ninety-Nine. "So do the job after the compact collapses." %Ask your mother if there was anyone named 'Eden' in her class.%

                    "Promised. We got a job after that. Busy time of year."

                    Ninety-Nine sighed. "You do your thing and I'll try and stop you."

                    "That's life," agreed the man. "I promise we'll try not to hurt anyone else. Probably won't even kill this other woman, just rip off a limb."

                    "Dude. It's my teammate's mother."

                    "Dude," said Jet, "it's my teammate's obsession."

                    "Couldn't she just, you know, show up with a fancy car and a boob job?"

                    "Kinda hard when you're a tree," he said.

                    %There was an Eden,% said Vieno, %and I quote, 'Kind of a loser.'%

                    "Nothing personal," said Jet as he grabbed for Ninety-Nine. He missed, but she made a note that he could reach much farther than she had thought. She dropped over the side of the school, heading for the front door.

                    * * *

                    %Gah. She doesn't want to leave the conga line!% Vieno looked around. The gym was decorated in faux Amazon jungle style, with green crepe "vines" tree half-pipes decorated with papier mache. A couple of real-looking vines jarred with the obvious fakes and Vieno spotted them starting to reach down to Vieno's mother.

                    Vieno dove forward, knocking Ms. Lipponen out of the conga line. "Vines…after you!"

                    "My wrist!" Vieno heard from behind. "I think you broke my wrist!"

                    "I'm a doctor!" came a bass voice.

                    "Get outside!" shouted Vieno. Uh, out in nature, with a plant controller. Not a great idea, thought Vieno, but it was too late to unsay it. Fortunately, Ms. Lipponen didn't weigh much, and Vieno started sprinting. "Middle of the parking lot!" That was as far from plants as possible.

                    Ninety-Nine floated into the gymnasium in time to see the balls that were supposed release confetti opening early. Seeds started to fall and she quickly threw up a telekinetic wall that held them against the ceiling. "Everybody get outside!" she said, her face contorted with the effort of keeping all of them up. Were some of them sprouting?

                    "There's a sandstorm in the hall."

                    What? One of the papier mache trees crashed to the floor and the bigger tree hidden behind it shuffled out. She (it?) ignored Ninety-Nine and the door that was now blooming sandstorm, and instead walked out through the wall, going out of its way to cuff a woman in an expensive dress. A wind started up.

                    "I'm not going out there!"

                    The wind whipped up the dust and grit from the broken wall.

                    "Can't get out!" someone shouted over the wind and sand.

                    Great. Jet had found her. The sandstorm flowed into the gymnasium.

                    Ninety-Nine kept holding the telekinetic wall against the seeds. Instead of sending people through the sandstorm that was Jet, she created the image of blinking lights and arrows that pointed to the hole in the wall. THIS WAY OUT and EXIT read the signs.

                    "This woman is hurt!" came the doctor's voice.

                    "Get! Out!" screamed Ninety-Nine. If Eden was gone, maybe she could dump the seeds at one end of the gym, maybe on the proscenium stage--

                    * * *

                    Vieno ran into the wall instead of the crash door, making her mother shriek. Vieno tried to remember what the foyer looked like, then found the door. Plants were already waving out there.

                    The middle of the parking lot, away from the grassy median. That was the only spot that was plant-free! Vieno dropped her there. "Call 911!"

                    "With what? My purse is inside! You don't conga with--"

                    "Here!" Vieno thrust forward a phone as the wall burst open, revealing a walking tree. Fragments of brick fell to each side and dust coated the tree.

                    "You made me hurt," growled the tree. At Vieno, or Vieno's mother?

                    Vieno spread the wings and launched at the tree…to no effect. The blows bounced off it like dandelion seeds blown by the wind.

                    Branches from other trees flexed and tried to grab Vieno, who easily dodged them all.

                    * * *

                    Having dumped the seeds on the stage, Ninety-Nine took a moment to go invisible. If she was right, if the invisibility was in onlookers' minds instead of elsewhere, Jet wouldn't notice that sand was flowing around her. She put her back to a wall—she had lost direction—and looked at the sandstorm.

                    If she couldn't get the crowd away from the sandstorm, she'd have to get the sandstorm away from the crowd. Outside would be best, but any door would do. She groped for an exit, and slipped out.

                    * * *

                    A wooden fist crashed against Vieno's body, and Vieno lost breath for a moment. Over in the parking lot, Vieno's mother was trying to figure out how to use the BlackBerry instead of her iPhone. Vieno made a feint—

                    —and the plants in the lawn sprouted and grew tall…maybe ten feet tall. The grass was more like bamboo and hit Eden from sight.

                    A chance to recover. Good, thought Vieno dimly.

                    * * *

                    Ninety-Nine was in a change room. Showers and toilets over there, door to hallway there. No urinals, so girls' change room. No windows. Sand started flowing under the door.

                    All right, Jet, I am crushing your head. Wherever it is.

                    A head formed. "Ow!" said Jet. "All right, you know how this works, right? I go back out there and start hurting people one by one until you give yourself up. Just so you know it's your fault."

                    What? For making myself hard to hit? He was going to see the door open, but that might get him into the hallway—

                    She slipped out the door and stood on the other side of the doorway, shielding herself with the door.

                    The sand flowed under the door again and reformed faster than it had before. "Two choices, one at a time," said Jet. One hand expanded and became a slab as big as the hallway. His arm extended and the slab-hand shot down to the other wall, where there was a T-intersection. His slab rang against the lockers there. "Not on that side."

                    I'm crushing your head. He was unprepared, or stretching his hand like that had done something because his slab suddenly turned into a hand again and he clutched his head, as he fell to his knees.

                    She pulled out her phone. "Mom? Someone make sure that Eden takes her meds again…" Then she kicked him again, mentally, while he was down.

                    "Nothing personal," she told him.

                    * * *

                    There! Vieno launched a furious attack at the motionless Eden; the final blow split Eden in two, and Vieno looked on, horrified. The look of horror was interrupted by a scream from Ms. Lipponen.

                    Vieno looked over. Ms. Lipponen had been grabbed by Eden-the-tree.

                    Vieno headed over and hit the tree as hard as possible.

                    The tree-person looked at her. "You. Just like your mother. I don't like you, either." The light in the eyes dimmed.

                    "Nobody home," called Ninety-Nine from the front steps. "No brain there. She's left. You don't have to hit again."

                    "I do if I want to get my mother free," said Vieno. It was the work of a dozen hard hits, and Ms. Lipponen tumbled to the ground.

                    "Thank you," said Vieno's mother.

                    Several other classmates rushed to help her, and the woman in the expensive dress leaned and spoke in her ear. Vieno's mother laughed.

                    "Can you give me a lift home?" she asked Vieno.

                    Vieno looked at Ninety-Nine, who nodded. "We can. What was that about?"

                    "They're grateful, but you're not invited to future reunions."
                    Last edited by kipling; 06-22-2014, 09:07 PM. Reason: Typos
                    Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Steel City

                      [Interesting setting and characters so far, like how you seamlessly changed the Freedom League with renames and descriptions. Definitely a unique version of the Emerald City Knights adventures and loved the side adventure with one of the characters' mom. Can't wait to read more.]

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Steel City

                        Originally posted by Psistrike View Post
                        [Interesting setting and characters so far, like how you seamlessly changed the Freedom League with renames and descriptions. Definitely a unique version of the Emerald City Knights adventures and loved the side adventure with one of the characters' mom. Can't wait to read more.]
                        Thank you. More than half the credit goes to the players, of course, for doing things that I never would have thought of. (99% using the influx of applicants as a money-making tool, for instance.) The characters except for 99% were rolled randomly using the character generator, but the players put their own spin on them, of course.

                        Most of the various characters are on Obsidian Portal, under the Steel City campaign, if you want to see them, or have questions about the setting. The wiki is always slightly wrong but mostly right, as wikis are prone to be, but the broad strokes are there. (End commercial.)

                        Thanks again.
                        Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Episode 9: The Trap is Sprung

                          This session was one long fight, and the one after it was all talk. That's the way it goes sometimes.

                          The Trap Is Sprung

                          En route to the warehouse, Ninety-nine Percent scouted ahead using her remote viewing: An empty warehouse with a truck parked outside. The roof supported a closet-sized exit and a variety of vents and pipes. Inside, it was mostly one room, scattered through with bins of oily dark water and piles of sand and sawdust, with sewer vents through the floor and a set of oddly high-tech cameras scattered throughout to provide surveillance. There was also a tree there.

                          "Crap," said Ninety-Nine Percent. She was thinking a word somewhat stronger than "crap."

                          "What?" asked Izzy.

                          "Eden. That tree-woman we told you about. So one of the piles of sand is probably Jet, and the water one…Hydrowoman? No, Gulfstream…is in one of the bins there. There should be an air one, his name is Gust, and a fiery speedster, Zippo."

                          "No sweat if it's a trap," said Huitzil. "Even with Eden, even match."

                          Above the cooling equipment was the "second floor"—a small office with two rooms. Hightower was shackled to a table saw with some kind of death ray apparatus above him. The Big Brain floated there, possibly questioning him, but that must have been mental: it wasn't audible. Ninety-Nine told the others.

                          "Well, now we're definitely outnumbered," said Volt. "And one of them is, you'll pardon me for saying this, one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet."

                          "Oh, right now," said Ninety-Nine. "I've had my powers less than a week. Remind me why we are doing this again."

                          "Because you made an inspiring speech about how Hightower was a person and the others were just things," said Izzy.

                          "Right," said Ninety-Nine. "I forgot."

                          "Also, Hightower is bankrolling us," said Huitzil.

                          "So we avoid the trap," Ninety-Nine said. "Why not quick and dirty? What if Izzy and Volt rip a hole in the roof, Huitzil jumps in and grabs Hightower, then jumps out, we leave? We avoid fighting, and we get a moral victory."

                          "Fine with me," said Izzy.

                          "Big Brain will probably not get involved; he likes to lead from behind. He's a psychic projection or something."

                          "You can't hit him?" asked Huitzil.

                          "You can, but if you hit him hard enough, he just disappears. Goes back to his body."

                          "How do you know all this stuff?" asked Volt.

                          "I read the Internet."

                          Volt said, "I always get the stuff about using this one weird trick…."

                          %Mental contact on,% said Ninety-Nine. %I don't see Zippo.%

                          %If he's fast enough, he could be out of sight and still get here,% Izzy replied. %We have a plan. Let's go.%

                          Volt and Ninety-Nine Percent stayed on the hoverbikes. Izzy and Huitzil took flight.

                          On Volt's %Mark!% both Izzy and Volt concentrated on a section of roof, and tore it away. Huitzil jumped down and said, %First problem. I can't break these shackles.%

                          %I thought you could!% said Ninety-Nine.

                          %I couldn't even get my mother out of wood!% Huitzil said. %Izzy, can you lift the whole thing? Don't whack Hightower on the edge of the hole.%

                          %Easily.%

                          To avoid wasting the opportunity, Huitzil turned and thumped the Big Brain solidly.

                          %I said don't get him involved!% said Ninety-Nine.

                          %Too late. And it's not like I even managed to hurt him,% replied Huitzil.

                          Ninety-Nine sighed loudly up on her hoverbike and pre-emptively tried to crush the Big Brain's mind, but his mental defenses were too strong. Her "grip" slipped right off.

                          Izzy flew into the hole to grab the table but a tendril of sand flowed under the door and onto her leg. "What the hell—?" she said aloud. While she was distracted, Hightower disappeared from the table, leaving only open shackles and the smell of burning hair.

                          The gusts of wind in the room blew open the door and forced Huitzil to the ground; the wings were useless in near-hurricane winds. Gust was visible as a cloudy patch in the air, hovering on the edge of definition.

                          Up on the roof, a flaming man appeared. Both of the Sentries there were on hoverbikes and he couldn't touch them. Volt blasted at him, but missed.

                          Ninety-Nine tried again to hit the Big Brain and this time she thought she had found a weak spot—but to no good. She decided that she could at least enrage Eden. "Huitzil! Just stay there in the office. We know you're vulnerable to wood!"

                          The flaming man pointed up at Volt's hoverbike and started rotating his hand in a tight circle. There was a muffled pop and his hoverbike started to sink slowly. The man grinned, though it was hard to tell with the flames. "Batteries," he said. "They give out at the most inconvenient times."

                          The hoverbike was sinking slowly (Safeties! thought Volt). Volt took a careful shot at Zippo and hit, but didn't seem to hurt him.

                          That was when the wind blew Ninety-Nine high into the air to a dizzying height—or what would have been a dizzying height if Ninety-Nine Percent couldn't hover. Rather than show off, she decided to wait and see. Best to keep that in reserve.

                          The Big Brain refocused his psychic protection on the main floor, with relative safety.

                          Pulling harder this time, Izzy took off, straight up, through the roof, while focusing her heat vision at Jet's grip on her ankle. He didn't let go.

                          Instead, the rest of him as sand swarmed up Izzy's body until she was encased in it, blind and unable to breathe. That didn't bother her yet, but she noted that Jet-as-sand had a peculiar musky odor and she wondered if men made of sand had to shower. She hoped they didn't, or if they did, that at least he had.

                          Since he was encasing her, he'd take the damage from flying through the roof, she figured, and she went straight up, through the roof, a few hundred feet into the air. Then she carefully exhaled, hoping to blow him off her face, anyway.
                          Volt took a shot at him as Izzy zipped by, but to no avail. Volt looked at his hand. "Maybe I should get this thing replaced."

                          Huitzil heard a familiar wet schlurping sound that meant that Eden was growing a new body nearby.

                          %Thanks for alerting her,% Huitzil said mentally.

                          %You're welcome,% said Ninety-Nine.

                          %That was sarcasm.% Huitzil aimed at the switch for the death ray; the first shot missed, due to the buffeting winds that Gust was maintaining. Huitzil had a plan.

                          Because she knew she was safe either way, Ninety-Nine kept assaulting the Big Brain mentally, hoping to keep him too busy to try anything.

                          %Kinda busy,% said Izzy. %Go ahead without me.% Jet's attempts to squeeze her into unconsciousness were laughable; she could hold her breath for a long, long time. She blew with super-breath to clear her face, and looked down at her leg. Her heat vision might have hurt Jet, but it had also fused his "hand" into a ring of glass wrapped around her leg, so he couldn't let go even if he wanted to.

                          Volt helped by shooting Jet.

                          Animate wooden arms grabbed Huitzil. "I hate you!" the tree growled.

                          %I nominate Eden,% said Huitzil, and took a second shot at the switch for the death ray. This time it flicked on, and a lance of sickly green light stretched down to the table, making the metal start to glow with heat.

                          Volt shot Eden and connected. %Let me get this straight,% he said, % 'everyone' is me and Huitzil?%

                          "So you need this many people to help you?" Huitzil said to Eden, and twisted her into the path of the death ray. Eden screamed, and the smell of smoky green wood was suddenly everywhere. Eden rolled, pushing Huitzil toward the beam, but Huitzil dodged and managed to avoid the beam entirely.

                          Volt and the hoverbike settled on the roof with a loud thud. Zippo was right beside him and touched his shoulder. He supposed that pain would blossom through her arm if he had managed to touch, but Volt was intangible by then.

                          %Dropping the link for a moment to see where Hightower is,% Ninety-Nine said before she scanned the main floor. Ah: Hightower was between the Big Brain and Gulf, lying limp and nearly unconscious.

                          That was the moment that the Big Brain needed to reach Izzy's mind. Izzy realized with sickening clarity that Ninety-Nine Percent was trying to kill them all. Izzy went further with the thought than the Big Brain had expected, though: Since that homicidal urge seemed uncharacteristic, Ninety-Nine must have been taken over by another telepath, and one of the strongest ones in the world was right there. "The Brain!" she shouted. "He's taken over Ninety-Nine." She dove down through the roof again. Hey, she thought, if Jet's gonna hold onto me like ablative armor, let him ablate.

                          "I'm not—" started Ninety-Nine.

                          Zippo was gone in a moment; through her remote view, Ninety-Nine saw him arrive to protect the Big Brain.

                          That was when the door burst in with a tidal wave of water. For a moment, no one could see anything and then the seething pond sank a bit. Gust shot upward, carrying Ninety-Nine to a dizzying height…or what would have been a dizzying height if Ninety-Nine knew that she could hover.

                          Volt sighed in disgust. "A pickup basketball game has better teams." Without Gust, he was sure that Zippo would be extinguished…but of her teammates, only Eden was still in the office. "Water should conduct electricity well," he said, and fired at Gust, who took it all and collapsed in human form.

                          "Since you're here," murmured Ninety-Nine to Gust high in the sky, "that pain you feel is me crushing your head."

                          Izzy's first shot at the Big Brain was intercepted by Zippo. "Enough," said the Big Brain. "We can destroy you at any time. And we have footage that will show we soundly trounced you. Time for all of us to go."

                          And he winked out of existence.

                          Zippo was gone next; he was seen collecting Gulf. Gust was nowhere to be found, and Izzy collected Ninety-Nine Percent before she hit the ground. "I'm fine now," said Izzy. "You're not trying to kill us."

                          "When he went away, the conviction did too?" Izzy nodded.

                          Jet breathed loudly, and Izzy took a moment to hit him again.

                          They descended into the office. Huitzil and Volt were both fighting Eden, but every once in a while she'd teleport into a new body and be partially refreshed. Izzy looked at Ninety-Nine. "Be my guest," said Ninety-Nine.
                          In three punches, Izzy knocked out Eden.

                          Volt looked at the two unconscious villains. "We've got two of them, but you know that the Brain's going to edit that footage to make us look bad."

                          "Got it covered," said Ninety-Nine. "An acquaintance has been sitting on a 'FOE: What Secret Plan Are They Hatching?' article for a few days now, and will release it for me." Actually, she hadn't written it yet, but it seemed like a good idea to put some opposite spin on it. "So: How do we deal with these two? You know they're just going to escape. Kill them?" She saw the shocked looks from everyone else, and added lightly, as though it were a joke, "Painlessly, of course."

                          There was silence for a moment. Then Izzy chuckled. "'Painlessly, of course.' You're a card."

                          "I think the Confederacy of Justice owes us for attacking last week," said Huitzil. "And they have working power dampers. When these two escape, it's the CoJ's fault, not ours."

                          "I'll call them," said Ninety-Nine.

                          Huitzil said, "I will. They might not understand your sense of humor."
                          Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Episode 10: A Richness of Embarrassments

                            An All-Talking Episode.

                            University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

                            "How is she?" asked Kirby, one of the other grad students.

                            "Watch." Izzy opened the door to her shared room and raised her voice. "Gillian? I'm going out for lunch. You want some?" Izzy watched Gillian type. It looked like she was actually typing words related to her thesis—no "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" stuff.

                            "Hmm? No, I'm good. I ate just after I swam at the pool. I think I can get ten more pages done before I break for dinner."

                            Izzy closed the door and turned to Kirby. "See?"

                            "Is it true, what Tom said? Did someone mess with her mind to make her that…that focused?"

                            "Yeah," Izzy said. "Someone I know across the river."

                            "I wonder if that would work for me." Kirby had slightly less urgent deadline issues; he alternated worrying about his thesis with fixating on the latest diet so he could lose a hundred pounds.

                            "Don't even think it. I don't know if it's safe. I don't know what will happen to her when she's done her thesis." Izzy resolved not to say Ninety-Nine Percent's name.

                            "I just… I could use that kind of willpower."

                            "It's not worth the risks. It might not be worth letting the person into your head."

                            "Look at me. Look at me," Kirby said. "I'm going to be a threat to somebody? If I roll on them, maybe."

                            "You'll do okay. You'll finish your thesis under your own power and you'll find someone." She reached forward and gave him a hug.

                            His hand moved to her butt. She pushed him away, a bit too hard: he slammed into the opposite side of the corridor. "See?" he said. "I can't even resist doing something like that."

                            "Good-bye, Kirby."

                            Steel City Sentries Headquarters, Steel City, Michigan, USA

                            "Okay," said Featherstone-Haugh to the heroes gathered at the headquarters. "I have to wait for parts to get shipped in from Japan to fix the hoverbikes. I know a specialty manufacturing shop there. They have to make the equipment to make them, so it'll be about a week. I'll see you then."

                            "But the computer's up?" Huitzil asked.

                            "Sure. You're all listed in the security profiles. You have to turn on security yourself, but it's voice controlled. You have my number if there's a problem." She smiled. "Nice working with all of you, and I'll see you soon." She picked up her cases and walked out, passing two teenagers who were coming out of the elevator.

                            "We need an office manager," said Ninety-Nine Percent to the other two.

                            Volt added, "Or an office manager and a receptionist."

                            The teenagers reached the front desk.

                            "Hello," said Huitzil. "You I remember," said Huitzil to the boy. He was fifteen or sixteen and still had on the Black Hole t-shirt. "You I don't," she said to the black-clad goth teenager.

                            "What would you like?" asked Ninety-Nine Percent.

                            "I—we—want to join the Freedom Foundation you were talking about. We'll pay," said the boy, Kid Singularity. Huitzil touched a button on the reception desk and brought up his application where the minors couldn't see it. Josh Landsdowne, age fifteen.

                            "Of course," said Ninety-Nine promptly.

                            "You can call me Ghostlight," said the goth girl. Huitzil went to shake her hand but went right through it. "Oops," said the girl, and solidified so that Huitzil could shake her hand.

                            "We haven't really set it up yet," said Huitzil. "Even the name waffles. Future Foundation, Freedom Foundation."

                            "But we'd love feedback on our current plans," said Ninety-Nine. "How much have you brought for membership?"

                            "Well, I got my grandpa to sign over part of my trust fund for this. So I have a bearer bond here for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

                            "Security system on," said Volt. A computer voice confirmed this.

                            "I brought my babysitting money," said Ghostlight. "A hundred and eleven dollars."

                            "You should really have an investor. Volt, you know about this stuff."

                            "Conflict of interest," he said. "I can give you some names, though."

                            "But I want to join."

                            "The foundation isn't even set up yet," said Huitzil.

                            "But we'll save you a spot," said Ninety-Nine. "Both of you." To Ghostlight, she said, "We're thinking of adding a monthly option. Would that work better for you?"

                            "You should put this into a bank," said Volt.

                            "How much you want to be it will get robbed while we're there?" said Huitzil.

                            "Don't be silly," said Ninety-Nine. "Banks are mostly closed by now—it's after five. I could put it in the vault."

                            "We're still liable then," said Volt. "I saw an ad for TD. They're still open, and there's a branch not far from here."

                            "We escort him?" asked Huitzil.

                            "Escort them," said Ghostlight.

                            "Seems the only safe way," agreed Volt.

                            "Fine," said Ninety-Nine.

                            "We walk?" said Huitzil. "I can't fly them. If Canadian Lass were here—"

                            "We walk. It's two blocks, and there's no place to park the hoverbikes legally."

                            Huitzil and Volt flanked Kid Singularity, and Ninety-Nine Percent walked with Ghostlight from a bit behind them.

                            "Could I have an autograph?" asked a gentleman in a dark pinstripe suit.

                            A woman held up her smartphone. "May I pose with you for a picture?"

                            "We're not even to the end of the block yet," said Volt sotto voce.

                            "Hold on," said Huitzil, posing for a photo. "Folks, I appreciate you all, but we have to get these two safely to the bank. Do you mind walking with us?"

                            "How late is this bank open?" asked Ninety-Nine.

                            "Late enough," said Huitzil. Slowly they made their way to the bank, and got Kid Singularity inside.

                            "See?" said Volt. "No robbers."

                            "I'll wait outside," said Ninety-Nine. "Ghostlight?"

                            "Sure. I don't really have much to deposit anyway."

                            "I'm going to go invisible," said Ninety-Nine. "Attract less attention. Don't worry; I haven't gone away."

                            "Great. I'll be talking to myself. Ah, they already think I'm crazy." Ghostlight sat on the window ledge of the bank.

                            "Who?"

                            "Everybody. People at school. The company I blog for."

                            "You blog?"

                            "I get paid, too. Alternative life teenage stuff."

                            "I know a blogger or two. Maybe I can introduce you."

                            "Really?"

                            "Really. They've gone to set up the account, so we'll be a bit longer."

                            Ghostlight stuck out her tongue at a passerby who gave her a disapproving look.

                            "So," asked Ninety-Nine. "Powers?"

                            "Ghost things," said Ghostlight. "Evil eye, death touch. Intangible unless I think really hard."

                            "Sounds useful."

                            "Sure. If I were older." Ghostlight sighed.

                            "And?"

                            "How do I know I'm not dead?"

                            "Pardon?"

                            "Maybe the whole Silver Storm thing killed me and nobody's telling me."

                            "I have a stethoscope. I could check."

                            "You have a stethoscope? Get real."

                            "I was checking the tumblers on the vault when you guys came in. I just shoved it in the utility belt."

                            "You have a utility belt?"

                            "Sure. It's a perk." Ninety-Nine thought a moment and crafted an illusion of a stethoscope: something recognizable as a stethoscope but futuristic. "Here. Listen to your heart. You'll have to go solid."

                            Ghostlight reached for it, then waved it off. "'S fine. I know you have it. I can ask any time I get worried, right?"

                            "Of course."

                            They sat in companionable silence for a moment. Ninety-Nine saw someone she knew go in, but since he wasn't in costume he was almost certainly just casing the bank. She put her finger against her nose in recognition, but since she was invisible, he never noticed.

                            The Traynor House, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

                            "Hey, dad," Izzy said and gave her father a hug. "Not on the afternoon shift?"

                            "Command shift," he said, and grinned. "Commanders gotta command."

                            "Where's mom?"

                            "Vancouver. Family."

                            "She's never talked about family in Vancouver before."

                            "She went there once before, when you were a baby. If you want dinner, it'll be takeout. I don't feel like cooking tonight."

                            "Takeout's fine. It's kinda creepy being around the room with Gilly being so…focused. You mind if I use the central database? Something came up across the river and I want to see if we have anything on it."

                            "Knock yourself out," said her father. "That Thai place fine with you?"

                            "Sure. Call me when you're back." Izzy headed downstairs to the secure hole.

                            The redacted report on Thornbird was mostly blacked out. Izzy found clear text mentioning her mother, and a mad scientist named Doctor Prometheus. She went to pull up the report on Doctor Prometheus, and was denied access.

                            She flexed her fingers, ready to start hacking, when she heard, "I'm back!"

                            La Vida Latte, Steel City, Michigan, USA

                            The next morning, Hadley dropped by La Vida Latte for coffee. Sonia served him is long flat, and said, "Can I talk to you?" Hadley nodded. "Chris? I'm on break."

                            She pulled him to the back, into the storeroom. Surrounded by milk containers and coffee bags, she said, "Do you have powers?"

                            Hadley said, "No."

                            "Because I do. Everyone who was struck by lightning during the Silver Storm either got killed or got powers. You got struck by lightning and are not dead. QED."

                            "Killed?"

                            "Thirty-five people died, a hundred and fifty got powers, and seventy-five are still in cocoons, but presumably will have powers."

                            "Well, I guess I'm the exception. Because there's nothing unusual about me."

                            She sighed. "Look, Hadley, maybe my powers aren't great, but I got them after I touched you when you were hit by lightning."

                            "I haven't seen anything," repeated Hadley. "I'm not unusual."

                            "Here's the thing," said Sonia. "Doesn't matter if you are. Allie's missing."

                            "Allie…the other barista?" Hadley as Volt had seen her apply to the Sentries. She was calling herself Chains then.

                            "Right. She's missing. Maybe someone's collecting Stormers. Maybe they think you're a Stormer."

                            "Don't be silly. I'm sure there's another reason."

                            "Right. Her medication might have failed. But we don't know."

                            "Her medication?"

                            "She takes drugs for her anger issues, but her new metabolism burns through them too fast. So I found a source of dog pills—"

                            "Excuse me?"

                            "Dogs have the same issue, and you can get them without a prescription. Don't try it with antibiotics."

                            "I wouldn't try it at all."

                            "That's good. I used to be in med school—"

                            "So you've been getting this woman illegal prescription drugs—"

                            "Just until she could see a doctor! Between her powers and her rage, there could be a terrible problem!"

                            "This sounds totally dangerous, Sonia."

                            "So is heroing, Hadley. Heroing is not being able to stand by and do nothing."

                            "No, heroing is helping people."

                            A knock came at the door. "Sonia? Can you stop having sex in there? Your break is over and I need more skim."

                            "I'm not having sex! You can come in, Chris!" She turned to Hadley and said earnestly, "Be careful."

                            "You too."

                            As soon as he got to the office, Hadley called the Sentries call line and warned them. They'd never heard Hadley as anything other than Volt, so he wasn't concerned about being identified.

                            Steel City Sentries Headquarters

                            Lunchtime. Mrs. Lipponen showed up to see Huitzil…or Vieno, as Mrs. Lipponen said.

                            "Vieno, I was thinking, we bonded so well during that whole attempted maiming-reunion thing, we should hang out more. Mother-child stuff."

                            "I'm not sure that's really—" said Huitzil.

                            "So I was thinking dinner and the museum. Tomorrow. They've got a whole exhibit on the rise of Hightower."

                            "I, uh… I can't guarantee it. Rampaging supervillains can happen at any time."

                            "I see," said Mrs. Lipponen, and she looked at the floor. There was silence.

                            Uncomfortable silence.

                            Finally, Huitzil said, "Yes. Okay. I'll go. If there's no rampaging supervillain."

                            "Great! I'll pick you up here at half-past five?"

                            Huitzil forced a smile and nodded. Please let there be a rampaging supervillain.

                            Browder Stone Arms

                            "This is not a high-class building," said Huitzil, stepping over an empty bottle.

                            "She's a barista. What do you expect?" said Ninety-Nine. "I'll check her apartment with remote senses."

                            "That might violate her right to privacy."

                            "Fine," said Ninety-Nine. Without inflection, she said, "Oh, listen, my super senses have picked up a cry for help. I think it is coming from inside the apartment. Let me check."

                            It was a small apartment. The bedroom was astonishingly tidy; the kitchen was not, although all the dishes were washed and stacked beside the sink. Not put away, though. Ninety-Nine counted three cats; the food bowl and the water dish were set up with multiple days' worth of food and water.

                            "Looks like she expected to be away. Extra food for the cats."

                            Huitzil knocked on the neighbor's door. A plump old woman answered the door. "Aren't you cute? Which superhero are you supposed to be?" She pinched Huitzil's cheek and called, "Morrie, you got to see this."

                            "I'm busy. I'm in the bathroom!" came a male voice from deep in the apartment.

                            "We're actually superheroes, ma'am," said Huitzil.

                            "I'll bet. Is this some holiday, like that Mexican one in May?"

                            "No, ma'am. We'd like to talk to you about your neighbor, Allie."

                            "Nice girl. I like her friend, too, the one that went to med school. No parties, no men. Very quiet. Sometimes the friend comes over. I'd volunteer to look after her cats but Morrie's allergic."

                            "I told you, I'm busy," came at the mention of his name.

                            "If I even go near one, he starts wheezing, but we've been here for thirty years so why move?" She smiled. "We retired here. Had a dressmaking business in Queens, land is cheaper here and our son was here."

                            "Don't mention his name!"

                            "He married a goyim. So the grandchildren are not in the faith."

                            "He's dead to me!"

                            "So I guess Allie's a Stormer now," she said. "I saw some people talking to her, an alligator man and mound of tar. They were in the building. Mrs. Bosch, she's a Stormer too."

                            "Mrs. Bosch?"

                            "Fourth floor. I know they talked to her because they referred to her when they were talking to Allie."

                            "Do you know what apartment she's in?" asked Ninety-Nine Percent.

                            Gig-A-Byte Internet Café, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

                            Izzy didn't want to be at home or her parents' home while hacking airline databases. She paid for a large decaffeinated coffee and began to search. She had to be careful, but the protections weren't anything unusual.

                            Her mother had bought an airline ticket for Vancouver but it was a connecting flight, Windsor to Toronto to Vancouver. At Pearson, she had switched planes to Ottawa.

                            From the report, Izzy knew that Thornbird was based in Ottawa. Innnnteresting, she thought. She called Sentries headquarters and explained that she had a family emergency to take care of. She wouldn't be in the next day. From the tests, Izzy knew she could fly faster than a hundred miles an hour; a straight line flight to Ottawa was four hours. That would put her there by midnight.

                            Her coffee had gone cold. She dumped it, checked that she had her purse, and took off.

                            Browder Stone Arms, Steel City, Michigan, USA

                            "Go away, I'm not interested."

                            "We're superheroes, Mrs. Bosch. We're from the Steel City Sentries. Please open the door," said Huitzil.

                            The door opened a crack. "Come in quickly."

                            They stepped in. The room stank of cat litter, sour air, and something acrid-sweet. Mrs. Bosch stood there in a shredded nightgown: oily-tipped spines stuck out from her elbows, knees, wrists, shoulders, ribs, and thighs. She was perhaps seventy, all dried leather and spines. "The park," said Huitzil. "You were there, with a stun gun. I remember."

                            "Yeah. Great. That's when all my troubles started." She led them around the small half-wall to the living area. Huitzil noticed that she even had spines along her backbone. All the furniture was shredded. "I hoped you were the grocery delivery people. I can't go out any more."

                            "I'm sorry to hear that."

                            "Have you seen these men?" Ninety-Nine briefly sketched a description of Gator and Tar Baby.

                            "Yeah. They wanted to talk to me. Had a list of Stormers. They were talking to all of'em. I didn't want to talk to'em."

                            "Good choice," said Huitzil.

                            "Choice?" said Mrs. Bosch. "What choice? You're the first people I let in since I came home from the hospital, and that's only because you're both women."

                            Huitzil did not think it was the time to discuss gender binary norms.

                            "I got no clothes. You don't have a spare keyboard? I broke mine. Mine got a spine through it. And during the war I was a typist! I can't type F, G, and H any more. I can't— Ah, hell." In the dimness, Huitzil could see that Mrs. Bosch's eyes had filled with water.

                            "I'm sorry about your cat," said Ninety-Nine Percent. Mentally, she said to Huitzil, %Cat food and litter in the spare room.%

                            "Stupid cat," said Mrs. Bosch. "She was fifteen, you know? Only friend I had since Klaus passed on. Couldn't smell too good no more. Bad kidneys. And I drip. These things. They drip." She paused for a long time, and then her breaths came fast and deep. "And he saw a puddle of this stuff after I showered and she, she, she licked it."

                            "I'm sorry," said Huitzil, feeling stupid.

                            "I didn't know what to do with her. I got her in the freezer. Nobody got curing powers. Nobody can cure a damn dead stupid cat. All I can think of to do is stuff her. To keep her near." She hit her hand on the end of the sofa, and broke it. Mrs. Bosch looked at it and started to snuffle.

                            "I can find you a taxidermist," said Huitzil quickly.

                            "And we can get you some Uberwear," said Ninety-Nine. "It won't shred."

                            "I'm still gonna look like this."

                            "I'm sorry," said Huitzil again. A deep breath later, Huitzil said, "We're setting up a foundation to help people learn to manage their powers."

                            "That's right," said Ninety-Nine. "Those who could afford it would pay but for you, free."

                            %I have to know,% said Huitzil mentally. %Did that hurt?%

                            %Shut up.%

                            Steel City Sentries Headquarters

                            "We need an office manager," said Huitzil as they huddled around the terminal in the kitchen.

                            "Hey," said Ninety-Nine Percent. "I got it to print off a calendar of appointments."

                            "Wait," said Volt. "We have appointments?"

                            "Apparently so. Some of them are city officials but most are interviews with reporters. And bloggers," she said, scribbling a name into an empty spot.

                            Volt read down the automated agenda. "Wait—we have interviews?"

                            Huitzil looked over his shoulder. "Remember? We had to leave the press conference so the mayor's office planned interviews for us. One on one interviews, apparently."

                            Volt sank into a chair. "We need a media liaison. Someone to do these interviews for us and be our face."

                            "And handle our social media accounts. We can't rely on the Vieno Lipponen Facebook statuses," said Ninety-Nine. "Did you really tell people we were going out to catch bad guys?"

                            "I didn't say where," said Huitzil.

                            "We need to get someone yesterday," said Volt.

                            "I know who to call," said Huitzil.

                            "Oh, God, not the city," said Volt. "They'll send an intern."

                            "Hightower's people." Huitzil held up the cell phone. "I have Bruno's number."

                            "Remind me who Bruno is."

                            "Intern-looking assistant."

                            "Right. Wormtongue to Hightower's Saruman."

                            Rather than ask, Huitzil wandered into another room for privacy while calling.

                            "Wormtongue didn't work for Saruman," said Ninety-Nine.

                            "The point is valid," said Volt just as the visitor light went on.

                            In the foyer were three Stormers. One man looked like some sort of ideal; the other was skinny and pocked by acne. The dark-haired woman carried an air of youth but she looked to be in her mid-twenties. All of them were carrying application forms.

                            "Hi," said Volt, who spoke quickly to forestall mention of the Freedom Foundation. "You're applicants?"

                            "Yeah," said the skinny man. "The application said you want code name suggestions, too, so I'm Pufferfish!" He stuck out his chest proudly. "I can blow up into almost a ball, and bounce."

                            "Uh-huh," said Volt.

                            "And spit poison!"

                            "Lethal poison?"

                            "No, just paralyzing. I think it only happens when I'm inflated, though. I tried spitting in the bathroom and just got spit." He shuffled between feet. "Pufferfish is good, though, right? I tried Bouncing Guy and Beachball and they just didn't sound right. They didn't have the, uh—"

                            "Gravitas?" suggested Ninety-Nine.

                            "Right."

                            Huitzil took the application from him. "Thank you. And you're his…friend?" The woman was wearing a Hello Kitty top and a pair of very short shorts.

                            "We met in the elevator. I'm Toxic Kitty," she said." she said. "I can paralyze people, or make them sick, or make them weak."

                            "So you secrete poison, too?"

                            "No, I turn their sweat into poison. It's kind of embarrassing how I found out. You want to know?" Toxic Kitty giggled.

                            "Oh, please, tell us," said Ninety-Nine.

                            "Oh, please, don't," said Volt.

                            "All right, I will. But you gotta swear that it doesn't go beyond this building."

                            Huitzil looked at her. "The building?"

                            "Well, I already told the lady downstairs. Anyway, I was, like, having sex, and my boyfriend did something really good that I think he read about in one of those magazines he reads, and I didn't want him to move from there, and boom, like, he was paralyzed."

                            "I didn't want to know," said Volt.

                            "That must be embarrassing, discovering your powers during sex," said Huitzil.

                            "It's relatively common," said Ninety-Nine Percent. "Sixteen percent of stormers. More common than school bullying."

                            "How do you know this stuff?" asked Volt.

                            "I know bloggers." She smiled at the two. "Are your email addresses on these? Good. We have something coming up—I shan't mention it again." She cocked her head over at Volt and said, with her best Amway smile, "He's tired of talking about it for now." She turned her attention to the other man and her smile went from sixty watts to a hundred and twenty.

                            Huitzil walked out. "I got a couple of names from Bruno for both office manager…aaaand I notice I missed some people."

                            "Not important," said Ninety-Nine Per Cent. "They were just leaving. And you, sir?"

                            "Hi," he said. He waved to the other two as they left. "I call myself Tenfold, because I'm roughly ten times more at everything than the average man."

                            "Everything?" asked Ninety-Nine, taking an obvious look at his crotch.

                            "I hope so. Ten times stronger, ten times faster, and…so on." He smiled in a sheepish way that would probably test well on audiences.

                            Ninety-Nine Percent asked Huitzil, "Do you want to try him out?" Huitzil looked horrified. "Not that way. I mean, spar with him. Fight. I'll watch." She fanned herself.

                            "Well, since we have a combat room…."

                            The room on the third level had a hand-made sign on it that said "Scrap Yard". Huitzil took it easy on him at first, but Tenfold seemed up to match her. "Healing abilities?" asked Huitzil between combinations.

                            "Not that I know of." He didn't sound winded. "Of course, I haven't tested that."

                            "You know what's a good test?" Huitzil launched a flurry of feints and hits, most of which Tenfold blocked or avoided. "Falling a mile. That's a good test." Tenfold looked shocked and stepped back. "Not that I'd do it to you. Kind of hard on you if you don't have rapid healing factors."

                            "How'd he do?" asked Ninety-Nine over the speaker.

                            "Pretty good," said Huitzil. "The healing thing's an issue. He's not bulletproof."

                            "Looked good from here."

                            "Do you have a harassment policy?" asked Tenfold, grinning. Neither of them were sweating.

                            "Not yet," said Huitzil, "but I can see that we need one."

                            "Anyway," said Tenfold, "let me show you this." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card with a smear of tar on it. It was an invitation to an event at the Packard Automotive Factory, building 3. "That's the abandoned assembly building."

                            "Forty acres," said Ninety-Nine. "Apparently the fire department won't even go into it any more. They've declared it unsafe."

                            Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

                            Izzy tracked down the hotel that her mother was in and sat in the bathroom. She hacked into the hotel wi-fi to see what her mother was looking at online, if anything. It quickly became obvious that whatever her mother was doing, it was eating most of the bandwidth in the hotel.

                            A box appeared on her screen: "Go home. This is Level 9 information and you are Level 5."

                            Izzy left the hotel and found an all-night café with wi-fi and didn't even have to cross the river to Hull. Her mother might have followed the correct protocols, but UNTIL was a big place, and some agents surely hadn't. She started at the top, and after seventeen, she found someone who had used a guessable password. From there, she couldn't get into reports, but she could get into emails.

                            UNTIL was indeed going after Thornbird. Her mother was going as the specialist on Professor Prometheus. The accessible files were heavily redacted but Izzy could read that Professor Prometheus he was a person of special interest to UNTIL because he might have evaporated/transformed six UNTIL agents. Thornbird became a Person of Interest when it became obvious she was using his technology. The current working theory was that Thornbird was Professor Prometheus' daughter.

                            She got the time and place for the assault.

                            Packard Automotive Plant, Steel City, Michigan, USA

                            "There's some kind of electrical power being used," Volt said. "I can feel it."

                            "Now we're in my range." Ninety-Nine tried to ignore Tenfold on the back of her hoverbike and cast her senses inside.

                            An abandoned factory. Posts. Lots of posts. The interior had been cleaned up. Dirt floor, though. Someone had stolen a lot of city benches and set them up around a ring. The ring was like a boxing ring, though it stretched in a square around eight of the posts and left the ninth in the center.

                            The area over the benches had been reinforced somehow. Perhaps so if Stormers broke the building, the audience wouldn't be crushed?

                            Once side was walled with three rooms. She peeked inside. People were waiting in each of them. One of them was Allie—Chains.

                            Kanata, Ontario, Canada

                            The house looked harmless, but given that there were thirty UNTIL agents ready to raid it, Izzy doubted that was the case. She stared and stared at the wall, willing herself to have X-ray vision.

                            The wall melted away. Izzy saw…her mother. Packing. Except not packing clothes, packing electronic equipment into a large satchel.

                            Izzy looked over to the command base, two blocks from the house, swarming with agents. Her mother was there.

                            With another woman who looked exactly like her mother.
                            Some M&M stuff at my blog, [URL="http://jhmcmullen.blogspot.ca"][i]Iconic Energy[/i][/URL], but mostly [i]ICONS[/i]

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