16 October 2010: 0430 hours: Nike Williams
Following the incident, Nike heads home, unable to explain her actions even to herself. It takes her a number of hours to drift off: hours of eating ice-cream from the tub and watching late-night cinema. She’s always opposed vivisection, and here’s Candyman experimenting on people: boasting about it, and claiming that if only he could open up the heroes, what he would learn! But – her mind leaps the other way – to execute a prisoner, to chance killing or maiming him… what possessed her?
It’s the dream that wakes her but already it’s slipping away from conscious recall. She’s on an operating table, unable to move, barely able to focus… there’s a deep voice speaking, but she can’t understand the words. Then: lunging into her view with a roar! A dark face, mouth agape, monstrous teeth!
She calls in sick: takes a hot and cold shower and towels off, still in turmoil. The Skylark costume goes in her backpack and dressed for parkour Nike takes to the alleys, hurling herself up down and over the cityscape for two hours before checking into Armory. Entering the common room she heads straight to the fridge: grabs a beer out: slumps down next to Bad Tripp on the sturdy couch and chugs it down.
Bad Tripp may be all kinds of asshole but he doesn’t waste words noting the obvious. He sets a newspaper down as he reaches back for another beer: he’s been looking at the crime section and it catches Nike’s eye:
Hanover “Boost Factory” Busted
– FCPD quiet on possible involvement of FCM –
The Freedom City Police Department are downplaying the possibility of the Metapowered group ‘Feedom City Massive’ playing a significant role in this morning’s pre-dawn swoop on a major Boost production laboratory in Hanover.
300 Kilograms of processed Boost was captured, along with a sophisticated lab facility designed to produce the illegal meta-drug. A number of individuals of interest have been taken into custody, including the suspected criminal mastermind who remains, as yet, unnamed. It was confirmed that this group included individuals with metapowers.
The police department claim that this remarkable coup came from efficient following up of an earlier mass-drugging incident at the Southside nightspot Eclipse. While official police sources have confirmed that metapowered individuals were involved in the criminal conspiracy, unofficial sources from within the department have clearly stated that this was a ‘Cape Intervention’ by none other than the Freedom City Massive, the supposed Caped guardians of the City.
FCPD have released a warning that a suspect has escaped from custody. Eric Robert Olsen, described as a metapowered individual of interest to this case, escaped from the Central City Police Station and is presently at large. Olsen is described as being dangerous and not to be approached by the public…
1840 hours: Moving On
“So – we don’t kill th’ bad guys, period. ‘Kay?”
Bad Tripp closes off any further post-mortem on Skylark’s attempt to dose Candyman with his own medicine by pulling out his well-thumbed spiral-bind pad.
“Anyhoo… I bin goin’ t’ru m’ case notes. Gotta say… our clearance rate’s in th’ toilet. But hey – at least it’s better than FCPD!
He waits for the chuckles to die down and continues from his pad:
“Case a’ th’ exploded car: still not closed. We got th’ Bomb, on’y he wuz set up by Calculus II, who wuz so far as we know workin’ fer Underworld, t’ru th’ Broker. So:
- Calculus II: to be arrested
- Underworld: to be arrested
Then we got th’ Broker who we found could be bribed, so sumwun mus’ be able ta get hold a’ him. Then we got Grant Conglomerates: they implicated? Nuclear material? No security? And we added dat guy Campbell. So th’ case is still growin’.
“Case a’ metadrug supply: mostly closed, since we just got Candyman, on’y dere’s perps still out dere. Candyman was brought in by Underworld, ‘member?
- Underworld: to be arrested
- Th’ small fry: to be arrested: Roid an’ th’ Speedster – we ain’t even got a handle fer him! We got Dynamo, Angel Dust an’ Stretch – and’ Stretch jus’ escaped!
“Oh yeh – related case – Wendy Boys: I promised her I’d find her a new pad, an’ wid’ her boyfriend Stretch on th’ loose dat oughta be done real soon.”
The common room phone rings and Red picks up. Bad Tripp plugs on:
“Finally… case a’ Alvin Hester AKA Demolition… not stric’ly our territory but de Big Five kinda pushed us onta him.
- Mebbe foller up wid’ Doc Alice over ta’ Providence, ta git access ta’ Hannah Swartz? Sumthin’ fer Wraith mebbe.
“There’s a call in from Avenger,” Red calls, “Switch on Channel Three!”
The Sky’s the Limit
Channel Three is running raw tape of Amy Feng presenting: at another Casino extension function at the Southside Palace. Mayor Moore’s up on a makeshift outdoor stage, boosters, minders and card-carriers around him. The Massive can tell that her heart isn’t really in the puff piece she’s running about this latest mayoral photo-op. The noise of an aircraft intrudes across her broadcast: she breaks off:
“… Cut Bill… We’ll have to take that from the top. What’s going on?”
Amy starts running – backwards, while still commentating – to the stage:
“Keep up Bill! …The official function seems to be under attack by large Black Robots of some form, which dropped out of a large black aircraft.”
Mayor Freddie Moore and some others are being snared by the robots: the crowd is repelled by some sort of arm-mounted weaponry on the robots. One robot lands in front of Amy: she advances on it, extending her microphone as though to get color comment. The camera joggles towards the pair a shade more reluctantly.
“If I could just get a few comments…”
Amy is snared by the robot: nearly drops her mike. The camera turns: the view is first of the ground being rapidly covered by panicky feet, then of the ground receding.
“Bill! Turn the camera up this way! At me Bill!”
Risking a rush of blood to the head, Bill re-angles the camera on Amy: she’s pinioned by thick bands and appears to be being drawn into some form of black aircraft: a wing can be glimpsed. She heroically keeps up her commentary:
“It appears the Black Robots are part of a mass kidnapping attempt. I will continue to try and get a comment from…”
The transmission cuts: Channel Three’s main presenters segue straight into the related attack on the Golden Calf: some type of robotic attackers kidnapped “key personnel” from the casino.
Avenger enters Armory with the air of a boss returning to the factory floor for a quick rah-rah. He summarizes what’s known:
“The probability is: this was a Demolition caper. If you go back to the shot where you can see a black airplane…” – Wraith quickly pops that angle up – “I pick this as the Vulture, a craft Demolition used up to the early 90s. So how about the FC Massive puts its heads together and get some leads going? How sweet would it be for Capes to rescue Mayor Moore! He’d find it hard to run an anti-Cape campaign after that! Can you dig it?”
Avenger steps over to Red and takes him aside. When he returns, he finds the Massive have quickly assembled tasks and matched them to personnel.
17 October 2010: The Beat
Terry Terrance/Performer; Matt Gray/Wraith
1030 hours: Performer and Wraith fly out to Providence Asylum: Dr Alice is expecting them and moves them expeditiously through the institution and to Hannah Swartz’ comfortable drawing-room. Hannah pours them tea and listens politely as they outline their needs.
“It’s nice of you to visit, but I don’t know that I can add anything. Demolition did begin working on robots during the time that… my other persona was with him. He found some of us – Huckster and Calculus – easy to work with, and others – the Bomb and I suppose I should include my other persona as well – more difficult.
“You know,” Hannah continues, sipping her herbal tea, “Demolition has only two ambitions left.”
“And what are they?”
“He always wanted to be recognized as one of the inner circle… of villains, I suppose you would say. Doc Simian was in… Demolition wasn’t. I suppose it irked him.” She trails off, mind clearly elsewhere.
“You said there were two?”
“Oh yes: his second goal is to kill Panoply.”
“Who is now dead.”
“Well… perhaps. I’m not sure that Demolition has really accepted that. He would have wanted to check Panoply out face to face.”
“Maybe the years inside Blackstone changed his mind?” Performer suggests. “Maybe a sniper’s bullet was good enough?”
“Perhaps. He did leave Blackstone as soon as he pleased.” She pauses. “I suppose you know how he got out?”
“Well, we have ideas…. naturally….”
“He would have been teleported out… I’m sure Joanna would have obliged.”
The pair nod sagely. Joanna Worowitz, codename Bolt, was still at large and had once, perhaps, been Demolition’s lover.
“Is there anything else you can recall…?”
Hannah’s attractive brow wrinkles in concentration. “I do recall that he asked….” – Here Hannah breaks off and makes a conscious effort – “Death Mistress to visit the Nacht Islands to find out whether there was a source of magic there that would power robots.”
“Yes… there were reports and rumors of magic there. But… she reported magic that was powerful and evil and Demolition decided he wanted to be sure to control his own robots, in any case.”
Thad Reynolds/Holmes; Martin Remillard/Nightfall
0930 hours: Holmes parks a respectful block from the Golden Calf’s car-park: no need to court trouble with security this time! With Nightfall guarding his body, Holmes ghosts through the casino. The high-roller floor is sealed off with police tape but, thanks to the co-operation of FCPD, the pits are open, slots chiming. Holmes drifts up to the high-roller floor, finds a focus: post-cogs the event.
Mr. Eddie and Ginger are greeting a high-roller: glad-handing him round the tour. Suddenly the ceiling above them bursts open: security cameras, cables and battens, along with shattered ceiling tiles, cascade onto the group! And through the roiling dust descends a huge power suit. Even the dust can’t obscure the word stenciled on it:
Mr. Eddie and Ginger are each clasped in a huge powered hand and Demolition springs away!
1130 hours: Nike heads over to Southside. The Massive couldn’t come up with a possible lead for her to follow up, so she’s volunteered to cover Joe Tripley’s promise to Wendy Boys. The short trip over on light rail gives her time to think about Avenger’s private word to her. He as much as said that he himself was on the point of executing a villain and was talked down by Glory Girl. Maybe there’s something there for her.
Rocket Records has a good smell about it. Nike finds Wendy sorting and stacking contemporary R&B CDs.
“Hi! I’m Nike, and you must be Wendy! I’m a friend of Joe’s… he mentioned you needed a new apartment and hey, I’m kinda needing a new roomie. Can we talk?”
Wendy gains permission to sign out and the two women walk through the brisk fall to the Redeye coffee shop. They size each other up over coffees. Nike is a poised, fit and determined young black woman. Wendy is white, young, street-chic and personable with a hint of vulnerability.
“So, you know Joe from…?” Wendy asks.
“We do community work together.”
Nike can just about see Wendy picturing Joe in an orange boiler suit with “Corrections” stenciled on it. She moves swiftly to the point:
“It’s not a long-term let: I’m house-minding but it’s such a great location, you know: Riverside, views, easy walk from all sorts of great places. And I understand you have an ex-boyfriend you need to be away from. I totally get that! Why’n’cha come round, see if you like it, and we’ll settle terms.”
Joe Tripley/Bad Tripp
0800 hours: He’s got the easiest beat of all. He slips into the men’s lockers, becomes Joe Tripley: calls the Hippo. Hippo is OK now with two-way exchanges of information. But he warns Joe:
“Joe, hope ya don’t mind: next lead ya bring me, I gotta turn it over to someone else. See, there’s too many eyes on me now. I’ll vouch for this guy. That OK?”
“If you vouch for him Hippo, then it’s jake. So: this snatch: ya know much?”
“Well… apart from hizzonner, we got a short list of people got snatched. Uh… Constantin Urallos of Majestic Industries… Amy Feng of Channel Three an’ her cameraman… a couple uniforms… Lester Hillerman from City Hall… an’ another booster of the Mayor’s by the name of Jonathan Grant.”
“How about the aircraft?”
“We made a black airplane heading west to the bridge, then dropped smoke an’ stuff an’ bounced down th’ Denwood Valley an’ then more smoke an’ we lost it.”
Joe signs off with good wishes on both sides and wanders back out looking for Red. The van’s been sounding a little whiny and another service seems indicated. He finds no Red, only Avenger, who looks surprised at seeing him.
“Oh – hi, uh, Joe!”
“Hi! Say, ya seen Red?”
“I sent him on another part of the mission.”
Joe’s demeanor shifts: the planes of his rugged face alter imperceptibly from amiable to suspicious.
“Yeah? Ya wanna tell me why ya did that?”
Avenger looks surprised:
“It’s my estimation that we’ll need something that Red has the skills to organize – why?”
Joe bristles even more. He’s definitely moved from Nice Tripley to Not-Very-Nice Tripp.
“Lissen: I got a problem with us bein’ micro-managed. So next time: ya fucken tell us before ya ‘organizes’ Red anywhere without our say-so, ‘kay?”
“Why – sure! I hadn’t given it much thought but yeah, I’ll be sure to do just that.”
1530 hours: Whether Joe’s ‘tude reminds Avenger of his own outbursts among the Freedom City Crew or not, nothing more is said until Avenger and the Massive pool intelligence later in the common room. Avenger’s own NSA sources confirm the FCPD lead Tripley brought, and Swartz’ memory of the Nacht Islands ties it together.
“Back in the 80s,” Avenger explains, “the island group passed into private hands. Demolition probably took over the military base and limited airstrip on the main island. There’s also a satellite-tracking station that he may have made operational.”
So the question of where the snatch originated is rested, and the team moves on. The only other question around the snatch is how Demolition “saw” through several floors of hotel to Mr. Eddie. Holmes’ recalled replay of the scene reveals that the “high roller” at the scene was in fact Huckster!
“So that’s how Demolition was able to pinpoint his targets!” Holmes exclaims.
“We sh’d learn frum dat fer nex’ time we go after Mr. Eddie!” Bad Tripp rumbles.
Avenger’s trump card is drawn:
“While you were out on the beat, I got Red to prep the Falcon for flight. The Falcon is Panoply’s jet. It’s about the same in performance and range as the Vulture. I can pilot it: we’ll need it to get out to the islands. Order any gear you think we need from Red: and rendezvous at Wharton State Forest!”
“Yeah… there’s another Armory there… Panoply called it, Armory Three.”
“Huh. How many Armories are there?”
“Oh… more than two…”
“How about explosives?” Skylark asks.
“Wha – ?”
“If we want to take down, say, a re-tasked satellite dish, explosives seem like a good idea.”
“Do any of you have expertise in demolitions?” Avenger asks suspiciously. And though Wraith tries manfully to explain how his electronics expertise will cover it, and Skylark mentions her activist days, Avenger vetoes the idea.
“Say, Wraith,” Performer asks innocently, but with a twinkle in his eye: “With Demolition being an expert in battle-suits and robots and all, are you sure your suit has enough layers of protection? What if he tried to jack you?”
Wraith’s faceplate is blank, so no-one can see the paranoid twitches and tics now developing, but the body language says:
1900 hours: The aircraft named the Falcon is somewhat alike an F-117 for appearance, but more like a Learjet 40 XR for cabin space. Even Bad Tripp, who throws down a mattress from the bunkroom, doesn’t make it look too crowded.
Holmes runs a post-cog on it as the Massive settle in:
Avenger and Panoply are going at it hammer and tongs: the furious dissension is around someone’s death: each is throwing plenty of blame. It seems to be the early 80s….
He’s wrenched away back to the present by an anguished howl:
Bad Tripp, a broken Meta, moans:
“We fergot ta get any beer on board!”
18 October 2010: Welcome to the Nacht Islands
Bright sunlight lends glints to the Falcon’s lo-viz coat as it flies in at wavetop height. The Falcon circles the Nacht Islands and lands gently on a small islet, about two miles from the military base. The bright sunlight drenching white-sand beaches makes the setting seem strangely tropic, a welcome change from Freedom City’s fall weather. The Massive – and Avenger – disembark: Wraith scans for electrical activity, Holmes reaches out with ESP to sense any other awarenesses, and Performer focuses on magics. There’s nothing… so far.
The main isle lies across a strait of about a mile from them like a peanut-shell, the south-west “pod” the larger of the two halves and the supposed site of Demolition’s base. Performer lifts the group across to the north-east beach on the smaller “pod.” His concentration is errant: the group lifts a little too high:
“Hey!!!” Skylark squawks, pointing the way they came.
Behind them, a buoy of some kind launches three missiles! Wraith sees them almost too late – but then his uncanny control of electronics reaches out and one missile detonates the others!
Landing, Bad Tripp uses his momentum to bounce off the beach up to the road that runs around the islet. There, trees extend back up the islet towards the crown, providing good cover for any enemy. Tripp catches sight of something: leaps towards it with a fierce roar:
“Oh – apparently, we’re in action!” Skylark comments a trifle acidly, and before Holmes can say “don’t forget to cover the non-fighter” she and Nightfall leap after Tripp while Wraith drifts out of visible ken and up the beach after them. Only Avenger holds post to cover Holmes and Performer, who yells:
“I sense magic!”
Suddenly, a outrageously costumed duelist flashes into view, rapier and parry dagger poised!
“Alors, mes amis!” Marauder mis-pronounces, “Now ze boot is on ze ozzer foot, hein?”
Performer wrenches the beach under Marauder upwards but the surcoat-draped villain merely laughs and tumbles aside. Avenger takes a mighty swing at what looks like an easy target but again, Marauder steps aside – and the fist smacks crisply into Holmes!
“Sorry!” Avenger calls.
As Holmes snaps a mental blast past Marauder’s defenses, weakening him, matters suddenly get a lot more complicated: a ravishing gypsy beauty appears, arcane energies blazing in her pretty fingers; and a football team of duplicated toughs pop up next to the three heroes; and a lobster-like form emerges from the surf, waving its pincers menacingly! The beauty weaves her blazing energies around Performer, trapping him, while the drones beat down on Holmes! Avenger is isolated against lobsterboy!
Up on the road-stead: as the heroes land next to Tripp, a shot blazes down at them from the treetops! The four can just about see a gracefully-built battlesuit re-positioning itself closer to the beach. Bad Tripp wastes no time: swipes up a tree and launches it like a javelin! The battlesuit fends it off.
Wraith works up a datalink into the exoskeletal armor: then a voice comes back over his radio feed:
“Wraith? Is that you?”
Gunship has built a whole new, more feminine suit. And she’s learnt from Wraith: she’s immediately tagged his frequency. Now, she turns to her beach-bash buddies:
“Call it off!!!”