1640 hours: Wraith’s voice comes through over the comms:
“The shaft is clear: no traps: come on down!”
Up on the surface amid the forest: in spite of Wraith’s OK the Massive/Redemptions keep a respectful distance from Bad Tripp as he flexes his fingers, works them into a firm grip on the hatch. It seals a big vertical shaft leading down to Demolition’s lair, according to Avenger. There’s a scream of protesting steel and an almighty SNAP as the entire shaft-head is ripped away. Tripp tosses it casually to one side and the “forward team” – himself, Nightfall and Skylark – drop down. Performer levitates swiftly after them. Finally, the “hostage rescue” team of Avenger, Gunship, Dark Sorceress and Agent Sam follow, heading for the life-support tubes Avenger escaped scant hours before.
According to the intel Avenger brought back, there’s a rough tunnel leading from the tubes to a large natural cavern, and inside the cavern a building has been erected. Wraith ghosts through: sure enough, the cavern’s there. The roof is relatively low, with stalactites raking lower: those will make leaping around a problem. Light from the small building glints off a lake, and back-lights a huge battle-suit standing on guard to the approaches to the building itself! From either the suit or a PA in the building, someone’s playing Elvis:
A little less conversation/A little more action please…
“I have located Demolition – or at least a battle-suit that he might use. I’ll keep pushing on…” Wraith reports, veering right to see if he can work around the lake.
Skylark erupts out of the rough horizontal shaft, her scarlet costume dull in the limited light of the cavern. She runs up the left cavern wall as though gravity has no meaning! Far back, the darkness conceals Nightfall and Bad Tripp. A little to their rear Performer’s white Tux marks him out as he drifts through the air at leisurely speed.
The massive battle-suit shrugs itself into action, revving its right arm in a wind-up motion.
“We’re engaging Demolition now!”
Skylark sprints along the wall: then leaps off horizontally, crescent-kicks the suit’s head unit, and vaults over it to a promontory projecting from the building’s platform into the lake. Nightfall, near-invisible in his dark suit, runs along the cavern floor near the wall: presses himself into it, waiting to see what the suit does. Bad Tripp runs full at the suit: he’s about 20’ short when a cable-like appendage whips out of the cavern floor to send him tumbling!
The suit is limned by the light coming from the open building about 50’ behind it: enough for Performer, far back in the cavern, to summon a thickening of the air around the monster: but with a shrug of its enormous mechanized shoulders it dispels the snare. Skylark, sensing an opening, bounds over and again kicks the suit’s head unit: this time the suit rocks with the colossal impact: Skylark finishes her leap near Tripp. Performer next throws out a dazzling flare around the suit’s head. To no avail: glare-filters snap down over its lenses!
Nightfall re-positions himself to the promontory: his boomerang, thrown with force, whips by without connecting, returning to the dark one’s hand. Bad Tripp rises to his feet: runs at the suit: in spite of the difference in size he sends it toppling to the floor: but his run takes him a little past it, and a second snare flicks out, again tripping the inky Mohawk!
The battle-suit, at this range clearly seen to have DEMOLITION stenciled across its torso, bounces back up, turns, steps over to Tripp and boots him into the cavern wall with terrifying force: the graffiti gargoyle’s body falls limp to the floor!
Skylark screams in anger and launches another leaping attack: but rage makes her aim a little shaky and this time she fails to connect. Her leap ends near Tripp’s body: she spins, ready to defend him!
Panicky, Nightfall lobs smoke and the area Demolition is defending is swiftly obscured, aiding neither friend nor foe. Performer whips around the cavern, over the lake round the smoke and down to Bad Tripp, levitating him up and away out of further danger.
Skylark plunges up the wall and through the smoke and out the other side, without finding Demolition. Nightfall nimbly hops from the promontory to the edge of the smoke: waits. Sure enough, Demolition comes striding through the smoke like a titan of legend: Nightfall’s boomerang smashes hard into his head unit! But the suit ploughs on, swinging a mighty steel arm up to connect solidly with Skylark where she crouches on the wall! She is knocked off, to skid along the cavern floor some feet distant. And Demolition strides after her!
Performer realizes that Skylark is barely capable of defending herself! He summons his full power and sends a blast of energy arcing across: the giant suit is clearly rocked by the impact! Nightfall bounds past the unit, scoops Skylark up, and leaps over into the smoke:
“Some help here!” Nightfall yells into the comms.
“I’m attending to things,” Wraith responds coldly.
Avenger’s voice comes back:
“We’ve revived Crab OK: dealing with a bunch of defender bots… may be able to peel someone off…”
“I’m OK! Let’s get that mutha!” Skylark yells, shaking off the cobwebs and lifting her head to scent the dank cavern air. In spite of the smoke she can clearly smell the metal and coolants of Demolition’s suit, and leaps up and after him: only to catch herself on a stalactite where she clings, stalled. Another bolt of energy from Performer sizzles past, missing everything. The elegantly suited one whips into the smoke.
Skylark leaps down, kicks Demolition in the head unit again, and leaps back up: the repeated concussions are beginning to tell, she’s sure. In response, Demolition raises a barrel-like arm, and machine-gun fire blazes around the scarlet-clad wall-crawler: she drops to the ground, out of danger!
With a roar of jet pods, Gunship blazes into the cavern! Her IR and LI arrays easily pick up the monster battle-suit and without further ado her auto-cannon blasts suppressive fire around it! Performer connects with another massive blast: again, Demolition seems affected. Both Skylark and Nightfall land solid blows and clearly rattled, Demolition plunges into the inky blackness of the lake. Wraith, finally beginning to focus his attention on the all-time hits going on, grinds his teeth in fury and lowers the blaster he has just drawn.
Gunship readies herself at the lake’s edge: about 20 feet along, Nightfall too stands ready. Wraith once again turns his attention to the traps: he’s beginning to work out how they trip some people and not others. Performer slides through the air back to Bad Tripp: the big ugly is just rubbing his head, getting up: his eyes are burning yellow pits – a healthy sign for Tripp!
“Hey – you’re OK!”
“Uh! Gnh… Yuh… I guess!”
Then Bad Tripp’s attention is caught by a huge form rising out of the lake: Demolition’s back! He’s heading straight between Nightfall and Gunship, towards Skylark!
Gunship’s scanners catch frequencies being opened by Demolition and she attempts to jam him: but not quick enough!
“NOW CALCULUS! NOW!”
As the huge battle-suit advances on her, Skylark connects with a punch: but Demolition shrugs off the blow and his return swing sends her reeling back, virtually defenseless! Nightfall, more concerned with covering Skylark than throwing with all his power, fails to have any effect, but Performer’s blast again jolts the suit. Performer flashes by at full speed, taking cover again in what’s left of the smoke. Tripp charges: he’s confident that there are no trip-falls out in the open cavern: but his swing is wild and his follow-up grab slides off.
The PA blares again: this time it’s Calculus II’s voice:
“Sorry, big guy…. Writing on the wall…. Best of luck and all that but seeya!”
Wraith catches a strange “SCHUMPF!!!” noise from the building behind him, as of a hole being ripped in space. If Calculus II was ever in the building, he’s left, along with Elvis. Huffing in vexation, Wraith again levels his blaster and fires, once.
Demolition topples, face up. Gunship leaps onto the mighty torso: levels her auto-cannon at the face-plate:
Freaks and Forensics
1655 hours: “What’s in de building?”
“Oh… right. I took a few seconds back there to scout it … I found Mr. Eddie and Ginger strapped into pods in there, and a big rank of old-school computers. I haven’t investigated further: seemed like you needed my help.”
Bad Tripp can hear the smirk in that last crack. He glances over at Demolition: the old man is leaning against the wall for support, dried blood still visible on his jowl where it hasn’t been completely wiped off. Age catches up with us all. Surrounded by the assembled allies, he’s not going to stage any great escape. Tripp drops fragments of Demolition’s battle-suit and wanders over to the building to look at the captives. They both look like they’ve been interrogated. The inky Mohawk grins: makes no move to release them: pulls back out of the light.
“Drift on down here, m’man. Gotta coupla mugs f’ya ta mind-fuck.”
1700 hours: Holmes is re-capitulating Demolition’s interrogation of Mr. Eddie:
Demolition: Why Moore?
Mr. Eddie: Why not, he does what he is told. He isn’t a vital piece but he is a good one.
Demolition: How do I talk to Underworld?
E: Talk to me and we’ll see.
D: What do you get out the relationship?
E: Everything I want out of the relationship.
D: Who killed Panoply?
E: Don’t know.
D: The only villain who moved to profit out of Panoply’s fall was Underworld. He moved immediately to clean up his little messes. Took down Tonifanni, moved in a new Boost dealer.
E: Given an opportunity he profited. Who can blame him?
D: So, he knew?
E: I don’t know. I know he was ready.
D: Does he know who did it now?
E: He doesn’t tell me everything.
D: Come on, you are intrinsically involved in his crime empire. You know about his moves against Tonifanni, you know about his involvement in Boost. You know he bankrolls the Mayor as a patsy. And you know what deals he does behind the scenes because you brief Hillerman. You organize all of this, run the daily operation – true?
E: That doesn’t mean I know who killed Panoply.
D: Sure it does. Who hired the killer on Panoply?
E: and why do you care Alvin? Did someone ask Panoply to the prom before you had the chance to? Aaaarghhh!
D: Back to my question: who killed Panoply?
E: Ask the Broker.
“That’s all I’ve got,” Holmes explains apologetically. “I got nothing much further from Eddie himself. From Ginger, I learned that Abigail Bauerschmitt is her mother.”
“Huh! So… lemme tink… dat means de Executive wuz Ginger’s grandpop, huh?”
“That’s how I read it,” Holmes confirms.
“An’ dat means when Buttonman took out Executive… Demolition took over de Bad Boys…”
“Yes,” Holmes concludes, “So Demolition had Ginger’s grandfather killed – and she knows it!”
“Well, we’ll see what Alvin has to say for himself,” Wraith rejoins.
“Uh… you want me to probe Alvin Hester?”
“C’mon, dude!” Tripp rumbles, “grow a pair! He’s an old man – ya c’n take him!”
“You could soften him up first, Tripp…” Wraith suggests.
“Hey –Holmes bendin’ his brain ain’t like me bendin’ a bat over his skull! I c’d kill ‘im. Ain’t gonna happen.”
You’ve Been Told
1710 hours: the main cavern: Holmes has a fairly short, tense mental struggle with Hester. He glances at Wraith: shakes his head. Wraith mentally flexes, stretches and begins: his opening is suave and neutral enough that Alvin Hester begins answering. It’s only when Wraith asks straight out: “If you weren’t trying to take out the top dogs, clear the deck and run crime in Freedom City: then what were you doing?” that the old man explodes:
“Your job! Because, you haven’t been doing it! Sometimes, to figure out what’s in a box, it’s best to pick it up and shake it till you hear something break!” – He breaks off to motion towards Bad Tripp, who has unconsciously nodded agreement – “That guy gets it! Panoply spent nearly 40 years saving the world, cleaning up a city: someone puts him in the ground, and where are you? Where’s the slap down?”
“We’ve been doing our duty…” Wraith protests stiffly, but Alvin has the bit between his teeth and is about to run a lecture!
“Look, some basic police procedure for you: if you don’t know who did the crime, “follow the money.” Panoply is taken out. Who profits? Come on, who profits? Panoply is downed, and next thing, the Freedom City drug market gets a shake up from the bottom up.”
Again, Bad Tripp’s body language gives him away: the thought of Avenger – always so handily on the scene, making the team take out opposition that is getting in Underworld’s way, rescuing Underworld’s people on the island, and with a known grudge against Panoply – is coloring the way the Mohawk gargoyle is standing.
“Avenger,” laughs Alvin, “You know your history kid, but one thing I definitely did was ruin any chance that feud would kill anyone. Back in the ‘80s I made the biggest mistake! I was under pressure, the Slaughterhouse 5 War had broken up my old team, and I had a new set of clowns, not as good, felt I needed to keep showing them who was boss. All the while, the internal frustrations of the Freedom City Crew were being worked out on any villain they found. Remember, this is before Nightwalker was outed. I was under pressure and I did the stupidest thing in my life.
“I was jumped while collecting my protection from the Golden Calf: Ragdoll, never could hit the leaping woman, a lot like you kid.” – He nods to Skylark – “But that night I connected, she dodged into my feint. I smacked her 40 yards out over the car park, and we were on the roof when I did it. She must have been unconscious: she didn’t even try to control her fall. Hit the ground and didn’t move. Within 24 hours Panoply and Avenger had buried the hatchet, called in reinforcements and started going nuts to bring me down. They still didn’t like each other, but I sure gave them a common enemy.”
Wraith wrestles the interrogation back, though he senses Alvin has just about done monologuing:
“Fine. Am I going to find anything nasty on your computer?”
“Since you’ve been quite adult about this, I’ll tell you. It’s not gimmicked. You’ll find tapes of all my interrogations to date. And there’s one or two other details in there about Calculus.”
“Uh, thanks… by the way, since you’re heading back to the Rock: did Bolt get you out?”
“No… she’s dead. Three years ago, heroin overdose in Thailand. The woman could go anywhere, anytime she wanted, but I’m told she ended up dead in a shitty backpackers down on the coast looking half-starved. She always had that demon, but when we were together we worked on it. Thing about Teleporters, shifty unless someone can call them on their bullshit every time: they think they can get away with everything.”
“Well it can’t have been Kid Bolt…” – Hester remains impassive – “Was it Calculus II?”
“No it wasn’t him, not a chance. I found him first. I had an advantage: he didn’t expect me. He had a plan beyond the Bomb of course, but it wasn’t killing Panoply. It would have been a real money spinner, but the death of Panoply blew it.
“Here’s a final tip and then I’m done talking and you can take me back and bury me on the Rock again: you kids should really try to turn young Calculus. He’s got access to everything.”
Romancing the Nacht Islands
Performer/”Terry” Terrance; Dark Sorceress
“Are you doing anything tonight?”
“I was planning on studying up on some incantations,” Performer says, but his attention is swiftly gained by that dizzying sense of vertigo again. He cancels his plans.
Wraith/ Matt Gray; Gunship/Deborah Taggart
Wraith has been chatting to Gunship as he downloads the computer’s drives. Not about much: just enjoying each other’s company, in a nerdy sort of way.
“So… no epic drops by the Boss, but level bonus points maybe?” Gunship asks.
“The number for Broker led me to an actual person. Not a group or syndicate. That’s kind of epic.”
“Cool so uh are you like seeing anyone?”
“Me – ulk – gluh – no?”
“We could maybe meet… without suits… in you know, a real face to face way?”
“Um yes OK but um don’t expect anything in the way of good looks, I’m pretty normal under this tech.”
“OK Cool! Um… what do I call you?”
“Matt uh… call me Matt. And you?”
“Debs – Deb – uh Deborah. Deborah.”
“OK. Great. I mean, great!”