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Sandman XI

Lead Us Not Into Temptation (IC)

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The meeting that was about to happen in this very room was the work of many people. Muse learned of something terrible coming into power. She knew it was a dream, a horrible dream, but it was something she needed to act upon. The dream lead her to Gabriel as he was accosting a thug. The thug told him of a new protection racket running throughout the Southside. Though it would take more than the two of them to take down something so far reaching. They needed help. Gabriel happened to have friends in high places, the Freedom League! Unfortunately they were busy with more important matters, but they did give them the calling cards of three other heroes who would be glad to help: Gaian Knight, Breschau and Powerhouse. They even set them up a meeting place so the five could get acquainted. The conference table in the private room of Madden's restaurant. The room was nice. There was a holographic representation of the Southside on a fairly advanced looking computer table. They could zoom in and out where ever they needed. Of course dinner would be served too.

As of now only Muse had arrived. She was about fifteen minutes early of the scheduled meeting. Better to be early than late. She played with the holographic representation of the Southside, zooming in and out on random places. It was really neat and gave her ideas for future projects. Though the place she was mainly focused on was the place in her dream, a row of shops. In her dream they were in flames as people glumly continued about their work. She really couldn't shake the mental image.

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At about 10 minutes until the scheduled start time, the door to the private room opened gently.

In walked the hero named Gabriel, his clothes that same crisp, clean white as always.

He sees Muse playing with the holo-table, and smiles.

"Ah, Muse. Good to see you're here. I don't feel quite as awkward being early now."

He moved to the table and sat down across from her, his eyes flickering over the display.

"Trying to formulate a plan? Any interesting ideas pop up at you yet?"

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"Good evening, Gabriel," Muse said happily as she popped up from her distraction after he greeted her. "Oh, the holograms. Yes," she nodded, this is the place I told you about. She zoomed in again to the row of shops. "This is the place that we talked about. If I am right and the thug is not lying, something will go down tonight. Something horribly more powerful than a protection racket." She shook her head and pulled her hair back as she slipped the tragedy mask under the comedy mask. In the same motion, the comedy mask was smoothly removed, revealing Tragedy sitting on her face, "Though people doubt their dreams, Gabriel, I do think mine was prophetic."

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Gaian Knight knocked before letting himself in, quietly shutting the door behind him as he took stock of the private area. This is a nice place. Very...clean. I wonder what it must cost to maintain...some heroes just have deep pockets, I guess? He waved, chuckling. "Hope I'm not too late. Got held up." Whose great idea was it to assign that last project? ...mine, I guess. Still. "Still not quite sure how anyone got a hold of my contact information...but hey. Anything for a good cause."

He took a seat, any dirt and dust (practically a standard feature on his costume these days) pulling away before it could touch furniture, flowing across his coat into an inside pocket. "Are we missing anyone else, or was I the last to get here?"

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Gabriel smiled and nodded as Gaian Knight entered.

"Well, I just called the Freedom League; they're the ones that seemed to know such things. As for missing anyone, yes, we are. Two more, as I understand it. We've still got some time before they're late."

A curious eyebrow was raised at the trick with the dirt and dust.

"Handy. I take it from that, and your name, that you have some measure of control over earth and rock?"

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It took Alex some time to find the place, and a little longer to check it out to make sure it was ok. Not that he didn't trust people, but a little healthy caution never hurt anyone. After seeing some dude dressed in white enter and no signs of trouble, he walked into the restaurant. At the table were a few people, likely here for the same reason as they sat around a table with enough hardware to make an MIT geek cry.

The group made an odd pair, but he imagined at some point in this line of work, they all did. Still at least today he felt mostly normal in his jeans and tee-shirt. Even if the faint outline of the sub-dermal armoring showed up as ridges on his body. Walking up to the table, he turned one of the chairs around backwards and sat down in it.

"Let me give you some advice," he said looking at the table, "let the wookie win."

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"Handy. I take it from that, and your name, that you have some measure of control over earth and rock?"

Gaian chuckled. "Some measure, yeah. Don't let the sword fool you; I'm pretty awful with it - need some stone moved, though, and I'm your guy. And I've been stalked by the Freedom League, huh? I'm not really sure what to think about that. I guess if anyone's keeping tabs on the new guys, it's them."

"Let me give you some advice," he said looking at the table, "let the wookie win."

"What...? Oh!" He glanced at the table, then back at the newcomer. "Hah, yes. Good advice! I like my arms where they are." Taking a moment to look over the group, Gaian Knight had to admit they were sort of a motley crew, but in this city that didn't seem to mean much. It'd sure be educational to see them all in action; the newest arrival looked pretty durable, but that was as good as his guessing could get.

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Gaian chuckled. "Some measure, yeah. Don't let the sword fool you; I'm pretty awful with it - need some stone moved, though, and I'm your guy. And I've been stalked by the Freedom League, huh? I'm not really sure what to think about that. I guess if anyone's keeping tabs on the new guys, it's them."
Gabriel shrugged.

"I suppose so. And I'm sure earth control will come in handy."

"What...? Oh!" He glanced at the table, then back at the newcomer. "Hah, yes. Good advice! I like my arms where they are." Taking a moment to look over the group, Gaian Knight had to admit they were sort of a motley crew, but in this city that didn't seem to mean much. It'd sure be educational to see them all in action; the newest arrival looked pretty durable, but that was as good as his guessing could get.

Gabriel gave an amused snort and shook his head at the new arrival's words.

"But just who at this table is, in fact, the Wookie?"

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"Don't look at me, I mean I haven't shaved, but no one said anything about this being a black tie event," Alex replied.

He listened as they talked capabilities. That was always welcome information. Knowing the strength of your squad was tactics 101.

"Yeah, those Freedom League folks contacted me... I just kind of thought it was all about that incident at the youth center. You know, you start one riot and people think it's going to be a habit or something."

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Muse quickly turned her head and switched back to the comedy mask the same way she switched before when Gaian Knight entered the room. "Welcome," she said standing up and turning to face him, "You must be the one known as Gaian Knight. I am Muse," she said reaching out a hand. She smiled under her mask when Powerhouse showed up. A Star Wars quote, how quaint. "Welcome," she said reaching a hand out to greet him, "You are Powerhouse, correct? I am Muse, this is Gabriel and this is Gaian Knight," She pointed motioned with her hand to each one she introduced. "It seems we all are a bit early. Maybe our final companion will actually be on time." She snickered.

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"My apologies for being late, I had difficulty finding this place.  I am still unfamiliar with this city," Breschau admitted as he entered the room, closing the door behind him.  He was minutes late.

He was lucky to be there at all.  Divine, who introduced the modern world to Breschau, had business cards made for him.  He once mentioned his desire to defend the citizens of Freedom City.  In response, she came up with business cards and passed them around among her friends.  It was also Divine who taught him how to get to this meeting.  

He was momentarily stunned with fascination with what he perceived to be a magical sculpture of the city made of light.  He tried not to stare at it too long.

He observed the strange individuals before him, and their costumes.  His "costume" at the moment was just composed of a tight shirt and a pair of jeans and sneakers Divine had donated to him.  

Looking at the group, he was excited to be part of a group involved in helping those in need of defending. 

"I am Breachau.  It's an honor to meet you all"

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As Muse spoke to him he replied that he was indeed Powerhouse, "Are we talking operational names here or are we speaking on a first name basis? If we're talking the former then you can call me Powerhouse... but I always feel like I'm in a cartoon when I do that. So if it's the later, Alexander works.

Alexander looked up at the last arrival and nodded to him. He kicked the chair away from the table towards Breachau and nodded a greeting to the guy.

"'lo Breachau, that's kind of a mouthful isn't it? Either way, take a load off and join the tea party."

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Gabriel just shook his head at some of the banter.

When Breschau entered, he gave the man a solemn nod.

"An honor to meet you as well, Breschau. This place was picked for being comparatively subtle, at least on the outside. Please, take a seat."

The man in white then turned to face Powerhouse, still somewhat solemn.

"I can appreciate your openness, Alexander. But honestly, I'm not one to just hand out my true name. I wear my mask for a reason. I don't judge others one way or another, but I do ask they respect that decision on my part."

He then quirked a smile.

"Lucky for you, "Gabriel" isn't as unique as some code names. I hope it isn't too much of a strain on you?"

A bit of mischief dances its way into his voice at the question.

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"Oh... I should manage... I 'suppose. I mean Uncle Sam did pay for my education... unfortunately oration wasn't really part of the parcel. Besides if you want to keep your name pat, that's ok with me. I spend most of my career having to hear things like Ghost Patrol or Charlie Company or whatever other nicknames ops came up with. For me, with public records being what they are, well... anyone with a few bucks and the FOIA forms can figure out who I am, so no sense in hiding."

He looked back to the rest of them, "so while the Freedom folks were heavy on the offer, they were light on the details. What's this all about?"

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Gabriel glanced to Muse for a moment, then took the lead.

"Right. The reason we called the three of you in on this, rather than taking care of it ourselves, is because we believe that this operation may well escalate quickly.

Between the two of us, we've build a decent picture for what's been going on. One of the mobs stationed in the Boardwalk recently went through a bit of a management changeover. Once that settled down, the new management really started pushing protection rackets.

We believe that a group of at least 6 "enforcers" is going to be hitting this area tonight."

Muse had, thankfully, taken the cue, and the targeted location was now on display over the holo-table.

"We also believe there's a possibility that the boss who's ordering this will either come himself, or send a senior flunky. One way or another, we expect all of the gang members to be comparatively well armed. And since I'm not immune to bullets, I figured a little extra help won't hurt."

He looked to each of his fellow heroes in turn, his expression (what wasn't muffled by mask and hood) showing a mix of determination and...sadness?

"I also believe most, or even all, of the gang members "attending" tonight will be new recruits. Likely with ages between 16 and 18. Possibly as young as 15. Kids, really. That's one reason we're trying to nip this in the bud; I don't want more kids joining this scumbag. All I ask in the field is that you make sure you don't permanently harm these kids, or any of the gang members, as tempting as it may be for the "big boss". We need to set ourselves apart from the likes of the mob."

He leaned back, his expression more relaxed.

"We think they're moving between 9 and 10 tonight. Any suggestions on ways to approach this problem?"

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Alexander winced just slightly at the mention of kids and gangs. While he played the recent riot off as nothing of consequence, it was something he felt personally responsible for. There had been several injuries of which would never have occurred if he and Guardian had simply stuck to the script and kept his damned fool wits about him.

"Right... high schoolers. How are we going to be telling the civvies apart from the targets? Man, I really should stop that terminology... calling a kid a target isn't right. They're not going to have labels on are they? Uniforms? Colors?"

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Alexander winced just slightly at the mention of kids and gangs. While he played the recent riot off as nothing of consequence, it was something he felt personally responsible for. There had been several injuries of which would never have occurred if he and Guardian had simply stuck to the script and kept his damned fool wits about him.

"Right... high schoolers. How are we going to be telling the civvies apart from the targets? Man, I really should stop that terminology... calling a kid a target isn't right. They're not going to have labels on are they? Uniforms? Colors?"

Gabriel looked thoughtful.

"Well, first and foremost, they'll be traveling in a single group. As I said, at least a half-dozen gang members, probably alongside someone who's in charge.

They'll be armed, though with what beyond pistols, I'm not sure.

If they follow the style of the gang member I spoke with, they're going to be wearing dark tones. Dark reds, browns, blacks. That sort of thing. Probably all have some sort of jacket. But there's no special uniform really.

Since they're fresh members, I'd wager they'll be somewhat nervous. Twitchy. Even paranoid. So we're going to be watching for kids who fit that description."

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Muse greeted Breshau with a nod. She smiled, but no one could tell with this mask. It had it's advantages and disadvantages. When Alexander voiced his concern about names, she bit her lip and would have told him the proud history of having a name had Gabriel not diffused that situation. She was quiet as she pointed out the places as Gabriel talked. When he was done with the description she changed back to the tragedy mask. "There is also something I must foretell," she said grimly, "this protection racket may be not what it seems. There is a strong force around it. I cannot pinpoint it, but it came to me in a dream last night. This whole row of buildings in flames, but people were still working there. I have my hunch there is something more at work here." Slipping back on the comedy mask and switched back to a perky tone, "But there are five of us. Nothing we can't handle, right? The Freedom League trusts you guys. And we give you the same trust."

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"'lo Breachau, that's kind of a mouthful isn't it? Either way, take a load off and join the tea party."

"Tea party? What a strange way of calling this meeting," Breschau thought to himself. He did not understand many of the euphemisms and idioms people of this era used.

When Breschau entered, he gave the man a solemn nod.

"An honor to meet you as well, Breschau. This place was picked for being comparatively subtle, at least on the outside. Please, take a seat."

Breschau nodded back at Gabriel then at Muse and took his seat.

---

He sat, listening intently to the conversation of his companions. He understood that they were to subdue an armed gang intent on harming the innocent. It was a task that suited him well. However, the mention of the possible ages of the gang members caught his attention.

"Will we be battling children?" he asked rhetorically.

"Armed or not, I do not want to be involved in harming children," he said. The idea of striking children did no sit well with him.

"I'll do what I can to prevent them from attacking others, but I shall not hurt them."

"Perhaps confronting the one who leads them would be enough to make them surrender." he suggested, hopeful for an alternative.

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Gaian hissed as he listened to the situation. "Kids. It just had to be kids. We can only hope to talk them down before things get out of hand, I guess. I've got more than a few...er, 'kid gloves' options up my sleeves, if it comes to that."

"Well, first and foremost, they'll be traveling in a single group. As I said, at least a half-dozen gang members, probably alongside someone who's in charge.

They'll be armed, though with what beyond pistols, I'm not sure.

If they follow the style of the gang member I spoke with, they're going to be wearing dark tones. Dark reds, browns, blacks. That sort of thing. Probably all have some sort of jacket. But there's no special uniform really.

Since they're fresh members, I'd wager they'll be somewhat nervous. Twitchy. Even paranoid. So we're going to be watching for kids who fit that description."

He chuckled despite himself. "A half-dozen kids in dark clothes and jackets. Well, at least that'll narrow it down to half the teenagers in the city. We'll probably have to just be on the lookout for a big group, then." Shifting in his seat, Gaian Knight eyed the holographic map and shrugged a little helplessly. "I'm not really a great strategist, myself. Hopefully someone else has a good idea, here...I just hope we get a chance to talk to the kids before everything goes pear-shaped."

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Gabriel nods at the concern expressed by both Breschau and Gaian Knight.

"By all means, seek to restrain them. I have a way with words, so if we can even temporarily disable them, I can likely convince them to at least stop their violence.

I myself posses some abilities that tend to disable and disorient, rather than out and out harm. Though...I'll try not to make any kids get sick inside the building. Might get a bit messy...

But yes, talking them down is a hopeful priority. Can everyone fly, or otherwise quickly get from ground to rooftop and back? I'm thinking we can try staking out on a nearby roof, waiting for the gang to arrive, and then we enter the scene as rapidly as possible. Perhaps use shock and awe to our favor."

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"By all means, seek to restrain them. I have a way with words, so if we can even temporarily disable them, I can likely convince them to at least stop their violence."

Breschau nods his head in agreement. Though he is very capable of fighting, he prefers handling things without violence.

But yes, talking them down is a hopeful priority. Can everyone fly, or otherwise quickly get from ground to rooftop and back? I'm thinking we can try staking out on a nearby roof, waiting for the gang to arrive, and then we enter the scene as rapidly as possible. Perhaps use shock and awe to our favor."

"Fly? There are those who can fly?" Breschau said in amazement. This certainly is a strange new age. It seems as if everything unthinkable is possible nowadays.

"No, Gabriel, I am one who cannot fly. However, if the rooftop is low enough, I believe I can jump down. It is getting back up that would pose a problem."

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"Yes, I can do the spider man thing. Heck, I can probably carry our guy Breschau if needed. However, while I'm not thrilled about the prospect, we are also talking about an armed gang that's threatening physical violence to shop-owners in the area. This isn't the honor society we are talking about," he said looking at the others. "Talk and all is fine, and disabling is better, but if push comes to shove... well we're here to protect people who are looking at the wrong end of a bat, knife, or gun."

Still sitting on the backwards facing chair with his arms on the back he finished with a bit of a mutter, "besides, I don't know what you were all doing at 15, but raising Cain is pretty much par for the course. Talking is totally trumped by hormones."

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Gaian furrowed his brow, thinking. "Well, I can fly myself around...I could probably take someone with me. I could probably even make some stairs to the roof, but that's probably not very subtle."

"Talk and all is fine, and disabling is better, but if push comes to shove... well we're here to protect people who are looking at the wrong end of a bat, knife, or gun."

He nodded and spread his hands. "Fair enough, and well-said. Still, I think we'd all rather avoid that situation if we possibly can. What with the good old superhero morals, and all that." He grinned, leaning forward and eyeing the map. "So how long do we have before we have to head out?"

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"I'm thinking we can try staking out on a nearby roof, waiting for the gang to arrive, and then we enter the scene as rapidly as possible. Perhaps use shock and awe to our favor."
Muse pondered for a moment, "Hm, there is a whole line of stores there. maybe w should set up a buddy system on the roof tops. Two here. Two here. Two here." She pointed to the roofs of the beginning, middle and end of the stores. "Wait, there's only five of us. Do you think we can catch them if we all stick together?" Putting her hand on the side of her head and twirling the hologram a bit she thought out loud again, "They may hit more than one store. But then again, that wouldn't seem smart. You smash one store you get out of the area. Then again, I've never ran a protection racket."

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