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Sandman XI

Lead Us Not Into Temptation (IC)

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Kurt smiled. "All right. Sounds pretty simple to me, but what exactly is the 'something' we're waiting for?"

Sparksmith looked down from the building at the streets. A car or two drove by, but nothing out of the ordinary.

"Do you have any idea how long it should take before this starts up?"

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"Well, not really," Muse shrugged, "This is the place and time where the guy said they'd be. It's not like some black 1920s style is gonna roll up and a bunch of guys in fedoras and pinstripe suits will pop out, go into one of the stores and with a cheesy accent threaten an old man and old lady into paying them money for the express purpose of not busting up their shop." She chuckled at the mental image. Then again, in this city, she knew to watch what she said. There were more silly things than that that happened every day.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) enough, that scene did not play out. A little bit before ten, when the stores around here start getting ready to shut down, a group of six were people were walking and talking. Muse noticed something wrong about the group. Something was distinctly wrong with them. She could feel it in the back of her neck and spine. Though she couldn't pinpoint it, she knew these were the ones they were looking for. She quietly pointed the two down to the street.

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Gabriel silently nodded at Muse's words. A bit of a smile quirked his lips.

*Time Passes*

He noticed the group just after Muse; her indication helped guide his attention. As he focused in on the group, he saw something that genuinely shocked him.

"Jermaine?"

He brought his NVGs up to his eyes, but the situation didn't change.

"Muse, I know one of those kids! I've met him in this guise before; he was at a community center where I was giving a talk a few weeks back. I thought he'd really listened. Somebody must have made this sound like a good idea."

His right glove creaked ominously as he made a tight fist; his left hand put the goggles away on reflex.

"Someone convinced this kid that violent crime was a good idea. Someone's going to pay."

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Gaian Knight cut off his friendly chatter in mid-sentence, holding up a hand and pointing through his peep-hole at the group on the street. When he spoke, it was almost a whisper. "It looks like we finally have some company. If this all goes downhill I'll take down my wall...but if you want it down before then, just let me know."

In the meantime, Gaian kept a careful eye on the streets, watching the six chat. This is going to be really embarrassing if they're just a group of six random kids.

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"They don't look like trouble to me," Breschau whispered.  

Just as he finished his sentence, he remembered the first time he emerged from the ground and found trouble where there was none.   

"But I have to admit, I am not a good judge of what is or isn't trouble around here," he added. 

"We could approach them and ask them what they are planning to do," he suggested, vaguely remembering how the town guards handled such situations during his time. "Would that be appropriate here?"

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Sparksmith looked down a bit confused.

"Are you sure these are the guys we're waiting for? They don't look all that intimidating... but maybe that's because we're so high up?"

Sparky looked at Muse before hearing Gabriel.

"All right, all right. Calm down. Maybe it's not what it looks like. Maybe he's under cover. You know, something like a sting operation. I'm not a fan of jumping to conclusions. Maybe we should go down and just wait for any hints of things about to happen, then cut in when necessary."

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"No no no no no," Muse whispered angrily, each word more angry and louder the the last. If there were an Anger Mask, she would have switched to it then, but she switched to the Tragedy Mask instead. Speaking up, she looked to Gabriel, "There's more than just delinquents in that group. There is evil. Pure unadulterated evil. I can't pinpoint it, but it's there. Could be all of them with a reading that strong. I am sorry for your loss if it is a friend of yours, but evil of that magnitude does not belong in this world." She looked to Sparksmith and was silent for a moment. "I'd like to hope that this is all one big joke, but this... this sense. It's telling me everything is wrong. You remember the magical guy right? Well take him times a million and that's what we have down there. Several megatons of evil. Though you're right. One of us should be in there." She quickly paced back and forth for a second with her hands behind her back and then stopped. "Can any of you be invisible? Or teleport without being seen?"

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"We could approach them and ask them what they are planning to do," he suggested, vaguely remembering how the town guards handled such situations during his time. "Would that be appropriate here?"

He shook his head, shrugging. "That's certainly one option. I'm kind of in favor of just watching, myself...we can see what they're going to do from back here and stop them if we have to. If one of the others is feeling pretty diplomatic they can always step in...heh. I'm not always so good at the whole 'talk them down' thing, myself."

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Gabriel gave Sparksmith a look that said, roughly, "what are you smoking?".

"Jermaine is 16 years old. Anyone using him as a "plant" is criminally negligent."

He turned back to the group on the street...until Muse spoke up. The sheer vitriol in her words shocked him almost as much as the not-so-veiled threat of death.

"Whoa. Hold on. I'm sure you're getting signals the rest of us aren't, but let's not go in with intent to kill without knowing the whole situation. Maybe I can try to stall them with words, and you can concentrate your evil-sense or something. I can't go invisible or teleport, though. They'd know I was coming. Then again, I'm a regular around here. At least if I tried to talk to them, it'd make more sense."

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Sparksmith took Gabriel's glare in stride, giving a slight glare back. "Gabriel, I'm just trying to figure this out. A bit of brainstorming never hurt a situation to my knowledge. All I was saying is that maybe there's more going on than what we see.

He turned to Muse, completely serious. "I'm not attacking anyone until I know what's going on. I can't sneak in, but if we need to, I can trap them--hold them down until we get the information we need, but that's all I can do until I know what's up."

He looked back down at the group, half expecting something to happen.

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Gaian had the right idea, Breschau thought. Two grown men coming out of a dark alley to question children did seem wrong.

"I too am not good with talk, especially now that I am in a foreign land."

Breschau hoped that these weren't the ones they were waiting for. They all looked very young. But if there was someone using these children for violence, that person would have to pay.

Breschau stared up, looking where he imagined Gabriel, Muse and Powerhouse (Breschau didn't know Powerhouse hasn't showed) to be. Hopefully they would know what their quarry would look like.

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Muse sighed under the mask of Tragedy. This was all too overwhelming. There was evil down there and it seemed it was only palpable to her. "Gabriel," she said most worriedly, "I really hope that's them down there. I don't want anyone to lose any one. It's just that they may be too far gone. Wearing the mask of children is still, you know, wearing a mask." There was a long thick pause in talking there for a few seconds. She thought about what Gabriel had said. "I have an idea. Remember those old Freedom Friends cartoons? Where the heroes would go in and give the lesson of the day to some random kids? That's the plan. Well, sort of." She switched to the Comedy mask, though her voice still wavered, "We'll go in there like nothing is happening. Then when they start things, you can do the 'Lesson of the Day' talk. If it get ugly we'll beep the others. Then again, there's a problem with this. If we walk in before they start it could not happen. We'll just scare them off. So we have to walk in in the act. You see?"

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Gabriel frowned for a moment, then shook his head in resignation.

"Right then. I agree with trying to talk them down. If we can prevent this from happening, all the better. Do you want me to go in alone, or would you like to accompany me?"

The implication being that Sparksmith would go as well if she chooses the second option.

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"No, it'll be me and you," Muse said assuring Gabriel. She chuckled, softly putting her hand on his shoulder and leaning her head on his arm, "You won't have to go through Hell alone." Bounding up quickly she looked to Sparksmith, "Sparky, old buddy old pal. I have a job for you while we do this! Down in the alley way," she paused to point to which alleyway, "there are two other heroes. If you can fly down there and tell them what's going on, that would be great. Since I have you on speed dial, if things get hairy I can just punch you in and you three can act like big damn heroes." She looked to Gabriel and Sparksmith back and forth, "So, what are you guys thinking?"

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Gabriel nods as Muse explains that she'll accompany him to the street...Then seems to almost freeze up as she leans on his arm. He certainly doesn't go about moving any until she lets go, at which point he merely draws his hood up to its proper place on his head.

"Sounds like a solid plan. Do you mind if I take the lead in talking to them?"

Good thing his mask cover so much of his face...

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"That definitely sounds like our best option. It sounds good to me, Muse. But, better idea for the phone, call me before going in and leave your phone connected, so we can hear what's going on. If there's a problem, hearing a hang-up is a lot faster than calling."

Sparksmith looked down the alley to see the heroes talking, and turned back to Gabriel and Muse.

"All right. I'll fly down now. Muse, call me before you guys go in. Good luck, and have fun!"

He smirked at the two of them before glowing blue and flying down to the street between the two buildings. He lands in front of the Knight and the fighter.

"Hey guys. Muse sent me down here to let you guys in on the plan. I'm Sparksmith."

As Sparksmith described the plan, he created what looked like a holographic image of the building out of energy, showing the heroes exactly what was about to happen.

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Hey...now there's a familiar face. Gaian Knight snapped his finger, pointing at Sparksmith. "I remember you! The thing at the bridge, right? Talos and his tin-can army. That must have been...what, three, four months ago?"

As Sparksmith described the plan, he created what looked like a holographic image of the building out of energy, showing the heroes exactly what was about to happen.

Gaian nodded, unconsciously resting a hand back on the hilt of his sword. "That sounds like a decent plan to me. I'm certainly glad I'm not the one out there talking to the kids." I have a hard enough time getting my class to pay attention, and they're paying to be there! "We'll be ready if something happens. We can see at least some of the street from back here -" (he gestured at the 'missing bricks' built into the wall) "- and I can take this thing down a on short notice."

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Breschau loosened his shoulders as he saw a young man wrapped in blue energy approach from above the alley.  Breschau slowly moved his hands and positioned his feet into his fighting stance. He did not recognize the newcomer. Is this man part of the group about to cause trouble?  

Breschau was about to confront the stranger when Gaian greeted the young man.  Apparently they know each other. Muse must have asked him to assist in this mission.  Breschau relaxed as the newcomer relayed  the plan using shapes made of energy.  It was a good plan. 

When the briefing was over, Breschau reached out his arm to the young man.

"Greetings, I am Breschau. I am glad you could join us."

 

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"I remember you! The thing at the bridge, right? Talos and his tin-can army. That must have been...what, three, four months ago?"

"Oh man... don't remind me... The next time I see those bots will be too soon..." Sparksmith pondered on the adventure a bit. "Oh yeah, I remember you! You're the Earth mover. Good to see you again." Sparksmith shook his hand and smiled. "Glad to be working with you."

He backed off a bit from Breschau as he approached, but then extended his hand to meet his. "Real name's Kurt. Sorry for the poor introduction. I'm glad I can help out."

Sparky peered through the missing bricks to the inside. "Nice thinking. You took care of the visual..." Sparksmith took out and tossed the Knight his phone. "...and I took care of audio. Muse will call before she goes in, and hang up if there's a problem, but seeing what's going on isn't going to hurt."

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He chuckled, setting the phone on a little pedestal of earth that grew up out of the ground for just that purpose. "Yeah, I think I still have some scars from that fight. Sure couldn't save that coat. It's a shame...I liked that coat."

He turned back to the holes in the wall, watching and keeping an ear to the phone. "Guess it's up to them now, hm?" Let's hope they know what they're doing. Time to watch and wait.

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Muse nodded to Gabriel when he asked to lead in with the 'Lesson of the Day'. If they could see her face behind the cheery mask, they would of seen a happy grin when Sparksmith mentioned the phone. "Good idea, Sparky," she said with a thumbs up. She pulled out her phone and scrolled to his number as he floated down to the rest of the crew. She looked to Gabriel when they were alone on the roof. "Hold on," she said slyly reaching out for his hand, "This may be a bumpy ride." As soon as he did so a golden corona swallowed them and they were in front of the building that the group walked into. It looked like two of them were talking to the workers there, one of them being Jermaine. The rest were walking around inconspicuously. Their plan was already in action. Muse quickly dialed Sparksmith and spoke silently, "Alright here goes nothing." She opened the door just in time to hear the one talking to the man at the counter. "It would be such a tragedy if your store were to have some accidents," the girl spoke, she nodded to one of the other kids in the store and a large glass doll fell to the floor. Luckily Muse and Gabriel were in time to see this.

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Gabriel confidently strode into the store, his coat flapping a bit in the air as he did so. He strode up to a point about 8 feet away from the girl who had just spoken.

"Accidents are indeed tragic. But what's more tragic is when someone thinks intimidation is the only way to earn money."

He gives an exaggerated squinting expression as he examines the various gang members present.

"How many of you actually shave regularly yet? Shouldn't tomorrow's homework and which girl you're taking to the school dance be a bigger concern than the theoretical accident rates at a small, family-owned grocer? Unless you're all looking to be statisticians. Which still doesn't call for non-accidentally breaking something. It ruins the test parameters."

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All of the teenagers looked scared and nervous as Gabriel spoke. They stared at him in awe. Hanging on each word he said. The one who dropped the large doll was slightly trembling. Well, not all of them were so scared. The one who was speaking to the one at the counter was more angered than scared. She looked at Jermaine sternly, and then whispered something in his ear. Her was no longer afraid but affected a cool and calm demeanor. The girl stepped up to walk closer. "Evening heroes," she smiled, "I'm glad you could come. It's a bit of a first showing for us." She said, her voice almost cooing, "We're a start up band of heroes ourselves. We were just here to lend our services." She winked at him seemingly completely oblivious to the rest of the room. "We'd like your help, if you would?"

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Gabriel listened carefully to the young woman's words, narrowing his eyes slightly as he felt something off in her delivery. His eyes widened a bit as something else struck home; she was changing in front of his eyes.

"Lend your services, hm? Looks more like a petty protection racket. See, what looks to be going on here is you're leading all these impressionable kids around, and attempting to intimidate shop owners into giving you money, or else you cause property damage, and likely eventually threaten their health. That's not heroic. At all."

Gabriel crossed his arms and placed a stern expression on his face, dropping his voice about an octave.

"And only moral cowards resort to such measures. I'm disappointed in all of you kids, but especially you, miss. I think you should all disperse and head home, before people make decisions they regret tonight."

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All the disheartened kids ran for the door. They were fleeing from the implied holy hell they would receive with Gabriel, though they knew in their hearts that the punishment the leader would give them would be ten times worse. Jermaine still stayed around, still looking cool calm and collected. The leader was not impressed at Gabriel's loud words though. she looked at him, still looking like the girl of his dreams, but with a flat 'what' look on her face. "Well then," she sarcastically smiled and flipped her hair back and walked over to Jermaine, "now that that's quite over." She whispered something into Jermaine's ear. His calm look turned angry as he looked over to Gabriel. "You know what you have to do now," she nodded with an evil grin and handed him what looked like an old fashion tommy gun. Jermaine walked towards Gabriel with a malicious look in his eye.

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