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[IC] Fight the Power

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GM

 

Traffic up at the road seemed to have resumed somewhat, with the amount of vehicles parked by the side reducing, now that they knew that emergency services were arriving. A few remained, the ones that had seen the crash first hand and weren’t just gawking at the scene.

 

The man was fading somewhat, probably returning to a less conscious state once more. It was his injuries, even if Synth was doing his best to heal them. The healing was quick, and, at least for the driver, painless. For Synth, less so. The main part of it was exhaustion, but some pain always was included.

 

“Whu….”

 

The healing helped, as the man’s consciousness returned somewhat. He looked downwards, at what was happening to him, and the confusion already obscuring his thoughts only expanded. He looked upwards, at Synth, still in the form of Gus, with some doubt on his face.

 

“What? … What’s happen….ing? Why … everything? ”

 

All the while, the sirens came closer. By now, the first flashing lights were visible in the distance, it was only a matter of seconds before they arrived up at the road.

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Synth

 

"Listen. The cops are coming, along with the ambulance and probably the fire brigade too. I can help you...."

 

It was another crunching agony, but she did it, anyway, returning to the platinum haired half-punk girl that the driver had met in the bar. 

 

"They call me Synth. I look out for people. Try to clean up the streets"

 

Quite literally, in fact. 

 

"I was looking into the club. Blood and guts from what I can tell. Sounds like you and your friend way over your head" she explained. "Now, I don;t want to screw your day, or put you away. But I do want to find out why a bar in Freedom City is awash with blood. So please"...she pleaded, trying to ignore the grinding pain in her face. That was hard. 

 

She grimaced, flesh on fire. 

 

"You haven't got long to decide. Cast your lot in with me, or the police...."

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GM

 

The driver looked even more confused now. Which was starting to be a challenge by itself. Confusion, a bit of anger, and a lot of uncertainty. He tried getting up, most of the direct damage being healed by now. Once he managed to sit up, he took a closer look at Synth, before nudging away a bit, not easy in his current position.

 

“Wh…”

 

He looked downwards, at his hands, before sighing just a bit.

 

“Damnit. … How can I trust you? …. I just saw… What’s happening? What … is  … happening?”

 

He suddenly stopped, as he saw the various lights in the distance, approaching still. He breathed in and out, repeated it a few times, then began to speak, seemingly having gathered himself.

 

“There was some … issues last Saturday. Minor problems, those happen occasionally. No big story behind the blood, just somebody being a bit too eager to fight.  Happens occasionally, usually they don’t come back afterwards. But … How can I trust you? What are you going to do now?“

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Synth

 

It was a start. 

 

I guess saving someones life can be persuasive...

 

"I'm going to make sure you don't die, first" she replied. "And make sure nobody else dies either. I'm not a cop, I'm not the law. I'm just here to try and make the city a little bit of a better place"

 

"I don't see how you can trust me. I could be anyone, anywhere. But I just saved your life, and you don't see me clapping handcuffs on you" she explained. "And more to the point, what do you want me to do?" she asked, insistently. 

 

"I'll help you. Right now. Seems like someone is hunting you. And I don't think its the cops, although they won't be far away. So what do you want me to do? Turn you in? Take you to hospital? Take you somewhere else?"

 

"That seems the best way for you to trust me. I earn it. If you tell me how to help you, Ill do it..."

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GM

 

Synth’s statements didn’t do much to change the man’s expression. He still seemed only barely aware of what was going on, and even if the pain (most likely) got better, he was still a bit out of it. He looked at Synth’s face again, before pondering his opinions, replying after perhaps three seconds.

 

“Why … would anybody be hunting me?

 

“The hospital. Best option. Even with … whatever you did. Need a check-up. “

 

The sirens continued to close in. By now, the first car had arrived at the street, and also parked by it’s side. Judging by its shape, it was the ambulance. Two people got out immediately, both equipped with flashlights to pierce the night’s darkness, and both began to make their way down the hill, towards the two.

 

The man just looked up, at the various lights.

 

“Looks like that’s handled… No need to get me there … yourself. ”

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Synth

 

"Very well" replied Synth, pulling the man onto her shoulder and helping him towards the lights. 

 

"Here! Over here!" she yelled at the emergency services, waving her other arm. "We got someone injured!"

 

They were not, it seemed to her, out of the woods yet. Surely someone had engineered that near-accident on the road. Or perhaps the man on her arm had. Whilst it was quite possible that he had suffered a concussion, there was always the possibility that he had been drugged (perhaps byhis own hand) or something else was effecting his mind. He had not been quite himself, it seemed, even before the crash. Maybe it was the psychological shock - but of what?

 

She kept eyes and ears keen, however. Those lights, those cars, they might be more than emergency services...

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GM

 

Immediately, two EMTs rushed towards Synth. There was nothing off about them, as far as she could tell. Their uniforms were correct, and they had that look on their face that she’d seen with EMTs before. Immediately, they went to help, carefully taking the man from Synth and walking him towards the back of the ambulance. One of them, a rather young man, probably rather new at this, also talked to Synth.

 

“Everything alright? That looks like a pretty nasty crash. You don’t look injured. You should come with us for a check-in regardless.”

 

In the meantime, the police had also arrived. One car, and almost immediately after, another one. While three men went down the slope, towards the car, one of them approached Synth and the EMT. In the background, Synth could hear some more officers, talking to various bystanders.

 

“Pheew. So, you were in the car? Can you tell us what happened?”

 

And as much as she looked and heard around for anything out of the ordinary, there didn’t seem to be anything. Perhaps she had to dig deeper, perhaps this was just a mundane accident?

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Synth

 

"I'm...."

 

She paused. 

 

"Well I am not exactly sure. Some cars came headlong at us...I think...we had to swerve....it was all a blur" she said, somewhat vague about the truth. Dr Nyberg and his team had plenty of medical and psychological experience; she was pretty confident on the effects of such things. 

 

"I'm ok...my friend here took the worst of it, I think" she added. 

 

She handed him over to the professionals, but firmly refused any medical examination. It would come up with very strange results indeed. 

 

In any case, she felt bound to make sure the driver was alright, so accompany him she would - by foot if need be. Hopefully he would be grateful, or scared enough, to explain exactly what was going on in the bar.,..

 

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GM

 

The officer noted everything down, then looked down at the car once more, while said car’s driver was being carefully loaded into the ambulance. The EMTs had offered Synth to drive her to the hospital as well, and it was probably preferable to being stuck here.

 

“Okay. We’ll analyse the crash and send your buddy everything afterwards. “

 

 

About 20 minutes later…

A hospital, Riverside

 

The ambulance had driven to the hospital with flashing lights, cutting across the bit of traffic that built up in places. It was a rather pleasant drive, even if Synth was not encouraged to speak with the driver, who, as she now knew thanks to the EMTs, was called Jebediah Holmes.

 

Once the ambulance pulled up, everything went fast. So fast, in fact, that after only a few minutes Jeb was released again. They’d found no major injuries, nothing beyond a few bad bruises. “A near miracle” as somebody put it, considering the crash and the car’s condition. As he walked out into the waiting room to meet Synth, he looked down towards her and extended his hand. There still was a bit of doubt on his face, but for the most part he seemed very thankful.

 

“You saved me. Now, how do I repay the favour? I’m Jeb, by the way.”

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Synth

 

"I...have many names" replied Synth. Although I'm not bold enough to tell you any of them! 

 

"You can call me Synth. I'm...not from around here. Not originally. But I live here now, wearing a different face" she explained. She felt a little uncomfortable wearing a woman's face in the rather more gruff clothes of Gus. Not because such gender identities made any difference at all to her, who had none, but because it might attract attention. Still, this was freedom city, as cosmopolitan as it came. 

 

"My real face, well, you might see it now and again. Not such a good look" she explained; again, she had no problem with looking one way or another, but that pale, translucent flesh was disturbing to most. 

 

"I'm not a cop, or a politician. I'm an anarchist, if you want to call me anything. But I do look out for people, and the city. And that includes you"

 

She paused, scrutinising him. "So, do you want my help? Seems like something bad is going down...?"

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GM

 

Synth’s identity caused Jeb to raise an eyebrow. He’d seen her in effect, especially seeing how she was still wearing his friend’s clothes, but it still seemed to surprise, and probably unnerve, him just somewhat. Which was a fair reaction, and probably not worse than what Synth had gotten before.

 

“So … you’re … what exactly? Shapeshifter?”

 

Jeb seemed to mutter something to himself, not actually speaking it out, just barely moving his lips, so unfortunately Synth couldn’t quite catch it. But from the look of it, it was that trademark “What have I gotten into” look that being a Freedom City resident entailed. Upon hearing Synth’s question, he sighed, and sat down next to her.

 

“It’s … well, it’s not exactly bad. Some people may call it that. But all in all, it’s not. There’s just occasionally some troublemakers.”

 

He saw Synth’s questioning looks, and responded.

 

“Gus and I, we run this little … I guess you’d call it a combat ring? We know some people, they know some people, and so on. Meet once a week, have some fun beating each other up. We’ve got rules of course, no real injures. … Usually. And then, every once in a while, somebody comes in and decides that they don’t like the rules. “

 

“I’ve also heard some rumours of Gus planning to give the winners of next week’s tournament something special, but he’s not telling me. Probably ‘cause I’m competing. “

 

 

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Synth

 

"You could say that" replied Synth. "I was grown rather than born. Synthetic flesh. I can tell you it hurts to change though, especially when I do it fast. I nearly passed out back there" she added; perhaps trying to elicit a spot of sympathy - or at least, judge whether Jeb actually had a sympathetic soul. 

 

Synth had no real issues with fighting. It wasn't her thing, but if that was what people wanted to do, that was there choice. 

 

"I don't get the appeal of it" she explained, honestly. "But if people want to crack skulls, then they have every right to do it. Adrenaline, sweat, and blood. We are all animals in our core"

 

She knew that well enough. The Limbic system. That rage. Although for Synth, she could control it - from her normal calm state to a bezerker luke rage, all at the flip of a virtual switch in her brain. 

 

"But breaking the rules could mean something a lot more serious gets broken" she conceded, steeling slightly. "And maybe Gus....well, let's see..."

 

She remembered the weight in the pocket, and on this recollection, she turned out his pockets thoroughly infront of Jeb, to see if any clues might reveal themselves...

 

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GM

 

Jeb’s response was a simple one; he just shrugged.

 

“To each their own. Some do it for the thrill, some for cash, some for experience. “

 

Where did he himself place? It was hard to tell just from this. And it probably didn’t matter for the moment, there were more pressing matters at hand. In his left pocket, Gus had stored what appeared to be a pack of tissues. Just tissues, with nothing hidden between them, as a quick check revealed. Below that was a keychain, with 6 different keys attached. Nothing too special so far, but perhaps the keys would come in useful at some point?

 

The right pocket was more interesting. His phone. Not the most recent model, and it had certainly seen better days, if the shattered edges of the screen were any indicator. A simple 4 number pin was all that was needed to get in. And as Jeb saw that, he had the answer.

 

“One-Nine-Five-Five. No idea why, but I’ve seen him unlock it before.”

 

But before that, there still was one pocket to go. The back pocket, holding Gus’ wallet. Leather, with a certain used-but-charming look to it. And with all that, there certainly was enough to find something. But, was a hospital waiting room really the right place?

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Synth

 

"Let's get out of here. Hospitals make me nervous" she told Jeb. "and it lacks in privacy" she whispered to him under her breath. 

 

She took Jeb outside, with cooler air and less bustle. A few smokers had come out to grab their fix, even if they were in a wheelchair with a drip i n their arm. And in one case, a poor soul had an oxygen tank, yet still insisted on smoking his coffin nail. 

 

"Sounds like your friend was up to a little more than you know" she ventured. She was actually a bit worried about Gus now - surely he had woken from his stranglehold induced sleep. The question was more - what had he been up to. 

 

"I best go check on him" she explained. "But lets have a little peek at this first..." she finished, pulling out the last remaining personal effect of Gus, and hoping it would be bountiful with clues...

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GM

 

Finding a spot that was both hidden and well-lit took a bit of time, but once that had been dealt with and the two were sitting in a nice, somewhat comfy spot, it was time to figure out just what was happening. First up, the wallet of Augustus Tyler, as the ID nicely said. There were 30 dollars in paper, and probably a few more in coins in there, but the most interesting part was the collection of business cards and other assorted small pieces of paper.

 

Various fast-food places all around South Freedom, all offering loyalty rewards. A gardening supply and DIY store, probably the source of the various pieces of furniture in the basement. A sporting goods store located in the Fens. And, not fitting in at all, a business card. Dr. Jason Hull. Geneticist. It was a fairly plain card, with contact information on it, printed on what appeared to be a company’s default cards. Knight & Williams Research.

 

And then, a few pieces of plain paper, ripped out of somewhere most likely. One of them had a code written on it, 882487611. What did it mean? Perhaps it would come in useful later.

 

As for the phone, it was fairly average once turned on and logged in. A quick sweep of the front pages revealed nothing out of the ordinary. No strange apps, no weird names, no suspicious shortcuts. It would take a fair bit of time to go through everything, but if there was one thing Synth had learned, it was to always check the contacts list first. It was rather empty, only a few numbers saved on it. And, once she went browsing through them, one, in fact, was the one of a certain Dr. Jason Hull. Saved under the name of KW Doc.

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Synth

 

Dr Jason Hull looked like a good lead. Geneticist. Knight and Williams Research. She would have to look into that. 

 

As for the code - and the keys for that matter - they didn't mean much right now. Pocket them for later

 

Right now though, before Jason Hull, she had better check on Gus. How long had it been? Not too long, but not too short either. 

 

"Jeb, I'm going to check on your friend. I left him out cold. But before I do, how would you like me to handle him? I know you are friends, well, at least of sorts, but it sounds like he was playing a game behind your back. Maybe to protect you, I don't know...." she left the question open. 

 

"It sounds like you both got over your heads, but I think maybe Gus got in deeper. Too deep...."

 

 

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GM

 

Seeing the various things in the wallet, and especially the phone, unnerved Jeb just so slightly. He seemed to be a bit unsure about what to do now, especially with the most recent revelations. He eyed the phone once more, gulped, then replied.

 

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s got nothing to do with everything? Maybe it does? I can’t really tell. I have no idea what he’d do that he’d need a research company for. Maybe he’s just otherwise … nah, that wouldn’t make sense either. “

 

He seemed to gather his thoughts for a moment, becoming more calm again.

 

“Okay. Let’s just go with “this all didn’t happen.” If that’s okay with you. Whatever this is, if he knows I’m involved I’m in big trouble. Just make something up as to why you only returned now. If he’s even still there … if not, I dunno. I know his address, but no idea how he’d get there without clothes, phone or wallet…”

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GM

 

"Well give it to me anyway...and if you don't object, I think I have an idea to smooth out the creases when I find him"

 

With that...and more slowly this time, with face turned away from the bustle behind her, she once again shifted her face. Her form filled out, her bones grew and contracted, sinew following suit. It hurt, but with a bit more slowness, it wasn't too bad. 

 

And now, Jeb's face stared back at Jeb. 

 

"A set of your clothes would be handy to complete the picture" she asked. "The ones you are wearing, ideally. I can always swap with you" she explained, her head imagining some rather suspicious activity in a men's bathroom cubicle between the two of them. 

 

"And then, I believe it is time to go in search...."

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GM

 

As Jeb looked at Synth, who know also was Jeb, he rubbed his (own) eyes. And then looked around the area, before responding, both freaked out and awe-struck.

 

“Whoa. So that happens…. They’re a bit beat up, but let’s go for it.”

 

A while later

 

Returning to the pub took some time. Mainly because, thanks to the general lack of income, Synth’s way of getting back there was good old walking. And walking, by definition, took a while. The distance from the Hospital back towards the pub wasn’t that large, and fortunately it was an area that was well-lit until deep into the night, but it still was quite the journey.

 

And then, the most disappointing thing so far: the pub had been abandoned for the night. Not locked, just the lights turned off. A few things were different from before. Mainly, the fact that the cash register had been opened, and remained open. Also, Synth’s clothes in the basement had been taken, most likely by Gus. The imagined sight of him in those clothes was somewhat amusing, actually.

 

So, the next stop was the apartment, located on the other side of Southside. It’d be quite a walk. But then, thanks to the cash register, Synth recalled that she still had Gus’ wallet, and thus his money. She’d walked here out of habit, but this sped up things.

 

Later…

 

The building that Gus’ apartment was located in was quite uninteresting. It looked like many others in the area, on the lower side and not perfectly maintained, but still allowing for some comfortable living. And now, after a while of travelling, Synth was standing in front of his door.  

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Synth (as Jeb)

 

The bar had been a predictable vaccuum. But a modest (albeit illegal) use of technically stolen money had eased the frustration. 

 

Gus' appartment was, Synth felt, uninspiring. Perhaps like Gus himself. He was a bit of a mystery however,. She got the feel of a man of limited but not absent talents, struggling with his relative mediocrity, and perhaps seduced into the prospect of transcending those limits. In many ways that drive was a fundamental quality of human society, perhaps the quality that had - at its roots - created the sum of human creation. But there were several roads to transcending one's limits. Genetic engineering was a valid one, but quite possibly an unwise one at the same time. 

 

He was about to knock, but then thought twice. Best to be forearmed. What was going on?

 

It took a bit of scouting, it took a bit of exploration - but then, time was it seemed no longer of significant import. But every block had air vents, and, small though they might be, when her muscles and sinews turned to the consistency of jelly, it was easy to squeeze through them, shuffle along, and peer into Gus' apartment. 

 

 

 

 

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GM

 

Finding proper access to the vents took some time. Sure, there always was “go up the fire escape onto the roof” as an option, but that was probably best kept as a last one, one in case there were no easier and less suspicious ones. But, after a bit of snooping around, Synth managed to find herself in the building’s basement, where the laundry room was currently unoccupied. And a few seconds later, she was in the vents.

 

Travelling through them wasn’t all that fun usually. But with Synth’s physique, at least it wasn’t challenging. And after some time, she found Gus’ apartment once more, the vents fortunately were numbered corresponding to the apartments. It was a rather small two room apartment. The living room had a built in kitchen, looking rather well-cleaned.  All in all, the entire room did. Synth couldn’t spot any details, but light from various indicators on various hardware lit up the room well enough to get a rough idea of it. While it was small, the furniture looked medium to high quality, and everything was well cleaned. There was a small table and two chairs, plus a large sofa in front of a flatscreen TV mounted on the wall

 

The second room was the bedroom. Synth’s clothes lay on the ground next to the bed. The lamp on the nightstand was shining, giving Synth a good look at the room. There was a closet, currently halfway closed, a desk plus laptop, and the bed itself. The bed, where Gus was currently reading a book of some sorts, not looking particularly tired. The book was on the pillow, with him supporting himself with his hands and reading it, looking downwards at it and nothing else.

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Synth (as Jeb)

 

Synth squeezed himself into the room, feeling like the toothpaste in a toothpaste tube. He was a quiet as a mouse right now. 

 

It took a moment to shift his muscles back into shape, and then he took in the room. The Clothes were there. Well, he would be happy to take those back, but later. 

 

As softly as he could, he went to the laptop, without touching it. Trying to see what was on the screen and if any clues could be gleaned. Then, the closet. He could not take the risk of squeaky hinges, so just a look inside, to see if there was anything to be spied. 

 

And all the time he kept her nose peeled; maybe some of the scents he had picked up would resurface? maybe the blood even?

 

If nothing else, then he would simply open the front door and pretend to stroll in as Jeb. Lets see what Gus would make of that...

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GM

 

Sneaking around the room was not easy. Just how asleep was Gus? Was he asleep, or just barely awake? The light was still on, which was a bit worrying, so Synth’s every movement was very well calculated, all to not make a single sound. Easier said than done, sure, but not too big of a problem for Synth.

 

The laptop was unfortunately turned off, there was nothing on the screen. However, the model looked to be a rather recent one, and it gave off a rather professional look just based on its appearance. As Synth got closer, he could also notice a few sheet of paper, all stuck below the laptop. It seemed to be official papers of sorts, business things. A quick look revealed it to be finance of some sort, with the logo of E-Sea, Freedom’s biggest bank, printed on the top right of the paper. Not just account information either, but something that most likely had to do with the inner workings of the bank.

 

Getting a closer look wasn’t all that easy without making any noise, so Synth’s attention went towards the closet. Not all of it was visible, but what was, was a nice mix of casual streetwear and more serious business-wear, blazers and ties included. It wasn’t a particularly interesting wardrobe, but it included a fair chunk of rather expensive looking clothes.

 

So, next stop, walking in through the front door. The actual front door was locked. Not that it mattered much. Back into the vents, a quick trip over, and back out, Synth now standing in the living room.

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Synth (As Jeb)

 

Best to keep Gus on the defensive, judged Synth. 

 

"What happened to you?" he said, loudly, boldly strolling into Gus' bedroom in the guise of Jeb. 

 

"If it is you?" he demanded, turning a bit apprehensive. "I saw...well. I think I saw something very strange. That woman turning into you" he continued, looking around now frightened. 

 

"It it you? I mean, the real you?" he asked again. "What's happening this Saturday? huh? Only the real Gus would know that...."

 

As he spoke and paced, he made sure he got an eye on what Gus was reading. 

 

 

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GM

 

Gus’ body shot upwards, almost comically. He’d been resting on his arms, and the sudden shock of getting shouted at made him propel himself upwards. He slowly turned around, still a bit groggy, even if he was getting shouted at. He’d turned over in such a way his book was obstructed by his body, but as Synth approached, he managed to get a quick glance at it. A book about the global distribution of wealth.

 

Gus looked at Synth, groggy and unsure. “Wha….” He cocked his head, thoughts clearly racing through his mind. “What are YOU doing here? Where did you go? I had to walk home in that.” He waved at Synth’s clothes on the ground, looking more and more annoyed. “’course it’s me, what do you think? Why wouldn’t it be? You’re in my apartment, in my bedroom. “

 

He sighed. “Saturday’s the tournament. Is this your way of trying to get easier matchups? I’ve already told you, no cheating. “ Then, something dawned on him, quite obviously so. “How did you even get in here?!”

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