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  1. GM Eyeball had information. Blowfish, struggling with finances after Nightscale's daring theft of gold, and caught up with fighting the Yardie gang lead by Machete Max, was moving in on the smugglers of Freedom City docks. Small time crooks, weak, ripe for the picking. Right now, just past midnight, a gang of six of Blowfishe's mooks, armed with pistols, shotguns, and baseball bats, were closing in on the ship Lost and Forgotten, a mid sized cargo ship arrived from Africa. Even Eyeball didn't know quite what was in it, but he knew it was contraband. And he knew that the ships Crew knew it to. It was going to be a bloody affair. The ships crew were sailors, not fighters. There were evenly matched in number, but were not ready, not armed. If Blowfishes thugs got the jump on them, it would be all over quickly. And that was the plan. Blowfish not only intended to steal whatever contraband was there, but to start taking over the smuggling business- or rather, start demanding protection money from the smugglers. He had sized up the docks and found it ripe for the plucking. Only thing was, Blowfish rather stayed away from electronics. He was old school. Eyeball could hack and spy, but he didn't know what precisely was in the ship. And he had only found out about the raid last minute. Nightscale had got the call, but had little time to prepare...
  2. Summer 2023 They were there for various reasons. Echohead and Predator had been contacted through their connections to the US government; Mirror Knight had been reached through a third-party contact. But they were all here in what was typically the main conference room of the Wharton State Forest's main ranger office, having been contacted by the New Jersey state police and asked to gather together with one of their top agents. There were light drinks and snacks and a fine view of thickly growing pine trees outside, a legacy of the nature heroine Fleur de Joie's recent visit to the park. But so far, nobody had come to join them yet.
  3. Mid-August, 2023 After sunset / before midnight Liberty Park “…And in an update on other unfortunate news. The body of local small business owner Donald Greuber was found. The body was found in the waters of Liberty Park, just a hundred feet from the spot local news correspondent Vincent Lancaster and his cameraman Andrew Peterson disappeared from three days ago. The latest victims to fall prey to what people are calling the Liberty Park Demon.” A young anchorman reads from an offscreen teleprompter. “Freedom City Police have repeatedly insisted though that after serious investigation, there is no actual proof of supernatural involvement.” Anywhere else in the country and that may have been meant as a joke to lighten the mood. But in Freedom… “City Hall has been under pressure after it had been revealed police had been downplaying attacks around Liberty Park that have been increasing over the last year. No connections have been made between the known victims and police still have no suspects.” The young man folds his hand solemnly. “We will continue to cover this story as more information becomes available.” the camera switches to a cheerful looking young anchorwoman. “And when we return…” **** *ring ri-* “911, what is your emergency?” “Ya, ah, I want to report a, ah, a body.” “A body?” “Yes.” “Can you tell if they’re alive?” “Nah, they not moving, and I ain’t getting any closer.” “That’s okay sir. Can I get your name?” “I, ah, rather not.” “That’s okay sir. Where did you find the body?” “Near the Foster St entrance of Liberty. It’s, ah, it’s hangin over the wall.“ “Hanging over th-“ “Look, I can’t talk anymore. I ain’t getting involved.” “Sir-“ *click* **** Street lamps illuminate the police tape that cordoned off nearly a hundred yards in every direction into the park from the Foster street entrance of Liberty park. Agitated police personnel swarm the area looking for clues while keeping late night rubberneckers at a distance. Several reports argue with the police refusing to let them past the barriers until they’ve finished. Despite the efforts of police, civilians are still active in the park. It’s been a sad, but constant struggle for authorities. Some are heedless of the danger, some possibly hoping for it. Some hoping to take advantage of it and some just because they tragically have no where else to go. There have been rumors of federal involvement at the behest of local government. And pictures on social media have show individuals in suits speaking with local police, though no official statement on it has been given. All said and done… there seems little optimism that an end is in sight.
  4. "So Vegas! F-ck Yeah!" Luke grinned enthusiastically, as he threw a glance at the map. It was a long way from Freedom City. Was it for a daring rescue, though? Chasing a dangerous mastermind? An ingenious heist? Nope for the nineteen years old, it was something way more important. Road Trip! Graduation was approaching and what better way to celebrate than an adventure. Now, they were both pretty much broke, had no ride, a continent to cross and... well... Luke dreaded to imagine what his best friend might have planned at an actual Casino. But those were just details, that the two still needed to iron out. Nothing that could not be decided in an afternoon, an amazingly short amount of time before the expected beginning of their journey in a messy dorm room with piles of half packed crowding out the place. @Spacefurry
  5. Sunday 4th June Nightfall The air was dusty. The kind of dust you could feel on your skin, and taste in your mouth. A taste like ash, like burning sickly sweet incense, like rotting flesh consigned to a pyre. The soup of odours was even more pungent to those beasts of the night who could sense such smells. Or those heroes of the night. This was Pueto Rico territory. Spanish was spoken more often than English, and could be heard on every street corner, or coming through open windows. Or from the Church. Singing - there was singing. Choir boys practicing, there voices melding together and floating through the evening. A few old folks, lighting candles, holding crusifix pendants, eyes upwards towards the carved ceiling or the stained window; or perhaps to God. Muttered prayers, some desperate, some afraid, some said with wet eyes. A tall thin preist, skin a honeyed brown, his head bald, his clothes black, his teeth white as he smiled, clutched a small bible. He was handsome, but his looks were only for the divine. His eyes observed all, both in and out of the Church. And he spied La Puma Negra. "Come to pray? Can I offer guidance?" he asked. Even his voice sounded handsome. Rich, deep, rumbling. A voice that could sing in a seedy jazz bar, or preach from a pure pulpit.
  6. Kord Dormitories, Fifth Floor Claremont Academy, Freedom City, New Jersey Monday, September 4, 2023 Like the rest of the dormitories, the third floor of Kord was a similar scene of controlled chaos involving students and parents. Three eighteen year old girls emerged from the stairwell into the hall of the third floor. The three were all identical in appearance, the same, long red hair and dressed in matching jean shorts and green tank-tops. The only difference between them was what each was carrying, with one having a backpack and suitcase, the next only had a large suitcase (which she seemed to lift with minimal effort) and the last carrying a box. Bernadette O'Connell led two of her duplicates down the hall toward her room for her last year at Claremont, excited to see her friend again. It had been an interesting summer, not the least of which had been her experience at a band competition in Boston. The sooner she got her stuff to her new room, the sooner she could go find her friends and catch up….
  7. Along the banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo River Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, People’s Republic of China Wednesday August 2, 2023 10:45 AM local time Situated high on the Tibetan Plateau, the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon lay in the eastern end of the Himalaya range, where the great Yarlung Tsangpo River turned south through the range, before dropping nearly ten thousand feet to the lower gorge and into northeastern India. With an average depth of nearly 7,500 feet, it was the deepest canyon on land, and was slightly longer than the American Grand Canyon. Despite the high elevation, the day was fairly warm, reaching into the low 70's. This was tapered somewhat by occasional light rain from the cloudy sky. While the rain was intermittent, it was enough that all of the vegetation in the forest covering the banks of the river in this stretch of the canyon was soaking wet. Veronica Danger moved through the wet vegetation, following after Davyd Palahniuk as he tracked through the forest. The young brunette was, as always, dressed in a pair of cargo shorts (black in this case), a linen Khaki button up short sleeve shirt worn over a grey T-shirt and a pair of well-worn hiking boots. However, given the rain and wet vegetation, Veronica had added a lightweight waterproof parka, which she had pulled out of her dimensional storage when the rain had started over an hour ago (providing similar parkas to her friends that wanted one). A short distance behind Veronica was the third member of the trio hiking through the forest, Louise (Lulu) Beaumont. While both Davyd and, more recently, Lulu, where employees of Danger International, when Veronica had asked for their assistance it was based on their friendship that went back to their first year together at Claremont Academy. The trio where hiking through this remote forest in search of any signs of Veronica's younger brother, Rex Danger III. The teenage Danger had been accompanying a group of scientist employed by Danger International conducting research in the canyon. Two days ago Rex had vanished from the base camp the scientists were working out of and had not been seen since.
  8. Kord Dormitories, Second Floor Claremont Academy, Freedom City, New Jersey Monday, September 4, 2023 The start of the new school year was just a week away, and the activity on Claremont Academy had increased in anticipation. Today, students (and some parents) had descended on the school’s dormitories, getting students moved in ahead of the start of classes. The weather in Freedom City was still quit warm, pushing towards the 90’s, with the humidity making it seem even warmer. Lawrence Harrow exited the stairwell on the second floor of the dorms, a backpack over one shoulder and a large suitcase in tow. The blond sixteen year old’s parents had seen him off at home in North Bay and he had driven himself to campus. He was looking to get some of his things to his room and catch up with Baz so they could start meeting more of the classmates.
  9. Summer 2023 Bedlam City, WI Stone Ridge is one of the newest parts of Bedlam; and certainly one of its wealthiest. When the city descended into squalor and crime, the wealthiest fled here, bringing old money and new problems with them. Stone Ridge is not technically part of Bedlam; not even an incorporated community. That means that Bedlam PD doesn't patrol here, just a few underfunded county sheriff's deputies. The law around here is set by Iron Talon, an armed private security company that used to hire its contractors fresh off the planes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - and now tends to go recruiting in veterans' hospitals and shelters and find men and women who don't quite fit into civilian life anymore for whatever reason. There's not very much street crime in Stone Ridge - the Iron Talon crew is infamous for brutality beyond even what the Bedlam PD dishes out, and anyone from outside the (almost all white) neighborhood is liable to get into a lot of trouble even if they're just there to look at a new house or deliver a package. They tend to go in guns blazing when they see a superhero; which has kept many of Bedlam's erstwhile costumed defenders out. Not because they're in danger - but because everyone else is when they're there. Pete Moss has been working for Iron Talon for a couple of years now; even since he got clean. He's a veteran who didn't come back quite right from Afghanistan, even if the most dangerous thing he did was fix cars in an Army motor pool in Kabul - war will do that to people sometimes. He doesn't do any head-breaking; he just works on their private impound lot. He and Rev were an item back when he drank but he's closed off since, taking the firm position that he needed to leave behind everything from his old life if he was going to get better. The shop has been closed for hours when Rev's phone rings with Pete's cell number, but she's still working on a car - funny how that works out.
  10. "No, you get some sleep," said Ashley Tran in a friendly sort of way, careful to keep her voice low enough that she didn't alarm the small baby she was holding as she paced the Claremont campus. With her helmet and jacket off (or rather, in her motorcycle's storage), she could have been any adult visitor to Claremont's campus. Well. Most of them weren't wearing sunglasses just in case anyone should happen to pick her out as a former student twice over; and few of them were carrying a baby. "We'll be fine...this is not more dangerous than the mining planet!" she added seriously. "You have been up with the baby all weekend. Get some rest, babe." She hung and smiled down at Phillip, who was going through a phase where he only stayed quiet when his mother was holding him. So naturally he immediately started bawling his bright blue eyes out, crinkling his little tomato face, and otherwise throwing up a storm. "Sssh, sshh..." She flushed slightly as she sang to the baby, thinking how easy her mother had always made this look. Well she'd told Carmen what to expect when they met, even if she hadn't actually seen the baby before - babies cried, what could you do?
  11. GM Boston, Saturday 16th July The sun was high, the heat was high, the humidity was high. Plenty of fluids, sunscreen and shades were the order of the day. A tall, lanky girl dressed in baggy trousers and a crop top sat roasting in a park. She had an acoustic guitar on her knee, which she was strumming with considerable dexterity. She wasn't putting a lot of effort in - more of an idle strum, listening for new tunes, making up compositions, but the trained ear could tell she had remarkable skill with her fingerwork. Long, marfanoid fingers, bordering on the uncanny. The girl was maybe five nine, five ten, but even for that height her fingers looked about an inch too long for normal. The girl was Summer Sands. Olive skinned, brown eyed, long black hair without any style. One of those faces that was too odd to be beautiful, without being too weird to be ugly. A long face, with something wistful in her expression, something enigmatic in her style. She was, as they said, lost in music. She was also waiting for someone. Bernadette O'Connell Aka the merely magnificent Multi-Girl... Summer Sands wanted to enter the open mic upcoming talent show in Boston. And she had reached out to Bernadette. They both had the same music teacher. Summer had left Claremont two years ago. Summer was a T-Baby.
  12. GM July 4th, 2023, 6.37PM Pacific Ocean, 50 nautical miles from the Oregon coast Blackstaff The conclusion was as inescapable as it was impossible to accept: under the cold, leaden weight of the Peaceful Ocean, far below the light of the life-giving Sun, the machinations of equally antipyrated hearts had created a dark edifice, a visage, a mask of stone through which eyes alien and incorporeal could peer into the brimming, oblivious swarms of life, and decide their fate by measures impossible for any brain thwarted by a linear existence to comprehend. And now its worshippers gathered, to pledge a fealty as mad as it was undying, to defend it against the feeble struggles of the pale things which sought to avoid their inevitable fate. On the other hand, the PanStar representative had been very eager to make clear that the Deep Ones needn't necessarily be killed, and a diplomatic resolution that allowed them to move their camoflagued underwater surveillance module away from the temple-reef sonar pulses had uncovered would be more than acceptable. And now here he was, on a small, fast boat equipped with diving gear, heading for the locus of unearthly phenomena with only his thoughts, two stolidly uniformed representatives from the Brande Management Security Company, a three-man crew, and a captain constantly dropping by to check how he was doing to fill the anxious hour. Captain Cosmos "We can't thank you enough, Captain Cosmos!" the co-pilot of Singapore Airlines flight 56SO shook the hero's hand fervently, still panting a little from the exhilaration of the last few minutes. Behind him, the plane windows opened on the beautiful sight of the Oregon and Washington coasts, the cloud-strewn Atlas Mountains, the Emerald Cities nestled beneath the peaks on the banks of a wide, slow Columbia River. "I know I can't, they're likely gone forever, but I'd still like to thank Science Communicator Buddy and Labour Activist Buddy for all they did to help us with that bomb, and that near-riot on the second floor." "Approaching the site of the distress call," announced Captain Sen, looking much better without the tape the now-unconscious Overthrow agent had swathed him in, "I believe this is your stop, Captain Cosmos. I took the liberty of contacting the local Coast Guard, in case they need more help than we did." He couldn't help but smirk, though he did a good job hiding it. "Best of luck to you, Captain. If you're ever in Changi, look me up, Jai Sen!"
  13. Danger International Building Wading Way, Freedom City, New Jersey Wednesday July 26, 2023 9:43 AM local time Lulu Beaumont found herself riding an express elevator to one of the upper floors of the building that housed the Freedom City offices of Danger International and the associated business and non-profits companies under the umbrella of that holding company owned by the family of her friends Veronica and Janus. The redhead was there for an appointment to meet with Veronica (the need for an appointment primarily being to ensure Veronica was actually in Freedom City, given her habit of regularly traveling to all corners of the world). The elevator came to a smooth stop, the doors opening and letting Lulu out into the reception area of the floors that housed the executive suites for Danger International and its various subsidiaries. It was little surprise the area was set up to impress. The large open space of the reception area had ceilings that rose a full two floors above. In the center where several comfortable leather couches and chairs, arranged in small clusters. Throughout the waiting area were various statutes and other artifacts from around the world, very likely items found by members of the Danger Family over the decades, perhaps some even uncovered by Johnny Danger himself. Ahead of Lulu was a long reception desk, behind which sat a couple of women in professional attire. To either side of the desk were stairways that wrapped up to the floor above, which divided from the towering open area of the reception area to what were likely office or meeting rooms. There were also two hallways (one to either side of the desk/stairs) which led back along the current floor as well. To either side of the room were large glass walls, enclosing large conference rooms and towering windows that looked out over the skyline of the Wading Way. To Lulu's right the view was of the three massive towers of Pyramid Plaza, while to the left were views toward the heart of the city center. As she made her way toward the reception desk, one of the women seated behind it looked up with a friendly smile. "How may I help you?" But before Lulu could answer, a familiar voice range out from behind the redhead. "It's alright Mary, I can see to Ms. Beaumont from here. She is meeting with Veronica." Turning around, Lulu saw Prudence (the often omnipresent personal assistant to Veronica and Janus during their time at Claremont) emerging from another hallway to one side of the bank of elevators. While Lulu knew Prudence would often "dress down" when in the field with Veronica, it was unsurprising that today she was dressed in impeccable business attire and glasses. As was so often the case, Prudence was holding a small iPad in one hand. "It is good to see you again Lulu." Prudence continued with a more familiar tone, offering the younger woman a genuine, yet professional, smile.
  14. 4th June, 2023 (Saturday) Around midday. Hot, clear skies. Sweat in the air, rot on the ground. Southside Trailer Park A festering sore on the flesh of Freedom City. A hive of homelessness, alcoholism, poverty and despair. And, on occasion, crime. There was little to be gained by the big crime gangs here, so instead the petty thief, the petty drug pusher, the petty mugger thrived. Luke Landers knew them all. He knew Billy Wiggins. Billy wiggins was currently sprawled over a rotten discarded sofa, the rusted springs threatening to impale his corpulent flesh with every wobble of his body. Billy Wiggins was forty, fat, and alcoholic. For some reason, his dog, Snuffler, sat by his legs, the only living creature who seemed to tolerate Billy for more than brief encounters. Aside from the mosquitoes that dined on Billy Wiggins flesh. The sunburnt neck, the sunburnt arms, the belly that wrestled free from the bottom of a stained t shirt. As normal, Billy Wiggins was drunk. Crushed tins of beers littered the broken earth around the sofa, and he held a half empty one on his hand. “Fatso being snoring!” laughed Huckleberry Sin, the 8 year old barefoot redneck who darted around the trailer park stealing and pranking. Many people would like to tank Huckle’s hide, but he was faster than a cockroach on wheels. Huckles pointed at Billy Wiggins and laughed again, encouraging Luke Landers to join in. “Saying he gonna be rich. Say’s his brother going to steal a mountain of gold! Haha! In his fat bottomed dreams!”
  15. Thevshi

    Half-Life IC

    Lincoln, Freedom City, New Jersey Tuesday July 25, 2023 2:23 PM Lawrence Harrow pulled his parents' BWM iX electric SUV into the parking lot of the Cline Building, which was known to some as Freedom League Special Circumstances Housing. As someone who had grown up connected to the superhero community in Freedom City (let alone the son of a member of the Freedom League), Lawrence had visited the FLSCH quite a few times over the years, participating in fundraisers, community improvement projects and social mixers. Today the sixteen year old was here to meet Baltazar (Baz) Botez, who would be his roommate at Claremont Academy when the school year began in a couple months. The school had put the two in touch after it had decided to put them together in a room for the coming year and the pair had exchanged some emails and text messages. This would be the first time Lawrence would be meeting Baz in person. Stepping out of the SUV, the blond sixteen year old had a small box of pastries from a bakery in North Bay his mother liked in one hand. While is was only in the low 80's today, the humidity made it feel much warmer and Lawrence was dressed in a pair of khaki cargo shorts and a blue T-shirt. Making his way into the building, Lawrence headed towards the elevators that would take him to the floor where Baz had his apartment.
  16. May 15, 2023. Freedom City. Hanover. Terrifi-Labs. Terrifi-Labs was the one bedroom apartment Terrifica had converted into her personal headquarters in Freedom City. She’d sent Rainshadow the address after her little advertisement caught his attention. So here they were. Sitting where, in any other apartment, would probably be the living room. Here it did double duty as the only public space. The actual dining room was full of electronics and technology. She slid a tablet across the table they were sitting at. Rainshadow, naturally, was seated on the opposite side of it. “Please confirm I have all of the details correct. Your scenario, opponent type, etcetera. You’re also confirming that you understand that this technology is, technically, in the experimental stages. My efforts may have reduced any risk to the miniscule, but it is still there.” She crossed her legs. “With that confirmed, we can go the next room and get started.”
  17. GM 1st June Mid morning Lecture: Violent Death - From theory to practice, Doctor Getrude Whallington-Bridgecastle Dr GWB welcomed the group of four Forensic science students into the cold air and metal furnishings of the morgue. Lamentably, there was only one corpse to examine, a rarity in Freedom City. The consensus opinion that Dr GWB was a stiff, prentetious and deeply clever pathologist who had a reputation for marking exams harshly, and being just as harsh in her teaching sessions. And yet, she had the deep knowledge and occasional acidic wit that kept her in her job. She clearly was somewhat aggreived that she only had once cadaver on which to wax lyrical, but she was determined to make do. The dead body was clearly a thug. Tattoo's of skulls, machete's, dancing skeletons and murder. Scars from knife fights, dreadlocks, dark brown skin, medallions - this was presumably a member of some Carribean-origin gang. A Yardie. Even the most inexperienced student amongst the four could give a good guess at the mode of death. The corpse had the centre of his chest blown out - a ten inch diameter hole straight through. Looked like a shotgun blast. At close range. "So, who would like to walk us through the preliminary examination?" asked Dr GWB, her eyebrows raised in challenge, peering over her rimmed glasses, her bronze hair wound tightly into a bun. Her hands gripped a clip board and pen in eager anticipation. She would be taking notes...
  18. Greenbank Railyards Mid-March, 2022 Natalia had mixed opinions on Greenbank. She did actually like urban decay as a design, all the crumbling signs of what was, the traces left behind of the people that had been through before you, the little signs of life and business still ghosting through to show that the place wasn't completely abandoned - but the best version of that was always clean, in her mind. Not sanitized, but less raw garbage piled up. In her ideal world, it would have smelled better. More rust and crumbling brick, less ammonia. "He's promised me that he's not here on work," she was saying as they walked down a sidewalk that was slowly losing a fight against grass and weeds. She'd worn boots for this trip - something broken glass or rusty metal wouldn't get through, that complimented skinny jeans and a loose black top with golden stitching. "That probably means it is work, just not the kind that causes any real trouble. He wouldn't lie if he thought I would find out and catch him on it."
  19. June 13. 2023. Freedom City. Hanover. Terrifi-Labs. -Labs was the one bedroom apartment Terrifica had converted into her personal headquarters in Freedom City. She’d sent Patriot II the address after her little advertisement caught her attention. It made Terrifica perhaps a bit uncomfortable having a government agent knowing where she hung her hat, but whatever. So here they were. Sitting where, in any other apartment, would probably be the living room. Here it did double duty as the only public space. The actual dining room was full of electronics and technology. She slid a tablet across the table they were sitting at. Patriot, naturally, was seated on the opposite side of it. “Please confirm I have all of the details correct. Your scenario, the opponents, etcetera. You’re also confirming that you understand that this technology is, technically, in the experimental stages. My efforts may have reduced any risk to the miniscule, but it is still there.” She crossed her legs. “With that confirmed, we can go the next room and get started.”
  20. Katastroff Consulting A subsidiary of Archetech The Claremont students had all followed up on the advertisement posted in one of the Claremont common rooms. "NEED SUMMER CASH? CONSIDER INTERNING WITH KATASTROFF CONSULTING! SCIENCE - FOR EVERYONE!" The smiling face underneath was a mostly-familiar blonde in a white labcoat, Eira having been a contemporary of Luke and Leon in her last year and her first year at Claremont. She looked to have aged since then, perhaps puzzling for an android, clearly looking to be in her mid-twenties as she ushered them inside what turned out to be a rather small, hastily-assembled office. The walls were bare and painted in a bland shade of off-white, lacking any decor or artwork to liven up the room. The space was lit by overhead fluorescent lights that cast a harsh, sterile glow over everything. The only furniture appeared to be a desk with a chair behind it and a couch and chair in front of the desk. There was a faint buzz from the lights overhead and the sound of recirculated air from somewhere, but the room itself was a little stuffy. "Hello!" she said, putting on a big smile for the three Claremont students. "Luke, Leon, and Carmen, yes?" Her Swedish accent was faint but noticeable as she spoke to them, gesturing for them all to have a seat. She gave them all a big smile and spread her hands wide once they were all inside the room. "I am so glad you all are here!" She smiled again, her teeth perfectly white, and folded her hands in front of her, unconsciously beginning to crack her knuckles as she spoke. Everything will be fine. We will get this done and they will have a fine adventure. "This will take no more than twelve hours," she told them all reassuringly, "are you all prepared to be away that long?"
  21. Dutemps Building, Château de Martel Early Afternoon, Around Lunchtime Eve leaned back in her office chair and sighed, rubbing her eyes and fighting off an encroaching headache. She needed something to eat, and to see the other ladies of the Castle. She gave herself a gentle mental chiding, reflecting that it was so typical of her to jump straight into to tackling the pile of paperwork tied to the company, the tower and the city projects she had instead of taking some time to reconnect with her friends. "Yeah," she said out loud, padding off toward the kitchen, "Food."
  22. The small marina was residential, if one could call it that, dotted with houseboats that were just a little bit too small to be luxurious and probably not really seaworthy enough to handle more than a few small waves out in the bay. It was the sort of place where you bought a boat if you wanted to live on a houseboat rather than take one down the coast; the sort of place that had to get its mail from mailboxes by the marina office and where it was hard to find you if you turned off your phones and didn't give directions about which small secondhand house that was technically older than you was yours. It was perfect for the Patriot. Most of the time. Of course, now she had company just a couple of days before Christmas. Ashley stood at the bow of her houseboat, gripping her mug of hot cocoa tightly to stop her hands from wringing together. Everything will be fine. Ellie and Mara are good people. These are your friends. So what if that friendship had come from Ellie being the only underclassman to make her laugh out loud when they were Claremont students. It had been a good start, even if they'd mostly lost touch with each other until after she'd moved back to Freedom. She turned her head, surveying the small space where she lived. It was a beautiful December day and the sun was shining brightly, casting a cold bright glow on the water. It was pretty, anyway, even if it was cold out. That was why they weren't sticking around, she was going to show them around her place, have some hot drinks, then maybe walk down to the nice Arab place down the road. The truth was, Ashley had been nervous - and she was nervous. She couldn't remember the last time she'd had a guest other than Fa'Rua - and even that had been entirely too long ago. She had scrubbed every surface, arranged the furniture so it didn't look like a crappy bachelorette pad in here, and even splurged on some new throw pillows for the tiny couch. Now, as she glanced around the front room, she couldn't help but feel a twinge of anxiety. She slipped a hand into her jacket pocket, fingering the box there, and tried to steady herself. She'd made important decisions, especially after her talk with Stesha on her birthday. She was doing the right thing. She tried to push the negative thoughts aside. Everything was going to be fine. She had worked hard to make this day special, and she was determined to enjoy it. It was going to be a freaking magical afternoon with her friends. Once she was done cleaning up. She grabbed a broom and started sweeping the deck, repressing the catastrophic planning urge that had her remembering where her life jacket was and how long she could hold her breath for the swim out to the nearest water access to her motorbike.
  23. July 4th, Monday, 2022, 4.33PM Sunset Hill, Emerald City, Oregon, USA One hour after a giant bowling ball almost crushed the Liberty Dome... Fort Cutler was well-named, a broad, square, red-brick mansion shouldering its way between other, milder mansions clustered at the top of Sunset Hill, overlooking the grey Pacific Ocean and the glittering twin Emeralds below. It was an open secret in the contacts that the Clines maintained that some of the most successful supercriminals in the world, retired by reason of age or injury, lived behind these handsome doors. Richard Cline was looking for two in particular, Preston Cutler and Josephine Sherman. A few decades back, they'd done crimes as the masked duo of the Sportsman and Princess Poison. Tony played the Robin Hood gimmick by robbing sports events and showing up world champions at their specialties (barring a spectacular defeat at the hands of Bruce Lee), while Josie prowled the society circuit for daring (and deadly) jewel thefts. Both had been pals and accomplices of Richard's in his youth, and they'd eagerly kept in touch well into their current age, even asking him and Paige to be godparents for their now-grown son, Michael. And, very recently, a giant bowling ball exactly like one of Preston's had nearly crushed the Liberty Dome where Richard, Paige, and their children had been. The Cutlers hadn't picked up the phone when called, and somehow couldn't be contacted by less mundane means. And so, here he was. In answer to his knock, the door emblazoned with a stylized 'C-S' swung in, and a trim old man with a neat black suit, a bristling mustache and great wings of white hair peered out. It took a second before his resemblance to Diomedes, one of the deadliest assassins of the 20th century and vicious rival to the second Bowman, sunk in. "Oh!" he blinked, smiling warmly, "Young Mr. Cline! What a pleasant surprise! Mr. and Mrs. Cutler are in the garden, hosting an Independence Day party. Dr. Devastator just got out of prison, they thought it fortuitous. Shall I show you to them, sir?" He stepped partly aside, silently acknowledging that Richard knew the way and could get there *very* quickly.
  24. Leonard Fox Auditorium, Claremont Academy Rosalind Sommaripa, reluctant director Roselind mused she had a special kind of luck, the ability to be at the right place at the wrong time. An offhanded comment that they put on a play this year for the parents, had fallen on the ears of an enthusiastic teacher. It ended up with her even meeting with the Headmistress with promises of extra credits for the idiot that would run the whole show, that idiot being her! So sitting in the auditorium, waiting for both whoever had been roped into helping and those who wanted to audition, she wondered what play they should pick. Worrying that she should have already decided this, if not the whole thing had been a little bit of a whirl since she’d mentioned the idea. Currently, she was flip-flopping between One with the Night and Centurion (if she only had a few shows up), at least they should have an advantage with the special effects...
  25. GM Friday, December 17th 7PM Riverside The Benedict Sans Office Tower 25th Floor The Benedict Sans Officer Tower was a newer addition to the Riverside skyline. It towered over its neighbors as an collection of office floors. Importers liked its proximity to the river and as did start up tech firms like to distinguish themselves from their Hanover counterparts. Representatives from numerous technological and import companies, both local and from outside the city, gathered for a pre-holiday party at the offices of Dumass and Prude Imports. The offices occupy most of the 25th floor. Networking and deal-making was done under the veil of festive cheer. Everyone knew the party was a thinly disguised ploy at gaining favor with key companies. Everything was going fine. Champagne flowed, hors d’oeuvres were nibbled, and schmoozing abound through out the large room where the party was being held. Offices lined two walls of the party room, while floor to ceiling widows encompassed the exterior wall, overlooking the courtyard and offering a magnificent view of the river in the distance. Suddenly, gunfire pierces the evening cheer as armed goons dressed in black stand aside from the open doors of the party room. Five men, one a large man with a thick red mustache and bear paws for hands, another scrawny man with large fly-like wings, bug eyes and arms. A bald, heavyset man in wrestling pants and a long grey/black hair man with glowing eyes flanked them. Finally, another man, obviously younger then the others stood to one side, with a drawn out nose and mouth that gave him a shark like resemblance to match the sharp white teeth his grin shows off. The red-haired man steps forward and spoke up. “Listen here ya prissy, walking checkbooks. This here’s a robbery, you’re gonna cough up whatcha got while we rummage through your offices for pretties, or I’ll know why.” “Now see here!” An older man in a expensive suit steps forward from the terrified guests. Mr. Russell Dumass. The co-owner of Dumass and Pride Imports and the man hosting the party. “You would do well to leave before you face trouble.” Mr. Dumass glanced over at large, suited man with an earpiece and nodded. As if on cue the man and several others around the room draw pistols on the intruders. The party crashers laugh as the armed guards aim there weapons at them in return. The black clad goons aimed small assault rifles and the tension in the room thickened until the red-haired man raised a bear paw of a hand and the goons relaxed some. What happened next was swift and vicious. Four of the men moved with purpose while the one with glowing eyes simply watched. The guards quickly fell under the assault of the villains. Some knock unconscious while others were less fortunate. With the shark faced man being the least restrained. The man he took a bite out of bled profusely and this seemed to only drive him into a frenzy. The other villains only watched as the shark man bite the man over and over until in a rage he picked the bloodied guard up like a rag doll and tossed him through one of the floor to ceiling widows to have him land in a blood mess in the building’s courtyard 25 floors below. The speed and ferocity of the attack cowed any further resistance in the crowd as they began to comply with the men and their goons. Satchel carrying goons began to move through the crowd as the villains regrouped. They spoke in hushed tones before splitting up. The bald villain in wrestling pants and boots took several goons and left the party room as the bear-handed man turned his attention to Mr. Dumass. “You.” He commanded. “Your office, now.” The frighten businessman followed the command and lead the villain into his office. The villain closing the door behind him for privacy. The remaining three villains watched the goons moving through the party guests like vultures waiting on their next meal.
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