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GM Millennium Mall, Midtown, Freedom City 5:30 PM, November 15th, 2019 A rainy Friday afternoon, and Millennium Mall was packed as usual. There was a certain feeling in the air. Everyone was moving around in groups, even tighter than usual. Even through laughter and crying children, everyone hurried between the shops and stuck together, casting nervous glances about. During the last month, five people had gone missing, all disappearing within the vicinity of the mall during the evening. Everyone was hurrying to get home before it was too late. No one wanted to stick around, deals or not deals. That kidnappers had made no demands, and had not been seen. All that was found on the scene after a disappearance was a single silver ball, small enough to fit in a hand. And on this particular evening, several visitors to the mall would be finding similar balls all over the mall.
For all its wonders, Freedom City could be a dangerous place and it was a sad fact that the metropolis was home to more than its fair share of orphaned children. Fitting for a city known for rebirth from the ashes and undying resolution, many of those orphans had grown to become wealthy industrialists, expose-writing journalists, well known photographers and so on. Their legacy meant that Freedom boasted one of the best developed and funded social services programs in the nation. Even so, there never seemed to be quite enough beds, food or cheer to go around, particularly during the holiday season. Keith LaMarr had first become aware of the Santa's Super Helpers charity through his friend Reverend Stone of Lincoln's Church of the Eternal Rock of Justice. The concept was elegant in its simplicity: local superheroes volunteered to dress up in the traditional red and white suit of the jolly elf and spend the day with underprivileged youths at Millennium Mall, bringing some cheer in their own right and drawing much needed attention to the cause at the same time. Jingling bells next to a hanging pot taken to the logical extreme - at least logical by Freedom's standards. Certain bylaws unfortunately made it prohibitively difficult to have heroes participate in their secret identities, so those who's true names were public knowledge were typically approached. It was thus that the earsplitting educator known as Wail stepped into the bustling shopping center from the temporary changing area with a fluffy brimmed hat atop his bald head and bright red across his broad chest, stroking his grey streaked beard through a black glove that matched his boots and wide, gold-buckled belt, looking at though he could shake considerably more than a bowlful of jelly with his super-dense footfalls. The other two heroes in attendance were no less eye catching. The presence of Amir Al-Misri, the high-profile billionaire playboy turned superhero, assured a substantial media presence. His reputation as an irresponsible fop and dilettante would have raised LaMarr's eyebrow more if not for the good things he'd heard about the man as Asad, the energy absorbing metahuman. Neither of them was much comeptition for sheer visual impact next to Louis Ross, the popular cartoonist who's transformation into one of his one, massive, four-armed creations was almost too fantastical to believe. Wail knew he'd seen stranger things than the genial artist's demonic appearance in his decades of experience, but he was hard pressed to name more than a few off hand.