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Children of the Corn Maze

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JR's Family Farm and Corn Maze, Egg Harbor Township, NJ. Saturday, September 23rd, 2017. Shortly before 10:00 pm

 

The Richardson family had given the heroes the use of their barn for this initial planning session; Emily Richardson had been nice enough to provide coffee, donuts and several lanterns, but Grimalkin, 'the Mistress of Mystery', had conjured up the long table and a dozen chairs that currently occupied the center of the barn. She'd also playfully decorated the place with colorful streamers, cobwebs and a few skeletons. The barn was redolent with the smells of farm animals and hay.

 

Grouped at one end of the table were three figures; two of them were instantly recognizable by those who knew Freedom City's heroes, but the third, not so much. Grimalkin and her partner in all things the Shrike were joined by an older man in a wheelchair with a gray ponytail who wore a mask made from a black bandana with eyeholes cut in it, but otherwise wore well-worn denim and a pair of black Doc Martins.  All of them were enjoying a cup of coffee, waiting for the others to arrive.

 

After a few minutes of waiting, the older man checked his watch and sighed dramatically. "So how late do you think this meeting will go? You know your mom doesn't like me out late on Saturdays."

 

"'Butch', can you please ixnay on the ecret identity-say? Some heroes are paranoid; they might be casing the joint invisibily to see if its a trap."

 

Butch looked around nervously. "Oh, right...hadn't thought of that. 'Loose lips', am I right?"

 

"Exactly."

 

A few minutes later, the older civilian cleared. "Look, if I'm gonna join you on your adventures, can I at least get a utility belt or something? I don't have super-cool powers like you and your girlfriend here."

 

"Dad, I'm not gonna get you a utility belt; you'd...try to use the laser blowtorch and burn the house down."

 

Butch sniffed and folded his arms. "Fine, just let the bad guys take your old man hostage, then!"

 

"Dad, just...ooh!" 

 

No said anything for several minutes until Gretchen reached out with her mental link.

 

-You two are adorable.-

 

-Quiet, you!-

Edited by Heritage

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Max strode into the barn and looked at all those assembled, the few there were and grinned wolfishly, then rubbed his bald head.  The new tattoo on the back of his head, which was an octopus made of fire whose tentacles came up around the side of his head and stopped just over the ears looked like it was squirming and writhing when he did so, but it was just a trick of the skin and movement.

 

"Heya, Grim!  Long time no kidnapped to other dimensions with!  So what exactly did ya drag me out here for?  I had assumed you wanted alone time, but I can see by the company that ain't the case."  Max winked playfully, obviously giving Grim a hard time.  She was a strange one, to be sure, and she was powerful, that much was obvious, but Max liked her.  She was fun, didn't take things too seriously all the time, and always proved to have interesting things happen around her, so that was all Max needed to know when he'd been called here.  He was sure it would end with him having a good time, or setting fire to some otherworldly baddie or villain.  Either way Max was excited to be a part of it.

 

Max sat down across from Shrike and waved at her, then turned his attention to the older man.  "Nice ta meet ya sir, name's Spitfire.  You can call me Max or Maxie.  I'd like to thank you for the hospitality, and the trust!  Not everyone would be this cool and relaxed having a firebreather in a barn!  It's very forward thinking of you!"

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Outside the barn, the air gave a quick pop - and Mark and Richard Amir Lucas appeared. In his black suit, blue shirt, and gold tie, Mark (who also went by Edge) was instantly recognizable - the sleeping two-month-old in a blue and gold front-facing carrier was rather less so. "Hello, everyone!" Mark called as he walked into the barn, his hand on Richard's back as they entered even though the baby was securely asleep. "Hello, nice to meet you in person," he said, automatically stepping forward to press the flesh. "And Grim, nice to see you again." He certainly looked older than the Claremont student Lynn had met years ago, impeccable in a dark suit with a short blond ponytail. "I'm excited to be here, I have a lot of ideas. I hope you don't mind I brought my son," and there was still a faint catch to those words, two months later, "but we're on Geneva time still and his mother's in a meeting." Richard was still small, but his pinched pink face drew a striking resemblance to Mark, even though the fuzz of black hair on his head must have come from somewhere else. "Hello, Spitfire," he said with a familiar nod. "Hey, I guess I haven't seen you since before this guy was born. How have you been?" 

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Torpedo lass landed on her feet near the edge of the cornfield hosting the event. Jumping on land always seemed to Mary to be the best way to travel. It beat heavy traffic and using a car. She had a large yellowish waterproof dufflebag worn like a backpack. Looked like something made in the 1940s with yellow rubber... but unlike something of that material from that time, the bag looked brand new. It had "Property of WAVE" stenciled on the side with "Issued to Mary Masterson" written under it by marker.

The outfit Mary had on right now though was fully modern. slightly damp too after a short swim... which was from the Gulf Coast to Freedom City before taking a jumping land-route to the farm. The wetsuited woman walked along the dirt road to the meeting location. Her deck shoes scuffed the ground as she reached the doors. After one final look around the seaworthy sentinel of Freedom City knocked before walking in. "Hey hey, answerin' the help-wanted you guys posted up and... heyyyyyy...."

 

She noticed the man with the skull mask in the wheel-chair, as well as the others who had just arrived... "This a Halloween plannin' session or a negotiation?"

 

She quirked an eyebrow, her eyes having their signature phosphorescent sea-green glow. "Then again it is Halloween and some people have strange ideas for costumes in 2017..."

 

"Name's Torpedo Lass... thought I'd volunteer to assist with the shin-dig happening here... if interested... if that's what's happening..."

Edited by Sailor

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Grim beamed at Spitfire's arrival and quickly bounded over the table to give him a warm hug and a peck on the cheek. "Thanks so much for coming, Max; I really appreciate it." She turned to gesture towards the seated heroine. "This is my partner, the Shrike-"

 

Gretch smirked and raised a hand in greeting.

 

"And this is my...well, Butch is an old friend, and our general spookhouse consultant."

 

The man in the bandana mask chuckled and shook his head, lifting up the bottom of his mask to allow him to speak more clearly in response to Max.

 

"Hell, no; I wish I owned this much property! Nah, the Richardsons are old friends of mine; they agreed to let us spruce up their corn maze for Halloween in exchange for some of the charitable proceeds going to help out with John's medical bills. Farmers usually can't afford the best health insurance, and chemo ain't cheap."

 

At Mark's arrival, Lynn shifted over to greet him...and then utterly melted at the sight of the infant in his arms. "Hi Ma- ohmigod, you had a kid? He's so little!" The clearly-smitten changeling turned to one side and with a wave of her hand conjured up a beautiful wooden crib with soft bedding next to one of the chairs. "There you go, in case you need a break."

 

It took some effort to tear her eyes away from the baby when Torpedo Lass arrived, but somehow Grim managed. "Awesome, thanks for coming out! We may have a few more trickling in, but we might as well get started; help yourselves to the donuts and coffee."

 

Standing in front of everyone, Grimalkin clapped and rubbed her hands together as she went into her pitch. "So, thank you all for coming! This is something I try to do every Halloween: put together a fun, scary activity with the help of other heroes to raise money for charity. The novelty of getting to experience superpowers up close and personal, or possibly getting to take a selfie with a hero, allows us to charge a bit more with the knowledge that this is an entirely non-for-profit enterprise. Our powers allow us to achieve effects you don't normally see outside a Hollywood movie set, basically for free."

 

And here, Grim demonstrated by summoning a terrifying scarecrow into being with just a wave of her hand; it was seven feet tall, super creepy and incredibly lifelike.

 

"See? Easy-peasy; I can do that all day. We also have access to a pool of highly-dedicated volunteers, aka 'Grim's Ghouls', to help us out; they're a mix of college kids, disabled veterans and retired amusement park technicians who live for this stuff and are eager to work with you and help out. We have ten acres of corn to work with and three worthy causes to support."

 

She clapped her hands again and grinned hopefully.

 

"So! Whaddya say?"

Edited by Heritage

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From the shadows of the barn came a chuckle and two green eyes blazed out of the darkness.

 

"I guess I'm in the right place then." the voice had a trace of an accent

 

From the shadows stepped a cloaked figure who threw back her hood to reveal a young woman, she gave a tight smile at Grim before adding

 

"I was in town and I thought it'd be nice to catch up when there wasn't some kind of crisis brewing. Some very rude woman at you places said you'd be here so here I am. Sorry about all that I just did it's kind of a force of habit."

 

She turned to the other and looked them over, knowing some for the Orders well-maintained files and others from just watching the news.

 

"I'm Blodeuwedd and it's a pleasure to meet you all. I guess I'm here to help set all this up."

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"Oh, thank you," said Mark, smiling at Grim. "This is Richard, by the way. I really appreciate the help." Richard Amir might have appreciated it too, but it was hard to tell, being of an age when babies slept most of the day. "I know you weren't expecting babies, but his mom has pulled some all-nighters lately. I'll make sure he's all the way asleep before I put him down anywhere, though - if he wakes up crabby, all sorts of strange things can happen!" He laughed. 

 

Paying attention now to the briefing, he asked, "Are we going full-Halloween, or generic harvest festival - or both? We've got the powers and the resources for almost anything we want, so we can probably make something that everyone can handle." He thought of his own international family, then went on, "We could set up the different areas by spookiness level, so you've got one that's just jack-o-lanterns and costumed ghosts, all the way up through really scary stuff at the last one. I'll volunteer for the first one," he added with a grin. "I'm pretty G-rated these days." 

 

Snapping his fingers, he produced a jack-o-lantern at his feet - a good-sized one about as tall as his knees, with a fair likeness of Grim's face sending a cheery orange and yellow glow through the barn. "Give me some time, I can make enough of these for every kid who comes our way." 

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Grimalkin grinned and waved at Blod, happy to see the young Welsh heroine, but at the mention of a 'rude woman', she and Gretchen exchanged comically confused glances across the barn.

 

-Don't look at me. I've been with you all day.-

 

-So who- ah, maybe it was Merge?-

 

-Makes sense.-

 

In response to Mark's question, the fae nodded vigoursly.  "Yes, I'm a big proponent of having seperate, clearly-marked thematic areas, with the really scary stuff as far from the kiddies as possible; we want to cast our net wide, so I'm thinking G-rated, PG, and probably nothing harder than PG-13. Also wheelchair accessabilty and a well-stocked, fully-staffed first aid station are a must."

 

Butch cleared his throat. "Also to be street legal, we need to pass building code and fire safety inspections, even if you guys are just, y'know, making with the I Dream of Jeanie school of construction." He folded his arms and blinked. 

 

Lynn looked up from where she was crouched down, inspecting Mark's 'Grim o' lantern' with smile. "Right! That's one of the reasons I wanted you to be here, Max, for help with fire safety. Also as a possible resource for a carny-themed area I was considering, unless you think that's in bad taste."

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On 10/2/2017 at 9:11 PM, Avenger Assembled said:

"Hello, Spitfire," he said with a familiar nod. "Hey, I guess I haven't seen you since before this guy was born. How have you been?" 

 

Max nearly squeeled in delight, jumping up to baby talk and tickle the baby.  "Edge, I tell ya, it's been a hell of a few months, but you know me, I always come out of the fire clean.  And look at you, little man, aren't you the cutest little thing in the world?!  Who's gonna grow up to be a little superhero huh?  You are!  Yeah, you are!"  Max tickeled the baby's chin and effectually devolved into nonsense words while talking to the baby before coming to his senses.

 

"Heh, sorry bout that, I kinda like kids, babies especially."

 

Max turned to Torpedo Lass and smiled.  "Howdy there Lass.  How's the prez these days?"

 

Max greeted the newcomer then snapped his finger turning to Grim.  "I got it, I'll get ahold of Deardra, I'm sure she'd be willing to offer the Menagerie up for this.  Good press and getting some work in at the same time.  Prolly offer a discount."  Max turned to everyone else.  "I used to work at a travelling circus.  Deardra's Travelling Menagerie.  Pretty big gig as far as carnie fare goes.  We can set up tents around the corn maze, or in it, or in the center, whatever works.  I'll make sure she knows about the PG-13 restriction."

 

Max sat back down and propped his feet on the table.

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Blodeuwedd pulled her goggles up to the top of her head, as useful as they were they didn't really help in circumstances like these. Besides, she doubted anyone actually knew exactly who she was.

 

"We don't have anything like this back in Wales, we celebrate Samhain in a very different way."

 

Samhain was when the pact between the Order and the Tylwyth Teg that hide there home was renewed. After a rather solemn official ceremony, the rest of the night was a rambunctious party. The next day at church tended to be rather muted because of this.

 

"But tell what you need and I’ll see what I can do."

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Lynn smiled and sighed. "Well, you know us Americans; commercialize and bastardize everything! But I think both Samhain-" (she actually pronounced it correctly) "And Halloween do have a lot in common; they're both a liminal time, when the boundaries between worlds are thin, and we have a chance to peek and see what's on the other side." 

 

(You don't own a magical used bookstore and NOT pick up some arcane knowledge)

 

"As to exactly what we're looking for...Shrike, if you would please."

 

Gretchen shook her head and smirked. "Not a problem." Then she held up her left hand, and the ruby on the Ring of Power glowed like captive fire as she looked up to the rafters.

 

Someone (that would be Butch, with a lot of help) had hidden speakers up into the rafters, and at this very moment the opening chords of Carl Orff's O Fortuna could be heard ringing through the barn as the bird-masked heroine lowered a large 1:200th scale map of the corn maze from up in the hay loft. Gretchen couldn't help but throw in a slow lazy spin as it hovered into view, and Lynn conjured a table big enough to support the whole thing, with a good foot and a half on all sides to accommodate cups of coffee and anything else the designers might want to keep close to hand. Gretch actually timed it so it gently landed on the table as the classical movement drew to a close.

 

The model was a wonder; not limited by the need for machining or construction, Grimalkin had conjured up this beautiful piece after she and her partner had spent the better part of a day flying over the property and surveying. One could make out individual trees and thousands upon thousands of tiny stalks of corn, as well as the barn, farm house, tractors and various other structures. The existing maze was visible, with dozens of pathways and a few cleared out areas.

 

"And there we go; take all the time in the world to study it." Then Lynn slapped the sides of her face. "Ooh, I forgot the laser pointers! Shrike, did you-"

 

"I've got you covered." Grim's partner brought out a small shopping bag, from which she dispensed several inexpensive helium neon laser pointers as though she were handing out candy to trick 'r' treaters. "Happy Halloween....Happy Halloween..."

Edited by Heritage

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Showing a surprising amount of expertise if you knew him at all well, Mark was full of suggestions about his corner of the project - having firmly staked out "G-rated land" as his own. Little Richard wouldn't have had it any other way. "Okay, I can put a maze here," he said, pointing to the cornfield. "Not too hard, just something for the kids to enjoy. If you make it out of bales of straw, it's not too scary for them and you can put in 'windows' so grownups can keep an eye on them." He hmmed.  "I'll put stuff inside like scarecrows, jack-o-lanterns, bedsheet ghosts - they'll like that. You don't actually want to scare little kids at Halloween, they'll just start to cry. And at the heart of everything, tables full of pumpkin pies, and cider, and candy!" He patted Richard on the back. "Kids love candy, but luckily I know how to make lots of candy - does anybody coming have any allergies we should know about?" 

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Mary smirked to Max. "He's good... his Chili is as fine as ever."

 

She stretched out setting down the large bag. "So, I wager I can handle the heavy lifting." She said setting down the bag with a thud. To her it seemed like a feather. "Got my Halloween costume in here... the advantage of being moved to modern times from WWII, is whatever gear you had is mint."

 

"So, talked with some friends and got a few ideas. As for Allergies... none that I know of, but it might be a smart idea to have the more common allergy triggering treats separated from the safe goodies."

 

"I can also do some pretty high jumps if you need someone to take looks at the surroundings as they grow. Particularly the main maze."

 

"In fact if anyone gets lost I can get into the maze super easy... I'll just need a map if I miss my jump. Don't worry about visibility though." She said pointing to her glowing eyes. "I can see in the dark like it wasn't a thing."

 

"Sort of a sad situation that mood-lighting is lost on me when I can read a book during a new moon in the middle of the Pacific."

Edited by Sailor

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Blodeuwedd slinked back a little, not fully into the shadows but away from the metaphorical limelight. It was kind of her default anyhow that she tended to adopt even when not really thinking about it. Normally this was for stalking or avoiding enemies, but here the only opponents would be made from straw if she understood all this right!

 

Not really knowing exactly what was being planned she was really waiting to be given instruction on how to help make the magic happen, she might be good at improvising but she was just as good at following orders.

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"Okay!" said Mark brightly. "Let's get going! Who's with me?" As soon as he knew, he, his companions, and his baby disappeared! 

 

They reappeared out in the cornfield, where Mark soon went to work, striding around like he'd lived in a cornfield his whole life despite his suit and tie. Gesturing with his left hand, he began not cutting down the corn but vanishing it - erasing stalks from existence like a conductor silencing out-of-tune instruments in an orchestra. The baby he was wearing stayed asleep the whole way through, evidently quite used to magical teleportation. "We'll go ahead and make this the center, so we'll have to fill it up with what the kids want. After that, it's maze-making time. You guys ever been in a maze?"

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Max laughed at Mark.

 

"Yeah, but it was an alternate dimension maze ran by a demon who fed on the sins of it's maze's inhabitants, so I doubt that's the kind of thing we want our kids running through, and it changed every so often so there's no working your way through it.  Don't think that's what we wanna build.  Do need to make the center rather large if we're gonna have even a miniature version of the carnival in there.  I'll tell Deardra to leave the Elephants and the like at home."

 

Max pulled out his phone and stepped to the side.

 

"Hey Deardra!  It's Maxie!  Don't hang up, I got a gig!..."

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As Mark and his 'posse' blinked away, Grim looked somewhat crestfallen. "They hardly even looked at the model."

 

The Shrike stepped over to her girlfriend and rested a hand on her arm. "They saw enough. They might even come back to take a look now and again." She paused to rest her forehead against Grim's. "He's used to being his own boss out in the field. The man is a force of nature with a bad haircut and a goofy tie. Don't try to corral him. Let him do his own thing." Then she took a step backward and smiled her weird little half-smile. "Let him handle Kiddieland. You and I can do the Tomb of Horrors."

 

That got the changeling to smile, at first a warm and wonderful one, but then it morphed into something more Pennywise-ish. "Their blood will freeze in their veins."

 

"There's my little sociopath." Gretch turned to Butch (and anyone else who remained) and gave them her best Kubrick stare. "Join us...if you dare." Then she took her lover's hand, and then two floated out of the barn like an evil Peter Pan and Wendy.

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Blodeuwedd stood and considered her options for a few moments, not quite getting it all she didn't want to get in the way but she still was going to help if she could. From what she understood Mark could probably do this all on his own, so the obvious division of labour would be to help Grim with the more serious maze. And hey she had some experience of the supernatural that they could maybe use, though she doubted that the Welsh myths would be as much use really.

 

She followed behind the couple as they bickered, without thinking so quiet that she might as well not be there, suppressing a smile at the couple. She didn't want to interrupt so she kept quiet but available if needed, almost invisible until needed.

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Max moved back over to Grim and smiled, throwing the phone in the air and catching it deftly before shoving it back in his back pocket.

 

"Deardra's in.  Got a smaller contingent of the carnival booked, all the best stuff minus the large animals.  Bearded lady, crocodile man, fortune teller, you name it.  I can do a little fire show either in the maze proper or in the carnival if ya want."

 

Max headed over to the model and peered at it tapping his teeth contemplatively.

 

"I think the best thing to do is set the carnival up in the middle of the corn maze ya know, have it be sort of the cheese at the end of the maze for the rats?  Not to say that people are rats, but you get my drift."  Max noticed Grim's shadow and cocked an eyebrow at Blodeuwedd,  "What about you?  Got any thoughts here?  Carnival in the center yes or no?  Outside maybe?  Set up little stations along the entrances to the maze?"  Max wasn't sure if she would answer him, having dealt with several different types of hero types in his past, this looked like the "silent" type, but he didn't like the thought of someone feeling like they weren't contributing, even if talking wasn't their strong suit.  Besides, Max loved to pull people from their shell, get them talking, get them involved, if you asked him that was his real super power, not the breathing fire thing.

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Mark stayed active as he moved back and forth across the farm's property, popping back and forth to study Grim's plan while at the same time making his own cheerful additions with a wave of his hand and a wink in his eye. There didn't seem to be any limits to his ability to translate his imagination into reality, and few enough limits to his imagination, for all that he was concentrating on family-friendly Halloween activities. "What if we made a big jack o'lantern, big enough for all the kids to crawl inside and take their pictures at once?!" As he spoke, he was waving his hand outside the barn, summoning a jack o'lantern easily as tall as the building, a cheery titan of orange with glowing yellow eyes like something pulled from a small boy's mythology. "Or is that too scary? What do you think, little guy?" Richard was awake by now and moved from his father's carrier to his father's arms, peering suspiciously at the world with a small baby's lack of vision in his big blue eyes, sucking on a bottle that Mark had seemed to simply pull from his sleeve when the baby needed it. 

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