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Tiffany Korta

February/March Vignette - The Common People

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We all know how you hero deals with the world of superheroes and villains around them, but what about those who view these things from a distance? So through February and March here's a chance to show how the general public sees you as a hero. Among some of the choices you have are as follows:

 

  • How regular folks see your hero, either from a single encounter or a lifelong obsession. Regular folks can be anyone from an Innocent bystander, to members of the emergency services, worried loved ones, muggers and robbers or even the cute pets you've rescued from trees.

 

  • Media representation of your hero, good or bad, that can be of any type you wish. Examples include talking head fluff pieces, to exerts from tell-all book to reviews of classic run of there comics or that embarrassing off tone TV pilot that few have seen. If reference other heroes show try to use Freedom City equivalent or real-world pieces, so talk about that campy '66 Raven show rather than a certain bat...

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  • Actual fan-fic about your hero. Either a short story or extracts from a longer epic. Keep things PC-13 and whilst any NPC's are fair game please ask before using anyone elses PC characters.

 

  • How your hero reacting to any of the above, maybe they love the attention or maybe all they want to do is cringe and hope no one else ever knows about such things.

 

Please post them here by March 31st. 
 
 (As a reminder, vignettes follow the same general rules as posts in terms of content, player character limits, and so on. You may have only one vignette per player character. Each vignette should be at least one page (~500 words) in length; if posted in your thread counts at the end of the month, it is worth 1pp for the associated character. An especially long vignette, 1000 words or more, may be worth up to 2pp. Multiple players can collaborate on a single vignette - we recommend Google Docs for this, it's very useful - but the vignette should be about one page per participating player. )

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The Streets of Bedlam City are perfused with gossip and stories. Small tales of small heroics circle round friends and bars…

 

…here are just a few pertaining to the enigmatic Red Rat. Are they true? Or are they bent and twisted by Chinese whispers? Or are they simply urban myths?

 

Maybe we shall never know…

 

The Red Rat, as told by Audrey Hunter, 50, Retail.

 

My husband and I own a store on Root Street. Sure, it gets rough every now and again, when some tweaking junkie comes in demanding money. I got a shotgun under the counter and a baseball bat on the shelf. Thank God I ain’t had to shoot someone.

 

Lot of traffic on Root street corner. Plenty of folks going this way and that all time of night. All sorts of folk, if you get my meaning. Some of them working. If you get my meaning again.

 

Anyway, we heard about the Red Rat. Most folks have, although it’s a load of nonsense, I reckon, for the most part. Soviet super spy, they say. Mutant Rat-woman, they say. Alien body snatcher, they say. Well, we heard plenty. I guess you can pick out enough to make some guesses. Ain’t no mutant, Ain’t no alien. Ain’t no rat, neither.

 

Those folks, like us, who listen to the stories enough. Well, most people think she is some kind of spy. On the run, although who knows from? Maybe it is the Russians. The name would fit. Anyway, people on the run have a habit of ending up in Bedlam. And I guess she fits in just swell. It’s a place where you can lose yourself. Maybe you have to lose yourself.

 

On the run, I reckon. But even if she is hiding, she is still there, you know what I mean? Just pops up, here and there, helping people out.

Nobody can make Bedlam safe, not all the time. But its nice to know at least some folk are out there. Makes the villains think twice, I guess. Maybe makes us all sleep just that little bit better.

 

So Tony and I, we were finishing up one night. Must have been two in the morning. Even the drunks have passed out by that time, least for the most part. We get the sound of braking wheels outside. We just look at each other, you know? Get that sixth sense thing.

 

Tony went to get the baseball bat, and looked outside. Four punks, in a stolen car. “Looking for some action!” they said as they barged in.

 

Tony ain’t a young man no more, but he tried to throw them out. Got a kick in his nuts and a boot in his face for that. His nose ain’t been the same since, I swear.

 

They were punks, all of ‘em, with bright red hair. Soon worked out why. Their idea of fun was the setting buildings alight. Just for the thrill of it. Didn’t matter to ‘em if anybody was in or not. I guess they probably preferred it if someone got roasted.

 

Now, we could have been cooked that day. Came darn close. But fortunately, someone had got wind of these punks. And someone had been following them. And that someone was the Red Rat.

 

Silent, she was, just standing at the door whilst the punks started pouring out gas. Wearing a smile and that red jacket of hers.

 

And carrying some guns. Not your regular street ones. This was something else. In the blink of an eye, she fired. Silent, you could barely hear them. Just a little flash, a little sizzle. And she was fast! You could barely follow her. The guns hissed and spat, fast! I don’t know what they were firing, but it wasn’t bullets.

 

The thugs fell to the floor! Zam! Out cold. Like they had been tasered, or something. And there she was, blowing the tops of her pistols. Huh. Now I think about it, I don’t recall them smoking. Like I said, not bullets. Just for effect, I guess. Looked cool. And were just so…scared? And relieved.

So that’s my little story. Plenty of those around. Some of them true, like I said. Bedlam ain’t safe, but a few stories like that keeps people a little warmer in a cold city.

 

The Red Brain, as told by Charles Higgins, 18, Internet blogger.

I’m got mad internet skills, see. Like, super mad. I can burn the stream and ride the flow. Big style to the supermax.

 

You know, as an awesome internet guy, I get a lot of info storms. Gotta sift through the data web, trying to see the patterns, the holes and the glitches. You can get real then. See the truth as it is. Not some Government cover up. Only way to live.

 

Takes up a lot of my time. My fingers and my brain are my weapons. So I might be a bit on the large size, what with only getting out of my deck to go for a dump. Sometimes I even got to cut corners in that department. Its serous sweat getting out of my chair when I’m jacked in and over thirty stone. My momma keeps telling me to get some sunshine and take some exercise, but what does she know? Well, she treats me good, I suppose. Keeps me in crisps and soda whilst I am cruising the web to the max. To the supermax, actually.

 

Anyway, I get all the cyber gossip. And I was cruising the information highway when I catch this hyper glitch. Some Russians, splicing the FBI hard software. You know, like its real superserious and stuff. Cybersuperserious!

 

I got mad skills, yeah. But, you know, I’m trying to frack their Snizzle, stop them or warn somebody, but I’m cut out. I may have the skills, but I guess they had the better hardware. Cut me out and start frying me. Like, serious circuit smoke. Double circuit smoke, really. 

 

Now, on the cyberspace city, there’s this dude. The Red Brain. I mean, smooth like electronic lightning. Zips in through the security traps, icy cold artic frost man. Never seen nothing like it. Just this icon, a red brain. We all heard of him. Nobody knows who he is. Maybe Russian, they say. Some say he hangs out with the Red Rat. Well, I don’t buy that, I mean, sure they are both red but that’s it, yeah? The Red Rat is a girl, anyway. Even if she is super hot.

 

So the Red Brain slicks through cyberspace hyperstabbing counter measures all the while like they weren’t even there. Supercool. Wish I had his rig. Gets the Russians and they like don’t know what hit them. E-fried, man. BAM! Must have smoked their rigs and traced them. Doublejacked their hard drives. Toast!

 

The Red Brain, man. King of cyberspace. Don’t mess, seriously.

 

The Red Ape, as told by Jim “Jimmy” Block, 56

 

Ain’t that many folks up at five in the morning. Even the scum that litter the streets at night have gone to bed or passed out in the gutter.

 

Almost like a ghost town. We and the crew, we start picking up the garbage. Around Five thirty. Usually meet for a breakfast and a cuppa strong coffee. Maybe three of four coffees. It actually ain’t a bad time to be in Bedlam. The folks at the diner are friendly, and there is a kind of comraderie for us early morning folk.

 

After filling up, we start the rounds. It’s honest work, and the pay reflects how honest it is. We don’t grumble. Well, don’t grumble much. Sometimes we even have a laugh at the things we find. Maybe we might find some thug passed out on the street. Them are sweet days, because we might accidentally step extremely hard on his, or her, face, with an iron shod boot.

But every now and again, we find some thugs still out on the prowl. Looking for some mischief or another. And it can be pretty brutal mischief.

 

And sometimes, they get a pretty brutal payback.

 

Heard of the Red Ape? Big ugly thing. Like a cross between a man and a gorilla. Hairy, tall, strong, knuckles on the ground. Some say its actually the Red Rat, but I doubt it. She’s hot. This thing? Yeah, not so much…

 

So, we catch the Red Ape at work. Pounding six thugs to the ground. Never seen something so strong. Flipping them around like they were dolls. Finished ‘em off by picking up the leader, and using him as a club to batter the others. I can still here the bones splintering.

 

Then the Ape, I swear, not wearing a single scratch, looks at us. I’ll always remember this. Now, the Red Ape may be strong as hell, but looks like the brains department are a bit lacking, you understand.

 

So, the Red Ape goes to us. “Bad man get smashed up” with a big grin, like a child who has done something naughty but, you know, is like really happy up.

 

“Me smash bad men” it added, by way of explanation.

 

We just stood there, with our jaws to the floor. So the Red Ape turns around and lumbers off. And then, and then…it did a little dance, a little skip. To celebrate the smashing of bad men, I guess.

 

Don’t know who started it, but we ended up giving a round of applause.

Edited by Supercape

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Lobisomem, as told by Garrett Baker, 22, General Lowlife.

 

I swear I saw it! Don't make fun of me, I saw it! That...that thing! No, I wasn't high! I didn' take anything that night, saw clear as day, I did! Felt it too, thought I'd die that night...

 

Ya guys know what I was gonna do that day. Easy come easy go. Stunk to high heaven, it did, but it was usable. Would get us a good buck, you know, if it succeeded. But no! It just had to be one of those days!

 

We didn't hear anything for a while, everything was going well, our customers would arrive soon...and they did! It was great, they paid, most didn't take it...guess they wanted to be at home...and then they tried to leave...now that I think about it, that's when things got a little bit strange. I mean, I didn't even hear their footsteps once they got outside, thought nothing of it...then I heard somebody scream. Not those little ladies with their purses, walking round at night, but a scream. Like you were being murdered. We...I guess we froze, nobody wanted to be the one to check, not with that type of scream, and then brave old Bart went to take a look.

 

I think it was quiet for maybe a minute. Thought that maybe it'd be a big dog, scary, but we could shoot it! And then he screamed, shot, and kept screaming. I wanted to help, I really did, and now that I think about it, it wouldn't have helped anyway. Bart was thrown through the door, he didn't scream no more, but he was alive. The door was empty, I thought at least. Could have been a ghost that threw him! At least till I saw something move, it was invisible, I swear. And it was fast. Two seconds, and my biddies were being hoisted through the air by this monster, big enough to hold two of them with one claw! Now I moved, and I shot at it, yeah I did, and I hit it too! And guess what, it barely budged, it just turned around like I scratched its back or something. Good God was it big! Like a snake with legs, lots of legs!

 

It threw my buddies down, and then it vanished, right before my eyes. I-I admit, I just started shooting everywhere, but what would you do like that!? Only problem was, I ran out of bullets fast, and I hit nothing, that was for sure. I heard nothing, and maybe I thought I scared it away...and then it was in my face. I don't even know how I missed those horrible eyes, pitch black.

 

And then it ate me...

 

...what? Ok, fine, it bit me. But I thought it was gonna eat me so I may have...y'know...fainted. And here I am. In jail. It's crazy, but I think I heard it talk, something weird like Lobisomem or something like that. Crazy. I just never want to see it again...

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Starshot

 

This is a special report by Vox Saga, on the strange world of the space safari!

 

For those that do no know, and surely they are few, Vox Saga is the galaxies finest investigative reporter. Astute, incisive, and fearless, Vox peels back the veneer on society, and gazes at its underbelly. And check out her tail! Hubba Hubba!

 

The galactic safari is an old institution perpetuated by the ultra-rich of the Lor republic, and indeed further afield. If you have the money, then the thrill of exploring the far reaches of the galaxy, to see strange and wonderful life forms, to explore strange new worlds, all of this is intoxicating and exhilarating. And sometimes dangerous.

 

The Lor republic do of course have rules and guidelines about protecting biospheres, and even more importantly non space-faring cultures of whatever technological level. There are many strict rules about the transportation of alien species, requiring medical and biological clearance to avoid deadly contamination.

 

But space is vast, and policing all of these rules and regulations is effectively impossible. We are reliant on the goodwill and ethical principles of those that run these adventures. And one man has come to epitomise the most bold and dangerous side of the space Safari. The terran known as Starshot.

 

The story of Starshot starts with the well known criminal Zaul Zeno, who is missing after decacycles of life crimes. Starshot was one of his slaves, one of his experiments, but since Zeno disappeared, Starshot has effectively rid himself of his previous life and re-forged himself. He has been running a successful extreme safari business for cycles.

 

His expeditions are costly, and dangerous. An escape for the thrill seeking ultra-rich. Remarkably, despite facing such terrible beasts as the Ootoomoo Flying Wet Slug, the Vyzur Death Viper, and the Lopsided Foul Breathed Gubbin of Metolium 6 (about which the less said the better) there have been no fatalities. Some scars, of course. That just adds to the mystique. I understand Count Orto VanLipsink has resolutely refused to get his third arm replaced with a cybernetic model or have biomolecular regeneration. He insists he is extremely proud of having it chewed off by the Flying Wet Slug, and to have it replaced would be a disservice to the creature. Having met the Count personally I can attest to his determination. It is, I admit, quite the conversation piece. The Count has the Flying Wet Slug that chewed off his arm encased in preservium trans-plastic in his hall. Macabre, perhaps, but also poetic.

 

Starshot is the extreme. Many guests have come back thrilled. Many terrified. That is, I suppose, the appeal, to reach the most dangerous and unknown corners of space and come back with a story, or a trophy.

 

But what about these trophies? Getting dangerous and alien species through Lor Space is at best, legally grey. Starshot has done some valuable work for the scientific community in capturing non sentient species that could hold promise for biomedical science, and he is, by and large, a valued asset in the xenobiological scientific community. But some of the ultra-rich would ove a novel alien pet, either for their lap or for their private cage.

 

This is a debatable area. Even if it can be clearly established that alien species transportation is biologically safe, is it ethical?

 

It is here that matters become murky and dark. Tales of bribery and corruption amongst the wealthy and powerful. Officials taking backhanders, scientists waiving through dangerous creatures.

 

One can reasonably ask, how possible is it to police the galaxy against such smuggling. In the core Lor republic, perhaps. But on the outer reaches? On the pleasure palaces built on spectacular barren moons? Can we really stop the illegal transportation of alien species?

 

I have interviewed many veterans of safari’s, both those who run them and have partaken. I have spoken to law officials, politicians, starport administrators, scientists and businessmen. Nearly all agree, the laws are fine in principle, but unenforceable in execution. We are relying on the reputation and conduct of the men and women of the Safari.

 

As for Starshot, I cannot find any evidence of misdoing. Perhaps his former life has driven him from any such cruelty or callousness – for Zaul Zeno was surely the epitome of the cold and brutal side of the Space Safari. Indeed, I have found several examples of exemplary action.

There is, for instance, the example of Liir Spoon, the heir to the Spoon business. I am sure we are all aware how rich that dynasty is. Liir was determined to get a pet, a simian species from Epsilon Gamma 493, a notorious biodiverse jungle planet. Having procured a specimen, an Ooga, it soon became apparent that the creature was sentient. Liir, reprehensibly, wished to capture the creature anyway, to serve as a butler or pet, or some mangled blend of the two.

 

Starshot had nothing to do with this. He dropped off her off at the nearest mining colony without a word. Liir is still threatening legal action, but by every account Starshot was quite correct in his attitude. Maybe he was not legally or politically astute, for he has made a powerful enemy by not only frustrating Spoons’ mission, but by forcing her to suffer the ignobility of a roughneck mining station in the outer domains. She has not forgotten, nor forgiven. We shall see what comes of that clash of wills.

 

But within the broad safari community, such action was applauded. It gave their business a good name, and Starshot is held up as not just the boldest explorer of distant jungle moons, but as a man to imitate in ethics.

 

He will not only refuse to transport sentient beings, but has defended primitive cultures from exploitation. He has stopped the transportation of non-sentient beings when he has even a suspicion of dangerous use. Bioweaponry is a big business, and introducing dangerous fast breeding predators into an eco system could potentially wreak havoc on a world. Or several.

 

Sometimes, the stories suggest a stony resolve that is excessive both in the frequency and nature of his application. He is not, it seems, a man prone to the fiery explosive fits of rage that one can see in men and women of war and action. Those who know the man testify to a cold, steely, and even brutal resolve when he encounters things against his code. And a code he most surely has, because for all his gravel and grit, he would not harm anybody on his ship, no matter how vile. Even Liir Spoon was dropped off safely, even if she vexes and complains to this day about the filth and squalor she was subjected to.

 

He is not a man of explosive violence, but the icy directed violence that comes from brute determination. He kills rarely, and only when he must. But he has placed his cybernetic fist or hard boot on many face and many chest. He does not shirk from violence, but I would not judge him a violent man from my investigation. He is a man of course who loves the open worlds he explores, who loves the thrill of the hunt and the blood rush of excitement. But there is a certain honour in this for him. A ritual, perhaps. He appears to consider hunting a natural or primitive endeavour, and an honourable one.

 

But this does not apply to the flow and ebb of civilisations or sentients. Even the most cruel of criminals he would refrain from the death blow. In these core complex, possibly nauseating or confusing situations, violence is a tool and nothing more.

 

And so there we have it. An exciting, bold and dangerous business full of legal and ethical complexities. And at its head, a man of strange and turbulent past, a man both complex and simple, full of blood and bound by a code of his own determination. Starshot, man of the galaxy.

 

I must get my tail signed by him!

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Bloody Mess

Vera Crow, 86, Recounts her tale of Bloody Mess, and the Hound.

 

Would you like a cookie? I baked them. Burnt them a bit, I am afraid, but I still make the best darn cookies on Willowfield Street. Except for Greg Burns. I’d kill him to find his secret ingredient, I would. Wait…gosh darn it, he died last Summer. Or was it the summer before? Can’t rightly remember. Guess we shall never know how he made his cookies.

 

The Fens ain’t a bad place. Not really. We have a sense of community, of sorts. Now, I know we ain’t rich here, least for the most part. But we stick together. Well….for the most part. Eh, for the most part. Not always. No, not always.

 

We got our bad eggs. We got our rotten apples. And sometimes, we get even worse. It ain’t just people that poison the community these days. No, we got gangs, we got businesses, clubs, organisations. Worse thing is, they do things legal. Or at least try to. How we meant to fight that? They got lawyers and money and muscle. What do we have?

 

Well, I tell you what we got.

 

We got Bloody Mess.

 

The Bloodhound detective agency. They take on local cases, big or small. Try to get as much money as they can from you. They often do. That other fellow, what’s he called? Dogman? He’s a greedy little runt, I can tell you.

 

But not Bloody Mess. The Mess stands up for us. Makes sure they take on deserving cases for a discount. Sometimes free.

 

Let me tell you about this one time…

 

It was spring. Or summer. Can’t quite remember. Blazing hot, I remember that. Like Satan himself had his hot breath on Freedom City. You could hardly move without fainting, it was so hot. I swear it.

 

And the smell, oh sweet Mary, the smell. Do you remember the smell? You couldn’t forget it. I never shall, and my memory ain’t so good these days.

Oh, and I should tell you about the smell! It was terrible!

 

It was worst round here. Something vile. People started getting ill. Rumour spread pretty fast that someone was dumping chemicals in an abandoned warehouse. Cheap, I guess. A few bribed officials cheaper than disposing of it properly.

 

So, a bunch of us went to Bloody Mess and asked him for help. That little toe rag scrawny guy of his, he asked for cash, first. Then asked for our silver. But he soon shut up when the Mess gave him that look. You know, the look. The “Shut the hell up and do what I say look”. And it worked, too. Now, I gotta say, and the Lord Jesus forgive me for being so cruel, our Mess…well, he ain’t a smart cookie, is he?

 

Say, do you want one of my cookies? They are bit burnt…no? Oh well, suit yourself.

 

Now, he got the heart, has the Mess. But not the brains. And, credit where credit is due, that friend of his, when he puts his mind to it, it’s a pretty good mind. Took him just a day, or maybe two, and he had tracked down the company.

 

They went knocking on the company door’s first, of course. Due process and all that. But they got stonewalled. Just came hard up against the cold iron face of business. Even got threatened with law suit, I understand. The Mess had to be practically dragged out of the building, he was so worked up. Ever seen him pumped up, that blood of his belting round his body? Looked the strangest thing. We all thought he was going to explode, and that wouldn’t be pretty. Not pretty at all.

 

So, they got kicked back to the dirt. But Mess, well, he ain’t one to give up. Not when his blood is pumping. And he certainly has the blood. So, he goes direct to the source. Tries to get some evidence. He goes to the warehouse. Now, its guarded too. No trespassers, that kind of thing. Sure, he could have smacked the two goons about a bit. But…now, no offence, he ain’t too bright, we all know that, but what he lacks in the brains department he makes up in heart….well, anyway, he’s a bit slow, the Mess, but he seems to know how to stay on the right side of the law. Even if he don’t know the law that well. Guess that’s what his partners for, the Dogman. He used to be a cop, so he knows all about due process and evidence and all that.

 

Kind say I understand it all. But you don’t want to end up a wanted man, I guess. Cookie? No? well I’ll help myself one, even if they are a bit burnt, gosh darn it.

 

So now, nobody can prove nothing. And nobody round here is going to drop the Mess in it, ya understand? But we all pretty much knows. The Mess sneaked in. Well, not exactly the Mess. You ever seen him do his trick?

 

It ain’t pretty to watch, that’s for sure. I only saw it once, and I ain’t ever having blood pudding again, I can tell you.

 

So he kind of throws up his blood. Gosh, it’s awful to see. Gives me a bad tummy even think about it. Anyway, he does his business, and then there is this horrible little blob of blood. And his body is all kind of shrivelled.

 

That little blob of blood, it’s perfect for sneakin’ you see. And the Mess, well he snuck inside the warehouse and took some evidence. Proper evidence, with a camera and everything. Used his head for something other than head butting, just this once.

 

We all know it was him, but can’t prove anything. Some funny witness statements, vague, rumours, gossip. The police, well, they might have been ordered to investigate a trespasser. But they didn’t look that hard, you see? I guess they use some judgement. They want to catch crooks, not the crook catchers.

 

So, the dumpsters got caught, and the chemicals safely disposed of. The Fens ain’t ever going to smell of roses, but it stopped smelling like the backside of Beelzebub. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Literally. I mean, we could breathe again without feeling like we had snorted a line of sulphur.

Thing is, the Mess never really got thanked. Not official, anyway. He got plenty of high fives and some home cooked meals – boy that boy can eat! – but never any public congratulation or recognition. Or, I suppose, his buddy the Dogman. Gotta give credit there, even if it does burn the lips saying the words. The Mess would be lost without him.

 

But I don’t think the Mess minded. The Fens know what happened, even if they can’t proper say it. The Mess might not have a medal – he broke the law, I guess – but he earned respect. And he seems happy enough with that. He grew up in the Fens, its in his blood – all that boiling super powered blood – and he seems just happy to make the Fens that little bit better.

 

That’s my story. Feel free to take some cookies home with you. And if you tell the cops what the Mess did for us, then feel free to ram that cookie right up your…

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Rene De Saens

 

 

As told by Sebastian Rhodes, 55.

 

Me?

 

I live next door to Rene, the old fool, he he.

 

Now let me tell you, he ain’t just a helpless old man, no matter what he says. No matter what anybody says. I guess you heard the rumours, you know. Fighting vampires, turning children into frogs, casting wicked spells and all that jazz.

 

Yeah, jazz. I’m a musician. Jazz is my thing. Perhaps you would like to hear my latest album, the filthy pot? No? Uh, well, suit yourself.

 

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Or behind. Maybe sideways, too. Guess that’s how I am, my friend. Never keep to the same beat. I’m just built that way.

 

I should probably introduce myself. Sebastian Rhodes. People call me Seb. I live alone with my Son, Casper, right next door to Rene. It’s a good street man, and the houses are beautiful. And expensive, yeah, that’s true. I’ve done good for myself. Sold a lot of music. Played a lot of music. Not ashamed to say it, either. And Rene, well, he’s done pretty good for himself too. Sold a lot of art.

 

And its good man. Real, good. I mean, look here…he gifted me this on my fiftieth. And this is just one of his drafts. Knocked it out in a day, he said. Don’t know if I believe him. Its beautiful, yeah? Long shadows in an orange sky, he calls it. Says it is a scene of Amsterdam. Don’t know if I believe him about that, either.

 

You never know when he is lying. But I guess, now, this may so strange, but even when he lies, he is telling the truth. Maybe a different type of truth, but his words kind of rattle round your head and make you think. That’s Rene.

 

We are pretty good neighbours. We met pretty near my birthday, back in ’12. Hit it off straight away. This part of town is full of artists, musicians, and philosophers. Some make it big. Most don’t. Especially the philosophers. But big or small, we got this kind of buzz going on, you see? Kindred spirits, every house and every apartment. There’s a vibe here, something in the water, attracts us all to this street like moths to a flame.

 

Even in a street like this, in a town like this, where we all part of a family, some people just click that little bit more. Its like that with me and Rene.

 

Now he is an old fool and I’m a divorced jack ass whose gone through six marriages faster than a blink of an eye. Guess I ain’t the kind of man built for relationships. Maybe Rene ain’t either, but I don’t think its that. Not really. I mean, I know he likes men. Don’t bother me, but at his age, well, that kind of love didn’t go down to well back in the day, I guess. Maybe he got burnt. Maybe he got burnt again. I get this sense of sadness, when it comes up. He don’t exactly hide it, but there’s this feeling of pain in the past, something heavy in his heart when it comes to love. I guess he made peace with it. But I pick up on something, even if I don’t rightly know what it is.

 

Let me tell you a story.

 

It was a few years back. ’14, I think. Maybe ’15. Halloween. Now, pretty much every year Old Rene gets a few pranks calls. You know the type, religious folk claiming he is the devil, or at least working with him. A few new age fanatics, wanting some spiritual wisdom or a crystal aligned with the forces of the universe. We put up with them, by and large, even when they make a fuss. Rene just slams the door on them and calls them idiots. Right move, if you ask me.

 

But round Halloween we get a bit more, ah, activity. More of the same. And a few other folk. Had to call the police a few times. Sometimes some crazies, need help, you know what I mean. Kids, often, daring each other to play trick or treat on the Crazy old wizard. Rene still gives em candy, even if he scares them witless.

 

And once. Well, once we really did have a scare.

 

Plenty of people dabblin’ in witchcraft, and sorcery. I guess every now and again, somebody does something by accident. What, you don’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo voodoo? Well, I don’t blame you. I didn’t. You try not believing when you live next door to Rene.

 

So this Halloween, some kids musta been dabblin’. I don’t know the how, nor the why of it. I don’t really want to know. But they had come right outside Rene’s house and were reading some hoodoo latin stuff. Probably they downloaded it off the internet. Maybe the stars were right. My guess, is that Rene does have some serious stuff going on his basement, and they managed, by luck or fate, to siphon off just a little bit of that Eldritch power.

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. People gossip about magic all the time, but it ain’t real right? Well these two kids, one had a pumpkin on his head. Ever seen someone with a plastic pumpkin on his head breathe fire? The other was dressed up like a ghost. Dude starts floating in the air.

 

Something possessed them.

 

Now my kid Casper, he was maybe fifteen at the time. Good kid, but you know, much as a love him, he got a nervous disposition. Shy. Mother was no good, and drunk. Hey maybe I was no good and drunk back then too. But at least I pulled my act together when he was born. Changed me, he did. For the better. Anyway, Casper was outside, handing out candy, and saw this freaky spooky act. He freaked out, and screamed. The other kids, they freaked out and ran. They still talk about it to this day. But Casper, he froze.

 

That ghost kid, he floated up and put his hand right through my son. He screamed again. Not like before. This one, well, heck, I can still remember it. Chilled your bones, and chilled your soul. I thought he was going to die, or worse. I came rushing out feeling like the whole world was going to end. That’s what its like having kids, I guess.

 

Rene came out too. Maybe he isn’t as slow as he makes out. Always whining about his hip, his back. Any damn joint he can think of. Probably a few joints he is making up. Now I know he is old, but he can move when he wants to. He might act like he don’t care. But he does.

 

He muttered something under his breath in French. Don’t ask me what it was, I don’t speak French. But I’m guessing it had some swearing in it. It felt like he was calling the two kids idiots. Just very emphatically.

 

He waved his hand, almost casual like, and from the ground came some sparkling light, falling upwards. Like stars, only falling upwards. Not sure if it burnt those kids, or froze them. Maybe did a bit of both. But something fell to the skies with those stars. Something ghostly and terrible. Whatever possessed them, it was gone, to the night.

 

Rene came up to Casper and the two sleeping kids to check they were alright. Guess they were. Casper though, he was changed. Me and his mother, we both full on African American. You know, black skin, deep brown eyes. Casper too. Only now, his eyes were shining silver. Have been that way ever since.

 

And he was terrified, shocked. Sensitive soul, he was, and I was scared this was going to change him inside as well as out. Old Rene came up to him and looked in his eyes.

 

“Gone silver. Quite a look. You won’t look normal again, son” he said, bluntly, with a wink and a child. “Everyone will talk about those eyes. They don’t look ugly, they don’t look beautiful. But they will talk all the same. But the ladies will love them, if you let them. Especially in moonlight” he explained.

And I guess that’s Rene. Making the most of what happens, good or bad, or – as he would put it – strange. I couldn’t say Casper is a confident soul. Still shy around the ladies. Always asking if he is good looking, will they like him, will they love him. Not a confident boy.

 

Except in moonlight.

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Pitch

 

Arcanum Magazine No 117, Special Report by Vic Sanchez.

 

Draft article (With Editorial comments)

 

Who, or what, is Pitch?

 

You have heard the stories, sure. The biker from hell. The speed demon. The infernal demon claiming the souls of the wicked here on earth. Perhaps even some of the stories are true.

 

But what are the facts?

 

Arcanum magazine prides itself on being a cheap rag full of lies [Ed – Vic, come and see me in my office. And replace with something about serious journalism and high quality], so we set out to find out the truth behind the fog of rumours.

 

At first glance, Pitch looks pretty frightening [Ed – put some pictures here. Preferably some ones showing a bit of flesh. You know our audience]. Riding a blazing motorcycle, all that leather and smoke. Breathing fire and hurling blazing metal. Makes quite an impression, and that impression is “Infernal Sorcerer from the thirteenth level of hell” [Ed – Make some reference to some past articles we dredged up on infernal maps. Makes us look credible]. But what if we look closer? There certainly seem to be signs of something infernal there. The tinge of flame, the way it licks the body in an almost seductive way [Ed- Sex this up. You know our audience].

 

What about eye witness reports? Some, clearly, are too shocked too speak. Some too frightened. Perhaps they think even acknowledging the devil will summon him. Some have been ordered to speak nothing of the events due to official secrets and security. But of those you do speak to, they give a similar picture, even if there are the odd fancies that are added here and there. The fire, the fury, the metal. No wonder that Pitch is a favourite of hard core heavy metal bands.

 

There is something else in the stories, too. The smell. Smoke has a smell, true, but the eye witness accounts all speak of the smell of sulphur and brimstone. Surely this is some sign, some whiff of the infernal? [Ed – Speak to Greg from the Alchemy section, he might have something to add to make us look clever].

 

So much for eyewitness accounts. What about actual hard made up [Ed- Watch it…] evidence that Arcanum magazine thrives itself [Ed – Prides itself] on? Various so called [Ed – reputable, seriously, Vic do I have to correct everything?] experts have applied their talents to the matter. Edlritch spectometers, Divine astrolabes, even good old fashioned and ever reliable Tarot cards, they all seem to converge to one inescapable fact. Pitch is a demon!

 

What exactly does that mean? What type of demon? Batezu? Nilfen? Our knowledge of demonology is of course inprecise, and perhaps this is the only thing that Scholars agree on. There are various schools of thought, and many derived from Abrahamic faiths. Perhaps all have a different lens through which they view the horrible truths. Perhaps we are not meant to understand what is arguably not understandable.

 

Should we scared then? If Pitch is indeed a demon from some underworld or another, then the logical conclusion would be that we should be. And yet the evidence suggests we should not. To date Pitch has only shown herself to wreak havoc and vengeance on the violent or criminal. We should not blindly assume that this will always be the case in the future, but it is at least a glimmer of reassurance.

 

When one examines her actions, there is further reassurance. Even when violent, there is evidence of rage, perhaps, but not cruelty. Given Pitch could impale and twist metal in the most medieval and barbaric of ways that would make Vlad the Impaler jealous [Ed – Can we ramp this up? A bit more on the torture? Check with legal…] her violence has a restraint to it. It is violent, yes, but when one contemplates what should could do, the manner of her violence seems…dare I say it…humane?

 

Humane, for a demon. That hardly makes sense, does it? And this is why we must look a little more closely, past the smoke both literal and figurative. Past the knee jerk opinions of the priest or the cultist, politician or musician.

 

We should perhaps consider demons beyond the classical, Abrahamic light. There are other views. Lucifer, bringer of light, is by some considered a more benevolent figure or at least not a completely malign one. Some might say that the infernal is merely an aspect of the celestial plan. Some reject all notion of the infernal or celestial, and consider such creatures as aspects of something else entirely. When considering Pitch, we need to consider these views all.

 

What drives a man? Or, in this case, a woman? If Pitch truly has a gender at all. For the sake of argument, however, given that the form taken is most assuredly female, we shall consider her as such. One can perhaps extrapolate from action, and one school of philosophy would have us judge by actions, or at least intent, rather than nature.

 

It could not be said that Pitch fully works with the authorities, or even is fully law abiding, for perhaps some villains are smote a little too hard, or perhaps she rides that blazing motorcycle a little too fast, or recklessly. There seems to be a healthy disrespect for government and all its tentacles, but there is no open rebellion, no anarchy. She might stretch the patience of the law, she might throw insult and jibe, but as yet, war has not broken out. On occasion, she has worked with the police, and never – at least openly – against them.

 

She has, on occasion, even collaborated with the superhero community of Freedom City, and beyond. The Mexican border has often seen that blazing plume of smoke, and with the same mixed response. Some cheer, some pray. Some do both.

 

Thus, we have signs of positive collaboration. Her actions, whilst not always perfect, are reassuring. And who can claim to always be perfect?

What of motivation? Let us put aside for a moment the simplistic view that because there is an infernal air to her, she must be evil. What do we see with our own eyes?

 

There is a furious flavour to her, at times. Something angry. And who cannot say they have been angry? More to the point, what makes her angry? Look at the evidence. She is not, by all accounts, in a perpetual state of rage. Not drowning in fury, not clothed in vengeance. When her blood boils it seems, at least to me, that it boils with good reason. When locking horns in combat, when battered but not broken, when facing cruelty or barbarism. She gets angry when she should get angry. Is that so wrong? Dangerous, perhaps. Unpredictable, perhaps, but not wrong. We all get angry, and so we should. Its just that you and I can’t impale someone with a burning metal spear.

 

What then, should we think? I, for one, can’t say Pitch is evil, even if she is infernal. She makes the world a better place, by and large. I may not agree with her execution or modus operandi, but I can’t make an argument against her results. I’m glad she is tearing through the streets, an infernal loose cannon that is for the most part pointed in the right direction.

 

That said, we should remain vigilant and cautious. What if the cannon swings another way? Do we have the means to protect ourselves against Pitch? Does the government or AEGIS have contingency plans? Should we, as members of the Eldritch community, make contingencies? [Ed – See if we can play up the marketing here – speak to advertising]

 

All we can do is hope. And perhaps even pray.

 

[Ed- Vic, you have a serious attitude problem. I'd fire you if you weren't so cheap...]

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Bad Fanfic

Timothy Doil sat anxiously at the back of his 3rd grade class. Wanting to go home and play with his many action figures like The Woodsman, Moon Moth, and most importantly Mannequin he began to zone out on what adventures he’d have his action figures do this time. His heart almost skipped a beat when the teacher told them that their writing assignment was due and all of them would be presenting to the class. His young mind completely forgot about the assignment and began to panic. “Ok class.” The Teacher began. “We are going to start sharing our papers starting from the front of the room to the back and remember this assignment was about who inspires you the most and what they do.” What luck! Timmy sat in the very back so he’d at least have 25 or so minutes before he was up. Enough time to wipe something up but what should it be about? With that young Timmy began hastily writing…

 

Very touching Daisy! My uncle is my inspiration too. The Teacher beamed to the young girl. “Alright and the last one is Timothy. Come on up Timmy and tell us who inspires you.” Timmy gulped in fear and anxiety. He had just finished his paper and thought it was more of less passable but, would the teacher call his bluff? He slowly walked towards the front with a bead of sweat across his forehead. Standing there in front of the watchful gaze of his classmates and teacher he began reading“ My name is Timmy and my favorite person is Mankin. I like him because he looks cool and...stuff. I don’t know what he really does so here is what I think he does.” The teach sighed. She knew Timmy was a troublemaker and once again blew the assignment until the last minute. Might as well let the kid go on.

 

Mankin wok up one day and said “I shal science today!” and so he did that was until his labastory was attacked! suddenly he was surrounded by dinosore people led by none other than DINOCRUSH. Mankin flailed his arm and said “What are you doing here DINOCRUSH?! Only to have DINOCRUSH Panch Mankin in his face. “Owwwww” said Mankin as his face was punch. “I am mad noow.” said Mankin due to being punch. He got up and panch a dinosore in the belly and it esploded. he did the same to the rest of the dinos until it was just him and DINOCRUSH were he prapared yet another panch only to have DINOCRUSH begin to cry as all his friends were ded sad he was. Mankin to was sad because his face was still punch and together they are sad. “You have deaded my friends Mankin why? Cause you are villain and I am hero so I heroed and now you payed the prize for your crime.” “all i want was to be ur friend said DINOCRUSH” “Then why did you panch me asked mankin?” “I got scarred because you are super cool and would think I was lame.” “You are very lame yes but i am hero so I am friend to all even people who punched my face.” and with that DINOCRUSH smile and Mankin smiled but he had not face so he just stared back making things awkward and from that day on Mankin and DINOCRUSH were friend and did SCIENCE and stuff. The end”

 

The whole class was silent as they continued staring at Timmy. He felt like the world was against him in that moment and wanted nothing more than to go curl up into a ball and cry. He stared at his teacher, looking at her like his salvation or damnation. “Timmy, that was...interesting. Come see me after class about your paper. Now kids it's time to learn some math!” Well it looked like Timmy wasn't going to be playing with his toys once the teacher told his parents that he blew off yet another assignment.

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Synth

 

As told by Officer Karin Brown, Blackstone Security Captain

 

Synth. Short for Synthetic. She was a strange one.

 

I say she, well, for convenience sake really. She wasn’t always a she. I’m not a scientist, but in my job you have to know a bit of science, goes with the job. You know the job I do, right? Blackstone. It’s where we lock up all the super powered scum. Ah..I mean the super powered convicts.

 

Sorry, the job gets to me sometimes. The stress of it. You think your job is stressful? Try being security guard for a bunch of psychopaths who could freeze your eyeballs with a look, or tear out your heart with one finger. Then you can talk to me about stress.

 

So we have to know our prisoners well. Background, psychology, abilities. And that includes understanding the science behind their abilities. Mutation, cybernetics, all of that. Some have specific medical needs to, and we have to be aware of those.

 

There is a debate about how much the scientists can poke and prod our prisoners. Human liberties on the one hand, public safety on the other. Huh, for my part I’d put them on a table and dissect them. Liberty is all well and good but these are prisoners. And some of these prisoners can level a city block with a flick of the wrist. Hell, some of them could level a city.

 

Goes without saying I checked out Synth as soon as she came in. Full medical, blood works, scan. Got some of our best biomedical scientists on it. As far as I can tell, she is cellular. Biological even. But those cells are pretty different to ours. Something about duplicating mitochondria, and polychromatic cell walls. Anyway, turns out Synth is tough as nails. That’s what it boils down to.

 

Now, Synth point blank refused to have any tests done on her. Said that she was concerned that SHADOW would get hold of the results. Concerned, she said. She looked terrified. Anyway, we got some done, we got the legal power to do so. We can’t have a plague breaking out here, and we got to protect the brave officers who work here. And the prisoners, I suppose. When we explained that, Synth…well, she didn’t just allow those tests. She helped us understand them.

 

We got some smart people working here. We called in some even smarter ones. And they said the same thing. Synth knew more about biochemistry and physiology and medicine that any of them. Some said she was very careful about what tests were done, or, more precisely, what tests weren’t. With her direction, they understood just enough to satisfy the law, and not one bit of data more.

 

Credit where credit was due, it was all polite, calm. Can’t say Synth got angry, or threatening, or violent. She just knew how to handle us. Funny thing, really, normally it’s the other way round in Blackstone. I have to admit, that stings a bit.

 

Any prison has violence. Part of a prison, much as anybody would like to say otherwise. Can no more stop that than we can stop the sun rising in the morning. Blackstone is equipped to deal with violence, but we can’t stop it. Fights break out, even if we can end them pretty quick.

Never saw Synth start a fight once.

 

Never even saw Synth try to start one. Never shouted, never goaded. Never even responded. Someone pushed her, shoved her, stuck an elbow in her ribs, never seen her explode. Almost subdued, you might say. Felt kind of odd. Like she was on drugs or something. Model prisoner, in that regards. It felt a bit spooky to be honest. Not that the guards complained, sure made our life a lot easier. But that passivity, it was unnatural, to be honest. Like a gift that felt wrong.

 

One, maybe two fights. That was it. When she really had to defend herself. Big Baby went on a rampage in her wing. Synth took a hit, took two even, but Big Baby is strong, and its hard to neutralise him when he goes. Something snaps in his brain. But Synth dodged most of the slaps and kicks, and ended up actually pinning Big Baby to the ground, restraining him until we could mobilise some proper response.

 

You heard that right. Restrained.

 

Most, actually all, of the prisoners here, if they get attacked, they go to town on their attacker. Justifiable self defence and all that. Synth could have fought back, and fought back hard, and nobody would have blamed her. Instead, she just restrained Big Baby. And I don’t mean the kind of restraint where you might twist a limb a bit too far, or put your boot into a rib a bit harder than necessary…uhhh…not that I would no about that, of course. Synth certainly would, she knew more about human anatomy than anybody should. But even with every opportunity for a bit of payback, there was none.

Like I said, model prisoner. A gift. But it still freaked us out a little.

 

The shrinks…ahh…I mean the psychologists, they went to town on her. Some soft, some hard. She responded to the former, and clammed up the latter. I don’t mean she didn’t speak to the hard ones, oh she spoke, sure. Not much, but just as hard back. I guess it’s hard to psychologise someone when they no more about psychology than you do. She knew every trick they did and more. I guess we got a few bruised ego’s amongst the criminologists here. Heh, I give credit for that.

 

Some of the psychologists wanted to help, sure. Said she was depressed, needed therapy, that kind of thing. Never held that kind of talky stuff in high regard myself. Prozac does me just fine. Still, whatever they did, it seemed to work, in a fashion. She at least talked to them. Turns out her head is pretty messed up.

 

I don’t understand it really, but as I figure it, she had several imprinted memories in that skull of hers. I guess it figures, now and again one personality would bubble up and manifest. Nyberg, the main one, some kind of old scientist guy. Norwegian, or something like that. It was pretty freaky when she started speaking like him, and looking like him. Hell, it was even freakier when she spoke like him but kept in her regular body…

 

He seemed to come when she was really down, or after a fight, or just when she got stressed out. All our prisoners do, from time to time. It’s a stressful enough environment for the guards, let alone the prisoners. Psychologists seem to think he was a backup personality or something. Hmmm, maybe they were onto something.

 

He seemed nice enough, although he was a bit shocked that he was in prison. He seemed a little more animated, perhaps, keen to talk and explain things. He also interacted with the other prisoners more, and seemed to try and help them. Maybe he did. The prisoners knew when he was around they would at least get a sympathetic ear. I think they liked him more than the regular old Synth.

 

Of course, Synth got busted out a few months back. Freaky as she was, I guess we kind of miss her. We never had a better prisoner, and I don’t think we will again. Sometimes catch myself wondering where she is. Sometimes catch myself caring...

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Flux

 

Captain Trah Viss, Lor Science officer of the Deep Vision Exploration Vessel.

 

Space.

 

Its big, cold, and unfriendly. You don’t want to be in space without a vac-suit on, I can tell you. Seen it once, and it isn’t something you want to see twice.

 

But its beautiful, too. Even in that cold vastness, you see light. Nebulae, clusters of stars, white dwarfs burning bright in defiance. And even the horror of black holes has a fascination. You ever seen them up close? Well, nobody actually sees black holes. That’s why they are black. But the accumulation rings streaming into them, that’s spectacular. And the gravitational lensing, they way spacetime distorts around them? It is terrifying, but you can’t take your eyes away from the sight, no matter how terrifying.

 

I pretty much run the Deep Vision Exploration Vessel. Sturdy and advanced, it’s one of the Lor’s best, even if it is eight years into running. Sure, newer vessels have better equipment, but the Deep Vision has, well, experience. We have ironed out all its teething problems. No more reliable ship in the fleet. But I guess I would say that, I am its captain!

 

You ever heard of the Terrans? Most have. You should have. Live on the Sol system. On a lovely green planet called Earth. Well, not so green these days. They seem intent on ruining it. Anyway, they helped us with the Communion. There’s a nice little wormhole straight to that system from CoVic station if you fancy a trip.

 

I have had the pleasure of meeting one of the Terrans. Prefssor Quentin Quill. He used to go by the name Supercape, I guess that was an insecurity thing. He never was that comfortable with his powers as he explained to me.

 

Couple of years back, he was on board the Deep Vision. A Terran, you might ask? What’s a Terran doing on board a Lor Science Vessel. Well, I am glad you asked…

First, let me get this straight. The Deep Vision has some fine minds on it. But Quill, he was smart. Never met somebody that smart, not even at the Institute for hyperdimensional research. He knew physics like nobody I have ever met before. From that perspective alone, he would be welcome on the Deep Vision. I know I spent several evenings discussing theoretical physics with him, and I woke up every morning the wiser. Same went for several of my crew.

 

And he wasn’t arrogant about it, either. Not like some of the lecturers at the institute I could name (but won’t). I can’t say he was modest about his knowledge either. He simply had an enthusiasm for his field of knowledge. A kind of infectious passion. Oh, well it infected us, anyway. I guess the man on the street isn’t that interested in dimensional lensing in membrane theory.

 

“No-one will ever know everything” he always used to say. And he meant it. He always listened to other scientists too, alert for new ideas and perspectives. I guess we all took that from him, he kept an open mind and encouraged us to do the same. He changed his mind, too, when presented with arguments or evidence that challenged his assumptions. That’s the mark of a real scientist, I think, that kind of non-attachment to the theory. The willingness to discard what you know without a sense of loss, but rather a sense of gaining something. It’s what makes science scientific.

 

Now he may be the finest physicist on Terra, but that doesn’t explain what he was doing on a Lor research Vessel, does it? I know what you are thinking…

 

Well, not literally. I’m not a telepath.

 

Quill is more than a scientist. He has incredible power. He tried to explain it to me. I think I got this right…let me see….

 

As he explained it, he is a telepath. Well no, that’s not quite right. A psionic. A telekinetic. He can sense the flow of energy through the universe, from radio waves we used to communicate, to cosmic events so tiny one could not even be sure they exist at all. All of that information, flowing through his brain. He explained it took him a long time to be able to filter out all the data. I don’t doubt it. If he wasn’t so smart, I guess it would just end up being like tinnitus…a static fuzz in the head.

 

And he has some telekinetic power too. Fascinating. Wait, that’s what he said all the time. Fascinating. Well, in this case, it was pretty fascinating.

 

You must have heard of aliens and Lor who can move rocks and even mountains with their mind. Telekinesis. Quill was telekinetic too, except, well, it was different. He told me he couldn’t even move a plastic half-cred chip with his head. It wouldn’t budge. We even tested it on him, and he strained and sweated and couldn’t move it a millimetre.

 

This is a guy who can disintegrate asteroids.

 

Then he explains it to us. He can move a few atoms, here and there. Nudge them, shuffle them. Change the sub atomic events, even down to the Quantum level. Didn’t sound very impressive, at first. Then we started to understand. Can you imagine being able to nudge a few atoms around, with absolute precision? I mean, perfect precision? Then imagine doing that when you know more about subatomic physics than you could even imagine knowing.

 

He isn’t a broadsword. He isn’t a sledgehammer. He’s a scalpel. A monofilament ultracarbon scalpel. And when he uses that right, its more powerful than any broadsword or sledgehammer.

 

He can create nuclear reactions. Irradiate the cosmos. And, here is where even I didn’t understand it, he can bend space time. Quantum entanglement. This means that he can travel anywhere in the universe!

 

You start to get it now?

 

Quill travels the universe. I think he even travels beyond the universe. And he knows the Lor republic pretty well. And they know him, too. Pays to have cordial relationships with someone like him.

 

Now you might be starting to ask the same question but for different reasons. Why was he on a Lor research vessel? If he can travel around the universe, that is.

 

He was helping us study an anomaly, that’s why. He actually alerted us to it. A region of deep space that was distorting. Potentially dangerous, but more than that…interesting!

He spent, I guess, two weeks on the Deep Vision as we poked and prodded the deep space anomaly. From a safe distance, I might add. Science doesn’t mean danger. Well, normally it doesn’t. We had every sensor pointed that way, and realms of data being chomped up by banks of quantum computers. Quill had his own head, too, which in some ways was better than our own equipment, but he never admitted that. What he didn’t have was our processing power.

 

We worked like a fever. I was dreaming about maths every night, I think. You can’t keep that pace up for too long. I know what did help, though. Tea!

 

You heard of tea? Terran plant. You dry it out, and put it in boiling water. The taste is, ah, unusual. Acquired taste. But Quill forced it all on us, in good spirits, and we humoured him. Despite the taste, it was rather invigorating and refreshing. Early Grey, it was. Strange thing was, after a couple of days of tea, we all started liking it. Damn strange thing, after he left, we all started craving it.

 

I’ve been..ah…acquiring it from earth ever since. For scientific research purposes of course. And a few plants grow in my quarters. Whenever I drink it, or tend to my tea plant, I always think of him. That strange, polite Terran wondering the universe and beyond.

 

Would you like a cup?

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Mr Murk

 

As told by Hubert Bunn, Chef at Club Immortus, London.

 

My name is Hubert Tiberius Bunn, and I am immortal.

 

I didn’t know that at first, of course.

 

No, I trudged through the streets of Manchester in the nineteenth century. Through all the filth and disease and rats and scum and…

 

Wait, sorry, I get carried away.

 

That was in the past. It wasn’t great. Not like you see on the TV. Downton Abbey? Huh, give me a break.

 

Anyway, I started work as a baker was I was, oh, fourteen I guess. Long hours, hard work. Didn’t complain. We had a sort of bond, in those days. Like in the trenches. We just got on and did the work. Sort of a trance, I guess.

 

Hmmm. Well, they were grim days.

 

I was in my fifties, or thereabouts, welcoming in the new century, when people started to get suspicious. Myself included. I looked ten years younger, like a man in my forties. Now, you might look and me today and say, what, I was fifty? If you were being generous. That’s by todays standards. People got old faster back then. No moisturiser. Hard living. You ended up getting weathered.

 

Five years later the gossip and rumour was getting serious. A man of nearly sixty looking like he was forty. What was my secret? Something in the bread? Some sorcerous pact with the devil?

 

I started having to face down the curious and the righteous. The middle aged woman desperate from some secret which I did not have, the scientist wanting to cut me open, and the puritan who wanted to save my soul. Or take it. I was never quite clear which.

 

That’s when Erasmus Murk came into my life.

 

Just after dusk, in winter, he strolls in with his stick, looking every inch the English gentleman. “Erasmus Murk, Esquire, at your service” he says.

 

I was finishing up anyway, so I do my normal doffing of the cap and so on, you know, to please the gentleman. Don’t want no trouble, I says.

 

“That is precisely why I have come” he replies, all serious. “Fear not, I do not come to serve some notice or threaten some litigation or other” he says, all polite like. “As far as I can tell, Mr. Bunn, you are an upstanding citizen. Quite the baker, too, it seems. Why, people talk of your cinnamon fancies as far as London..”

 

Now, my cinnamon fancies are good, Ill grant you. The talk of Manchester, they were. But London, no. Still, I appreciated the sentiment, even if the bold lie did put my teeth against one another.

 

“Why thank you sir. Then, begging your pardon, sir, how can I be of assistance?”

 

That’s when it happened. Like a sheet of dust being blown off him. Gone was the visage, the illusion. The stiff English gentleman went, and the real Erasmus Murk was left behind. The one that ain’t quite right. Ain’t quite human…

 

I was shocked. Anybody in their right mind would be shocked. I had all me old Grandma’s tails of sorcery and witchcraft go through me head. I can’t rightly say I am a pious man, cant’ rightly say I ever was. But I swear I was on me knees praying to Mary and crossing myself.

 

“Ah, dear Sir, you have nothing to fear from me. Or Jesus, for that matter” he said, kindly, offering me his hand. Which was spooky, a blind man knowing exactly where you are.

Still, I took it. He has a soothing nature, does Mr. Erasmus Murk.

 

Then he explained it all. Including exactly how old it was. I had to scoop up the shattered remains of my jaw from the floor, so I did. I would never have believed it, not in a thousand years, if I was not seeing it with me own two eyes. Even then, I had to give them a good old rub once or twice. Or more.

 

He helped himself to a cinnamon fancy as I was taking it all in. Said how good it was. Helped himself to another. I think he was just trying to straighten me out. Make what was most assuredly quite unnatural seem normal.

 

“That still don’t explain what you are doing seeing me? Beggin’ your pardon, sir. I mean, It ain’t for the fancies, that’s for sure…”

 

“Oh I don’t know. If I had known how delicious they were I might well have made the trip anyhow” he said, big smile on his face. And a few crumbs too. “But you are quite astute, Mr. Bunn, quite astute. I have come here about your particular condition!”

 

“Condition?” I ask, for I hadn’t quite put tuppence and tuppence together, yet. State of shock, I reckon. “I got some veins in me ankles that are a bit rotten, I suppose. And that tic when I get nervous. But ain’t no condition to speak of. Not even the wart on my ba…”

 

“No no…” he interrupted, clearly not relishing such intimate medical speak. After all, he is a lawyer, is Mr. Murk, not a doctor. At least, as far as I knows. Man who lived that long, you never know what tricks he has up his sleeve.

 

“It is about your other condition. Your unnatural vigour for the man of your age!” he said, enthusiastically.

 

“What?” I ask.

 

Then, the penny dropped. I can’t say it dropped quickly. Now, it was more like a slow tumbling and ungraceful slide down a muddy slope. It was a lot to take in, and a short time to do so, you see. And I wasn’t a learned man, baking aside. Not a man of letters. Couldn’t even read.

 

“You mean I don’t grow old?” I said. Except it was more like a stuttering, jumbled up mess, if truth be told. Like my lips were made of rubber and my tongue stung be a bee.

“Precisely!” he replied. Credit to him for making sense of my words.

 

“Well I’ll be damned!” I replied, quite smacked in the gob. “Wait, am I damned? Is my immortal soul in peril?”

 

“Not at all, at least by my determination” replied Mr. Murk. “I am afraid it is not your immortal soul that is in peril, but your immortal body” he continued, rather sadly. “Rumours are spreading, Mr. Bunn. That is how I found you. And those rumours will only grow, like a fungus on a bread. They will not diminish, no matter how emphatic and persuasive you are”

 

He had a point. And I wasn’t a man of words. I wasn’t, as he pointed out, a persuasive man. I give a clip round the earhole. That were my persuasion.

 

“And this is why I have come. To offer sanctuary. For, in my experience, to delay longer would only lead to tragedy. Fear, resentment, envy. Whether by the scalpel of some unscrupulous biologist, or the burning brand of some enthusiastic devout, you would surely come to one end or another. And possibly worse…” he left the thought hanging.

 

As if I needed much persuasion. I took me cap off and was tearing it up with me hands.

 

“Aye, you speak the truth sir. Already, without knowing the fullness of the matter, I have been facing hints of what you speak. And, much as I would love to deny it, I can only see the matter getting the worse”. Oh, I lamented. “What a strange twist of fate then, to be given a gift like this, only to find it a ruinous affair! What am I to do!”

 

“Hide” he said, kindly. “It is the only way, as painful as it might be…”

 

“Easy to say, less easy to do” I replied. “I am a man of modest means, at best. And I have no quaint and useful magicks like you do, Sir…”

 

“Do not fret thus” he said. “This is why I have come, not just with warning, but with solution. Come to London. I have the means, both financial and other, to hide. Not just myself, but you. And I can offer more than sanctuary, but employment, too. Why, a man who makes such magnificent Cinnamon Fancies should never be without employment!”

 

And that is how I came to London. Been here a hundred years now, in Club Immortus. Not as prisoner, but as guest. Oh, it has its anguish, for sure. One is most impeded in terms of relationships, and romance. But I have time! And the twenty first century is a much finer place to live in that the nineteenth, I can say. I spent twenty years in Paris learning to cook, and now I do so here. Learned French, and letters, too. I dare say I cook rather well, what with all the practice.

 

Would you like a Cinnamon Fancy?

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Lament

 

As told by Mrs Ivy Smelt, 61.

 

I run the diner. North of Freedom City, Route 525, just by the coast. Smelt in your mouth.

 

My husband and I set it up over thirty years ago, hardly a dime to our name after we bought the old building. Worked our fingers to the bone, and raised three kids whilst we did so. I’m proud of our diner. Got the best chilli fries north of Freedom City, it does. The secret is…

 

Well hell, you didn’t think I would tell you the secret did you? Then it wouldn’t be no darn secret no more har har har!

 

Anyway, we run a nice little place, and its ours. Going to be tough selling the place, you see. But my husband he ain’t young no more, and truth is, neither am I. Maybe in a few years time we are gonna have to sell. We’ll see. The kids don’t want it, can’t say I blame them, but it would have been nice to see it in the family.

 

What I am trying to explain is that the diner means something to us. Its like, well, I don’t know, our bones and blood. Like a kid, in a way, I guess. Its built on our sweat, and we are proud of it. Going to be like losing an arm, selling this place.

 

The point is, its more than just money to us. It really is.

 

And it nearly got burnt down last year.

 

That’s what this story is about. It was saved by some superhero. Lament, his name. Strangest man I ever saw, if indeed he is a man. Something spooky about him. Something hungry, I think. Now, don’t think I am complaining, because without him, this play would be ashes. But still, I gotta say, something spooky.

 

Didn’t know who he was at the time. As far as I understand it, from looking on that internet thing, he hadn’t really shown his face at that time. Nobody knew him, bar a few crackpot rumours here and there. Somebody had written about him in some awful trash magazine called Arcanum. I tracked down a copy, and my word, I gotta say that is the worst goddamn magazine I ever did read.

 

Anyway, let me tell you the story. I’ll get some coffee. Always got some fresh coffee here. And maybe some chilli fries. Go on, try them, You’ll never taste better.

 

So it was late last year. A chill in the air, the nights drawing close and dark. Not snow, but it wouldn’t take much more to snow. Almost like you could taste it in the air, something crisp and icy. It was late one Friday night, maybe past midnight. We work late that night, tends to do a brisk business with taxis and people travelling to and from the city for the weekend. Its not busy, but it ain’t exactly slow either, and we drift through it on strong coffee and neon lights.

 

Something hypnotic about being by the highway. The rumble of engines and the way the headlights flow past, left to right, right to left.

 

It was a slow Friday that Friday, though. We had two guys in. A taxi driver trying to drink enough coffee to get through the night. And a young man who had stopped off for a bite to eat. Canadian, I think. Was heading north. Didn’t speak much but had a nice face, if I remember correctly.

 

Then we had a visitor.

 

He was dressed in some kind of iron suit, all black and scorched. He had a flame thrower in his hand. That’s right, a flame thrower.

 

“Don’t move, this is a stick up!” he laughed. Something about him, though. He didn’t sound like he was that interested in sticking the place up. He could have pulled a gun for that. Sounded like he was high on something. You know, like those super drugs you get in Freedom City, the ones that make you strong, or fast? And end up killing you?

 

He was on something, that was for sure. I couldn’t see his eyes behind that iron mask, but he sounded crazy. I guess he was crazy. Nobody sane would go around the highway dressed like that with a flamethrower if they were sane.

 

Something about him made me frightened. We have had the odd gun pulled on us, but that’s pretty rare. Twice in thirty years, and more out of misunderstanding than malice. But that was frightening. This, well, it was petrifying. Like my feet had turned to stone and my blood was made of ice. We froze, all of us.

 

The young man, he tried to get up, but the maniac clubbed him down. Strong, hard. I felt something crack, and when he went down with muffled screams, I could see it was his jawbone. The maniac was strong. Like I said, probably taking some of those drugs you get in Freedom City.

 

Then we saw Lament. He was more like a vision, you know? Faint, blurred. There but not there. What did he look like? Like one of those voodoo zombies you see in the movies. Top hat, high as you like, white skull paint, black skin like dark night, and a raggedy purple suit, feet bare even in that cold. And he had this laugh, so hollow and full, like a blast of emptiness than echoes around our diner. I swear, on some nights I can still hear it, echoing still.

 

Now it was the maniac’s turn to be terrified. I could see it, the way he gripped the flamethrower. Some people freeze, he turned angry.

 

“Get out of here man, or I’ll burn the place down!”

 

Lament, he just laughed, and have this deep rumbling voice. A man you had to listen to, if you know what I mean. “You will burn the place down if I leave…”

 

And I’m sure that were the truth.

 

Lament, he seemed fixed on the man. I’m not sure if he even knew we were there, although I am mighty glad he was. Something horrible and black in his eyes, and before you know it the maniac screamed. Like his soul was being plunged into an infinitely dark hole. I couldn’t rightly say what he screamed, but it was like the worst despair I could ever imagine. You ever get sad? You ever wake up thinking the world was sunless and bleak? Like that, I guess, but a hundred times over.

 

He sunk to his knees. I think if he had had the energy he would have put that flame thrower in his mouth and incinerated his own head, but he didn’t even seem to have the will to do that.

 

Lament walks in, and I can see him now, properly. He even tips his top hat and gives me a grin, full of pearly white teeth.

 

“Don’t trouble yourself about this gentleman, Madam, for he will surely be no trouble no more” he said, even giving me a bit of a bow.

 

Bit of a gentleman. Likes a good show. That’s what I thought, although I still couldn’t move a muscle or get my mouth to work. I reckon I gurgled a bit. Not quite myself, I was.

So Lament, with a flourish, a show, to emphasise his point, reached out and grabbed the man with one of his arms. Something purple and oily in his hand, something like, I don’t know, a big southern leech sucking. And then the Maniac falls down, cold. I thought he was dead for a moment, but he was still breathing. Just like all his life, his energy, had gone. Sucked clean.

 

Lament comes over, has a cup of coffee. Takes a chilli fry, tells me how “darn fine” they were, and suggests I phone the cops and an ambulance.

 

I think I got out something. “Thank you” maybe. I don’t really recall what I said, or even if I got it out. I hope I did. He was a terrifying figure, but there was, hmmm, how do I put it, something polite about him.

 

And with that, he tipped his hat again, and gave a wink. Walked out, whistling some tune or another. Never did get to findin’ out what it was, but I tell you, I’ve been whistling it ever since…

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Heart of Steel

By Tabbitha Lloydd

Boisterous and popular, the hero Calling himself Facsimile has taken to the streets of Northern freedom with gusto, With the power to turn himself into some kind of inorganic metallic substance and gaining in strength and weight to match he joins the numerous heavy hitters we have come to know and love, though quite weak in comparison to the likes of Others endowed with similar powers he makes up for his lack of brawn with a great deal of gusto and it has been said, a not inconsiderable degree of cunning!

Seemingly one of the newest wave of young heroes appearing from the ether with the turn of the year he is often accompanied by a group of other young adults of varying descriptions and powers he has been reported to work on running support and interference for his allies.

But most importantly of all, civilians whom have interacted with him whilst in the middle of metahuman incidents have reported him to be considerate, Kind and Reassuring, truly it is an encouraging thought to believe that the newest wave of Freedom city’s defenders have a mind towards the civilian population in the chaos of these hectic times we find ourselves in following the atlantean invasion of the surface.

That said he is not without his critics, various members of government agencies have reported him to be particularly uncooperative and prone to risky snap judgements that put saving lives and beating badguys on similar levels of importance, though it was noted that so far nothing bad has come of it.

It is this reporters opinion that heroism in all its forms should be encouraged and whilst there are times and places for criticism we must never allow the could’ve Should’ve and Would’ve to overwhelm the good that was done and achieved by the actions of those brave enough to take them be it simple acts of kindness to ones neighbours in times of trouble or medical research into combatting the most aggressive of diseases and biological agents or the simplicity of street level superhero activism against the gangs and crimes that gnaw at our city incessantly.

Facsimile has a long way to go if he is to carve out his niche in the heart and minds of freedom city citizens and its underworld as a name to be remembered it is true, so too do the rest of the new heroes that walk besides him but it is important to remember that they have taken the first step in the right direction, not utilizing their powers for selfish gain as others before them, in particular the infamous rant and rave, have fallen to doing.

We have chosen to focus on only one of the newer heroes in this report but we hope to encourage those others to do their best as well and not let their critics get to them, with time and patience they will find that even the hardest of heads with time and persistence.

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Ronin

 

 

Nancy street ain’t what it used to be.

A year ago, before Ronin came, it was ticking along smooth. Well, smooth for me anyway. Me and the dogs – that’s my crew, the Crippled Dogs – we had it sweet on Nancy Street.

Nancy street ain’t somewhere you can crawl out of, not without busted lips, busted knuckled, and a loaded gun you ain’t afraid to use. Only way out of Nancy street is by blood, you see. Your own, or somebody else’s. Me and the dogs, we chose the somebody else’s.

 

There was lots of competition, that’s true. Everyone trying to make sumthin’ out of nuthin’, ain’t that the truth. Ill say this for Ronin, he didn’t pick out one of us. He came at all of us.

Mad Pinkies crew got it first, they say. I saw it, too. He stormed up to Pinkies car, disarmed the thug watching her, and threw him across the street, to the sound of crunchin’ bones. Now Pinky ain’t one to get rattled easy, so she just stood up, and pulled that little pink revolver out of her handbag. Pinky might be nearing sixty, but she got steel, I’ll give her that. She even got off a round, bam! Right in his Chest, only he just ignored it. Iron plated, it seemed.

 

He didn’t pause a moment, either. Pinky is an old woman but he didn’t care. She had just shot him, and he knew all about her. Musta heard about her screwball dungeon. If you haven’t heard about her screwball dungeon, you don’t wanna. So he just kicked her hand, must have broken damn near every bone in her fingers, the way she was yelping.

 

So, after Mad Pinkie and her crew got taken down, me and the Dogs, and hell, half of Nancy Street, they got to celebrating. Maybe room to muscle in on her crew, expand, we were thinking.

 

And we tried, I tell you. Me and a few other gangs, we tried to lick up the mess and take it for ourselves. Like Vultures. That’s how it goes around here. But Ronin, huh, he wasn’t finished, not by a long shot. He wanted to clear up Nancy Street. Not from Mad Pinkie, or Jackie Hammer, or Pitbull Pete. No, he wanted us all gone.

 

So, we were happy he was around, at first. Some kung fu action. Hero of the streets. Breaking down Mad Pinky. Some major badass.

 

Then Jackie went down. Then Pitbull Pete.

 

Now, when I say down, you gotta understand what that meant.

 

Everyone knows the cops are corrupt in Bedlam. Not all, but a lot. Their jails, their police cells, well, the walls are made of cardboard, if you know what I mean? Enough money swings from one hand to the other, and bang, you are out. And don’t even get me started on the lawyers and judges.

 

Now, we don’t have a lot of gold to grease palms with. So us on the street, we get caught, we have to suck up the consequences. So, for us, well hell, we don’t just walk out. But the point is; nobody in the know trusts the cops. Or at least, the system. So Ronin doesn’t just drag out asses to the cop shop.

 

And he don’t kill, either. Some karate code or sumthin’. Got a gun on him blows the air out of your lungs and the steam out of your ears. Don’t ask me how it works – what am I? Doctor Archeville? It just knocks you out rather than putting a bullet through your brains. Anyway, point is, he don’t kill, and he don’t do the arrest thing. He got smarts – he knows that if her arrests a couple of thugs, sends em packin’, he don’t actually stop us.

 

What does he do? He dismantles us.

 

Like everyone, like every gang, or organisation, or business, we got needs. Money, headquarters, guns, equipment. Money, mainly. And respect, you know? That fear? Contacts, informers, spies.

 

So, what does he do?

 

He steals our money. He burns our drugs. He cuts of the electricals to our headquarters. He poisoned the damn water to Pitbull Pete. Everyone in his gang ended up throwing up their guts for a week, and it did pretty much the same for the other end, if you know what I mean.

 

He slashes the tires of our cars. Cuts the brakes. He melts down our guns and sabotages our equipment.

 

What do we have left? Just us, man, just us.

 

So we started hitting back hard, with what we got. Thing is, but that stage, we don’t have much left, except for our anger and getting mighty frustrated. And that don’t get you far, not in the long run, anyhow. Se started busting skulls, demanding to know where he is, wanting revenge.

 

Old Headlock Henry, he tried going out after his family.

 

Now, from whats I hear, that’s a bad move any day of the year. His sister is a bad ass cop, and his cousin may have lost his legs but he was in the Marines – he don’t let a thing like that stop him. Don’t be getting all cocky on him just cos he’s a cripple. He can fire straighter than any damn thug I know.

 

But this wasn’t just any old day. Ronin gets wind of Headlock Henry. Finds him in an alley one night, outside his favourite drinking hole.

 

Now, Ronin don’t kill. Not deliberately anyway. But when someone goes after his family, you take your chances. Ronin took him out in the alley, in the moonlight and the rain. I saw it. Didn’t take long either. Headlock, he knows how to fight, ya see? How do ya think he got that name? But he didn’t last more than ten seconds.

 

Never seen a man move so fast. Ronin knows how to fight. Made me realise he been holding back on Mad Pinky and the others. Sure, yeah, it was like those Kung Fu films, kicks and punches so fast I couldn’t really see ‘em. But this was dirty too. A street fight. Like when he slammed Headlocks head into a dumpster and slammed it again, harder. I don’t know how Headlock survived the beatin’ he got that night. ‘Spose I gotta give credit to him. He don’t member a thing, of course, just that he woke up two days later with two busted legs and a busted arm, missing a few teeth.

 

Don’t think Headlock henry ever going after that family again.

 

Hell, I don’t think any of us are.

 

That was when we realised we weren’t up against just a man. We were up against a will. Something that, how ever hard you tried to break, he was just going to break you back. Too smart to fool, too strong to beat, too determined to intimidate. Mad Pinky, Jackie Hammer, all the others, they were just the first on his list. And we, we were the last.

 

All we had was our frustration, our ego, I guess. No hard man wants to admit he’s beat, and we all had to be hard men. But we all knew we was beat. We started attacking each other, blaming each other. All we had was ourselves, and then we lost that, too.

 

So, we all hang around Nancy Street, but nobody want’s to form no gang now. I ain’t saying we are straight, but I know we are beat. At least on Nancy Street. I heard a couple of the guys, like Tyrone Tire Iron and Missy Stabz, they gone elsewhere, tried to hustle out a living on some other street with some other gang. Don’t know if they made it. Here on Nancy Street, this ain’t no life for a crook. I gotta job now. Some piece of trash job with trash pay. But its all I can do. Huh, I can’t see Ronin stoppin’, not till he has a bullet in his head. Maybe he won’t stop even with that. I gotta respect the guy, but damn I wanna strangle him too….

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Rev

 

Probation Report: Feb 2018

Name: Lexa Venn

ID: SP-33DF-45T / XR [Special Case Alert]

Author: Sandra Rhodes, Senior Probation Officer

Confidential / Senior Staff Only

Redacted under special circumstances exemption. Classified information for AEGIS eyes only.

 

Current Circumstances

Lexa is currently living in [Redacted] which is a boarding / residential school facility for [redacted]. She resides in said facility permanently, although has regular contact with her mother (DAISY JENKINS) including overnight stay at weekends (Mother works as a nurse and has erratic shift schedule at McNider Memorial Hospital). This arrangement provides a safe, secure, and predictable environment and also allows for moderate level monitoring of behaviour which in turns will allow reasonable detection of pro-offending behaviour or social group.

 

Finances

Lexa receives a modified low living allowance paid for by [Redacted], alongside some small supplementary monies gifted by mother. This allows for basic needs, such as food, clothing and so on to be met, with a very limited amount of money for recreational use, as recommended by [redacted] psychological assessment. Educational supplements such as reading material are paid for by [redacted] after assessment for suitability.

 

In summary, Financial arrangements are reasonable, suitable, and adequate. Ongoing monitoring of finances should remain, in order to detect inappropriate uses such as the purchase of alcohol or other illicit recreational drugs.

 

Health and Wellbeing

Lexa has an exceptionally complex medical condition involving extensive [redacted] which has resulted in [redacted] to all four limbs as well as internal [redacted], and minor visual impairment (namely, color blindness). She receives regular medical check ups – every two weeks, by [redacted] physicians, and less regular multi disciplinary assessment, every three months, by a team of [redacted] experts including physicians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, [redacted], [redacted] and obviously [redacted] given the peculiarities of her condition.

 

In summary, the reports indicate that the [redacted] are working well, and in fact are [redacted]. There seem to be no significant health concerns at present, although in order to maintain the function of her [redacted] limbs, high quality lubricant is needed (Funding streams for this are being discussed).

 

On a positive note, a synthetic gel-skin has been developed by [redacted], another resident at [redacted] with whom Lexa has developed a friendship. This skin effectively looks like real skin and thus allows Lexa to have the superficial appearance of normality, covering up her [redacted]. Whilst the psychological impact of this is a matter for debate (on the one hand, allowing normal social activities, on the other hand, repressing the core issue), the professional consensus is that, at this stage in her life, it is a positive development and on this issue I too feel that it is positive.

 

I note that diet may not be ideal, including a propensity towards sugar rushes (in particular, Cherrybomb! Lollipops).

 

Education and Occupation

Lexa attends a full curriculum. Her attendance records are, somewhat concerningly, significantly below average but still within acceptable limits. I advise that this is monitored closely.

Lexa missed one year at school, at minimum, and is playing catch up. As predicted by psychological testing (above average IQ), she is catching up reasonably fast, perhaps partly due to the influence of her room mate and friend [redacted] who is recorded as having a super-genius level of intelligence.

 

Some subjects show some more lag, such as civics and literature. She shows great interest in engineering and practical technology, which given her previous activities is unsurprising. It is recommended that this interest is cautiously cultivated. Whilst it is a field associated with previous offending behaviour, it also provides focus and self-esteem, and is a field also suitable for future gainful employment.

 

It is recommended that further attention be given to education in civics and ethics, and that progress in these areas is carefully scrutinised.

 

Family

Lexa has only one close family member (DAISY JENKINS) with whom she has a warm, positive relationship for the most part. Mother still struggles with loss of her  husband (Lexa’s father) and is receiving treatment for depression. Maternal grandfather (who is frail), and Paternal grandparents are both in irregular contact, as are a number of siblings, uncles, and aunts. No extended family member has a known criminal record or pro-offending backgrounds, although one paternal uncle (JAMES VENN) has a history of alcohol abuse that should be monitored (in terms of his effect and influence on Lexa).

 

In my opinion the family are still struggling with the violent death of Lexa’s father, and have delayed grief responses that have been compounded by the events of Lexa’s life. Whilst not completely dysfunctional, I suspect there are underlying problems around grief and blame, and it may be worth considering systemic family work at some point.

 

Peer Group

The students at [redacted] are obviously unusual. As a result of [redacted] any conclusions or opinions must be treated with great caution due to the unique case. Due to the nature of the educational facility, great care is given to discipline and security both from an architectural and relational point of view, and thus there is a great emphasis on ethical and moral development (for understandable reasons).

 

With this is mind, it is reasonable to say that there is no sign of an actual or emergent pro-offending peer group or culture. There are some students whose behaviour indicates certain emerging negative personality traits, but there is no indication that Lexa has anything more than a superficial relationship with these individuals, and indeed some indication that she actively avoids them due to her motivation to “stay out of trouble”.

 

Further more, many of her peers could be considered positive role models, such as [redacted] and [redacted]. In this domain, one could not reasonably expect a more positive peer group at [redacted].

 

Psychological Assessment

Due to AEGIS involvement we have the benefit of in depth psychological assessment. Lexa displays signs of delayed grief response which has been partially resolved with psychological input with which she has had variable engagement. There is still considerable resistance to formal intervention.

 

Whilst personality development is incomplete at this stage, the Myers-Briggs system has been used for assessment. This indicates an emerging ESFP (Extravert, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving) also known as Performer) personality type. This personality type is considered fun loving, thrill seeking and optimistic. The assessment notes possible recklessness and lack of foresight, plus risk of emerging narcissism. At present, these more negative aspects to personality cannot be rules out but there is no indication of seriously maladaptive traits in these domains. An element of narcissism may in fact be necessary as a defence mechanism against trauma in late childhood (see bereavement) and eroding this defence mechanism may be ill advised.

 

At present I would advise that there is no signs of malignant personality traits emerging, although there are some degree of what might be called pro offending personality traits; any offending would be likely to be impulsive rather than pre meditated.

 

Summary and Recommendations

At present there are no obvious signs of problems and the risk assessment would remain low, and arguably reduced from previous assessment.

 

Lexa is not without problems but these seem to be as a consequence of bereavement which has not been fully processed, rather that ingrained personality traits or pro-offending beliefs.

 

If she progresses through education and is protected from pro-offending peer groups or other disinhibitory factors (such as alcohol or intoxicants) I am of the view that the risk of reoffending is low and that the future is optimistic. Indeed, should she continue to show signs of protectiveness and concern, it is quite possible that she would be an asset to [redacted] and take up the mantle of [redacted] which would surely be a benefit to all. One should be mindful of her positive personality traits and clearly demonstrated commitment to reform.

 

The major areas of concern would be of impulsiveness and an ongoing need for stimulation that may in itself be a defence mechanism against grief. This may raise the risk of low impact offences. It is my recommendation that these issues be cautiously and sensitively addressed with both Lexa and family, and that these traits are either funnelled and channelled into a relatively safe focus, such as [redacted] or [redacted], or are addressed through psychological systemic work.

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Lord Steam

 

Jason Buckwell, 19, moderator of Truecrimestories.com

 

Yeah I followed him ever since he appeared on the scene. You know, that fancy mansion he has North of Freedom City? By the ocean. Beautiful. When he moved in there. Lots of talk from the neighbours. Just a bit of gossip at first, I guess. Then things got real interesting. That’s when I started following him.

 

I’ve always been into crime. Yeah, that came out wrong. I’ve always been into crime stories. Started when I was a kid, my mam got me into them. I like em all, from Sci Fi to historical. But I gotta say my favourites were the European ones of the twentieth centure like Agatha Christie. Don’t get me wrong, I liked my home grown detectives like Colombo, but I just loved the feel of the European ones, like Poirot.

 

Read the books, watched the films, saw the plays. You name the medium, I devoured it. Even got a stack of Raven comic books back home.

 

But in my opinion, it was Sherlock Holmes who always stood out for me. Something about the obsessive genius, the way his mind just cut through appearances to get to the truth.

“when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

 

Always loved that.

 

So, you can imagine when the crazy dude comes along when I was fourteen. Lord Steam. I was hooked.

 

The crazy dude was like Sherlock Holmes. Except real. And you know, I think he is more Sherlock Holmes than Sherlock Holmes!

 

I mean, look at the way he dressed. Nobody dresses like that. Like he is from the nineteenth century. Like he walked out of the set of Downton Abbey and kept his costume. Man, I wish I could pull that off. I mean, its not easy to pull off, is it? Not cheap to pull off either, from the looks of it. I tried Cosplaying him last year. Cost me a fortune. The waistcoat, the cravatte, the shiny shoes, the goggles, the splendid brass magnifying glass. And that cool cane! What does it do, I wonder? Got a concealed sword in it? Fire out steam? I hope it fires out steam, that would be so cool.

 

The hair isn’t easy, either? I mean, how does he pull that off? What product does he use? Maybe he’s got a steam powered hairdryer or something? Hmmm..how would that work? Can steam dry things? A mystery…

 

That’s the other thing about him, of course, all those cool gadgets! Man, what I wouldn’t give to have a few of those! Not your regular looking stuff, either. I mean, this is Freedom City and every street has got a dude with a pair of Anti-grav sneakers and an Ionic Shotgun. But this has a certain, class, you know? Brass, whistles and knobs. A touch of silver. All shiny. Some polished oak here and there. I mean, its beautiful – so intricate.

 

Have you checked out his car? What a classic! I mean, its classic, but unique. Can you still be classic if its unique? Hmmm…it looks classic anyway. Like it was built before cars got invented and we went around in carriages. But its got lines, sure. I heard a Japanese company was trying to buy the design of him and mass produce the car. But he would have none of it. Guess he likes being eccentric, guess he likes being unique. I would too, if I was him.

 

Besides, you couldn’t mass produce a car with flamethrowers, could you? Yeah, you heard that right. I followed that case “Lord Steam and the Frosty Freeze”, you can read about it in my blog. Several eye witness accounts, all respectable, plus a couple of not respectable ones, all testify that when he was chasing down Eye Slick, his care belched out a stream of fire. How cool is that!

 

And that’s not all. I got a whole list of things he has used. Like suction gloves for climbing up walls, or spring loaded boots for a quick getaway. And lets not forget about the infamous clockwork platypus and its whistling corkscrew! Well, that one didn’t actually work, its true. But as Lord Steam himself declared, every failure is a bloody disappointment.

Yeah, I liked that. He spins it as it is, rather than pretending a pile of dung is a fragrant heap of roses.

 

You can pick up some replica’s at the conventions, you know. I got a few, although they are pricey. The real expensive stuff actually works, after a fashion. I got a rotating top hat with illumination device at the last one. Cool!

 

As you will see on the blog, aside from all the detecting and inventing, he has been in a few scrapes, just like Sherlock Holmes. He doesn’t run to a fight, but he doesn’t run from one either, at least that’s how I read it. Sounds the right thing to do, if you ask me. Running to a fight means you ain’t using your head. Running from one means you are a coward.

 

So you know how Sherlock Holmes used to practice Bartitsu? So does Lord Steam. We looked into it on our website. I wrote a piece on it, actually. Turns out it as a real martial art, developed by some Brit called Edward William Barton-Wright. Blend of Japanese and English martial arts, like Jujitsu and boxing, even a touch of fencing. Except this guy, back in the beginning of the twentieth century, he made it up to suit the English Gentleman. So things like caped and hats, and canes – all used to distract and entangle the enemy. Apparently it was quite effective, but it kind of disappeared after a few years. Kind of got lost under jujutsu I think.

 

Its kind of fun. I bought a few books on it, and watched some videos. Joined the society. It having a bit of a come back these days, I guess Lord Steam might have added a little interest. They are trying to get him to the conference in Vancouver this year, and if he is going you can be sure I am!

 

He’s an expert in it Bartitsu, when practically nobody else is – at least nobody alive. A lost martial art, they think, although they are trying to resurrect it. He doesn’t like to boast about it, though. I guess he does enough boasting about everything else. I thought it was a bit strange how he was so modest about his expertise in fighting when I first read about it. But then I realised, its because it is fighting. See, I think he doesn’t like fighting. He feels, when he has to fight, that he has failed in some way. Now, the way I see it, he likes a bit of athletic activity, like riding and swimming and so on, and he has a fondness for sparring with Bartitsu, but when it comes to actual fighting, I think he feels he has had to resort to brawn instead of brain. So it’s a bit of a sting to his Ego.

 

So that’s my hero. I know I’m never going to be him, I don’t want to be, I guess. But I do admire him, been a role model for me for my teenage years. An inspiration, you could say. I’m going to study criminology one day. Maybe join the police. Maybe I cam make detective myself! Till then I’m just keeping the website up to date. Maybe get my book published. Its become a fascination for me. Man of science, Man of style, Man of brains. And Lord of Steam!

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Flintlock

 

Hasan Sharmake

 

It was the middle of summer, hot, even at sea.

 

I’m a pirate. That’s what they call me. They are not wrong. I grew up in the fields, breaking my back like my father and my father before me. I had not a dollar to me my name. Sometimes, I didn’t even have shoes.

 

Not me, I said. I will not live like this. I will life as it should be lived, or I would die trying.

 

I joined a ship. Not a normal ship. We didn’t explore, or transport goods. We didn’t fish. We didn’t fish for fish, we fished for other ships.

Its simple. We get information on cargo vessels. Easy enough. We pay bribes, and we get information. Plenty of people in the docks want easy money – they get paid nothing, and people always want more than nothing if that’s all they have. And we make sure that if they feel like talking to the police, they regret it.

 

You have to have a reputation in this profession. Its nothing personal. Its just business. It’s the only way it works. If people do not fear you, they will talk.

Once we have the info

rmation, it is a simple matter. We catch up with the cargo vessel, we board it, shout, scream, fire are weapons. AK-47, nothing better. If somebody tries to act the hero, we hit them. If they get up again, we shoot them. Nobody gets up after that. Simple.

 

Even with the bribes, and all the people we know, we get trouble from the army, the united nation. Even UNISON sometimes, when we happened to find some very special cargo. We had to dump that cargo and run. Maybe it would have made us millionaires, maybe billionaires. But I think I am happier with that cargo back at the bottom of the sea. I never did like squid, anyway. And I never will, now.

 

It’s a life of danger. We all know it, even if we try to forget it. Sooner or later we are going to get burned. It gives us a fever, a sweating. We all just trying to get enough money to cash out, and we in a frenzy to get there. Its like a trance, like a dream. Like we are dead somehow. Dead men on a ship.

 

Then I saw some real dead men on a ship.

 

You don’t believe me? You don’t have to believe me. I believe me, and that’s enough.

 

It was a hot summer, like I said. We had been having slim pickings, and we had worked up a hunger for a score. People getting restless, pacing, looking at the horizon with bloodshot eyes, not sleeping, sometimes not eating. A hunger so bad it was eating us up from insides. We had been told about this prize ship, full of juice, and not a patrol ship around. Not one we knew about anyway. So we were chasing after it, on good seas, full of keen.

 

Then we saw it. The Black Flag, they call it, a pirate ship. Sails, cannons, just like in the movies. We had heard rumours, but we had all laughed them off as sea stories to frighten the children. Now we saw it. At first, we tried to say it was something else. A yacht, we said. Then it got closer. No, must be filming a movie. Maybe Privateers of the Bahamas 5, we said. Maybe Gunbusters 7. 

 

Then there comes a time when you have to start believing you eyes, no matter how much you don’t want to be believing. It was the Black Flag, a pirate ship. And it was faster than us. It cut through the waves like it was being pulled along by some sea God. Never seen a ship move so fast, just glide through the waves without a thought.

 

We tried to outrun it, we did. But some things can’t be outrun. No tricks we could use. The Black Flag was faster than us, no matter what we did. And we couldn’t pretend it wasn’t so.

 

When you can’t run, you have to fight. We didn’t know what was coming after us, but took up our guns anyway. Better to fight with a gun than without one. AK 47s, Shotguns, Uzi’s. We had the weapons. Part of the trade. I couldn’t say we were confident. That would be a lie, and I don’t think anyone would feel confident when a pirate ship is after you. But we were not cowards.

 

The Black Flag pulled up, and there it was, the ship full of dead men. Dressed as pirates, but their meat falling off their bones. Skulls and rotten flesh. With swords and flintlocks, like they had come out of two hundred years ago. Grinning at us, singing songs about gullets and gizzards and stringing parts of us up on the masts, and making sails out of our skins.

 

One of our crew jumped overboard. I don’t know what happened to him, but he must have thought that was a better fate than the song. The rest of us did the only thing we could think of. We opened fire.

 

And they laughed at us, just laughed at us, as we fired until our clips ran dry.

 

Some of them fell, I think, just chipped away by the rain of bullets, but they did not bleed. And they did not die. All they did was sing, louder and louder, even over the sound of gunfire. Laughing all the time.

 

Our clips ran dry and we didn’t know what else to do. I took up an axe, cursing my luck and getting ready to meet my ancestors in shame. At least I would die trying, I told myself. Except I didn’t die. Instead, the captain had something else in mind.

 

The captain. Captain Flintlock. Sunburned skin and red hair, and smiles and laughter and a stink of rum. With skirts and hats that belonged from two hundred years ago, just like her undead crew. She told us she wasn’t going to kill us. Not much, anyway. And then she raised her hands and…

 

…you won’t believe this, even if you believed everything else.

 

Something horrible came from below the ship. Like fog, or snakes, or something I can’t describe. It was like a nightmare. Whenever I try to think about what it was, something in my head tells me to look away, and every time I listen. I know its in my head, but I can’t look at it to remember it. Only in my dreams. And I don’t like my dreams. Never have, and I know I never will.

 

I don’t remember it. Maybe I passed out. I think we got towed. Moved. By whatever thing the red-haired Flintlock summoned. She was drunk and laughing and quite mad. I think she had mercy, of a sorts, for she did not kill us although I am sure she could have done so it she wanted. Instead, she gave us all a memory that made us never want to set foot in a boat again.

 

And here I am, in a Somali Prison, rotting away. I will be out in twenty, I think. If I survive. I will not be a young man anymore, but I will not be old either. And I will not die here, not if I have any say in it. I will cling to this life. Because now I have filled my heart with something that burns and keeps it beating no matter what is around me. My hate is my friend and my lover, and all I need to live. And when I get out, I will extract my revenge on Captain Flintlock, and it will be a bloody revenge. I will choke that smile and that laugh out of her with her last breath…

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Bonfire – A.M Freedom

 

Globe Broadcasting Network Building, Parkside, Freedom City
Friday, March 9th 2018
6:34 AM

 

It was far too early for Cass to be up. There were times when Coffee helped and then there were times when even the strongest espresso could only do so much. This was one of the latter, because at this point he’d been up for nearly an hour already. More often than not he went to sleep around 5 AM, today it had been when he got up. He’d considered just staying up longer than usual, but today was too important to do so. It was his first live TV appearance.

 

Bonfire arrived a few minutes before the time he’d agreed upon, just for safety. He couldn’t really evaluate just how punctual Public Transport was at this time of the day, he’d hardly ever used it before. Of course, a man with a head of smoke and wearing a white dress suit walking into the building did cause quite the reaction. The guards were on edge, even if it had been announced that he was visiting today, after all, this was Bonfire, a former eco-terrorist of sorts. A few words with the receptionist (and an autograph for her son) later Bonfire had the necessary ID badge and made his way towards the elevator, where he just got in through the closing doors thanks to a man holding up the door.

 

“Bonfire, right?” The man spoke quite casually, seemingly unimpressed. Or just tired, it was hard to tell at this hour of the day. “I’m Ron Hunter, Associate Producer for WNTW News. Nice to meet you, I’ve been following your career ever since you first popped up on the national stage. Gotta say, you recovered quite well from that one. “Yeah, I’m still surprised how well that went, truth be told. “ A short pause, as Cass realized something. “Hey, is this on the record? “ Hunter, probably somewhere in his mid-30s, grinned. “Almost had you there. But no, let’s keep this off-the-record.” “Alright. Yeah, when AEGIS suddenly dropped in on me I was pretty sure that was the end of it all. Turns out it all worked out quite well, and whenever asks me for my PR credentials, I can just point at that mess and my current position. “ “Hey, speaking of PR, ever thought of switching sides? Usually it’s the other way around but we could probably use somebody like you here at WNTW, just saying. “ “Heh, that’s quite the offer. I’ll consider it, but I think I’m pretty happy with my current position.” Just as he said that, there was a *ding* as the elevator doors opened, with Hunter stepping out halfway, handing Bonfire a business card at the same time. “Well, let me know if you make a decision. And if you have some interesting info in the future, you know who to call.”

 

With that done, the doors closed again as the elevator continued upwards. Nobody else got in and soon Bonfire stood in front of the studio of A.M Freedom, probably the most watched Morning Talk Show in the city. Steven Parker, one of the show’s longtime hosts, was already there to welcome him. “Bonfire, great to finally meet you in person. Getting here was no problem, I hope?” “Not more than any other journey with the FC Bus system, no. “ “Good to hear. So, we’ll be running rehearsals in a few minutes. I don’t think you’ll have to go through mask, so we’ll just have the guys wire you up and then you’ll be ready. There’s coffee and bread over there, it’s on the house so grab as much as you want. We’ll let you know when we’re ready to start. “ “Sounds good, I look forward to it and will try not to fall asleep until then. “

Once he’d gotten wired up, Cass sat down with a paper cup of coffee. He had roughly ten minutes judging by the current time, so he’d have some time to check what E-Mails came in during the “dead hours”. Generally, not a lot happened during the night, especially since at the moment Beacon didn’t have any high-priority clients in Europe. He opened his E-Mail account, closing his eyes just for a moment. Times like these were when he’d usually see five E-Mails with “Inquiry” somewhere in the subject line because something had happened. He really didn’t want to deal with anything like that right now, so a wave or relief washed over him as he saw that the only new E-Mails were by people he knew and who weren’t journalists.

 

There was nothing that required his immediate attention, so he could lean back for a few minutes before going on air. He didn’t really know what would be talked about, he’d just woken up to an invite to the show a few days ago. Perhaps they couldn’t get anybody else on, perhaps it was about something that Cass didn’t realize was important. Perhaps it was a trap. At this point, he wouldn’t’ve been surprised, all things told. Even if it would be annoying, he’d specifically brought his best outfit and it wasn’t one he was looking forward to replacing.

 

Rehearsals were mainly about making sure the tech worked, from what Cass could tell, and after some checks he was called into the studio proper, a nice open room with the window looking over all of Parkside in the back, as the backdrop. Two halves of a round couch around a small table, with some chairs. Almost every citizen of FC knew this. Cass didn’t watch the show regularly, for obvious reasons, but he liked to put it on when he was pulling all-nighters, there usually were interesting talking points. Cass got seated and grabbed one of the many coffee cups as the countdown began. “Ten. “ “Nine.” “Eight.” “Just look into the green camera and you’ll be fine.” “Three.”

 

And then they went on air. Cass could hear the show’s intro play as he faced the camera and waited for it to turn on.

 

“A.M Freedom. With Steven and Joanne Parker. “

 

“Good Morning Freedom. It’s seven-o-one AM, and you’re watching A.M Freedom. “

 

“Joining us today is somebody you all know. He’s the self-proclaimed Freedom’s Hottest, and he’s made the headlines more than once in his career, Bonfire. “

 

“Thank you Joanne, it’s an honor to be on the show. Even if I had to get up way too early. “

 

“So, you’ve been in the business for a fair amount of time now, but what many are probably still wondering is….”

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HeroHouse Conversations Forum: Sha'ir The Spellsmith - What is he?

 

herhouseforums_1.png

 

 

TEXT ONLY VERSION, FOR FULL VERSION CLICK HERE

 

Sha’ir the Spellsmith – What is he?

 

 

TheEmeraldCow started topic on March 15, 3:24PM:

Hey HeroHouse Community, I’ve got a question. Sha’ir the Spellsmith, hope I spelled that correctly. What is …he? For those of you that haven’t heard of him(assuming), I grabbed all the videos I could find that he appears in, if you find any let me know and I’ll add them here.

 

These ones are from the December Attack at the City Hall last year, the earliest ones I can find of him:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCX18jhl

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9NC7ogH

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvN6RS6B (thank you IllyLilly for this one)

 

There’s some more here, from the Invasion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHz4zEPl

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6NmSMOu

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycXmXClZ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiS2Vi8o (thank you IllyLilly)¨

 

Here’s a comparison video (thank you Hummus)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLCQ0LTo

 

That’s pretty much all the evidence that exists of him, he’s a complete mystery apart from that. All of those are some major events. What we can know is that he’s located in Emerald City, since he hasn’t shown up anywhere else, but beyond that, what do we know?

List:

-Emerald City
-Magic (Portals, Ice, his name)
-Probably Male?
-Portals allow him to travel
-Hardly ever moves
-Various types of magic
-Unnatural Voice (filter?)
-Arab (Origin of the name, Skin)

 

So, Community, what else do you have? There’s gotta be more, maybe something we missed?

(edits made: 7)

 

 

Techgnome replied on March 15, 3:31 PM

Interesting, hadn’t heard of him so far. Will check out those videos and return with what I can gather. Gonna run some checks, too.

 

RapidWarthog replied on March 15, 3:41 PM

Quick correction: I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be Sha’ir the Spellsmith. See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sha%27ir . Can’t guarantee it but that does sound like a connection. Would mean that there’s maybe some connection to the Arab world?

 

 

Porcupity replied on March 15, 4:00 PM

Regarding the talk of magic, maybe we should get @Hummus in here, he’s the local expert. Not sure any Mages are currently active on the hero side though.

 

 

Techgnome replied on March 15, 4:10 PM

Okay, went through the videos and realized something that may be interesting, here’s a public statement from the City Hall and the Police from after the attack:

https://www.VisitEmeraldCitySouth.com/press/2016/december/hpods
https://www.ECPD.com/press/2016/12/2/ad892

They should mention him, I don’t have time to check right now though, anybody wanna go through them?

 

 

Techgnome replied on March 15, 4:12 PM

<< Quote = RapidWarthog:
Quick correction: I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be Sha’ir the Spellsmith. See here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sha%27ir . Can’t guarantee it but that does sound like a connection. Would mean that there’s maybe some connection to the Arab world? >>

Something I just realized watching the videos: You can see a bit of skin on his hand at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6NmSMOu&feature=youtu.be&t=177 (2:57 for those doing it manually), and that does look brown, so we can probably confirm that one.

 

 

Hummus replied on March 15, 4:44 PM

<<Quote = Porcupity:
Regarding the talk of magic, maybe we should get @Hummus in here, he’s the local expert. Not sure any Mages are currently active on the hero side though. >>

Yeah, those videos make it look like he’s using magic, that seems right. Looking through them, there’s one thing that stands out, namely that he’s using different types. Not that uncommon, but that would place him pretty high up, if I understand it correctly. Disclaimer, I’m no mage, I just love reading about this stuff.

Going to work on a short comparison video to some other magic I have in the archives, will post it here once I’m home.

 


IllyLilly replied on March 15, 4:58 PM

Interesting, I’ve actually been wondering about this for a bit. I was at both the events and I went through what footage I still have of them, turns out I actually have some shots of him. Videos and pictures:

 

Here he is talking with some of the other EC Heroes during the City Hall Attacks, and I actually have a shot of the police talking about him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvN6RS6B

 

I got one of the invasion, too. I had my HD camera on me at the time, so these are some pretty good shots. Good shot of him stepping through his portal at 3:32, too, might be of interest to @Hummus ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiS2Vi8o

 

>>4 Pictures attached, Click Here

 

 

TheEmeraldCow replied on March 15, 5:04 PM

Wow, lots of reactions already.

 

<<Quote = RapidWarthog:
I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be Sha’ir the Spellsmith. >>

Yeah, that feels right. Edited the OP to include the name and the connection. It mentions some connection to Djinn, maybe he’s related to them in some way? Any way we can check that?

 

<<Quote = IllyLilly:
Here he is talking with some of the other EC Heroes during the City Hall Attacks, and I actually have a shot of the police talking about him:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvN6RS6B

 

I got one of the invasion, too. I had my HD camera on me at the time, so these are some pretty good shots. Good shot of him stepping through his portal at 3:32, too, might be of interest to @Hummus ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiS2Vi8o >>

 

Edited these in, thank you very much.

Looking forward to what Hummus can offer, should be quite interesting.

 

 

Patroll replied on March 15, 5:08 PM

!! This post has been deleted by a moderator !!

Reason: Second Strike, stop it, seriously. (^Brain)

 

 

Manateerex replied on March 15, 5:15 PM

<<Quote = Patroll:
Also deleted, nobody needs to see that (^Brain) >>

 

Dude, what the hell, stop your trolling. Reported to the mods.

!! Quote deleted. If you report a troll, don’t also reply to them (^Brain) !!

 

 

Hummus replied on March 15, 5:48 PM

Alright, got around to making that video. It includes all footage I found of him and what I had from other mages. They’re always pretty hard to find footage of, so what I have isn’t amazing, but it offers a bit of insight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLCQ0LTo

I added text in the video, but for those that can’t watch it:

We see him using a first spell almost immediately, it’s some sort of translucent barrier smash. I can’t find anything similar to this in my archives, but if you listen closely (I amplified it), there’s something being spoken. I can’t tell the language, but it sounds romance. Any experts here?

In a different shot of the same scene we can see him using a tome of some sorts, that’s something we can work with.

 

Next up we see him using a portal, which is a bit easier to identify. Portals are pretty common with mages from what I can tell, but the one he’s using really only looks similar to that of Maju-Maju, who’s based in Japan.

 

It should be noted he’s also flying in every shot we have of him, he’s never standing on the ground.

 

Next up, the invasion. Here we see him flying towards the scene much faster than usual, before summoning a bunch of giant ants. So add Summoning to his skillset. Shortly after, we see him moving cars around with some sort of enchantment on his body. I’d say this is a Mage Hand, which is pretty common, but the addition of the reach and the tentacles points to something else.

 

Next up we’ve got him freezing the river. This one is probably the best insight I got from the video. I’m almost 100% certain that it’s a spell that’s also been used in a few videos I included in the description.

 

It’s not a lot, but what I can tell is that
A) He has access to a ton of different spells that do radically different things
B) That likely makes him quite powerful
C) He must’ve spent a lifetime training, so I’m erring towards the side of “magical construct”

 

 

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Terrifica

 

Hero Fic, Warning: Lemon

 

March. Late evening. Boston.

 

“They’ve got to be kidding!” Samantha Carson, alias the superheroic Terrifica, was at home browsing the internet in the Carson home’s computer nook. Today, she had found something a bit different. “This is…I don’t…I’m not a lesbian at all!” Yes, she’d found the smut section of hero fan fiction site. And like anyone, she looked herself up. “Casey is my friend. I wouldn’t…”

 

“Now, now love. She’s a good looking girl. You’re not so bad yourself.” Stan Gresham, husband of a superhero, put in from his seat on the couch. He was reading quietly. “Let them have their fantasies.”

 

“That isn’t the worst of it.” Sam, as a consequence of her superhuman brain, could read faster than books could be printed. And she never forgot a word. “There so much…tell me, would people really get off on seeing me humiliated…sexually?”

 

Stan winced and closed his case notes. This wasn’t the usual “someone is wrong on the internet” annoyance, which came from his wife more or less daily. This was something more serious. “There are some deviants on the internet, but…love…when you wear the mask, you are…meaner. More cutting. It’s natural for people to seek vengeance in prose.”

 

“But there’s so much of it.” Sam’s voice was quieter.

 

“Misogyny too, love.” Stan got up from the couch and walked to the computer nook. He placed his hand on his wife’s shoulders, and looked at the screen. “You’re a strong, forceful woman. Some men-and teenage boys-feel threatened by that. And as history shows, men who feel threatened that way do awful things to women.” He kissed her cheek. “It isn’t like you to get so upset over something so small. Is something else on your mind?”

 

Sam remained quiet for a moment. “No. I can make myself forget things, but this was a welcome reminder.” She was…herself again, more or less. Stan never quite got used to how fast she processed emotion sometimes. “Some of these are very graphic. Humans don’t bend that way.”

 

Stan didn’t think nearly as fast as his wife. He was only human, after all. But he knew his Sam, and he knew people. “Oh, I don’t know. There was this one girl when I was getting my Bachelor’s…”

 

“Stan Gresham. You never mention your sexual exploits to me.” Sam looked up, a little astonished.

 

Stan has a smug smirk on his face. “And I’m still not. She was on the gymnastics team, dated my roommate. In retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have; their personalities just didn’t mesh at all. But that’s an occupational hazard, now. I remember her specifically because she was double jointed just about everywhere, and triple jointed where she wasn’t. Girl was a human pretzel. So, you know. Some people can bend that way.”

 

Sam absorbed this, considered pressing him about his exes, and decided not to. It never worked, anyway. Damn it all. She returned her gaze to the computer. “Ugh, and this section. Romantic mush. It’s like they’ve never met me.” She yelped as Stan physically pulled her out of her seat.

 

“Okay, little lady. That’s about enough of that.” Stan, grunting with a bit of effort, threw her over his shoulder. “I’m taking you to bed, my love. Too many strangers have had their way with you tonight. It’s my turn.”

 

From her position on her shoulder, Sam mock-pounded on his back and kicked ineffectually. “Put me down, you oaf. I can walk just-“ She yelped again, as he gave her backside a hearty smack.

 

“That’s enough of that, Miss Superhero. Tonight you’re doing as I say.” Stan walked from the computer nook to the hall leading to the bedrooms. “And I say hush, or you’ll wake the young ones.”

 

“I could get down if I wanted to.” Sam mock-pouted.

 

Stan only chucked and strode into their bedroom. He tossed her on the bed. “Now, to claim what’s rightfully mine…”

 

Sam rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why I let you bully me. It’s so out of character. I’m a mean woman who’ll never let any man have his fun.”

 

Stan grinned. “Let me make my arguments, Miss Superhero.” He kissed her on the lips. “That’s one.” On the collarbone. “That’s two.” He slid her pajama shirt out of the way and kissed just about her belly button. “Three.”

 

Sam, shuddering slightly, breathed words out. “There were good arguments. Solid reasoning. But I’m still not convinced.” She tried to look thoughtful and fully composed. “What else do you have?”

 

Stan unbuttoned her shirt. “Well, Miss Superhero. I’m just getting started.”

 

**************************************

 

Later, they were both breathing hard from the exertion. Sam propped herself up on an elbow. “Do you think I’m a tsundere? I kept running into that one as a tag on the more wholesome fics.”

 

Stan laughed. Someone had his wife pegged. Maybe a budding psychologist? “Love, I think you’re a unique and special woman, to whom labels can’t be applied.” Granted, she-like everyone-couldn’t be defined so easily, but still.

 

Sam smiled. “That’s a yes, then.” She was…annoyed. And annoyed for being annoyed. But what did it matter? She laid back down. “I did leave some constructive criticism on the good ones. There are some excellent writers out there. Even if they have no idea what my personality is like. Or Casey’s. She’s a perfectly wholesome young lady. No inner sadist to be found.”

 

Stan…kept his thoughts about that one to himself. Nobody who punched supervillains and criminals in the face on a weekly basis could be entirely sadism free, and the young woman who called herself Miracle Girl was no different. “You know, I wrote one of those.”

 

Sam bolted back up. “I don’t believe it. Which one?”

 

Stan put his arms behind his head. “We were re-enacting it a few minutes ago.”

 

Sam went completely scarlet. “W-w-w-w-“

 

Stan sighed lightly. “But you know what the funny thing is? Most of my reviews say I got your character wrong. But was this one screen name. Probably female. She thought I nailed down pat. I read one of her fics, and I’m pretty sure she’s Casey. Got her speech quirks and wholesome personality, anyway.” He looked at his wife, who was…not processing incoming data. “Hey, Sam. You all right?” Sam_Carson.exe was not responding. Nope. This happened now and again, with completely unexpected information. He gave her a minute.

 

You wrote your own fantasy where people could read it?” Sam was absolutely incredulous.

 

Stan only raised his eyebrows. “I did the ‘fade to black’ thing, love. Nothing explicit. And the names were changed. Hm. Maybe you didn’t read it. Wasn’t even a Terrifica fic, technically. Though my reviewers picked up on it being about you in a flash.” His wife just looked at him. “…what? I said let people have their fantasies. Didn’t say anything about them being only written.”

 

Sam just sighed. “…I don’t know what I expected.” She flopped down, and turned over to go to sleep. “Good night, Stan.” Stan simply waited. Sam was facing him again in a flash. “Wait, you said one of the writers was Casey?”

 

Stan laughed and pulled his wife close. “You’d be surprised who writes hero fics, love. There’s a whole vibrant community, and some of them wear masks just like you. But I’m tired. Talk about it in the morning?”

 

Sam tried to turn a yawn into a sigh and did not succeed. “Okay. Good night, Stan. We’re discussing it over breakfast.”

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JETTE

 

Lost Days of Yore

 

March. Bedlam. Late night. Out and About.

 

The target had evaded Caroline for months now. False leads, last minute escapes, and treacherous contacts had all gotten in her way. But tonight? Tonight it all ended. Tonight she rescued the target, inside the building across the street. She was surveilling the building, seeing who went in and out. And it wasn’t a good look. A mob hangout. Low level. Sergeants were the highest ranking there, honestly. But still. She was known. There might be someone who remembered her in there. She could just walk in, but that would undoubtedly cause a ruckus. What to do, what to do. Ah, there’s a piece of slime she was familiar with. “Charlie. Why don’t you come here a minute?”

 

Charlie was just starting middle age, but he was still huge. He’d been a soldier forever. Someone had figured out early he was kind of an idiot and kept him from getting promoted. He was somebody important’s close relative, though, so he kept his position. “Whatchu want, Cruz? I’m busy here.” On a job, no doubt. There were some fresh broken legs in the city tonight, then. And he never got her name right. It was Cruise, not Cruz. Small quibbles, but c’mon. She’s known him since he was freshly inducted as a soldier.

 

Caroline didn’t correct him. Wasn’t worth the effort. “I’m working, too. Help me out, Charlie. Who’s in there tonight?”

 

Charlie shook his big dumb head. “Nuh uh, Cruz.” Cruh-uhzzz. Sweet mother. It was like he knew it irritated her. But he wasn’t that smart. “You’re not supposed to know about this place. Nobody does. The bosses don’t even know about this place.” See, dumb. She didn’t know that before, and surprise! He spilled the beans.

 

Caroline eyed him carefully. “Then what I don’t leave in an unmarked envelope in a certain nightclub office won’t get anyone a bullet between the eyes or some heavy new shoes.” Of the cement variety. Though the last time they did that was years ago. Probably. Maybe she’d look into it if she found some unused spare time later.

 

Charlie got bug-eyed in his small witted way. “Damn it, Cruz. Why yous gotta make life hard for us little guys? We got it hard enough.”

 

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Cry me a new river, Charlie. You break bones for a living. Karma’s a $%^&@.” The big lug sighed and told her. Hmph. Didn’t need the front door, then. “Thanks, Charlie. You’re one in a million.” He waved her off with some no doubt masterfully witty comment, and went inside. Caroline, after glancing up and down the street, donned her mask and wig to become JETTE. The new version, anyway. The target was stashed on the top floor. She could skip the main entrance. JETTE could fly, after all. The roof was deserted…and lousy with garbage. Super. Still, the access door wasn’t locked. Points for Charlie. No alarms yet. Then again, they’d need money for that, and low level guys hiding a private place didn’t have any of that. She searched the floor. Third room. Nailed it. The target was on a chair in the corner. Careless of them. Wait. Footsteps. Voices. Bragging about finding the target. No time, then. Grab the target and go through the window. Shattering glass. Gunfire. Screams of anguish and rage. JETTE didn’t care. Target acquired.

 

Later, Caroline Cruz curled up in her apartment with a bottle of whiskey, her memories, and the March 1978 edition of The Human Rocket And JETTE. The last comic printed before the trial. It hadn’t gotten a full print run, for obvious reasons. Some people burned them, angry about…something. She didn’t know. Because they believed in their heroes? Or because they didn’t anymore? It didn’t matter. She had almost the entire run on a shelf. Twenty (including the new one) issues, including the first two that were still just Human Rocket comics featuring her. And now, she had the last one. 40 years, and she’d never had the chance to read it. Who was the villain in this one? Oh, man. She couldn’t believe it. A team up issue. She and Terry stumble onto a Crime League caper, and who should show up to help but the Centurion. She’d only met him face to face once, in ’93. The statue didn’t do him justice. She settled in to read and, for once, forgot about the whisky. This would be a lovely night. She’d probably go through all 20 issues.

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Diamondlight


As told by Jean Calame, 55


It was only last month, the tail end of winter. It was still cold, that crisp cold air even when the sun shines. Clean blue sky, with the mountains white with snow. It’s my favourite time of year, I think. You can feel the winter drawing to a close. 


It’s a small, old town. Very nice up in the mountains. We have plenty of skiers here, plus lakes and forests to walk through. We do very well from tourism. Very well indeed. We have some five-star hotels that cater to the very wealthy. 


I am the chief of police. Not long till I retire, but I would like to have a few more years, until my knees give way altogether. I have a good relationship with everybody round here. To be honest, we don’t get much crime. The main problem is people trying to dupe or steal from the tourists, but that’s not common. I keep my eye on anybody coming in to town who isn’t a tourist – or looks like they aren’t one. 


I met Monsieur Zoss here last month. He was staying at one of the big fancy hotels, said he needed a break. He had had an unusual accident, he said. Needed a bit of space from his father. Well, the Zoss family are known locally, of course. Used to come regularly, but I hadn’t seen them in well over a decade. Something had happened to bring Monsieur Zoss back. I didn’t pry, of course. Families – well, even the best families are difficult sometimes. I mean, take my father, he could be a complete…well, I digress. 


Let me tell you about another gentleman. Helmut Gruber. Now, I have no quarrel with the Germans, for the most part. But Helmut does not represent the best of his country. He is an odious snake. Tall, think, black eyes. He looks like a snake, and he acts like one. 


Never tips, from what I hear. 


Gruber came to gamble. He is a good poker player, and he does not throw away his money like some of the fools that come here for a game of high stakes poker. He usually walks away with more chips than he started. But he boasts about it. The man has no grace. At least, when he wins. 


When he loses, he is worse. Rants, raves, and threatens. I have been called more than once about his behaviour. And on at least one occasion someone who beat him ended up in hospital the next day. Couldn’t pin anything on him, but let me say I have my suspicions. Gruber has a cold heart that is only heated from fury. You suggest he is anything but magnificent, and you can practically see the red mist fume to his eyes. I swear they go dark. 


I don’t think Zoss was here to gamble or drink. No late night poker and martini this time. He had something on his mind, something eating him slowly. I think he wanted space to think, sort out his thoughts. But Gruber wouldn’t have anything of it. He was playing high stakes and winning, getting drunk on luck, getting that feeling that the universe was designed for his pleasure, that the fates were in love with him. So he starts boasting, starts taunting, starts goading Zoss. 


No man likes to be called a coward and Zoss is no exception, but he isn’t a man to be goaded or manipulated. You can’t be that kind of man if you want to gamble. But he was distracted, unsettled this time. Eventually, with some kind of poisonous mood, he agreed to play. 


The night started as one would think. The cards got dealt, and hands got played, and money swung to this player or another. Nobody really won, and nobody really lost. People kept the stakes low, whilst they assessed the play of the other players. Everybody scrutinising each other for the tell, and trying their damn hardest to keep their own face stone. Let me tell you, I haven’t ever seen anyone do it better than Monsieur Zoss. 


But even the best players get caught by luck. Zoss made some wins, made some losses, but the cards did not fall kindly to his hands, whilst Gruber got the best of them. After and hour or two, Gruber was winnings. The other players dropped out a little, or in some cases a lot, bruised and stung. There was only Gruber and Zoss left, and Gruber was ahead. 


But sometimes that’s when somebody is at their most vulnerable. They think they have fortune with them, when fortune is blind. They get keen for the kill, to wrap it up. And Gruber was intent on demolishing Zoss at the table. He kept throwing out comments, mocking Zoss, asking why he had such a good reputation when he was losing. 


Zoss just sat their calmly, studying Gruber and complimenting on his fine play when in fact it was fine luck. Of course, such calmness only added fuel to Gruber, who became obsessed with breaking Zoss. 


And so it happened. Gruber got dealt a good hand, and Zoss got dealt a great one. Gruber looked confident, Zoss looked the same as always. But Gruber saw what he wanted to see; an opportunity to finish it, once and for all. He was tired, inpatient, greedy, and a little drunk. He raised the stakes again and again, with Zoss carefully, after a delay each time, matching and raising back. Until they went all in. 


On the table was an unusual set. Two fives, A seven, a king, and an Ace. A dangerous set. Gruber had a King and two aces, and feeling full of victory laid down his hand. Full house, two kings, three aces. A full house. 


Zoss didn’t smile. He didn’t sigh, or cry, or grunt. He just moved his hand, calmly, and revealed his two fives. Four of a kind. Zoss wins. 


Gruber darkened like we was going to explode, and everyone held their breath for fear he might. But he held it together, and just mumbled something under his breath. I didn’t catch it, but it wasn’t nice. I’m pretty sure it was a threat. And he stormed out, whilst Zoss bought everyone around of drinks and tipped well. 


It must have been three in the morning when we left the casino. I had tried to keep a clear head but had had perhaps one more drink than I should have. Zoss must have had a few more than that, and whilst he could walk in a straight line, he wasn’t as clear as he should have been. 


Gruber had some bodyguards, and must have paid them a lot of money. Because they walked up to Zoss from behind, ready to do some serious damage to him. 


I don’t know how Zoss saw them. Must have eyes on the back of his head, but he dodged and swung back. He fought pretty good too, but he was drunk and their were two of them. And those guys were heavy and trained. Zoss managed to a clean hook and took one to the ground, standing over him, one of his eyes already black from a nasty straight. 


That’s when the other guy took it a step too far. They hadn’t expected someone who could fight back, much less hold their ground. They didn’t want something dirty and prolonged, they wanted something quick and effective. The goon pulled out a gun. 


If I had blinked, I would have missed it. There was a flash of light. Zoss was holding, or seemed to hold, a beam of light, a few feet long, silver and shining. Adrenaline countered the alcohol, it seemed, because he swung it like a sabre of light, cutting into the gun with a brilliant flash of light. And quick as he that sabre of light had appeared, it was gone. 


The gun fell to the ground, melted. The poor sucker holding it stumbled away, rubbing his eyes, quite dazzled by the brilliance. His friend on the floor scrabbled away, glad he was only spitting blood. Desperation and fear can lend one quite the speed of foot, and the two of them made use of this advantage, pulling each other into the night air. 


Zoss straightened up and adjusted his jacket, touching his eye and cracked ribs. “What was that?” I asked, my breath catching up with the events. 
He just turned and gave a smile through a busted lip. “Don’t worry, Jean” he said calmly. “It’s Diamondlight”. And with this simple explanation, he walked off. 
 

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Incognito – Transcript, Part 2 of 6, Franklin Jefferson Interview given 27th March 2018.


DETECTIVE DANIELS: Okay, we’re back. Just to reiterate, this is being recorded. Anything you say here may be presented in evidence should your case go to trial.

FRANKLIN: I understand.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: For the tape, can we just reiterate who we are? I am Detective David Daniels, Freedom City Police Department.

FRANKLIN: Franklin Jefferson.

GARETH: William Gareth, Franklin’s attorney.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Great. Franklin, are you happy that you’ve had enough time to discuss everything you need to with your attorney?

FRANKLIN: Sure.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Great, that’s great. Was there anything you wanted to add after the break? And, just again, if you feel like you need another break, just speak up. We’ve got plenty of time. Don’t feel rushed.

FRANKLIN: Nah, I’m good.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Great. Now, Franklin, I just wanted to talk again about the woman who convinced you to turn yourself in.

FRANKLIN: I already told you everything I know.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Sure, but could we go over it again? What did she look like?

FRANKLIN: Man, I don’t know. Tall? For a chick, I guess?

DETECTIVE DANIELS: How tall?

FRANKLIN: About as tall as you, maybe a little taller. She was real strong, though. Real strong. When she cracked Jules on the jaw, he just went down, man.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: You’re referring to Julius Barnes?

FRANKLIN: (hesitates) Yeah. Julius. Anyway, she just came out of nowhere. One minute we were about to break down the back door, then suddenly she was just, there, man.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: You said before she was wearing a costume, can you describe it for me?

FRANKLIN: Grey. It was made of that material you see all the supers on TV wearing. Oh, and she had a cape. And a big question mark on her face.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: A question mark?

FRANKLIN: Yeah. I thought that was weird. But I wasn’t expecting a cape, you know? We were small fry.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: You said before she knocked the other two out quickly. Do you have any idea why she didn’t do the same to you?

GARETH: (Interrupting) My client has already answered these questions.

FRANKLIN: Yeah, man, but, look, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: What have you been thinking, Franklin?

FRANKLIN: Look. I didn’t want to get into this stuff. That wasn’t, I mean, I wanted to stay away from crime. That’s why I joined Sifu Ferguson’s after school class.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Right?

FRANKLIN: Anyway, after the other two were KO’d, she did the bow.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: The bow?

FRANKLIN: In class, we’d always bow to each other before a sparring match. It’s a respect thing. Like, you’re saying to the other person that you… I don’t know, you see them or something. I liked that.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: So, what did you do?

FRANKLIN: I bowed.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: And then she attacked you?

FRANKLIN: No, man. She waited for me to make the first move. So I did, like Ferguson taught us.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Right.

FRANKLIN: (laughing) Man, she was something else. I couldn’t touch her. Anyway. After a few seconds, she starts hitting me back. Not, like, hard, but like she’s showing me where the holes in my guard are.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: She wasn’t trying to hurt you?

FRANKLIN: Man, it stung like a (expletive omitted) but no. If she wanted to knock me out, she coulda done it in a second. Anyway. After a bit, she knocks me to the ground and she says, ‘You could be better’.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: That was it?

FRANKLIN: Man. Look. When I graduated, I couldn’t get a job. I couldn’t do nothing. My Dad ain’t around. My Mom couldn’t make rent.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: I’m sorry to hear that, but I don’t under-

A loud bang

FRANKLIN: Of course you don’t!

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Please, stay calm, there’s no need to get agitated.

FRANKLIN: I got what she was saying, okay? I wanted to be a better person. I wanted to be someone I could respect. I didn’t want to do this (expletive deleted) any more.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: You mean, work for Mr. Perregrino?

GARETH: (interrupting) My client is not willing to discuss that until we’ve discussed the terms of his plea bargain.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Is that true, Franklin? Are you only going to help us if we help you?

FRANKLIN: (muttering) I wanted to be better, okay? I made mistakes, but I wanted to be better. She did that for me.

GARETH: I think we should take another break.

DETECTIVE DANIELS: Sure. We’ll just stop the tape there for now.

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The image bounces up and down roughly, and sways side to side a little less so. The camera shooting the dense, dimly lit forest is handheld, and the cameraman is walking at a brisk pace. The shot features a young man somewhere around the age of twenty, with dark skin and medium length, curly black hair and the sides of his head shaved close, who is trekking his way through the woods as well. The man looks back at the camera and smiles, giving off the air of a college frat boy. "Yo, today we're gonna find it, man!" he says, laughing excitedly.

 

The camera quickly swivels as the cameraman brings it around to face himself. He has short red hair, pale skin, freckles, and the same grin. He chimes in, "We're gonna find the Wharton Forest Monster!"

 

The shot cuts away from inside the forest to Liberty Park, focusing on a woman, a small graphic at the bottom of the screen identifying her name as Linda. Linda recounts everything she knows about this so-called "Wharton Forest Monster."

 

"I could hear it in the middle of the night, walking around, growling..."

 

Less than impressive, Linda.

 

The next shot has an older, bearded man wearing some kind of floppy fishing hat. "Dale," as the graphic so names, is clearly very eager to tell the world of this monster, his hands waving in the air and gesturing.

 

"I saw this thing, and I was just... amazed. It was twelve feet tall, at least! I couldn't believe my eyes."

 

Yes! Thank you, Dale! Now we're getting some kind of description! To bad it wasn't an accurate one.

 

"I heard that it's some kind of... of... Native American spirit."

 

Landon, you just sound like an idiot.

 

"It's some kind of freak! It's got four arms with claws!"

 

No, Clara, it doesn't. Just the two, claws not included.

 

After two more "interviews," the video cut back to the two men hiking through the woods. The vaguely dramatic music track in the background just starts to get annoying, when it quickly vanishes. A few seconds later, the two men stop in their tracks as a faint CRACK! echoes through the woods. A louder one follows soon. The two men begin loudly hissing at each other to quiet down, then giggle some more. They begin moving faster, in the direction the sound came from. The image shakes wildly as the camera bounces around in the running man's hand, making the screen almost incomprehensibly blurry. There is a quick jump cut forward in time. The periodic cracks are still sounding off every few seconds, but they are much louder. They sound almost like gunshots at this point. One of the men whispers, "It's close! It's close! Quiet!" and the camera stops violently shaking. The two intrepid investigators slow down to almost a crawl, intending to sneak up on their target. The leaves are still crunching under their feet with obscene volume. CRACK!... CRACK! The noise of the monster is so loud by now that it couldn't be more than a hundred or so feet away. The two finally figure out that they can time their steps with the cracking sounds. 

 

The trees are showing no sign of thinning, but one of the men whispers, "There's a clearing up ahead." The sound stops, as do the two monster hunters. For several moments, neither speak. The black man makes a motion and mouths "I'm going in." He crunches his way forward a few steps, slowly, then leans back and forth, trying to get a good look around the trees. Then he beckons the camera closer. The image moves forward, bounces far less than normal as the cameraman walks slowly and carefully. The camera peeks around into the clearing. All along the ground are small pockets, holes of displaced earth about half a foot in diameter. An embankment on the far side of the clearing is embedded with rocks of about the same size, as well as pockmarks. Also near the embankment are large jutting stones poking out of the ground.

 

The two men quietly freak out to each other as they look for the monster. They step forward into the clearing, the camera swiveling back and forth, scanning the area. "Yo, this has to be it, man," one says. The other replies, "Where is it? It was just here, man."

 

Suddenly the snapping and rustling of branches and twigs can be heard. Both men turn to their left and begin rushing toward its source. They scramble up the embankment and hurry into the woods again. Then behind them comes another noise, that of someone running, crunching leaves. The camera whips around to catch a blurry glimpse of a tall, dark figure sprinting into the woods. "That's it! That's-"

 

The image of the two running after it pauses, and Micah looks up from the cellphone in her hands. She raises an eyebrow at her friends, the two of them eagerly awaiting her response.

 

"Well, I felt like I was watching a worse version of Blair Witch the whole time."

 

Micah's friends collectively throw their hands up and sigh oh so painfully, but all of them smile. "Come on, Mikes," Olivia says. "What about that thing at the end? What about the holes and the rock spikes or whatever?"

 

Micah laughs. "Any and all of that could have been staged. I mean, come on, all of the holes and stuff could have been done in an hour, and the 'monster' was probably a dude in a costume. Why else would all these monster images be so blurry all the time?"

 

Davin takes his phone back from Micah. "You're no fun, Micah. Just entertain the idea, for us." A teasing grin is plastered over his face.

 

"Really? I can list five supers that can fly, right now, off the top of my head. And you care more about Wharton Big-Foot?"

 

Davin shrugs. "The mystery is only fun while it stays a mystery."

 

Olivia chimes in. "Besides, it's good to stay informed on potential weird stuff. Knowing this city, a monster like that is probably a villain. Anyways, We've got to get back. Later, Micah." She and Davin turn and walk off, leaving Micah's heart shattered into a million pieces.

 

"Probably a villain..." Micah had been right not to let anyone know what had happened to her, that she turned into a freak. If anyone ever saw her as that creature...

 

But it made sense, didn't it? That's what people did, all the time. When they encounter something strange, they assume the worst. Even in a city with the impossible, men and women with superhuman strength and speed, psychics and telekinesis, genius millionaires building freeze rays, anything that strayed just a little too far from acceptable came under scrutiny. When Micah transformed, she didn't look human, that was enough, enough to say she was a monster. It didn't matter that she hadn't hurt anyone, ever... you were seen as a villain until you proved you were a hero. Once people saw you that way, you weren't allowed to be anonymous, to pick some ambiguous middle ground. You couldn't be like everyone else. You were either evil or good.

 

"A monster like that... like me..."

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Snakebite

 

As told by Stacy Crumb, 15

 

School can be so boring sometimes. Like, Miss Pettlefish, our maths teacher, what is she like? She is so boring. Maths is so boring. And she took away my smart phone for, like, a fifteen minutes. Can you believe it? Fifteen minutes. I thought I was going to die! How mean is that? All I was doing was texting Jemma about Tom and how cute he is.

 

Dumb teachers.

 

Anyways, its not all boring. I mean, I like English and Drama and History. Especially when we go out on field trips, like the Globe theatre, or the Marlowe.

 

But the best trip was the British Museum.

 

I mean its got some cool stuff. Really old. Some of in really, really old. That’s my favourite. I mean, its all cool you know with big paintings about rich kings and queens, and the dressed and armour and that stuff. But I like the really old stuff, like romans and ancient Egypt. Even cavemen stuff. It kinda makes you think about how we lived before we had snapchat and stuff, yeah? It must have been terrible. Makes you think about how lucky we are to live in the world today!

 

So me and Jemma, cause we are like so best friends – well except when Jemma was going out with David Wells, who is so uncool – but apart from that we are always best friends, we went sneaking out on our own when we went to the British Museum. We wanted to like hang out and stuff.

 

Jemma isn’t that into the old stuff, though, but she came with me because she is my best friend and like we didn’t want to hang around Mrs Biggins. She is so old! I mean, she must be forty. She is like, as old as some of the thing’s in the museum!

 

So we were sneaking off to do our own thing and I dragged Jemma to the ancient history exhibition. She wasn’t paying that much attention, really, she was just taking selfies and updating her profile. She did like the rude pictures. You know, like the giant %$%£” carved onto cave walls. We took a few selfies posing with the pictures which Jemma’s mom saw letter and she got in real bad trouble.

 

We had a right laugh though. And we you know, giggling and sniggering over this ancient stone of a snake with looked just like a…well, it looked just like something really rude, when this lady comes over to us.

 

Cassandra Crow. Doctor Cassandra Crow.

 

The first thing I noticed was the sunburn. I mean, she was a reddish brown that matched her hair, you know red heads, they get toasted in the sun! I remember when Emma Waters went to Ibiza and…well…anyway.

 

The second thing I noticed was her smile. She was really friendly. She actually laughed with us larking around, but she was also really interested in the stone sculpture. She connected with us, I guess, like she knew it was a bit rude. But she wanted us to look closer, and you know what she did? She actually picked the sculpture up!

 

“I found this in Brazil” she explained. Now, we were pretty impressed. I mean, Brazil is cool, like yeah? And finding something like this in Brazil was even cooler. Even Jemma had to agree. But picking it up when that was like totes forbidden was even cooler.

 

She even offered it to us to touch.

 

“But careful. Its thousands and thousands of years old! Perhaps even older!”

 

We must have gasped. Even Jemma was hooked now. It was like history coming alive and giving you a kiss. History that looked like Harry Styles and used tongues when it kissed you.

 

“I didn’t think humans made things like this so long ago!” I said.

 

She just gave a smile and looked us straight in the eyes. Like hypnotic or something.

 

“Why do you think humans made it?” she asked.

 

“But…but….” Look, I am really cool normally, but the way she asked it, the way we held the idol in our hands, I was getting just a little bit very freaked out. It felt like the idol was on fire, or electric or something. Like something was running up and down my spine and nibbling at me whilst it scuttled around. I thought I was going to drop it.

 

Then I would be in real trouble. I mean, I was in trouble already. But if I broke this I was sure to get grounded for at least two days. And Mum might take my mobile phone away for an hour. So I made sure I gripped it so hard I thought my fingers would crack the stone.

 

I got my words out. I got myself together. But I swear my tongue felt like it wasn’t my own. “Who else could have made it?” I asked.

 

She took the idol from my hands, and I couldn’t have been more relieved. “Nobody will tell you this, but before men, when were just apes, others walked the earth. The snake people!” she said, dramatically.

 

“No way!” we said, at the same time. It was like a horror movie, you know? Like scared and excited but no matter how scary you can’t help but looking. Even if it is from between your fingers.

 

“This is from their time. Before ours. A snake god, I think. Its too ancient to tell. But I have been all around the world looking for these things, And more. You know the snake Gods of our time? Nuwa, In China, or Ahi in India, who created the world and life? Memories of the ancient past that linger. The evil Set of Egypt? The monsters of Greece like Medusa or Thyphon? The Midgard Serpent Jormugandr, who will bring about Ragnarok of the Vikings? These are all ancient fears played over and over again in the minds of men who came after!”

 

We didn’t know whether to believe her or not, but it sure was spooky.

 

Now, I might have lost it. I was clutching Jemma’s hand so hard I might have broke it, except she was clutching mine even harder. But then she smiled.

 

“Don’t worry” she said. “They are all gone now”.

 

We breathed a sigh of relief.

 

Nearly all gone”

 

We inhaled again.

 

“Don’t worry though. I’ll make sure they don’t come back. Why do you think I go around collecting and studying all of this? It’s too make sure they don’t come back. Ever. And if they do, I’ll kick their scaly asses!” she laughed. A nice laugh. Like her smile.

 

She put the idol back where it belonged and we both breathed out. I swear I was going to have a panic attack if I kept breathing like that.

 

“So keep your mind open, ladies” she said. “Don’t take anything as true, or false, until you have thought about it for yourself!” she added with a wink and walked off.

 

We got in trouble, of course, for wandering off. But we didn’t mind. We explained who we had met, and what had happened, and I think Mrs Biggins was actually pretty jealous, although we got a good telling off. Mum didn’t mind, not after I explained it all properly. I made sure I didn’t show her the selfies, though.

 

And I went and did a search on the internet afterwards. Cassandra Crow is well cool. And badass. She has been all round the world, and got into fights and adventures and everything. And she has a really cool whip!

 

So yeah, I was going to study Beauty therapy at Wesleyfen college. But you know, after that, I think I might study history.

 

History is pretty cool.

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