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Grumblefloof

To Serve and Protect (IC)

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Arrowhawk followed a few paces behind the whiteclad man. She looked up and down the boarded up storefront skeptically. "And there is no one left in this building to even ask." She bowed her head, lips pursing pensively. "I'd say the body has been moved, but that wouldn't explain the tire tracks."

 

She walked up to the shopfront, and gripped her fingertips around the large board over the shop window. "But do the tracks continue?" Arrowhawk asked, casually pulling at the flimsy boards with strength enough to embed a hatchet in the hood of a car, exposing the derelict store beyond.

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Arrowhawk realized her assumption was incorrect as soon as she pried away the first board. Her keen ears picked up ragged, irregular breathing, and the occasional muffled and choked-back cough. Her eyes, reminiscent in their acuity as her namesake, detected slight movements in the darkness within.

 

The tire tracks did indeed continue right on the other side of the wall of the abandoned store, as if the wall hadn't been there at all. They ran all the way across the floor to the far interior wall. The floor was caked with dust and grime. It was obvious where the tire tracks had cut through it. Judging from the footprints also cutting through the dust, much of that grime was tracked inside, recently and on a regular basis. Either the property owner had hired the world's worst contractors for a remodel, or the abandoned storefront was currently serving as a squat.

 

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"Must be a supernatural cause, otherwise, this makes no sense." John said, looking at the scene intently. He knew of superheroes, of course. Bedlam had it's own supernatural residents, visible beneath the surface. He wondered how the gangs and thugs would feel, knowing that people like the man in white were in town. 

 

He could not, however, puzzle this out. So he began to search for yet more clues. You had to exhaust all evidence at the scene of the crime first, after all. Specifically, he focused on the tracks, and the wall. He didn't question how the man in white knew who's blood it was. Probably a side effect of his own strange abilities.

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"Must be a supernatural cause, otherwise, this makes no sense."

 

"A cop with no face drove his car through a wall without even scratching the paint. If that's not 'supernatural,' then I'm not sure what is."

 

When Arrowhawk started ripping boards off of the wall of the abandoned storefront, the man in white stepped up and silently started helping. He tore them free with even more casual ease than she did. Once they had the front door about halfway revealed, the man in white froze, squinted into the darkness, then released his grip on his next plank of wood and slowly placed a hand on Arrowhawk's shoulder. "Wait." He whispered "There's someone in there..."

 

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Arrowhawk cocked her head, looking at the figure in white. "I know, I can hear someone within..."

 

Clenching her fists, she stepped into the storefront, her boot landing in the tire tracks, moving purposefully and slowly into the dusty, grimy inside. She turned, gesturing at her two companions to hold back, before turning her attentions and sight back to the interior. "Hello? Is anyone there?!"

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The figure in the shadows dropped something as they darted up out of their hiding place. It made a series of high-pitched CLINK! noises as it hit the ground and rolled toward Arrowhawk's feet. A bottle of whiskey. Something to provide the illusion of warmth on a cold night. When the homeless woman ran up to the door, Arrowhawk could see that she was covered in at least four layers of torn flannel shirts, and that the blonde hair trailing down from under her knit cap hadn't been washed or even brushed in months at least. She had dark bags under her eyes, but those eyes were stretched wide in terror. "Y-y-y-you g-g-g-otta help me! I s-s-saw 'im! And h-h-he saw me! He saw me seein' 'im! He killed those guys, and he drove his car right through their car, right through the wall, up the side of a building! I know what yer thinkin', but I swear, it's not the booze! That smile! He SMILED at me!"

 

Her rant was cut short by the roar of an engine and flash of light as a police cruiser passed through the opposite wall of the abandoned store as though it weren't there. It sped directly toward the front door, the homeless woman, and Arrowhawk.

 

Edited by Grumblefloof

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Arrowhawk and The Tattered Man both reacted to the oncoming headlights by darting toward them, rather than away, a testament to their mutual courage. Arrowhawk dove into a somersault and tackled the homeless woman out of the path of the car as she came up, while The Tattered Man simply shielded them both with his own body. The police cruiser hit The Tattered Man, driving him into Arrowhawk, and then both of them through the front wall of the abandoned store. The Tattered Man took the brunt of the impact from the car, but Arrowhawk's body shielded him from the worst of the collision with the wall. The police cruiser screeched to a halt on the street a few car lengths away from the store. The sudden stop hurled both The Tattered Man and Arrowhawk to the pavement, not far from the corpse of Mike Donaghy.

 

Mister Strix, more startled by the sudden appearance of the car, was slower to leap into action than either of the other assembled vigilantes. The corner of the car's front bumper clipped him and sent him spinning away, thwarting his attempt to dive into its path. He remained standing inside the ruined storefront.

 

The bright headlights and the flashing lights on top of the car made it difficult to see more than a silhouette of the person behind the wheel of the police cruiser.

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Mister Strix turned to the homeless woman first. He was barely able to ask "Are you O-" before he saw her scramble to her feet and start running down the street. Good enough. Then he turned back toward the police cruiser. He crouched down, then leaped into the air, his powerful legs propelling him up over the parked car. His boots landed squarely between the front of the car and the stretch of asphalt where the bodies of Arrowhawk and The Tattered Man were splayed out. You want them? First you go through me. He let out a tiger's growl that echoed down the street. "Get out of the car."

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Arrowhawk was too stunned to react for a moment, having never been hit by a car before. This was a new experience for her. A painful one. Opening her eyes, she found herself somewhere out on the street, flat on her back. She struggled for a moment, before rolling onto all fours, spitting out some of the fluid in her mouth. Blood. She'd bitten her tongue, probably upon hitting the wall.

 

Moving to get on all fours, she grimaced and faltered, her knee crashing back into the concrete. She moved her head towards the building as her vision began to swim back into focus. "Get her out of there! Now!" she shouted hoarsely. 

Edited by Ecalsneerg

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John jumped to his feet like a shot. He cracked his neck and stretched a bit even as he started walking towards the car. He looked far less injured than someone hit by a car should. His gait was almost casual, deliberately underselling the danger he could be in. This enemy was unnatural, and he knew it. Arrowhawk got the worst of it, he could tell. 

 

"Thanks for cracking my back for me." He said, stretching a couple more times as he closed the distance to stand next to Mr. Strix. "Been bugging me for days. Must have slept on it wrong." His stance and mannerisms changed completely, and he practically growled out. "So you gonna come out and get your ass handed to you, or what?"

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The driver turned off the engine and the lights, and slowly stepped out of the police cruiser. Without the blinding headlights, the assembled vigilantes finally got a good look at him, and his vehicle. The car was completely generic. There were no seals or symbols identifying it as part of the Bedlam City Police Department, or any other law enforcement agency. The driver was dressed in a police officer patrol uniform, complete with hat, but that wasn't Bedlam P.D. issue either. The real Bedlam cops, having not been able to afford upgrading their gear in decades, already looked more like the cops in movies and television than their real-life contemporaries in other cities. But this "officer" looked anachronistic even compared to them, as though he'd raided the costume stash from an even older movie. The name badge over the right breast of his shirt read "FRIENDLY." His badge was dominated by a golden human skull, with the number "0000." But most striking of all was his face, or rather, the lack thereof. He wore a white stocking over his head, made from Lycra or some similarly clingy fabric. A big smile was painted over the lower half of the face.

 

"License and registration, please."

 

His voice was calm and even. Between the blinks of an eye, his empty hands were suddenly full, one with an archaic wooden baton, the other with one of the largest revolvers any of the assembled vigilantes had ever seen. The Tattered Man could immediately tell that it was a magnum from the size of the cylinder, and from the size of the barrel, he knew it was bigger than a .357 caliber, easily a .44 but possibly a .50. His brain barely had time to make those connections before that massive barrel was pointed directly at his face.

 

"Do you know why I pulled you over?"

 

"Officer Friendly" fired a shot. It sounded more like a bomb exploded.

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Mister Strix didn't react quite fast enough to launch himself at "Officer Friendly" before the ersatz cop shot at The Tattered Man, but the man in white sprang into action while the shot from that ridiculously huge pistol was still echoing down the street. The gunshot reverberating through the area was soon joined by a tiger's roar. The other vigilantes could only make out a vaguely human-shaped blur as Strix's fists swung at Friendly even harder and faster than they had at Arrowhawk during their brawl. He landed several furious blows about Friendly's head and shoulders, any one of which should have, from the sound of it, been a knock-out punch Mike Tyson would have been proud of. But while Friendly staggered under the assault, he didn't fall. He didn't even fall backward.

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Arrowhawk barely managed to struggle to her feet, still groggy from the impact. She found her hand going instinctively for her axe. At any case, Strix was in melee with the "officer" of the law, and she didn't trust her aim to shot into a fracas right now. 

 

Instead she took two light springing steps forward, clearing a surprising amount of distance as she tested the water before launching herself across the distance, cape almost perpendicular to the ground as she abruptly became a blur, moving with the speed of Loki's equine child itself, her blade coming up to scythe down at a high speed across the officer's torso in a single, practiced glide. 

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John stepped forward quickly, closing distance in a blur. His was a practical fighting style, with basic punches, each one strong enough to crack concrete. He pivoted and swung hard at the 'officer' slamming his fist into the side of his head. John had no idea what this guy was or what his deal was, but punches seemed to affect him at least somewhat.

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The bullet from "Officer Friendly"'s gun only grazed that tattered man's temple this time, but just a centimeter in the wrong direction, and that bullet could easily have burst his head like a piñata. His head, or some innocent bystander a building or two over in any direction. And he's got up to five more shots. I don't like those odds. I need to remove that gun from the equation.

 

Mister Strix diverted his attention to Officer Friendly's ludicrously huge revolver. Strix's superhuman speed allowed him to get a grip on the weapon. But when he tried to use his matching superhuman strength to pull the weapon free from Officer Friendly's grip, he found that Officer Friendly was even stronger. Impossible...What are you? Strix tugged on the gun a few times, but he couldn't move Officer Friendly's hand so much as an inch.

 

Time to change tactics, then. Are you as strong of mind as you are of body? Strix glared into the shadows of the white lycra mask where Officer Friendly's eyes should have been. "LET GO OF THE GUN." His inhumanly deep voice reverberated up and down the street. Officer Friendly's vise-like grip remained steady. I guess you are... Strix clenched his teeth and braced himself for the shot he knew was coming. Better me than one of the mortals...

 

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Officer Friendly cocked his head slightly to the side. "Please move along, Sir. Nothing more to see here." He jerked the barrel of his enormous revolver to line up with Mister Strix's face and pulled the trigger. The bullet tore through Strix's skull right above his eye. When it burst out through the back of his head, it took most of the back of his skull with it. A large chunk of Strix's brain splattered across the pavement behind him. But there was no blood. Strix barely reacted. He didn't collapse, or stagger, or even flinch. Instead, he smiled, baring his razor-sharp fangs.

 

The Tattered Man's punch had clearly broken Officer Friendly's nose. Even beneath the lycra stocking mask, it was obviously bent out of shape. And Arrowhawk's battle axe had sliced a deep gash in his torso. The tear in his uniform exposed pale flesh and crimson blood, though the wound bled far less than it should have for how deep the axe had cut, a mere trickle instead of a spill. In the time it took Officer Friendly to utter one sentence and pull the trigger on his gun, his nose bent itself back into place, and Arrowhawk's cut mended itself halfway closed.

 

While one hand still holding his revolver in Strix's face, Officer Friendly's other hand, still holding his baton, whirled around and encircled The Tattered Man, pulling him close. With one arm, Officer Friendly was poised to pin both of The Tattered Man's arms down against his torso, pressing the baton against The Tattered Man's throat.

 

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Seeing the wounds knit almost instantly, Arrowhawk growled, taking a couple of quick steps towards Officer Friendly, swinging her axe in a wide arc. She brought it crashing into the inhuman creature's neck, hauling hard. But the creature had preternatural strength, reaching up with its free hand. Even occupied with grasping the Tattered Man, it managed to easily throw her off, sending her staggering back a couple of steps to round back on him. 

 

Her eyes flicked here and there, taking in their makeshift battleground. "Where is his car? The," she spat out a string of guttural curse words in her native tongue, "damned thing hit me! Where have you stowed it?"

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John avoided the creature's attempt to grab him, ducking back before swinging wild at it's head. He could feel the impact, he could tell it was a solid hit. This person or thing was refusing to go down, and it was beginning to piss him off. John could tell that they'd hit it more than a couple of times, so why wasn't it slowing down.

 

"What the hell are you?" John roared, stepping back into a ready stance. "Bedlam is just full of weirdos nowadays."

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Mister Strix snarled. Forget the magic tricks. Forget the fancy moves. Sometimes, you just need brute force.

 

He crouched under Officer Friendly's reach, then jumped up, his superhumanly powerful legs easily launching him up over Friendly's head. He somersaulted through the air, landing without a sound on the pavement several meters away. Brute force...and maybe a bit of superior mobility.

 

Talons erupted from Strix's fingertips, curved, razor-sharp, and easily as long as the fingers from which they'd been deployed. His mouth seemed to elongate, as if his jaw had distended or the skin at the corners of his smile had split open. Whatever the cause, his "mouth" was now more of a maw, filled with an impossible number of teeth, including canines which stretched to several times their normal length. With another tiger's roar, he launched himself at Officer Friendly, flailing and tearing at Friendly's flesh with reckless abandon. When Strix's talons sliced gashes into the man's flesh, the results gave the assembled vigilantes cause to question whether he was truly a "man" at all. Friendly's flesh was rent asunder just as any normal man's would have been under Strix's brutal assault, but even the deepest cuts revealed no entrails, or organs of any kind, just...more flesh. Beneath Friendly's skin, fat, and muscle, there was just more muscle. And, as with his other wounds, these fresh cuts hardly bled at all, a trickle when there should have been a torrent.

 

A zombie? A demon? Some witch's meat-puppet? What Hell spawned you?

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Officer Friendly buckled under Strix's assault, but Strix's deepest cuts into Friendly's flesh mended themselves before his very eyes, almost as quickly as he'd torn them open. Arrowhawk, the seasoned warrior, and even The Tattered Man, a former law enforcement officer, could tell that Strix had no real combat training to speak of. His poor footing and wide swings, difficult as they were to follow when his every movement was a blur, marked him as an amateur. A normal man would have been gutted several times over, so under those circumstances, Strix's lack of technique wouldn't have been an issue. But Officer Friendly was clearly no normal man. Even if they'd been so inclined, neither one had time to shout a warning before Officer Friendly exploited one of the many openings Strix had left him. Friendly reversed his grip on his baton with a smooth, fluid motion, and plunged it into Strix's chest, smashing through his ribs and impaling him up to Friendly's knuckles. Friendly shoved the wooden baton through Strix's chest with such force that the broken, splintered end pierced through his back, creating a bulge that lifted Strix's cape like a tentpole.

 

"This will go easier on you if you cooperate," Officer Friendly sneered. He gave the baton a twist. "We can do this here, or we can do it Downtown."

 

None of Strix's previous wounds had bled at all, but this one did, profusely. The blood was so dark it appeared to be black, only showing red when the streetlights reflected off of it at just the right angle. Strix's eyes and veins, both completely black, bulged so wide they threatened to burst. He howled in agony, and his inhuman scream was even deeper and echoed even louder than his previous growls and roars. Then he fell to the pavement, motionless and silent as blood spilled from his heart onto the asphalt like an open fire hydrant. His black eyes hung open.

 

Neither Arrowhawk nor the Tattered Man had time to fully process the apparent death of the man in white before the echoes of his screams faded into the roar of an engine, the headlights made everything fade to white, and Officer Friendly's police cruiser came charging back down the street from...wherever it had vanished to. Once again, they found themselves standing right in its path.

Edited by Grumblefloof

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Arrowhawk growled, rolling forwards in one swift motion, the car passing barely an inch behind her as she surged towards the bizarre being, still off guard from having staked the draugr. "You'll regret that," she promised, using the momentum as she sprang to her feet to come up, driving her hand down with a hammer blow, using the axe handle as additional weight to the punch. The other followed with an upper cut, pursuing the two punches with a practiced front kick. 

 

It barely seemed to faze the officer. Shaking her head, she quickly pivoted before the thing could recover, scything her axe down in a swift blow to the creature's head. "This is just unnatural.

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The man in white was dead, but he'd survived something bad before, John saw. John jumped straight up to avoid the car. He was surprised at his own reflexes, and took the opportunity to bring both fists down on top of the creature's head. It had no finesse, but John didn't need finesse.

 

As soon as he recovered from landing, he reared back and kicked the buckled over 'officer' in the head as hard as he could. 

 

He stumbled back. Something flashed in his mind. A football field, bleachers, the smell of autumn leaves in the air and a pair of uprights in front of him. Was that Stephen's memory? Someone else's? It vanished as he cleared his head.

 

"...the hell was that?" It was a valid question, either the about the creature or the flash of memory.

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After the vigilantes dodged the seemingly autonomous police cruiser, it kept on driving, eventually passing through another building as if it were less than a shadow.

 

When Arrowhawk's axe slashed into Officer Friendly's head, it tore his mask in half, exposing his face...or, rather, his lack of a face. There were no eyes, nostrils, or mouth, no openings or orifices of any kind. There wasn't even really a nose, just a vague suggestion of one underneath an unbroken sheet of skin. Her axe sliced deep into meat and bone, and she did shed his blood, but, as always, it was only a few drops. The bottom half of the white spandex head-sock with the crude smile painted on it dangled from his neck, swaying back and forth.

 

The Tattered Man's boot crashed into Officer Friendly's lack of a face with all of his 185 pounds of spirit-fueled superhuman strength and burning adrenaline behind it. Arrowhawk's battle axe had already weakened the structural integrity of Friendly's head, and the follow-up from The Tattered Man pulverized it. His kick shattered Friendly's jaw and half his skull, and ruptured his smooth eggshell of a face, leaving nothing but a mass of red pulp, as though John's foot had lanced a giant sore. Friendly fell motionless to the ground, like a puppet with cut strings.

 

The Bedlam night was quiet and still once more. The only sound either Arrowhawk or the Tattered Man could hear was their own ragged breathing and the thumping of their own heartbeats.

Edited by Grumblefloof

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"I used to think Bedlam didn't have these kinds of things." John said, bending over, his breath ragged. "I've never seen anything like that before. Have you?" 

 

He looked down at the fallen man in white. "He did get back up before." John said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he did again." He looked over at Arrowhawk. 

 

"Back when I was a cop, the criminals were a bit more ordinary." He looked up to the sky. "I have no idea what's been happening to this city lately."

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Arrowhawk put a hand on her side, weapons clattering onto the asphalt as she drew in a slow ragged breath, shaking her head the whole while. "It's always been like this. You just did not notice."

 

She took a few steps over towards the body of the draugr, lying with the stake impaled through it. "But he will not get back up from this. Your Stoker had the right idea. The stake. The decapitation. The fire. It is the way of such things. The way to consign them to Helheim." She bowed her head, masking her face beneath her cowl before her hand grasped at the broken nightstick. And abruptly yanked it out of the carcass.

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