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Fall 2018 

A Sunday evening 

The secret headquarters of Lady Horus 

 

Wadjet had taken Anna's departure to go pick up Chromium as a good occasion to break down her gun and rework its parts, something Nicola knew by now meant the girl didn't want to talk. She usually didn't. She was near the skylight of Old Main, the glass open to allow for Lady Horus's return, the lunch Anna had picked up from Five Guys not quite cooling yet as it sat on a table she'd pushed out for the meeting. "So. You and the old lady," she looked up from her work at Nicola, who Anna had invited over to meet the new guy "and make sure he ain't got no bad intentions." Anna had gone all out for the troubled teen who was about to move in with them, clearing out a space opposite from where Anna and Esperanza's rooms were. "Good for her." Esperanza's hair had grown out a bit since Nicola had first met her, though it was still short enough that it didn't reach the nape of her neck. 

 

-

 

Out by the dockyards, Chromium had been asked to wait for his "ride" to Anna and Esperanza's secret headquarters - so here he was, the Sunday evening crowd light enough that even he attracted relatively little notice. 

 

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Chromium was draped in his high collar trench coat and a fedora hat as he walked around looking conspicuous by his clothing choice but it hid the silver skin that marked him as more than human. He looked fairly untroubled, his silver eyes looking around for any problems even as his hands clenched and unclenched in his pockets. He really wanted to do this, but there was a part of him that figured this was too good to be true, someone willing to pay for his boarding? Feed him? And teach him stuff, this was a win for him and he needed a win. He'd never admit it but it had not been the smartest things to leave Aegis and go out on his own, and he wasn't convinced they didn't have something to do with this but he is certainly going to be working to prove that he was good enough to be on his own and stand alone one day.

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Chromium felt a faint vibration in the ground - as if something nearby had struck it. And then. 

 

"Lo, look upon me!

 

Lady Horus, Bedlam's most infamous superhero, was tall, though not quite as tall as Chromium himself - wrapped in an Egyptian kilt, her face half-hidden by her helm and mask, surrounded by a glittering golden aura that gave her the appearance of having stepped from the heart of the Sun itself. 

 

"I have come to take thee to where you need to go!"  

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Chromium was already turning at the vibration, and all but fell over as he stumbled to get away from the glowing Egyptian woman who suddenly appeared before him, stepping back he growled his fist rising and seeming to melt as they formed into two large weapons, crackling with golden energy the one looked like a massive sword with his arm where the hilt would be and the other resembled a large single bladed axe with a hook at the back and the start of a hilt as he threw back his coat letting it drift off exposing his silver skin.

 

It wasn't too look impressive but to save the few bits of clothing that were still intact as he faced the woman who he had heard about, but certainly had little to know interest in till now,"What? Who are you? I'm not going with you! Not without a fight and I don't go down easy!"

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"Foolish boy!" she boomed in reply, "I am thy ride to the realm of Lady Wadjet and the others of her order! Wilt thou be sensible, or must I carry you on my back like some puling infant?!" Privately Anna was thinking that maybe she should just have shown with the car after all (Lady Horus not being a diplomatic type), but it was a little late to have those kinds of reservations now. With an irritated sigh, she put her ankhs 'away' - the golden weapons seeming to vanish behind her back, and spread her arms in a gesture of non-threateningness. Well, as non-threatening as a demigod could be anyway. 

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There was a moment of confusion on Chromium's face, then understanding as she said Wadjet's name and then a frown. Such an easy to read face, the weapons flowed back into hands as he looked at the crowds who were reacting pretty normally to superheros facing off running and screaming. Shaking his head he looked at the flying demigod, still not sure about this as he gathered up his clothing again and sighed,"How am I going to ride you?"

 

If he was mortal he would have blushed the moment those words came out of his mouth, but as a man of metal he didn't change color so easily which didn't stop his tone from sounding embarrassed,"What I mean is you don't have a way to transport me without carrying me....so what's the plan?"

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"Thus!" and so she reached out and grabbed Chromium by his front with one hand, a moment before the two of them simply rocketed off into the air. "Lo, the eyes below see well. Do not struggle - the fall would pain even you" she commented as they zipped up into the sky. "We fly quickly, as Bedlam is c-cursed cold this time of year!" And so they did, zipping through the sky at a fantastic rate, at least if you weren't used to the rapid movements of people in and around Freedom. Soon enough they were heading for a section of buildings Chromium didn't immediately recognize - was that the college outside of town he'd heard about? They zipped down through the open roof, and a moment later were deposited inside Anna and Wadjet's lair. 

 

The main room, occupied as it was by Wadjet and Nightingale, looked like what it was - a converted college classroom of generations earlier. Old wooden desks were pushed off to one side while Wadjet's high-tech chemistry equipment (albeit kitbashed together from various sources) rested like strange sculptures on black-tinted lab tables. Wadjet herself was there, out of costume, her short red-dyed hair clinging to her scalp, and she gave Chromium a hard look as he and Lady Horus made their landing. Lady Horus excused herself to change, leaving a rather startled Chromium alone with the two women.

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Chromium was not found of flying, speed was another thing, but if you weighed over a 1000lbs you'd be unhappy about being hoisted above the earth as well. He didn't look around too much, and was glad when his feet were touching the ground again. As soon as he was on the ground he stood very, very still and looked at the floor below him trying to figure out what it was made of as it creaked ever so slightly under his weight. Looking up at the two girls he frowned, looking between the two of them and the things they were working with.

 

Frowning again he looked at the floor again,"Hey...I'm Chromium....and what is this floor made of? Just before I move and break something...." He had never seen Wadjet out of her costume so wasn't even sure she was present, although the fact that the Egyptian lady had said she was taking him to her abode made him think she was here but you could never be too careful.

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"It's armored," said Wadjet, the annoyed tone making it pretty clear that the dark-skinned Latina with the buzzcut hairstyle had to be who she was. "We're not stupid." Nicola disappeared after a minute or two, murmuring something about checking on Lady Horus, leaving the two teenagers alone. With a frown, she worked a lever on her rifle, the mechanism working back and forth in a way that made her grunt with satisfaction. "Don't think you have the run of the place. That's my lab," she said, pointing towards a door on the opposite side of the big classroom, "and my room beyond it. Down the hall is where the old lady sleeps. Nightingale's there too, when she's over here." She frowned with the look of a teenager discussing a parent's sex life, then went on, "I'll show you your space," she said, leading the way out of the room and down another hallway, towards a room near the end of the opposite side of the hall. The furnishings here looked old too, with ancient tiles and peeling paint on the walls, but the floor held up to Chromium's weight despite some occasional groans. 

 

His room was sparse, but not unpleasant - there was a sleeping bag against one wall, a minifridge plugged into the other wall, and even a small, albeit mostly empty, bookshelf. "Figured you'd want to put your own stuff there." 

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Chromium grinned at Wadjet's words,"Well you know I brought the house down the last time we met?" Her tone had given her away and he was a little surprised she was a girl, not that it mattered but she certainly didn't show in her costume. He snickered at her territorial comments and nodded,"I'll mind my P's and Q's don't you worry!" He looked at her with a raised eyebrow as she went over where everything was and then frowned again and pointed in the direction Nicole went,"Was that Nightingale? Or is that another girl?"

 

He considered what her words meant about Lady Horus and Nightingale and chuckled, clearly not bothered by that idea. Scratching his chin he looked around the bare bones room and chuckled,"Well, it's about as good as what I've had so far." Dumping his back pack, and the coat he frowned,"So what exactly am I joining? A cult? A team? Or something else?"

 

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Wadjet rolled her eyes but seemed to take it as a serious question. "Trust me, the old lady is not anybody you'd actually want to worship. Pretty sure she stole that helmet. I just took the name for branding purposes, you know, Lady Horus and Wadjet, the serpent of Egypt." She hung the gun up over her shoulder as she spoke. "Anything you take, you get half - you only take it from people who already stole it. You stand up for us, we stand up for you. This isn't like Freedom City or the Emeralds. People who play hero here die unless they're smart, or powerful, or both."

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Chromium chuckled slightly and nodded,"They have a big silver guy in Egypt?" He listened to the rules and smirked slightly,"So we're kind of Robin Hooding it here? I've lived in Bedlam most of my life...I know how it works." He frowned and shrugged his shoulders as he thought about it more,"And is this like 'Fight Club' we don't talk about it or tell people about it? What is this building by the way?"

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"Part of Belcher," she said, knowing a Bedlam boy would recognize the name of the closest thing to higher learning their home city had. "Used to be the main building, now it's ours. That's why the windows are all boarded up still. Luckily they never turned the power off up here. Hope you don't mind chemical toilets," she said wryly. "I guess you'll need to find your own way out of here," she commented, not sounding terribly put out by the idea. "Lady Horus says we're superheroes." She shrugged slightly. "Just trying to stop some bad people."

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He nodded,"The college, ha, my dad would be so proud I actually made it into a college...even if it is through the roof." There was more than a hint of bitterness both in the mention of his father and the mention of getting into college. Snickering he shook his head at her,"You can keep the chemical toilets to yourself. I don't do the normal thing anymore. I just add mass, and more mass, and more mass." Moving to a window or something similar he looked down at the ground below and shrugged,"I can climb down walls if I need to, as long as they can support my weight."

 

Tilting his head he chuckled,"I'm the fat kid of the group, I'll eat everything and weigh more than all of you combined." Snickering again he looked back at Wadjet and let out a slow sigh,"Well, suppose we couldn't be rich and comfortable superheros in Bedlam, only the criminals get that kind of luxury. So what brought you into the superhero gig?"

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"Oh, well, I really cared a lot about my community and just really wanted to serve it, y'know,.' said Wadjet with a sneer, stepping out of the room as she spoke as if trying to step away from the question. "There's just one thing you need to know. You hear white people say sometimes that the Hammer of Justice is all right, that he's just a little rough when he fights the gangbangers and the thugs. Don't believe it. He kills people who play hero in this city, and his favorite thing is people with powers who don't know enough about Bedlam. He is a monster." The words had more feeling than most of what Chromium had heard from the disgruntled sniper. "If he comes near you, you get away, and I don't give a damn what your powers are. He has trophies." 

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Oh good, angsty teenage answers, just the kind of thing that Chromium needed in his life, because he was so much more simple and easy to understand. He listened to her warning about the Hammer of Justice and nodded,"I hear you....no playing with the Hammer of Justice. Gotcha." To be honest he wasn't really interested in getting into superhero fights if he could avoid it, he preferred the fights slanted very much in his favor,"I promise I'll run away as fast as I can...didn't realize you cared that much."

 

Ahh teenage bonding at it's finest, shaking his head at his own sarcasm he did his best at apologize, if it could even be called that,"You can probably ignore about half the stuff I say, it's mostly me trying to keep people at arms length. Apparently that's normal for people my age...."

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Chromium had his own way in the headquarters after that, leaving him free to explore the upper floors of the old college building despite the creaks and groans his heavy stride caused in some places. Several of the doors were locked and others held empty rooms filled with debris haphazardly swept into the corners, but in others he found a small camp kitchen, library, laboratory, and other resources that would at least make this a homey place to live. Circling back around, he found Anna Cline sitting reflectively by one of several boarded-up windows in the library, looking out reflectively at the snowed-over campus below. "Hey, sport," she said with a smile as she raised a cup of hot chocolate. "You like the place?" She was in a red and green Christmas sweater, and looking quite pleased with herself.

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Chromium was interested in the disrepair of the place, still when Anna asked him he shrugged,"Better than the street. I can see how I can help you out at least." He snickered showing her one of the bits of debris he had picked up,"I can basically live off of all the crap you got littering the place and clean it up for you a bit...it wouldn't take long with the amount I eat." 

 

He glanced over at the blonde woman, trying to put her together with Lady Horus and he frowned,"So Wadjet, she said you were the Lady Horus...tell me how that happened?" He grinned and looked over his shoulder to make sure the other girl wasn't there,"She also seems pretty put out by your girlfriend..which is rather funny."

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"Esperanza don't like anybody, honey," said Anna with the amused affection of the old for the young. "It's part of her charm." Up close she didn't sound like the Bedlam natives Chromium had heard; her accent was like something out of a Forties gangster film. "And you shouldn't go pryin' into people's backstories," she added gently. "People around here got a lotta stories, and they may not wanna share 'em with any joe off the street." She swirled a candy cane in her hot chocolate for a moment, then said, "You just make sure nobody tracks us down in here, and we'll call you square." She sipped the hot chocolate, looking out as grey skies began to disgorge yet another layer of snow. This far north, it snowed a lot. "This reminds me of when I was a girl, and it snowed all the time in towns like this. Kids used to go ice-skatin' on the river half the time."

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"No ice skating for me, at least not on the river, I'll smash right through.", he smirked for a moment then focused on Anna a little more carefully,"What about training? Wadj...Esperenza said you might be able to help me learn more about my powers." The girl had actually been referencing control as he'd smashed the whole building down, but he didn't really care about that, he wanted to learn more tricks and powers...and maybe more about how to find the dang bad guys, this far they had been elusive.

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"Yeah," said Anna, setting down her cup and giving the boy a serious look. "About that. I been to a lot of places where the so-called heroes don't give a damn about the little people who get crushed under their feet. If yer gonna be with us, you can't do that. Now yer just a kid so I ain't mad, but we need to get you fixed up. When I get the chance, training drills with Lady Horus are going on your agenda." It was a bit more formal than he'd heard her speak, an echo of the stylings of the goddess. "Sounds like she's the only one strong as you around here, them that isn't a villain, anyway." She smirked at the last word. 

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Chromium gritted his teeth, fists clenching in what was a very angry stubborn looking posture that he was unaware he was striking,"I don't try and hurt anyone! I'm a good guy! Just things aren't made to put up with someone of my weight...they are made for normal people!" He shook his head, obviously very determined to make his point,"I haven't hurt anybody who is not a bad guy...."

 

He almost said yet, released it and swallowed it rather rapidly and with obvious dislike for the taste of the word he didn't say before looking at Anna with hard, angry, teenage eyes and tried to be polite,"But I'd be happy to get some training...I am pretty strong and I might as well use it to smash villains not become one."

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"I know you haven't hurt anybody, kid, that's why yer here," said Anna, not unsympathetically. She idly scratched the side of her neck, up where her sweater's collar was especially thick. "I ain't been a saint my whole life either. Not really one now," she admitted with a rueful grin. "But if you do things wrong when yer young, yer gonna do 'em forever unless someone sets you straight. Ain't no Freedom League in this town to give you lessons in do-goodin', that's fer sure. You want some cocoa?" she offered, jerking her thumb back at the small camp kitchen they had set up. "Doesn't take long to boil water on that thing." 

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Big silver fists clenched and unclenched as she spoke before he snorted at her comment about Freedom city, he had turned down the chance to go to all the fancy places they trained supers his eyes followed her thumb as she mentioned coca and he smiled,"How long you been collecting strays and making them think you're their favorite aunt?" Looking over at the camp kitchen he moved over to it slowly, looking at it carefully, clearly not planning on using it himself. Maybe he was more aware of how strong he was now that she'd reminded him, frowning he looked over at her again,"How come you don't have some fancy place with all kinds of gadgets? This seems a little....plain."

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"Yeah, well, it ain't exactly my favorite winter accommodations," agreed Anna with a rueful smile. "Be glad you don't have any bones, kid, or you'll really feel 'em once you've slept the night in here." She hmmed, then said, "We don't have what you'd call a really big operating budget here in Team Ancient Egypt, so we gotta take what we can. This is just a temporary place till we can put an investment on something a little more permanent. With all the heroic types runnin' around Bedlam these days, helps to have more than one place to go." She looked at Chromium a moment, sighed softly, then said, "Listen, kid, if yer gonna be living in my house, I might as well tell you this so it doesn't come as some big surprise to you. I wasn't always on the up and up, so if you hear anything bad about me, it's probably true. Not about the Lady," she went on, tapping the part of her head where the helmet usually sat. "But me. Anna Cline." 

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