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Forceful Ops

Dr Archeville

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Date: September 9th, 2008 (a Tuesday).

It's a nice summer Saturday afternoon in Hanover. A light breeze blows down the streets, and the sky is nearly cloudless. The sidewalks are full of people walking about, some with clear purpose, others just enjoying a stroll or a conversation. On occasion, something unusual -- an exotically attractive woman with fine scaly skin, a man with clownfish-orange skin, a child walking on air next to its mother -- reminds everyone that this is Freedom City, home to perhaps the highest concentration of "superhumans" on the planet. Only some of the people stare at these unusual folks, and most of the ones who do are clearly tourists.

All this tranquility is shattered as a large bin full of CDs goes hurtling out of one of the electronics shops along the street.

Moments earlier...

Liam Callaghan and Kevin Malone had come to WAA -- Wilmington Avenue Audio, a small but popular store for music lovers. They'd come to pick up some hard-to-find CDs, which apparently no one else in the city had; Liam had also heard some rumors that the building served as a drug den (for things harder than plain marijuana), and wanted to check the area out. Liam was already at the register, making his purchase and chatting with the teller, but Kevin was in more of a "hey, let's see what's over in this bin" mood, looking over new and used CDs.

"But I want dat one!" a loud gravelly voice cried, heard even over the assorted samples of music playing in the store.

Turning to see what the ruckus was, two people in trenchcoats and fedoras could be seen at the back of the store, turned so their backs were to everyone else. One was small and slim, with long red hair reaching to the middle of (his? her?) back; the other was huge (over seven feet) and bulky, with no visible hair.

"You said I could have one, whichever one I wanted!" the loud voice continued.

The other spoke, almost as loud yet definitely softer and feminine. "Yes, but don't you want something different? You already have three copies of this CD!"

"Nun-unh! I got t'ree diff'rent CDs. Dis one's number four!"

"But... but they're all the same!"

"No! No, dey're not!"

"Okay, okay, fine, fine, just... just calm down, Ernie. Okay, here, here, take your CD and we'll go."

A pause as the giant looks down at the disk handed to him. Then,

"No! Dat's not da right one! RARGH!"

Perhaps the redhead made an honest mistake and handed him the wrong disc by accident; they're far away, it's impossible to tell. Perhaps it was the tone of her voice, or a look she gave him. Perhaps he's just ill. Whatever the case, the large man was now picking up one of the large bins of CDs and hurled it towards the register, smashing out through the window and to the street outside.

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Kevin's not really worried about the possible "drug den" that Nightrival has found. Really, compared to a lot of the other drugs in this city like zoom and max, weed is nothing. He had mostly come for a chance to hang out, and on the off-chance that there's more trouble than what the experienced crimefighter anticipates.

"But he didn't say anything about this," Kevin mumbles to himself. "It's like you can't go anywhere any more without some two-bit hood ruining it."

His eyes go back and forth, looking for an out-of-the-way place to change into his uniform. He's pretty fast with it, only needing to remove his street clothes and pull on the hood and gloves. Even so, he doesn't want his clothes getting stolen while he fights crime. The irony would be almost as painful as the loss of his keys and wallet.

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Red Star couldn't understand it. People kept looking at him like they couldn't believe their eyes. Sure, Red Star came to expect that from his day job, you know the one where he would fly about the city in a brightly colored uniform, complete with cape and fling fire at the baddies, but today he hadn't expected that kind of treatment. He was just going down the street with 2 brown paper bags full of recently purchased groceries. He was wearing plain old street clothes; a light blue polo shirt and a pair of tan khaki pants. He had even gone the extra mile and gotten a pair of mirrored sun glasses to hide his eyes.

The answer to the puzzling large amount of attention became apparent as Red Star passed in front of one of the many stores dotting the road. This particular store was one of those electronic outlets that had like a dozen or so tvs in the window all hooked up to a camera so passersby could make fools of themselves using them as a mirror. It was at this point that Red Star stopped and noticed his own "mirror" image... floating about 6 inches off the ground. After staring at himself for a moment, he slumped his head, purposely hitting it against the glass. Straightening up again, and with a bit of fanagling, he got one of his hands free enough to take off his sunglasses, and tuck them in the neck of his shirt.

After taking a moment to make a fool out of himself by admiring his eyes, which he was really starting to get accustomed too, Red Star took to the air, or well took some of the higher air or something. Having only gone a few feet, Red Star's new "freedom" was short lived as a bin full of CD's went crashing through a window in a store a little ways away. Had he been on the ground, Red Star would have just jumped a foot in the air. Red Star's eyes dart back and forth scanning for a relatively low building. Finding one, Red Star deposited his grocery bags and flew off to the scene just outside the store, which was quickly descending into chaos.

Call out over the crowd "Is anyone hurt? Who did this?"

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Walking down the street, was a man appearing to be in his early sixties. He wore an old trench coat which men wore during the Great Depression. 'Course, people would look at him, but only due to the coat. He couldn't help but being old fashioned. Then again, he also liked to hum a really old song from Ancient Greece.

He stopped his humming when he saw a floating man right across the street. Seems some superhuman forgot he wasn't wearing his costume again. Aristodemus has seen things like that before.

"Seriously, I can't believe it happened again." He chuckled to himself.

"Eh? Happened again?" A fellow pedestrian who happened to pass by and hear what he said asked.

"A superhuman forgot his costume again. It doesn't happen very often, but it's fun. Look." He points to the guy leaning his head against the glass. "Hoop, there he goes." When the guy flies away.

The fun goes away when a bin full with CDs smash a window and lands on the street. Aristodemus doesn't have time to tell the pedestrian to stay put, but rushes to the site.

"Can anyone tell me what happened here?"

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" . . . yeah, I know. It's like everyone is rippin' off the Bay City Rollers these days," argues Liam, who is leaning on the front desk. A few CDs are stacked in front of him on the counter.

As Nightrival, Liam followed a trail of drug stashes that begins in the Southside and eventually ends in Hanover. Or, it could be the other way around, which is much more dangerous. He's not interested in small-time drugs like marijuana; the stashes in the Southside occasionally have traces of Zoom and Max in them. What if these deadlier narcotics came from Hanover? He had to find out for himself.

The clerk, a young man wearing a green hooded sweater and a pair of large headphones draped over his neck, stands behind the register, nodding in agreement. "Totally," he murmurs in reply.

Liam ignores the argument behind him. He reaches for his wallet and smirks at the clerk. "So, how much do I owe ya?"

Before the clerk can answer, a crate soars over Liam's head and smashes through the window. Both he and the hapless clerk duck to avoid the glass shards spraying across the room. I thought this place was a dead end, he thinks. I got some work ta do after all. While everyone is distracted from the sudden outburst, Liam slinks past the belligerent customer and out the back door.

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Kevin looks over to find Liam, but the man has already hidden himself. He frowns, thinking, "I can't help what I can't sense!" Sure, he could find him with his chi senses, but he's learned that his eyes glow a viridian green when he does so. It's the only super-human thing that he can do which has a visible effect, and it's also the only super-human thing that he does which doesn't directly affect others. Maybe there's something to that, but now's not the time to think about it.

He spots a large display for an upcoming movie. It's not ideal, but it'll do. He runs behind it, and once sure that no one's looking, pulls over his hood and gloves as he strips himself of the rest of his clothing. It sounds like something is going on outside, and he can only hope that he's not going to be too late.

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John enjoyed going out biking. It was good to rewind with, having the wind rush through your hair and the engine roaring like an animal below you. It also let him get acquainted with the city, so today he was biking through Hanover. But then, as he passed a shop, a whole bin of CDs exploded through the window. "Dammit!" muttered John under his breath. Time for a quick change of clothes.

The bike sped around the corner, screeching into the alleyway as he was already pulling off his motorcycle leathers to reveal his black outfit underneath. Hope this doesn't take too long, he sighed, pulling open a secret compartment in the bike to reveal his bow, cloak and domino mask.

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"You... you... you!" She clearly wanted to call him something, but(perhaps to avoid him turning on her) avoided any direct insults. "Do you want the cops coming here? Or the capes?"

"Whargarbl!", or something equally unintelligible, is the large man's only reply. That, and lifting and tossing another bin of CDs, which smashes into a rack of posters.

"Oh, screw it..." the woman says in an exasperated tone. Her body then stretches like taffy towards the counter. One hand goes towards the register, the other enlarges and wraps around the clerk at the register, pining his arms to his torso. "Might as well salvage some good from this...."

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Kevin strips like a Chippendale dancer, but rather than reveal his tightly toned body, he shows off another side of himself. This side is in a dark green bodysuit with a hooded facemask that he quickly pulls over his face. Kevin Malone, starting center for the Freedom College Patriots, is gone. Now stands the hero, Hub... who for his part, peers cautiously around the display. While no one will learn his secret identity, the downside of being in a costume is that the villains know that he's a hero.

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Nightrival slinks out the back door and into a storage room, just as Arrowhawk runs around the corner from the back alley in costume, ready to go. Arrowhawk's not yet directly in front of the store, not yet directly in the line of fire, but he's not that far off. He can make out the forms of a long stretched-out woman stretched from the back to the front of the store, a large bruiser in the back of the store, and a few cowering patrons (though from this angle it's hard to get an exact count).

Red Star, however, is directly in front of the store, coming down front he sky in a corona of red energy. This causes on old man to cry out "O-O-Omegadrone!," but most everyone else knows who the popular teen is. Some even come up to ask for autographs. He cannot make out anything distinct inside the store -- he knows there must be something in there, but he cannot get a good look.

Shade merely watches from the shadows of a building across the street. He can make out the archer (Arrowhawk) and the glowing red man (Red Star), but nothing from inside the store.

Inside the store, the stretchy redhead is busy prying open the cash register as Slab Bulkhead grabs another bin of CD's -- classic country, Hub notices -- and hurls them into a far wall.

The Spartan arrives just as another loud crash is heard from inside the store. Looking around he easily sees an archer (Arrowhawk) and a glowing red man (Red Star) out in front of the store. He can also make out the forms of a long stretched-out woman stretched from the back to the front of the store, a large bruiser in the back of the store, and a few cowering patrons.

Hub, now dressed for success, is ready for action. Peering around the display, he sees Fridge Largemeat picking up a table (having run out of bins of cds in his immediate area), though he cannot tell if the guy is going to hurl it or use it like a club to smash things. He can also see the redhead's body stretched from the back of store to the front, wrapped around the clerk and trying to pry/crack open the register. And, perhaps most importantly, he sees three people cowering in terror, a middle aged man who'd been at the jazz cds, and a brightly-dyed punk boy and girl (college aged).

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Nightrival kicks his street clothes under a shelf and immediately prowls back into the store by melding with the faint shadows. Having everyone's attention turned to the massive bruiser smashing up the place doesn't hurt either. He carefully circumvents the patrons and the bruiser like a snake gliding through tall grass. He climbs on top of the counter and stands right beside the elongated woman as she attempts to open the register.

"Ya guys can just download this stuff from the internet, ya know?" he bellows. "Why don't ya let these folks go so we can dance all proper like?"

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Aristodemus entered the shop shortly after a second crash was heard from inside, and saw a man draped in shadows standing over the long stretched woman, while the big bruiser in the store is staring down the tip of an arrow. He could tell who was the hero in that situation, but the shadow man and the woman were confusing him.

"Okay, who's good, and who's bad here?" He asks the duo. "I don't know who's which, okay?"

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"Oh oh, Red Star. I totally read your blog."

"Lookin good Red."

"Can I get your autograph?"

Trying to calm the crowd and get them out of harm's way Red Star calls out "Hey, Hey, hey. People - please. We can do this after the situation's been handled. Until then, find some place safe and enjoy the show. Alright? Good." With that Red Star flies through the hole in the window created by the CD bin, bathing the interior of the store in red light as he looks around to see who or what is causing the disturbance.

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Nightrival slinks and hops to the counter, and quips at crooks. As he does, he feels an unholy power surge through his body and mind... then realizes it's just Hub's little chi-boosting "juice". Hub himself remains hidden behind the movie display, for now.

Before Fridge Largemeat and Limber-Lass can respond to the shadowy figure, Arrowhawk is already training an arrow on the huge bruiser. Then some... young man flies in (isn't he that kid from the sporting ads?), bathing the entire store in a weird red glow.

"All da songs not on in-ter-net! Dis only way me get!" He looks like he's about to throw the table at Nightrival, then seems to realize that doing so might hurt his partner. "Hey, glow-worm! Catch!" he yells as he tosses the table at Red Star. The large table hits him dead on.

"You might wanna duck, tall, dark and hands- well, two outta three ain't bad," the woman says as her free hand slither into the cash register and pops it open and begins stuffing cash into pockets in the green bodystocking which had been concealed by her trenchcoat. "Well? Move on hero, it's not exactly like I'm the primary threat here." A finger snaked up and then turned 90 degrees to point towards Rocko, who was already moving towards another table of CD bins.

The Spartan, pushing his way through the thong of people trying to look at the brawl and at Red Star, finally make it in, just in time to see a large table soar through the air and slam into the red glowing man.

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Having put more effort into finding out what exactly was going on, and making the rookie mistake of flying too close to the ceiling and not giving himself enough to maneuver Red Star is unable to get out of the way of the table that is flung at him. And for a moment it looks like Red Star is utterly floored by the attack, but Red Star grits his teeth and powers through the attack using his own strength to lessen the impact.

Showing the full arrogance of youth, Red Star shakes off the attack and calls out to his assailant "Oh, so that's how this is gonna go down huh? Alright tough guy, let's dance." With that Red Star strikes a boxing pose, before his fists light on fire, and Red Star rushes the Big Guy but throws a sloppy punch that betrays his inexperience.

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Hub looks around as the shop seems to explode with metahuman activity. He glances over to Shadowboxer to see what he's doing right now. Hopefully, he'll be able to handle the stretchy woman with Hub's chi-balancing. The rest of them, though - he thinks that the glowing red guy is going up against Rocko, as well as the guy with the arrows, but he doesn't know what's going on with the man who looks rather ordinary and wanted to know who's on which side or the man swathed in darkness. They could be on either side, but he instinctually distrusts the shadowy man. If it looks like he'll attack anyone other than Rocko or the stretchy lady, Hub will attack him.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Just as Nightrival makes his move against the crooks, the entire store explodes with superhumans. He can't help but look aghast at the number of costumes charging onto the scene. That glowing kid from those commercials soars into the store, followed by an archer aiming an arrow at the lumbering bad guy. Someone that resembles a living shadow enters the fray, then a man in trenchcoat, who Nightrival clearly sees is a seasoned fighter, decides to step up as well. And where is Hub? He can feel himself growing stronger and confident, so he must be nearby.

He's confused by the sudden activity until someone asks who is bad and who is good. Nightrival shakes his head and immediately slips into a wushu stance.

I don't remember callin' the calvary, but me an' Hub could always use the help.

"Whoever's stealin' money or trashin' the place are yer bonafide bad guys," he replies. He nods towards to the customers. "Get these people outta here!"

Nightrival flips off the counter and thrusts his heel at the stretchy' woman's jaw at the same time. The strike is meant to distract her so he can land on the floor and grab her long, rubbery fingers. He pulls them back in an attempt to peel them off the entangled clerk.

Ugh! It's like one of those giant cartoon rubber bands!

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Hub remains where he is, but keeps an eye on Shade and the Spartan, still unsure as to which side they're on. As he watches things unfold, he realizes who these two crooks are: they're Smash and Grab, two of the four members of the supervillain team Larceny, Inc.

As Hub looks on, Shadowboxer attempts to unwrap Noodle-Woman's fingers from the clerk, and is able to loosen the clerk considerably. [He's still grappled, but no longer pinned.]

Arrowhawk's aim is true and his arrow hits Big McLargeHuge in the chest (coming thiiis close to his solar plexus), but he barely seems to nice it.

Or perhaps he just doesn't have time to register it, as almost immediately afterward the glowing red man -- whom everyone was sure got flattened by the large table Rocko threw at him -- rushes in with a powerful uppercut... which misses by a mile. (Though now that he's close, Red Star knows exactly who he's fighting: Smash, of Larceny, Inc. Which probably means the stretchy woman is Grab.)

Also missing is the large blast of darkness that the shadowy man (no, not the one on the counter, the other one, at the door) unleashes. Apparently he is on the side of the Good Guys, as he then calls for the three cowering bystanders to get out.

"Float like butterfly? Sting like bee!" Smash mumbles out as he takes a powerful swing at the youth. Fortunately, he misses by some distance.

"You wanna play with me, big boy?" the disturbingly limber and rubbery woman coos to Nightrival. The hand he had just pried loose snakes up and darts one way, then he feels a tap on his back. Her foot?! In the micro-instant it takes him to realize this, her free hand moves in closer, but he easily dodges it. [No need to roll Sense Motive, she rolled so low he can't not beat her.]

One of the bystanders, the middle-aged man, runs out. The punk couple move back to one of the corners at the front of the store, but do not leave. The male half of the duo remarks, "this is so awesome!"

The Spartan marches in, calmly, with haste but not hurried, and lands a solid blow to Rocko's chest; Arrowhawk sees he does hit the giant in his solar plexus. As such, most of the wind is knocked out of him! [He be staggered + stunned]

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