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June 10, 2019, 2am

Maggie Rayburn was pulling a late night again. Internally, she chastised herself for leaving her paper to the last minute, but for some reason someone always seemed to be throwing a party on the nights she planned to work. Now, she had burned through her last extension and found herself staring at her laptop screen, trying to summon up the will to finish on time.

She sighed, watching the cursor blink, and rubbed her temples. She could feel a headache brewing. Her eyes drifted down to the clock on her taskbar.




Maybe a mocha would give her the energy she needed. She rolled her chair back from her desk and stood up. She looked down at her stained sweatpants, and wondered if she should change. Nah. She moved over to her desk and grabbed her wallet and keys, before cramming her feet in her high-tops and headed out the door.


There had been talks of attacks at night around campus, but the parking lot wasn’t far and besides, Maggie had a can of mace so severe you could use it to blind a bear. Still, as she stepped out into the night air, she couldn’t help but feel a thrill of fear run up her spine. She steeled herself, reminding herself that if she was scared now, Professor Xiu was infinitely scarier. She needed this coffee. She resolved to simply walk briskly, just in case.


By the time she made it to the warm halogen glow of the parking lot, Maggie was sighing relief. She made her way to her car, laughing at herself for worrying at all. Yet as she went to slide her key into the car door, she felt a sudden pulse like frozen electricity through her body. She froze, her body unable to move except for the most minimal twitches and jerks as something gripped her from within her mind. She tried to scream, but her lungs and throat refused to cooperate. She could not so much as move her eyes, leaving her view locked onto her car door windshield, and the reflection of the figure that approved behind her.


The distorted image was humanoid, a black shape with great white spheres for eyes. She could see it extending its hand out to her, and once more she tried to struggle, to move, to do anything. But she could not. She felt tears come unbidden to her eyes as the figure extended its hand, and laid its icy cold fingertips on her forehead. Somewhere in the bowels of her mind, Maggie could swore she heard something speak.


“What a waste of a mind, Ms. Rayburn…”


Then, there was another jolt through her, and Maggie felt everything go blurry.


Zeb Simms sipped his coffee, feet up on the front security desk. Overnights paid well, but they were almost unbearably boring. If he wasn’t saving up for that new boat, he'd probably take a new shift entirely. Still, at the very least, it was usually pretty peaceful aside from the occasional too-young-to-drink-but-drunk-anyway college kid.


His peace was disturbed, however, by a banging on the door. Zeb looked up from his coffee to see a pretty little blonde girl just going at it on the glass door. Her face was red, and it looked like she was crying. Immediately, Zeb mind raced to the worst and he immediately got up off his butt and rushed to the door, unlocking it and swinging it open.


He didn’t even have time to ask what was wrong before the girl threw herself forward, wrapping her arms around him, burying her face deep into his shirt and sobbing. Rather than try and stop her, Zeb simply let her hold him and cry it out. Finally, after an uncomfortable few minutes, the girl looked up at him, sniffling and snorting.


“I-I can’ read what's on the door… I… I used bu' I can anymo'…” she moaned.


Zeb blinked, then looked over at the door. In bright, friendly letters were the words “FCU Building C”. He looked down at the girl, confused for a moment. Then a horrible realization rolled over him like a wave. “Oh, no, honey,” he said softly. “Oh I am so sorry…”


He pulled his radio free from his hip, and called in. “Yeah, uhm... I got a report… Uh… damn. We got another one.”


Edited by Shofet
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June 17, 2019. 3:00 PM


Serena couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable coming to the campus of Freedom City University. There was this inescapable sense of loss and missed opportunities. Perhaps, if her life had gone slightly differently, she could have studied here and gotten a proper education. Gotten a well-paying job. Now, instead, she was a high-school drop-out ex-con who lived paycheck to paycheck.


But she was also a superhero, and that was why she was here. The university had been trying to keep it quiet, but there were now just enough cases that the media was paying attention. Someone was attacking kids and leaving them dimmer than they were before. The thought of someone doing that to her Mia made her sick to her stomach. She knew she had to put a stop to this, and thankfully, one of the staff seemed to be ready to cooperate.


Professor Katie  Xiu's office was decently sized, and yet still managed to seem cluttered. Books and papers sat stacked atop one another, while used food cartons and trays rested upon the table flanked by dozens of empty coffee cups. The professor herself was the exact opposite. Thin, composed, with a blue pantsuit and horn-rimmed glasses alongside blackhair in a bun so perfect Serena wondered if the lady was part machine. The only sign of any wear and tear on the woman, aside from her disaster of an office, were the deep bags under her eyes.


“Thank you for coming,” said Xiu, taking a sip of coffee.


Serena nodded. “Least I could do. So, what is it you need me to do?”


Xiu wrinkled her nose. “Well, I'd like to wait first, see if anyone other heroes show up to help.”

Serena shook her shoulders. “I think I can handle it."


Xiu glowered. “Whatever is doing this only seems to attack individuals. You going off alone just means another individual for the special care staff to handle.


Serena frowned. “Jeez, okay, sure. I can wait.”

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Melissa had like the old Maggie, in her mind she spent way more time partying than studying, this was after she’d pulled an all nighter on a potentially improvement to her formula. But her stories were always fun, from what she overheard when she surfaced to finally eat something, Melissa wasn’t cool enough to ever be invited to the same parties as Maggie.


She’d heard stories about the other cases but had initially paid them no heed, students burned out all the time after all, but this was enough to get her interest. And it didn’t take much digging, including shrinking down and sneaking into the Universities records (who kept paper records these days?), until Melissa had found all she could.


Helpfully it seems Professor Xiu, one of her favorites, was already looking for help so she’d snuck into the office to see who else would turn up. But the opportunity to make an entrance was just too good to pass up, so the 3 inch Bee wandered to the middle of the desk and wave up at the to.


“Well some of us are already here! Hi I’m Bee and I’m here to help.”

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“She’s right, you know. It’s always best to play it smart.” Like Bee, Terrifica was already in the room. Part of the mess shimmered and disappeared, revealing the seated (with legs crossed and both hands on the upper knee) heroine. Ain’t technology wonderful? The supergenius had many cases on the backburner, but a call from her partner Miracle Girl (an FCU student) pushed this one to the top of the list. Fortunately, she hadn’t had any classes to teach this afternoon, so she came right on down. “I hope you don’t mind, I took the liberty of cleaning up a bit. There was no place to sit.”

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Ellis had gotten nowhere fast with the official channels, teh events had stirred more than a few rumors among the staff but he'd been shut down hard when he started asking questions.  Thus he was forced a more unorthodox route.  This is why a tenured medical professor found himself in a custodial closet down the hall from Dr. Xiu's office.  With a moment of concentration his unassuming chinos and cardigan were replaced by the hooded tunic,  bodysuit and colorful scarf of his Sandman persona.  He quietly emerged from the closet when he thought the hall was empty once more, though a sharp eyed student or staff member might have seen where he came from.  


He made his way quietly to the office and rapped lightly on the door before entering with a dip of his head in greeting taking in those already present with a quick eye.  "Professor Xiu?"  he inquired fixing his sights on the person who had put out word, "I hear we may have interests in common with recent events."



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Stephanie Kowalski was one of the smartest people Casey had ever met; the affable PoliSci major came from a well-to-do Philadelphia family, and attended the best schools money could buy. She was smart and funny, and she loved to play chess and Civilization VI. And most importantly, she was a Scout, a Pi, and one of Casey's best friends.


And now she could barely talk; to say this case 'personal' for Miracle Girl was an almost criminal understatement.


The beautiful blonde girl with the slight golden glow entered the room quietly after Sandman; she didn't say a word, merely moved to sit next to her mentor and do something unexpected: she rested her head on the older woman's shoulder. It was quite apparent that her eyes were red from crying.


"How can we help," she asked in a small, hollow voice.

Edited by Heritage
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To anyone who had merely heard of Terrifica, someone watching would find it odd that someone was relying on the Ice Queen for emotional support. Terrifica did not care. She patted Casey’s head softly. “Not to worry. As I said on the phone, we’ll find the villain. We’ll catch him. And we’ll undo whatever he’s done.” She said nothing of the faculty meeting she was missing. Or of the land speed record she had set on the way down from Boston. Or of the special dinner her husband was planning for tonight. “Professor, I’ll need to examine some of the victims. The method of intellect drain may still be tracable. Or at the very least deducible.”

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Professor Xiu jumped when Bee made her presence known, and did so again when Terrifica made her appearance. She let out a small hiss of frustration, only to see two more heroes enter in. She stared for a moment, sipping her coffee, before her posture relaxed, suggesting relief. Her gaze drifted over each hero in turn, lingering on Miracle Girl longest as her mouth quirked slightly in a restrained expression of sympathy. Then, she turned to Terrifica.


“Yes, well, that’s possible, but first you might want to see this,” she said, pulling out some documents from her folder. She placed them on the table, spreading them out. They were a mixture of X-Rays and CATscans.


“So, what you’re looking at here are a bunch of scans I was able to acquire through… some friends. What you might notice, if you’re so inclined, is that the x-rays are normal. There are no signs of brain damage, and the CAT-scans corroborate that. Whatever is doing this to our students is not doing it through any sort of normal trauma to the brain. Which is both concerning, in that we have no idea how this is happening, and good in that it means if we can figure out what caused this, we just might be able to reverse it,” she said, producing a pen.


“As for being able to meet with the students, I don’t know how much you’ll be able to get out of them - some of them need help going to the bath-room now, much less holding interviews, I can write you a pass to the special care room. Right now, security is tight but if you show them this pass,” she said, scribbling her name down on a card, “they should let you right through.”


“Now, I imagine all of you have a lot of questions, and I will try to answer all of them,” she said, though it sounded tired.

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Serena couldn’t help but jump at the sudden appearance of the tiny woman, and suppressed her natural response to blast. Terrifica’s arrival was similarly startling, but she steeled herself better that time. She was more surprised at the entrances of the man in the hood and the blonde girl. The group here was diverse, which was both good and surprising to her. She didn’t imagine so many heroes would be showing up for this.


Her gaze lingered on the blonde girl for a moment, and she wondered if she should do anything. Her instincts said that she should intervene and try and comfort her, but given the situation and the fact that she had no idea who this lady was kept her from acting.


Instead, she turned to Professor Xiu. “Yeah, uhm, when did all of this start?”


Xiu rubbed her temples. “The first incident was about a month ago. I don’t have an exact date off the top of my head, but the end of March, with a young man named Gustav Ingleson. Swedish transfer, bright boy in the mechanical engineering program. Kind of a slacker, but everyone liked him.”

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Terrifica could not help her smirk. Yes, Miracle Girl was hurting and right there. But dear god, this woman thought X-Rays and CAT scans where the only ways to look at a brain. This was Freedom City, for heaven’s sake. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Professor, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” She paraphrased Shakespeare in a university. Goodness. “Magic, supernatural beings, and sufficiently subtle psionics would not show up on your scans. They may, however, on mine.” She lifted Miracle Girl by the waist as she stood up and whispered into her ear. “Come, Miracle Girl.” The woman under the mask hated what she was about to tell her friend. Honestly, if it was up to her she wouldn’t do it. Terrifica, however, was made of sterner stuff. Her voice was kind, but firm. “Your compassion and empathy will not be of use to you today. Put them away until after. You cannot help them if you are too busy crying over them.” She leaned back up and took the pass. She addressed the other heroes. “Will any of you be tagging along? I’m certain I haven’t thought of everything, and in the event of combat it would be best to have numbers on our side if at all possible.” Oh, yes. She suspected this would end in fighting.

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Casey took a deep breath and nodded. "You're right. You're right." She closed her eyes and thought of Steph, with her dry wit and hilarious observations, and she drove her fist into her palm; there was a flash of golden light and the room shook. 




She thought of the tearful phone call she'd had to make to Steph's parents back in Philly, explaining to them how their only daughter had been attacked, her brilliant mind reduced to mush. Her fist drove home again like a jack hammer.




Then she thought about finding whomever was responsible, and what she was going to do to them once she found them, and her fist slammed into her palm like an artillery shell.




Sufficiently motivated and focused, Miracle Girl turned to sweep her gaze over the others, her green eyes practically cracking with firey inspiration. The quiet girl had been replaced by a ramrod straight paragon, filled with righteous fury.


"Let's go."


Pity the fools once she found them.

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Melissa was quite impressed with all the heroes here she recognized many of them, here uncle had told her many tales about them, and she was sure the others were pretty good as well. She wasn’t the most experienced of the heroes here, but she was sure she could assist in her own special way.


“Hang on a minute, shouldn’t we gather more information first? Mz Terrifca, ma’am! If we can determine why the students were picked that would help right, it might be a grudge or there after a certain type of brain chemistry like the proteins that help form memories or some such?”


Feeling a little self conscious after speaking up in front of the more experienced heroes, and looked down and shuffled her feet a little.


“At least if that makes sense?”

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Serena watched Terrifica and the blonde get ready to go, before her attention was drawn to the tiny woman. She frankly raised a pretty good point. Might as well stick around to ask a few more questions.


"She's making an awful lotta sense," she said, shooting the tiny woman an encouraging look. "We wanna catch whoever's doing this, we need to know as much as we can first."


She smiled warmly at Bee.

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Sandmans gaze swept over the assemblage as what was and was not known was discussed.  "I believe what our eloquent comrade here meant to intimate is there are means beyond the physiological to investigate what may have happened."  he intoned squaring his shoulders the emotional young paragon rallied, percussively.


"They were all attacked alone and after dark."  he posited tone resonant with the otherworldly energies behind his powers, "That suggests the perpetrator strikes in stealth and is most likely nocturnal in preference."  He nodded to Bee at her sage suggestion agreeing with Corona, "If there is nothing tying them together more directly they may be victims of convenience."  he noted quietly, "Many entities might hunt in such a fashion."  he steepled his fingers in thought for a moment, "Do you have knowledge of where the attacks took place, investigating the sites may reveal traces of what came before."  He awaited the professor or other heroes reply with a quiet stillness though his costume seemed to shift under a breeze none could see or feel. 

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Professor Xiu waited for the scene to play out before her, before looking between Bee and Sandman. She took a long pull from her coffee cup, before tossing it into the trash and producing another document from her folder.


"Right now a lot of what I know about the students is coloured by their... Predicament. Lots of glowing statements and sympathy. So far, we have nine students who have been victimized. Maggie Rayburn, Stephanie Kowalski, Gustav Ingleson, Aiden Williams, Ruth Cohen, Mohinder Chaudhary, Matthew McGowan, Susan Fletcher and Emily Leclerc."


She leaned back on her desk, adjusting the bridge of her glasses. "No sign of anything like this being racially motivated and while women are favoured slightly, I don't think this is about hating women. Could be though. They were all bright students, usually have a background in gifted programs. Grades are usually passable to good."


She sighed. "Maggie was one of my own students. A bit of a partier, and habitually late on her assignments, but still very smart. Member of the Mega Society, even. It is like super Mensa. Not that that means very much when she didn't apply herself but she was proud of it."


"If you give me time, I could probably pull up a list of the others' professors. As far location, it seems to largely be in the west, near the liberal arts halls."


She shrugged. "I don't know how much more information I have than that."

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Casey paused in the doorway, then looked between Terrifica and the others; what they were saying made a lot of sense.  "It couldn't hurt to take a look over a few of the crime scenes; we all know that despite their best intentions, cops miss things all the time. And assuming the victims are stable, the crime scenes are more likely to be compromised the longer we wait." Then she turned back to Professor Xiu and spread her hands. "Also, is there anyway we could look at their academic records? Both Terrifica and myself have high speed brains; we might be able to see patterns that the police didn't have time to find."

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Professor Xiu considered for a moment, chewing her lip. She folded her arms, tilting her head, then sighed through her nose, deliberating all the while.


"I am not legally allowed to hand out student records without their express permission or without something like a search warrant. I am already jeopardizing my career by helping you this much, but giving you their records could get me in real legal trouble."


She paused. 


"Buuut I happen to know that the staff area keeps student records on a secure server. Iiif you could access that area and a computer in there, you might be able to find something. Of course, I wouldn't know if you had done that..."

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Melissa smiled up at the professor, she always knew that Professor Xiu was her favorite. Whilst she might be the newest of the heroes here she felt she was just the right one of them to answer.


“Thanks for your help Professor, well take it from here.”


She took to the air on her tiny bee like wings and flew to the door, stopping to hover at the door and talk to the other heroes. She should have felt nervous at talking to these older heroes, but instead she felt excited at the chance to solve this mystery.


“Shall we go take a look then?”

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Terrifica had kept silent, listening. It was how one learned from other people, listening. And contrary to her reputation, she did not think she knew everything. Not that she’d ever admit such a thing, of course. Also, it was polite and gave her time to think of a lovely little plan. “Hmm. Good points, all around. Miracle Girl, you’re on victim background. Find out what links them, if anything. The Mega Society is a good place to start. Bee, as none of us should be alone, go with her. If words are ineffective, stealth can help you. I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate.” Of course Terrifica knew who Bee was. Not under the mask, of course. That would have been terribly rude. It was the same for Sandman. “Sandman, see what you can find any…residue…from the supernatural at the crime scenes. Corona, was it?” She was the one who was a bit unfamiliar. But only because she was new to heroing. “Go with him. Talk with the liberal arts  students. Find out if there was anyone new in the area, or acting odd or out of character. I will, as I intended, examine the victims.” She turned to go, and then stopped. Right, of course. “Apologies, that was unnecessarily commanding of me. I am, naturally, open to your ideas.” Did the plan leave a supergenius alone and potentially vulnerable? Oh, indeed. It wouldn’t be the first time she played bait, after all.

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Sandman nodded sagely as the others spoke raising a brow at Terrificas commands with an amused tilt to his lips, "Unless one of you has means I lack we'll need some manner of remaining in contact."  he suggested not directly opposing the imperious gadgeteers plan but certainly noting her choice to fly solo, "There my be residue in the mind of the victims as well if these attacks are from my protectorate."  he added with a slight tilt of his head.  "I imagine your skills would also be of use in searching student records."  he added thoughtfully.


He swept from the room at Bees suggestion however as any further details could be worked out as they left the building. 

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Serena stared at Terrifica for a moment, quirking her mouth to the side. Oh, she's bossy, she thought to herself. Not a big fan of that. Still, it wasn't like she had any better ideas. When Sandman started talking, however, she quickly pulled out a burner flip phone. "I got a burner if people wanna t-- and he's leaving, cool. Whatever."


She sighed, following after him since she was assigned to join with him. "Hey, uh, slow down!" she said. She double-timed it, moving to join with Sandman. "We should probably know what to call each other before everything."


"I'm Corona. No, not like the beer. Like the thing on the edge of the sun."

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Melisa couldn’t help but give a little excited clap at the names, she was such a science gek at time. Not that she was particularly bothered about this fact.


“Ooh are you powers all based on ionized plasma? Because you see the corona of the sun is the ejection of plasma from the surface, temperatures in the order millions of Kelvins though I’m sure yours are much cooler. It’s not my field of study but its all really fascinating!”


She stopped and looked a little sheepish at the other heroes


“Sorry I get a little carried away at times, we should probably go and investigate stuff.”

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"I have a burner phone, too," offered Miracle Girl as she held up a nondescript flip phone. She exchanged numbers with any who wanted to call her. She'd accepted Terrifica's suggested plan with no complaint, more than happy to be the cog in a machine. "He probably has a magic way to contact us," she said as she jerked her head in Sandman's direction. But then she frowned. "Probably."


Seeing that her temporary partner was also a flyer, she opted to float over toward the staff area at comfortable speed while making conversation with Bee. "So, how long have you been 'heroing'?"

Edited by Heritage
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Serena blinked at the tiny woman, then generated a small bit of plasma around her hands. "Yeah, that's exactly it. I figured, uh, well... Well it seemed to suit the whole shtick I got going on."


She tilted her head. Honestly, Bee was the first one to actually get what she was going for out loud and point it out. Most people assumed she was named after the beer, for some reason. Which was immensely frustrating, but hey, she only found out what a corona was after googling "star stuff" to find a name for herself.


She then saw the other young woman approach, and decided to make her exit. "Right, well, I'm gonna go. Stay safe."


With that, she moved to try and match the guy in the cloak's pace.

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Terrifica very carefully said nothing to Sandman before he left. She was, of course, certain he could detect any magical residue. She was equally certain what she carried in her utility belt could also do the job. And then shortly afterward it was just her alone with the Professor. She fished a small notecard out of her pocket and handed it to Xiu. “If you think of anything else that might help, that will connect you to Miracle Girl.” With that, the super genius herself turned and left. She had victims to examine. Her mind whirled at top speed with possibilities. She was certain she could repair, well, just about anything short of a supernatural explanation.

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