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GM

 

Cresting the top of the stairs, the duo found themselves in what appeared to be a common room. A bunch of bean bag chairs sat gathered around a massive CRT television, which was flanked by a SEGA Genesis, a SEGA Saturn, a Neo Geo, and an SNES, all coated in a thick layer of dust. Ancient, discarded fast food wrappers and pizza boxes lay strewn about, set about carelessly.

 

Other effects included a few scattered pieces of clothing, a mini-fridge that was humming after what was a long time dormant, and posters of early to mid 90s bands slapped across the walls.

 

All around the room were doorways with names written on the doors, the same ones that were written on the staircase wall.

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Facsimile looked out along the dusty walls and Over the consoles, they had largely been undisturbed if he was to guess.

 

He resisted the urge to comment no matter what he might've said it felt inappropriate in his mind.

 

Life was a complicated thing.

 

"I'm gonna cover the stairs incase someone tries to dart out of any of the rooms." He rumbled evenly as he leaned forward in preparation to intercept anyone who might try to slip or force their way past.

 

That and this felt like it was a deeply private and personal place of course, intruding felt rude.

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CORONA

 

Serena looked over the remains of what was, essentially, her childhood. She stared at the old consoles and the TV, the old pizza boxes, and despite herself felt a pang of nostalgia and loss. Yeah, she had been a criminal then, but... These were the happiest moments of her childhood, and the first time she had felt like she had a family.

 

She brushed a stray tear from her eye, and looked over at Facsimile. She smiled sadly at him.

 

"If we had another guy, I'd say that's a good idea, but I think us sticking as close together as we can is a good idea."

 

She didn't wait for him to respond or argue. As much as she missed this place, she knew she couldn't trust it. More than that, the fact that all of this was still here was intensely concerning to her. The police should have seized this stuff, just like the computer in the lobby. What was going on here?

 

She moved into her room, and was immediately horrified. It looked as though she had moved out yesterday. The bed was freshly made, the dresser freshly polished and a photo album resting atop the sheets, next to her old walkman that she hadn't seen in twenty years. 

 

She frowned deeply.

 

She frowned even deeper when a voice came through the speakers.

 

"Hey, Revolt. I'd call you by your real name, but you brought a friend. Hadn't expected that one."

 

The voice was warm and masculine, and Serena knew it immediately

 

"Wu," she growled.

 

"Oh, I prefer Kingmaker now. Still, good to see those suggestions I had Ms. Romano put in your head still work. Oh, oh, and Mr. Concrete, what am I to call you?"

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"Folks call me blockhead!" He responded with calculated blankness and simplicity.

 

"I'm new to the whole thing but it'll be my pleasure to land you in jail tonight." Not his best witticisms by any means, and not intentionally bad either.

 

"Where you at? I gotta come and punch you for justice and stuff you know?"

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GM

 

A sharp crackle of laughter came over the hidden speakers.

 

"I admire your gusto, 'Blockhead', but I am not so foolish as to actually be in the same location as someone who can melt steel. Nor am I willing to give up my location to any potential law enforcement. No, no... I am quite far away in a very secure area."

 

His voice dripped with delighted malice, and something like anticipation.

 

"Now, I merely wanted to bring our friend Revolt here back into the fold, but having someone as formidable looking as you would make an excellent addition to my team."

 

"And before you say you're not interested, when my machines re-adjust your mind, you will be quite interested indeed. Say hi to them for me. Kingmaker out."

 

 

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"Huh...rude!" Facsimile huffed indignantly as he dropped into a low combat stance "you sure that guy is a doctor? He should know you can't fold concrete." He blurted out in his usual and omnipresent undertone if bemused amusement.

 

That said Wu's words had been ominous, quite directed at corona in his malice, he could only guess at what he'd meant of course but all his guesses were very unpleasant. 

 

Still he was here for moral support as much as combat capacity.

 

"You wanna keep score on who clobbers the most of this loosers backup dancers?"

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CORONA

 

Serena felt her skin crawl as she heard Wu talk. A million memories flooded back to her of condescension and contempt. Her teeth ground together, and her heart began to hammer in her chest. She wondered how much of it was anger, and how much of it was fear. She knew what Wu could do. What he was willing to do. His words suggested he planned to brainwash her into a servant, or torture her until she complied, or something horrible. She wasn't going to let him do that.

 

She looked to Facsimile, eyes full of purpose as plasma lit up over her hands, shimmering and crackling in the air. 

 

"Oh, you're on, big guy."

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GM

 

For a moment, there was a potent silence. Then came the sound of squeaking, grinding mechanical joints joined by the sound of heavy metal feet clapping against the tiles. Then, briefly, there was silence again.

 

Suddenly, 5 mechanical men came surging through the walls, kicking up dust and drywall into the air. They were imposing figures, like something out of a science fiction film: Tall, vaguely humanoid in shape, with smooth, chrome faces lacking any features except for hateful, red, glowing eyes that settled on the heroes. They raised their crustacean like arms at the heroes, and chattered menacingly, producing something unintelligible and metallic sounding.

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Corona

 

Serena cursed at the sudden appearance of the robots. "Hey, big guy! They stole your move!" She barked, hoping to add a little humour to what was definitely a harrowing situation. She looked to see the machines surrounding them at all angles, and steadied herself.

 

Choosing the machine closest to her, a flare of plasma surged to life in her right hand. With all her strength, she hurled a bolt of it at the machine. 

 

Instantly, the robot was reduced to a pile of smouldering slag, and a crooked smirk crossed Serena's face.

 

"That's one!"

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GM

 

Seeing their comrade fall, the machines went into action. Two robots threw themselves at Corona, trying to beat her into submission. However, in their eagerness, they were unable to actually hit her as she ducked and weaved.

 

The first robot to attack Facsimile was similarly unlucky, swinging wide and missing the concrete man, but the second seemed like it might be more lucky... It threw its metal leg out, trying to hit between Facsimile's legs to incapacitate him.

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Facs chuckled as the first metal claw swung wide but was soon abruptly silenced as the crunch of a metal foot crushing itself against his concreye body brought his attention to the offending robot.

 

"Thats not Queensbury rules!" He objected tempestuously to the offending construct before bringing a massive concrete fist towards the side of its metal head.

 

"Rude too!"

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GM

 

The robot buckled under the blow, it's mechanical parts flying all across the room. The surviving three machines looked between themselves, a low, whirring chirp exchanged between them as they steadied themselves for more combat.

 

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Corona

 

Serena smirked, and nodded at Facsimile. "One for you, one for me." She looked to the robot to her left, and threw a punch to its dome. As her first connected, a swell of plasma burst and exploded, jettisoning the machine's parts through the hole in the walls it had created.

 

Quickly, she turned to her other opponent, which had hunkered down, spreading its arms wide. Through the corner of her eye, she looked to Facsimile

 

"That's two, and I'm about to waste this one. I think I am gonna win this little contest."

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GM

 

The final robot facing Corona decided not to attack her conventionally. Instead, it threw itself forward, trying to grapple the heroine. Despite her best attempts, it managed to snatch her waist in its claws, showing surprising strength in doing so and holding her firm. Secure with her in its grasp, it began moving towards the hole it had made.

 

The other robot, seeing its comrade's successful attempt, attempted something similar with Facsimile, throwing itself forward and attempting to capture him.

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"Pfft! Bot please." Facsimile huffed at the spindly robot clinging to him as he simply shrugged his stony shoulders to break it's hydraulic grasp, a swift uppercut to the robots head separated it from its torso and sent it clattering away.

 

"That's two and...." extending a blocky hand over to the grappling automaton and grasping it's head in his hand it took little more than a firm squeeze to crush it like a drinks can.

 

"I'll call that a half each, since you were holding him in place for me."

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Corona

 

Serena tumbled to the floor as the robot crumbled, and she took the opportunity to lay there for a moment. She sighed, staring up at the ceiling, then tilted her head to look over at Facsimile.

 

"Yeah, sure, I'll take it," she said, before slowly getting to her feet and looking around.

 

"You know, I really hate fighting robots," she said as she looked at the ruins of their mechanical bodies. "Freak me out." Then, she waited for a moment, listening for any sign of more. When she heard none, she frowned.

 

"I really doubt that was all Wu had in store... And apparently Tantrum's with him and had been in my head. If he wanted me to come here, he's probably cooking up something big."

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"Yeah I can get that...they move jankily...like humanoid spiders." He admitted as he gave one of the fallen metal bodies a kick sending it tumbling away.

 

"Not quite as bad as zombies though, Ripe boys spray everywhere when you smash em...ugh." He recalled with mild disguise his first outing against a salvaged nuclear submarine full of them. "Make sure you hold your breath and close your eyes once you connect."

 

"Oof playing mind games with you huh? That's rough...." He confessed "Dun't worry though,  villains always have plans...they plan their heists like their weddings...they just don't plan for any outcome other than a perfect outcome...which is where we come in!"

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Corona

 

Serena nodded, looking around at the ruins of her old bedroom. She frowned deeply at the destruction that had been wrought by the entry of the robots.  Even though she had mixed memories about the place, it still felt like a violation to have it so thoroughly wrecked. 

 

Wiping a bit of moisture from her eyes, she looked through the holes. Her eyes settled on Tantrum's old room, to the right. Without a word, she started moving into it, her boots crunching over the drywall. She stepped into the room, looking around.

 

"This is wrong," she said. 

 

Tantrum's old room was nothing like it was back in the 90s. Gone were all the stuffies and boy band posters, and instead there was nothing but a barren bed, a dresser, and a sketchbook laying on top of the mattress. Knowing that Heather Romano had been something of an artist, Serena moved to the sketchbook.

 

She found a rather childish looking drawing of what she assumed was her and Tantrum as friends, with the words "friends forever" scrawled under it in a shaky, angry hand in red pen.

 

She dropped the sketchbook.

 

"Alright, I am officially freaked out."

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Following behind corona he spied the contents of the sketchbook from over her shoulder.

 

"This is gonna be messy and hard..." He spoke softly as he regarded the image.

 

"She's either upset you left..or that you didn't take her with you I'd guess at a glance. "

 

Having psychic powers was rough too if he'd learned anything from his time at claremont, reading folks minds was tough and people you can bare listening to the inner thoughts of were rare as matching snowflakes.

 

"Lemme know if you need a minute..."

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Corona

 

Serena stared at Facsimile for a moment. "I didn't leave her! I helped her escape! I sacrificed my freedom for her! And she is the one who disappeared on me! I waited, and I waited, and there was no contact at all."

 

She exhaled, making a pushing outward motion with her hands, taking the moment to collect herself. Facs wasn't the bad guy here, and he couldn't have known.

 

"Heather is... Was... Unstable, always. She had trouble controlling her emotions. If she got mad, she always went absolutely nuts, it was never just a little mad. If she was sad, she'd... Well, she'd do stuff like trying to run into traffic. Wu never did anything to fix it. The closest thing to control was punishing her if she directed any of that at him with these... Implants in her neck."

 

She inhaled. "And... Her powers. Wu gave us all powers, except for Heather. She was born with hers. But they were too strong. He gave her implants to control them. And to control her. He might still have his hooks in her, and I can't imagine her mental state has gotten any better spending time with him."

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"Yeah...this guy seems like the kinda jerk who'd mess with people's heads I gotta say." He rumbled reasonably as he rubbed his chin.

 

"I'm a bit in the dark here about all this so forgive me my misteps." He added as he removed himself from the door way to let corona out past him.

 

"You still wanna do this?" He asked in Ernest "like I said it's gonna be hard and messy from the sound of it; I won't judge you if you'd rather spend your evening somewhere other than a derelict building fighting a mad doctor."

 

His words were not coming easily to his blocky brain but he felt it was important to get the jist across.

 

"You come though and we find them and things inevitably turn to fighting you are there as a hero yeah? I can't be looking after a bystander whilst I fight a madman and a psychic and I could use the help for sure."

 

"that said more power to you whichever ya choose, no shame wanting a peaceful life. "

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Corona

 

Serena frowned at Facsimile. "Look, buddy, I made the decision to be a hero a while ago now, and I turned away from being a villain even longer. I am not going back on that. Besides... I already know how this goes. They clearly want me back, and knowing Wu, they won't stop until they get what they want."

 

She sighed to herself, rubbing the back of her neck. She was more concerned about what Wu or Heather could do at this point. Brainwashing was in Heather's wheelhouse and Wu... Well, she had no idea.

 

One way to find out.

 

"So, Wu, since I'm pretty sure you're listening... What's the plan?"

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GM

 

A chuckle crackled over the intercom. "Glad you asked. I had hoped five machines would have been enough, but unfortunately you brought a friend!"

 

"So I have to go with Plan B. You and the rest of our little team, Serena, were perfect for my tests. Complete genetic compatibility, the right amount of resilience... You would not believe the amount of failed predecessors you had. For a while, I wondered what to do when I had lost you. You were lightning in a bottle."

 

A sharp inhale came in over the intercom.

 

"However, I realized something. I still had your genetic material. All of yours. So I decided if I was missing some of the originals, I could make some new subjects. And why bother using the same powers when I could improve on my technique?"

 

Corona frowned. "You cloned me?"

 

More laughter bubbled mechanically. "Not quite cloning. Clones have a terrible degeneration problem. See, I had plenty of pairs... For example, the young lady I'm sending to you now has both your and Ms. Romano's DNA... And some FASCINATING powers. She should be here..."

 

Suddenly, the ceiling burst open as a figure slowly lowered itself down through the beams of light. It was a young woman, perhaps a teenager, with black hair cut into an undercut and haunting grey eyes. Her features were sharp for a woman her age, though a dapple of freckles kept her looking young. She wore grey tights, marked only by a glowing green crown symbol emblazoned on her chest.

 

She smiled wickedly.

 

"Hey, mom," she sneered.

 

The intercom buzzed again. "White Rook, would you do me a favour and bring Revolt back to us? Oh, and um... Crush our friend Blockhead's skull like a grape."

 

The girl sneered. "Can do."

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Facsimile laughed at coronas disgruntlement "it's cool! I didn't mean any offense...but yeah...it's good your so dedicated too it!"

 

He completely ignored the arrival and exchange between the new floaty half clone and wu untill he was directly adressed.

 

"Crush my skull like a grape?" He said in his feigned confusion "You? Please.....you look like the doctor took you out the oven before you finished baking you pallid pasty pastry!" He chortled and slapped his knee in amusement, bending his legs as he crouched to the ground.

 

"I don't care how strong you think you are Charlie chalk face you ain't ready for me...your not strong enough, not smart enough...." then with an explosion of force he lept the short distance between him and his new foe in an almost instant.

 

"Let's see if you're quick enough! " as a massive stoney fist launched forth with uncanny speed for its incredible weight.

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GM

 

The young woman's eyes lit up with pain as the blow connected with her midsection, and for a moment, she looked both amazed and horrified. Those emotions quickly gave way to sheer, animalistic rage as she shrieked menacingly.

 

Pulling her arm back, she threw a fist directly towards Facsimile's face, snarling with hatred.

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