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Location: Freedom Hall, Freedom City

Date: Thursday, July 25, 2019: 1:37 PM





The ground floor of Freedom Hall features the Freedom League’s public facilities. It is largely taken up by a lobby and reception area open to the public and “staffed” around the clock by a robot receptionist named “Cynthia.” Although artificially intelligent, Cynthia is not truly sentient, but she is lifelike enough to fool casual visitors into believing she is a real, living, person. Use the bystander archetype for Cynthia, but no Constitution score and Immunity 30 (Fortitude) due to her robotic nature. The first level of Freedom Hall also features a public conference room and the League’s trophy room and museum, featuring displays of their cases and other items dating back to the original League.


Outside of the shining walls of Freedom Hall, a small crowd of interested onlookers formed up behind press. Staff were making sure that any random bystanders were finding a place in the crowd, overseen by Cynthia. For once, the lobby and reception area were closed to the public while everything was set up. 


It had been a gradual transition, in many ways, as the vanguard of the League retired and handed off their duties one by one to the former Auxiliary members. It was known, really, that these heroes had become the New Freedom League, but this would be the first official press conference, confirming the retirement of many of Freedom's best and most beloved and the rise of their new League. A lot of work went into those preparations, most of it by staff but the heroes were busy themselves. After all, there were speeches to be made, questions that would have to be answered and not all the press invited was all that friendly. There were bound to be hostile reporters looking for gossip or tidbits to make their headlines pop. Plus, after the press conference, there was to be a reception open to any who might visit Freedom Hall and their old-but-new heroes.


Of course, planning a party for 'any who might show up' would have been enough to keep staff busy.


Leilani slipped between two harried staff members to offer Dimitri the notecards that were supposed to be his script. No doubt, he'd find some place new to discard them. She wasn't in costume as Leilani was here to join the crowd with the other interested on-lookers although she'd probably end up drafted by staff to help set tables and other minutuae when the League went out to talk. Raising her voice so that it would be heard, Leilani offered, "Cynthia says its ten minutes to showtime."

Edited by alderwitch
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Gabriel had been sitting in one corner, eyes closed and head bowed, gently running his battered rosary through his fingers. He'd been asking for safety, but for humility as well. It was not exactly common that someone be asked  to be one of the leading members of the Freedom League. Gabriel welcomed the invitation, but in his heart he found himself concerned it might go to his head. The thought of such summoned up the specter of his time in Heaven, wielding the power of the White Horseman. His eyes opened as Leilani spoke, and he assured himself the whinnying of a horse was just in his imagination.


"Thank you, Leilani."


He walked over to the table with light refreshments and got a drink of water.


"What does the mood seem like out there?"

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"Kinda predatory, last I checked," Stesha reported, her words somewhat muffled by the bobby pins clamped between her teeth. She'd found a small mirror on one wall and was using it to get the last flyaway strands of her long green hair into place and brush a few specks of dirt off her costume. The whole morning had been blocked off on her calendar for weeks so she would have plenty of time to get ready for this, but of course there'd been a missing child in Wharton Forest and some minor flooding in one of the settlements on Sanctuary, and Amaryllis couldn't find the shirt she wanted to wear to school, and before Stesha knew it, she'd been running late again. At least the crown of flowers that encircled her head and trailed down her waist-length braid made her look cheerfully natural rather than just disorganized. She hoped. "There's a whole roomful of reporters wanting to get the scoop on what the New League is going to be like, as though we haven't been hanging around the place for the last seven or eight years." 


She jammed the last pin into her hair and gave herself a quick swipe of lipstick. "I guess we should figure out some kind of strategy for this thing before we get out there. Who's going to be our spokesman?" 

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"Thank you, my fire-goddess." Dimitri's peck on Leilani's cheek was downright chaste, but the look in his eyes bespoke more later. "You are magnificent." He settled back towards the group, clinging firmly to the printed 3 by 5 cards he preferred when public speaking. He was about to speak when Fleur spoke up, and realized she'd raised an excellent point. Hanging back slightly, he said,  a little awkwardly, "Well, we have many fine spokespeople." He didn't bother mentioning that he wasn't going to be one of them - nobody needed the talk about liability or being technically just an associate member anyway. He was only technically on this team these days, after all, with his role as leader for the new Auxiliary foremost on his mind. He was dressed formally for the occasion, wearing a brand-new blue parka with his medals pinned to his chest, and was keeping his distance from Fleur so he didn't cause her lovely flowers to wilt. He looked from one face to the other, and added, "Leilani tells me they take it as either Fleur de Joie or Gabriel already." 

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Tarrant stopped short, his pen scratching to a halt on some poor student's essay; he'd made as much time to prepare as possible but his summer students didn't have school off and so neither did he. Besides, some light grading kept him from making constant adjustments to his brand-new coat. "We never...."


He took a beat to blink and then laughed, short and rich, throwing his head back and running a hand back through his hair. "No, we didn't, did we? That's...well, that's very like us, isn't it."


Teagan was somewhat less amused but she kept an uncharacteristic peace, offering a snort and little else. She hadn't been looking forward to the conference, and all who gazed upon her brow would know it.


"I think Fleur and Gabriel are fine choices, to be honest," he said. "Either or both. And that is an option - if it's going to be our team now, in the public's eyes, we get to decide how that works - including whether we have spokesman, or leader, or several, or none."

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"Or eleven years, in one case." Megan responded to Stesha with a small smile. While the speedster was in her bright yellow costume with the checkered flag pattern along the sides, she was not wearing her goggles or mask (and its accompanying wig). It some ways the speedster still found it hard to believe she was the senior member among the group in terms of when she joined the League and had spent well over a third of her life as a member.


There was the faintest hint of a blur of yellow, and Megan was then wearing her goggles and mask. "But as Gaian said, Fleur or Gabriel are good choices." The speedster stated, using her powers to slightly change the inflection of her voice.

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Leilani nodded her agreement with the assessment. She had dutifully slipped through the crowd. In her brightly patterned dress, without costume or armor she barely drew a second glance. Her  identity might be public but she wasn't all that famous. 


"Well, you'd better decide quick," Leilani offered with a bemused smile and waved her hand towards the door. "Cynthia didn't want to seem like you were playing favorites so there's paparazzi and gossip columnists out there among the more serious press. That nasty guy from the Tattler was elbowing his way up front when I slipped in the side entrance. You know they' gonna pounce on weakness like sharks on blood. You've got this. It's just a bit of talking and then letting folks drink and mingle afterwards."


Glancing towards the clock, Leilani waved her hands towards the door a little more urgently, "Go on. You don't wanna be late and we'll make sure that everything in here is all ready. Just stay on topic, yeah?"


She offered her more reassuring smile and winked once at Dimitri. Leilani paused to catch his hand and give it a little squeeze, offering a bit of her perpetual warmth so he looked a little less frozen for the cameras before she offered a final wave and turned towards the frantic staff member trying to make sure that the tables were well  stocked without risking going cold. "Yeah, yeah, I can keep the food warm. Relax."

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Gabriel blinked, opened his mouth, closed it without saying anything, opened it again, and then sighed with a smile.


"I'll do it. I'm good at keeping people distracted from the rest of you and focused on me, anyways. At least this time there are no super-zombies around!"


Stesha's reaction to that is probably less of a "haha great story man", considering just who it was that kept Gabriel from being, well, dead that night. The hero dressed in shining heavenly silver and white continued.


"I don't intend to feed the rumormongers, but I'll try to avoid out-and-out confrontation. Questions about leadership can be deflected for now, anyways; this is just a decision about talking. I think they all know I'm really good at talking."


With a self-deprecating smile, Gabriel started moving toward the door, and the press conference beyond. 

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"Works for me," Stesha agreed easily, giving herself one last look in the mirror before securing the cowl at her neck. "I'm not even going to bother with the mask," she decided. "I haven't had a real secret identity in ages, and it looks silly on me anyway." She shoved the domino mask into one of the many pockets on her utility belt, then turned to look at everybody else. "We don't really need a leader anyway, it's not like we haven't all taken point on one mission or another. If you want to do the talking, Gabe, then more power to you." Laughing, she followed him in the direction of the stage. 

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Tarrant chuckled, sliding the papers into his coat as he stood to follow the rest. "I thought you always wore it well," he said, shrugging helplessly, "but I won't pretend I'm not a little jealous. Every time I think about putting the goggles away, I think of the school and my students - but the longer at a time that I wear them, the more tempting it gets."


Teagan shook her head, doing her best to loom after him - a pre-looming, perhaps, to prepare for staring down the worst of the worst of the press. "You barely have a secret identity regardless," she said. "You may be common, but eventually someone will realize how few women my size, with my hair, bear to hang around men who happen to devote their lives to rocks."


"Maybe!" Tarrant flashed her a grin, good-natured and brotherly and absolutely not taking the bait. "You are, as always, a bastion of patience and virtue." She snorted, stalking past him as he held the door open for those still making their way out. "After you."

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"It certainly would look bad if I was late." Velocity stated with small grin as Leilani described the crowd of reporters waiting for them. "Thanks Leilani." She then added as she moved to follow after the others, restraining herself from just zipping ahead of everyone in the blink of an eye and instead staying at normal speed.


"Happy to let you handle the speech Gabe." She added as they went. "But am also comfortable in answering questions from the press as well so it is not all left on you."

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Comrade Frost 

"I have much to say as well," said Comrade Frost with a reassuring wink. Dimitri hung back, and for a moment, it showed on his face how unworthy he felt to be there. So many heroes, who had given so much of themselves for a better world - and then there was Dimitri Peshkov, with a dirty joke for every occasion and red in his ledger that could never be wiped away. Oh well he thought, forcing himself to brighten. This isn't the first time I've been among my betters and they've never noticed. His smile for Leilani was genuine, at least, as he stepped out after the rest of the Freedom League. There was good in the world that had actually touched him, after all. Heh. His smile broadened considerably as he looked out at the crowd, half-hidden by the team he had made a point to stand behind. He folded his hands behind his back, and assumed the parade rest position he usually occupied in moments like this. 

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Even if most of these heroes had been on the League for years, there was still a large crowd of press and, beyond them, curious onlookers. This was still world news even if the heroes themselves might feel as if the fuss was excessive. 


A murmur rippled through the crowd at their appearance. Those that had been on the press junket before could pick out the more reputable reporters, as well as the gossip hounds. The murmurs died away and expectation filled the air as they waited for the promised announcements with bated breath.

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Gabriel's face transitioned into a winning smile just before he walked out onto the stage, and his posture straightened itself just a touch more as he did so. His hands waved at the crowd for a moment before he stepped up to the podium. He waited a moment for the initial wave of murmurs, then gave a gentle gesture for everyone to settle down.


"Alright, yes, thank you all for being here. We apologize for all the theatrics, but our discussion today is something we wanted to have with everyone at once. Makes it easier, and shows we don't play favorites."


The hero clad in shining silver armor adorned with white grinned and winked at the audience.


"Now, I'm sure there's been a lot of speculation, but we're here to make things a bit clearer. There are two major announcements we'd like to give you today. The first, is that our friend Comrade Frost will be stepping into the official role of leader of the Freedom League Auxiliary. The Auxiliary is a time-tested program the League has used to connect with heroes whose schedules don't allow them regular membership, but who still contribute greatly to our mission and who wish to stay connected with the wider net of people and resources the Freedom League has access to. We have every confidence in his leadership, and those heroes who count themselves among the members of the Auxiliary have unanimously expressed excitement for the days ahead.

The second announcement is that several of us, myself included, are officially being enrolled as full members of the Freedom League. Some of our number, such as Velocity, are long-time League members, but a lot of discussion and decisions have gone into this. Other members of the League are re-evaluating their own time commitments, but that is a discussion for another day. We want to assure you that this process has been smooth, and that our goal is, as always, to serve and protect the fine people of Freedom City, and the world beyond.


He gave everyone in the audience a few moments to process things before he continued.


"Before we hear from any of my fellow League members who might wish to discuss some of the particulars of these changes, we have time for a few questions. Would I be correct that there are a few at this time?"


He waited for the initial surge of hands and voices before he looked over the crowd and pointed to a journalist on the front row.


"Yes, ma'am?"

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“Is the new League certain that you can continue to address disasters with the speed and efficacy that we are used to? Are there any gaps in your team line up that you feel the need to urgently address?” That was from the sober faced woman in the front. Those that bothered to track the various news outlets recognized the Freedom Tribune’s reporter. That outlet prided themselves on ‘tough but fair’ and although they had certain biases like most news outlets, they at least prided themselves on impartiality.


“With so many of your members not considering Freedom City as their true home, are you considering relocating the League’s base of operations?!” That held the tinge of panic and excitement from the more histrionic Freedom Eagle News. “Will you still be Freedom’s heroes or will that end up in these new and untried junior members hands?”


”Comrade Frost! Comrade Frost! Will you be releasing the Auxiliary roster today? What new heroes can we expect to find in the halls?” It was an innocuous enough question if you didn’t recognize the channel sixteen team who regularly ran scare pieces on foreign born and aligned heroes on American soil.




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Fleur chuckled at the question about locality, glancing at her teammates before fielding that one. "For most of us, local is really a very relative question. Everywhere is local when you can cross the country in less time than it takes to get from Downtown to North Bay by cab, which is something I've seen Velocity do more than once. And I may have my headquarters in a neighboring dimension, but I still do my grocery shopping at Key Foods and spent all last weekend at the Freedom City Mall to buy my daughter's school supplies. Freedom City is our home, and it's been the home base of the League for decades. That isn't going to change."


She took a sip of her water. "Expanding the Auxiliary team is an important move for us, one that's going to improve our responsiveness and prepare us for the future. Many of the heroes we are considering for the Aux team have already had years of training and experience on other hero teams. They are highly skilled individuals who are willing to dedicate their lives to public service and I'm very excited to be working with all of them." She gave the assembled crowd a beautiful smile. "The Auxiliary team is not only a vital part of our strategic plan for emergencies, but it's the way every single one of us got to be the heroes we are today. Bringing new people on board today ensures that we are developing new talent for tomorrow."

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"The Auxiliary roster will be released once all prospective members have passed all trials," said Frost warmly, following up on Fleur's statement the way a good team-member should. "You want to make sure city has best guardians, no?" He winked at the reporter, aware that this probably counted as needling but not quite able to help himself. More seriously, he added, "I consider myself citizen of world, though of course I remain a proud Russian patriot. Freedom League is not merely American team, it is a team guarded with the sacred responsibility of protecting the world - and so the League will be seeking out the world's finest." 

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"As for gaps in our team," added Gaian Knight, gesturing at that very group with an open hand, "we don't believe there's a single perfect way to build any team, nor any set list of features any team must cover. Experience and cohesion will always outweigh checking boxes, as it always has - but we won't be so prideful as to think any group - of any size - could cover all possible bases at all times under all conditions."


His voice was warm, but firm, and it wasn't for nothing that he'd been learning from Fleur de Joie's diplomatic example for several years now, and Gabriel's for only somewhat less. "We live in one heck of a city, and one of the great advantages of being based here is a wide, deep network of other heroes we can reach out to if need be, just as League members before us did. We certainly believe we're up for the job, as a team, but we won't turn a blind eye to any persistent gaps we do find, and we'll do whatever we can to close them."

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Gabriel had a winning smile on his face; he had smoothly stepped back slightly as his teammates took control of the conversation. Their answers smoothly defused possible tensions, without making a spectacle of heroes or reporters. As Gaian Knight finished, Gabriel spoke up.


"Excellent questions, and of course excellent responses from my teammates. Did anyone else have anything they wished to ask?"

He was not quite to the point of trying to finish up, but Gabriel pretty clearly tried to keep things moving, at least. Gabriel once again thanked the Lord that his teammates had paid attention when he talked over some basic "handling reporters" skills a while back.

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Murmuring and questions were lost for a moment as the journalists jockeyed for position, eagerly trying to get the attention. Unfortunately, the more... problematic elements of the press corp were quick to leap into the fray. 


"What is the league going to do about the Terminus children? With the clinic and the recent exposure, Freedom City is once again a nexus for those tainted by the Terminus energies?! How can the League keep us safe from the threat inside our own children?" The histrionic timbre rose above the gamut, spitting out soundbites rapid fire and hoping for a good look or a word, or - at worst - something that could be chopped up to continue to push the T-baby menace story that their network had been running heavily for the last year or so.


"Fft, T-babies - old news. What about more... personal team ups?" That was the Tattler, an absolute gossip rag as the reporter swung her microphone towards the team. "With the League full of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.... Can we expect an all star wedding anytime soon from any of you or should Freedom City hopes for a League rescue-romance remain alive?"

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"The Freedom League does not consider there to be any threat from "Terminus Children" or "T-Babies" or any other name you want to call them," Fleur said firmly, giving the asker a quelling glare. "Metahuman powers can arise from many different sources, and we have found it is the person themselves that determines whether those powers are used for good or evil. There are heroes and villains whose powers came from exposure to Terminus energy, and we don't treat them any differently as any other heroes or villains. To treat them differently is nothing but baseless fearmongering." 


She turned her attention to the Tattler with a dry smile. "And honestly, Vanessa, you've been asking that question for years. Do you really expect us to start dishing on our personal lives now?" 

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Comrade Frost personally took what he thought was a sensible attitude towards entropic mutants - watching them carefully, but treating the trustworthy ones with trust. After all, his powers came straight from the forces of death and he was...well, he was Comrade Frost. "To echo words of my green and pleasant colleague, there is no place for prejudice in superhero business," he said with great firmness, turning and looking right at the camera as he spoke. "All who chose to use their abilities for good are welcome here. As for questions of romance," he thought for an instant of Leilani, but was too experienced to even glance in her direction, "that is the least interesting thing about these remarkable people with which I share this stage."

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Gaian Knight's head suddenly cocked to the side, his goggled gaze staring off at nothing as his senses went down. Down was ever his responsibility in these things, and he always hoped it wouldn't be necessary - a thankfully needless precaution - but life was ever full of small disappointments. He could feel them, digging upward through the rock and soil. How many?


Too many.


"....ladies and gentlemen," he announced, evenly but interrupting and brooking no argument. "We need everyone to calmly clear the pavilion and surrounding area as fast as you can. Something unknown and uninvited is coming up beneath our feet and we very much need civilians and bystanders to not be here when it arrives."


Tiamat, happy to let the wordsmiths smith words, was inclined to be more succinct. "You heard him!" she bellowed, disappearing into a fire that quickly left her with much bigger lungs to throw behind the command; she threw her wings wide as the fires faded, great horned head high and alert for threats. "MOVE!"

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Gabriel had been content to let the others answer the "juicy" questions. But then his ears picked up...something. Sound was his domain, but even then he needed more than moments to analyze things. His gut told him they didn't have moments. 


The crowd started to move, but was still not organized as well as the hero hoped. So, he spoke, his voice ringing out above the noise.


"I understand this is unsettling everyone but please remain calm. The floor and walls are lighting up to guide you to safe areas. Please move calmly but rapidly along, thank you!"

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Velocity had been mainly hanging back allowing some of the others to respond to questions for much of the announcement, but figured it was only a matter of time before some were directed her way. But then something seemed to be happening that brought the proceeding to a close.


As Gaian Knight, Tiamat and Gabriel began calling out instructions to the gathered reporters, Velocity became a blur of yellow among the gathered reporters and others, directing them away from the area.


“This way please.”


“Please move quickly and safely.”


Moments later she was back over next to Gaian Knight. “Any idea what it is?”

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