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Hammer and Scalpel: City Night Heist (IC)

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Skies Above Seoul

Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Saturday, June 27, 2019


8:25:41 PM


Two figures traced lazy circles in the space above skyscrapers, straddling the line between the sea of noise and light below and the empty blue sky above them. It was a Saturday in twilight, the sun setting an hour ago, and like all cities on Saturday nights the streets were packed with cars, horns honking at each other. People waded in and out and through the open air markets and shopping boulevards. Families ate dinner together. Friends drank to each other. Drunk voices rose in chorus to sing songs in Kareoke. Parties blared and thrummed with the beat of music and bodies.


But up in the air, the two figures might as well have been the only ones left in the planet.


"Hey, how's the headset going?" Nicole's voice sounded in Selena's ear, loud and clear. It was almost as if Nicole was speaking right beside Selena and not fifty feet to her 11 o'clock and slightly behind her. As Nicole asked this, the form of her armor entered Selena's view. It spat out flame from her boots in short, controlled bursts and looped away and around her, back out of her vision.


The two had travelled to Seoul for one last visit before the university season started and the two, presumably, part ways. They had different paths in life, though both were superheroes and that made for a small community. Both could fly and that made travel easier. Still, one last trip was in the itinerary and they both jumped at the chance to go abroad. They hadn't been in Seoul long, only two days but the chance to fly around aimlessly in a new city was always a treat for anyone who could.


As for Selena's helmet, it was a gift Nicole had made for her. Something that allowed Gauss to speak and look and listen without the hassle of things like the howling wind on her face when she was flying at top speeds.


"Earth to Selena. Hellooo," Nicole said again. "I say again, 'How's it going?'"




Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Selena hovered high in the sky, her white cowl-necked cape fluttering in the wind.  The helmet her best friend had given her blocked out the noise and annoyances of high altitude winds in her ears.  The lights of the buildings around them and the traffic below them a thing of beauty, distracting her before Nicole's voice pulled her out of her thoughts.  "Sorry, sorry.  Things are alright," she said, the helmet slowly moving to focus on Nicole's armored form circling her, "Going to miss the school and a few people in particular."


Selena felt a pit form in her stomach at the idea of not being around Nicole, the thought that the only time they would be able to catch up and interact only being when they put the cape on.  A part of her wanted to give voice to these thoughts but she also had never seen inclinations in her armor-clad friend towards other girls.  'Don't say anything, she's almost certainly straight,' she mentally chided herself.

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"Yeah, I know what you mean," Nicole replied as she flew on her back, fingers interlocked and resting on her stomach. She arrested the loop she'd been flying and just continued straight forward, drifting farther away from Selena.


The skies were less congested with flyers. Sure, South Korea had its own metahumans but it wasn't as populated or as dense as the world's metahuman capital, Freedom City. So if anything Nicole could worry even less about hitting anyone else.


So she closed her eyes, drifting. "I'll miss the lower batches. They were fun." She began counting with her fingers as she flew. "Dio and me finding Summer's secret stash, Sara helping out in charity, the whole of Red Team, Alex, Lulu, Pan especially. Veronica helped fix Bellios and Huang even kind of got bearable in the end. Those kind of people? Heard you got into RPGs or something early in the school. Was it good?"


"But some of them--" She produced an ughhh sound before resuming. "Rip your hair out annoying."


She raised her head to look at Selena, who was either far away or close by. "Have you heard about Corinne going the rounds as if she'll never see anyone from Claremont again? She's such a $%^&# but she fixed my legs and I don't really know what to feel about that."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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"I mean, I had been into RPGs for a while but that was my first group since coming up from the island," she commented, enjoying not having to shout to hold a conversation.  The magnetokinetic floated after her friend, keeping the distance relatively constant.


"Yeah, Pan's a good guy.  And do you know how rare it is to show someone Star Wars and them being shocked by the Darth Vader reveal in Empire?  The look on his face is burned into my mind.  Remind me to tell you the time we beat up Captain Ahab.  Yes, that Ahab."


As the subject of her legs came up, Selena couldn't help but glance at the armor clad appendages of her friend.  "I was going to ask about that.  I was going to ask about that but I also didn't want to bring it up, seemed like a conversational minefield. Glad they're working though.  Part of me wants to suggest going shoe shopping, if only to see your reaction."

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Nicole knew Selena was distracting her from that unpleasant memory but she let herself get distracted anyway. Then Selena started talking about shopping and then Nicole's laughter rang through Selena's ears. "It'd be great to find something I could show my feet with. I could wriggle my toes again. It's crazy."


She lapsed into silence, staring at the inky sky above. Right above Seoul, the city lights overpowered the stars in the galaxy. She raised a finger and pointed at a blot of sky.


"Crazy to think we'll be travelling there soon," she said, referring to their upcoming field trip to the Xi home system. "Think anything else would let us do that so easily?"


She flipped over so that she was facing the city rooftops, watching cars zoom by in the highways. "I've got scholarships with FCU, Hanover Institute, and Emerald City University. I could stay in Freedom with all its heroes and threats but, I don't know, Emerald holds more technology centers and it would be nice to be closer to the Leons."


Her thoughts strayed to ArcheTech and the Ochiai-kai and of the flare-up of interdimensional energies she had detected. She frowned. "There are threats there too but so few heroes to go against them."


Then she raised her head to look to Selena. "And you? Set on staying in Freedom? Is FCU what you're looking at?"

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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"I know right?" she said, her floating bringing her closer to Nicole's armored form to better follow where she was pointing.  "Part of me wants to bring my Jedi robes cosplay but that feels too snarky, even for me."


"I'm leaning towards staying in Freedom.  To placate my parents I've applied to a few schools here, thus why my day is booked tomorrow, and down in San Juan but Freedom City... just feels like home now.  I can't help but wonder if there's something in the water, I mean this is New Jersey we're talking about," she explained, "I think I have a good shot at FCU though.  Not a scholarship but at least an acceptance letter."

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The pair flew for some time, talking about nothing and anything under the sky. The city bustling under them, so far below that it seemed almost dream-like in its evening lights and moving crowds of people and cars.


A violent sizzling sound interrupted their flight and nearby they saw a long burst of red lasers fire up into the air, aimed at a helicopter that was hovering near a skyscraper, which is where the lasers came from. The helicopter dove and the lasers merely clipped its tail but still the metal was left scorched and smoking. Perhaps thinking prudence was a much better alternative than being blown out of the sky, the helicopter's pilot beat a hasty retreat from the tower. A thin trail of smoke followed the helicopter.


"Hey, Selena?" Nicole's voice crackled in her earpiece. "I'm patching you through the police frequency originating from beneath that tower. You might want to tell me what's happening."


Then she heard a man's voice speaking in Korean, strained and clipped. <--t out of there. I want no helicopters flying around while that mech's there.> A pause then, <Yes. Get me eyes on it. I want a sniper team on the roof across 5th street and 28th avenue.>


Nicole halted her forward momentum and hovered in the air, small jets of flame firing from her boots and thrusters periodically.


"Found them," she said and gestured down below to where what seemed like a dozen police cars, and one ambulance and two black vans, SWAT painted on them in white letters, parked in front of the tower's main entrance. The street was cut off from traffic and pedestrians with yellow police tape, though that did not stop curious onlookers from crowding behind them.


A few policemen kept the crowds back but the majority of the first responders action was centered around the cars. A medic hovered around one civilian sitting on the ambulance's trunk, a towel over a nice black suit. Heavily armored and armed SWAT members crowded together behind the SWAT vans. Then in the middle of it all stood a tall policeman, gripping his radio as he spoke, his eyes staring at the tower's main entrance as if he could burn holes into them with looks alone.


<Try broadcasting across the frequencies again,> he said and his voice crackled in Selena's ear. <They can't ignore us forever.>

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Selena's eyes tracked the helicopter as she fell into position next to her friend, chuckling she said, "I'd almost like to see them try that against you.  You'd laugh, they'd crap themselves in fear."


Listening to the radio chatter she let everything process for a moment before answering.  "Something about a Mech.  The police are setting up a sniper team on the roof.  Also sounds like their radio calls are being ignored by whoever is inside," Gauss relayed.  Turning her head to eyeball Salvo's armor's helm she nodded, "Quick question before we go to offer assistance, can you whip up a spell or armor attachment or something that allows for translating languages.  I don't mind translating but it might prove useful to have you able to understand as well."

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"If I had the time. Sure, but now?" Nicole shakes her head as you both descend. There's a bit of a pause before she shrugs. "I brought up Google Translate. Not the best translation but it'll have to do."


"Right." Salvo looks at Gauss then back down to the scene. "Time to put our game faces on."


You land in the middle of the street, drawing looks from the people around you. You could see civilians pull out phones and raising them, flashes of light telling her that photos were being taken of you and Salvo. Salvo led, walking as if she had everything handled, towards whom you assume to be the one in charge. Being a superhero was as much perception as it was action. Nicole said that once. People looked up to superheroes, like it or not, and saw in them figures of authority and examples to live up to. 


Policemen give the two of you a wide berth, but as you approach you see the officer-in-charge's eyes flick to you then to the crowd and beyond only to narrow. He raises his radio to his mouth. <Hu, the reporters are coming. Get a move on on expanding the border. I don't want any of this on television until it's all over.>


True enough, behind the crowd you see what looks to be a news van park behind the crowd and a news crew shuffle quickly outside. Two policemen go stop them as others in the border struggle to push back the crowd even more. It seems like your presence has stirred some of them up.


<Useless,> you hear the officer-in-charge mutter before he turns to you, sizing the both of you up. <You're new here. You can call me Officer Gi.>


Before you can respond he waves at the tower behind him and launches into an sitrep clearly having done this many times.


<The WSH-Tower, owned by Woo-sung Hwang, head of the maritime shipping and exploration chaebol. Most of the tower is used as a office space but the top three floors are used by Mister Hwang as his residences. Tonight, he was hosting a social event to unveil his newest plans for an art and artifact museum, inviting government dignitaries and business leaders to the event. Approximately half an hour ago, a dozen to two dozen men and women crashed the party from the windows. They were armed with high-tech arms and armor and jetpacks.> He points past you to the man in an ambulance. Closer now and you can see he is middle-aged and a little paunchy at the middle. <Mister Hwang managed to evade capture through an emergency room and elevator. He stated that they were rounding everyone up, as hostages we presume.>


Officer Gi folds his arms. <Yet we have yet to receive a demand, either through phone or radio or another hostage released to us.>


From the corner of your eye you can see Salvo look at you.


"What," she says in your earpiece, clearly confused by the outburst of Korean.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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<Officer Gi, thanks for the rundown,> the teen heroine said, offering a hand and a slight bow, <I go by Gauss and the bipedal tank behind me is Salvo.>


Once she relayed the situation back to her friend, speaking in Spanish to do so, she turned back Gi, <I'd like to speak to Hwang.  Once you have your snipers in position, can you keep us in the loop on what's going on?  Wouldn't want to barge in at the wrong time.>


Knocking gently on Salvo's shoulder she nodded towards Hwang before setting off towards their one witness.  After introducing herself and her friend she set next to him, removing the helmet she said, <Mr. Hwang, I'm sure you've gone over this with Gi but I need you to tell me everything that you saw.>

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<With the hostages?> Officer Gi scoffed before turning his head towards the dark tower. <Our hands are tied.>


Then you exchanged channels so that both of you could stay in touch before heading over to Mister Hwang.


Mister Hwang looked to be somewhere in his fifties, hair thinning and a little round from luxury, but the recent attack made him look ten years older. When you approach and ask him questions, he stares at you for a few seconds to let your words sink in. He pulls the towel draped on his shoulders a little tighter over him.


<Everything I saw?> He says, as if to ask you if he heard correctly. <Yes, yes. Gyungmi had put in the finishing touches just when the Nang and his wife arrived fifteen minutes before seven...>


It takes a while as Hwang paints a detailed picture of what happened and you are left with several facts. The event was to be an intimate event of thirty listed guests and a plus one each. The three floors of Hwang's penthouse were open for all, save for his residential rooms and his basement, leaving the two-floor ballroom, balcony, and garden the main areas where guests could mingle. They were all filled with expensive artwork that would be used for Hwang's new museum. From millenia old sculptures to abstract paintings by up-and-coming artists, he had it all. Dinner was light meals and refreshments provided by a high-end caterer. All was going well within an hour, Hwang flitting from one group to another, when the windows overlooking the city exploded inward. Next thing he knew, there were people with guns and a large robot almost as wide as it was tall that scraped the first floor ceiling. The last he saw of the whole incident before he escaped through a secret panic elevator was one woman shouting orders as the soldiers herded the guests into his residential rooms, beating anyone stubborn into submission.


<And here I am," Hwang said at last, sounding miserable, shoulders sagging.


<Maybe they're looking to steal all that art if it's just hard cash they're after,> Salvo said when you relayed everything Hwang said. The two of you stood just a little bit away from the Korean tycoon as you huddled together. <With every piece he described, it must total a few hundred million dollars at least, but they don't seem to have anything capable of transporting all those goods.> She looked at the Korean tycoon. <Course, kidnapping all the guests and demanding a ransom is bound to give them something. But again no transportation.>


She shook her head. <Still, their motives are less important than what's going on. We've got a whole lot of bad guys who aren't scared to get dirty and a whole lot of hostages, meaning we've got to tiptoe on eggshells here until we get the hostages to safety. Then the kid gloves come off.>


<So,> she said, looking back at Gauss. <Got a plan?>

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Gauss reached out and set a hand on Hwang's slumped shoulder.  <Don't worry, we're here now.  Between Gi's men and the two of us,> she said, nodding towards Salvo and giving a reassuring smile, <We'll have this taken care of shortly.>


"You raise some excellent points...," she started in Spanish before abruptly switching back to Korean and asking the witness, <You don't have any especially valuable and easily portable items not on display locked away do you?  Weapons from any of the Terminus incursions, alien alloys, millions of dollars in bearer bonds, etc?>


Walking towards a slightly less occupied sector of the police's command center she began muttering, "Ok, how comfortable do you feel being the distraction?  Maybe I can zip up the elevator shaft and either disarm the mooks or get the guests out with their mech focused on a certain someone outside the window."

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Hwang looks from you to Salvo then back again, his mouth agape as he wracks his thoughts for an answer to the sudden question.


<I-- I-- There's jewelry and gold inside my vault." He was stammering but he shut his eyes and that seemed to get his thoughts in order. "Precious metal like diamonds and rubies and sapphires. And yes, metals from the Grue and an almost complete Atlantean armor set. Not Terminus, not weapons. Those are illegal and besides, the government compensates well for those.


He opens his eyes and turns to you. <Do you think they want those?>


Then it was back to another huddle between you and Salvo.


"Comfortable," Salvo says in reply before switching to Spanish. She nodds at your plan. <But only once the hostages are safe. Hope Hwang's got insurance for his art because no way the fight's going to be pretty.>


<So, you ready? Think Officer Gi is waiting on us.> And true enough he was, arms crossed and tapping his foot repeatedly. Clenched in one of his hands was what looked to be the blueprints of the building.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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<No idea Mr. Hwang, but it is possible they think you have something besides some metallurgical samples and armor,> she said, attempting reassurance before they stepped away.


<If he doesn't have his stuff insured, he's an idiot,> Selena replied with a shrug, <Not like I plan to throw his valuables around but in this situation things are likely to go sideways.>

Noticing Gi's impatience she floated over towards the man in charge, she nodded, <Officer Gi, are your eyes in place yet?  We have some ideas but could use some info on targets and positions.>

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Officer Gi promptly unfolds the blueprints of the tower as you begin to plan. Your route is decided then. You'll enter the tower from a service entrance on the side, away from the crowd that Gi's men have yet to disperse. From there you'll have access to a stairwell which leads to the maintenance basement and the entrance to Hwang's secret elevator shaft, circled in red ink by Officer Gi. While you plan, your headset crackles as the snipers report having settled into their positions. They count nine soldiers and one mech along the balcony and ballroom area, the only places they can see from their position. Like Salvo they won't engage until the hostages are confirmed safe.


Then it is a simple matter of flying up and past the crowd until you find the service entrance. The door is unlocked and you make your way inside. The plaza of the tower is empty and dark, detritus scattered on the tiles proof that people were in a rush to get out. Only the lights from the city outside guide your way through the building and to the the stairwell. They lead to the basement save the small pockets of light from the red emergency bulbs are pitch black. Yet you make your way down, clutching the basement map with the marked secret elevator.


Large water and drainage pipes greet you, snaking in ways unknowable to your untrained eye, and the red emergency bulbs still flash down here, if a bit more spaced out. You go through larger spaces of darkness, often having to move by hand or metallic sense lest you hit your head on something. It's slow going, made worse by the fact that you have to consult your basement map in the small pockets of light. Minutes tick by, interspersed only by you giving updates on your progress to Gi, but finally you slide your hand against a smooth section of the wall and feel the telltale indent from a doorway. Further investigation tells you what you expect; you've found the elevator. Were you to pry the doors open you'd find it empty and the buttons unresponsive.


The building is out of power.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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  • 3 weeks later...

After giving the buttons another press or two, Selena lets out a blistering string of curses in a whisper before using her ability to shove the doors open and enter the unlit car.  Closing her eyes and reaching out with her ability to sense metals she began searching for a way up through the roof rather than having to try and fly up a stairwell.  At best her sense of her surroundings was somewhat muddled and indistinct but she was able to, with time, find the emergency escape hatch on the roof of the elevator car and push it free.


Floating up, avoiding grease covered cables along the way, she whispered over the line to her friend, <Salvo, I've made my way into the elevator shaft and am currently headed to the top.  What's the situation now that the power's out?>

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The elevator shaft isn't as large as a normal shaft and it was clearly built to fit an elevator car small enough for a few people, but for one person with the benefit of flight it is almost trivial to float to the top, avoiding the cables and sides. What stops you from flying at full speed is the pitch black darkness. With only the light of your flashlight to guide you, you fly up carefully.


When you ask your question, Salvo replies, similarly in a whisper. <I'm with the sniper team overlooking the two floors. The whole place is dark but the mech or powered battlesuit, or whatever it is, is right in the middle. There's smaller movement around it, the normal soldiers.>


Finally you reach the top and swivel your flashlight around until you find the slit indicating an elevator doorway. You move in closer and true enough you can see a sliver of moonlight shining through.


<We're lucky Hwang's fond of big glass windows,> Salvo continues. <We've got the entire ballroom area covered, so once you get the hostages safe we're going in guns blazing.>


A careful application of your powers is enough to pry the elevator doors open to the false wall immediately beyond that. You begin to lift it up but hear a several heavy footsteps coming your way that causes you to stop. They converge with each other, right in front of your false wall.


<Thirty minutes,> a man whispers in Korean, just loud enough for you to hear. <It's a damn long time to get a vault open. When is Tiger-Black going to stop pussying around and just blow it off its hinges?>


<You know she can't do that,> a woman replies. <We've got strict orders to be careful with it and if we mess up it's all our heads on the line, especially you. You're on thin ice around her so keep your mouth shut and just do your job, Oh-seong. Besides, I hear she's down to the last failsafes. Any minute and we can scoot out of here.>


<And finally earn our pay.>


The voices recede, along with their footsteps moving in opposite directions. It takes a minute or two until you are confident to lift the false wall fully, which slides noiselessly into a recess. Moonlight greets you. After the darkness of the elevator shaft it almost seems as bright as day and you blink your eyes back against the sudden light.


You're in what looks to be a side living room. Empty, save for several post-modern portraits of people looking down on you. The furniture is tasteful if obviously expensive, plush velvet couches and pillows, dark wood tables, and a large flatscreen television on the opposite wall. A chandelier as much a sculpture of wood and steel as a light fixture hangs above it all.


You orient yourself. From the blueprints you had memorized, you are in the middle of the tower. To your left is the ballroom and gardens where Salvo and the sniper team have full view of and you moonlight streaming in from that direction. To your right is the rest of the residential area and where the hostages are held. Halls and smaller rooms. You'd be alone there and have to take care around the civilians as well. Then right in front of you are a set of stairs leading down to Hwang's vaults. You have no idea what these people could want from them but you've heard they were nearing their goal.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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