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GM

 

Millennium Mall, Midtown, Freedom City

5:30 PM, November 15th, 2019

 

A rainy Friday afternoon, and Millennium Mall was packed as usual. There was a certain feeling in the air. Everyone was moving around in groups, even tighter than usual. Even through laughter and crying children, everyone hurried between the shops and stuck together, casting nervous glances about. During the last month, five people had gone missing, all disappearing within the vicinity of the mall during the evening. Everyone was hurrying to get home before it was too late. No one wanted to stick around, deals or not deals.

 

That kidnappers had made no demands, and had not been seen. All that was found on the scene after a disappearance was a single silver ball, small enough to fit in a hand. And on this particular evening, several visitors to the mall would be finding similar balls all over the mall.

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Octoman

 

Since the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Ben Wang had lived in the Claremont Academy dorms during the week, coming home on the weekends. Once in a while, one of his parents would leave work in time to pick him up from the campus on Friday afternoon. Usually, he just took a bus back to their tiny West End apartment. On Friday, November 15th, he got a pair of familiar texts from each of his parents, letting him know that they would be working late. He replied to let them know that he'd be "hanging out with friends" and he'd make his own dinner arrangements. It wasn't a complete lie. Max O'Brian, the other Claremont student who'd joined him to investigate the mall kidnappings, wasn't a friend yet, but she wasn't a foe either, and so far most of Ben's fellow superheroes seemed to warm up to him once they'd worked with him. And the Millennium Mall food court fare, humble as it was, technically met the definition of "dinner".

 

"Thish ish where it all feegan" Ben muttered through mouthfuls of pizza. "Right here, this is where I met Geckoman for the first time. This is where I was when I decided I was gonna be a superhero someday."

 

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Even with her ability to travel the world curtailed by her probation, Max still had plenty to find and do in the city limits of Freedom City even if it was beyond the norm for her. For example, hanging out with a human-octopus mutant for what was basically dinner while scoping out a mall for a serial kidnapper. Beats homework at least.

 

At that moment, Max munched on her fries  while her boot clad feet were resting on another chair next to their table. She glanced around the food court, noting down the few stragglers remaining. "Can't say I've had a moment like that yet." She said before taking aloud slurp from her shake. "By the way, was he like, half lizard or something?" She asked.

Edited by Darksider42

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Archer II

 

The Claremont students were far from the only ones interested in the serial disapperances. Connor King sat in the food court at another table not far from the students, a large black sports bag at his feet under his table. He looked down at the soggy fast food burger in his hands. It was quite obvious that it wasn't his usual fare, but he still took a hesitant bite. Not too bad, but nothing he'd call good either.

 

Putting the burger back on the paper wrapper, he reached for his water bottle and leaned back in his chair, looking around at the scene around him. He'd been in the mall for a few hours, and so far, nothing was happening. Just like the past week he had spent at this place. Of course, no one could know when or even if the kidnapper would strike, so he had to be ready. "Scope out the place, see what you can find out", the Old Man had said. Of course, it wasn't like he was the one sitting around here.

 

He lowered the bottle of water and sighed again. What was the odds of something even happening today?

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GM

 

Ben would be the first to notice that something was off. Tiny, metallic balls, like what you would see in a pinball machine, started rolling across the floor. Not in an excessive number. One or two here and there, but still, more than enough to seem out of place, and not just something that some kid randomly dropped. Besides, no children were running to try and pick up their lost toys.

 

Connor heard the sounds of the balls being dropped, hitting the floor with a heavy metallic *TING* sound, barely audible over the noise of the food court. Even with the dwindling number of patrons, it was noisy, but still, he noticed. The sound came from around a corner that led to an escalator to the lower floor, making the balls' random trajectories all the more puzzling.

 

Poor Max neither saw or heard anything, even as balls seemed to be rolling in the direction of the patrons of the food court, including the three young heroes.

Edited by RocketLord

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Octoman

 

Balls...

 

Ben's head tilted to one side. His mouth hung open. A wad of half-chewed pizza dough fell out of his mouth.

 

...BALLS!

 

Ben's skin and clothes rippled and folded, transforming into the yellow, black and blue jumpsuit of The Crime-Fighting Kraken, The Spectacular Cephalopod, Octoman.

 

"BALLS!" he shouted as he jumped up onto the table he'd been eating off of a moment ago. Nearly a dozen tentacles slid free from their pockets in his arms and torso, stretched, and surged out for dozens of feet in several different directions. One of them slammed the switch down on the nearest fire alarm. Some smacked open any emergency exit doors within reach. Others wrapped around table legs near the paths of the metal spheres rolling across the ground, lifted those tables into the air, turned them upside down, and slammed them down on the balls.

 

Octoman frantically pointed to several spots around the room, shouting at each in turn. "BALLS! BALLS! BALLS!"

 

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For the most part, Max did not seem to notice anything at first. She was wondering why Ben had drifted from the conversation. It was not until he started morphing and screaming about balls did she start to realise that the Observant Octopod had spotted the trademark of their quarry. While Octoman made an brilliant show of curtailing the rain of ball bearings flooding the food court, the blue haired girl slowly sunk down in her seat until she slipped underneath the table. Anyone paying attention might spot the phantom after image of her, but it was gone soon after along with her backpack.

 

Max was now inside one of the closed Pizzamonium vendor that occupied the court and started taking off her coat and jeans. Underneath was the telltale black and teal of her costume. Retrieving her jacket and mask, she quickly donned them before vanishing once more.

Spectre appeared right next to Octoman, standing on a table while chewing a stick of gum. The taste of fast food fading from the assault of strawberry bubblegum flavour filling her mouth. "Sooo, Where are they coming from?" She asked, looking around for an obvious source while balancing on her makeshift podium.

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Archer II

 

What was that sound? Ting, ting, ting, like something metallic being dropped on the floor, one by one. Reaching down for his bag with one handed, Connor looked around, spotting the small metallic balls that had begun rolling around the floor. This was it. The things that had been found where everyone had disappeared. Small metallic balls, but never in this number. The other times, only one or two people had been taken, but all of these balls, and in somewhere this public... did the kidnapper mean to take everyone all at once?

 

He didn't have time to think about it anymore when someone started shouting about balls. A yellow, black and blue jumpsuit, with tentacles lashing out everywhere, setting off alarms, opening doors. And shouting about balls. Some kind of hero, probably.

 

At least he was drawing attention away from him. He quickly reached into his bag and pulled out first his red mask and red and white jacket, putting them on one after another and pulling up the zipper for the jacket, then went for his bow and quiver, quickly getting up from the table, securing the quiver over his shoulder as he approached the guy screaming about balls and the girl that had joined him. They obviously knew each other, so hopefully, they were both heroes.

 

"Stop the yelling." It wasn't really a command, but there was some bite to his tone. Everyone but them were running already, no need to keep yelling. "They're coming from around the corner. One of you take point and I'll back you up." Names weren't important right this moment. He motioned with his head to direction of the corner he had heard the TING noises coming from, while reaching for his quiver and pulling out an arrow to put on his bow, to emphasize his point. Just a stun arrow. Nothing too dangerous.

Edited by RocketLord

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GM

 

Octoman's yelling had their intended effect. After a second of staring at the strange man (and a kid or two yelling "It's OCTOMAN!"), the few people in the food court all seemed to get up and start running for whatever exits and away from the balls. By the time Archer and Spectre had changed into their costumes, the last few patrons had left the area through the various emergency exits that Octoman had knocked up. 

 

The balls kept rolling around, but no more joined them, while someone shouted "Aw, man! What a drain!" from around the corner,  before the hurried sound of someone running down the escalator could be heard. Whoever it was, he was certainly in a hurry.

 

If the heroes followed, they would see a bald man in a light blue 1970'es style suit running through the mall, people splitting away from him as he got too close.

Edited by RocketLord

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Octoman

 

Octoman didn't catch everything the scarlet-clad bowman had said, but he saw "around the corner" clearly enough, and the context provided by the young man's gesture helped.

 

Octoman imagined a narrator from a movie or an old-timey movie trailer in his head. There may come a day in the life of Octoman when he is not the one to "take point". A day may come when he is not the first one through the door, to meet the fist of danger with the face of himself. But today...is not that day.

 

"ON IT!" 

 

The teen hero's tentacles whipped out toward the corner, sticking to it, and quickly retracted, pulling him through the air.

 

Octoman shouted as he chased after the bald man in blue. "YO, DISCO STU, WAIT UP! YOU DROPPED SOMETHING!"

 

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Spectre was still not 100 percent sure as to what was going on, the flailing of tentacles and the words 'balls' were a bit much, but the mysterious red clad man did give her a bit of direction. Some part of her was tempted  to roll her eyes and tell him what she though about telling her what she should do, but she decided to hold back. For now anyway.

She looked down and noticed a discarded pizza box. Picking it up, she threw it in the direction of the runaway intruder. She vanished only to appear near the flying box to grab it and toss it once more. Again and again this happened until one last teleport threw it underarm and let it skid against the floor. She teleported on top of it and skid against the ground close to the suspect.

"Hey man, you left your stuff back there!" she said with a smirk while she jerked her thumb back, sliding and continuing her jumps in space.

Edited by Darksider42

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Archer II

 

Dodging out around the corner, while the octopus kid flailed and yelled and the ghost girl disappeared, Connor raised his bow to take a shot from above the escalator, then cursed to himself before quickly switching arrows. His line of sight to the man was blocked, there was no way he would be able to hit him like that. Instead, he fired a line arrow into the ceiling and swung from it, swinging above the crowds and landing a few feet away from the man, quickly drawing another arrow, aiming it straight at the man. The ghost girl in front, the octopus boy in the back, himself a bit to the right, they had the guy surrounded, with crowds splitting around them. Good.

 

"Whatever else you got, drop it." The other two might be willing to joke around, but not Connor. He was all business.

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GM

 

The man in blue looked ahead as Spectre skid out in front of him on a flying pizza box, leaving him staring with an open mouth. As she got up close, she could see that the man was wearing some rather 70'es sunglasses, to go with the rest of his attire, but he seemed more amazed than actually frightened that she caught up with him this quick. He turned, spinning in place to look around at Octoman and Archer as they surrounded him, and let out a slight while. "Man, you guys are quick. Thought I'd get at least a bit farther before you caught up!" He was in his mid-twenties, not bad looking by any means, though no exactly a looker either. He smiled widely as he stretched his closed hands out to the side. "It's 'bout time some real heroes showed up, somebody's gotta make this fun, yeah? Mind if I give ya'll a lil' nudge?" 

 

He opened his hands, letting four silver balls from them. Before they hit the floor, they exploded in a brilliant, blinding light. Not one of the heroes had time to react, and when they opened their eyes once more, they found themselves in new, unfamiliar surroundings, with the man having disappeared.

 

They were in a small square room, completely black, except for neon lights running along the floor, the walls and the ceiling, shifting and moving around the entire room for quite a chaotic reception. Above, they could see an opening in the ceiling, with bright blue neon light pouring into their room. Not that they had long to gather their wits before the man's voice echoed through the room.

 

"Welcome one and all, its time for some fun! I've had fun with my games the last few weeks, but this one is for the gold! I'm the Pinball Wizard, kids, and no one's beaten me yet! If ya'll can beat me, I'll let all the old and busted players go, so get on with it, kids!"

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Stars and spots where in Spectres vision. She tried to cover her eyes, but the flash was faster. straining, she did her best to get get her bearing in this new place.

She spotted Octoman and frowned at the Retro-Rogues rambling. The teleporter moved in front of him and covered the side of her mouth from the red clad stranger that followed. "Guys Pinball Wizard. Dumb pinball games to save the peeps he's kidnapped. Really lame puns." She whispered, though her voice was barely audible. Spinning on the spot, she looked upo at the neon lights above. "Well then Que Ball, you gonna let us out?" She shouted with her arms outstreched dramatically. "Or are you just gonna brag about how super awesome your skillz are?"

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Octoman

 

Octoman smiled, nodded, tapped his fist against his chest twice in rapid succession, and then held it out to Spectre for a bump. With his other hand, he pointed two fingers at her, then at his own eyes, then at her again.

 

"Real talk?" he asked as he glanced around the room. "I kinda dig the whole AESTHETIC he's got goin' on here. Not, like, the Leisure Suit Larry vibe he's WEARIN', but the crib's pretty tight. Think I'm gonna get some Christmas lights for our room after we get outta here. I don't think the roomie'll mind, he's pretty chill. Unless it turns out he's got, like, some kinda light-vulnerability, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

 

His tentacles slipped free from his body, stretched out, and started sliding across every surface in the room, searching for openings. "Unless Saturday Night Fever up there made his little dungeon water-tight like a frog's butt-hole, there's gotta be some crack I can slip through. Don't wanna bust up any of these lights, though. The gas inside 'em isn't gonna, like, poison us DIRECTLY, but we can't breathe it either, and it doesn't look like it's got anywhere ta go. So the more of it we let loose floating around in here, the less room there is for the stuff we CAN breathe."

 

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Archer II

 

And suddenly they were somewhere else. A small room, neon lights everywhere. The Pinball Wizard that announced himself to them gone, but the two super powered kids were still there. Kids were probably wrong, they were maybe a year or two younger than Connor, even if their costumes and the guy's weird looks made it difficult to be sure.

 

The girl whispered something to the boy, the boy loudly announced something about roommates and the decor, then started stretching out tentacles from his body, searching all over the room. Connor just stared. This guy's powers were too weird.

 

Reaching back and replacing the arrow he had taken before with a grappling line arrow, Connor cleared his throat while he placed the arrow on his bow and aimed up at the hole above them. "Or we use the exit right here, even if its what he wants us to do." He shot the arrow up into the hole, the line flying after it until it connected somewhere. The whole thing about roomies and light vulnerabilities... were they from that super prep school like Facs? "I'm Archer. What do you call yourselves?" He remained short and to the point, waiting a moment for them to respond before starting to climb up the rope.

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GM

 

"You just gotta learn to appreciate it, but at least your taste's not entirely bad, Squidboy!" Obviously, the Pinball Wizard could hear them, his voice booming out in response to Octoman. "You're cool, but don't tilt the game, kid!" There was a slight hum or vibration to the walls, a brief second, before an electric shock rattled through them. The Pinball Wizard's laugh echoed from all around them. Either he didn't know that Octoman couldn't hear him, or he just didn't care. "Don't go breakin' the rules now, kids! Trust me, it'll be a shocking experience for ya'll!"

 

When Archer reached the top of the rope and exited the room, he would see a long straight hallway, done up in the same dark and neon, with arrows in the neon pointing ahead. The wall right behind him was completely black, the only point without any neon light at all. Further ahead, he, and the others if they followed could see the color arrows turning to the lift in a wide swing.

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Octoman

 

"YOWZA!" Octoman's suckers smelled the ozone just in time to recoil as the electric current started running through the walls. He simultaneously fell into a crouch and jumped into the air. With a loud, wet slurping noise, his body reflexively sucked his tentacles back inside the internal compartments where they rested when not in use, but the tentacles themselves didn't shrink back down to their normal length. A web of pseudopods still floated around him, but each one was now about two feet shorter than it had been. "Don't touch anything! Disco Stu up there electrified the walls! ¡MUY CUIDADO!"

 

Quote

"I'm Archer."

 

"Archer? Wait, as in, Force Ops Archer? Eighties Badass Archer? Man, I THOUGHT that costume looked familiar! Real talk, you KNOW that dude? The original article? Or are you just doin', like, a HOMAGE? That's kinda what I'm doin' too."

 

Quote

"What do you call yourselves?"

 

"Are you sayin' my reputation does NOT precede me? You tellin' me you never heard of THE CRIME-FIGHTING KRAKEN, THE LOUDMOUTH LEVIATHAN, THE SENSATIONAL CEPHALOPOD, the one, the only, THE OUTRAAAAAGEOUS AHHHCTOHHHMAAANNN!" He pointed twin finger-guns at Archer. "Check out the vlog! Like, comment, and subscribe!"

 

He sent a pair of tentacles writhing up through the shaft in the ceiling, stretching until they reached the top, where they splatted against the ceiling. As soon as the suckers had established a firm vacuum seal, the tentacles retracted, yanking Octoman up into the air.

 

Edited by Grumblefloof

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Spectre frowned as her hands vanished into her hood and started smoothing down her hair. "Electricity? This is gonna be murder on my hair." she muttered in a faux huff. The ghostly girl was already at the top of the opening before Archers arrow had hooked up, she waited for the others to reach the spot.

"Archer? So you're like coke to bowmans pepsi then?" She asked, her superhero history was nowhere near as complete as she would like. She sidestepped the Overactive Octopods overt overture and appeared next to Archer. "Spectre. If you had heard of me I would accuse you of stalking." She said with a smirk. A strange blue haze started to cover her and her body became partially transparent. "Gonna take a look."  And then she was gone, a smiling ghost being the only evidence she was talking to the older superhero.

The Teleporting Teen appeared at the edge the lift, crouched and still trailing the ghostly haze and investigating the strange lights. Anything gonna try and zap me up here? Or hit me?

Edited by Darksider42

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Archer II

 

"Only if you prefer coke." he replied to Spectre as he climbed up next to her. He stood up straight, pulling an arrow out from his quiver and placing it on his bow while he waited for Octoman to join them. Darkness in one direction, and a solid wall. More neon arrows pointing the other directions, down the bend. Seemed pretty obvious where the Pinball Wizard wanted them to go. 

 

Octoman and Spectre. Right, at least their names made sense. Octopus arms and teleporting ghost girl. 

 

"Yeah, I know him. The old man trained me." he finally replied to Octoman, while he looked ahead to Spectre. Leave it at that, no reason to share everything with people he had just met. "Anything I need to know about the two of you if we're gonna make it through this?" 

 

He followed, moving carefully, fully alert as he caught up with Spectre. 

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GM

 

With the group progressing ahead, Spectre noticed something where she had appeared. On the ground level, a pressure plate had sunk down under her. In fact, there were several of them scattered all around, being all but impossible to not step on. The edge of the round pressure plate under her foot lit up in the same spectacular neon as the arrows on the walls.

 

They all noticed the rumbling, and the vibrations in the floor. Behind them, the dark wall right next to the entrance slowly slid to the left, revealing a giant silver ball. It easily took up the entire space of the corridor they were in, with only a little bit of room at the corners where the ball didn't reach, far less than the room any of them took up. The ball slowly pulled back, away from the group, with the sound of a spring being tightened. The hole they had exited the first room through was gone, having been covered up while the ball was revealed.

 

In moments, it would be fired towards them. The heroes didn't exactly have long to react.

Edited by RocketLord

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Octoman

 

Quote

"Electricity? This is gonna be murder on my hair."

 

Octoman muttered. "Pfft, just be glad you still HAVE hair."

 

Quote

"Archer? So you're like Coke to bowmans Pepsi then?"

 

Quote

"Only if you prefer Coke."

 

Octoman raised his hand. "Let the record show, I ABSOLUTELY prefer Coke! It's like Pepsi, only, like, not watered-down."

 

Quote

"Yeah, I know him. The old man trained me."

 

"DUDE! That is SO COOL! That guy was LEGIT hardcore!" He reached out toward Archer and made a fist. "You MUST bump this!"

 

Quote

"Anything I need to know about the two of you if we're gonna make it through this?"

 

Octoman glanced around nervously, hanged his head for a moment with a pained grimace on his face, then shrugged, his decision made. He tapped Archer on the shoulder, motioned him to come closer, and leaned in. His tentacles crowded around his torso, creating a tunnel which shielded it from view, save for an improvised tunnel for Archer's eyes. Bright red block letters appeared on Octoman's chest.

 

I'M DEAF.

I'VE BEEN READING YOUR LIPS AND BLUFFING THE WHOLE TIME.

I'M PRETTY GOOD AT IT, HUH?

DON'T TELL ANYONE.

ESPECIALLY THE BAD GUY.

BUT ALSO, LIKE, IN GENERAL, JUST, Y'KNOW, DON'T BRING IT UP UNLESS I DO.

I JOKE AROUND BUT I'M STILL LEGIT PRETTY BUMMED ABOUT IT.

I'M ALSO TECHNICALLY NAKED, BUT THAT'S NOT IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW.

IT'S MAINLY THE DEAF THING, THAT'S THE TAKEAWAY.

 

"WHOA!" When the hallway started vibrating, the text vanished from Octoman's torso and his face darted around in every direction. When he saw the giant ball at the far end rearing up, he flattened himself against the side of the corridor, literally. His body splattered against the wall as if the giant ball had already rolled over it, squished down to no more than a centimeter in thickness.

 

Edited by Grumblefloof

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