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Bayview Mall

Freedom City, NJ

Monday, the 17th of August 2020

12:38 PM

 

Though school was nearly back in session, the last heady days of summer vacation were still slowly slinking towards their end. Thus, the malls of Freedom City were still seeing a great deal of use by the teenaged population of the city. In Bayview, that often meant that there were at least some students and students-to-be from the isolated and prestigious Claremont Academy. Thus, as sunlight lanced through skylights and windows, crowds of shoppers sought the newest fad Thing and students soon to return to class fled from the reality of their impending imprisonment.

 

A gentle breeze wafted through the air, carrying with it the myriad scents of a mall - perfumes, scented candles, cleaning products, and even the smells of foods of varying qualities. It was a lovely day, with just the barest hints of clouds marring the beautiful blue beyond the skylights. Some people, however, brought with them an abnormal tension, and those snippets of their conversations audible over the noises of the mall were... disturbing.

 

"- don't think that they'll tolerate it for long, do you?" 

"No, no, of course not. It's just, it's been three months!" 

"It'll be fine. They'll deal with it. Just you wait."

"But what if-"

 

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Bayview Mall… A great place to find some easy marks, people that were almost eager to be liberated from the content of their pockets. In fact, Luke had already spotted a few as his eyes navigated the legion of distracted shoppers, teenagers and families that crowded the mall. That was another chapter of his life though, that day he wasn’t there to score some ill gotten gains (and if things went his way, that wasn’t gonna happen ever again). 

 

Actually he had a very important 'mission': find for himself something nice to wear on his first day at the new school, investing the money that his parents had saved from that exact purpose. Now the truth was, the young man wasn’t planning to actually buy anything here, the overpriced designer crap that he could see behind the windows of Bayview posh shops wasn’t exactly his style (and besides he could find the same stuff off-brand or counterfeited for much cheaper in his neighborhood anyway), but whatever right? Taking a look would certainly not hurt and he had an afternoon to kill.

 

Still a leopard cannot change his spots and Luke could do nothing, but instinctively keep his attention on the crowd, besides, why not? Being aware of his surroundings had saved his life in the past and was and an useful habit to have in his new career of choice anyway. Not that there was much that caught his interest though, at first. 

 

Wait what?’ Now it wasn't his business and yet… The short exchange he had just listened to had a somewhat shady vibe didn’t it? 'Yeah right...

 

Sure he could just keep walking, but then again, if he was gonna be a superhero he had to learn to care right? And besides, if it was nothing, it would only take a few minutes to check the situation and then he could go back to his 'mission' with his conscience at ease.

 

It didn't take much, for the young man to blend with the crowd, pretending to stroll around idly minding his own business, while keeping his ears and eyes well open. Hopefully it would be enough to buy him time to figure out what was actually going on.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Muirne sat at a table watching the crowd, she'd chosen an emerald green summer dress and some comfortable sandals for this visit to Freedom and it still wasn't quite enough to avoid the heat. So she sat sipping on a strawberry smoothie, but had quickly lost interest as the pieces of conversation drifted to her. She'd been hearing more about the murders as she visited Freedom City more in anticipation of going to Claremont but didn't have any real context other than that they'd been... Gruesome.

 

She took a deep breath and finished the smoothie, she knew this was the sort of thing she should stop, but didn't have the information to do anything about it due to splitting her time between London and Freedom. So she'd just have to look for more if she wanted to get anywhere. She put the cup into a nearby bin and tried to get closer to the people talking about the murders without drawing attention, straining her ears to listen in to what was going on while simultaneously keeping an eye on the crowd. If she was going to investigate a murderer she had better keep her eyes open for anyone suspicious...

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GM

 

The two teens easily blended into the crowds - though for no real reason, other than to avoid the attention of the general public. To their knowledge, nothing was pursuing them or searching for them. Ironically, the two passed very close to one another within a few moments, even walking in parallel to one another as they progressed.

 

Muirne, her natural size working against her for now, did not see Luke moving through the crowd. However, she did get a clearer sense of the two speaking to one another. One was an older man, with pale skin, five o' clock shadow, and brown hair streaked with grey. The other was a younger, darker skinned woman, her features echoing his enough that she was likely a relative of some sort.

 

"- you think the Freedom League can't stop it? Or, heck, any other heroes?" The young woman was saying.

"Of course not. It's just been, you know, three months, like I said." The older man replied. "Why haven't they stopped it yet?"

"I dunno, but Freedom City's the center of heroism in the entire world. It'll stop, sooner rather than later."

 

There was a pause, and Muirne lost track of the pair in the crowd before she could hear anything else.

 

Luke, on the other hand, heard only snippets of the conversation. He had an excuse, however, as he caught an odd scent on the air as a breeze blows past him. Nothing he could put his finger on with any immediacy, just something out of place, and distinctly odd. It wasn't a scented candle or perfume. Certainly it wasn't food. It was no cleaning product he was familiar with, nor did it have the scent of body odor that was so common in places where people gathered.

 

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Lulu enjoyed the Bayview Mall; it was a favorite place  for Claremont students to hang out, and she had several happy memories associated with the place. But today, she wasn't here to hang out, she was here to shop; she was looking to buy a nice gift for her roommate Eira as a sort of 'welcome back to school' gift. She knew the robotic teen loathed most aspects of attending the school, so she thought a nice gesture might make things easier between the two of them. For maybe three days.

 

She wasn't having too much luck (she imagined Eira could smell Hot Topic miles away), but then she heard two people talking about the Freedom League, and not in an 'aren't they cool' way. Doing her best to look bored and inconspicuous, she used her ESP to scan the crowd while she pretended to look at her phone.

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Posted (edited)

GM

Lulu's ESP gave her an ear (and eyes) on the conversation between the older man and younger woman. However, even as she did so, she received an image from the past (or was it the future?) - the man entering an alleyway covered in blood, and falling to his knees to throw up, weeping. Beneath it all lurked a promise of "more," whatever that meant in this context.

 

Fortunately, the vision, though powerful, was brief. It released her back to the present within seconds, where she heard them continue their conversation.

 

"- know you miss her, but... they'll find who did it, Dad." Her voice was raw, but confident.

"I hope so." The man's voice, by contrast, was utterly defeated.

 

Lulu also caught sight of Luke walking in the background of the scene, though he seemed somewhat distracted.

Edited by secondling
getting the group together
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Ok great, there were spots in his neighborhood where those kind of conversations meant troubles, but this time it seemed mostly innocent.

 

Perhaps I’m just being paranoid…’ Besides, he could not exactly make out the words, but they were talking about the freedom league getting involved like it was a positive thing (although they considered it ineffective) so yeah, they were probably harmless. Sad, of course, but still nothing that required him to keep tailing them.

 

Maybe I can like… offer to help…’ He was sort of a superhero after all, not exactly an investigator though. He tried to follow them, but something caught his attention. A scent of… something. He couldn’t exactly say what. Weird. Still it stood out among the myriad of different ones that inundated his nostrils in the crowded mall. It came, from above or maybe? Well, now, he he probably had better things to do, but then again, it wouldn’t cost him much time to just check its source and anyway and it had managed to pique his curiosity.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Muirne's mouth twisted into a grimace. Three months of murders was too long, she couldn't stand by and ignore people dying. She didn't really have the skill set for an investigation, so she would probably have to find help, but where would she find someone who could help? She wasn't dressed in her armour, so she couldn't just fall back on the reputation gained from just wearing a mask. Maybe she should offer to help anyway. Would anyone take her seriously? If they did would that attract other people to help her investigate, or would it just isolate her and simultaneously paint a target on her back? How did other heroes team up? Did they just know each other? Did they have some application on their phones that she wasn't tech savvy enough to find?

Muirne kept searching around the crowd, listening for more information.

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While still apparently checking her phone (teenagers!), Lulu used her ESP to deftly navigate the crowd, almost like playing a top-down videogame. As she approached Luke's position, she lifted her eyes for half a second to greet him with a smile and a simple, "Hey." The young dragon quickly recognized her familiar scent from the night at White Castle, though now she was dressed much more casually. Her lips didn't move, but he heard her voice clearly in his left ear, though there was no trace of her breath: a mental projection, then.

 

"Ah think somethin' bad's about to go down; you pick up anythin' with your dragon senses?" 

Edited by Heritage
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Posted (edited)

GM

 

Even as Lulu asked him, the scent Luke had picked up grew stronger, coming lower, though he was fairly certain its source was still lingering above his head, moving a little faster towards the direction he'd been walking. Abruptly, it picked up speed, moving away from the two of them.

 

For herself, Lulu was suddenly consumed with inhuman fury, pressing down upon her. It was impossible, the sense of rage boiling within her - no human could hold this much anger within them, surely. It burned her brain, and she could practically feel her bones creaking underneath the sudden tension in her muscles. It was overwhelming, and nearly drove her to her knees under its ferocious weight.

 

Meanwhile, Muirne continued eavesdropping on the pair she'd noticed before, though she had to move more quickly to do so. Even as she moved, she felt a slight breeze, which would've been normal, except for the fact it was blowing in the direction she was going, and not against her face. Indoors, that was not normal - most modern buildings weren't as drafty as the ones she'd grown up with.

 

"I heard that there was another one just recently. Up in North Bay. The police have no ideas." The man was saying.

"Dad, please. Can we not talk about this any more? Let's just focus on enjoying ourselves, okay?" The girl replied.

 

As she followed, Muirne came across Luke and Lulu - one of whom was obviously under great stress. 

Edited by secondling
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"Murgh!" Lulu dropped her phone and clutched her head, her eyes squeezed so tightly shut that she saw flashes of color behind her eyelids. Her whole body quaked as muscle spasms shook her from within. Finally she fell to the ground, clearly in pain.

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Luke smiled when he saw Lulu join him. “Hey…"

 

Yeah, there is a stench or something I can’t exact-” Then he stopped in his tracks. ‘I guess it’s enough if I think about it right? You’re reading my thoughts now?’ Or maybe not? There was no way to tell right? Whatever, if she wasn’t things were going to get awkward pretty soon, so yeah...

 

Exactly figure out, it’s coming from up there...” He pointed with his eyes toward what he roughly believed to be direction of whatever was generating that unknown scent. 

 

Crap it’s running away.” Maybe whatever it was had realized that it had been found out, no way he would let that thing go tough. He looked around, for any way he could get to the floor above, stairs, or even a walkway, anything really, he could always jump after all… He was about to leave when Lulu suddenly collapsed. ‘Wha-’ He stopped on his track, catching his friend before she could hit the ground and holding her gently his arms. “Hey… what?” He had no idea about what to do didn’t him? Great. “How? Everything is going to be alright. What can I... can I do?” He asked, there was a hint of panic in his voice. 

Edited by Nerdzul
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Muirne chewed her lip as the pair stopped talking, there was another murder and no leads? She couldn't imagine such a thing, even when her family had visited Canterbury for Holy days there had not been so many people as to elude all possible notice had there? It seemed ridiculous that modern police with so much technology and training could not find anything. Unless superpowers were involved... Muirne re-framed her thoughts along that angle. She had done it after all, she hunted Dougal's men, picked them off one by one and they had no idea of what was stalking them in the shadows. People like herself were ever more common in this modern era, and surely she could not be entirely unique in her powers. Someone like her could probably continue to kill with impunity until a counter was found in the powers of the Freedom League.

Her thoughts broke off as she saw the redheaded girl collapse, obviously in pain and her friend caught her. Her feet moved before she really knew what she was doing. She quickly found herself kneeling next to the girl, looking up at the boy. "Is she alright? Is there anything I can do to help?"

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"There's somethin' bad....nearby! Anger, so much anger!" The telepath clutched her forehead and did her best to force the pain out of mind, but not lose the connection entirely; they'd need to be able to find the source. "Ah'm not sure it's even human!" Reaching out to grab her phone, she held out an arm and beckoned for assistance to her feet, because she was still feeling very wobbly.

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Hey…” Luke aknowledged the presence of the newcomer with a nod. “I dunno, she just collapsed…” He admitted. “Maybe some w-

 

A hint of relief flashed into his eyes as Lulu seemed to recover. Luke offered her an arm so that she could lean on him to stand up. 

 

Not even human… Awesome

 

Crap and it’s full of people here.” It will be a mess if a fight broke out at the mall. “We need to find it. And fast. I think I caught his scent before…” He looked upward, very visibly sniffing the air. They needed to catch that thing before it was too late. ‘Come on where are you?

 

Can you walk on your own? Maybe I can get to it.

Edited by Nerdzul
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GM

 

As the three spoke to one another, Luke noticed the scent was moving away, faster and faster. Something was definitely amiss. Meanwhile, Lulu could feel the wrath fading in the same direction - her proximity to it made it easier to bear. Well, at least bearable enough that she was able to move again, her body no longer rejecting the pure fury that no mere human could hope to contain within him-, her-, or themselves. 

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"Yeah, just gimme a sec," Lulu said with a nod as she rose to her feet unsteadily. "It's moving that way, fast." Her finger tracked the same way Luke's senses did.

 

When Muirne arrived, the telepath cocked her head to one side, not unlike a dog or a bird, and her eyes went a little unfocused as she took a quick look inside her head. She hated to do it, but her gut told her this girl was different, and they had to act fast. 

 

"Forgive mah rudeness, but you go to Claremont, don't you? Because we both do, and we could really use your help."

Edited by Heritage
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Muirne's eyes widened at Lulu's exclamation, something not human? She looked between the pair as Luke continued, eyes narrowing. "Do you know what it is?" She looked to Lulu as Luke asked if she was okay, about to offer aid when she said that she was alright. She was uncertain as to the odd look Lulu gave her, and was about to ask about it when she spoke. How did she know? Did she see her during her visit to the campus and hadn't mentioned it? Or was she just friends with someone who she'd met? The shadows pressed out slightly as she puzzled over how she knew but Muirne pushed them back. It'd gotten harder since Rurland after she'd pulled the darkness of the Shattenwelt into herself in a way she hadn't before, the energy seemed to sustain itself inside of her. She looked back at Lulu after regaining control of her power. "I'm going to Claremont this year. What do you need help with?" She could hear them out at least.

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GM

 

As they spoke, Lulu felt a more intense surge of rage from the mental presence in the distance, as well as a sharp spike of pain from someone else before it was cut short. Meanwhile, Luke smelled something dreadfully familiar - the iron-tinged scent of blood, also from the direction the scent had disappeared in. The scent of blood was growing even stronger just as he stood there. Something was very wrong over there. 

 

There were several shops in that direction - a jewelers', a clothing store, and a frozen yogurt shop... but on the opposite side of the hall from them, there was a small alcove - a corridor leading to an emergency exit. 

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The young man gave a sigh of relief when he realized that Lulu was indeed getting better. Sure, between the two of them, she was by far the most experienced hero and yet, he still felt the need to keep her safe, somehow. Anyway, whatever it was over now. They just had to track that thing before something irreparable happened. Hopefully they hadn't lost too much time yet.

 

Don’t worry she had the same effect on me.” Luke chuckled at Miurne’s confusion, sure the situation was tense, but then again… Mind readers right? 

 

Dunno, it’s like, something wrong is gonn-“ Luke knew the scent of blood and that was exactly what he had just caught hanging in the air.  

 

F-“ They were too late weren’t they?

 

It’s there.” He shouted as he dashed as fast as he could, giving little mind to the irate reaction of the crowd of mall goers as he cut a path toward the source of the scent.

 

Come on! Come on! Come on!

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"A killer," the telepath stated bluntly. "And ah think it just struck again." Lulu began running after Luke, hoping Muirne was following close behind. She cast her sight ahead of her, overlaying it over her normal vision so she didn't run into anyone. She could search the area in a matter of seconds, but she didn't look forward to whatever she found.

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Muirne smiled at the boy sheepishly, unsure as to the context of the joke but willing to go along to cut some of the tension when the boy tensed up, spitting out a few abortive sentences and taking off. She looked to Lulu when the girl spoke, blood draining from her face as she realised what that meant. She started running after the pair, feeling the shadows respond to her panic but pushing them back. She couldn't turn into a shadowbeast here. She hated to think of what she might find if what she'd heard of the latest murders was even half true, but if that was who they were hunting, she wasn't going to abandon the pair.

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