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Just past midnight

March 6th, 2021

In the shadow of the Doomforge


The House of Usher had returned.


The Raven had been after them for months at this point. He had researched the old Ushers that the previous Ravens had fought. He had been following any leads, stopped any of their operations he could find. All that he had learned was that they were back and their influence on Freedom City was growing. They had yet to meet another Usher directly.


A recent operation had uncovered one new piece of information, at least: The Ushers' base of operations were somewhere in Kingston.


And so, Raven and Nevermore headed towards Kingston, in the shadow of the Doomforge...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Raven and Nevermore sat in the Unkindness, perhaps a mile away from the wrecked Doomforge, half-hidden in a dark alley. The car was hunkered down with an extra layer of armor deployed, this one covering even the tires. It let them focus on the data screens in front of them. Raven's face looked like he'd eaten a week-old lemon. 


"They're not ghosts, but still hard to track. They know the game they're playing."


He tapped a few keys and several small holograms sprung up in front of each hero in his seat. Raven was silent for several moments before he continued. 


"Part of me wants to break them here and now, but they seem prepared for us, and I don't feel we're entirely prepared for them. This mission is going to be strictly recon. If we encounter more than one of them, drive off but do not focus on capture. They seem to love surprise attacks. Any thoughts on routes and tactics?"

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Nevermore II


"Ghosts would probably be easier to deal with." Charlie grimaced, looking through the holograms that Alek brought up before them. He hadn't been able to look into the Ushers nearly as much as he would have liked. He hadn't exactly been relaxing or anything, he had his own things to deal with at Claremont, but the whole Usher situation just rubbed him the wrong way.


"Got it. I saw what they did to Bowman last year." He wasn't about to take chances here. "I'd say stick to the shadows, but that one guy did something weird with them. Don't wanna risk him hiding in them." Charlie moved the holograms around, bringing up a map of the area.


"Everything's still in bad shape from the Terminus Invasion, right? We should stay high, out of sight. Stick to rooftops if possible, try and get a good overview. I don't think we should get too far from each other."

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Raven skimmed through some fuzzy satellite photos of the neighborhood. Nothing good enough to track the Ushers on, but enough to get a sense of the buildings.


"Make sure you've got some flash bombs."


He sounded irritated; Charlie could guess his boss hated not being able to rely on one of his most constant tools. Alek had once told Charlie he was practically born in the shadows, and was certainly raised in them. He had a natural talent for avoiding detection. 


"Rooftops is a good call. Better perspective. More escape options. Stick together. Same roof, unaugmented eyesight distance at most. Probably ought to shoot for something like 10-15 feet separation, easier to communicate."


He entered a command, and the holographic display shut down. The seals around the driver's compartment hissed as the canopy started to lift up. Alek grabbed a couple of extra items and clipped them onto his belt before he climbed out. He surveyed the alleyway for several moments, until Nevermore had exited the Unkindness as well. Then he tapped a couple of discrete buttons on the inside of his gauntlet, and the car-tank sealed itself up tighter than a bank vault. The dark avenger of justice then turned to the nearby building and raised one hand toward the roof. There was a nearly-silent hiss of air as a thin grapnel line extended out, and a whirring that was barely louder as he started to ascend. He jogged up the wall to speed up, and his voice carried over his shoulder.


"Let's move."

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The tenacious two reached the rooftop with no issue. They could see the Doomforge in the distance, the Unkindness parked beneath them. The street ahead still showed the signs of the Terminus Invasion. Craters in the road. Boarded up windows. The tops of some buildings were just gone.


Kingston was silent, but not completely abandoned. People moved in the streets, even at this late hour. Most stuck to the shadows, out of sight. Some moved with fear. Others with confidence.


Ahead, there was a small gathering of people on the street, standing under a broken street lamp. Four men, two women, wearing random clothing. They were clearly armed. For now, they were silent, looking around, sometimes motioning to each other and pointing if anyone passed them by, before quickly resuming their vigil.

Edited by RocketLord
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Nevermore II


"Got it."


Nevermore raised his own gauntlet towards a building, firing off a line that attached and then pulled him up. A silent shadow moving in the night alongside Raven, he landed on the rooftop and quickly folded his cape around him.


He moved ahead, towards the edge of the roof. Perched like this, at the corner of the rooftop? Charlie had to admit that it just felt cool. He knew this was serious, but he couldn't keep a slight grin from his lips, though he made sure to quickly suppress it when Raven caught up to him.


Nevermore pointed towards the group, then tilted his head slightly, as if to say "what about those guys?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Raven III


Raven took in the scene with a visible frown on his face. Charlie knew Alek was chewing on the problem. Multiple angles, multiple options. After a half-minute of thinking, he nodded, apparently to himself. Then he moved his hands through a rapid series of gestures, before tapping his cowl in a way as to send a signal to Nevermore's own Head's Up Display. 


--Move to rooftop above them. Tag designated mark with drone.--


He'd marked the top of the broken street lamp, where the metal curved up above the position of the bulb. Even if it had cast light, it would be a hard place to see, especially if they used one of their small recon drones. They were basic disc-shaped devices, barely able to do more than course-correct after being thrown. But the robo-crows were still being worked on, and would be a bit obvious if they flew in now


Raven followed his own advice and quietly moved between the rooftops until he was almost overhead of the small group. There he crouched and waited, the glow of his cowl-lenses almost entirely gone, and his form naturally blending into the shadows. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nevermore II


Drone. Right. Got it.


It was kinda weird. Charlie had gotten used to acting on his own, or at least without supervision. He was good, he was confident, but the moment he was back with Alek it was like he was learning everything all over again. He hadn't even realized it until now.


--Got a better one--


He reached into his belt and sent out a small raven shaped drone. It moved quickly, its coating reflecting the area around it, giving an illusion of it being almost invisible. 

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The drone moved silently until it had reached location that Raven had pointed out, where it silently attached itself to the top of the broken streetlight. 


The voices it recorded were transmitted directly to Raven and Nevermore's cowls.


"I dunno, man. Don't like this." A woman's voice. Shaking slightly, like she was cold.


"What's not to like?" one of them asked.


"Like, those Ushers? I know they pay well and all, but they creep me out. Have you seen they way they're actin' around each other? I'm telling you, they're not right."


One of the others scoffed. "Who cares? Pay's good. Benefits? Good. No capes wanna come in here and mess with the House, man."

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  • 3 weeks later...

The cowl of the Raven's suit covered all of his upper face; his eyes were hidden behind one-way lenses except for very rare occasions when dealing with scared civilians, or calmly speaking with heroes or law enforcement. A dangerous situation like this, they were down, obscuring all but his mouth. Despite the armored plating above them, Nevermore knew that his mentor had raised an eyebrow in curiosity at the Raven-drone. Clearly he hadn't realized that at least one such drone had been completed. The vigilante's attention turned to the streets below for several moments; he was clearly assessing the situation. 


Finally, he pulled his gauntlet up and uncovered the small tablet within. A few taps and swipes, and both of their HUDs had a basic sketch of a plan. Nevermore clearly saw that Raven wanted the drone to move further down the street then produce a noise to attract attention. Meanwhile, Raven would silently zip down and grab one of the thugs.


While his apprentice worked to reprogram the drone, Raven was carefully rearranging components on his suit and equipment harness. A slim plate extended over his mouth, sealing his cowl up entirely. After a few moments, his cap retracted up into a small pack, and the surface of his suit smoothed out. In the blink of an eye, his form blended into the background, rendering it essentially invisible even to Nevermore's suit's vision. There was no sound as Raven moved to the edge of the roof and waited. The only signal Nevermore got that he was ready was a set of 3 rapid clicks on their communication headset, only just audible within Nevermore's own cowl.


These criminals were in the realm of the predators of the night, now. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nevermore II


The plan was simple enough, but then again, they didn't really need to get too complicated for these guys, did they? They looked like small fry, but then again, that was exactly the right kind of people to get the dirt on the Ushers and figure out what they were up to. Knew just enough to be useful.


Nevermore nodded once. Yeah, alright, he could do that. He wasn't a mechnical genius or anything, but he knew enough, and he had tinkered with the drones for a while. 


He stayed in hiding while he moved the drone. He'd be backup, just in case.


Once the drone had moved a bit away from the group, Nevermore picked a noise from his library. Soon after, the drone emitted a the noise of a loud car coming down the street. Not too unusual, but enough to make them turn and look.

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"What the hell?" 


The loud noise drew their attention. The entire group turned and looked. Why wouldn't they, after all?


And there was nothing there. Nothing to make the noise.


Of course, there was something else out there, hiding in the shadows... Waiting to strike.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As the group turned to face the noise, an unseen predator moved. Raven, his boots barely scuffing the ledge of the roof, leapt off. His grapnel line spooled out until he landed in a quiet crouch, directly behind the woman who'd spoken with some fear of the Ushers. After all, predators often sought the weakest member of the heard. 


The woman found herself locked in the embrace of an unseen force, her mouth held closed and her arms gripped behind her back. She felt what seemed like a leg wrap around hers, keeping her from kicking out. And in moments, she was flying through the air toward the roof of the building behind her. There, a dark shadow waited to drag her onto the roof. As she was hauled up like a sack of grain, a voice grated in her ear.


"Stay silent until told to speak, and you'll go free and unharmed."


She was bodily picked up, her mouth still covered for the moment, and carried to the far side of the roof.


"I'm going to uncover your mouth so that we can safely move to the next roof. Don't scream. I will not drop you."


Assuming she didn't try to cry out, Raven would follow through and move them to the next roof over, taking her to the side farthest from her compatriots. Only then would his suit seemingly materialize, as he signaled for the active stealth components to drop away. The plate over his mouth slid back, and an unamused look was on his face.


"Now. We have some questions."

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The two men didn't even realize what was happening until the Raven had struck and the woman was gone.


"Damn, man! What the hell?" 


The other shook his head and looked around. "Where's she go, man? Did she run off?"


The first looked around, scratching his head. "I dunno, man. Not her style. 'sides, where'd she go, then?"




The woman barely managed to let out a muffled scream as the Raven embraced her and pulled her back. When he told her to be quiet, she did as she was told, the fear almost shining in her eyes as he pulled her to the next roof.


"Aw, man... you... you're the Raven, aren't you?" She looked over his shoulder at Nevermore, then back to him. "I, I wasn't doing nothing! Just... just let me go, I'll do what you say!"

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Nevermore II


Alek was poetry in motion. Quick, silent as the night and, well... the woman had no idea what happened before Alek was already pulling her away. While keeping an eye on the controls for his drone, Charlie moved to meet them.


He stayed back, a grin on his lips as he kept an eye on the other two guys, just in case they tried anything.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Raven gave the young woman a few moments to catch her breath and find her voice. When she said she'd do as he said, he smiled, very slightly. It was not an entirely comforting expression.


"Yes, I am. As for what I want, it's just information. Anything and everything you know about these Ushers. Tell me that, and you go free; the only thing I'll ask you to do is never deal with them again."


He shifted back slightly, giving her some perceived space. He was more than close enough to stop her from running, and probably even from screaming. But he hoped that the perception she had more room would relax her a bit.

Edited by KnightDisciple
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The woman looked to relax, just a little bit, as the Raven gave her some space.




She seemed uneasy, at best. Probably scared out of her mind still, staying back and away from the Raven. 


"It's not the easy. You don't just leave the House."

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Nevermore II


Charlie wasn't sure if he could do what Alek was doing. The whole big, bad, dark avenger of the night deal just wasn't him. Sure, he could put on an act, but not the way that Alek was doing.


It probably wasn't surprising that the Ushers wouldn't just let people leave them. The way they had their fingers in everything now, they had the reach to get to anyone.


He sent a quick message to Alek's HUD. 


Can we protect her from the Ushers?

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"If you find yourself concerned about repercussions, then we will do what we can to see you sent away from this city. Even if the Ushers are powerful, they are powerful here, not everywhere."


The Raven sounded confident. And it made sense; the Ushers were a threat, but they were a threat on the scale of a single city, not an entire nation


"And in time, we intend to ensure they are not a threat to anyone. Freedom City's heroes and law enforcement take their jobs very seriously, and it's rather hard to run criminal empires from Blackstone."


He crossed his arms and tilted his head, reminding the young woman of his namesake in that moment.


"Tell me, do you think life would be better for you if you simply continued to work for the Ushers?"

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  • 2 weeks later...



"You don't get it, man." The woman was almost shaking. "The Ushers, they get their hooks in everyone. They don't care who you are. They'll get to you, somehow. If they can't find dirt, then they'll make sure to help you make dirt. If you're not gonna play ball, then they'll kill you!" 


She was really starting to shake now, taking a step back.


"It's like... being here in Kingston? Near the Doomforge? Its doing things to them, man. They were already weird and creepy when they first showed up, but they're just getting worse. I... I'm not sure not being in the city will even help anymore."

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Nevermore II


Alright, alright, then. Time to be the good cop to Raven's bad cop, right?


"Hey, listen to what Raven says here. We got friends out there that's damn well powerful enough to keep you safe while we take down the Ushers. Remember, the Raven took down the first Ushers, no problem. We'll just be doing what he did again."


He put on a good show, but honestly, Charlie wasn't quite as confident as he sounded.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Raven would probably have leaned further into the 'bad cop' routine, but this girl seemed frightened.


"You're scared of the Ushers. I understand that. But they are not all-powerful or unstoppable. We deal with 'weird' and 'scary' all the time. Let us worry about taking them on."


He stood there, nearly as still as a statue, the only movement showing being his mouth and the fluttering of his cape in the slight breeze that was present. 

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Raven looked at the frightened young woman, and then glanced slightly to Nevermore. He took two steps back, and his mouthpiece snapped shut, hiding his lips and muffling his voice. 


"We don't. Psychic work, sounds like. We need to get her to someone in the League who can break any connections and disarm any...hidden commands."


Charlie knew Alek was  tense. The idea of implanted commands was a bit of a sore idea for the vigilante. Before Charlie could say anything, Raven stepped forward again, his faceplate retreating to show his mouth once more. He knelt down and gave the young woman a serious look, but one with no anger.


"I understand being afraid of that. Afraid of losing yourself to someone else's desire. But let me tell you something: no one owns anyone. We can help you; we will take you to people who can cut their hold on you. Just let us help you. Please."

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