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Summer 2023


They were there for various reasons. Echohead and Predator had been contacted through their connections to the US government; Mirror Knight had been reached through a third-party contact. But they were all here in what was typically the main conference room of the Wharton State Forest's main ranger office, having been contacted by the New Jersey state police and asked to gather together with one of their top agents. There were light drinks and snacks and a fine view of thickly growing pine trees outside, a legacy of the nature heroine Fleur de Joie's recent visit to the park. But so far, nobody had come to join them yet. 

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Echohead wore dark sunglasses and an impervium weave black trenchoat. At his belt swung a bleeding edge variable pistol. He looked cool. 


He felt cool too, thanks to the high tech heat dispersal systems in his suit. No sweating for Echohead. 


But he didn't feel the other type of cool. He felt like a tremulous wreck, and the reason he felt like a tremulous wreck was because that was exactly what he was. 


Like a moth to a flame, he craved being a super spy in the centre of an action film, sipping vodka martini's. But he was short, ugly, and scared. 


But still... AEGIS had faith in him. Or at least pretended to have faith in him. 


He stroked his almost completely absent chin. That was the problem. You couldn't trust spy types, could you? He could pluck out all sorts of things from a man's brain - but he couldn't read what he plucked out. 


He shook himself out of his paranoid ponderings and focussed on the now. 


At least the scenery was pretty. Umberto always liked the company of plants...



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Jean stood at the windows overlooking the beautiful park. Greenery stretched out as far as the eye could see. She loved technology. It was always on her mind. She was constantly running over schematics. Considering hypothetical tests. Searching for the next breakthrough and calculating how she could apply it to her armor…


But this, this was nature. This was the greatest experiment. If you dig deep enough true wonders could be found. Discoveries that some would label ‘miracles’… And she would be hard pressed not to admit it was breathtaking sometimes.


Her hands were clasped behind her back. She wore black slacks specially tailored for her digi-grade legs that accommodate her fluffy fox tail. Her blouse was a comfortable opaque white number that did a reasonable job of not revealing anything under it. She wore custom flats and no jewelry, but an earbud was noticeable if one looked. She didn’t bother with any makeup either, not that her fur covered face and muzzled made it necessary.


Even as she acknowledged the splendor of the forest, half of her attention was on the reflections of those she shared the room with. She had read what reports she could on those that would be attending this meeting, but she watched them each intently.

Edited by Spacefurry
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Mirror Knight


Jonathan Rorrim stood in the offices overlooking the park along side whom he presumed to be the other two heroes, his mirror plexiglass "armour" largely useless in the traditional sense of protective gear shimmering with the warped reflections of the burgeoning forest below and casting scintillating shards of light around him.


truth be told he was somewhat worried, he'd not been as active in the superhero community as he had liked due to his busy day to day life and as a result the rust had begun to creep in, he wasn't as fast or as coordinated as he once had been, hopefully the adrenalin would help him compensate.


spying from the corner of his eye that the young ladies eyes were briefly flicking between his and the other gentlemans reflections he opted to try to break the icy unease that had filled the room with silent contemplation, using his powers he made his reflection look back at its observer and wave.


"A pleasure to meet you both." he began, voice dry and parched from the heat even with the cooling vest he wore beneath his suit. "I'm Mirror knight, whom might you both be, if you don't mind me asking?" he continued as he made his way to the inviting jug of water, omnipresent in almost every meeting room, stage set or an actual building, he'd ever stood in. pouring himself a glass and taking a deep sip to soften his throat. "ah, now that's better, you won't believe how hot it gets in here!" another sip and a gently swaying of his helmed head to wash it more effectively around his mouth  "The price I must pay to be this fabulously sparkly, one supposes."


people loved a showman, right?

Edited by Exaccus
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Jean was watching the men when Mirror Knight’s reflection waved. Her eyes flicked back over her shoulder and she noted that he himself had not moved. It matched what little she had read. It was described as the ability to manipulate reflected light, but Jean suspected there could be more to it.


That aside, she turned from the windows and crossed her arms. Shifting her weight she cocked her head as her inhuman eyes followed Knight as he crossed the room.

“My name is Jean Dweomer. But you may know me from the news as Predator.”

She said in a conversationally matter-of-fact tone. Her identity was public knowledge, though she found few actually remembered her name only her hero persona. She didn’t mind.


Her intense gaze seemed to be sizing him up when she spoke again.

“Proper ventilation and temperature control is essential to the extended use of armor.”

She commented before glancing over at the third member of this little gathering.

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Gotta look cool. Gotta look cool...


Echohead sauntered over to the other two, imagining his cool suit flapping in slow motion in the wind, and a zephyr tugging away the lapels to reveal tantalising glimpses of his cool gun. 


He fell flat on his face. 


He was not a clumsy man by nature, but when a man tries so incredibly hard to walk a cool walk, and focusses on every muscle and movement, the brain will misfire. Plus, there was a gnarly root that conspired to catch his boot at a particularly impressive time. 




He had a mouthfull of moss and a suspiciously coloured mushroom. He hoped he wouldn't go on a trip. 


"I mean..." he gabbled, pulling himself and dusting himself off. "I mean greetings, fellow heroes... I am Echohead, a tenth level... no wait, thats the computer game. I am Echohead, agent of AEGIS!"


He wasn't technically an agent, but they did help him. He wasn't that bothered. 


He noticed he had grass stains on his cool suit. That bothered him. 


"But the real question is.... who has gathered us, and why?"


He waited for the horn stabs to emphasise his words, but there was only the rustle of leaves. He had to fight off the urge to pass wind as dramatic punctuation to his statement. Now that, he realised, would be incredibly uncool. But with the realisation the urge just became stronger. He clenched his buttocks. 

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As if summoned, their host appeared - a square-necked, middle-aged New Jersey state trooper with the markings of a high-ranking officer as he stepped inside the open office. "Well hello," he said cheerfully. "I'm Captain Mike Scarlet from Trenton, and you must be our consultants." He looked around the room, taking in the battered-looking Echohead, the inhuman Predator, and the mirror-maze that was Mirror Knight, and smiled a little too broadly. "Great. Okay, well. Why don't we all sit down and get inside; it's - dangerous out there, I guess. You okay there Echohead? Do any of you want anything? I can have my secretary get us some water..." He took a seat at the head of the table, waiting as the others came back inside. 


"Thank you all for coming," he said more seriously, "I know this was on short notice, but you've all come recommended to us by various means." He produced three file folders from his briefcase and passed them around, which revealed the image of a middle-aged man with frosted tips, posing by a boogie board and winking at the camera. "This is Xavier Cardonas; the tech billionaire from New Mexico. I don't know if any of you are familiar with his work, but he's coming to Freedom City this weekend - and there have been some security concerns." Scarlet explained that threats against Cardonas's life had been made by the Earth Freedom Alliance, "a bunch of hippies who usually aren't this militant, but it's been a crazy damn year." Scarlet scratched his square chin thoughtfully. 

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"Well if this isn't a guy who posts everything he does on social media call me a baked potato in tin foil." Mirror knight mumbled to himself as he skimmed the file "Do we know why they're after him, has he called them out or something? what Modus Operandi they favor? We expecting metahumans?" he was tempted to ask about the hourly rate for billionaire babysitting but instead opted for a more constructive final question "whats got him coming to freedom city this weekend?"


Please not a surfing competition or whatever the heck that thing he's posing with is.


"I would hope its something direly important to risk a weekend in the metahuman crook capital of the united states with an active threat against him."

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Jean flipped through the folder, her eyes searching for various keywords. She glanced up at Mirror Knight, answering reflexively, before Cpt Scarlet could.


“The EFA normally operate as anti-technology extremists, focusing on sabotage and property damage. Their target usually being electrical and communications infrastructure.”

She said, giving what she thought was the most direct and accurate description.


She looked over at Cpt Scarlet.

“They don’t seem to normally resort to kidnapping. Has there been a change in leadership amongst the EFA?”

She asked, adding to Knight’s query.

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"We're not talking kidnapping here," said Scarlet. "They have said that he will quote, 'get what's coming to him.' Which makes them sound like a bunch of children if you ask me, but if we know anything about Freedom City, it's that some children have a lot of power," he added seriously. "This kind of radicalism _is_ unusual for the EFA; but since they're so hard to infiltrate, we don't actually know much about their internal operations. We do know that the state chapter in New Jersey has a high number of metahumans and was recently disavowed by the main organization in Pennsylvania. That's why we don't have the feds involved." 


He handed out some more paperwork to the group, showing them hard copies of the various threatening letters - actual physical letters, sent to Cardonas. "Cardonas is here to speak at a private dinner of some of his fellow titans of industry; supposedly to do fundraising for some of his personal charities, but more likely to lay the groundwork for a Presidential run." He snorted, sounding skeptical. "People like That would make him the feds' business too...but we're not there yet. The good news is that he takes the threat seriously; the bad news is that he says the only kind of security he'll accept is metahuman. We can't force a private citizen to use security...but it could help save lives if somebody makes a play for him."



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"The EFA? Some kind of luddites?" asked Echohead, stroking his hairless chin. 


His chin was so weak it could arguably be called not only a hairless chin, but a chinless chin. 


The thought made his hand snap down and try to occupy itself in some otherway, flapping like a kite in the wind. 


"Ah. g-glass of water would be swell, thankyou Captain Scarlet". What?! he admonished himself trying to make some quip about water and swell? Stop trying to be cool and act cool instead!


Alas, Echohead was caught up in his desire to look like a cool spy from the films. The desire would not relinquish its grip anytime soon, no matter how ferociously it self strangulated. 


"Are they really going to... murder Xavier? That seems rather ah... extreme. So I guess we go to the speaking event? We are his security detail?"


It bothered Echohead. 


"Wish we had more to go on. I feel like we are in the dark. Who know's what the ETA will pull?"

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Jean said, acknowledging her own fault, having jumped to a false conclusion.

“Yes, that phrasing would insinuate a more violent event.”

Turning her attention back at the contents of the folder, she frowned. She didn’t like the sound of a splinter faction.

“This separation of the splinter group could simply be an attempt to distance the majority of the members from the actions of the offshoot. Plausible deniability. As well as limiting the reactionary capabilities of the federal forces. But that’s simply more speculation.”

She nodded to no one in particular.

“We should probably focus on the more tangible threat at hand.”


She looked back up, accepting the new papers. Looking over them her brow furrows. At the mention of rumored presidential Jean looked up with a raised eyebrow.


“If they make a move after he makes an announcement like that. It would only add to their legitimacy.”

She frowned and leaned back.

“No police or direct federal involvement.”

Jean mentally weight the pros and cons of the situation. She nodded thoughtfully.

“Like Mr. Echohead, I assume there will be private security. If not Mr. Cardonas’ own, then the event’s? And while not directly involved, local and federal forces will be on standby?”

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"I have my misgivings of course, about billionaires, presidential candidates, extremist groups and if im totally honest there is just something i find to be off about this whole thing, how convenient a chaotic metahuman battle might be for someone attempting to run a tribute campaign to moore against our current presidents pro-metahuman stand."

he said bluntly, letting his words sink in for a moment before continuing.


"But i aspire to be called a hero and that means something, that my personal feelings are unimportant, that when someone asks for help i do not refuse for any reason, that i boldly walk into the most obvious traps because the wellbeing of others is something i do not gamble with...that justice must be for all, or else it is false." he resolved, as much to himself as the other people present, chest puffing out imperceptibly as he spoke.


"you can tell Mr. Cardonas that I will be there."

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Jean looked to Mirror Knight. She would admit she had a bad tendency to ignore politics in favor of her work.

“You make a valid point.”

She said.

“Just because we know it’s a trap and we are willing to walk into it doesn’t mean one should do so blindly, or without preparation.”


She turned her head and reached up to tap her earpiece, lowering her voice only a little.

“Cynthia, give me a search on Xavier Cardonas. Correlate any mentioning of meta-human activities. Include social media, articles and interviews.”

There was a pause as Jean obviously received a reply, then nodded. 

“Good, I’ll check the data later.”

She returned her attention to the others.


She folded her hands and rested them on top of the folder. Her fox ears turned towards the captain.

“Sorry for the interruption, please continue.”

She said apologetically.

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"I wish we knew more," admitted Scarlet, gesturing to Echohead first, and then the others, as his secretary came back with the water. "But as I said, their resistance to technology makes them hard to infiltrate. We do have evidence that they are planning some sort of demonstration, violent or otherwise, to coincide with Cardonas's appearance in Freedom City. Between the volatility of a Freedom City crowd and the availability of metahuman mercenaries, almost anything is possible." 


"New Jersey state police will be on-site; and Cardonas has private security he's worked with; I don't know if you're familiar with the group Iron Talon? In any event, they'll be armed and on scene as well, as is usually the case when he has public appearances. You can find more information about them in the files I've provided. If you are all in," Scarlet added, "I'm sure you'll want to spend time conferring and preparing. Is there anything else?" 

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"Uhh... sounds like it could go wrong a thousand ways" said Echohead, scratching his bald plate. 


"But if we can help, we will. Politics, guns, angry crowds, passionate ideologues... what could possibly go wrong?"


He twiddled his fingers. 


"I don't need anything more. Except, with your permission... your brain?"


I sound like a zombie... that didn't come out right, did it?


"I mean, not your actual brain. I'm not that hungry huh-huh...."


Idiot! If you want to be a comedian, copy a comedians brain!


"I mean, captain Scarlett, you clearly have a wealth of experience and skills in intelligence. With your permission, could I copy those skills into my own head? It would be useful to have in the field. Don't worry, I don't read thoughts. Most I could find out about you is that you have a special aptitude for underwater basket-weaving...."

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“Hands are tied I suppose.”

Jean nodded and opened her folder again, flipping through pages.

“We have liaison contact information for the assigned police forces and this ‘Iron Talon’?”

She glanced up at Cpt Scarlet.

“Are there any known anti-tech meta-humans, or at least ones sympathetic towards the EFA, that would take an interest in Mr Carbonas’ activities?”


Jean looks to Mirror Knight and Echohead,waiting to see if they had any more questions themselves.


At Echohead’s request she tilts her head in curiosity as she look in his direction, then back at Cpt Scarlet. When the man seems to acquiesce to the request Jean sits back and watches both men intently, not unlike a predator watching prey.

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Try as he might mirror knight couldn't bring up any other lines of inquiry to pursue at the moment so he opted to silently contemplate his own misgivings to see what Insight he could glean from his instincts.


Noting the intense stare that predator was giving echohead and captain scarlet did something that seemed similar to the Vulcan mind meld, or so far as he understood it.


"Everything ok?"

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Umberto paid only half a mind to what was being said. Is other half a mind was absorbing half a mind from a full mind to augment his mind with another mind. 


In other words,


With Captain Scarlett's permission he reached into the agents brain. He couldn't read what was in there, but he could sense the man was smart, experienced. It was not a conscious process, and not visible, but to Umberto's strange mind's eye, tendrils of pulsing purple light flowed from one head to the other. Nobody else could see it, but that's how it felt to Umberto's imagination. With every pulse, he could feel knowledge and skill being copied into his brain. 


What did Captain Scarlett know?


Umberto had no idea. But he could feel the copy in his head, feel the newfound confidence in how to investigate a crime scene, or interrogate a suspect, or create a psychological profile of a spy. 


With this newfound vortex of knowledge, the conversation made a little more sense. 


"Thanks... err.... nothing to worry about, folks. All in a day's wory for Echohead! Just making sure that I know what the hell I am doing if we need a spy on scene. I mean... ah... obviously I am very skilled and experienced..."


In gardening... came the inner voice. 


"... but I can copy peoples talents. And Captain Scarlett here seems to know more than any of us". 


Umberto tapped the side of his bald head and gave a knowing wink. 


"So I think we best be off. Before someone gets shot or blown up, or stabbed with a poison tipped umbrella!"

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In a series of follow-up meetings, the team spent the next couple of days getting things arranged for Cardonas's visit, a matter complicated by how balky their would-be protectee actually was. Conversing with the heroes by video chat, he was obviously deeply skeptical of any threat against him. "Listen, I hate hippies as much as the next man," he said with bravado that showed his too-white teeth, "but these losers couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag. The real problem?" he added. "is the way the government doesn't want crypto undermining the Fed's control of our way of life..." He went on like that for some time. 


His head of security, an Iron Talon plainclothes officer named Lawrence, was considerably more professional - though not particularly helpful. Cardonas would be making his speech to the investor group (who were actually called The Investor Group, in a sign that meant they were either too rich to bother with a better name or too boring, same same) at the County Convention Center near the edge of the state forest, giving him some distance from Freedom proper. He'll be landing at Jordan International Airport "to attract maximum publicity" and be taking a motorcade "same, and to show off the latest model of electric Car-Donas" to get to the Center. He'll go in the front door (to make sure they can see him), be the guest of honor at the meeting, give his speech, and then fly in his personal jet back to his corporate headquarters in Albuquerque. 


The heroes are welcome to be there and Lawrence will be happy to work with them; but they'll need undercover plainclothes identities so that Cardonas's wealthy friends aren't spooked. At this point they'd better get a move on... 


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Plainclothes? Plainclothes it was. Which means no bulletproof cool black suit. Echohead stuffed it in a over-the shoulder scuffed bag, along with his variable pistol. Instead, he wore completely unremarkable t shirt and cords. Like any innocuous tourist. His shades, he left on. Bald, short, and ugly, he would still stand out and attract a few gazes. But nobody would peg him as a superhero. Quite the opposite, in fact. 


He shuddered. He felt exposed without his suit. It was not merely it was made of impervium alloy weave and could stop a bullet in its track - although that was exposing enough. It was psychological, too. With it on, he felt like a cool superhero. Without it, he was plain old Umberto, with a face that seemed to attract bullies from across the continent - or further. 


He pressed his hands to his bald scalp. He had a headache. He hoped it wasn't a migraine. 


He had spent the last few days using Captain Scarletts skills in gossip. Innocuously asking the right people around town the right questions. 


Who were the Iron Talon? What was the word on them? What secrets did they hide?


Umberto didn't trust them. They seemed a bit to much like jumped up pseudo nazi's with boots and guns. But Umberto was a paranoid soul. 


He rubbed his head again. The headache was getting worse...


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With each follow up meeting with Mr Cardonas, it was more and more abundantly clear he was not the man of intellect and innovation PR attempted to paint him as.At least Mr Lawrence was more helpful.

Even though his itinerary seemed like it was arrange to allow every possible attempt on his life, the Iron Talon were taking it seriously from the sound of it. She conferred with Lawrence and Scarlet on her list of potential meta-treats, working with them to evaluate the legitimacy of each and locating them if possible.


At his invitation to attend in ‘plainclothes’ she had to give the man a smirk. Plainclothes would do little to hide her amongst the crowd. It was a disadvantage of her appearance, but give the public image of her as a technological hero she suggested her presence as an independent observer to the fundraiser could be hand waved as professional curiosity. She reassure Mr Lawrence she would still attend in ‘plainclothes’.

Edited by Spacefurry
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"I'm afraid I can't do plainclothes, my identity is a secret by necessity, though i will endeavor to be around the area outside during the conference, hopefully if something goes wrong i won't be too far out to help out, feel free to contact me on this frequency." he stated, in no uncertain terms "I apologize for the inconvenience but it is vital to my and people I care abouts' wellbeing that I not tip my hand in that regard at all." and on that point he refused to budge, not a millimeter.


Perhaps it was better this way, he never knew when the strange entity that haunted him would strike, only that it would be sudden, violent and seemingly vindictively driven to cause him the most trouble possible.


true to his word he had made sure to be reasonably within range of the area around the conference, his helmets communicator open to the frequency he had specified in the meeting watching over the area like a glittering silver gargoyle perched on a roof top, a small bag of water bottles and snacks secured in his perch


hopefully he wouldn't be needed.

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Everything seemed to go smoothly at first. The various wealthy bigwigs of the Investor Group began arriving at the Convention Center around five on the evening of the fundraiser, letting the valet park their cars as they headed inside under the eyes of a few fashion and high society reporters badgering them with questions and photographs. This wasn't a red carpet event as such, but it wasn't an anonymous business meeting either - everyone was dressed to their best. Even the Iron Talon guards who were here and there looked to be wearing high-end suits over their high-end body armor. 


Dinner was some high-tech molecular gastronomy provided by one of Cardenas's subsidiaries, a foam that tasted like chicken ala king, a drink that was clearly peas, all very fancy and high-tech. Entertainment was a series of jokes by Cardenas's favorite comedian, a fast-talking middle-aged guy with mirrorshades and slicked-back hair who Predator vaguely recognized as a guy who was in bad favor because of an illicit-but-not-illegal relationship with a lady much younger than him. 


Cardenas was due to arrive at 7PM, after dinner, after the entertainment, to make sure everyone understood he was the main event. Predator had been able to find that Cardenas was strongly pro-metahuman, particularly science and futurist types himself, though he didn't have a great reputation in the community despite a putative generous nature when it came to funding heroes. His funding tended to have strings attached and so most experienced heroes had put the word out about not actually working with him. 

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Echohead adjusted his tie. He didn't like ties, but he felt he had to wear one. He worried some thug might grab it and strangle him. 


Stop it! You are a damn superhero! You could freeze him on the spot!


That's what he told himself. That's what he told his fibrillating heart and sweat soaked skin. But the truth was, he needed to be extra vigilant - for without his armoured suit he was vulnerable. 


Have to stay alert!


He took another sip from his espresso cup. A double. 


Fortunately Echohead was not limited to his eyes - he could feel all the brains around him, ripe for the plucking if need be. And in the back of his skull, he could feel the agent, insidiously letting him where to look, what to study, looking for bulges in jackets, or suspicious briefcases. 


The Talon guys looked heavy duty, and dangerous. Were they thugs in uniforms, or uniformed thugs? Well - that wasn't a question, he realised. He had made his mind up already... was it childhood bullying?


He decided to strike up a conversation with the nearest one. 


"Nice suit..."


He started. Not the best opening gambit, he thought, but at least innocuous. 


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