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Hellbound

Save the Citizen(s)

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It was a quiet, chilly Sunday evening as Hellbound looked over the narrows. From his position on the Centery Bridge he could see far to the darkening horizon and the purple skies beyond, but not much more than that. A biting wind whipped around his jacket and tore at his hair, driving near freezing sleet from the waters into the tangled strands. The acrid taste of salt could be found with those winds.

Night-borne birds called to each other as they hunted for fish and the lonely cries of ships passing gave them counterpoint. As the sun continued to fall down below the dim ly glimpsed line of land behind him, the dotted lines of hull lights began to catch his notice. Vessels pulling into port and heading out to sea, both, drew attention to themselves in the coded language that sailors had been reading for generations. One particular boat, a large and guady craft filled with late arriving vacationers, closed in on the bridge as he watched.

Straining his ears, Hellbound could barely dected the sounds of raucous revelry of those aboard the luxurious cruise ship. Without warning, though, the laughter and music changed to screams of abject terror when an explosion ripped its way from one side of the hull. Crimson fire, tipped with an oily black smoke, lit the water for dozens of meters in a choppy glow.

"Whoa." Muttered Hellbound as he took in the sudden carnage. "That can't be good."

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The Arrowhawk drove across the Centery Bridge on his bike, in costume and ready for a Sunday night patrol. It was usually a quiet night, he reflected. Nobody can be bothered going out on Sunday nights. Well, maybe some people can, he smiled, hearing the revelry from afar. He glanced across to see the cruise ship sailing across the bay... and exploding.

Profanities burst from his lips as he pulled the brakes purely on reflex, spinning in the middle of the road and screeching onto the footpath. He paid no heed to the traffic who had been forced to stop behind him, simply getting off his bike and climbing up onto the railing.

"Whoa. That can't be good." He turned to the man in the jacket beside him. "No. It can't," he said absently, looking below him for some means of reaching the boat. Maybe if I drop onto another boat, or swing far enough out from the railings to reduce how far I'd need to swim...? His cape swirled out behind him as he reached into his belt for his grappling gun.

"You should maybe go home, sir," continued Arrowhawk to the figure as he scanned below him, unperturbed by the great drop to the water below. "This might only be the start of a bigger incident, you can never tell."

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Hellbound turned towards The Arrowhawk and glanced at his costume. 'Dude had to be a cape. Nobody around here dressed like that unless they had to. Shrugging off the suggestion, he stepped casually up onto the railing. Though the perch was slick and treachorous, he managed to keep his balance long enough to face the new arrival and answer.

"Can't do that, man. It's my job. I'm a superhero."

With that, he let himself fall backward towards the dark, cold water below. He dropped like a ton of bricks and crashed into the frigid surface with an ungainly splash, throwing spray up nearly half-way back to the bridge supports.

The water was cold, far colder than he expected, but that faded rapidly as Hellbound strove back to the river surface above. His abnormal density had driven him a good fifteen or twenty feet underwater after the initial impact.

He'd actually expected this to be a lot less comfortable. Granted, he was a tough fragger but he normally felt extreme temperatures more strongly than this. The water, however, which should have been driving him rapidly towards hypothermia felt rather comfortable.

Hellbound broke surface and shook his head, taking in a deep breath of air that should have been searing his lungs with a deep chill. Instead, he simply re-oriented himself on the flaming cruise ship and started swimming.

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"And I thought I was overtly dramatic," sighed Arrowhawk, leaping from the bridge with his cape billowing out behind him. He quickly spun in mid-air, pointing the grappling gun at a support spar from the bridge, and firing. He swung even as he let the cable lengthen further, bringing himself into a pendulum-like swing. As it stabilised, he readied himself as he hung from the bridge. The ship was slowly drifting forwards the bridge, and he'd drop down when it reached him.

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Sammy held on to his stetson as he rode along the banks on his trusted steed, Silver the dinosaur. The few people around gave him strange looks, but he needed to take Silver out on a run. Give the dinosaur some exercise. If he didn't the big creature would go stir crazy, and as Sammy was on his third apartment since arriving in the future, he couldn't afford that. The last place wouldn't even return the security deposit.

Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of the cruise ship. The biggest ship Sammy had ever seen had been traveling up and down the Mississippi, and this ship would put those to shame. As he stood there admiring the ship, he had no trouble seeing the explosion.

"Golly old friends," he said patting Silver. "Seems fate had a reason for today's run."

"Giddy up!" he exclaimed and the duo made their way up to the bridge, there they'd get a better view. As he got nearer he saw a figure drop down in the sea, and someone firing a gun of some sort.

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Dark Star had been moving through the early evening sky, just enjoying the freedom of it all. It wasn't quite like being in space but joyous nonetheless. He'd spent a lot of time lately just practicing and honing his powers. Sometimes it was good just to kick back and relax. Of course, such relaxing evenings often were interrupted in this city.

The explosion was faint, but it grabbed his attention. He stopped in mid flight, turned and rocketed back towards the ship. As he flew over what just HAD to be heroes considering their dress and...move of transport, he slowed up and yelled to the lot of them. "Any of you folks need a lift?" He extended his gravity induced telekinetic to any that asked for it. It might help them get to the boat faster. And if not, he'd continue onward alone. There was work to be done!

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"No thanks," called out Arrowhawk, pulling himself up slightly and pulling his bow free. "Can't get you wet," he said to it, before swinging back and forwards. Olympic swimming pool, he squinted. I aim for it, throw the bow to the side. Can't go wrong.

He swung himself out for the last time, clicking off the grapple line and flying out towards the boat as it came forwards. "Woooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaah!" he shouted as he threw his bow down, to thud onto the deck as he splashed down into the pool.

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Sammy looked down towards the approaching ship when the black shape showed up. Inside his head, many thoughts were swirling. Why would a boat need a swimming pool? And if he jumped at the right time, would he be able to land in it?

He looks up at the flying man, or so he presumed. "Much obliged stranger," he smiles. "I think there may be a theoretically possibility for me to jump and hit the big tub o' water on the back o' the ship. But Silver here is a real yeller when it comes to heights. So I'd like to take you up on your offer." He pats his companion to show him he still appreciate him.

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A figure clad in gleaming gold and scarlet armor appeared out of thin air, her massive cape flowing and flapping in the wind behind her. One second, she wasn't there. Then someone blinked, and suddenly, she was hovering above the deck. Her armor was adorned with distinctive heraldry, featuring a certain Middle-Eastern dung beetle popular in Egyptian mythology.

She pointed to a group of panicked guests running around the upper deck. A dull red aura began to glow around her body, and the body of a middle-aged man began to glow as well, as it lifted a couple feet into the air. He screamed, managed to turn himself around, then just stood dumbfounded in mid-air, his mouth hanging open as he quivered. The Scarab pushed her arm through the air, and the man flew involuntarily into the center of the mob. "STAND TOGETHER, HOLD STILL, AND JOIN HANDS. LET'S GET YOU PEOPLE OUT OF HERE."

The crowd wasn't any less panicked, but their panic now had some measure of focus. They almost trampled each other crowding around the hapless anchor. "I CAN ONLY TAKE A FEW AT A TIME. STAY CALM. I'LL GET YOU OUT OF HERE, I PROMISE." Once about fifteen or so people were clustered together, The Scarab raised one hand to her forehead, and another palm-outstretched toward the group of bystanders. The red aura surrounded all of them, and as The Scarab raised her arm, the entire group was catapaulted up into the air. They screamed all the way up their own personal involuntary telekinetic roller-coaster, until they were deposited onto the overhanging bridge.

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It wasn't a nice way to transport people, but at least it was a way. The indignity that the people felt as they were being magically manhandled paled in comparison to the relief at being rescued from their sinking ship.

Unfortunately, there were probably close to a couple hundred passengers crowding the open air decks and the boat was starting to take on water quickly. The hole torn into her side was gaping and irregular, plus pleasure craft still had a tendency to be constructed without adequate compartmentalization. One would think that the lessons of the late-great Titanic would teach otherwise, but unfortunately the measures of the past could not always compete with the design flaws of the present.

The ship was still moving with its engines ominously silent and the weighty anchor still in its useless position. Nothing was currently preventing the liner from drifting beneath the bridge and towards Riverside. As it roughly slid against one of the massive Centery supports, smoke began to pool around ironwork girders overhead.

Some additional surprise and fear was expressed as a toothy dinosaur drifted down from the bridge, but the sight of a square-shooting cowboy on its back threw enough confusion into the mix that people just weren't sure what to think. Dinosaurs were scary and tended to eat people, but cowboys were friendly and tended to help out little old widows who couldn't make their mortgage.

In the end, half of the people watching Sammy's arrival decided to simply stare at him open mouthed while the rest back-pedalled quickly to get away. One little boy tried to ask for a ride but his voice was difficult to pick out of the chaos.

Fortunately, Dark Star was there to lend a hand to those trying to crush others in their retreat as they all raised their hands for a lift up.

Arrowhawk, meanwhile, was doing his best one-and-a-half gainer into the pool as his bow clattered to the deck. The water accepted him easily and it wasn't difficult for the daring crusader to stroke his way to the side and out. Chlorinated water clung to his hair and clothes, but he was on the boat and ready to help.

A man ran up to him, holding the discarded bow that he'd picked up from the deck before it could be lost in the crowd, and offered it to the hero along with some quickly spoken words.

"Thank go you're here!" He commended the quick arrival of the heroes. "We haven't had time to run any kind of a head count, but this can't be everyone. There's gotta be more people trapped below decks, but I have no idea how many."

The man wore the uniform of a crewman of the line, so it was pretty clear he actually worked here as opposed to being one of the coutless vacationers.

MEANWHILE!

Hellbound finally managed to reach the submerged bow of the craft and swam until he located the firey mess left by the explosion. Huge pools of No. 6 fuel oil sat smoking on the water but he was able to pop up in the middle of a burning ring of fire. A gaping hole, ringed by black and twisted steel, had been blasted open by something exploding within the craft and he began the task of climbing inside. His wet hands, still ice cold from the inlet waters, hissed as he gripped the sharp edged, burning metal to haul himself up.

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Dark Star quickly dropped off the hero and his 'ride'. He frowned at the massively crowded deck and the sinking boat. He drifted closer to Scarab, a hero he actually knew. "Grabbing them a couple at a time will be time consuming. It's going down too fast...I'll get them all off the boat and floating up here. if you pick them out of the field and drop them on the bridge, it'll go quicker. But all I'll be able to do is hold them there." He would have liked to try and push the liner away from the girder/bridge but the boat likely weighed over a thousand tons, far beyond anything he could hope to lift. People on the deck first then.

He turned and yelled to the crowded deck below. "REMAIN CALM PLEASE. YOU'LL BE SAFE SHORTLY." Reaching out he altered the gravity in a 50' radius of the deck, targeting the most crowded area and just taking the people, causing gravity to reverse itself to the point where they somewhat slowly fell 'up' to the bridge where he readjusted the gravity, letting them float there in 0 gravity just off of the bridge. He did his best to ignore their panicy voice and keep the lot of them floating safetly. "YOU'RE FINE! REMAIN CALM. WE'LL HAVE YOU DOWN SHORTLY." Hopefully Scarab could move the floating civilian faster adn easier from there.

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Once on the ship, Sammy quickly made his way over to the archer from the bridge. Doing his best to calm people as he moves. "Don't worry, it doesn't bite."

He could barely hear the kid asking for a ride. "Hi there partner," Sammy smiled, despite the chaos around him. He got of his dinosaur and bent down to the kid. "What's your name kid? When all this is over, I promise to let you ride him, but right now lets focus on finding your parents and get y'all to safety." As he said it, he noticed the frown on Silver's face, he didn't really like to let anyone else ride him.

Finding anyone know would be like finding a needle in a haystack, Sammy thought as he looked around. Though he did spot one of the crew. "Make sure he's safe, and finds his parents," he said as he let the crew member take responsibility of the kid. Right now there were too many in need of help. With the kid taken care of, Sammy could resume his original plan.

Making his way to the archer, he seemed to be talking to another crew member. Maybe he'd have some idea about how Sammy could best help out.

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"Thanks, sir," said Arrowhawk to the crewman. "I'll go check under the deck, it'll free up some crew to help with the lifeboats." He turned to go find some stairs and ran into... a cowboy on a dinosaur.

"Erm... um..." said Arrowhawk. Even with his experience, he had never quite run into a cowboy on a dinosaur. On a cruise ship. "I'm assuming you're a cape... right?" he asked cautiously. "Because I'll need help getting people out from the lower decks.

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DarkStar! I was hoping another telekinetic would show up. Listen, I need you to take over here for a while. I have to head below decks. There are necessary tasks that only I can perform. I'll be back up here to help as soon as I can. I don't like leaving you up here any more than you like being left.

Ignoring any protests, The Scarab turned and flew down around the bow of the ship, then underwater, until she found the jagged hole left by the explosion. She flew up inside, bursting up from the water like the blossoming of some giant crimson flower. When she touched down, she noticed the scruffy biker-looking chap standing a few feet from her. He heard a voice echo inside his skull as she hoved above him and pointed down at him. DO YOU KNOW WHO SET THIS BOMB?

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hellbound extracted himself from the water and scrambled up into the bowls of the ship. It was rough going, given that he couldn't fly and the metal he was gripping was jagged, hot and half-blown to hell. Still, he was determined and wasn't about to let a blister or two hold him back. Before long he found himself securely on board with the shredded remains of deck and hull behind him. Water was rushing into the lower portions of the boat below and, just barely, the ship could be felt listing in that direction.

He shrugged off his jacket, dripping water and steaming from the heated entry he'd made, just in time to spot Scarab lighting easily in the room next to him. He huffed at the showy entrance and wondered where he could pick up a spare flight belt... it looked like a handy way of getting around.

"Not a bomb." He indicated, pointing further into the ship.

The pair was in the engine room, or what was left of it. Heat and shockwave from the blast wasted most of the machinery in sight and crumpled a bulkhead or two into complete uselessness. Ahead, though, was a clear view of several smoking holes having been cored through a few walls, leaving behind puddles of molten steel and char. The tracks of a single pair of bare feet was obvious in the melted remains, moving away from the open air and cold river water.

Coming in around the edges of Scarab's awareness was the mental cries of anguish of living crewmen, most likely hidden from view by the ruined trappings of a engine room blown to bits.

MEANWHILE!

Back above board, Dark Star continued his rescue efforts as people began to realize the chance for salvation represented there. They began to clamber for the hero's attention, pushing and shoving to be part of the next group air lifted to safety. It caused a bit of a stir and some amount of danger as the edges of the panicked crowd compacted around his location.

The unknown crew member hurridly took Silver's youthful admirer under his wing and rushed him off in search of parents or at least a safe place to be at the moment. Life boats were filling up and dropping, but hopefully the boy was due for a happy reunion before it was all over.

As those two left, Arrowhawk made his approach and introductions to the time-lost cowpoke.

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Sammy looked confused. "Cape? Don't have no cape. But I'm here to help any way I can."

Sammy motions for Arrowhawk to lead the way. "Name's Sammy. Sammy Six-Shooter. And this is my trusty steed Silver."

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Dark Star blinked at Scarab's unexpected sudden words and consequent departure. Sure, he could do this. He had the power. But he was a rookie at this whole superhero thing really and deferring to the more experienced hero was easier and safer. Or it would have been. Time to suck it up I guess... he thought to himself.

It was a little tricky having the gravity field full of people and then pushing, shuffling, bending and tweaking the gravity enough to slide the lot of them onto the bridge. It probably wasn't perfectly gentle, but they were down at least. That group safe, he turned back to the deck of the boat and scowled.

"STOP PANICING! REMAIN CALM! I WILL GET ALL OF YOU!" He frowned at them, not that it showed. Panicing never helped anyone and often made things more dificult. At least they're all bunch together... he thought. Nodding to himself, he reveresed the gravity around the lot of them and continued the same maneuver as before.

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"Cape's a slang term for superhero. Anyway, the stairs below deck are just over there. Be careful, we don't know how unstable it is." The vigilante turned on his heels and strode down the stairs. "If you can hear me, shout out if you need help!" called Arrowhawk as he progressed down into the hallway.

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"This might be too tight for you," Sammy told Silver as he saw the stairway. "And the stair might not hold the two of us." He motioned at Arrowhawk to show which two he meant. "Don't give me that look, I'm not calling you fat you big softy."

Sammy sighed as he made his way down the stairs. "Make sure nothin' happens to the people up here."

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The Scarab tilted her head as she stared at Hellbound for a few seconds, then nodded. "You had nothing to do with this. Good. Help those people, and keep one eye out for me while I find out who did do this." She knelt down onto the ground, resting one hand palm-down on the floor as the fingertips of her other hand rested against the side of her head. "And where they've run off to..."

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"Yeah, 'course I didn't have anything to do with this." Hellbound sounded a little dumbstruck at the thought. "What kinda crappy superhero would I be if I went around blowing up cruise ships?"

As he made his protests, though, Scarab was already casting her mind and senses back through time to seek out the cause of the desctruction. Images of the blasted engine room zoomed through her awareness in reverse as the universe obdiently rewound itself to give up a few time-hidden secrets.

It didn't take long to back things up to the point if destruction, flames and fleeting pain retreating from the room as time ran backwards in her mind. Suddenly, the point of occurance was on her and she could see all that happened just prior to the explosion.

Two deckhands, it seemed, and a dark, unmarked box. This is where it happened and who was responsible. Though she couldn't identify either of the two workmen it was clear that they weren't supposed to be playing with whatever they'd gotten their hands on.

A strongbox about the size of a Coleman cooler and freshly unlocked sat on the floor in front of them. From the nervous glances over their shoulders, it was pretty obvious that they were worried about discovery. The cramped space was otherwise unoccupied as heavy, annonymous ironworks chugged in a mechanical semblance of life around them.

One of the two reached inside of the box while the other kept watch and a lumpy, oddly glowing chunk of some strange ore was revealed. The soundless words of 'what the f...' just barely had time to form on the lips of the one holding the ore before his entire body was lit from within by a harsh glow, a light which imitated that from the metal itself.

Then there was an explosion as his body was disintegrated. Flames washed over everything as the room was devestated. When things cleared, there was no sign of the one who'd been killed or the ore he'd taken from the box. His companion, having been thrown against a bulkhead when the fireball had erupted, was screaming in pain and embedded half-way through the heavy, steel wall. Heat seemed to radiate from his body and the metal which surrounded him as paint bubbled, flaked, smoked and then burned in rapid succession.

Steel melted and flowed across his body until he was covered with a cocoon of liquid fire, still howling in agony and thrashing for his life. A hole was burned through the bulkhead and the man, now blind with pain and looking for all the world like a living heap of slag, stalked off away from the room and his source of pain, sending him deeper into the ship itself.

As these images faded from Scarab's awareness, she could dimly hear Hellbound protesting. Apparently, his senses weren't quite as sharp as the psychic hero of legacy.

"... hey... HEY! What people? Help who?"

MEANWHILE!

Dark Star was dealing with people as they rushed for rescue. Some headed his words and the more disciplined of the crew and passengers understood that panic would only get others killed. These were the ones who fought to keep everything under control and an organized effort moving smoothly.

Others, however, were either not so intelligent, so caring of others or so humble in their own self worth. Despite the fact that lifeboats were being loaded to capacity in preperation of launch, and despite the fact that Dark Star could only handle so many at one time, they still shouted their protests at him.

Some insisted that they were too important to die, that their companies or loved ones depended on them too much for them to be left behind. Others claimed that God would not allow them to die here, so they insanely demanded to be taken off next in accordance to His wishes.

Some fighting ensued along with pushing and shoving, but in all the rescue effort continued. The chaos that swirled around Dark Star's feet only served to demonstrate the pitfalls associated with trying to help others. It seemed, no matter what, one always had to save the citizens from themselves first.

ALSO MEANWHILE!

Arrowhawk and Sammy made their way below decks, though Silver paced nervously at the hatch they'd just descended. He didn't like being seperated from his friend and companion, especially during times like this. So much noise, smoke, fire and the noxious fumes of the modern world burning assualted his senses. It was a worrying time and Sammy was delving straight into the heart of it.

Silver did not like... not one bit, but he'd do as he was told. There were others who needed his protection at the moment and he wanted to make his master proud. Turning towards the crowd, he opened his mouth to hiss at them in the direction he felt they should go. A few screams and a bit of running ensued from that, which lightened Silver's mood considerably.

This was just like hearding cattle back home, where a large number of stupid and frightened beasts needed to be told where to go. Perhaps this world wasn't so different after all.

Slapping his tail against the deck and trying to imagine the familiar sensation of trail dust rising from the impact, he gleefully headed towards the more disruptive passengers.

As he did so, Arrowhawk started down a gangway in search of trapped passengers, calling out and straining their ears for signs of life. The first frightened and muffled responses were being identified when the entire boat shook as a second explosion erupted somewhere below.

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"Okay, that didn't sound good," Sammy said as he tried to regain his balance. "I'm guessing you have more potent explosives than dynamite in the future?"

Getting his equilibrium back, Sammy focuses on the voices they just heard. "Hello! Is there anyone down there!?"

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"Below... OK, we'll abandon searching this deck for now. We need to go downstairs," said Arrowhawk, disguising his shock at the blast. He strode over to another staircase and walked down onto the lower deck. "Not nearly enough smoke here... it's the lower deck," he said absent-mindedly, looking around before heading for the next set of stairs.

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"... hey... HEY! What people? Help who?"

"The people screaming for help over there!" The Scarab sprang into the air toward the cries of fear and pain. She waved her hands back and forth through the air, and piles of slagged metal and burning debris crunched and squeeled as it lurched into the air and flew aside, clearing a path. "STAY CALM AND STAY PUT! WE'RE COMING!"

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While Dark Star continued to coordinate the escape efforts above deck, Arrowhawk and the Six-Shooter made their way down into what was likely the very bowels of hell. Once the spacious, open-air recreation areas were left behind, the ship was far more claustrophobic than it looked. Cruise lines were always looking for ways to pack more paying passengers into each trip and that invariably lead to cramped quarters below.

State rooms were typically tiny and the hallways that navigated them tended to be equally tight. Any place that the designers could save space and add just a little more capacity, it was quickly trimmed from the layout. That was normally fine seeing as how most vacations were meant to be taken on top. The only reason people were supposed to come down here was to shower, change clothes and perhaps sleep a bit.

Unfortunately, during times of crises that meant the lower levels of pleasure boats tended to convert quickly into honest death traps. This was one of those times.

Fire alarms had already been blaring before the second explosion, but now the noise and chaos that had created was compounded by a sharp listing to starboard. The boat was going down and it was only a matter of time before the entire vessel sank into Freedom City's wintery bay. Harsh scraping could be heard as the boat continued to drift past Centery Bridge's massive supports. Systems failure still had its anchor firmly ensconced in its cradle, high and useless above the churning, frigid waters below.

Voices were becoming clearer and more disctinct to Arrowhawk and Sammy as they neared the first knot of trapped passengers and crew. Smoke was boiling along the ceiling of the hall they'd found and a blazing wall of fire had managed to creep at least this far along the interior spaces. Having taken several stairways with nigh olympic determination, the pair was now at least three or four decks below where they'd started.

A group of people could be seen beyond the fire, attacking it uselessly with a tired extinguisher. Apparently, not up to the task of quelling such an inferno, it was now nearly empty.

MEANWHILE!

"I don't hear a thing!" Hellbound protested, having to shout for his voice to carry above the noise and confusion of a ship burning, adrift and taking on water.

He was, in fact, even having to cling to nearby ruined machinery in order to keep from pitching along the sharp cant of the engine room deck. As debris was tossed aside by Scarab's power, though, he managed to figure out what was going on. The plucky fighter lent his own great strength to the task of ripping slag and obstruction away.

Soon an offending bulkhead was revealed along with a partially melted firedoor. Normally it would be almost impossible to open in its warped condition, but it offered very little resistance to Scarab's brute force. Beyond was a collection of scorched and frightened crewmen, huddling in a storage room and in bad condition. Second or third degree burns were obvious on some of them and they were all suffering from the heat and toxic fumes of the fires.

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