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Ah, springtime in Freedom City! There's nothing like spending the night running over rooftops when it's pouring rain to make you feel alive.

At least the cold doesn't bother me anymore.

Grim decided that the best way to get her head back in the game was to hit one of her old patrol routes. When the paper called for rain, she was tempted to abandon her plan for the night, and instead sneak into a theater and see a free flick, but then she remembered that her old mentor Nightrival would probably be out, and unlike her, he felt the cold when it was this miserable. With a sigh and a lot of grumbling, she fed her cats, sprayed a few desultory sprays around her squat with the Lysol (even after Carmine's 'cleaning party', the place was still fairly rank to her sensitive nose), and switched to her working clothes before making the perilous seven story climb down the side of the Imperator Hotel, the bricks and terra cotta moldings slick with coursing rain.

Near 59th and Stanwick, she stopped to take a breather, arching her back over the broken remains of a chimney to work out a kink, and letting the tart slightly acidic rain strike her face.

One of these days, I have to get back over to the Y and renew my membership; I miss the whirlpool bath.

Suddenly she heard the sharp retort of broken glass (a windshield, maybe?) and raised drunken voices coming from maybe half a block away. Grim smiled as she came out of her stretch.

“The children of the night! What music they make!â€Â

With a bit more pep in her step, she scampered over to the next roof, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

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Avenger watched the gang war from his rooftop perch with some irritation. Jack had been enjoying the quiet of the Fens, an area where the poverty was such that gangs usually steered clear. After all, there wasn't much there to steal. He recognized the hoodlums below, though; Yardies from the South Side mixing with C's from the same neighborhood. Proxy war, he thought with an amused laugh. Why fight on your own turf, when you can throw down in neutral ground? He might have let them go at it if he hadn't seen the gun being drawn below, the crackle of shots beneath enough to send him leaping off the roof to land as neat as a falling feather in the darkness of the alley. He let the thugs see him when he was in their midst, his menacing laugh a counterpart to the sudden rain of punches he threw down on the hoodlums and thugs. A couple screamed at the sight of him, and one ran, but in the confusion of the melee they stood their ground even as bones broke beneath his fists.

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From the sound of things, the fight had just started getting interesting by the time Grim arrived at a good vantage point to see the proceedings, but it looked like somebody was already hogging all the fun! Might this be the so-called 'Avenger' who'd moved into her turf after...well, after she'd abandoned it?

Mildly irritated, the impish vigilante spotted a runner that the oh-so-amazing Avenger had clearly let escape.

Nice one, Dark Doofus. :roll:

She dropped down from her rooftop perch, wrapping the night around herself as she landed lightly first on a fire escape, and then directly into the path of the panicked punk. Grim is no powerhouse, but her slender arm invisibly outstretched at the height of the idiot's throat was more than enough to drop him to the rain-soaked asphalt, gasping for breath.

See, cleaned up your mess for ya.

She could have done more to the downed thug, but she figured if she tried to do more, she ran the risk of doing more permanent damage, which she was trying to avoid nowadays. With some regret she left him there, and quickly moved to the nearest wall, sliding along its length as she got closer and closer to the man she still thought of as her 'replacement'. She could almost feel the power of his blows as his fists struck faces and pressure points with both grace and vigor.

Wow, this dude is giving the Bossman a run for his money!

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On closer inspection, the brutality of Avenger's fighting style had not been exaggerated. Those were bones smashing beneath his fists, men dropping like poled steers when he hit them with brutal force. No one was dying, no one was actually being maimed; but the blank-faced man in the hockey mask and black clothes was cutting through the thugs with nearly as much brutality as they were showing to each other. He cut through the gang like a jagged knife through butter, cleaving them apart and sending both groups scattering. "RUN!" he roared suddenly, his voice a choking, jittering roar in the darkness. "These streets are clean tonight!"

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"RUN!" he roared suddenly, his voice a choking, jittering roar in the darkness. "These streets are clean tonight!"

Leaning up against the wall as she rubbed her sore arm (she's not made of steel, after all), Grim mutely watched the masked vigilante finish his bloody work.

He's not like us, me and Rival; this guy is darkness through and through. No Gilmore Girls marathons or cutesy boyfriends for him; he's a force of nature, like the rain running down my back.

She felt a lot of things right then, the first of them being genuine fear, like the first time she saw a Freddy Krueger movie on cable, alone under a blanket that did nothing to keep out the icy chill. And for the first time she felt a twinge of pity for the scum that roamed the streets; sure, they deserved a sound beating, but did they deserve this thing haunting their nightmares?

And yet wasn't he doing the job far better than she ever could, with her pencil-stick arms and oh-so-nasty claws? Ooh, scratchy scratchy! Some of the pimps she once taught a lesson were nervous to walk the streets at night; now they must be peeing their pants and crying out for their mommies!

She could no longer stand there silently; there were words welling up inside her, down in the pit of her stomach, a mixture of admiration, fear, criticism and sheer awe, but what instead came out of her invisible lips surprised even Grim, as her South Jersey accent rang out over the pounding of the rain.

"Yo, Jason Voorhees! Nice moves!"

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"Avenger," he finally replied, rain running freely down his leather jacket and down his hockey mask. "What are you doing here?"

So he didn't leap in the air and run away in fast motion like a character in an old Casper cartoon; Grim still got a kick out of the barest amount of freak-out her deceleration had elicited in the stone-cold badass.

They say this cat Avenger is a bad mother - Shut your mouth!

With a wry grin, she steps away from the wall, dropping her glamour to reveal a young slip of a girl in form-fitting leather, drenched with rain. She runs both hands through her sopping wet hair and sputters before replying.

"Pff! Heck of a night for the pursuit of justice, huh? Or do you just pound people's faces into mulch for kicks?" ;)

Though the night is chill and the rain oppressive, she doesn't shiver one bit.

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This one's trouble. And cute. "Must do justice. Even in rain. Teach criminal element to stay dry." He cocked his head to look at her, movements flat and imperturbable. It was difficult to play the mad vigilante all the time, especially with the pretty ones, but it was the best defense strategy he had. If they were worth something, they'd come around again. "Your intentions."

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"Must do justice. Even in rain. Teach criminal element to stay dry."

Ah, an attempt at humor; the creature lives!

Grim smiled a bit and nodded; that weird way of talking he's got would take some getting used to, but apparently something human dwelt behind the black mask.

"Your intentions."

"My intentions?"

And here the young heroine can only shrug as she rocks back on her heels.

"To be honest, I don't really know; a few months ago, it was me out here patrolling these mean streets, keeping the Fens safe for all the hookers and drug addicts. But now I blow back into town and I find you here, making it look so gosh darn easy with your smashy fists and deep scary voice..."

She sighs and claps her hands together.

"I dunno, maybe I can do like kids' parties, or work with animals, y'know, like at a shelter or something?"

Grim laughs and shakes her head.

"Or maybe, I can take by sorry butt back across the river and look up Nightrival; there's a guy who can actually use a little help."

She gnaws her lower lip and looks thoughtfully to the south.

"Do you know Rival? I could sorta see you guys hangin' out."

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"Have worked with Nightrival. Fought a god together." Avenger moved as he spoke, slipping out of the streetlights and easily into the shadows near Grim. The night that was his home was no barrier to him, and why would it be? "If you wish your territory, will move on. Only interested in the work." That's the ticket, Jack thought as very distant sirens sounded. Keeps the doors closed, even as they open.

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"Have worked with Nightrival. Fought a god together."

Wow, Bossman and Captain Creepy fought a god together? Way to go, old man!

"If you wish your territory, will move on. Only interested in the work."

Grim blinks for a few seconds.

"Wait, what?"

Then the impact of the words finally processes, and she holds up both hands and shakes her head vigorously.

"No, no, no! You must learn of this concept we humans call 'humor'. No, the last thing these poor folks need is to lose a champion who actually gets the job done! I read about you in the paper; you're the best thing to happen to the Fens since the needle exchange at the free clinic!"

The young woman sighs and looks down at her boots, and for a moment looks far older than her physical age allows.

"You need to stay here, dude, with the cape and the mask and the scary; I think it's great to be replaced by a guy as good as you. Well, not 'replaced', that's unfair to you, but..."

She waves hands about, trying to find the right word.

" 'Superseded'? Does that mean what I think it does? Like 'better', 'above and beyond' or something?"

Grim groans in frustration, and then puts her fists on her hips.

"Look, whatever! You stay, I'll go find Nightrival. Did he ever mention me, the sidekick who broke his heart? Don't answer that. I'll see you around, okay?"

She starts to step away into the night, but then stops and catches herself.


Grim looks back over her shoulder, peering at Avenger through the rain.

"I do have a situation I need help with, a bit of a tenant/landlord dispute kinda thing..."

She stands there, chin on fist, quietly appraising the other vigilante.

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Wow, getting a complete sentence out of this guy is like pulling teeth!

"Prefer not to violate law. Leads to difficult questions. Ethics also an issue."

'Prefer not to'? Now this showed some promise! Nightrival had a habit of nixing many of her best schemes because they skated uncomfortably close to the edge of the law; apparently Avenger wasn't such a rules stickler.

Grim nodded her head sagely.

"Okay, that's fair. Here's the situation: me and a bunch of fellow misfits and lowlifes live in a set of squats in the old Imperator Hotel; maybe you know it, it's a bit of a local landmark. The top two floors are only accessible to the, well-"

And her she smiled with mock-humility.

"Y'know, the special among us. None of us pays any sort of normal, regular rent, but we're allowed to stay there by this guy, Mr. Pitt. He lives up in the penthouse and sometimes asks folks to do favors for him, though for some reason he's never asked me; I dunno, maybe Carmine the super negotiated a special rate or somethin', I'm not sure."

As the young woman continued, she dropped down to a crouch by the curb; sharp claws popped out of her fingertips, and she idly traced patterns in the water coursing down the gutter with her talons.

"Fact is, I'm pretty sure our buddy Mr. Pitt ain't human; I got no proof, it's just more of a, I dunno, a feeling or whatever. No one ever sees him but Carmine, and he's got some major leverage on that old fool, let me tell you. I think he's like a demon or an alien or somethin' up there, watchin' everyone dance like his little puppets."

She looked up at Avenger and defiantly jabbed a clawed thumb toward her chest.

"Except me; I don't dance for nobody."

She shakes the water off her hand and the claws retreat out of sight.

"So whaddya think? You interested? Even if he's only puttin' the screws to Carmine, he needs to be taught a lesson, but I doubt it's just him; I think he's got somethin' on everybody up there."

She peered off into the night, in the rough direction of the hotel.

"Maybe even me."

And for just a moment, she shivered.

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Oh, sunova... The vampire community of Freedom City wasn't a big one. Everyone knew everybody else. Jack had a perfect image of a withered face in his mind, an old man with a metal cane. Fighting another vampire as a superhero...well, he'd done it before. But it tended to get lethal too fast. "Have to decide if what he has on you is worth fighting over. Be amazed what can happen when secrets told. Your plan?"

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"Have to decide if what he has on you is worth fighting over. Be amazed what can happen when secrets told. Your plan?"

Grim held her hands to her chest and looked innocent.

"On me? I don't think he's got anything on me; I could be wrong, and my paranoid streak says he's gotta have somethin', but I'm doing this for Carmine and all the other weirdos up there."

As she looked off towards the hotel, the rain picked up a little bit more, until it was driving fairly hard right into her face.

"Okay, I've had about enough of this; 'scuse me for a second."

The diminutive heroine reached behind her back and plucked a large black umbrella seemingly out of thin air. With a flourish, she opened it and twirled it over her shoulder.

"Much better! Now, where was I? Oh yeah, you were askin' me about my plans for Mr. Pitt. Well, I'll be honest with you, I ain't got that far yet; right now I'm just recruiting talent, ya know? We gotta do a lot of research on a guy like Pitt; find out his weaknesses, his hobbies, favorite ice cream, the whole nine yards."

Grim playfully kicked up her feet and then spun around a few times, in a style vaguely similar to Gene Kelly.

"Yep, this will be quite the caper. If it's not your kinda scene, I'm cool with that; we all play to our strengths, right?"

She faded from view, leaving the umbrella to spin and dance in her place, as she gave up all coy pretense and started whistling "Singin' in the Rain" in earnest.

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"Make you a deal." Despite himself, Avenger's voice had softened somewhat in the last few minutes. "Will make inquiries through contacts. Can send you to third party in the meantime. Suggest we meet later to confer." As he spoke, he stepped back, suddenly and utterly disappearing into the shadows behind him. "Can do that trick too," he added in a low whisper from somewhere further down the alley. "How do I contact you?"

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Grim promptly reappears under the umbrella, smiling.

"I thought you might be good at that; ain't bein' sneaky grand?"

She rests a finger across her lips in thought.

"I don't know how often you make it across the river, but Father Murphy at the Our Lady of Mercy shelter is a friend, and he can be trusted; you can leave word for me there. He doesn't know I'm back in town yet, but I plan on payin' him a visit real soon."

She bows at the waist, high school drama club style.

"You can call me Grimalkin, or just plain ol' Grim."

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"You're not." Was that a smile in Avenger's tone? With his whole body swallowed by darkness, it was exceptionally difficult to tell either way. "Will see you are contacted. May be associate. Trustworthy. Soon." He disappeared in the conversation without another word, leaving no trace behind as he first disappeared into the Freedom City night and then rose high above it, heading for one of his private pay phones to place a call to Wesley's number at the Plaza.

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Wesley is headed to his room after a particularly soggy and lackluster night. He didn't get paid because the customer pulled out at the last second. The guy with her tried to ease her fears, but she wasn't having it. Not one to pressure, Wesley had a long ride home from the Southside. At least the guy is still cool with him. When he gets to his destination, he almost drops like a rock on the bed until he hears the phone ring. Sitting up, he picks up the phone and answers groggily, "Hello?"

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"Wesley." Avenger's voice was quite a thing to wake up to, especially in the dead of night. Jack was alone by the Waterfront as they talked, by all appearances just a tipsy guy talking intimately to one of the pay phone nearby the the Atlantis Casino. The streets were nearly empty thanks to the rain, just the way he liked it. "Need a favor. Can you assist?"

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Several thoughts run though Wesley's mind about what Avenger could want this late at night. This had to be business for the Knights of Freedom. Clearing his throat and shaking his head to get the sleep out, he speaks more concisely, "Yeah man, whadya need?"

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"Tomorrow. Our Lady of Mercy shelter. Father Murphy. Tell him you've come to help Grimalkin with her problem. Grimalkin is potential Knight." Jack hesitated a moment before going on as two drunks lumbered past. "She will ask for help fighting a very powerful man. Call me before you fight him. Understood?"

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Wesley acknowledges every sentence fragment Avenger speaks with a strict nod, as if he can see him. Standing up he walks toward the kitchen area before Avenger stops talking, "Understood, but what at what time tomorrow? Who is Grimalkin? And who is this man?"

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"When convenient. But tomorrow. Grimalkin. Assistant of Nightrival. Woman. Perky." Avenger didn't sound entirely enamored of the fact, but he didn't sound opposed to her either. "Will alert you to Mr. Pitt's nature if encounter becomes inevitable. Believe the situation can be averted with a minimum of bloodshed. Will appreciate you doing this favor for me. A vital service." Because I certainly can't set foot inside a church without a very good reason.

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"You're not."

Was that just a hint of a smile in his voice?

Yep, I've still got it. :D

"Will see you are contacted. May be associate. Trustworthy. Soon."

"Fair enough; will I-"

And he was gone; if she really wanted, maybe she could have pricked up her ears and placed him, but with a real pro like Avenger, it wouldn't be too easy. Plus, messing with a fellow agent of the night's sneaky mojo? Major superhero faux pas.

Grim decided to finish off her route and then head home for the night; Father Jim had her cell number, and she could always swing by there in a day or two if he didn't call with a message from Avenger's outsourcing buddy. Still toting her umbrella, she skips off into the night, humming to herself as she goes.

And how cool is is it that he saw me make this? Plus I still have my ace in the hole if I really want to blow him away.

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