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Testing the Waters - IC (Open)

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"Okay..." Hellbound muttered to himself, trying to convince his own mind that the following act wasn't actually impossible.

"You can do this... you can do this."

He clapped his hands together twice, producing a rather solid sound similar to a hammer landing on anvil, and pumped his shoulders. The fighter honestly believed that what he was going to try could happen, and indeed would happen, but a lifetime of thinking otherwise was not easy to overcome.

"The Doc said you could do this. His machines took the readings, he saw it happen... he said you could do this.

"Of course..." Hellbound had his doubts, "The Doc's a bit of a lunatic, but still. He's a brilliant lunatic. It can happen and it's going to happen."

He stood out on the promenade, staring at the churning waters of the Wading River and made ready to run the experiment. One last mental assurance, the hero fixed his eyes with a hard stare and started marching forward.

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The water was still a little chilly for the time of year, but nothing that'd throw him into hypothermia. Certainly cold-weather swimmers had survived much worse over the years, but it still wasn't his ideal sort of recreation. Of course, he wasn't here to have fun. He was here to test a theory.

Archeville had informed him about how his body tended to adjstust to adverse conditions, and that should include changes to keep him from drowning. Hellbound himself knew that there'd been a few times in the past where such a phenomena might have happened, or it may just have been him getting lucky and surviving. There was only one way to know for sure, though.

His feet hit the water with some splashing and an uncomfrotable soaking of his clothes. That wasn't the important part, however. What he ws interested in was how his body would react once the water got up over his head.

Hellbound kept his pace steady and even, not slowing or flinching when the river level came up higher and higher, passing his waist followed by his chest and then his neck. The next bit was his chin and then both his mouth and nose were cast beneath the surface of the cold, river water.

For one moment of uncertain panic, Hellbound clamped his mouth closed so as to not draw in any of the water now rushing over his head.

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Hellbound didn't want to open up his mouth at first, a part of his mind screaming at him that he'd drown if he did. This was water, not air. People didn't breath water and Hellbound, most certainly, qualified as people.

Granted he could do things that most people couldn't, but so far he'd regarded himself as just tougher and stronger than the normal human. That didn't mean he could breath water, however. That just meant he could let himself be hit by trains and falling buildings without too much worry.

This, however, was a little more subtle test of his abilities.

As Hellbound continued to walk forward, the water level continued to rise higher and higher above his head. He could already look upwards and see the glittering sun through the surface of the churning river, but he wasn't exactly the poetical type to comment on such things. All he knew is that he really needed to take a breath.

Hellbound closed his eyes, gathered up his nerve and opened his mouth. Cold water immediately rushed in and he could feel the chill upon his teeth. Fluid hit the back of his throat, which had reflexively closed in rejection to the intrusion, but he took a moment to force it open and breath...

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Something within Hellbound's chest screamed at him that this was wrong, that people weren't meant to have liquid in their lungs like this. It was intensely uncomfortable and the fearless hero came about as close to losing it as he'd ever before in his life.

He was going to drown, of that he was fairly certain. Here he was, walking along like a moron, and trying to breath river water. It couldn't be done, at least not by people like him. Granted, there were plenty of heroes out there who could breath water, but tended to stick with more aquatic based adventures.

Hellbound decided this had all been a mistake and started kicking his way towards the surface. He'd managed to walk a fair distance from the shore and so what he could see of the waterline above he would have to do some swimming. First, however, he needed to expel the water which had already filled his lungs.

There was a convulsing of his abdomen, pushing against his chest like a thick cough, and what fluid he'd taken in was spewed back out. But then he felt the same change come over him as he'd experienced back in Archeville's lab. It was like something in his body shifting, something subtle and hard to describe. It was like an itch inside of his body.

Before, it'd been isolated to his head, but this time the shifting sensation occurred in his chest. More water was drawn in reflexively, just as if he'd meant to draw a normal breath of air, and suddenly the discomfort had vanished.

Hellbound was halfway to the river surface by the time he realized that he wasn't drowning. In fact, he was perfectly comfortable and breathing just fine.

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So weird..., Hellbound tried to say as he treaded water. Apparently, though, the ability to breath underwater didn't necessarily translate into the ability to speak in the same conditions. All that came out was a gargled stream of bubbly nonsense.

This wasn't so bad, and not nearly as uncomfortable as he'd have expected. A part of him was happy that the Doc wasn't as nutty as he appeared, while another felt fully vindicated in the trust placed in that oddball brain.

Regardless, Hellbound planned to have a little fun with his newfound ability and let his own prodigious density drag himself straight to the river bottom. It was muddy down there, proving to be an unstable floor of tangled weeds and discarded debris. Apparently the citizens of Freedom City didn't get down here very often to clean things up. That didn't really bother him, of course, being one of the repeat offenders when it came to discarding things into the river.

Hellbound began walking again, only now taking the time to wave his arms about in the fluid environment and just feeling the nearly hypnotic sensation of wandering around underwater.

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The farther Hellbound walked into the murky depths, the more magical things seemed to become. Granted, the urban waters had little diversity when it came to marine life, but there were fish and other creatures to observe. It made him wonder what a marine biologist would give for an experience like this.

Pausing at a spot where a steady stream of bubbles drifted up from the silt, Hellbound bent to dig his hand downward. He was rewarded with a fist full of soft, slimy mud and the release of a larger bubble of air. Somewhere beneath all of this action, a pale and spiny thing dug its way deeper into the river bottom, seeking a sudden and desperate escape.

Hellbound shook the silt free of his hand. Even that act was somewhat amazing as the water surrounding him washed his limb free of the gray mess. That didn't happen with actual air, and at the moment it was difficult remembering that he was truly surrounded by fluid.

Further along his casual walk, he came across a darkened hulk resting in the channel. Light was becoming dim this far underwater, and in fact he had to squint his eyes upward just to get a glimpse of the river's surface, but there was something large and solid ahead. Hellbound moved that way to investigate.

He had to come almost directly upon it before realizing what the mass was. All angular and artificial, it stood out starkly from the waving and softly organic features he'd been encountering so far.

It was a car, he noticed. Someone had apparently dumped a vehicle into the river, or else it'd been driven carelessly to a disastrous end. As he stepped in spooky, slow motion to the rear of the vehicle he noticed it was an Audi. The trunk had come free long ago with rust and decay, giving home to a family of some species of fish. He really couldn't say what kind other than they didn't look like he sort he'd want to eat.

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Hellbound finished opening the trunk lid to see what was inside. From what he knew about mob movies, he supposed there was a good chance that a dead body was still inside. Maybe it was wrapped in tarp or garbage bags, but he suspected this might have been a way to dispose of someone who'd displeased the criminal element in some way.

However, he was disappointed in finding only a rotting spare tire and rusting jack. After forcing the trunk lid until one of its rusted hinges broke off, he could tell there wasn't anything special back here.

Moving around to the side, still walking as if in slow motion thanks to the water, and kicking up dirty clouds of silt as he went, Hellbound moved to the driver's side door and peered inside. If he'd been expecting to find anything heinous in there, as well, he was once more greeted with only shredded upholstery and exposed, rusting framework.

The car was apparently, somehow, abandoned in the middle of the river. Perhaps that wasn't really so strange given the town in question. This could have very easily been a makeshift missile that some cape had tossed to land here. Given the number of powers running around today, there could be a hundred explanations for its presence.

Not really worried about it, anyway, Hellbound forced the driver's side door off of its hinges and did his best to slide inside. Between his natural mass and the resistance of the water, it was a little more clumsy than what would be normal. In time, though, he managed to sit behind the steering wheel.

Peering out through the windshield into the murky waters of the river, Hellbound had to wonder just how strange this all was. Coming to him from every side was warped and distorted sounds, carried by the water from far away, and everything just seemed so peaceful.

He wondered how hard it would be to build a secret lair down here?

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Hellbound continued to just sit and ponder the wonder of it all, being a little more introspective than he normally might act. It was easier down here, though. It was so private and excluded that he didn't have to worry about anyone coming across his less-than-badass behavior. Always having to play the tough guy, never letting his guard down was more work than most people realized.

But now? Who could see him mellow out but the fishes and rusty cars? Certainly none of his Hellions would put up with him showing any kind of soft side. He could just imagine what it'd do for his reputation.

He reached down to play with the radio knob but found it to be as rusted and useless as the rest of the car. Of course, he hadn't actually expected it to work, but where was the harm in trying? Weirder things have happened in this city than a car's stereo system working underwater.

Following that, he leaned over to open the glove box and was rewarded with more tiny fish and a floating mass of rotted paper. Most like that was the title, registration and maybe proof of insurance. The normal sort of thing one would find in such a place.

However, what Hellbound hadn't expected to see was the pistol resting quietly behind this sodden mess.

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Hellbound reached in and pulled the gun from the glove box. A wash of rust and decay accompanied the action, but at least no more fish had been disturbed. All of the life that'd taken up residence in the glove box had fled when he first opened the compartment.

The gun felt strange in his hand. He was a 'fists, feet and teeth' sort of fighter. If it could be hit with elbows, knees, heads or any other body part, then it wasn't worth hitting. Guns and most any sort of weapon always felt like an act of desperation for him, even though he knew that in the heat of a really good fight he'd resort to almost any tactic.

But even with that, guns were just alien to his personality. That didn't mean he had no understanding of them, however, or was at a loss as to what their presence represented. Most people didn't cruise around in nice cars with guns in the glove box. He started to wonder if someone had been trying to ditch some evidence, here.

Though he wasn't familiar with such weapons, he had at least seen enough movies that he knew how to release the clip and even check to see if a round had been chambered. It turned out to be fully loaded and hadn't been prepared to fire. So, Hellbound hoped, that meant it hadn't been used to kill anyone before being dumped.

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He shrugged and dropped the weapon to the floor of the front seat. If it had, then any evidence of the crime was likely long-since ruined. There was always the chance that it was a licensed firearm anyway. Whoever drove the car wasn't exactly poor, or at least he presumed so. It looked like it'd been in fine condition and not one of the cheaper models before going for a swim.

Carrying protection in Freedom City wasn't just a common thing, it was a smart thing. Superheroes couldn't be everywhere, but it seemed that some days crime certainly was.

The gun made its drifting way towards the floor and struck with a solid clunk, causing part of the rusted panel to give way and fell through. Somewhere below, in the gloomy shadows beneath the car, it'd come to rest in the riverbed and resumed its hidden existence.

Pushing at the driver's side door, Hellbound tried to exit the vehicle. This time, however, the decaying hinges didn't survive and the door fell off of them with an eerie creek. Sound was still distorted and somewhat echoing, and a larger cloud of silt was kicked up with the hunk of metal came to rest.

That was gonna hurt the resale value, Hellbound considered.

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Once outside again, and back in the freely flowing waters of the river, Hellbound wondered what to do next. He could just spend the entire day wandering around and learning the lay of the underwater land, but a part ofhim wanted this to be a more momentous occassion.

This was ground breaking stuff, here. This was a man who was walking along a riverbed as if it were a simply cut path through a park. There weren't many in Freedom who could claim the same ability.

Though, he had to admit, that the ability to breath water wasn't the most impressive of powers. Outside of being able to wear a fishbowl on his head at parties, this wasn't always going to help him out much. When real trouble appeared, you typically didn't call on the 'fish guy' for help. Well, not unless the trouble actually involved fish. But those were rare occasions.

Fortunately, Archeville had given him better news than just that. Breathing underwater was the least of his body's adaptive abililties. Supposedly, his systems could adjust to nearly any lethal enviroment. Once the power fully developed and expressed itself, he wouldn't have to worry about radiation, extreme temperatures, poisonous atmospheres... even bathing in acid wouldn't be a problem for him at some point.

And that was only the power's base levels of function. Shoud Hellbound choose to further push his own adaptive abilities then there was no telling what sort of conditions he could simply shrug off and feel right at home within.

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It was nice down here. It was peaceful, calm and (above all), it was kind of boring. There was only so much introspection that Hellbound could put himself through before he started aching for something to actually happen.

A part of him wondered if he should try one of the more dangerous environments, but he wasn't sure how to go about that. Granted, there were nuclear reactors around here someplace, but he didn't exactly have the connections to get inside. Hellbound could just imagine what the technicians would say if he asked to walk around inside of their chambers for a while.

Probably that wasn't a good idea. Nor was it acceptable to actually start a building on fire to see if he could handle that as well. He might get lucky and find one already ablaze, but there just wasn't any assurance that he'd find one in time.

So continued exploration was apparently on his docket for the day. That might not be as bad or as boring as he expected. After all, just because he could survive down here for a few minutes, that didn't mean he breath dirty fluids all day with no ill effects. How long would it take to get the water out of his ear?

A sharp 'swooshing' noise that didn't quite fit into the background sounds erupted behind him. There'd been no real warning of the approach, but Hellbound suddenly found himself being gripped in a set of inhumanly strong, razor sharp teeth. The heavy hero was lifted from the riverbed and shaken about violently as a shark, who'd come from absolutely nowhere, decided to make his its next meal.

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Hellbound tried to shout at the shark, telling it to let him go, but nothing came out of his mouth but rushing water and bubbles. The situation was quickly becoming less than idyllic. What had once been a calm jaunt beneath the waves of the Wading river was now a struggle for his life against a feeding machine of a shark.

Except... once Hellbound settled down from the immediate attack and took a more serious look at the situation, he realized that it wasn't so bad after all. Though the shark was strong enough to fling about even his massive body, its teeth weren't constructed of nearly sharp enough stuff to penetrate his skin.

His clothes, already a mess from both their age and his repeated abuse of them, were being shredded. His skin, on the other hand, was durable enough to take the attack without so much as a scratch.

So much for testing out his burning blood under water. Perhaps that would have to come a later day.

Frag off..., he tried to tell the shark, to no avail. Getting a little tired of being treated like a ragdoll, Hellbound tensed himself to become a more solid target and less likely to flail about in the shark's mouth. From there he gripped its jaws and began to pry himself loose.

That's when the most curious thing happened. A small flap on the shark's head slid open and the delicate barrel of a wepon lifted into view. There was a bright glow evident in the depths of this misplaced weapon.

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Hellbound twisted, violently, at the sudden appearance of the weapon. The whole thing seemed insane to him. What kind of lunatic had sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!

Still, he stopped playing around with the otherwise harmless animal and tore himself free of the monster's grasp. A few teeth were dislodged in the attempt, but they all belonged to the aquatic predator rather than Hellbound.

A lance of coherent light shot from the weapon that'd risen from the shark's skull and lanced through the water. Fluid was vaporised instantly in the path of the narrow, bright beam, sending gaseous bubbles streaming in all directions.

The laser scored a line across Hellbound's arm and burned his skin badly. Had it not been for his natural durability, the limb surely would have been severed at the spot. Fortunately he was tougher than that and only had a few layers of skin pealed off in the attack.

Now he was free, having forced his way out of the shark's mouth, but now his arm was spilling small amounts of his own blood into the waters. Curiously, it still burned. In spite of the being submerged in water, it still burst into flame and produced the panic-inducing vapors that the shark was able to pick up on instantly.

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There was an immediate fear response triggered in the animal. While the scent of blood would normally trigger a feeding frenzy in the fish, this particular mix of chemicals caused it to react in a panic to flee, to protect itself by running away from what it now considered to be an overwhelming threat.

That was why Hellbound's people had originally evolved the trait. Where they came from, predators were plentiful and aggressive. Biting into someone who's blood not only burst into flames but also scare the unholy hell out of someone of relatively weak minded willpower was a fairly effective way to deter even the hungriest of monsters.

With that, the shark literally turned tail and ran... or rather swam... away. Hellbound wasn't about to lose sight of it that easily, however. As the shark spat him out, the hero twisted himself around, this time, and latched onto the shark's dorsal fin to go along for the ride. Wherever this creature was heading, Hellbound was sure to follow.

Hopefully it would lead him to whoever was responsible for its creation in the first place.

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