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Avenger Assembled

Public Service (IC)

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(a week before the birth of Jack's son)

 

West End was a good neighborhood, usually, but it had its dark spots. The shadow of the old waste recycling plant, closed a few years ago for urban renewal purposes, had left a block of empty warehouses along Miller Avenue. From the outside, the battered old brick industrial warhorse at 4686 looked just like plenty of the run-down former industrial warehouses in the area: windows covered or boarded up, brick and concrete walls covered with daring gang tags and the vandalism of neighborhood hoodlums. It was dark outside, and it was raining, the lightning overhead reflecting off the spattering drops in flash after flash of light. The rain was an obstacle, but the darkness of the night (and the broken streetlights) was nothing to Avenger's eyes. He had experience with people hiding secret facilities, after all. A faint light leaked out around the window coverings and fresh marks showed the doors had been opened recently. He'd learned from a contact in Freedom's medical business that 'they' were making max here, and in gigantic quantities. Jack hated the stuff. He hated the memories of the rush of addiction, he hated the feeling of false bravado, and he hated the memory of being a weak, helpless addict.

 

He was going to break these people in two.

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In a burst of lightning, Avenger spotted dark blue shape bound over the space between the warehouses. Jack of all Blades' light landing on the roof was covered completely by rumbling thunder as he tugged the high collar of his greatcoat up against the chilling rain. The swashbuckler had been cleaning up after an increasing number of Max users in the West End over the past weeks, and a trail of appropriately persuaded dealers had eventually led him here. Despite the damp cold, Jack seethed as he moved carefully to the edge of the building to peer down at the lit window. This was his neighbourhood, his home and his territory. Someone had brought this filth here, and they were going to regret it. Rain-soaked coat dragging behind him as he crept nimbly across the roof, he looked for an inconspicuous entry point.

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From his position on the roof, even through the driving rain, Jack could make out several possible ways into the warehouse. The windows and doors were all old enough that he could break through them easily, but doing so might alert the guards if he wasn't careful. The skylight was closed, but the hinges were free from the rust on the rest of the building. He could probably get in and out there without making a lot of noise, and peering through he could see a second-floor catwalk through the filthy glass.

For his part, Avenger seriously considered abandoning the pursuit at the sight of Jack of Blades. Not out of any dislike for the man, but because he was keenly aware of the insult that trespassing on someone else's territory would represent. Ultimately, though, his hatred for Max kept him there, as did his desire to cooperate with other heroes. He chose to go around the rear of the building, where he found the cars and trucks that the thugs who worked in the building had left behind.

Scooping up a discarded crowbar, he moved with methodical efficiency, raking the hardened steel through the tires and puncturing them. As he'd hoped, it made a mighty racket, enough that the warehouse rear door flew open as he ducked into the shadows behind a big panel truck, the men inside cursing as they went to investigate the noise. Into the dark, and the cold rain, where he'd be waiting for them.

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Jack had already silently opened the skylight and dropped nimbly down to the catwalk below when he heard that cacophony outside. Taking the opportunity to step away from his entry point and into the shadows, he moved stealthily along the metal pathway to simultaneously get a better look at the inside of the warehouse and peer through the door the criminals had stepped through to investigate the disturbance. Something's about to go 'bump' in the night, he mused to himself.

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It was easy to see what was going on below, the thugs weren't bothering to conceal themselves in the slightest. The offices on the second floor behind Jack were lit up, though empty, and he could see where the thugs had been storing Max as a precaution against ground-level interlopers. The stocks here were impressive; either they'd been at work here for quite a while, or were using the warehouse as a storage depot for regional Max distribution. Either way, they needed to be stopped! Peering past the cargo hook controls, he saw one sight below that told him this might not be a typical bust. Sitting among the other men still in the warehouse, looking up from his poker game with a look of irritation, sat an odd-looking man in a strangely bulking suit and tie, his body just humming with electrical energy that Jack of Blades could feel tingling along his sensitive skin.

Outside, Avenger moved among the thugs like a wolf among sheep. He used the crowbar, the better to hide just how strong he really was, and gave an evil laugh as he tore through six armed, wary men, hurling them to and fro and breaking their bones like ice on a spring day. soon the sound of men screaming and bones breaking echoed into the warehouse. He let one of the half-dozen men outside make it back into the warehouse, a look of terror on his face at having watched the demolition of his fellows. "It's...it's HIM!"

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Powered muscle, fantastic, Jack rolled his eyes on the catwalk. One of the problems with a city with Freedom's concentration of metahumans was the relative ease with which a superhuman thug could be hired on. Fun and games with supply and demand, kiddies.

The fencer was startled by the sheer horror practically rolling off of the returning criminal in waves. Man, you know you've made it big when you can commandeer an entire pronoun like that. The upside of Freedom's unique demographics, of course, was that one couldn't toss a rock without hitting an appropriately motivated vigilante. Still, Jack couldn't very well let his mysterious compatriot outside hog all the spotlight. Snagging a brick of Max wrapped in newsprint from one of the plentiful stacks in the office behind him, he fished his lighter out of his pocket and moved to the railing of the catwalk, kicking it a couple of times to get the attention of the remaining drug-runners below.

"Heya, champs. See, I gotta figure you'd heard the West End was protected, and you probably felt pretty clever bringing Mr. Zap-Happy there along." Jack waved to the bulky, suited man veritably crackling with electrical energy with the hand holding his lighter. "How's it going? Super powers are fun, huh? What you gotta ask yourself is, though..." He paused to light the edge of the paper holding together the brick of drugs in his other hand, letting the flame catch before continuing, "...is one of yours being fireproof?"

With that he tossed the flaming brick back into the office with the rest of the Max and fired his grapple at the skylight, zipping back out to the roof with a sloppy salute for the dumbfounded crooks below. As soon as he was back out in the rain, he was running, launching himself off of the warehouse and somersault through the air, shouting, "Fire in the hole!" for the benefit of whoever had been dealing with the thugs outside.

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What? Who is- Avenger threw up his hand to shield his face as the explosion ripped through the warehouse, blasting away part of the roof but leaving most of the building itself intact. Up above, the upward explosion scorched Jack of Blades' bootheels while leaving the whirling swordsman unhurt by his own spectacular bit of crimefighting. The building probably hadn't taken enough damage to collapse, and the men inside were just knocked out rather than at risk of burning thanks to the general direction of the blast and the good emergency services in the West End. Before either hero could take stock of the situation, though, suddenly the roof of the warehouse was blasted away by a huge discharge of electricity! Now the walls were crumbling, and the men inside in deadly peril.

Like a rocket, a white glowing man erupted out of the building, his suit burned away to reveal a luminescent costume that glowed like a new star on the dark and stormy night. "Fool! You think you can laugh at Positron and get away with it? I'll burn your whole neighborhood if I have to do it to stop you!" And with that he landed in the parking lot amid the unconscious thugs and fired a blast at the warehouse across the street, causing another massive explosion!

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At the sight of the ranting supercriminal covered in a massive electrical aura, all Avenger could think was Crap. As yet unseen, Avenger took shelter behind a truck and quickly debated his options. He hefted the crowbar, studying it for a moment, then shook his head. Sure, hit the electrical man with a piece of iron. I the middle of a freaking downpour! There's a good idea! Of course, it wasn't as if he had any better ideas. If this guy took off again, he could blast the neighborhood at will and it would be very difficult for Avenger to do anything about it.

Maybe Jack of Blades was a big talker, but he was a standup guy: Avenger was fairly sure the swinging swordsman had not blown himself up, and was not going to turn and run after setting off his bombs. One way or another, it was time to do something before another building burned. He charged the powered-up bad guy, wrapping his arm around Positron's uncovered neck and pulling, hard! His hands almost slipped in the rain, but he just managed to maintain his grip on the man's rain-slick flesh. Not that it seemed to bother Positron any... "Grrah! How many of you are there?"

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Jack blinked at the blindingly clad villain. "Uh, yeah, obviously that's what I thought." He shrugged, rain water running down his coat and face as a tongue of flame curled from the smoldering warehouse to his hand, solidifying into a rapier that sizzled in the downpour. "Pretty much still thinking that, dudester. Like so: 'ha ha, hee hee, ho ho'."

Before he could move to attack, however, a black shape flew from the shadows to latch around Positron's neck. It took Jack a moment to recognize the vicious attacked as Ace Danger's brooding compatriot, Avenger. That explained the criminals' earlier terror; the dark hero had given Jack the heebie jeebies even before he'd Dark Star's evil counterpart had let slip that he was an actual, honest to goth vampire. Still, he kept good company, so the fencer supposed he deserved the benefit of the doubt.

"Hey hey! Rippy McNoShirt! Hold that pose." Lunging forward, Jack slashed the restrained enforcer across the chest with his blade, hoping to end the fight quickly. Instead, Positron appeared to be entirely unfazed. The swashbuckler blinked once more as lightning flashed overhead. "Well, nertz."

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"Blades is playing with you," said Avenger with a malevolent laugh at Positron's expense. "Keep fighting, and maybe he'll let me have a turn." Seeming unimpressed by Avenger's threats, the electrical fiend glowed brilliantly, shooting out beams of light as the energy inside him collapsed into his very muscles. They struggled and wrestled back and forth, cursing and writhing in the rain, as the building behind them continued to crumble and burn.

"Argh! I'll crush your freaking skulls!"

"Have heard that one before," said Avenger, concentrating as he dug his fingers into the man's joints, digging into the places where the armored skin was hopefully a little softer. He heard bones beginning to crack, and he squeezed tighter. "Right there!"

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Jack winced involuntarily as Avenger spoke. "Do you have to make it sound so... kinky, Captain Leather?" the swashbuckler asked as the two men grappled before him. "I don't want Sparky here getting all excited and telling his pals we double teamed him, y'know?" With the electrically powered villain still pinned in place by Avenger, Jack made another swipe at him with his fiery blade, kept lit in the downpour by his will. "Actually, can we wrap this up?" he added more seriously. "I'm a busy guy, and it looks like the scumbags back there have an appointment with a collapsing building I was really hoping to crash."

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Despite Avenger's best efforts, Positron jerked at the last second, Jack's flaming blade cutting across his face without doing any deep damage. "Aargh! You like fire so much, why don't you see if you can learn to RIDE THE LIGHTNING!" There was an enormous flash of light overhead, followed up by a massive blast of white electricity that struck the earth between Avenger and Jack of Blades, bolts of white fire bursting out to lash at them both in a blinding rush of heat and light. Avenger, for his part, jerked backwards in time to protect himself, lightning crackling along his skin in a way that made him laugh malevolently, before he pulled _hard_ at his foe with an audible crack that made Positron shriek with pain, the man's arm pulling out of its socket!

"You're the one shoving your flaming hot weapon into him!" he fired back at Jack of Blades, before adding, "Can't keep this up forever..."

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Jack's metahuman senses filled his nose with the acrid smell of ozone a split second before the massive bolt of electricity crashed down to earth. That was all the time the swashbuckler needed to launch himself backward, twisting in the air to propel himself out of harm's way. It wasn't his closest call by far, but the sheer power Positron was able to draw from the storm made finishing this bout quickly all the more important.

Landing in a three point crouch, Jack immediately launched forward, fiery blade hissing as rain evaporated on contact. "'Vengey-poo, you made with the funny! I mean, it wasn't hilarious or anything, but you're trying, and that's! What! Matters!" With each word he slashed powerfully across Positrons torso, using his strength of arm and will to make each blow count.

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With one last crackle of energy, his wounds bleeding an alarming white fire, Positron slumped in Avenger's arms, the black-clad vigilante hastily dropping him to the ground. The burning building behind them gave an ominous rumble in time with another clap of thunder from overhead, and Avenger realized it was in peril of collapsing entirely. The fire looked terribly ominous, however, especially since he knew just how easily it would scorch his undead flesh. He took the opportunity to pick up his crowbar again and bring it down across Positron's kneecaps with a crunch. "Didn't have time to scout out the building," he admitted as he left the fallen electrical thug behind. This was not a time for pride. "Where are victims? What's fastest way inside?"

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Somebody forget to tell me about a new tax on the word 'the'? Jack wondered as he let out a heavy exhalation and turned to look at the flaming building with a grimace. "Jeez. Uh, I guess straight through the front door; they should all still be on the ground floor." Letting the energies of his blade dissipate into the pouring rain, the metahuman swordsman interlocked and flexed his fingers. "If you can carry them out, I might be able to keep us from getting too oven fresh. Not really my specialty, but beggars, choosers, etcetera, right?" Running back toward the warehouse, he thrust his arms out in front of him, brow furrowing as he focused of pushing the fire away rather than pulling it toward him.

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The flames retreated from Jack of Blades like servants bowing before their master, Avenger's eyebrows going up as the fire rushed away from the masked swordsman. He quickly piled into the building, running low to make it look like the smoke bothered him, gratified by the way the fire seemed to be ignoring him as well. He grabbed men by the collar and began pulling them out, moving with the smooth economy of someone who'd had to move a lot of insensate bodies in his time. He had to admit; the man of blades had done some good work blowing these dealers through the wall.

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Beads of sweat formed on Jack's forehead as he continued to hold back the flames, his eyes and throat stinging. Stupid, didn't even think about the smoke, he berated himself inwardly as he did his best to crouch down away from the noxious clouds and breath through the collar of his greatcoat. As he did, the fire inched closer, licking across his will. With a grunt, he straightened once more, forcing the hungry heat away from Avenger and the unconscious criminals. "I know I *hkk* make this look *hgh* easy," he called between coughs, "but how abo-*ghk* about hurrying this up?"

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"Job is done," said Avenger, as usual his voice sounding like he'd been inhaling smoke for years. He strode out carrying two dealers over each shoulder, dumping them to the ground as the building burned behind them. He shook his shoulders, shaking off the dust and smoke that had accumulated there. He turned, watching as the building behind them burned. "Must have had bricks," he said reflectively. "Powdered Max explodes. Nice work." He bent down and picked up his crowbar again, circling among the unconscious thugs, before he came to Positron. "Get any leads from these? Names, places?"

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Jogging out after Avenger, Jack let his wall of willpower drop, allowing the flames to rush in behind them and hungrily attack the remains of the building. Hacking for a moment he took a few deep breaths to clear his lungs. "Uh, thanks." The swordsman actually hadn't expected the drugs to prove quite so volatile, but there didn't seem to be any point in letting the grim vigilante know that. "Yeah, I'm totally friending them all on facebook," he replied flatly. "I dunno, man, I thought this was the lead." Jack gestured to the remains of the building behind them. "Big pile of drugs, all up in smoke, yay team?" The swashbuckler sighed dejectedly. "This is going to be one of those deals where I get yelled at for now seeing the big picture, isn't it?"

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"No. We hurt them." Avenger put a leather-clad hand on Jack of Blades' shoulder, his grip as solid as death. "They learned they have no safety, even in numbers, and you took the filth they'd use to poison the foolish from their hands." As one of the thugs started to rise, Avenger slammed the crowbar in his hand across the man's back, sending him firmly to the ground. "Stay down. Now, to teach them fear. Must know the price of selling max in my city, on your turf. Positron is a super-criminal. Most likely to know their employer."

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Jack gave Avenger a long look. "...you're kind of a complete psychopath, you know that?" he observed. "I mean that in the best way possible, naturally but, uh... yeow." He followed the vampire over to the defeated Positron. The swashbuckler had to admit, he'd like to go after the big fish for once, instead of always just putting out fires... so to speak. Avenger gave him the creeps, but if he could deliver those kind of results, Jack was willing to back his play. "Better let me be the good cop," he drawled dryly.

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"May shock you. Don't be concerned," said Avenger calmly as he strode over to the semi-conscious Positron. The rain had cleared by now, giving a cool dampness to the summer night that seemed to make everything especially vivid. When Positron opened his eyes, Avenger slammed the crowbar between them, hard enough to knock the man down without actually knocking him out. He gave a wicked chuckle as he ran his fingers through glowing white blood on the crowbar, straddling the fallen supervillain, then ran his dappled fingers below his nose and the top edge of his mask. "Positron. Hehheheh. Wonder if your screams will smell as sweet."

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"Doo doo do do doo doo do do doo," Jack half sung, mimicking a banjo. He looked between Avenger and the groggy Positron innocently. "What? We were all thinking it." Sauntering over casually, he leaned over the dark interrogator's shoulder. "Look, Sparky, my way creepy chum here wants to do some truly unspeakable things do you. And hey, glowing blood and all, s'not like you're really human anymore, so I'll probably go ahead and let him." The swordsman shrugged nonchalantly and began walking away. "Now would probably be a good time to distract him with some new information," he suggested over his shoulder.

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Positron flinched as Avenger practically bathed in his blood, then narrowed his eyes at Jack of Blades. "Fine! Fine, it's Walter Cox! He hired me. I'll give you his address, he-" He was a good liar, but not good enough to fool either Jack of Blades or Avenger.

Avenger put his hand on Positron's shoulder and glared at him. "Tell the truth." His gaze was flat and implacable, his eyes set cold and hard above his mask. "Or I will begin to do such things..."

At that, Positron gulped, stared back at Avenger, and said, "It's...it's Jonathan Grant, man. Grant Conglomerates! Cox used to be his assistant, but he started selling max on the side so he could buy his own dope! I was supposed to whack him for him! You know, kill Cox so he'd stop stealing from Grant!"

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"Well, that's not nice at all, is it?" Jack drawled, but he wasn't looking at Positron. For a flickering moment, he could have sworn he'd picked up something from Avenger, an exertion of dark, mystic energy. It left a coppery aftertaste in the swordsman's mouth, but he couldn't be sure of what he'd felt. What, hypnosis, mind-juju? That's total Hollywood... right? Jack wondered if the dark vigilante wasn't using his vampiric powers to give his interrogation technique a little more metaphorical 'bite'.

He folded his arms. "Sounds like a couple of rich boys could maybe use a little talking to," the swashbuckler suggested dryly.

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