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Take It To The Limit (IC)


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Craig Carter had just gotten back from his lunch break when he saw the bank's front doors clatter across the asphalt, littering the street with broken glass. His crew was working across the street from the Kent Hall Credit Union, adding another lane to one of the busiest parts of Wading Way, when the ten-foot tall stone man ripped the doors off their hinges and casually tossed them over his massive shoulders. He ducked down as he stomped through the doorway, but his shoulders still caught the top of the doorframe, smashing a chunk of the wall above to gravel. It didn't seem to slow him down at all. A man-shaped column of fire flew through the widened doorway immediately after him, leaving a trail of black smoke in his wake.

"Aw hell," Craig's foreman shouted. "I'll call the cops. You bozos quit gawking and get back to work! And stay on this side of the street. We don't need another lawsuit."

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Craig had just come back, and picked up the jackhammer. It was barely on for a minute when the two criminals went into the bank, shattering glass and damaging the bank's entrance. While looking at the bank, somewhat surprised, several thoughts ran through his head. "Ok, let's see here. I think that was some sort of stone golem, and a fire man, so I don't think anybody else is going into that bank. The glass might cause some problems, but I can't do anything about that. I'm most likely the closest person available to respond, so now I just need to figure out how to get away.

This train of thought was interrupted by Craig's foreman, saying to stay on this side of the street. Chris decided on a course of action. He continued working for a few seconds, turned the jackhammer off, and used his strength to jam the switch. When a regular flick wouldn't turn it back on, he said to the other workers "Hey, guys? The jackhammer's not working again. I'm going to go and get the replacement, let the boss know if he gets back." And with that, he ran off, turning into the nearest alleyway. When the coast was clear, he quickly changed into his clothes, and flew into the bank, through the hole the criminals made.

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Craig's foreman saw him jogging away from his crew. He shouted "CARTER! If yer not back in five minutes, I'm docking yer pay!" Then he turned back to his cell phone conversation with the police. "Whatta you mean, 'On the way?' Those freaks are busting in the doors NOW! Any of that crap lands over here, and this job could get pushed back WEEKS!"

The giant rock-man growled at the tellers "THIS IS A STICK-UP!" His voice sounded like a handful of screws clattering around in an active garbage disposal. The floors creaked, bowed, and cracked under his weight. The other man, wreathed from head to toe in dancing jets of flame, grinned like a cat, clenched his fists, then popped his hands open. Twin balls of fire exploded *KA-KRACK!* from his palms. "Anyone tries to be a hero, I serve up some fried hero-burgers" he purred. Under his feet, the carpets blackened into ash and the top layer of the bare floor melted and sizzled.

Guardian could also just barely make out the faint outline of a woman's body floating in the air, slithering over and around the hapless bystanders. The customers and bank employees whimpered, crouched down on the floor, and raised their arms up over their heads as if to hide beneath them. The security guards, sufficiently impressed with powers they had no ability to match, nodded as their shaking hands slowly lowered their pistols to the ground.

All the assembled supervillains turned around in response to the sudden rush of air as Guardian soared down through the hole where the bank's front doors used to be until a few moments ago. "A cape!" Pyre exclaimed. Granite had left a trail of dust and gravel behind him as his stone body cracked and grinded against itself with his every movement. Slyph swooped in, scooped up some of that tiny debris into a miniature tornado, and launched it at Guardian's face. "Run along, Blue Boyscout! We don't come to your workplace and knock the broom out of your hand!" she teased. Pyre quickly followed up with a jet of orange and blue flame hurled straight at Guardian's chest. "One crispy-cape with cheese, coming right up!"

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Upon arrival in the bank, there was a large woosh of air that followed behind him, unfortunately alerting the criminals, who Guardian recognized as the Factor Four. He had to clean up a couple of their messes, once. He recognized Pyre and Granite, now that he got a better look at them, and figured that weird ghostly image he was seeing above the hostages must have been Sylph, who wasted no time in taunting him, to which Guardian responded "Blue Boyscout? Seriously? That's the best you could come up with? Just as an FYI, the name's Guardian. And where's Professor Fath..."

Guardian was interrupted by an incoming storm of dust and debris, although he managed to avoid getting it in his eyes. Almost immediately after, Pyre attempted to roast him alive, but the blast tickled, more than anything. "Hmm, maybe I'll make a grilled cheese when I get home...", he mused. For now, though, Guardian moved up to Granite, and gave him a mighty punch, which managed to stun him. Sensing his chance, Guardian punched again, putting what might he could into the punch. He was probably just as surprised as anyone when he actually saw Granite go down for the count, but quickly got back to the task on hand.

"Now then, before I was so rudely interrupted, where's Professor Fathom? I doubt you three'd be here and not him."

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The ground itself shook from the mighty blows Guardian struck upon Granite. Nearby windows, both exterior and at the service counters, shattered from the shockwave. Chunks of his stone body crumbled and shattered under the hero's assault. Deep fissures sliced their way across Granite's mishappen torso. He grunted, then fell to the ground, causing the building to shake and vibrate once more.

Slyph's spectral face, at first soft and beautiful, darkened into a scowl. "Another big dumb brute. Shame you took William down. You two would've gotten along so well!" Her ephemeral body swirled and sailed through the air it was barely distinguishable from. She quickly enveloped Guardian, and he could feel a mighty wind blowing up from his ears, nose, and mouth, as all the air was suddenly sucked out. He felt his ears pop from the change in air pressure, but as he lacked any need to breathe when he didn't want to, Slyph's attack, while fatal to a mere mortal, caused Guardian slight discomfort at best.

"BILLY!" Pyre screamed as Guardian hammered away into his comrade. "Prof, we need backup, and we need it NOW!" he shouted to no one in particular. Raising his fists toward Guardian once again, he shouted "You messed with the wrong gang, Hero! Now BURN FOR IT!" He hurled another set of twin firebolts at Guardian, exploiting the opening the hero had left while focusing the totality of his attention upon Granite. The bolts of superheated air exploded against Guardian's back.

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Guardian was caught by surprise when Sylph sucked the air right out of his lungs. He tried scrambling for air, but no such luck, and he thought he was going to die. Oddly, though, the only problem he felt was a change in air pressure, causing his ears to pop. While Guardian was still pondering why he wasn't dead, he was blindsided by more fire bolts from Pyre, and was just able to shake them off.

"Heh. That was a pretty good shot, could have done some serious damage. Now then, let's see how you stand up to THIS!", Guardian said, charging towards Pyre. The force of the impact managed to send Pyre towards the vault, crashing straight through a wall while it happened, and Guardian couldn't help but wince slightly as this happened. He continued to stay focused on Pyre, thinking to himself "Hmm, I hope that the heat from Pyre doesn't liquidize the vault into a gooey mess. That wouldn't be good.

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Slyph hissed at Guardian, then hovered over to one of the bank tellers, quickly wrapping the ephemeral tendrils that passed for her body around the terrified bystander. "Enough clowning around. Rip the door off that vault and start hauling the cash over here, or..." Her spectral face floated around to glance at the teller's nametag. "...Josh here has eaten his last birthday cake." The teller's face began to turn blue, and he clutched his throat.

"These hostages aren't yours to take, Sylvia, and neither is that money."

Slyph shrieked in pain, clawing at the sides of her own head. The teller stopped choking, fell over his desk, and started heaving in deep breaths. A golden aura appeared around Slyph's head, the glowing light quickly coalescing into the translucent image of a swarm of beetles, scuttling and biting at her head from all directions, including from the inside.

At the same time, a similar golden aura appeared in a vague humanoid shape in the middle of the room. The halo of light quickly filled out, as a figure clad head-to-toe in gleaming crimson & gold armor appeared. Her massive cape billowed behind her, as if buoyed by a strong wind, despite the fact that it was a hot summer afternoon with nary a cloud in the sky. Her arm was stretched out in front of her, with her open hand pointed at Slyph.

"What's left of your physical form may be invulnerable, but your mind is as weak as ever."

Slyph glared at the new arrival as she writhed and grimaced and screamed in pain. "SCARAB!!!"

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Suddenly, all the emergency sprinklers mounted on the bank's ceilings erupted, spraying jets of water everywhere. Guardian, like everyone else, was quickly soaked. The Scarab shouted to Guardian without looking away from Slyph, with whom she was still locked in a battle of wills. "The sensors probably picked up Connors after you knocked him through the wall...wait, LOOK OUT!"

But her warning came too late. The water spraying from one of the sprinklers stopped in mid-air, collecting itself into a sphere, which then exploded into a high-pressure burst of water, like from a fire hydrant, only a hundred times more powerful. It slammed into Guardian's chest, but like so many of the villains' efforts on this day, the waves which could smash stone to powder and rend steel in half crashed harmlessly against his chest.

"Haven't you ever read Sun Tzu?" The seemingly disembodied voice of a middle-aged man rang out across the room. A few times, out of the corner of his eye, Guardian caught some of the water on the floor or the walls moving in a way it shouldn't be able to. But every time he jerked his glance over to focus on it, he lost track of it. "Always leave your strongest forces in reserve. If you are strong, feign weakness. If you are weak, feign strength. Never let the enemy know your true capabilities. The art of deception is the art of warfare!"

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Watching Josh turn that sickening shade of blue, Guardian was just about to stand down when Scarab arrived, and managed to do some damage to Sylph. The image that showed up was a bit gruesome, though. He turned his attention to Scarab, and said "Thank you, Scarab. The name's Guardian. I wasn't sure what I was going to be able to do to Sylph, if anything."

The sprinkler system went off, and Guardian started to get soaked, and was a bit shocked from the seemingly random occurrence. It wasn't until Scarab shouted a warning that he snapped out of it, a little too late. Guardian got blasted by an absolute torrent of water, yet it didn't affect him. Trying to follow Professor Fathom, Guardian was unable to actually get a lock on him, but Scarab didn't seem to have the same problem, so he said, "I'm just going to go make sure that Pyre is out. It wouldn't be very good if he started blasting us with his rays." Then Guardian flew over to Pyre, and gave another solid punch, rendering him unconscious.

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"I left as soon as I heard. I'm glad you got here first - I might not have made it in time."

The Scarab's arm was still stretched out toward Slyph as their battle of wills continued. Slyph clawed at imaginary scarab beetles biting at her mind, still shrieking barely-coherent profanities at the one responsible for them. She managed to pelt The Scarab with a few stray gusts of wind, but they did little more than rustle her cape. The Scarab turned her arm, shifting her open palm so that it faced upward instead of down, and squeezed her fingers into a fist. The golden auras around both her head and Slyph's pulsed brighter, and Slyph screamed again.

"You would deal pain and death to the innocent merely to satisfy your whims. You have been removed from the human condition for too long, Sylvia. Your memory needs refreshing. And as the Buddhists claim, life is suffering."

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Guardian's mighty blow cracked Pyre's jaw in half, and the shockwave reverberated throughout the entire antechamber, sending tiny fissures running up the stone walls and bending the vault door inward. Already in a sitting position, Pyre slid down against the vault, his head thumping against the ground. Foot-high flames still flickered and danced along his flesh, leaving him untouched but melting the carpets, burning scorch marks in the floors, and slowly melting the outer layer of steel on the vault door. Guardian felt the intense heat against his knuckles, like he was punching burning coals inside a grill, but to his surprise, his skin wasn't burnt at all.

Last time, the water had concentrated into a spray. This time, it was a tidal wave that smashed into Guardian, and just kept hitting him. He felt as though someone was stabbing his chest with a jackhammer, before his powers manifested. He staggered back a couple of steps under the weight of the water assaulting him. The room shook.

"You are strong, but you are merely a man. And one man cannot stand against the waves!"

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Granite's stone eyes slid open, sounding like tires rolling over gravel. He growled. His massive bulk stirred, rolling over. His rocky fists pounded cracks into the floor, and he slowly began to push to his feet. "...Lucky...shot...lessee you...do that...again...hurr..." He gasped, his chest grinding with every breath. He glanced upward, seeing the crimson-&-gold clad hero hovering nearby. "Scarab...shoulda known...I'll clean yer clock...new guy, too..."

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The very moment that Guardian connected with the punch to Pyre's face, there was a loud "CRACK". Guardian worried, thinking "Ooh, that sounded serious. Hopefully, he's only unconscious." Before he could think of anything else, however, Guardian was pummled by the strongest water force he had ever seen, pushing him back a bit. When it died down, about the same time Prof. Fathom stopped talking, Guardian couldn't help but say "SUNOVA... Heh, that was a good shot. I'm going to feel that in the morning. Anyways, I don't know if I can beat you or not, but I won't know unless I try.

Just as Guardian was about to move to the spot where the attack came from, he noticed that Granite had somehow woken up. Figuring that he could do some serious damage if he got back up, Guardian charged Granite, and tried to deliver a 1-2 punch. The first hit pretty solidly, but just as the second was about to land, a sharp pain ran through Guardian's body, with the source being in the chest, from Prof. Fathom's previous attack. The second punch ended up being about as effective as a tap on the shoulder, and with about as much force, too.

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Another chunk of Granite's rocky "flesh" shattered under Guardian's onslaught. He fell back a step and wiped away some dust and shards of stone that used to make up the left half of his jaw with the back of his massive hand. "Got one helluva hook there, Tights. You can dish it out...but can you TAKE IT?!" Granite wound his arm back, then swung a devastating punch down at Guardian's head. But Guardian was quicker on his feet than the lumbering mountain-who-was-once-a-man swinging at him, so he ducked and sidestepped just in time to avoid the fist (which was larger than Guardian's whole head) as it punched the "New Accounts" desk in half instead.

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Guardian was locked in a boxing match before he knew it. He had gotten two punches in on Granite, one actually doing harm, before Granite took a swing himself, barely missing and splitting a desk clean in two. "Nice shot. That would have done some serious harm if it connected. Looks like we're stuck in a battle of fists here, huh?" Guardian said, before trying another left-right combo. The first one just plain missed, but the second one connected, cracking up some of Granite's body. After this, Guardian flew back a bit, towards Scarab, ready to take a hit for her if the need arises.

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When Guardian rushed to meet The Scarab, she turned away from him, then slammed her back against his, making sure no one could sneak up behind either of them. [bg=#BF0000]"I can deal with Slyph, but I need you to hold off Granite while I do it. And watch out for Fath-*ACK!*"[/bg]

Her words were cut off as a jet of water suddenly leapt into the air, through her mask and down her throat. Obviously, her armor wasn't water-tight. A steady stream of fluid gushed up from the floor, disappearing behind her mask. She still held one hand out toward Slyph, a physical manifestation of the battle still raging in their minds, but her other hand fell to her own throat. She fell to her knees, gurgling and gasping as water flooded her mouth and nostrils. The halo of golden light around both her and Slyph's heads faded away.

The Scarab dropped her arms down and curled them over her chest, in a gesture of apparent surrender. But then she suddenly sprang up, her arms flying up in the directions of her respective foes. Another brilliant golden aura erupted around her, this time covering her entire body. Two similar explosions of light followed. The first appeared inside the vague outline of Slyph's body. She screamed one final time, then her shape collapsed in on itself, forming a small cyclone before settling down into a cloud resting upon the ground. The second flash quickly expanded into a wall of force, which smashed against the geyser pouring into her, breaking the stream and sending most of the water splashing against the wall across the room.

Meanwhile, Granite lumbered toward Guardian. The stone giant roared, rushed the novice her, and bent his shoulder down right before impact, throwing all of his considerable weight behind the tackle...

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As the shoulder of Granite was about to connect with Guardian, the rocks making a sound similar to balls in a dryer, Guardian knew that he wouldn't be able to get away in time, and as such, braced himself. Unfortunately for Guardian, he wasn't quick enough, and still got hit pretty hard, like being tackled by a battering ram. "Ow. I must admit, that was a good hit. I knew it was the smart choice trying to take you out first. Now then, time to say GOOD NIGHT!", Guardian said, punctuating the words "good" and "night" with a fist each. The first one was about slightly more effective than the previous few punches, as Granite looked a bit dazed, but the second one gave an audible *CRUNCH*, followed immediately by the sound of a VERY large "Thud", as Granite went down a second time.

Turning around, Guardian started surveying the situation. "And then there was one. Now, how can we deal with the not-so-good Professor... Hmm... Maybe..." "Hey, Scarab! Is there any way you can help me lock onto Professor Fathom's location? I'm having a hard time finding him."

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Wiping some of the moisture from her armor as she straightened her posture, The Scarab nodded. [bg=#BF0000]"I can do exactly that."[/bg] She raised her fingers to her temples and (although no one could see this behind her opaque mask) closed her eyes. [bg=#BF0000]If I can't see you with my eyes, Calumus, I'll just have to look with my mind.[/bg] Suddenly a puddle of water sliding across the carpet next to Guardian and The Scarab began to glow scarlet.

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"CURSE YOU, WITCH!" Professor Fathom bellowed. He finally stood up, his water-body morphing into a vaguely humanoid shape. "You have meddled in my affairs for the last time!" He pointed his "arms" at The Scarab, and a tidal wave came rushing forth from them. The Scarab raised her hands up in response, in a posture vaguely reminiscent of a martial arts fighting stance, and the unnatural waves crashed against an invisible wall of force just inches from her hand. It glowed gold for a second as the water crashed into it, then spilled upon the floor around her.

"DIE! Why won't you DIE?!"

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"Thanks, Scarab, I really appreciate it. Now I can see him., Guardian said. Just after that, Professor Fathom attempted to blast Scarab, and the resulting display, where the water hit an invisible wall, the way that it shined upon impact, then the sudden drop was was a very nice sight, in Guardian's mind. Following that, Professor Fathom started yelling at Scarab, water droplets flying out of his mouth as he did so.

"Ahem!" was the noise that came out of Guardian's throat, in a loud throat-clearing, when Guardian started flying towards Prof. Fathom. "I hope you didn't think I forgot you, Professor. I still owe you for that tidal wave of yours. Why don't you have some punch?" On that last word, Guardian's fist connected with Professor Fathom's face, a loud but dull thud as a liquid was hit like a solid.

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The vaguely humanoid shape of Professor Fathom exploded under the force of the shockwave from Guardian's mighty punch. The water crashed to the ground in a puddle. It slid back together for a few moments. The Professor grunted and wheezed as he managed to pull himself about halfway together, and then he sighed and collapsed back into a small pool.

The Scarab waved her hands over him, and the water collected itself into a sphere, surrounded by a golden glow. She waved another hand, and the vague cloud that was Slyph was likewise collapsed into a glowing globe, which floated through the air to join her longtime companion. [bg=#BF0000]"The S.T.A.R. Squad should be along shortly with special holding tanks for you two miscreants."[/bg]

She turned back to her new comrade. [bg=#BF0000]"Great work...'Guardian,' was it?"[/bg] She extended her hand to him. [bg=#BF0000]"Welcome to Freedom. It's a big city. Something's always happening somewhere. And it can always use another protector."[/bg]

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Guardian turned towards The Scarab and gave her a firm handshake. "Yeah, it's 'Guardian'. Also, thank you, Scarab. It's thanks to you that Sylph was stopped at all, and I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't shown up. The guy Sylph was holding hostage might have died. Also, I really appreciate you showing me where Professor Fathom was, it let me get a good lick on him." Releasing The Scarab's hand, he continued. "Anyways, I would really like to stay and chat, get to know some of the other heroes in this city through something other than word of mouth, but I have to get going before I get in trouble. Maybe next time, if circumstances permit?"

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[bg=#BF0000]"I'm glad we both showed up. I don't think this would have gone so smoothly if either of our presence was lacking."[/bg] The Scarab looked around, taking in the cracks and holes in the walls and floors, the scorch marks and the standing water. [bg=#BF0000]"Well, relatively speaking."[/bg] She shook Guardian's hand one final time. [bg=#BF0000]"For being such a big city, Freedom's a surprisingly small town. I'm sure we'll cross paths again soon, and I look forward to it. Take care."[/bg]

The Scarab turned to one of the bank tellers, who had finally peered up from under her counter, and tossed her a credit card. [bg=#BF0000]"Don't want the bank to lose its insurance carrier. Or for the insurance company to go bankrupt. That debit card accesses a numbered offshore account. The funds should cover the repair costs."[/bg]

The teller's demeanor shifted several times inside of a minute, from frightened to relieved to confused. "Um...thank you? How much should I charge to it?"

The Scarab stroked her chin thoughtfully for a moment, then glanced back up at the teller. [bg=#BF0000]"Go ahead and take it to the limit."[/bg]

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