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The Door you can't Unlock [IC]

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It's morning. There's a beautiful sunrise to the east. The light washes over Freedom City, bathing it in beautiful colors and the warmth of a new day. It banishes the dark to the shadows until its cycle is complete.

Freedom City is alive.

Freedom City celebrates a radical revolution as The Luxury declares its Grand Opening celebration. The themed Casino, Hotel, and Amusement Park is opening its doors September 1st for residents of Freedom City to "Catch a glimpse" of the hottest new sensation in tourism and recreation. The hotel's theme promises to treat its guests "As royalty, no matter where they go." An intriguing motto indeed.

The pattern starts anew. People mind their business and go about their lives as the sun climbs the sky.

In the South, the pattern is disrupted. A 30 story dome of crimson red dominates the Boardwalk. The pattern is disrupted. People gather and watch. Curiosity reigns over rationality.

The Grand Opening of The Luxury is met with an overwhelming turnout, filling the casino to capacity. A mix of Freedom's elite, extravagant tourists, and normal, every day families have all gathered for a party that Freedom City will never forget.

The police are summoned, holding back the crowds. The bright crimson inches forward. The coppery tinge of blood is in the air, and with it vanishes any doubt that magic is dominant here.

Tragedy strikes as an unidentified, 30 story red dome covers the new casino hotel, The Luxury. People around the location have sworn they saw people entering the dome, disappearing completely. Police urge everyone to avoid Boardwalk transit for the time being and to stay away from the red dome, as it is considered extremely dangerous. An attack on Freedom's newest sign of fun and recreation, or a publicity stunt gone horribly wrong? We'll have more updates as they arrive. This has been your 8 o' clock news update.

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Eric woke up with more than a little headache. The night before had involved a fight with more than a few poltergeists in a run-down apartment building. Normally, poltergeists weren't a big deal -- mostly, they were echoes, repeating events and phenomena locked into a pattern. But these ones had somehow become a gestalt entity, and he was lucky he hadn't had the building thrown at him.

After a quick shower and an Americano, Eric was feeling a lot more human. While the eggs started frying in the pan, he turned on the news to see if the "freak building collapse" was in the headlines.

"--we are currently seeking word from experts in power behavior, but for now, the cause and reason for the manifestation remain unclear." That made his ears perk up. "We repeat: the Luxury casino has become isolated from human contact due to a... scarlet dome forming out of nothing. We will bring you the story as it develops..."

Eric sighed and pulled out his cell phone. Before he placed the call, he drew up the Banshee Wail -- not at its full strength, but enough to catch a faint echo of the dead ages. Nothing was better for faking a sore throat.

"Yeah, sorry, it's me, Eric," he said, stifling a cough. "Look, I don't know what it is, but I woke up feeling like someone took a Brillo pad to my throat... thanks. I understand. Hopefully it's a 24-hour bug. Bye."

The call finished, he dropped the spell and went for his wardrobe. After dressing and slapping on the makeup, he snuck out of the apartment and down to the hidden garage. He pulled the Pale Horse out of storage, revved it up, and aimed for the Boardwalk.

Nick Cimitiere had some business to attend to.

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Cruising through the Freedom City Skyline, Johnathon Stargazer, also known as The Beacon, contemplated his current state of affairs with his usual aplomb...

I can't believe it. I'm going to be late. I'm going to be late for my first day of school at the Academy. All because I decided to make an early morning visit with Mister Albright to calm my nerves a bit. Now, here I am, in mid-air en route with no idea how late it actually is. If my magic costume didn't cover my pockets, I could check my phone, but no. I'm probably way behind. I'm probably- is that a giant glowy energy dome in the middle of the Boardwalk?

Curving gently in the air, Beacon moves towards the mysterious dome, blinking behind his featureless mask.

Yep. Giant, glowy, apparently growing energy dome. And way closer to my parent's place than I really like. Like, in the same city. Looks like I'm definitely gonna be late for first period.

"On the plus side, I'm totally going to find an excuse to use the Shine A Light pun. And isn't that really what superheroism is all about?"

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"Please clear the area in an orderly fashion! There is no cause for alarm."

The megaphone tried to overcome the chatter of the onlookers with little success. The murmurs of a concerned and curious crowd overtook the police officer's orders. A nigh-skeletal crew of Freedom's Finest could only hope to keep onlookers a safe distance, while being assaulted with camera flashes and media questions they had no hope of answering.

"Look! Supers!" The cry from the crowd drew attention away from the dome and towards the flying hero Beacon, who arrived first on the scene. The cameras flashed and the audience shouted out to the first hero, some of them applauding at the sight.

Farther away, the Pale Horse pulled into sight of the 30 story crimson dome. The story on the news certainly wasn't exaggerated. The traffic in the area had been caught in a deadlock - some fleeing the dome in search of a safer place while others try to move towards the dome for curiosity or for profit.

The confusion makes getting police reinforcements difficult. It appears you'll have to walk from this point on...

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Ouroboros awoke shooting a glare at the morning sun. He'd left the television blaring as he fell asleep the night before and was awoken by the morning news report. He leaned forward and examined the screen for a moment and drawing his deep hood up to cover his face he spoke words of mystic power and with a gesture a golden portal opened transporting him across the city in the blink of an eye. He glanced up at the shinning hero hovering above and turned his attention to the dome incanting a spell to analyze the barriers mystic signature.

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Ouroboros appears beside the crimson dome and the crowd hushes in anticipation of something incredible happening.

The spell is cast and you are granted insight. However, as is usual with magic, insight may lead to more questions than answers...

Farther away, Nick Cimitiere approaches the boardwalk when he comes to a rather worrying observation. As he approaches the dome, the look on the eyes of the people watching from a distance gets more cold and distant - a familiar look for any man who's walked with Death. These people are being drained, and they don't know it.

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Nick looked at the crowds, then to the red dome, then back to the crowds. Yeah, there's no way in Hell that can be good. Despite the sway the dome was having on the people, it didn't seem to have any sort of death-like quality -- it was draining brain power, not life itself. Just what was it, anyway?

Nick secreted himself at the mouth of a nearby alley and kept his eyes locked on the dome. Calling on the voice of dead ages always tended to freak people out, even if he wasn't drawing on it at full strength, and the last thing he wanted to do was provoke a panic. So he kept his eyes locked on the dome, and let the voice of the Fates flow through him.

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Another disconcerting aspect appears. Nick Cimitiere calls upon the voices of the past to give some insight into the past, but only a few hushed voices are gathered.

A casino filled with people just before a major magical event should have drawn more attention from the worlds beyond. What happened?

"I saw a man who wasn't a man. I saw him talk with another.

I saw a child with tears in her eyes, she wants her father and mother.

The not-a-man says "I'll give you your peace, and do it without hesitation,

The man asks the price, but the child just nods. His price was seven invitations.

I see eight that have gathered since then - and each with power in their eyes,

I left before they fulfilled their vows, but I know that the child still cries."

With a cackle from beyond the grave, the voice leaves.

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Well, he's not the soul of politeness, but he seems to know what he's doing at least. Speaking of, time for me to fake it.

Landing near the police barricades, Beacon glances briefly around before approaching the officer who appears to be in charge of the scene, addressing him in a slightly deeper than normal voice.

"Sorry if I'm a bit late to the scene, officer. I'm always happy to assist Freedom's Finest, but I just spotted this a few minutes ago. What can you tell me about what's going on here?"

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"Glad you could make it, uh..."

The officer in charge, an older man sporting a gray mustache, took off his hat and scratched his head. The costume seemed familiar, so this was clearly an established and respected super hero. However, his memory may have been failing him in his old age. He cleared his throat.

"*Erhem* I'm glad you could make it. This red... haze... dome thing used to be a Casino - The Luxury. It had more than a thousand people inside. Now we ain' seen hide nor hair of anyone inside. Here, come have a lookat this."

The older officer unhooked a flashlight and waved it past the dome of red. It went through easily the dome easily, and he pulled it back.

"Things pass through easy enough. But when people get through in there, they double over in... pain, or somethin'. And then they disappear from sight. We even sent in some bomb disposal robots, and we got nothin'. No people and no casino. Heck, we got no robots after a couple seconds! It's bafflin'."

A young police officer ran to the older man's side. "Sir! We are ready, sir!"

"Thanks." The older man motioned for the young officer to carry on and turned back to Beacon. "It's crude, but we're gonna try sendin' me in with a rope tied around my waist and a camera. Hopefully, we can find some of these people before it's too late. Let me know if you find out anything yourself."

The old man walks off to suit up for the dangerous mission. Deep in your gut, you believe he is only days away from retirement.

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Oh no. I know this cliche. I'm not big on movies and junk, but even I can spot Old Cop About To Die A Week Before Retirement.

"Hold it there a moment, Officer. This is clearly magical in nature, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to refrain from entering the red dome. There's too good a chance it'll claim you as well, and that makes it my responsibility to claim the duty. Besides..."

Turning towards the red dome, John starts forwards with a lot more confidence in his posture than he actually feels, strolling calmly towards the mysterious interface with his cape flourishing behind him.

"Everyone knows, in an emergency, the first thing you do... is send up a Beacon."

On that last dramatic note and introduction, unhesitating, he walks into the strange energy.

Man, I hope that other guy knows enough about magic to pull me out of this when it turns out to be a terrible idea.

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Sitting on a stool in the Brownstone's kitchen, Lynn munched on a giant bowl of 'Grimocha Crunch' as she read the paper wearing colorful Scooby-Doo jammies. She no longer had to eat these days, but from time to time she'd conjure up food for the heck of it, often putting her own unique spin on the food item; her current shtick was breakfast cereals, including such popular brands as 'Colt Crispies', 'Jack of All Grains', 'Fulcrum Flakes' and 'Dynam-Os'. Her teammates prayed the phase would be short-lived.

Bored with the comics page, the changeling set the paper aside and switched on the small white TV on the counter, and suddenly sat up straight; there was something very bad and dome-shaped going on down at the Boardwalk. Hopping off the stool, she dismissed her glamoured breakfast with a wave of her hand, the cereal box with her own beaming face melting away into mist as she flew upstairs in pixie form to take a very fast (and rather torrential, at her current size) shower. Colt was still asleep (aww!), but she could always call him or the rest of the team if the situation was clearly out of her league; she conjured up a note explaining her destination and left it on the dresser, then landed on her lover's forehead to kneel down and plant a miniature kiss before zooming out the window.

- - - - - -

Once over the afflicted area, Grim dropped out of the sky and resumed her normal proportions and full costume next to a somewhat bewildered-looking older police office, who for some reason had a rope tied around his waist :?

"Good morning, officer!" She stared up at the massive red phenomenon, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. "Wow, that's even weird by Freedom's standards! So, what's the scoop? I'm Grimalkin, by the way, from the Interceptors."

She held out a fingerless-gloved hand.

"Pleased to meetcha."

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"Oh! Ah, hello!" The older gentleman seemed somewhat surprised at the arrival of another super hero. Nevertheless, he kindly took the lady's hand and shook it. "The Interceptors? I'm glad you could make it! You see, some of our own men have gone into the dome and have disa..."

The officer stopped as Beacon, shining pillar of hope to the gathered audience, flew into the dome as the other assembled heroes were busy. The crowds cheered as Beacon managed to ignore the assaulting magical energies of the dome.

"Oh dear..." the older officer exclaimed as he watched the hero disappear.

It was extremely difficult to see inside the red haze. A quick fly around reveals the angry shouts of a man. "Stop it! STOP IT! STOP IIIIIIT!"

Without much trouble, Beacon finds the sources of the sound: a man in a police officer's uniform doubled over in pain. Unfortunately, no trace of the casino is here.

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Oh, okay. So, when people disappear from sight after doubling over in pain, they're not actually vanishing, just, kind of, being out of sight. That's good, it's not eating them or whatever... yet... I need to learn to end this inner monologues three sentences sooner.

Flying down towards the officer in pain, John thinks quickly, which is fortunate, 'cause he does a lot of it. Seriously.

Okay, whatever's causing this is probably an ongoing element of the energy dome thingy that I've somehow resisted. So, healing him won't work, cause it'll still be getting him, and calming him will at best be like morphine. So, let's see if the problem is something inside the dome, or the dome itself.

Focusing on the mystical power deeply ingrained in his body, Beacon extends a hard shell formed of light around himself and the officer, hopefully creating a protective bubble or miniature dome inside the larger, more evil red dome.

"And if this works, I can hopefully use it to get some information out of you, and then get you out of here!"

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Ouroboros observed dome for a few moments examining the flow of magic through the dome with a deepening frown. He turned to the officer and spoke quietly but urgently, "You have to draw the perimeter further back." he looked to the dome once more, "Its feeding on all of these people and we don't want it to finish." he intoned dramatically. As Beacon flew up and within he dome his frown deepened, this was not power to be tested recklessly by the uninitiated. "We'll see to those inside." he said and strode towards the dome activating his forcefield as he approached and stepped through.

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Nick saw the glowing hero pound away at the dome, finally managing to pierce the shell. He then saw a familiar robed figure carefully approach the dome, studying it in contemplation. Well, it's good to know I've got some mystic back-up here, he thought to himself.

He approached Ouroboros and the crowd. "Hey, O," he called. "Guessing you caught the eight o'clock news as well." As he got up close to the mystic, he whispered, "Took a reading of the situation from the Fates. They got... poetic, in the Nostradamus sense. But from what I gather, something managed to strike a deal with a kid -- bring seven people forward with power. Eight are gathered, probably inside, but the entity seems to have welshed on its deal with the kid." He paused. "Yeah, I know how it sounds. The Fates are fickle about this stuff."

As Ouroboros attempted to breach the dome, Nick zipped up his jacket, hoping it would help against the mystical onslaught. He tentatively stepped across the border.

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Ouroboros and Nick Cimitiere step into the red haze as the officer gives a similar explanation to Grimalkin as he did to Beacon as to what they know. Other officers try to move back the crowd but to very little effect. For some reason, the crowd is somewhat uncooperative today.

Despite the haze's attempt to assault your senses, your magical power is not disrupted and Ouroboros' analytical spell again reveals insight. The second you stepped into the red haze, you are no longer on Earth. You cannot find the casino because the casino is not here - protected from all sides by a doorway to this dimension.

The Door you can not unlock is the door that is open.

It is not too hard to find variations in the red, and you eventually come to a dome made of bright light - one made by the hero beacon. Unfortunately, it appears that, under the duress of the haze, it is beginning to crack, and will not last long.

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The news had reached Quentin Quill uncharacteristically fast, via one of his students who was paying more attention to a web broadcast than his lecture. Making some rather weak excuse (no doubt Liebniz would be on his case later), he soon took to the Skies as Supercape.

The red haze was visible from quite some distance, and with a brief period of concentration and calculation, quantum forces throwing out invisible lightning, he suddenly reappeared by the scene in a blaze of blue-green light.

Crowds. Hmph He didn't like crowds. And so, as usual, his cape became even bigger, his hood grew even deeper, and he withdrew to the safety of his magnificent costume.

Landing on top of a Media truck, with a muttered apology to the somewhat irate news reporter, he surveyed the red dome with his uncanny senses.

To his annoyance, he couldn't make head or tail of it.

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The crowds murmur with concern. No less than three heroes disappeared inside the red haze and had not yet come out - a definite cause for dismay.

Suddenly, a member of the crowd shouted angrily above all of the noise. "It's a Publicity Stunt!"

Multiple members of the crowd turned towards a particularly irate-looking balding man in his late 40's who was shouting. "I can't believe they'd pull this junk off too! Gettin' police and super heroes in? We've got bleedin' LIVES to get on with! And the casino thinks it cab drum up popularity with a fancy light show? GEEZE."

The crowd began to murmur again, but with definitely a mixed tone. There was some uncertainty, a little restlessness, and a definite hint of anger.

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"Looks like the casino's cut off from reality," Nick said to Ouroboros. "I'd recommend we seek cover -- might even wanna think about getting the hell out of here."

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Whether it is simply good luck or the immeasurable spirit and fortitude of heroes, the red has not claimed any person's senses... for the moment.

In your current states, you still have enough of a sense of direction to leave. While the doorway to this dimension of power proves a formidable obstacle to reaching the casino, it also acts as its own saving grace - the direction to leave this red haze is easily determined.

The officer, given even a slight reprieve from the dark effects of the haze's insidious assault, falls into a merciful state of unconsciousness. The crimson eats away at the power of the light, slowly but surely.

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"It's a Publicity Stunt!"

"I can't believe they'd pull this junk off too! Gettin' police and super heroes in? We've got bleedin' LIVES to get on with! And the casino thinks it cab drum up popularity with a fancy light show? GEEZE."

Oh great, the crowd is turning into jerks. :roll:

Thanking the officer for his time, Grim made her way towards the Channel 3 Action News van, trailing vapor as she went; as she moved, she grew nearly a foot taller, with broad shoulders and long legs which carried her with confidant strides to the vehicle. Deftly leaping to the van's roof, she raised a conjured megaphone (the vintage Rudy Valle style) to her lips and addressed the crowd in a ringing voice as her clear blue eyes scanned the assembled faces with a steady gaze.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of Freedom City! I can assure you that the management of the Luxury has not created this dome as publicity stunt! This is a very real crisis situation, and for your own safety you need to step back and let your city's police and superheroes resolve the situation! Thank you!"

Then she noticed a strange-looking man in huge billowy cloak standing to her right.

"I'm sorry, I didn't see you there! I'm Grimalkin of the Interceptors." Holding the megaphone in her off-hand, she offered him a very firm handshake.

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The crowd quiets in astonishment and awe as they listen to Grimalkin. Eventually, they do shuffle farther away from the dome as the police establish a wider perimeter, much to their collective relief. That should certainly buy some time, but it's hard to say how much.

There is one other thing, though...

...No. Must have just been your imagination. Concentrate - you need to focus if you're going to save the day!

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