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Avenger Assembled

The Dark Mother (IC)

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December 10, 2010

Midnight

Waterfrot

Joan knew she really should be heading home, but the temptation to sneak into her costume and up to the nearby warehouse rooftop had been too powerful to ignore. Daedalus II is actually a Grue, the product of a mating between his father and Pseudo during their space travel?!? She'd have to investigate this story considerably more if she actually did anything with it, probably just tightening up whatever leaks existed in Daedalus' organization as well as double-checking that he wasn't just a secret Grue agent. You never can tell with shapeshifters. Distracted as she was with the file of early 80s mimeographs that her contact had liberated for her, she'd turned her back to the water, and so missed the arrival of the princess of Atlantis until she heard the thump on the dock behind her. Turning, she saw the battered young woman pulling her way across the dock. "Nereid!" Fusion had visited Atlantis more than once, and knew the princess fairly well. "Dear Lord..."

Snapping the papers shut and caching them underneath a vent, Fusion leapt from the warehouse rooftop, gliding down to the battered young woman's side. Bleeding from her flanks and arms, Nereid looked like she'd been attacked by sharks or barracuda, toothmarks on her sides, and she looked up wildly, water briefly rising all around her until she recognized an ally. "Fusion, thank Triton," she gasped, her skin unusually pale. "They're right behind me! You need to get us off the docks now, before they..." Behind her, something very, very big was breaking the water, and as Fusion and Nereid watched, a gargantuan head broke the surface and two red eyes as big as her body watched her as a thing rose out of the water and gave a terrible roar that broke windows blocks away and rang out across the city

"Holy-!"

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Professor Quentin Quill had done something a bit unusual for a friday night. He had gone out.

Well, his fridge was all but empty and he didn't fancy another night of cereal. He wasn't a bad cook, all things considered, but he was rather forgetful about actually buying any food.

So, as it was Friday, he had decided to treat himself to some fish. He was fairly well off. Not rich, but he could certainly afford to eat out at a good restaurant two or three times a week if he desired. So he had taken a taxi to the Waterfront, popped into a good seafood restaurant, and taken in the jazz band playing there. He had had glass of good crisp white wine, to cleanse the palate, but as he was dining alone, had stopped there.

When he heard the massive roar, and shattering glass, he was very glad he had not indulged. As the customers fled outside, he stepped to one side, into the kitchens, and ran out of the back entrance, transforming as he did into the blue and white costume of SUPERCAPE!!!

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"Ma'am - no, ma'am, listen I'm-- yes, ma'am. No. It isn't- look. Ma'am. Ma'am. I can't just...no, you're not--ma'am. I cannot collapse your neighbor's store just because you don't like their holiday decorations. I wouldn't even - no. Ma'am. I won't wall it off, either. Presumably someone works there, and I can't- No. Listen. ...please listen. I can't- I'm glad you got your purse back, yes. I was very happy to help. Thank you. I just can't-"

A massive roar tore through the air, powerful enough to cause its own little breeze...and break out more than a few windows. Oh, thank god. "Well! That sounds very...hero...call-like to me." Gaian Knight hopped up off the ground, his trusty riding-rock pulling itself back together under him before he landed, and already floating him up and away. "Good luck with your neighbors, and, in the future, please don't believe someone when they say they're conducting a random purse inspection. ...even if they have a 'Purse Inspector' badge."

He was off before she had time to reply, flying as fast as he could toward the docks. Is there a patron saint of 'saved by the monster'? Because if so, thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Its engine whisper quiet, the Night Cycle sped along the waterfront, a matte black shadow like its rider. The bright yellow and blue outfit of the young woman riding behind him, on the other hand, stood out even in the dim light, reflecting in the water to their right. Trevor Hunter, the second mystery man to bear the title of Midnight, certainly didn't mind having Wander along with him on patrol, naturally; shared interests, he'd heard, were the basis of any strong relationship. Long stretches of silence with his bike's finely tuned engine beneath him and Erin's arms around his waist didn't hurt either.

The moment's quiet tranquility was shattered by a terrible, otherworldly roar further toward the docks, followed moments later by a white and blue form speeding through the air above them, flapping in the wind. Wordlessly, Midnight leaned forward slightly and accelerated to breakneck speeds, nimbly picking through alleyways and side streets to follow after.

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Behind Midnight, Wander shifted her weight, letting go of him to straighten up and pull her bat out of its holster at her belt. By now Erin was more than experienced enough at riding Trevor's bike to balance on it with no trouble whatsoever, and only held onto his waist because it was more fun that way. Now wasn't the time for fun though, not with something that sounded like the wrath of god roaring on the docks just a few blocks away. She drew her legs up onto the pillion seat, careful not to unbalance the bike for Midnight, and prepared to jump off if it became necessary. No words were really necessary, at least not yet.

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As the Night Cycle swept forward across the pier, Midnight took stock of the situation in frozen instants. Fusion he recognized from the unfortunate affair at the GBN building, and the heavily wounded young woman was familiar to him as well; he had in fact had at least one class with Nereid at the academy. The massive mass of black tentacles and malevolent red eyes rising from the depths in front of the two aquatically inclined women he'd never seen before, but he chose his response instantly. Stopping the motorcycle of a dime within a few yard of the end of the dock, he leveled an arm at the terrible beast, a rising hum coming from the outstretched limb before a pair of razor sharp needles burst forward, trailing filament wires. The miniature harpoons struck the writing form, cutting deeply before administering a truly brobdingnagian amount of current into its moistened flesh. With high pitched roar of pain, the giant squid appeared stunned by the jolt as acrid smoke rose from the points of penetration.

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In the wake of Midnight's attack, the great sea monster hissed and shrieked a terrible cry, flexing those gigantic tentacles as a shower of...something erupted from its maw against the bright night sky. It wasn't until the shower of debris came into view of the many security lights at the dockyards that all the assembled heroes could make them out, however: a veritable storm of wriggling, squirming, tentacled little beasts was hurtling towards them. Some splattered to oily ash as they hit the pavement, but others proved terribly vital, whipping along on long, black tentacles as they began racing across the surface of dry land.

As great clots of the writhing squid-things came flying past Supercape and Gaian Knight, others landed in a great wriggling mass in front of the Night Cycle: before Midnight could veer away, the squid monsters were underwheel and attacking! They spurned the humans for the moment, however, and fell upon the machine that was crushing their number, fangs and claws and maws sucking and pulling at steel as they did their best to grab and rip apart Trevor's pride and joy!

Things weren't much better for Fusion, who was faced with not just falling squidlings but squids in the water as well: their eyes glowing with a terrible intent. She had the presence of mind to grab the injured Neried and hold her above the attacking tide, but that didn't do anything to save herself: Fusion cried out as fangs and claws sunk into her flesh, spilling her blood out onto the dock to join the Atlanteans. This didn't look good...

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Already poised for flight, Erin leapt off the motorcycle and over onto the dock, landing next to the now openly-bleeding Fusion. "Stay close!" she ordered the octopus woman. "I'll keep them away!" She was as good as her word, using bat and feet and body to clear the docks, smashing, sweeping, and stomping. She was momentarily surprised when the first one she stomped on poofed away into nothingness, but that just made things easier and less messy. She opened up a space around Fusion and worked her way outward, destroying scores of the little monsters in a matter of seconds.

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Hissing and shrieking, the mother squid (for that it had to be, Fusion had surmised) churned up the water as it got closer and closer to the dock, tentacles as big around as telephone poles writhing madly all around Fusion and Nereid. Fusion looked up and made the mistake of meeting the creature's eyes as it gave a terrible roar. Jesus Christ, that's no ordinary giant squid! It's after something! Something...with blood. My blood. Nereid's blood... Gritting her teeth as she felt a cold surge of terror in her gut, Fusion wrapped her tentacles around Nereid and felt her skin tone changing, stretching her flexible body as far as she could to cover the girl, matching the docks, the squished monsters around her as Wander (who was obviously her guardian angel) began her killing spree, everything and anything to hide and get away and...No!

Drawing her head back, Fusion put all her breath into vomiting up a sludge of pure black ink, a cascade of fluid that poured up high enough to cascade over the great red eyes of the hideous squid-fiend! The beast, already maddened by pain, gave a terrible cry as it was blinded by the thick, flowing mass of ink across its face. Now, she thought, scuttling away as massive tentacles came crashing down on the docks all around her, Time to get the hell out of here!

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Gaian Knight was pretty sure he'd never seen a squid that big outside of a movie, and he was really sure he'd never seen a movie squid spit hundreds of tiny, angry squids at its enemies. He'd barely avoided the tentacled shower, grabbing onto his rock and flipping upside down to let them bounce harmlessly off the bottom of his ragged stone platform.

He could see them swarming those unlucky enough to be caught on the ground, and took quick stock, trying to get close to the action without getting anywhere near the probable reach of that giant, ink-inflicted cephalopod. An arm outstretched, a series of large jagged earthen spikes shot up out of the ground in a rippling chain across the docks, covering as much of the squirming masses as safely possible. "If I was a marine biologist," he nervously mused, trying to keep a very, very careful eye on the angry sea creature, "I'd probably have a pretty good quip for this."

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Supercape had never seen such a huge beast in all his years. Or all his months as a hero in Freedom City. He would have been scared enough, but the sight of a swarm of baby beasts ejecting themselves from the horrible creature's maw was enough to send a shiver down his spine and a cold sweat down his brow.

"Yoikes" he mumbled.

He had spied Wander stampeding through the spawn, and it looked like a few other heroes had come to fight the monstrosity. The razor sharp spikes was a neat trick - impaling hordes of the evil looking squid. It looked like a battle scene from Vlad the Impaler.

He didn't need to be so close to the flying fish, that was for sure. He had only just managed to fly out of the wall of squid that had been vomited at him. He shuddered to think what would have happened if they had dragged him to the ground.

So up he flew, whilst looking down and focussing his mind on the huge leviathan. It was still covered in sea water, and he had just the trick for that. With a nudge of a few key molecules, a shift of a few quantum states...

...and a blast of microwaves emitted from around the beast, as some particles lost some mass, and gained some energy. A few photons glistened in tandem, and the beast was bathed in glowing white light.

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The beast's tough hide soaked up the radiation entirely, leaving a faint, obviously superficial scorch mark as the only sign Supercape had done anything at all. Roaring with frustration, the blinded beast tried to scrub at its eyes with its tentacles, Fusion's sticky fluid clinging to it even half-in and half-out of the water. The octopus lady herself was doing her best to avoid any remaining squid monsters, sticking to a nearby rooftop and staying hidden from everyone dependent on vision. "Fusion..." gasped the princess. "They're coming, you have to..."

"Yes, they're coming!" agreed Fusion. "They are well past coming and are arriving! What are they?" But before Nereid could explain, Fusion was forced to turn back to the battle!

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Midnight glowered beneath his featureless mask as the massive creature's swarming progeny battered at the Night Cycle with their tentacles and sought purchase with their fangs. Kicking one loose with a heavy soled boot, he flicked a switch built into the motorcycle's handlebars almost casually. The electrical current that ran though the bike's morphic molecule paint to change its colour provided another benefit. The miniature squids in direct contact with the vehicle instantly exploded with meaty pops as chain lightning coursed through their siblings in a dazzling show that left piles of ash smelling of charred meat in its wake. "Don't touch the ride," the black clad youth growled.

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Wander was soon in the middle of a hissing, writhing sea of fanged squid monsters, their eyes glowing with preternatural intelligence as they tried to sink their disproportionate fangs into her body. It soon became obvious, though, that the squidlings couldn't penetrate her super-tough skin, nor could they reach the flesh they craved within. As she brought up a bat to destroy another one of the crawling little monsters, she looked into those glowing red eyes and realized where she'd seen that look before: that was exactly how a hungry Jack Jr. looked...

Across the way, the shrieks of the dying attracted more of the squids to Midnight, where they wriggled and crawled and writhed as they swarmed towards him. They fought with each other for the pleasure of biting him, a squamous mass of flesh and eyes and fangs, and finally one launched itself out of the mass, trying to sink its fangs into his arm!

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The full-on view of the giant vampire squid was intimidating, especially up close and personal, but Erin had seen much worse. This was more icky than truly scary. That didn't mean it wasn't very dangerous, especially to the heroes all around her. Spinning her bat, she raced towards it and ran straight up one tentacle, all the way up to the giant body and ferocious beak. Winding up like she was about to hit a home run, she smashed the creature on each side of its beak in a flurry of blows almost too fast to make out, then leapt away, her shoes and legs covered with slippery slime.

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Tilting his rock forward a bit, Gaian Knight looked down at the remaining land-crawling squid and scowled. I'm not sure I can make a significant dent in that without hitting somebody. Well, then. Tilting back up, he moved himself toward the docks and in to reasonable attack range; bringing up both softly-glowing hands as bits of earth and soil from the ground jumped up into the air and sharpened to dangerous points. The stream of projectiles hung there for a moment, gathering in force until he swept his arms forward, sending the lot of them hurling through the air into the giant sea creature like so many guided missiles. Sharp, pointy guided missiles.

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Supercape looked down at the beast. He could still detect the agitated particles emitting microwaves, peppered with loose excited protons.

Leaving the mother to stew in the dying remnants of radioactive soup, he looked around for a suitable atom above the remaining offspring. Any one would do, of course, but he needed to be precise with the location.

Calculating the explosion as best he could in his head, he chose a suitable oxygen atom and disintegrated it, realising a huge burst of white-blue radiation in the sky, directly over the horrible creatures that scuttled about the waterfront.

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Blinded, burning, and seriously injured, the great mother squid gave a terrible, inhuman shriek, massive tentacles tearing at the dock, shattering foot-thick wood and steel before she began sinking back down into the waves. With one last malevolent hiss, delivered with force enough to spray bloody water everywhere, the gigantic thing vanished beneath the dark. Her children were already gone; that last great blast from Supercape having incinerated them all in nuclear fire. From the dockside warehouse roof, well out of melee range even of the giant tentacles, Fusion watched for a moment as the monster sank into the waves before she gently released the slowly-rousing Nereid onto the docks. Nereid had been running from something, and it looked like the princess wanted to talk! With a shout, she got the attention of the others, wincing a little at the feeling of bite marks on her own flesh.

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Erin kept watching the water for a few moments, till she was sure that the squid wasn't merely regrouping. Turning, she leapt back to Trevor and the Night Cycle, checking both over for damage. They both seemed to be in acceptable condition still, much to her relief. "What the hell was that?" she asked Nereid, walking over closer to the Atlantean princess. "They looked like squid or something, but they acted like vampires. They had eyes like vampires."

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The battered princess nodded, raising her head with Fusion's support. Joan knew enough not to move an injured person normally, but if the Atlantean was suffering from anything, it was blood loss. "I found them in the depths of the ridge. They chased me back all the way to the city; too fast for me even to find my father in Atlantis." She coughed. "The cultists of the Dark Mother are building an army. Remora and her sons and daughters who do not live...are coming. You need to...you need to warn them..."

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Supercape slowly descended and landed by Fusion. His mind was distracted, having opened up a non-dimensional quantum hole between himself and the beast, through which he could track the things radar signature. It was draining work, made all the more complicated by having to negotiate a descent and move the entanglement with the beasts rapid descent.

"Frightful caper!" he muttered to Fusion and the injured Nereid. He wasn't looking at them directly, and his eyes had a glazed look that complimented his furrowed, sweaty brow.

"I'm tracking that awful thing now..." he murmured. "No... blast.. to much interference!" he strained, his brow furrowing still further. "No...no...lost it. Damn!"

He held his hands out. "Sorry folks, too much odd electro-magnetic disturbance down there. Very odd too, from my limited knowledge of oceanography. Quantum entanglement is a tricky business, I'm afraid. "

His eyes focussing again, he looked at the bleeding Nereid. She looked worse than she probably was, but the sight of a bloodied woman was somewhat galling to his sense of gallantry. "Goodness! is the young lady all right?"

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Not one to avoid a good old-fashioned pow-wow, Gaian Knight brought his rock in toward the rest of the group, finding himself unable to take his eyes off where the squid had disappeared into the ocean. "A literal vampire squid? Tell me you're joking. At least tell me the sea's not full of those things...."

He trailed off as Nereid shared her slightly cryptic warning, still looking out over the water. Atlantis? Did she say Atlantis? He sighed. "We have to go for a swim now, don't we."

It wasn't really a question.

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A previously concealed compartment on the Night Cycle opened with a soft hiss and Midnight retrieved a small white case with a red cross emblazoned on one side. Dismounting and stepping swiftly past the assembled heroes, he knelt down next to Fusion as she cradled Nereid and popped the case open, revealing a well stocked set of first-aid supplies. "Easy, Thetis," his voice rumbled in a soft baritone as he set about treating her wounds. The two students hadn't interacted much, but Trevor wasn't about to let anything happen to another grandchild of the Liberty League. He briefly considered instructing her to assume her more durable liquid form, but had no idea how that would effect her weakened state. "How many of you can breathe underwater?" he questioned the other without looking up from his work

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He was awfully glad to see someone who could take care of a hurt ally (I really ought to take a night class on medicine, or...something.), but shifted uncomfortably at the question. "Afraid not. I could probably make something like a bathysphere, and I could go under the ocean well enough, but if I have to be in the water myself I'll need to grab something like a scuba tank."

Hands in his pockets and feeling a little like - well, like a fish out of water - Gaian Knight tried to think about his options. There were probably shops selling scuba gear somewhere around this part of town...that bathysphere idea was kind of neat, but he'd need some mica or crystal to avoid being almost blind. Feeling vibration from water was like watching TV on an ancient black-and-white set with a bad antenna.

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"Thetis" mumbled Supercape "as in the Greek Goddess?"

He shook his head. Immortal Greek Goddesses don't die from blood loss, if he remembered his mythology correctly. He was relieved to see somebody here knew some trauma medicine.

"How many of you can breathe underwater?"

He raised his hand. "It just so happens I have made some modifications to the old Supercape" he replied, swishing his hand down to show off the sparkling blue and white costume. "The unstable quantum molecular structure can now resonate with wave-string fractals in a particular harmonic that allows reverse-time stream entanglement of the elements oxy..."

He looked around, and coughed slightly.

"Yes, I can breathe underwater" he replied. With a quick tinkle of light, a shimmering glass-like bowl appeared around his head, attached to his costume.

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