Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
trollthumper

The Closing of the Year [IC]

Recommended Posts

Dec 21st, 2010

The Millennium Mall was loaded for bear with shoppers. All around, men and women darted in and out of crowded shops, fighting through human tides and seeking respite in the occasional coffee shop. They dove for toys, for games, for cards, for books, for clothes, for body products, all seeking that special something.

Two young men, however, stood stock still in the human tide, looking in at Lovelace Electronics. In the window was a small netbook, displayed to showcase its size, its glossy design, and its price tag.

Andy looked over to Joe. "Sure this is what she wants?"

"Look, every time I've been over, she's fighting dad or you for the old PC," Joe said. "This'll free up some space. 'Sides, she's been talking about writing that novel."

"So we go in halfsies," Andy said. "I've been saving up from work, but --"

"Screw that. 70-30. I've been working a few extra shifts at the foundry. I'll probably be eating ramen for the next month, but--"

"You don't have to --"

"Yeah, but I wanna, all right?"

"Okay." Andy took a look around the mall, then down at Joe's duffel bag. "You think there might be trouble here?"

"Hope not." Joe'd pretty much been bringing the bag everywhere, out of reflex. On the train, at work, to the Boardwalk, everywhere. Even then, he'd come partially dressed for tonight. He had the black jeans of his uniform on, and his standard T-shirt was on underneath a Street Dogs T. His uniform jacket and the helmet were in the bag; all it'd take would be six seconds in a bathroom somewhere to get ready. "Still, this time of year, this many people... always gotta be prepared."

"You know, you'd probably be better prepared if you had something you could slip under your --"

"I'm not wearing tights."

"Just saying, it'd be a bit --"

The sound of tinkling glass cut Andy's statement short. Down by the elevators, a loud growl split the air, followed by a mass of panicked screaming. Joe pushed Andy through the Lovelace doors. "Stay in there 'til you don't hear screaming!"

"Oh, like that's comforting!" Andy shouted, but Joe was already gone. Pushing against the surging shoppers -- not at full strength, just enough to convince them they might want to flow around him rather than take him on -- he ducked into the nearby bathroom corridor. Ducking behind the open door, he zipped open the duffel bag and started putting out the rest of his costume. Goddamnit, can't we have one Christmas without something trying to kill everyone?

Share this post


Link to post

Jessica Parker was frankly terrified of the mass of shoppers. She'd watched the holiday movies, of course, but she had assumed the crush and the insanity had been exaggerated for comedic or dramatic effect, like so much else in those programs. But no -- here she was, and there wasn't barely room to breath! If she'd had her choice she would've shopped online like a normal, sane person, but Blake had told her just two days ago that he was invited to a party Christmas Day and he wanted her to go. She didn't want to think poorly of her boyfriend -- he'd had such a rough couple months, after all -- but it would've been nice to get some warning! She didn't even know who the party was for, just that it was being held in a garage. She'd Settled for grabbing a wrench set and a Mag Light from the home improvement store, and now she clutched her purchases to her chest and tried not to get trampled as she slowly navigated her way path to the exit.

For a moment, she was almost happy when she heard the screams and panicked shouts. This was something familiar to her -- civilians under attack and needing protection. She juggled bags for a moment until she was able to press the switch on her wristwatch, and in a blaze of light and energy her armor arose around her, leaving her clad head-to-toe in green and gold armor... and still juggling packages. She flew up underneath the mall's central skylight, where and interesting intersection of metal struts and plastic tubes made a statement about something or other, but Ironclad just saw a convenient place to wedge her packages. Bags handled, she oriented on the source of the disturbance and flew over there at the highest speed she could manage.

Share this post


Link to post

Gabriel Quinn was actually cheery, for once. A bust in Downtown had gone exceedingly well, and he actually had a rather sizeable amount of spending money courtesy of some lowlifes who'd thought they could purchase some villain's tech for cheap. In the spirit of the season, he'd swapped his usual wool cap for one of those classic Santa hats, and the messenger bag with his costume hung from his side as he idly flipped through a holiday catalogue, looking up and down a hardware store for some tools Michael would like.

Not like I've got anyone else to send stuff to...

Come to think of it, Quinn mused, it had been a very long time since he actually had gone Christmas shopping. Before he met Michael, he'd been living on the streets, and he hadn't seen his parents in...well...he didn't like to think about that. Probably the last time he'd bought any presents was the year before he'd gone on the run...the incognito hero shook his head, putting the catalogue down and examining a shiny new adjustable wrench. Not a bad piece of work, the toolkit it came with was cheap, and what the hell was that?!

Panicked screaming sounded from outside the store, and he clapped a hand to his forehead. Sprinting for the nearest washroom, he hauled the ever-present scarf out from the bag, winding it around his head and neck with narrowed eyes. No rest for the wicked...

Share this post


Link to post

Oliver stood silently in front of the CD rack looking at the rather large pile of his latest soundtrack, a small frown on his face. His last CD hadn’t sold as well as projected, his manager had pushed it out ahead of schedule for Christmas despite Oliver’s objections it wasn’t finished. ‘Told you.’ Oliver muttered to nobody as he placed a CD back, he would have to deal with that after the holidays were over.

As the first screams rang out Oliver quickly made his way out of the music shop and into the mall only to be bowled over by some old woman on an electric scooter.

“Good thing I shopped early this year…†Oliver muttered as he got himself up and ducked behind a large pot plant next to the music shops entry.

Once Oliver was sure nobody would see him behind the plant, he closed his eyes, steadied his breathing and peered into the inky blackness within him self. The scariest thing about peering into it was the fact that it always peered back… Daemon opened his eyes, checking himself in the reflection of the glass Daemon rolled his eyes as he saw his white hair.

Turning invisible Daemon flew out from behind the pot plant to see what all the commotion was.

Share this post


Link to post

Decembers in Freedom City were always cold, and this one was no different, so seeing someone bundled up in heavy coat, gloves, cap, and scarf would not be unusual. Seeing someone with all that in the mall would be a tad odd, since most would shed their layers once inside the warm center of commerce, but perhaps some people just require longer to warm up. That was one thing those who passed a certain well-wrapped figure may have thought as they went about their mall-centric tasks; the odd aromas of spices about him might be attributed to the stranger having recently imbibed some mulled cider (or rum-heavy eggnog). But this figure was not there for shopping, but rather to meet somebody.

Well, looking for some body, anyway.

I always did like winter! And in this get up, I can come investigate things like the rumors of bodies buried in the foundation of this mall, without worryin' 'bout spookin' the norms! Same I couldn't find somethn' ta make up a harness fer Mutt so he could pose as my seein' eye dog, but he seems ta like it better up on the ceilin' anyway, chasin' them toy helicopters.

Nearby, a man in front of the toy store demonstrating the latest remote controlled helicopter was trying to figure out what his model had run into to cause the damage it had suffered. The numerous scratches could be attributed to bumping into the walls, ceilings, and other flying toys, but the puncture marks?

Dead Head was making his way to the center of the mall when the growl and screams split the air.

"Dangit, cain't a guy investigate the contractor-hidden bodies of Mafia hits without some critter gettin' in the way?!" he sighed. He turned and ran to the source, whistling for Mutt as he went. "C'mon, boy, we gots us a ruckus!"

Share this post


Link to post

His helm firmly closed on his head, Cannonade stormed out of the deserted restroom and surged through the crowd towards the center of the mall. There, he quickly found the source of the disturbance. Two gigantic hounds were busy tearing up the small vendor kiosks, sending wood and shredded stuffed animals everywhere. Despite being the size of rhinos, Cannonade could quickly tell they were starved -- what muscle stuck to the bones was lean and gamy, and he swore he could see ribs under the skin. A few vendors were lying unconscious at the beasts' feet, amongst a pool of broken glass -- the two had likely entered through the skylights at the top of the mall. So far, their blind rampage was focused on the merchandise rather than the men, but it would only be a matter of time...

Cannonade assumed a pitcher's stance, ready to catch the charging hound. "Here, boy!"

Share this post


Link to post

As Ironclad rose about the crowd she caught sight of the two canines, monsters bigger than any dog or wolf she'd ever heard about, bigger than she thought it was possible for dogs to get. Once at a good height she leveled out her climb and took a quick survey of the fighting area; she noted the two concession stands, mostly torn to shreds by the beasts, and the civilians cowering beneath the wreckage. She also noticed the other forms pushing their way against the flow of the crowds, towards the commotion. More superheroes, no doubt. The armored heroine wasn't about to turn down the help.

Share this post


Link to post

As the first of the hounds bore down on him, Cannonade began to realize that his plan had certain flaws. For one thing, as it wrenched its jaws open, he realized he couldn't see the back of its mouth. All he could see was a dark, longing void. For another thing, he didn't realize just how sharp those teeth were. He took a step back to adjust his position -- and the teeth were upon him, ripping right through his T-shirt and seizing on his midsection.

"Son of a--" he cried out in pain -- pain he hadn't felt for a long time. The teeth clamped down further, and agony cut off whatever else he wanted to say.

Share this post


Link to post

A flash of color from above, and a figure in a long brown coat, a red scarf, and (rather strangely) a Santa hat, vaulted over the upper level balustrade, hitting the cement floor with a crash.

"Oi, Fido! HEEL!"

It became readily apparent to Cannonade's slightly blurred vision that the figure was carrying a very large hammer. And the hammer was descending towards his midsection. And that suddenly the pain of the fangs was abruptly gone. The hound savaging his chest was sent spiraling away, crushed by a blow that seemed almost impossible considering the coated figure's small frame. Planting his feet, Push stood between Cannonade and the other hounds, swinging his hammer threateningly and snarling.

"Now what hack of a spellslinger let you mutts off the leash, huh? Come on, step up, I've got plenty for everyone!"

Share this post


Link to post

"Heya, Push!," the many-layered figure shouted as it leaped into the fray, drawing a familiar shovel from a holster strapped to his back (and hidden by a thin coat, so it had not been immediately obvious). "Nice hit there -- lessee if I can match it!"

The Revenant's shovel struck a solid blow, but this hound was just a bit tougher. The beast was unsteady, but not staggering about like the one Push had walloped.

"Hrn."

Another dog -- a smaller and normal-looking mastiff, normal save for the cheery & cherry-red eyes -- appeared by Cannonade. "Hello, Helmet-Man! Are you alright?"

Share this post


Link to post

The two hounds went flying across the concourse, bouncing against the marble walls and knocking off half of the Pageturners sign. They fell to the ground, landing on their sides and struggling to get up.

Cannonade had the perfect perspective to watch all of this from the floor. While he did, he looked up to the dog that had just addressed him. "Think I suffered one hell of a concussion," he muttered to himself.

Share this post


Link to post

Ironclad hovered above the fight, hesitant to swoop in and strike lest she hit another hero. She saw her opportunity when the two heavily-garbed heroes slammed the hounds off and away. It took her a second to decide, but she eventually settled on the one that was already stumbling around. If they could put that one down and focus on the other one with all their might, this fight would be finished a lot sooner.

The heroine gave herself just enough of a boost to do a quick flip in mid-air, then cut her flight systems entirely. Her whole armored form, two hundred and fifty pounds or so, landed on the beast's back. Just for good measure, she fell into a kneeling pose and slammed the creature's head against the mall's tiled floor.

Share this post


Link to post

The blow drove the hound into the wall once again, and Ironclad could hear something snap. Stuck between her fists and the cold marble, the hound let out a cry of pain that seemed tinging with longing and the end of a death rattle. She felt its flesh give way under her, as it collapsed into a pool of black liquid.

"Great," Cannonade said. "Melting dogs. Just when you think you've seen everything in this town..."

Share this post


Link to post

Normally, Push would have been slightly worried about a voice that came from nowhere. But then, Dead Head was here, which means Mutt, the Wonder...Ghost? was nearby. A quick check showed that Cannonade had pretty much shaken off his daze, and the ersatz hero quickly reached down and hauled him to his feet.

"Could be worse, what if they were exploding dogs?"

He winked, turning and charging towards the last hound, roaring as he felt the kinetic energy burn through his body. A warp larger than before enveloped the head of the hammer as his boots slammed into the ground, and with a mighty swing, it connected with the hound. A crack like a lightning bolt erupted in the air, and the pound puppy was launched as if out of a cannon, bouncing off the nearest wall with a cry of pain.

Share this post


Link to post

Hey, that's that armored gal from the tussle with that fear-demon last month. Hope she ain't suffered no lastin' damage from it.

"Man, don't go jinxin' it like that!," the many-coated Dead Head yelled back. He set his sights square on the remaining 'Demon-Dog,' and charged full-bore, swinging his shovel in a high arc and bringing it crashing down upon the beast's head.

"Bad enough these things is meltin'; who knows what the gunk'll do ta folks?" From under his many layers, the Revenant's eyes went wide, and he turned to any stragglers who were gawking at the fight. "Git back, ya durned fools!"

"My name is Mutt!," the odd red-eyed Mastiff proudly exclaimed to Cannonade. "Does Helmet-Man need help getting up?"

Share this post


Link to post

Cannonade got up. "Nah, I'm good," he said, looking to the hungering hound. "But he ain't gonna be." He raced across the tiled floor of the mall, his feet pressing down on shattered wood, and managed to close with the stumbling beast, driving his fist into its midsection. He didn't feel a meaty impact, however, merely his fist bouncing off of bone as tough as steel. It didn't quite hurt, but it did make his hand feel numb.

"What the hell kind of breed are you mutts?"

Share this post


Link to post

Ironclad strode confidently off the twitching hound and rose her fists, bearing down on its shaky-looking brother. Or rather, that was the plan, but at the last second the beast underneath her feet twisted and tried to roll, throwing the heroine's balance off. She spun, hopped on one leg, and managed to get within a long leap of the animal that was left. She decided to take the chance and turned her jump into something approximating a hammerblow; if it hit, it might just put this last one down and she could pass the maneuver off as something intentional.

Share this post


Link to post

Push spun on his heel, closing his eyes in an attempt to focus. Blurs appeared, superimposed on his eyelids; swirls of kinetic energy all around him. The heroes moving, the remaining dog shaking off Ironclad's metal blow...he focused his mind further on the hound, visualizing a link between the two. It was surprisingly easy, but likely Ironclad's beating on it's head had something to do with that.

He extended a hand, tapping into the dog's kinetic force, and his eyes opened with a flash as the dog suddenly froze in place, the kinetic energy surrounding him, propelling him in motion, was completely drained. Push sighed with relief as it halted, and the familiar feeling settled in the pit of his stomach. He didn't like recharging like that, but it'd serve.

"Dead Head! I've locked it down, see if you can track back who let the dogs out!"

Catchy tune, that.

Share this post


Link to post

Dead Head looked back and forth between Push and the great demon-dog. "... hunh. I had no idea ya could do that."

Guess there's more ta him than jes' smashin'.

He shrugged, and turned to Cannonade and Mutt. "'mere, boy, I needja ta sniff somethn' out."

"Good-bye, Helmet-Man!," the Mastiff cheerfully said as it ran off. Ran off on the air, so it was hovering over the demon-dog-thing, sniffing all around.

"Git the scent, boy, track down where these thins came from!," the Revenant cheered. But he did not stand idly by: he also examined the creature, and though his sense for magic was not as great as it once was, he hoped he could pick up something.

Share this post


Link to post

Out of the general toil of battle, Dead Head could pick up on something odd from the hound. He could feel cold radiating off of it, as well as a palpable hunger. And... something else. Death was wedded to him now, and he knew its sensation well, so he could feel something similar in the hound. But its hunger was fierce, the kind of thing that, if given time and power, could blanket suns and slay armies.

Mutt, however, focused more on the hound's strange scent, something like carrion at absolute zero. The scent assaulted its nostrils, leading up to the roof. But outside, Mutt could pick up traces of the scent of death on the wind, drifting off to the east.

Share this post


Link to post

"Whoa!" The Revenant's eyes went wide, though few could see them under his many layers of clothing. "These is some nasty buggers here!"

"I have something!," Mutt exclaimed, and pointed, "something... that way!"

"Right, let's git a move on! Push, can ya use them powers'a yers t'carry this great beastie? Ironclad," he looked up to the armored heroine, then to the prone Cannonade, "an... whoever ya are... ya wanna go find what sent these nasty critters?"

Mutt moved down to Dead Head, and the zombie climbed atop the flying spirit-Mastiff. "Let's go!"

Share this post


Link to post

Cannonade readjusted his helmet. "It's Cannonade," he said. "And yeah, I wanna find whoever thought it was a good idea to send these... things here." He looked down at the dog locked in stasis. "This ain't exactly my area of expertise, mind you. Should we bring this guy along or what?"

Share this post


Link to post

Ironclad picked herself up off the floor and dusted herself off. "I'll carry it," she said, walking over and hoisting the beasty up. She took the opportunity to watch Dead Head closely through her sensors, her limited suite probing the wrapped figure for information. He's room-temperature. How can he survive like that? Is he thermal-shielded, or perhaps his biological make-up is different? And what about that dog -- how could it fly and talk? Was it the superpowered one in the relationship, and its owner merely skilled? But then why run around with a shovel?

Share this post


Link to post

The trail of cold death left by the hound led out of the Millennium Mall and several blocks down the street. It wove through back alleys and rear entrances, tracing a path of destruction -- here a dumpster's contents savaged, here a chunk of masonry torn from the corner of a building by rough teeth, here a closed bakery with its windows shattered and its wares left in tatters all over the floor. Cannonade shuddered. Thank God the shelters are working in overdrive, he thought. If these things had encounters a homeless person... He didn't even want to think about it.

The trail led to a small park at the corner of Raymond and 29th. Cannonade could immediately tell there was something wrong. The street lamps that stretched into the park were all extinguished, even though the ones on the street were shining brightly. And the light from those lamps didn't seem to cut into the patch of shadow that had stretched over the park. A terrible chill emerged from the park as well -- even with all the cold and frost of the recent weather, this felt like something else, like stepping into a meatlocker in one's swim trunks. And deep in the darkness, Cannonade could hear a muted din, of distorted guitars and utterings...

"Oh, Christ... is that Skrewdriver?"

Share this post


Link to post

Ironclad floated above the heroes as they followed the spectral hound through the streets. She took the property damage in with a quiet horror, trying not to imagine who would unleash something so powerful with apparently no morals and no control. It was a miracle that no one had gotten injured before the heroes stepped in. Now she hovered over the street, probing into the light fog ahead with her suit's sensors. She didn't recognize the gangbangers dancing around the bonfire, but she was pretty sure the fire marshal didn't know anything about it. The heroine floated silently over to the fire, then dropped the still-paralyzed hound in the middle of the fire. "Evening, gents!" she called out with forced cheer. "Want to help your local zoo? Start my identifying our roasting friend, here!"

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×