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trollthumper

Run Away and Join the Circus [IC]

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Men, women, and children of all ages streamed into the Liberty Dome, carrying programs, popcorn, and, in a few cases, binoculars. They weren't there to cheer for the Rayguns, however, who were off on an away game in Philadelphia. Rather, it was because of the circus. Posters and ads had been everywhere the past few weeks for Bardo, a production by a group calling itself the Carnivale Sérénité. Reviews had been ecstatic since opening, and TV ads featured audiences expressing delight for the production. Unlike other acrobatic programs of its caliber, the Carnivale claimed to have powered individuals amongst his touring company -- and judging by the feats described by reviewers, there was certainly something to that.

Well, if the hero thing doesn't work, at least I can get a career as a strong man, Joe Macayle thought to himself as he took his seat with his family. They'd been talking about doing more things as a family lately, so when his mom had gotten tickets from a client who'd had a sudden emergency come up, it seemed like just the thing to do. He felt slightly uncomfortable as he slid into his seat, and it wasn't just because he'd disassembled his helmet and slid it in under his shirt. That was pretty much the only part of his costume he was able to bring in; if he'd brought the duffel bag, security would've been on him like piranhas on a flank steak, and the last thing he wanted was to have that searched.

Andy sat next to Joe. "Everything okay?" he asked. "You don't exactly look like a ray of sunshine."

"Eh," Joe said. "Just keeping my eyes open. Y'know... just in case..."

"Joe." His mom was leaning over from the next seat. "Everything's going to be okay. I know it's Freedom, but not everything's a crisis or a disaster waiting to happen. Just sit back and enjoy the show."

Joe relaxed a little. There was still something in him that yielded to maternal encouragement. "All right," he said. "Just for tonight. What could go wrong?"

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Tim, wearing his usual black long coat and blue jeans, but with a plain white shirt under it, had a massive grin on his face as he worked his way through a throng of people, cotton candy in one hand and a program under his arm, looking up one of the steps into the darkened main area, knowing the time was growing ever closer and wondering at the things inside it. He'd never been to a circus, but he'd heard about them, and they always sounded amazing. So when Tim started seeing advertisements about how awesome this one was, and how it was coming to town, he had decided to go see it, even if it had a weird name he couldn't really pronounce. He'd waited for a while to get a ticket, and it was still a bit chilly outside, but because it was close to his house, he hadn't had to leave too early, so he managed to keep mostly out of the cold, which was good, because he didn't own a pair of mittens.

Tim took a bite of the Candy and grinned as the fluffy piece of blue sugar dissolved in his mouth- he enjoyed that feeling so much!-, before looking back down at his ticket. "Ah. This is the one." he said, looking at the numbers above the ramp and taking a few steps up the ramp. It was slow movements, as everyone was trying to get there, but Tim settled into his seat in the middle-rows without much fuss. His seat was on the left of a set of stairs, only three seats between him and the stairs themselves, and he was positioned right next to a ramp, so he laid his hand on the railing and opened the program, flipping through it and reading on the attractions. He didn't think about being Powerhouse tonight, but almost three months of a standard dressing ritual meant he was wearing the blue spandex under his pants anyway, and a contacts case was in his jacket's pockets. Superhuman acts? he wondered, looking over the programming and remembering the commercials had said something like that. Sounds like this is gonna be cool! he thought, grinning broadly as he waited for the show to begin.

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Hands full, Carrie had to rub her sleepy eyes with her shoulder as she moved through the crowds. Holding cotton candy, two snow cones, some nachos and a box of pop corn she was pouch full of napkins away from looking like a vendor as she navigated towards there seats. They were on the second highest section, but it was the front of the section from the railing so they had a good view regardless. As she climbed the stairs she could see the Evil Ems playing with a plush their grandma had bought them on the way in, though even with the generous amount of spoiling her mom gave the little devils she had only bought one of the overpriced toy before sending her oldest daughter out to grab snacks.

Now, Carrie would be lieing if she said she didn't want to be there, she loved shows and a circus was just another show. The metahuman aspect of it that had been advertised wasn't something that surprised her, but it was one of the few reasons she was there. After all, even if some of it was going to be used on her brother's hell spawn, there was a garuentee that there was going to be a restuarant visit that promised fondue which she wouldn't pass up lightly. Plus, it meant she got to snack on some of the sweeter things that were less commonly sold at local grocers. Getting up to her seat she smiled as she distrabuted the goodies to her niece, nephew and mother and took her own seat. Picking up the bag of cotton candy she sat back and waited for the show to begin.

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Rene shuffled through the crowds. How I detest the fools! he muttered. Then realised he had said it too loudly. With an irritable hmph he carried on, waving his rolled up newspaper ferociously.

He did, however, like the Circus. It was just such a shame that other people did too.

And the food! Merde! he wept, as he was offered a hotdog by some dressed up dolly bird walking up and down the Aisles. Hotdogs! Popcorn! Bah! He closed his eyes and visualised the sweet breads and pastries one could purchase on the streets of Paris... he could almost smell them...

At least the damn fool Americans could make a good cup of coffee, he conceded, forking out for a rich dark coffee he nestled in his hands, and taking the opportunity to let everyone near him, and the vendor, know how cold his bones got now that he was old, and how a warm cup of coffee helped his freezing hands...

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Joan normally didn't approve of the circus. She'd been active enough in animal rights circles for long enough that she'd encountered many horrible stories of animal abuse and bondage, enough to convince her that wild animals had no place being trained to perform for human beings. And how much of that is being able to remember the aquarium? she thought, repressing that thought as quickly as she could. But the Carnivale Sérénité had enjoyed nothing but good reviews, and of course its focus on human and powered acrobats and displays meant that there were no animals being tortured here. It was even a good place to bring the family. She and Charlie had been reconnecting since her incident with Otaku some months earlier, and she was feeling closer to her husband and daughter than she had in months. Moving carefully in her constricting dress, she, Charlie, and Lois wandered through the Dome, taking in sight after sight. Lois was ten now, but she wasn't too big to like the circus either!

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As the audience settled in, the lights dimmed. Blues, red, and greens, the light of the stage, began to play over the floor. When they cleared out, a golden light came on, and a man and a woman in tights stood on a platform at the center of the stadium. The platform rose about thirty feet out of the ground, held up by a thick pole. As the music started, the two danced around the narrow platform, balancing and teetering on the edge of it for certain moves. The man picked the woman up in his arms and flung her into the air -- and she flew up into the air gracefully, farther than any person could normally carry themselves, and rotated several times over as she fell back to the platform.

No wires. Joe could tell even from here. Way too fluid. What is that, some sort of gravity thing? Maybe it is...

"What do you think so far?" his mom asked.

"Well, they certainly know their stuff," he said.

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"Fomidable!" shouted Rene amidst the applause. Yes, they really were rather good. The circus acts got higher and higher standard every decade, he conceded. Although the costumes and colours were often less tasteful.

Unfortunately he was sitting behind a red necked brute who was a couple of inches to tall for his liking, and capped it off with a cowboy hat and phrases such as "Whoop yeah!" which irritated Rene no end. He acknowledged the temptation to send the man to sleep, and the fantasy of setting fire to the hat. Acknowledged it, but didn't succumb to it. Magic was not to be used for those things.

Well, not normally anyway.

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It was an impressive show, even as Carrie chipped away at her snow cone to make it eatable for her niece and nephew she really enjoyed the acts. The metahumans there were probably some of the lower level ones who's mutation was barely detectable, which was sort of like her own situation, though she had the fortunate circumstances as being old enough not to be suspect to the terminus baby trend. While that left more questions about why she was a metahuman it was not something that occupied her mind much as they started up the motorcycle stunts.

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With Lois chomping on popcorn and peering at the stage through her thick glasses, Joan put an arm around Charlie, enjoying the family bonding as they watched the spectacular show. Her other arms carefully folded around her midsection, she reached over and took Charlie's hand. "This is spectacular!" she said, applauding from her seat even when other people jumped to clap. Charlie stayed down with her, something she appreciated. "Reminds me of the gymnasts in the Olympics!" That was a good memory after all this time, and they smiled at each other. Things were going well.

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The night continued apace. Acrobats on thin platforms gave way to trapeze acts on thin ropes, with some of the performers extending their limbs to catch the next one. A fire breathing act involved fire being formed into whips and birds as it emerged from the mouths of the performers. About an hour in, there was a riot of movement as -- at least according to the program Joe was holding -- two armies fought a battle on a bridge the width of a sword's edge, represented by aerodynamic jousting and a swirl of colored lights.

"As the forces clash, seeking the key to a paradise beyond telling," a narrator declared from off-stage, "they fail to realize that a true key lies within the hearts of all men, ready to be turned by those who know where to look."

"Y'know," Joe said, "this really isn't bad. I could get used to this." He slapped his hand on Andy's shoulder. "Whaddya think?" There was no response. "Uh, Andy?" Joe waved his hand in front of Andy's face -- still nothing. He looked out onto the tide of lights and movement, and realized that he could feel something slipping within.

"Aw, crap..."

"And now is the time for all those who know that power to step forward and declare their side..."

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Rene was extremely pleased that the redneck lout infront of him had decided to stop his a-whoopin' and a-hollerin' in what, Rene decided, was one of the most uncouth displays he had seen in several decades.

His pleasure soon turned to unease as he realised the man was doing absolutely nothing as indeed were his companions, and indeed the audience in general. As if they had been hypnotised by the words of the performance.

Rene fingered his magic paintbrush and took a look around him. It might be more prudent to stay still himself... see what transpired. On the other hand, inaction was not necessarily the best course of action...

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The battle scene was impressive, her niece and nephew could hardly stay in there seats cheering while she watched, that was until they wasn't. It was a rather instantainious red flag as she looked at them stare blankly forward,

"Huh?"

Looking past them to her mother she found the same look than she looked back at the previous rows, all stares straight and forward. Snapping her fingers she tried to get there attention of her family and actually pinched her mother but no response. She furrowed her brow as she turned towards the stage and started to scan for anything unusual.

"What in the heck is going on?"

As she moved past the stage and to the curtained off area she caught a glimpse of movement. It was a stretch, but it might of been something. Getting out of her seat she looked to find the ushers in the same stares, so since no one would stop her she forewent trying to run around the stadium and leap down to the lower tiers with little trouble.

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Everything was normal, perfectly normal, and they were a happy family. Of course it couldn't last. Joan automatically looked to Charlie and Lois when she heard the crowd around them fall silent, and felt a shiver of liquid rage and fear curl in her chest at the sight of her husband and little girl staring off into space as if hypnotized. They'd been part of her world before, and suffered for it, but that didn't make it any easier to see happen again. Not this time, she thought fiercely, This time I'm thinking of my family first! Joan vanished in an instant, her skin shifting color to match the set around her, her dress wrapping around her body and shifting into the black and white colors of the mighty Fusion! As long arms slipped out and waved in the air around her like a shroud, she scooped up Charlie in one arm and Lois in the other, and then dived off the stage for a firedoor in a leap that would have been impressive if anyone had been there to see it.

Outside, she laid Charlie and Lois out on the stoop, curling her baby against her husband's body. "I'll be back soon, my loves," she promised, kissing husband and daughter on the cheek. "But I've got to save the day. And save you." And with that, still invisible to all and sundry, she leapt back inside the building!

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Joe stepped down, not even noticing his steps. I can't move, thought some distant part of him. Something's moving me. It's like that guy in the building all over again. Why can't I move? Gotta fight it off...

"I see one has come to us," said the voice. Through eyes that weren't quite his own, Joe could see that the show around them had mostly stopped. Now, the performers were leaning on beams, hanging from ropes, and standing stock still in unnatural poses, waiting to see what he would do. "Will you open your heart to Serenite?"

Got... to... BREAK!

With a roar, Joe brought his foot down on the stadium floor, cracking it. "Nah," he said. "Who knows what'd get in."

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"Serenite?" murmured Rene. Never heard of it... or him... or her...

Whatever was going on, it seemed staying in the shadows wasn't going to solve anything. And some brave soul was already making a stand. And cracking floorboards, it seemed.

Rene stood up with a steely glint in his eye.

"I'll open my eyes to Serenite first, if Serenite would be so good as to oblige!" he said, with a bow.

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Carrie wasn't really paying as much attention to her surroundings as she should have pursuing the shadow, however, she did notice the loud crack as someone stomped into the pavement. She had already ran and jumped down an additional row when she caught sight of Joe, or whenever he managed to put on a helmet, Cannonade down at the front. She was almost worried until she heard his response,

Thank freaking god, I can fight a bunch of low powered circus just fine, but that dude's a brick house.

She caught a glance at the elder gentlemen a row down who was also making a stand.

Wow, he doesn't look to solid, I hope he has a few tricks.

Turning from him, she started to look towards the shadow area she was now level with. She had to strain her eyes, but she found some dude in a hood who's lips seemed in synch with the voice booming around the arena.

Gotcha

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Great, thought Fusion as she made her tentacled way along the ceiling. Why does every no-name cult hang around with a bunch of prissy carnies in fancy uniforms? She'd been enjoying the show until the madness started, but she wasn't too big to look down on people who were doing evil. She was profoundly relieved to see she wasn't the only hero on the scene, though she did worry about that old man and that young woman below who were resisting the effects of whatever had whammied the audience. Let the adults handle this one, she thought worriedly. Or at least the adult supers. You're better off getting out the back door.

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"Serenite," said the voice in the shadows, "is community. It is the music of the heart, the wonder of the soul. It is the synthesis of creation, and the joys of being. In Serenite, one comes together, and forges beauty from base flesh."

"Got any way of making that sound creepier?" Cannonade asked. "Like saying, 'Long live the new flesh'?"

"You doubt the ways of Serenite," the voice said. Around him, Cannonade noticed the performers converging. The ballerina who'd held herself aloft in mid-air, the trapeze artist who'd stretched to reach her goal, the acrobat who had run up walls, and the rope dancer who had blown the ropes closer to herself. Others gathered around them, a strange fire in their eyes.

"You will see the wonders of Serenite... or at the least, others will learn from your mistakes."

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Taking a short jump to the stage she only gave a side glance to the now active preformers before looking at Cannonade.

He can probably handle it, besides if I'm right, though it is a big if, Mr. Shadow is the one pulling the strings.

Running forward she held her hand close to her body as it lost it's deph. Behind the curtian there was really no one else to see it and if she got this out with a one hit KO the shadow wouldn't know what hit him. She lowered her stance as she moved in for the strike but found rather quickly that she was only hitting air. Falling forward a bit with her access momentum she only needed a second to push her hands forward and turn the fall into a cartwheel before turning to face the shadow.

"Nothings ever easy in this crazy town is it?"

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The juggler stepped forward, bowed to her "audience", and swept her hands to the ground. Suddenly, Cannonade felt a weight like an elephant sitting down on his back. He looked over to see the weathered man seemed to be struggling under a similar weight.

"The power to make hearts light," said the voice, "can also make hearts heavy."

"Yeah, well --" Cannonade took a step forward; compared to some of the weights he lifted, this was child's play. " --you're gonna have to make it heavier than that."

As he stepped forward, however, Cannonade noticed the performers had converged around him. They pulled small batons out of their costumes -- where were they hiding those? -- and swept down on him. The blows felt like a light rain, however, harmlessly bouncing off of him.

"Leave him," said the voice. "Take the others."

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Rene collapsed to the ground as if he was carrying the world on his shoulders. Damn, he felt like atlas. He could barely breathe under the pressure. He felt something go twang in his hip.

Curse these old bones!

He presumed (although wisdom had taught him never to rely on presumption) that the juggler had caused the crushing weight. His pompous speech certainly indicated so.

Well, time for his own circus act. A spot of fire breathing.

From his mouth, with furious illumination, spouted a bolt of fire that weaved its way to the juggler.

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Suddenly, the shadows behind the sinister ringmaster erupted with noise and movement. Before he could react, long suckered arms came whipping out of nowhere as a tall, muscular form in slick black seemed to peel herself out of the shadows. Wrapping one limb around each arm and leg, Fusion lifted the ringmaster right up into the air and began to pull, his bones beginning to pop in her inescapable grip. "Show's over! This is where the mighty FUSION comes into play!"

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"It is not --" The man in black was cut off as Fusion's tentacles grasped around his chest, briefly cutting off the flow of air.

"Good," Cannonade said as he drove a fist into one of the performers, who folded like a lawn chair under the blow. "Thought he'd never shut up." He took advantage of the lull to strike at another performer, but the man was too nimble and dodged the blow. "How're they moving so fast? It's like they're -- yah!"

Suddenly, he found himself hitting the stadium floor. Something was wrapping around his legs and his chest; he looked up to see it was the trapeze artist from earlier, stretching out like a rubber band. Around him, coordinated chaos erupted; a gust of wind emerged from the direction of the rope dancer, chasing down Silhouette, who just managed to dodge it. The tightrope walker had leapt down from his post and strode towards Fusion, aiming for her neck with a hand pointed like a needle, but missing as she twisted to the right with the ring master in her grip.

"Serenite knows no limits." The trapeze artist was whispering in Cannonade's ear, and it sounded familiar -- despite the voice being female and breathy, it had the same cadence and weight as the ring master's. "Serenite knows no separation. Serenite is unity."

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Rene had managed to crawl back to his knees... oh my aching knees... I'm not young anymore... which was enough to get a grip on the wild and frenzied fight around him. Whilst the circus performers were certainly dreadful, and dangerous, he couldn't help but ponder what the threat behind them was...

But no matter, first of all he must disable that crushing performer, the juggler, that had floored him. With full concentration, he mustered a spinning wisp of white lightning that corkscrewed its way to the Juggler, its erratic path unfortunately missing him. The wild stroke paused and hung in mid-air, before bending back and returning to its target.

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"Wow that was unexpected."

Dispite herself, Carrie sort of took a second to gawk at the octopus woman who had come out of nowhere and tackled her original target. She wasn't really mad, she hadn't been able to get a freaking hit on the guy in the first place and she was doing fairly well. Taking a step back she felt an unexpected gust pass by her and ruffle her hair, before spotting some guy try to attack Fusion with a pointed arm,

"Hey, that's my trick."

When they guy turned to face her, she was already over his head, literately. She pushed off and managed onto her palms than did another but coming down she held one leg up and with a the edge of her heel flattened axed kicked him in the shoulder on her way down. He went down, though he wasn't completely out it would probably take him a bit to get back up.

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