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Learning the Ropes

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Churches always gave Lynn the heebie-jeebies; as a Jew, they meant nothing to her as places of worship, but in horror movies. bad things always seemed to happen around them. She associated crosses, rosaries and the Virgin Mary with vampires, killer albino monks and demonic possession, so it was with some trepidation that she approached the formidable Gothic silhouette of Our Lady of Mercy.

Thankfully her destination this cold January night was actually the large homeless shelter built by the parish on the lot just across the alley from the church; a sturdy one story structure built out of cinder block, it was painted in faded festive colors by the neighborhood kids back in the 70s when it was a youth center. The murals featured children of all races playing hand in hand, a big blue planet Earth, and for some reason a pod of humpback whales, but so much of the paint had flaked off over the years it was hard to make out most of the heartfelt hippie slogans.

A young priest stood just outside the door to the shelter, bundled up in a dark wool coat as he grabbed a quick cigarette break out in the biting cold; he saw Lynn approaching and waved. Tonight she was trying out a new look, petite like her own form but with blue eyes and long blond hair in a loosely braided ponytail, dressed in her standard mixture of sweats and military surplus.

"Hi there! I haven't seen you around here before. I’m Father Jim Murphy". He was in his early thirties, kind of attractive for a guy who couldn't have any sex (so insane!), and in general struck her as being very mellow; he offered her a warm handshake, which she returned.

"I’m Linda, but my friend’s call me ‘Lin’â€Â.

She shrugged and gave him a half-smile.

"Yeah, I haven't been on this side of the river; been making my way in the Fens."

Father Murphy grimaced sympathetically as he took another puff.

“Yikes! Well, as rough as things get on this side, it’s got to be an improvement. You hungry?"

Lynn didn't have to fake anything here.

"Yeah, I’m starved! I could probably wipe your kitchen out by myself, but that would be rude."

Father Murphy laughed.

"Well, go on in and find a spot; I need to finish this-"

He waved the cigarette and gave her a conspiratorial wink.

"Since Sister Claire thinks I quit last week."

Now it was Lynn's turn to laugh.

"Looks like no one is safe from temptation."

The young priest could only shake his head in dismay.

"You don't know the half of it; nice to meet you, Lin."

"Yeah, nice to meet you, too, Father."

She made her way inside, and the smell hit her like an invisible wall; so many unwashed bodies in the same clothes for days, even years on end, packed inside the four walls of the shelter. It nearly made her head spin! Lynn took considerable effort to keep herself clean for just this very reason, since her sensitive nose made even her own mild funk pretty potent after a few days; she maintained a membership at the West End YMCA (under an alias, natch), where she did some occasional exercise, but mostly she was there for the showers.

Through sheer force of will she pushed her revulsion down, breathing through her mouth as much as possible as she headed over to the food line to score some grub; the food wasn't so great but it was warm, the fresh-faced volunteers from Freedom College serving it were friendly, and for a moment she forgot all about the reason she came down here tonight, but not for long. She had hit the streets the last few nights, making discrete inquiries between ripping up bad guys, and all her sources pointed to one thing: if you wanted a chance to meet Nightrival in the flesh, this smelly swarm of humanity was your best bet. She found a seat at one of the folding tables and started working on her oddly-colored meat loaf, content to wait.

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Churches always gave Lynn the heebie-jeebies; as a Jew, they meant nothing to her as places of worship, but in horror movies. bad things always seemed to happen around them. She associated crosses, rosaries and the Virgin Mary with vampires, killer albino monks and demonic possession, so it was with some trepidation that she approached the formidable Gothic silhouette of Our Lady of Mercy.

Thankfully her destination this cold January night was actually the large homeless shelter built by the parish on the lot just across the alley from the church; a sturdy one story structure built out of cinder block, it was painted in faded festive colors by the neighborhood kids back in the 70s when it was a youth center. The murals featured children of all races playing hand in hand, a big blue planet Earth, and for some reason a pod of humpback whales, but so much of the paint had flaked off over the years it was hard to make out most of the heartfelt hippie slogans.

A young priest stood just outside the door to the shelter, bundled up in a dark wool coat as he grabbed a quick cigarette break out in the biting cold; he saw Lynn approaching and waved. Tonight she was trying out a new look, petite like her own form but with blue eyes and long blond hair in a loosely braided ponytail, dressed in her standard mixture of sweats and military surplus.

"Hi there! I haven't seen you around here before. I’m Father Jim Murphy". He was in his early thirties, kind of attractive for a guy who couldn't have any sex (so insane!), and in general struck her as being very mellow; he offered her a warm handshake, which she returned.

"I’m Linda, but my friend’s call me ‘Lin’â€Â.

She shrugged and gave him a half-smile.

"Yeah, I haven't been on this side of the river; been making my way in the Fens."

Father Murphy grimaced sympathetically as he took another puff.

“Yikes! Well, as rough as things get on this side, it’s got to be an improvement. You hungry?"

Lynn didn't have to fake anything here.

"Yeah, I’m starved! I could probably wipe your kitchen out by myself, but that would be rude."

Father Murphy laughed.

"Well, go on in and find a spot; I need to finish this-"

He waved the cigarette and gave her a conspiratorial wink.

"Since Sister Claire thinks I quit last week."

Now it was Lynn's turn to laugh.

"Looks like no one is safe from temptation."

The young priest could only shake his head in dismay.

"You don't know the half of it; nice to meet you, Lin."

"Yeah, nice to meet you, too, Father."

She made her way inside, and the smell hit her like an invisible wall; so many unwashed bodies in the same clothes for days, even years on end, packed inside the four walls of the shelter. It nearly made her head spin! Lynn took considerable effort to keep herself clean for just this very reason, since her sensitive nose made even her own mild funk pretty potent after a few days; she maintained a membership at the West End YMCA (under an alias, natch), where she did some occasional exercise, but mostly she was there for the showers.

Through sheer force of will she pushed her revulsion down, breathing through her mouth as much as possible as she headed over to the food line to score some grub; the food wasn't so great but it was warm, the fresh-faced volunteers from Freedom College serving it were friendly, and for a moment she forgot all about the reason she came down here tonight, but not for long. She had hit the streets the last few nights, making discrete inquiries between ripping up bad guys, and all her sources pointed to one thing: if you wanted a chance to meet Nightrival in the flesh, this smelly swarm of humanity was your best bet. She found a seat at one of the folding tables and started working on her oddly-colored meat loaf, content to wait.

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Churches always gave Lynn the heebie-jeebies; as a Jew, they meant nothing to her as places of worship, but in horror movies. bad things always seemed to happen around them. She associated crosses, rosaries and the Virgin Mary with vampires, killer albino monks and demonic possession, so it was with some trepidation that she approached the formidable Gothic silhouette of Our Lady of Mercy.

Thankfully her destination this cold January night was actually the large homeless shelter built by the parish on the lot just across the alley from the church; a sturdy one story structure built out of cinder block, it was painted in faded festive colors by the neighborhood kids back in the 70s when it was a youth center. The murals featured children of all races playing hand in hand, a big blue planet Earth, and for some reason a pod of humpback whales, but so much of the paint had flaked off over the years it was hard to make out most of the heartfelt hippie slogans.

A young priest stood just outside the door to the shelter, bundled up in a dark wool coat as he grabbed a quick cigarette break out in the biting cold; he saw Lynn approaching and waved. Tonight she was trying out a new look, petite like her own form but with blue eyes and long blond hair in a loosely braided ponytail, dressed in her standard mixture of sweats and military surplus.

"Hi there! I haven't seen you around here before. I’m Father Jim Murphy". He was in his early thirties, kind of attractive for a guy who couldn't have any sex (so insane!), and in general struck her as being very mellow; he offered her a warm handshake, which she returned.

"I’m Linda, but my friend’s call me ‘Lin’â€Â.

She shrugged and gave him a half-smile.

"Yeah, I haven't been on this side of the river; been making my way in the Fens."

Father Murphy grimaced sympathetically as he took another puff.

“Yikes! Well, as rough as things get on this side, it’s got to be an improvement. You hungry?"

Lynn didn't have to fake anything here.

"Yeah, I’m starved! I could probably wipe your kitchen out by myself, but that would be rude."

Father Murphy laughed.

"Well, go on in and find a spot; I need to finish this-"

He waved the cigarette and gave her a conspiratorial wink.

"Since Sister Claire thinks I quit last week."

Now it was Lynn's turn to laugh.

"Looks like no one is safe from temptation."

The young priest could only shake his head in dismay.

"You don't know the half of it; nice to meet you, Lin."

"Yeah, nice to meet you, too, Father."

She made her way inside, and the smell hit her like an invisible wall; so many unwashed bodies in the same clothes for days, even years on end, packed inside the four walls of the shelter. It nearly made her head spin! Lynn took considerable effort to keep herself clean for just this very reason, since her sensitive nose made even her own mild funk pretty potent after a few days; she maintained a membership at the West End YMCA (under an alias, natch), where she did some occasional exercise, but mostly she was there for the showers.

Through sheer force of will she pushed her revulsion down, breathing through her mouth as much as possible as she headed over to the food line to score some grub; the food wasn't so great but it was warm, the fresh-faced volunteers from Freedom College serving it were friendly, and for a moment she forgot all about the reason she came down here tonight, but not for long. She had hit the streets the last few nights, making discrete inquiries between ripping up bad guys, and all her sources pointed to one thing: if you wanted a chance to meet Nightrival in the flesh, this smelly swarm of humanity was your best bet. She found a seat at one of the folding tables and started working on her oddly-colored meat loaf, content to wait.

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NightrivalHS.jpg

A lithe figure slips in and out of the dancing shadows that play across the alleys. Striding noiselessly over the litter, he races towards Our Lady of Mercy from the northern side of Adams Avenue. He slithers around the corner and lets the night spread a velvety blanket over his form, concealing him from prying eyes. Fortunately, there's not many pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Father Murphy stands at the entrance of the shelter, puffing away on a cigarette and leaving a thick blueish cloud lingering around his head. The figure inches closer, his eyes two narrow slits.

"Hey, Jim."

The priest coughs spastically at the sound of Nightrival's voice. "Oh, h-hi. You surprised me there."

"You gotta quit those things, man. They're just killin' ya."

"Lord knows it helps with the stress."

"So does prayin'. Anything new?"

"A girl from the Fens just came in. That's the third this week."

"Hm. Is Sister Claire in tonight?"

"Sure. She's in the back, organizing the servers." Father Murphy chuckles. "You need to confess?"

Nightrival lifts up his arms. Two overstuffed plastic grocery bags dangle from his hands.

"Just like clockwork," chirps Father Murphy. "You, uh, won't say anything about . . . " he adds, pointing at the cigarette.

"That's between you and the man upstairs, Jim. See ya 'round."

Father Murphy inhales a quick drag and is about to reply, but Nightrival has vanished. He grins and flicks the cigarette on the pavement and crushes it under his heel.

Nightrival leaps then scrambles up to the shelter's roof and walks across its length. He hops down and lands neatly at the back entrance. A single lamp above the door illuminates the alley. Beside the door is a green dumpster with DEPARTMENT OF WASTE MANGEMENT blazoned across it in chipped white letters. Nightrival knocks on the door with his knee. Moments later, a nun with large brown eyes and a narrow chin swings open the door. A tiny silver cross hangs below her neck and catches the light from above her. She looks around suspiciously then jumps when she spots Nightrival standing before her.

"Oh!" she clucks, "Mr. Nightrival. More donations?"

"Um, yeah. And it's just Nightrival."

"Well bless you, Mr. Nightrival. Please, come in."

"Really, I can't."

Sister Claire grabs his wrist and pulls him through the door. "Now, I don't want to hear it, Mr. Nightrival. Our little flock here would love to see you again, especially after that incident with the dog-man."

The strength in Nightrival's arm seeps away. "S-sure. Alright."

Sister Claire leads him into the bustling kitchen, where several large pots furiously boil their contents on ceramic gas stoves. Carrots and celery are stacked neatly in rows on long wooden tables. The room is saturated with a clammy heat, and oregano and garlic ladens the air. Beats the smell out there in the dinin' hall, he resolves. College students race back and forth with plates and trays and onions piled on their arms. Just beyond the kitchen past a swinging door is another group of students, only lined up behind a cafeteria-style counter doling out spoonfuls of food to waiting patrons.

"Go on, Mr. Nightrival. They would love to know you're here."

"I really should be goin', Sister."

Nightrival snaps his head towards the dining area. Several tables away, a man sporting a thick knotted beard and shaggy hair is shouting to no one in particular. His meaty hands shakily clutch a knife and fork.

"Ya talkin' ta me? Huh? Me? Ya tink ya ken jus' talk ta me 'cause ya put da worms behin' mah eyes? Da worms wit da bitey-bite teeth?!"

The man jerks to his feet, revealing his massive, bear-like frame. He wears a thick checkered jacket, under which is many more layers. The man waves the knife in the air as he stumbles over to another man wearing a greasy parka sitting across the table.

"They know you they know they KNOW YOU!" The knife flashes as it sways closer to the man in the parka.

Like a sleek black cat, Nightrival bounds across the kitchen, through the door and over the counter in one somersault. He flips over a table then lands behind the knife-wielding man. Nightrival snags his wrist and lightly squeezes, and the knife drops to the floor. The bearded man gawks at Nightrival in astonishment.

"It's alright, Warren," says Nightrival. "Greg here didn't put the worms behind yer eyes, remember? That was the CIA."

Warren nods his head as Nightrival pushes down on his arm, easing him back into his chair. When Warren is finally seated, still nodding repeatedly, Nightrival notices a young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes in the corner of his eye, seated nearby. Must be the new girl. Haven't seen her on any street, though. Southside or Fens. He releases Warren and glances at her. Before long, he turns and walks towards the kitchen.

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NightrivalHS.jpg

A lithe figure slips in and out of the dancing shadows that play across the alleys. Striding noiselessly over the litter, he races towards Our Lady of Mercy from the northern side of Adams Avenue. He slithers around the corner and lets the night spread a velvety blanket over his form, concealing him from prying eyes. Fortunately, there's not many pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Father Murphy stands at the entrance of the shelter, puffing away on a cigarette and leaving a thick blueish cloud lingering around his head. The figure inches closer, his eyes two narrow slits.

"Hey, Jim."

The priest coughs spastically at the sound of Nightrival's voice. "Oh, h-hi. You surprised me there."

"You gotta quit those things, man. They're just killin' ya."

"Lord knows it helps with the stress."

"So does prayin'. Anything new?"

"A girl from the Fens just came in. That's the third this week."

"Hm. Is Sister Claire in tonight?"

"Sure. She's in the back, organizing the servers." Father Murphy chuckles. "You need to confess?"

Nightrival lifts up his arms. Two overstuffed plastic grocery bags dangle from his hands.

"Just like clockwork," chirps Father Murphy. "You, uh, won't say anything about . . . " he adds, pointing at the cigarette.

"That's between you and the man upstairs, Jim. See ya 'round."

Father Murphy inhales a quick drag and is about to reply, but Nightrival has vanished. He grins and flicks the cigarette on the pavement and crushes it under his heel.

Nightrival leaps then scrambles up to the shelter's roof and walks across its length. He hops down and lands neatly at the back entrance. A single lamp above the door illuminates the alley. Beside the door is a green dumpster with DEPARTMENT OF WASTE MANGEMENT blazoned across it in chipped white letters. Nightrival knocks on the door with his knee. Moments later, a nun with large brown eyes and a narrow chin swings open the door. A tiny silver cross hangs below her neck and catches the light from above her. She looks around suspiciously then jumps when she spots Nightrival standing before her.

"Oh!" she clucks, "Mr. Nightrival. More donations?"

"Um, yeah. And it's just Nightrival."

"Well bless you, Mr. Nightrival. Please, come in."

"Really, I can't."

Sister Claire grabs his wrist and pulls him through the door. "Now, I don't want to hear it, Mr. Nightrival. Our little flock here would love to see you again, especially after that incident with the dog-man."

The strength in Nightrival's arm seeps away. "S-sure. Alright."

Sister Claire leads him into the bustling kitchen, where several large pots furiously boil their contents on ceramic gas stoves. Carrots and celery are stacked neatly in rows on long wooden tables. The room is saturated with a clammy heat, and oregano and garlic ladens the air. Beats the smell out there in the dinin' hall, he resolves. College students race back and forth with plates and trays and onions piled on their arms. Just beyond the kitchen past a swinging door is another group of students, only lined up behind a cafeteria-style counter doling out spoonfuls of food to waiting patrons.

"Go on, Mr. Nightrival. They would love to know you're here."

"I really should be goin', Sister."

Nightrival snaps his head towards the dining area. Several tables away, a man sporting a thick knotted beard and shaggy hair is shouting to no one in particular. His meaty hands shakily clutch a knife and fork.

"Ya talkin' ta me? Huh? Me? Ya tink ya ken jus' talk ta me 'cause ya put da worms behin' mah eyes? Da worms wit da bitey-bite teeth?!"

The man jerks to his feet, revealing his massive, bear-like frame. He wears a thick checkered jacket, under which is many more layers. The man waves the knife in the air as he stumbles over to another man wearing a greasy parka sitting across the table.

"They know you they know they KNOW YOU!" The knife flashes as it sways closer to the man in the parka.

Like a sleek black cat, Nightrival bounds across the kitchen, through the door and over the counter in one somersault. He flips over a table then lands behind the knife-wielding man. Nightrival snags his wrist and lightly squeezes, and the knife drops to the floor. The bearded man gawks at Nightrival in astonishment.

"It's alright, Warren," says Nightrival. "Greg here didn't put the worms behind yer eyes, remember? That was the CIA."

Warren nods his head as Nightrival pushes down on his arm, easing him back into his chair. When Warren is finally seated, still nodding repeatedly, Nightrival notices a young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes in the corner of his eye, seated nearby. Must be the new girl. Haven't seen her on any street, though. Southside or Fens. He releases Warren and glances at her. Before long, he turns and walks towards the kitchen.

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NightrivalHS.jpg

A lithe figure slips in and out of the dancing shadows that play across the alleys. Striding noiselessly over the litter, he races towards Our Lady of Mercy from the northern side of Adams Avenue. He slithers around the corner and lets the night spread a velvety blanket over his form, concealing him from prying eyes. Fortunately, there's not many pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Father Murphy stands at the entrance of the shelter, puffing away on a cigarette and leaving a thick blueish cloud lingering around his head. The figure inches closer, his eyes two narrow slits.

"Hey, Jim."

The priest coughs spastically at the sound of Nightrival's voice. "Oh, h-hi. You surprised me there."

"You gotta quit those things, man. They're just killin' ya."

"Lord knows it helps with the stress."

"So does prayin'. Anything new?"

"A girl from the Fens just came in. That's the third this week."

"Hm. Is Sister Claire in tonight?"

"Sure. She's in the back, organizing the servers." Father Murphy chuckles. "You need to confess?"

Nightrival lifts up his arms. Two overstuffed plastic grocery bags dangle from his hands.

"Just like clockwork," chirps Father Murphy. "You, uh, won't say anything about . . . " he adds, pointing at the cigarette.

"That's between you and the man upstairs, Jim. See ya 'round."

Father Murphy inhales a quick drag and is about to reply, but Nightrival has vanished. He grins and flicks the cigarette on the pavement and crushes it under his heel.

Nightrival leaps then scrambles up to the shelter's roof and walks across its length. He hops down and lands neatly at the back entrance. A single lamp above the door illuminates the alley. Beside the door is a green dumpster with DEPARTMENT OF WASTE MANGEMENT blazoned across it in chipped white letters. Nightrival knocks on the door with his knee. Moments later, a nun with large brown eyes and a narrow chin swings open the door. A tiny silver cross hangs below her neck and catches the light from above her. She looks around suspiciously then jumps when she spots Nightrival standing before her.

"Oh!" she clucks, "Mr. Nightrival. More donations?"

"Um, yeah. And it's just Nightrival."

"Well bless you, Mr. Nightrival. Please, come in."

"Really, I can't."

Sister Claire grabs his wrist and pulls him through the door. "Now, I don't want to hear it, Mr. Nightrival. Our little flock here would love to see you again, especially after that incident with the dog-man."

The strength in Nightrival's arm seeps away. "S-sure. Alright."

Sister Claire leads him into the bustling kitchen, where several large pots furiously boil their contents on ceramic gas stoves. Carrots and celery are stacked neatly in rows on long wooden tables. The room is saturated with a clammy heat, and oregano and garlic ladens the air. Beats the smell out there in the dinin' hall, he resolves. College students race back and forth with plates and trays and onions piled on their arms. Just beyond the kitchen past a swinging door is another group of students, only lined up behind a cafeteria-style counter doling out spoonfuls of food to waiting patrons.

"Go on, Mr. Nightrival. They would love to know you're here."

"I really should be goin', Sister."

Nightrival snaps his head towards the dining area. Several tables away, a man sporting a thick knotted beard and shaggy hair is shouting to no one in particular. His meaty hands shakily clutch a knife and fork.

"Ya talkin' ta me? Huh? Me? Ya tink ya ken jus' talk ta me 'cause ya put da worms behin' mah eyes? Da worms wit da bitey-bite teeth?!"

The man jerks to his feet, revealing his massive, bear-like frame. He wears a thick checkered jacket, under which is many more layers. The man waves the knife in the air as he stumbles over to another man wearing a greasy parka sitting across the table.

"They know you they know they KNOW YOU!" The knife flashes as it sways closer to the man in the parka.

Like a sleek black cat, Nightrival bounds across the kitchen, through the door and over the counter in one somersault. He flips over a table then lands behind the knife-wielding man. Nightrival snags his wrist and lightly squeezes, and the knife drops to the floor. The bearded man gawks at Nightrival in astonishment.

"It's alright, Warren," says Nightrival. "Greg here didn't put the worms behind yer eyes, remember? That was the CIA."

Warren nods his head as Nightrival pushes down on his arm, easing him back into his chair. When Warren is finally seated, still nodding repeatedly, Nightrival notices a young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes in the corner of his eye, seated nearby. Must be the new girl. Haven't seen her on any street, though. Southside or Fens. He releases Warren and glances at her. Before long, he turns and walks towards the kitchen.

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When the man apparently known as Warren started yelling in a threatening manner, Lynn's entire body went taught, ready to leap into action and do what she could to bring down the paranoid homeless man. But before she had a chance to react, he arrived; where she would have used mere violence to resolve the situation, he used the minimum amount of strength and calming words.

See, that's how they do it in the big leagues, kiddo; that's why the bad guys fear him, but the people he protects love him.

Just as Nightrival is about to head back into the kitchen, Lynn gets up from her seat and calls to him.

"Nightrival, wait!"

She deftly moves through the maze of tables and closely-packed bodies like an eel sliding through water until she reaches him, a pleading look in her big blue eyes.

"I need to talk to you, sir; I need your help."

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When the man apparently known as Warren started yelling in a threatening manner, Lynn's entire body went taught, ready to leap into action and do what she could to bring down the paranoid homeless man. But before she had a chance to react, he arrived; where she would have used mere violence to resolve the situation, he used the minimum amount of strength and calming words.

See, that's how they do it in the big leagues, kiddo; that's why the bad guys fear him, but the people he protects love him.

Just as Nightrival is about to head back into the kitchen, Lynn gets up from her seat and calls to him.

"Nightrival, wait!"

She deftly moves through the maze of tables and closely-packed bodies like an eel sliding through water until she reaches him, a pleading look in her big blue eyes.

"I need to talk to you, sir; I need your help."

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When the man apparently known as Warren started yelling in a threatening manner, Lynn's entire body went taught, ready to leap into action and do what she could to bring down the paranoid homeless man. But before she had a chance to react, he arrived; where she would have used mere violence to resolve the situation, he used the minimum amount of strength and calming words.

See, that's how they do it in the big leagues, kiddo; that's why the bad guys fear him, but the people he protects love him.

Just as Nightrival is about to head back into the kitchen, Lynn gets up from her seat and calls to him.

"Nightrival, wait!"

She deftly moves through the maze of tables and closely-packed bodies like an eel sliding through water until she reaches him, a pleading look in her big blue eyes.

"I need to talk to you, sir; I need your help."

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NightrivalHS.jpg

Nightrival halts when he hears the young woman's voice. He turns to face her and is amazed on how she expertly avoids the throbbing crowd that blocks her path. It's not often he sees someone so mercurial in a place so heavy with uncertainity, even if her vibrancy emanates from her elaborate footwork.

She's more than she looks, that's for sure. Is she another mutant like Maddy?

He pauses for a minute, his shoulders rising and falling while looks at her intently, then focuses his eyes to take in the entire scene; scores of men crammed together at dining tables and an unrelenting din of shouts and laughter. That familiar sour smell finally hits him. He contemplates going home, calling it a night. Tired and sore, he longs for his couch and late night reruns on TV. Nightrival remains silent for what seems like forever.

"Ya don't hafta call me sir, kid," he suddenly says. "It makes me feel old." He gestures to another door that leads back into the kitchen. "C'mon, let's talk outside."

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NightrivalHS.jpg

Nightrival halts when he hears the young woman's voice. He turns to face her and is amazed on how she expertly avoids the throbbing crowd that blocks her path. It's not often he sees someone so mercurial in a place so heavy with uncertainity, even if her vibrancy emanates from her elaborate footwork.

She's more than she looks, that's for sure. Is she another mutant like Maddy?

He pauses for a minute, his shoulders rising and falling while looks at her intently, then focuses his eyes to take in the entire scene; scores of men crammed together at dining tables and an unrelenting din of shouts and laughter. That familiar sour smell finally hits him. He contemplates going home, calling it a night. Tired and sore, he longs for his couch and late night reruns on TV. Nightrival remains silent for what seems like forever.

"Ya don't hafta call me sir, kid," he suddenly says. "It makes me feel old." He gestures to another door that leads back into the kitchen. "C'mon, let's talk outside."

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NightrivalHS.jpg

Nightrival halts when he hears the young woman's voice. He turns to face her and is amazed on how she expertly avoids the throbbing crowd that blocks her path. It's not often he sees someone so mercurial in a place so heavy with uncertainity, even if her vibrancy emanates from her elaborate footwork.

She's more than she looks, that's for sure. Is she another mutant like Maddy?

He pauses for a minute, his shoulders rising and falling while looks at her intently, then focuses his eyes to take in the entire scene; scores of men crammed together at dining tables and an unrelenting din of shouts and laughter. That familiar sour smell finally hits him. He contemplates going home, calling it a night. Tired and sore, he longs for his couch and late night reruns on TV. Nightrival remains silent for what seems like forever.

"Ya don't hafta call me sir, kid," he suddenly says. "It makes me feel old." He gestures to another door that leads back into the kitchen. "C'mon, let's talk outside."

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"Ya don't hafta call me sir, kid," he suddenly says. "It makes me feel old." He gestures to another door that leads back into the kitchen. "C'mon, let's talk outside."

Lynn nods.

"Yeah, okay."

Once out in the alley, she checks both ways for any rubberneckers, then turns back to the more experienced street hero.

"Um, this is a bit awkward, but, hi, my name is Grimalkin."

Her body seems to swirl like gray smoke, and when it clears she is left transformed; similar build, but now with short spiky brown hair, deep brown eyes and a trim leather costume of black and midnight-blue leather, complete with domino mask. That same urgency is in her new eyes and voice.

"I want you to teach me; I need to fight crime better."

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"Ya don't hafta call me sir, kid," he suddenly says. "It makes me feel old." He gestures to another door that leads back into the kitchen. "C'mon, let's talk outside."

Lynn nods.

"Yeah, okay."

Once out in the alley, she checks both ways for any rubberneckers, then turns back to the more experienced street hero.

"Um, this is a bit awkward, but, hi, my name is Grimalkin."

Her body seems to swirl like gray smoke, and when it clears she is left transformed; similar build, but now with short spiky brown hair, deep brown eyes and a trim leather costume of black and midnight-blue leather, complete with domino mask. That same urgency is in her new eyes and voice.

"I want you to teach me; I need to fight crime better."

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"Ya don't hafta call me sir, kid," he suddenly says. "It makes me feel old." He gestures to another door that leads back into the kitchen. "C'mon, let's talk outside."

Lynn nods.

"Yeah, okay."

Once out in the alley, she checks both ways for any rubberneckers, then turns back to the more experienced street hero.

"Um, this is a bit awkward, but, hi, my name is Grimalkin."

Her body seems to swirl like gray smoke, and when it clears she is left transformed; similar build, but now with short spiky brown hair, deep brown eyes and a trim leather costume of black and midnight-blue leather, complete with domino mask. That same urgency is in her new eyes and voice.

"I want you to teach me; I need to fight crime better."

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NightrivalHS.jpg

As Grimalkin becomes shrouded in gray smoke, Nightrival instinctively steps back and tightens his fists, but relaxes when the smoke dissipates and she has changed into her costumed form.

"Neat trick," he quips.

He could never get used to superpowers. First, there was a flying man who trashed a casino by commanding the wind, then another one made of metal capable of punching through concrete. Perhaps the memory of having one of them nearly kill him has wedged a quibbling, biting voice deep in his waking thoughts. He flirted with the idea of connecting his near-defeat with his discomfort with superpowers, but he left it unattended for too long. Now it wilts in the nebulous depths under the solid earth and stone supporting his conscious self. He flexes his neck by tipping his head from side to side.

"I want you to teach me; I need to fight crime better."

Nightrival straightens his head and lifts his eyebrows. "That's kinda a tall order, don'tcha think? I mean, you're just a kid."

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NightrivalHS.jpg

As Grimalkin becomes shrouded in gray smoke, Nightrival instinctively steps back and tightens his fists, but relaxes when the smoke dissipates and she has changed into her costumed form.

"Neat trick," he quips.

He could never get used to superpowers. First, there was a flying man who trashed a casino by commanding the wind, then another one made of metal capable of punching through concrete. Perhaps the memory of having one of them nearly kill him has wedged a quibbling, biting voice deep in his waking thoughts. He flirted with the idea of connecting his near-defeat with his discomfort with superpowers, but he left it unattended for too long. Now it wilts in the nebulous depths under the solid earth and stone supporting his conscious self. He flexes his neck by tipping his head from side to side.

"I want you to teach me; I need to fight crime better."

Nightrival straightens his head and lifts his eyebrows. "That's kinda a tall order, don'tcha think? I mean, you're just a kid."

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NightrivalHS.jpg

As Grimalkin becomes shrouded in gray smoke, Nightrival instinctively steps back and tightens his fists, but relaxes when the smoke dissipates and she has changed into her costumed form.

"Neat trick," he quips.

He could never get used to superpowers. First, there was a flying man who trashed a casino by commanding the wind, then another one made of metal capable of punching through concrete. Perhaps the memory of having one of them nearly kill him has wedged a quibbling, biting voice deep in his waking thoughts. He flirted with the idea of connecting his near-defeat with his discomfort with superpowers, but he left it unattended for too long. Now it wilts in the nebulous depths under the solid earth and stone supporting his conscious self. He flexes his neck by tipping his head from side to side.

"I want you to teach me; I need to fight crime better."

Nightrival straightens his head and lifts his eyebrows. "That's kinda a tall order, don'tcha think? I mean, you're just a kid."

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Nightrival straightens his head and lifts his eyebrows. "That's kinda a tall order, don'tcha think? I mean, you're just kid."

Grim rolls her eyes and crosses her arms defensively.

"Yeah, I'm just a kid, a girl even. A girl who ran away from home at fifteen and yet somehow managed to survive living in the Fens for four years, three of them without any cool powers, without turning one trick. A girl who rescued three other girls from prostitution and sent them back home to their families."

She spreads her arms wide, and the costume covering her belly melts away, revealing several deep cuts and bruises in the early stages of healing.

"A girl who goes out on the street every night and gets her butt kicked because she doesn't know crap about fighting, and still goes out the next night and does the same thing."

Grim's costume reappears, only for Grim herself to vanish into little more than a vague blurry outline.

"I have all the tools, and the will to use them-"

And just as suddenly she's back.

"But I don't have the skills, the experience. I don't know what I'm doing out there, and I want to help."

She takes a step forward, almost a challenge.

"Will you help me?"

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Nightrival straightens his head and lifts his eyebrows. "That's kinda a tall order, don'tcha think? I mean, you're just kid."

Grim rolls her eyes and crosses her arms defensively.

"Yeah, I'm just a kid, a girl even. A girl who ran away from home at fifteen and yet somehow managed to survive living in the Fens for four years, three of them without any cool powers, without turning one trick. A girl who rescued three other girls from prostitution and sent them back home to their families."

She spreads her arms wide, and the costume covering her belly melts away, revealing several deep cuts and bruises in the early stages of healing.

"A girl who goes out on the street every night and gets her butt kicked because she doesn't know crap about fighting, and still goes out the next night and does the same thing."

Grim's costume reappears, only for Grim herself to vanish into little more than a vague blurry outline.

"I have all the tools, and the will to use them-"

And just as suddenly she's back.

"But I don't have the skills, the experience. I don't know what I'm doing out there, and I want to help."

She takes a step forward, almost a challenge.

"Will you help me?"

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Nightrival straightens his head and lifts his eyebrows. "That's kinda a tall order, don'tcha think? I mean, you're just kid."

Grim rolls her eyes and crosses her arms defensively.

"Yeah, I'm just a kid, a girl even. A girl who ran away from home at fifteen and yet somehow managed to survive living in the Fens for four years, three of them without any cool powers, without turning one trick. A girl who rescued three other girls from prostitution and sent them back home to their families."

She spreads her arms wide, and the costume covering her belly melts away, revealing several deep cuts and bruises in the early stages of healing.

"A girl who goes out on the street every night and gets her butt kicked because she doesn't know crap about fighting, and still goes out the next night and does the same thing."

Grim's costume reappears, only for Grim herself to vanish into little more than a vague blurry outline.

"I have all the tools, and the will to use them-"

And just as suddenly she's back.

"But I don't have the skills, the experience. I don't know what I'm doing out there, and I want to help."

She takes a step forward, almost a challenge.

"Will you help me?"

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NightrivalHS.jpg

Nightrival is taken aback by Grimalkin's fiery defense. Underneath his mask, a small grin creeps across his face. Few heroes venture into the Fens, and even fewer step up to actively protect it. He drops his chin and examines her gestures, her posture and her voice. She has conviction and drive, and her nimble display back in the shelter was impressive.

A kid's a kid, even ones like her, he considers, and I dunno if I got the right to put 'er in the line o' fire. He sees her wounds and bruises, and he is struck by how they mirror his own. He finally nods his head.

Nightrival steps forward as well, as though he accepts the young hero's challenge. His taller frame bears down on her.

"Ya got some fight in ya," he asserts. "Good. But fightin' ain't about hurtin' others; it's about survivin'. Ya need my help? Fine, ya got it. But I'm not gonna show ya how ta dominate, just control. I don't help bullies and killers."

Nightrival draws away from Grimalkin. "First things first. What exactly do ya need?"

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NightrivalHS.jpg

Nightrival is taken aback by Grimalkin's fiery defense. Underneath his mask, a small grin creeps across his face. Few heroes venture into the Fens, and even fewer step up to actively protect it. He drops his chin and examines her gestures, her posture and her voice. She has conviction and drive, and her nimble display back in the shelter was impressive.

A kid's a kid, even ones like her, he considers, and I dunno if I got the right to put 'er in the line o' fire. He sees her wounds and bruises, and he is struck by how they mirror his own. He finally nods his head.

Nightrival steps forward as well, as though he accepts the young hero's challenge. His taller frame bears down on her.

"Ya got some fight in ya," he asserts. "Good. But fightin' ain't about hurtin' others; it's about survivin'. Ya need my help? Fine, ya got it. But I'm not gonna show ya how ta dominate, just control. I don't help bullies and killers."

Nightrival draws away from Grimalkin. "First things first. What exactly do ya need?"

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NightrivalHS.jpg

Nightrival is taken aback by Grimalkin's fiery defense. Underneath his mask, a small grin creeps across his face. Few heroes venture into the Fens, and even fewer step up to actively protect it. He drops his chin and examines her gestures, her posture and her voice. She has conviction and drive, and her nimble display back in the shelter was impressive.

A kid's a kid, even ones like her, he considers, and I dunno if I got the right to put 'er in the line o' fire. He sees her wounds and bruises, and he is struck by how they mirror his own. He finally nods his head.

Nightrival steps forward as well, as though he accepts the young hero's challenge. His taller frame bears down on her.

"Ya got some fight in ya," he asserts. "Good. But fightin' ain't about hurtin' others; it's about survivin'. Ya need my help? Fine, ya got it. But I'm not gonna show ya how ta dominate, just control. I don't help bullies and killers."

Nightrival draws away from Grimalkin. "First things first. What exactly do ya need?"

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"Ya got some fight in ya," he asserts. "Good. But fightin' ain't about hurtin' others; it's about survivin'. Ya need my help? Fine, ya got it. But I'm not gonna show ya how ta dominate, just control. I don't help bullies and killers."

Nightrival draws away from Grimalkin. "First things first. What exactly do ya need?"

Grim holds up her hands, palms forward.

"I'm not looking to master the mystic paths of Dim Sum or anything like that; I want to learn how to drop a guy, fast, and leave him breathing. I want to stop coming home with pieces of me missing every night; I'd settle for every other night and be happy."

She looks down at her knee-high boots and sighs.

"And I want to learn first aid, so I can help people after the fighting's over."

Grim looks back up and meets Nightrival's eyes.

"So how much of that can you teach me?"

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