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Plowshares Into Swords [IC]

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Listen. Can you hear it?

It starts with a drumbeat. The heart, quickening. Then a fire. The blood, burning. Then a storm. The mind, racing. Then begins the dance.

He has walked the veldt, and the tundra. The desert, and the jungle. The bounty, and the waste. He remembers a time when he felt these things. But it was so long ago. Now there is just a faint echo of the beat of distant drums.

And he has come to the city to hear it again...

March 20th, 2011

"The city deserves a change! Take out the trash!"

Cannonade stood in the crowd at Shelley Street, wanting very much to get the chance to hit something. He had a strong feeling he wasn't the only one. South Freedom had seen a recent uptick in gang warfare, especially in Southside and Lincoln. Los Diabolos Rojos had been on the rampage lately, taking out anyone who so much as looked at them sideways. And the Crusaders had smelled blood in the water.

They didn't retaliate -- at least, not physically. Instead, they organized a rally. They let the press down they'd be holding a rally "to encourage community spirit and defense amongst the Anglo-Saxon people of Freedom" at the corner of Pennsylvania and Shelley -- coincidentally, the place where Angela Guiterrez had been shot in crossfire from the Rojos. Public outrage swept through South Freedom like wildfire -- which was just what the Crusaders wanted.

"Why don't you all go back home to the zoo?" cried one of the gathered malcontents. "It's the only place monkeys like you belong!"

He clenched his fists so tight, he was surprised the nails didn't puncture the palms. Joe had been quick to get on the train; the Southside Rising Project and the local Anti-Racist Action chapter had quickly gotten together to organize a counter-protest. He was able to get the Freedom Guard in the loop. He'd decided to show up in costume, just in case -- yeah, "in case" -- things got ugly. It was clear from the outset that the Crusaders didn't call the gathering to make a point. They called it because they wanted to be martyrs.

"What're you doing here?" One of the louder jackasses had locked onto a small cluster from the local chapter of MEChA. "Ain't no beans to pick, no fruit -- you've got nothing to do here! Why don't you just go back and take your little anchor baby with ya?"

"God, what douchebags." Cannonade turned briefly to see Trish behind him. She was a gallery owner and one of the key voices in the local ARA. He'd known her for a few years -- and quickly became aware of just how little his helmet covered. He hoped the shadows and the low lighting would take care of the rest. "Glad you're here. Got a feeling it's gonna get ugly."

"It's been ugly since it started," he said, hoping that the rough tone he gave his voice would be enough to throw it off without making him sound silly. "We've just gotta worry about it getting violent. That's what they want -- a bloody shirt to wave. God, the only thing worse than White Knight is his fanclub."

"You!" Cannonade quickly became aware of one of the Crusaders pointing a finger at him. "You're supposed to protect us! You're just another symbol of the corrupted body power and politic! You're no better than the rest of them!"

"I'm gonna take that as a compliment!" he yelled back. "And hey, you don't like the job I'm doing, I can easily scram! I'm sure these guys would love to have a nice long talk with you!" He regretted it the second he said it -- he knew the next day, it'd be taken out of context and circulated around Stormfront for a little ego boost. "God, three more hours of this," he muttered to himself. "Free assembly can be a real pain in the ass sometimes."

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Push sat atop a nearby building, munching on a sandvich while watching the crowd from the rooftop. Pastrami on rye, too much mayo, and the lettuce was wilted. Figures the one time he'd get to actually enjoy his lunch, it wouldn't be worth the time and effort. For the past few weeks, he'd been taking some extra time to pass through South Freedom on his patrols, with the recent upsurge in gang activity. Almost felt like Gear City, actually, back when he busted street scum in Industrial. Still, whatever the flaws the street gangs had there, racism hadn't really been much of an issue. Mostly it was protection rackets trying to prey on the unions, or some gang boss trying to muscle in on local buisnessmen. Sure, there'd been one or two groups like the Crusaders running around, but for the most part the locals would take care of them before Push even heard about it...he finished his sandwich, and tapped one side of his goggles, magnifying the zoom while he scanned the crowd. As the goggles passed over one part of the crowd, he spotted a familiar bronze sheen, and he stopped.

Huh...Powerade, wasn't it? Gatorade? Some kinda 'ade. And looks like he brought friends. Greaaat...

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Parking had been worse than it was on St. Patricks Day. Carrie searched for adequite parking anywhere remotely close, but in the end had to park five blocks over at the local Starbase and having to buy a smoothie so the management wouldn't have her towed. Well it was close enough and she trusted being able to keep her things in a locked car as she slipped out in costume and headed to rally. It had already started by the time she actually got there, not that anybody paid any mind to the extra shadow on the wall. Really she didn't want to stay, but buzzing through her masks lock on the local police radios it was all anybody in law enforcement was talking about today.

At least I can drown out this non-sense with some WNCC.

Letting out a sigh, she tried to scope for any other heroes on the scene from her own hidden position. She saw Cannonade, but no one else which really didn't bode well. As much as she was sure they could 'take' whoever tried to spark the probable massacre, it'd be nice to have someone along who could probably prevent the whole thing altogether and talk some sense into the counter protest. Sure, Cannonade was a nice guy, but he wasn't the best party to actually protect The Crusaders, who well, had to be the one of the most hated gangs in city. She was tempted to call Fulcrum, if not for her having exactly the same problem, Grim wasn't known for a cool head either, Fusion too. Dragonfly wasn't much of a crowd person, or really any type of attention person even if she was generally reasonable most the time.

Huh, is there really anyone I know who wouldn't want to let these guys get the living tar beaten out of them?

She didn't need to answer that question, not really. She wanted knock these guys faces in too. But regardless of what anybody here did or said, these guys were making a choice to believe in whatever twisted theories they wanted, and they weren't breaking any laws or hurting anyone at the moment. She really sort of wished they were, it would make things easier for everyone.

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Blake had heard the news that the Crusaders were having a "non-violent" protest in the Southside, and it seemed worth investigating. What seemed like a lifetime ago- when he still wore an Elder Sign, he got the last punch on their leader, the White Knight. He knew White Knight was an influential figure with the skinheads, but it seemed he didn't realize how much. As he appeared on the rooftops above the protest, he saw Cannonade's shiny helmet. He remembered him fondly from when they took down an aspect of Hastur, the King in Yellow.

There wasn't any time to waste. Warlock took a step off the edge of the roof, and appeared in a moment at Cannonade's side.

"Hey, Cannonade. It's me, Kid Cthulhu. Except I'm not anymore. I can still do magic 'n stuff. I'll explain later."

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Cannonade turned to the young sorcerer. Even without the tentacles, the voice sounded pretty much the same. "Hey, KC," he said, "or, uh... what are you going by now? Anyway, I'm glad you could come out. Hopefully things'll stay calm --" A loud roar cut through the sentence. "Well, relatively calm. Last thing we want is something that'll feed their --"

He didn't even get all the words out before he heard the sound of breaking glass. He turned around to see a young black girl clutching her bleeding forehead, a broken bottle at her feet. She stared at a man with a tattooed scalp with hatred in her eyes. The two sides slowly swelled to meet, like the Red Sea crashing back together, approaching the police barricade.

"Aw, crap," Cannonade yelled. He leapt from his position to the middle of the police barricade, touching down at one of the empty places where the police had moved forward to the side of the Crusaders. "Look, people," he said, "we can sort this out, all right? Whatever happened was just a lone incident, and the last thing we want is --"

Twist.

"Get the hell out of our town!"

"You first, scum!"

"Look, everyone just calm the hell down, and maybe we can --"

Crack.

Then came the second blow. One of the ARA members had peeled the sign from his post and swung it like a club. It caught one of the Crusaders in the side of his head, reeling to the ground.

Now.

And then there was a dreadful roar, and Cannonade was lost in the tide. The two sides clashed violently, the FCPD officers desperately trying and failing to keep order in the middle. Once he regained his bearings, he was able to easily push through the crowd. But he paused when he saw the officers. They moved from a defensive stance to an aggressive one, swinging their truncheons wildly at both sides. There was no restraint, no mercy. Everyone was out for blood. And suddenly, Cannonade could hear the drumbeat raging in his head...

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What the hell?!

Sil could barely see what was happening, she had to actually get by the stage to get a scope.

Aww damnit all, it was only a matter of time.

Glancing over she saw several Crusaders who were pretty much at the center of it all. They certianly seemed ready to brawl that was certian, and no one was holding back. Moving forward she caught a glimpse of someone that made her freeze. Middle aged, and just a little taller than her still gripping the sign, though that wasn't what caught her attention. Instead it was a tell tale rounded bulge around her stomach which didn't match the rest of her thin form that said she shouldn't be there. When she saw one of the gang members lunge at the woman knife in hand the only thought in mind was,

Ohh shit.

Her eyes narrowed under her mask at the Crusaders as she slipped into the crowd and with great ease navigated in her two dimensional form as she ran towards him. In the chaos he didn't see her coming as her sharpened hand pierced into his chest and she let the blood run for a few seconds on her leather gloves before bringing up a knee straight into his groin. Turning she tried to find the woman from before, but couldn't, angrier now she turned towards the other Crusaders,

"Where is SHE!?"

Running forward she held out her hand for the next attack at the next member only to switch into a front cartwheel as he prepared a counter attack and swing kicking him into the shoulder with a bladed foot that left a deep gash that bleed purfusely as another member tried to get the drop on her, unfortunately, they ran straight into a right hook with a flattened hand that left another gash up the side of there heads that was only a half inch away from taking out the eye.

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Warlock's head pounded for a moment, but he quickly shook it off. Some kind of psychic in the crowd? Regardless, he quickly ran into action as the two sides swelled and started to brawl. His shoes squeaked against the top of the roof as he dashed madly for the edge, and he leapt, appearing next to Cannonade. "Let me sort this out."

He held up his telekinesis ring, and it shone with arcane power. A shimmering telekinetic wall appeared between the two warring groups.

"Everybody just chill the hell out!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. "Cannonade, feel free to speak."

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Cannonade kept his eyes on the mess. This has to stop, he thought. People could get hurt. As long as --

Pull.

...as long as those bastards are here. Them and their goddamn fanboy worship on that bedsheet-wearing piece of crap. Why'd they pull this whole thing? So they could get someone to punch 'em in the face and they'd feel righteous? They're gonna get exactly what they wanted...

Cannonade brushed forward through the crowd, bringing his fist down against the wall of shimmering force. "You guys wanted a fight so badly?" he bellowed. "Well, you're gonna get it!"

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Cannonade crouched down, staring daggers at the Crusaders. He leaped over the barricade with hardly any effort, crashing down right on the other side with the force of a dropped safe. He drew in his breath as he pulled himself upright. As he stared into the crowd, the night was torn by a storm -- an exhalation given the force of super-strong lungs, knocking all but a few of the racist advocates to the ground.

Cannonade trudged forward, practically grinding holes in the road with each footstep. "This is what you wanted, isn't it?" he said. "All this time, screwing with the decent people of this city, making good men and women live in fear 'cause of your bullcrap. And you put this whole thing on 'cause you wanted to be the victims." He slammed his fist into his open palm, making a crack that could be heard over the rioting. "Funny how that works out, isn't it?"

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Push stood bolt-upright, the sandwich falling from his hands and onto the head of a bystander below as he stared out over the crowd. It seemed within the blink of an eye, the demonstration had changed into a full-scale riot, and both Cannonade and Warlock had waded in to stop it! A feral grin spread across the kineticist's features...

Bloody hell, how'd it change so fast? One sec those racist bastards were chanting violence, the next everyone's swinging like they're hot for blood! Can't say I blame 'em, though, punk Crusaders think they can stand there and raise hell, getting right what they deserve! I ought to take that hammer and get in there with them, beat 'em all down! Take 'em to...

The kineticist stopped cold as his mind filled with images of combat and fighting, and his expression twisted. The images were suddenly interplayed with old film-grain pictures of the fights he'd been in against some of Scratch's minions, seeing Dragonfly hitting the ground in pain at the warehouse, Arcturus's face in Stratford...and soon enough the bloodlust abated, drowned under a sea of memories, leaving him atop the roof with a hand gripping his temple.

What. The. Hell. Was. That?

Push shook his head, clearing his mind. He couldn't tell what had just happened, but he sure as hell wasn't going to rush in hell-for-leather like that. He'd already learned the hard way that was no way to go about things. The hero stared at the crowd, and came to a decision. He closed his eyes, and felt the huge nexus of energy created by the battle. Push extended his hands, feeling that energy, manipulating it from a distance, and then he kicked in the flight jets. As he soared towards the fight, he weaved sympathetic links to every last person in the field, save Cannonade and Warlock, connecting them with himself. As he reached a point above the epicentre of the fight...he steeled himself, and hit the mental switch.

"AAAAAAAAARGH!"

For a moment, everything seemed to go still. Then the riot was engulfed in a storm of warping energy, crackles and warps traveling from the fighters, who would gradually slow down, to the floating kineticist high above. The energy surrounded him, mostly being absorbed, but then it began to remain around him, tearing at him, crackling across his body with snaps and sparks, and he screamed in pain. Within a few moments, nearly every single person within the bubble had stopped cold, some in mid-swing or mid-kick, others looking up with stunned eyes at the descending hero. Push nearly blacked out as he began to fall, crashing into the ground in the centre of the now-frozen riot.

"...Ow."

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Silhouette moved through the crowd, slicing into the Crusaders, but was still looking. It was there fault damnit, this needed to end, they needed to end. She kept form as she moved forward to plow down more when there was a torrent of noise that silenced the crowd, turning only for a second she caught sight of a hero she recognized as a kinetics user and probably the source of the slowing. He didn't matter though, just the opportunity to finish things did.

It was easy, they were slow in the sense that they couldn't hit her if they even say her coming at all, but now they were just turtles flipped on there backs, helpless. She tore through them, slicing into shirts, attacking sensitive areas without a care and leaving their unconcious forms where they fell. She lost count how many she went through, but by the time she was done there was not a single Crusader left standing, and there was still a worry. Though keeping her flat form she started to look around, where was the woman? On the ground, being trampled, she needed to be moved, she needed to get her out at least because it wasn't only her life at stake.

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Warlock stood his guard, maintaining the telekinetic wall. He looked back at the counterprotestors, who looked as though the moment the kinetic slowing fell, they would be on the Crusaders in seconds. His heart thumped faster in his chest, and Warlock put his hand over it. He knew that they wanted to kill them, which was no huge surprise, but it was his job to protect them, despite the fact that they didn't deserve it.

"Now everyone just calm down. I'm going to maintain this wall until the police arrive. No one throw rotten tomatoes at me, I'm just as pissed at these assholes as you are."

He paused for a moment, and reconsidered his words. "When you are able to move, don't throw rotten tomatoes. That's why I'm maintaining this barrier, to be safe."

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Cannonade, however, didn't seem to hear Warlock's calm oration. He looked over the fallen Crusaders, red tinting the edges of his vision. This isn't going to stop, he thought. They're going to keep pulling this crap, hurting innocents and making good people live in fear because of their goddamn hero worship. There's only one way to stop this...

He picked up one of the Crusaders by the waist, who flopped in his arm like a rag doll. "You," he said. "You, and your garbage, are the last thing this city needs. I've been wanting to do this for a long damn time..." He pulled back, building up for a blow that would've punched a hole in concrete. He let fly --

NO!

-- and stopped one inch from the Crusader's face. Mortal fear was imprinted on the man's face, and it looked like even if he could move, he wouldn't dare. Cannonade let his fist fall by his side, and dropped the Crusader. "I'm not like you, though," he said, his voice quivering with uncertainty. "And you should thank God for that every day of the rest of your miserable life." He threw the limp neo-Nazi to the ground, then put his hand to his helmet, trying to get his bearings.

Jesus Christ, what happened there?

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The sudden glow and crackle of energy from the corner of his eye caught Cannonade's attention, and there, splayed out on the concrete, with one hand up and a fistful of energy ready to fire, was Push. He looked a bit worse for wear from the firestorm of energy, but slowly he began to pull himself to his feet.

Ow. Ow. Ow. Nerves on fire, check. Mammoth headache, check. Broken nose from the fall, check. Ooh, I can't feel my limbs, that one's new. Ow.

The energy dissipated from his hand, winding up his arm and back into his body. The corners of his coat and edges of his scarf were actually smoking, the movement energy having caused enough friction during the storm to char them somewhat.

"Alright, mate. Put him down slow and...oh, wait, you already did that. And don't punch him in the face...oh wait, you didn't. Uh...yeah. Go you."

The kineticist rubbed his own head, feeling like he'd been tied to the back of the ugly truck by the ugly rope, then dragged along the ugly highway for several very ugly miles. He looked around him, at the rioters frozen in various positions, and asked the first question that popped into his somewhat dazed mind.

"Anyone got some aspirin?"

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As the combat settled, Sil was no where to be found by the heroes, instead she was moving slowly to the fire exit with a woman with a tell tale bulge on her shoulder. Whatever madness that was over either of them was gone, and the woman was paniking even as she moved her outside and there was a sound of sirens. Sil was more or less trying to keep her calm, while she leaned into the woman's wound so as to maintain some pressure and keep it from bleeding out more.

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Cannonade looked over the wreckage. The riot was over entirely, with both sides lying prone one way or another. Among those on the ground he could see bruises, cuts, broken bones and concussions. His own head kept ringing with the fading beat of something like a war drum. In the distance, he could hear the wail of sirens, growing closer.

What happened here? he thought. Felt like everything I hate about the Crusaders just got pushed out in one go. Like I could've... God, I almost did kill someone. Something must've gotten in my head... and if it got to me, it probably got to everyone else here.

And off in the distance, the drums pound.

Cannonade raised his head. The EMTs who were there were responding, quickly treating to the downed protesters. He kept looking for the backup... but slowly realized that the approaching sirens were now departing, as if blowing right by the square.

Oh no...

He moved closer to the nearest ambulance, keeping his ear open for the radio. Even from a few yards away, he heard a cacophony -- several calls coming through for emergency services, clashing against one another, with dispatchers desperately seeking help.

And in The Fens, Il Diavoli Nero look on the drug den of the Death Road Ministry. They light their cocktails and brandish their cannons. Those who live will remember tonight, and have it branded into their flesh...

And in the West End, the young man weighs his father's gun in his hands. It feels right, like a legendary sword. He's had it with the things they say at school. He wants to see what they'll say tomorrow...

And in Kingston, the Neighborhood Watch convenes on the house on the corner. They say the man on the list was there for an indiscretion -- he didn't hurt anyone, but chose the wrong moment of expose himself. But they know the truth. There will be no one of his kind left in this part of town.

And across the plain, they dance around the fires...

"Great. The one thing worse than bastards who screw with your head -- bastards who screw with everyone's head."

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Push hefted himself up and sat down on the tarmac, looking up at the sky and feeling the drumbeat sounding in his head.

He hated it.

He hated it every time something creepy, crawly, evil, nasty, or just plain wrong managed to push into his mind. He hated that his mind was not a fortress like some others, that it took drawing on nightmares of places he'd much rather have forgotten or buried as deep into his mindscape as he could to kick them out of his head. It rankled at him. It tore at him. He could feel his rage building, overriding the dull pain that was settling in his nerves.

"Enjoying yourself? Huh? You having fun out there?!"

Push clambered to his feet, roaring at the air, giving vent to a feeling that was now quite familiar to him.

"I know you're out there! I know you can hear me, hear what I'm thinking, what I'm screaming! I know you're messing with the city's heads! And I swear, by all the divinities that are out there, by whatever your opposite number is, that I will track you down and kick your ass up between your ears! Go ahead! Give me your best shot! I DARE YOU!"

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Warlock dropped the force wall, and walked over to Cannonade, oblivious to Push's ranting. He heard the mental voices, and it brought back memories of his former self, of Kid Cthulhu. Having his thoughts invaded did not exactly make him angry, but he knew they had to take down this malign psychic voice.

He put a hand on Cannonade's back. "We'll talk about what happened later." he said in a sobering voice. "Right now it looks like we've got some work to do. Are we all splitting up?"

Warlock's eyes fell to Push. "Oh hey, Push. What's up? I've got a healing potion if you need it." Out of the four of them, Warlock was able was surprisingly calm. He supposed it was because having his mind directly spoken to was not an unusual experience for him. It would be best, as well, not to anger Cannonade any more than he was. He knew the strong hero had a serious hatred for Nazis and their kind, and Warlock couldn't blame him.

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He put a hand on Cannonade's back. "We'll talk about what happened later." he said in a sobering voice. "Right now it looks like we've got some work to do. Are we all splitting up?"

Cannonade put a hand to his head, trying to keep his bearings. "It'd probably be for the best," he said. "Course, if we can find who's screwing with everyone, it'd be a lot better. Don't suppose you could get a bead on the guy?"

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"Well if we're thinking this is something like a ripple effect, the source is definitely near by."

Sil didn't really approach the group as she sort of just appeared near them. If any of them had noticed her before the approach, they scarcely had time to point it out before she spoke and revealed herself.

"Seriously though, all the reports I'm getting seem to suggest we're near or at the epicenter of whatever weird stuff is happening. Not exactly sure if this was in fact the intention of WK's fanboys, but especially since they went down way to easily for them to be the masterminds behind this scheme."

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Warlock closed his eyes, attuning himself to the psychic energy flow. "I'm sensing a disturbance in the Force. Coming from...there." He extended his arm, and pointed to a tall building in the City Center. "That's where we'll find our psychic buddy. Now let's roll." He started tying his shoelaces, making sure they wouldn't come off mid-teleportation, and checked his gadgets in his mojo pouch. He didn't know what to expect, but he knew his friends would be backing him up.

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"All right," Cannonade said. "Should be easy. Just look for the crowd of angry people trying to kill one another." He paused. "Hey, since we're going to where the signal's stronger, isn't there a chance we could come under it again? I mean, maybe this is the kinda thing that doesn't come back if you shake it off enough, like chicken pox. But we are about to enter the belly of the beast..."

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She considered her companions,

"That's a pretty valid concern, I mean you guys could knock me out pretty easily if I went all rawr, but Cannonade's a freaking tank, and if Warlocks teleporting it'd be hard to get a hit in, same with Push and flying about."

She glanced towards Warlock,

"You think you have anything in your bag of tricks so this wouldn't be a concern?"

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Warlock was already rummaging through his mojo pouch. He opened the bag wide, and pulled out a strange bronze helmet. "Thought I'd lost this baby. This device is called a Helm of the Mind. As long as you guys stay within about...fifty feet of me, you should be able to bear the brunt of most psychic assaults." He donned the strange helmet, and the party hears a strange sound, like a tuning fork. "No worries...that's perfectly normal! It's just attuning itself. Is everyone ready?"

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Push finished giving vent to his feelings, breathing heavily, and leaned on a handy overturned bench near him. He tapped his commlink, and the roar of a familiar engine came from a nearby alleyway, a motorcycle rolling out and over to in front of him. He swung his leg over, hitting a switch, and the bike began to change. Tires folded up and in, the front began to elongate out, exhaust pipes in the back folded down and turning. A wind was kicked up, ruffling the edges of their coats, garbage and papers below the flightcycle being blown away by the backwash.

"Ready as I'll ever be. I said I'd kick that thing's ass up between it's ears, and I intend to deliver. Nobody messes with my, or my friends' heads."

He placed his hammer into a holder on the side, jerking his head to indicate the back of the bike, a wolvish grin creasing his features.

"That scumbag won't know what hit it. 'Nade, you can jump, right? And Warlock, you still got those crazy shoes? So...Sil, looks like you're getting a free lift. Hop on."

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