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Raveled

Something in the Water (IC)

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The Fraud-Druid Water Treatment Plant looked less like an industrial park and more like a concrete waterpark. Nearly a dozen large cisterns filled with water covered the grounds, stirred by constantly moving meshes. Pipes linked the cisterns, both to each other and back to large metal towers. It was incongruously placed in the hills above Hanover, surrounded by trees and natural wilderness, but the city planning commission had decided to hide the 'eyesore' as far away from the voting public as possible.

That probably wasn't a good idea. It meant that when a shabbily-dressed woman stumbled up to the front guard shack, she was able to shoot both the rent-a-cops without a chance of anyone hearing. It meant the woman's army of smelly, bedraggled men and women were able to swarm over the compound, herding the employees where the bum army wanted them to be. And it meant that the woman in charge of it all, with the shotgun still smoking in her hand, felt save to pull a vial of some white powder from her dirty trenchcoat. She held it up the sun, grinning and basking in the moment before heading deeper into the compound.

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John was wondering for the thirtieth time why he was here. He had been intending on going and seeing the Supers Museum but instead was roped into a 'wilderness expedition' my his new roommate, Darwin. This expedition so far consisted of Darwin running around talking at and/or trying to fight various wildlife and generally causing a scene. Thankfully this was a remote wooded area. When he wasn't looking Darwin had sneaked a glance at his watch to see how much time he had lost being stuck out here. Hmm...well, that's not so bad, two hours so far. Maybe I can...his thoughts were interrupted by a sound that was suspiciously similar to a gunshot. A hunter? He thought idly before it happened again. Now that was indeed odd. If the hunter had missed his shot he wouldn't fire so soon again, and it would take him more time to go over to a wounded animal and finish it off than that...

"Hold up a second Mister Darwin. I heard gunshots."

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Lord Steam rubbed his eyes again. He had been following up on a variety of leads from various rapscallions he had the fortune to apprehend over the last weeks. There wasn't a pattern yet, only the skeleton of one.

A few key words kept cropping up. The Fraud-Druid Water Treatment Plan was the whisper. He had been peering down his microscope at Steam Manor for the last hour, looking at water samples to see if he could get any clue. But, to no avail.

He stretched and decided to go straight to the source. He jumped into his steam-powered Car, Bessie, and took off to see the facility himself.

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John may have considered the afternoon a waste, but Darwin certainly did not! From his perspective, he'd been trying to teach his uptight room mate a few basics of wilderness lore and an appreciation for the beauty of nature. The Super Museum would be there tomorrow. A migration of snakes may not! Unfortunately, his room mate proved to be quite... obstinate. Which didn't bother Darwin. He entertained himself with conversing among the various animals they encountered. One particularly obnoxious white tail buck needed a lesson, but otherwise, the day had been a rousing success.

Darwin sat on a log, chatting with a squirrel about the intricacies of nut kicking, when the gunshot echoed among the trees. The squirrel went running and Darwin perked up. Almost instinctively he tapped his bird 'tattoo' and scanned the trees. He said, "Yeah, you're right. Two big ones. Maybe a shotgun. Unless someone is target practicing, I doubt anything is in season to hunt with a shotgun. Could be nothing..."

He grinned, "Wanna check it out?"

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"I myself shoot hundreds of rounds on weekly basis, I have never heard of someone taking two shots and being done. In addition, this area is a bit close to inhabited areas and bullets travel a great deal more than most people realize. So yes. We should investigate." He did not add that the possibility of a having a firefight vs. hearing more about migratory patterns appealed to him greatly.

"They came from that direction." he said, pointing to the northwest. "Maybe a klick or so away."

He did not ask his companion for confirmation, and instead took off in that direction at a quick pace.

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Momentarily distracted by a moth, Darwin nearly missed John's explanation. "Mr. Summers lets you shoot guns, digger!? Awesome!"

Darwin shrugged when Myr took off the northwest. "The further we are from the Big Smoke the better."

The animal channeler tapped the dingo emblem on his right flank. A moment later he came up along side John as if he was standing still. The pair moved quickly and easily through the brush: Darwin naturally and John by training.

Darwin sniffed the air was as he went. The power of the dingo imbued him with an uncanny sense of smell!

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Lord Steam heard the gunshot as he drove up to the site. He had already been shot in this gun-crazy dimension one time to often (once, as it happened) and he had decided to invest in some body armour. Very sensible of him, if he thought so himself.

He put the fut on the steam, and Bessie roared to life, zipping up to the Site in moments. He launched himself out of the car.

Twirling his cane as he marched onwards, he tapped his pocket. He had brought his portable chemical analyser - built it only the day before in anticipation he might need to do a little sampling.

Full of confidence, he walked onwards through the building site.

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Smells of stale sweat assaulted his nose from what seemed like a small army of human bodies. The iron stench of blood lingered just under those appealing aromas. This had to be the place.

Darwin motioned for John to slow down and mouthed the word "blood" to him. He tapped the chameleon emblem crawling along his neck and suddenly faded into the background! A dim outline, like a slight heat shimmer, gave away his position as he moved. The tree appeared to wave goodbye. The warping effect headed slowly for the road and main gate.

Chameleon Kid emerged from the woods as Lord Steam approached the installation. The new sensory data of treatment chemicals and sewage didn't distract him from that oddity or the mission at hand! Steampunk Sherlock had a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock, but hey, he made a good diversion. That blood came from nearby, and he would find the source!

Mentally playing the Mission Impossible theme, Darwin crept up slowly 20 feet behind Lord Steam and followed him to the site. Time to lob in and see what was to be seen. He loved this job!

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The Victorian Detective's chemical sniffer led him towards a guard booth at the front of the complex. As he drew closer, he could see the bullet holes in the glass, and another few steps brought him close enough to smell the blood. As Lord Steam raised one hand to cover his nose, he heard several small poping noises and felt a hard tug at his sternum. He looked down to see a piece of metal, crushed flat against his vest, tumble down to the ground. Another round of pops and something zipped past his ear -- someone was shooting at him! The cads!

Farther out, still under the cover of the trees, Animus could see several grubby figured deeper in the complex. They had taken cover next to various corners and pipes and had drawn revolvers and at least one short rifle. They had opened fire on the well-dressed figure with the odd brass rod, but most of their shots seemed to be going wild.

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John followed stealthily, lagging just behind Darwin who was surprisingly good at this. Darwin mouthed the word blood to him, and John nodded once and gestured for Darwin to go ahead, with him covering him in case anybody decided to take a shot at the pair. Deciding he'd need a non-lethal take-down method if it went snafu, he called forth a tranquilizer rifle into his hands. He paused at the edge of the woods, giving Darwin over-watch as he approached the site.

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"Damn!" hissed Animus as he took off running. Circling out wide, he tackled Lord Steam's mid section and pushed him out of the line of fire! With any luck, and catching the Victorian Detective unawares, resistance would be minimal if any.

Of course being shot at would put the poor fellow on edge. Maybe he should try to defuse the situation. "What the hell you doing, pally? Get down!"

The Aussie (and his accent!) hit the dirt as they cleared the guard shack and hit the cover of the outer wall. He was not about to get shot for this nutter!

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Upon hearing the shots, John dropped prone, trying to zero in on their location. There he saw a man in odd clothing standing in the middle of a firefight like it was a Sunday walk. Thankfully Darwin had gotten him out of the way and John gauged the distance to the tangos and lined up a shot with the tranquilizer rifle. One of the shots had a harsher retort than the others, so that one became his primary target. He pulled the trigger, and the muted sound of a hiss and click was heard as the sedative dart leaped towards it's target.

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"Oooph" moaned Steam. The bullet had been caught by his vest, but still knocked some wind from his lungs. And now, some athletic young half naked man had picked him up, carried him several yards and taken him to the ground.

Fortunately, he noted this was now a covered position.

"You antipodeans always did like rugby, eh?" he wheezed as he found his breath and feet.

He turned to the gunfire and shook his fist. "You cowards! You'll pay for that!" he yelled, trying to get a bead on them and looking around for some covered route to approach the gunmen by.

The shooters seemed some distance, too far to get there easily. With a turn of heel, he ran back from where he had came, towards Bessie his precious Steam Powered Car.

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The hobos' fire chased the Victorian detective to his car, but once he dove inside their bullets pinged harmlessly off the side. The rifle-wielder took careful aim at the windshield -- but all of a sudden there was a feathered dart in his leg! He reached down to pluck it out, blinking at the odd sight of it. He made a face and tossed it to the side, deciding to focus on the visible threats for now. He reaimed, but after a moment his vision went... wonky. The world tilted sideways and he struggled to keep his rifle upright.

Away in the trees, Myrmidon could see that his target was groggy from the dart's drug, but he wasn't down yet.

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"Brits," sighed Darwin in exasperation.

Kicking up onto his feet, he peeked around the wall and grinned. The nutter drew the fire of the shooters! Then something strange happened. The shirtless man, a kangaroo tattoo glowing gold across his chest, kangaroo hopped the distance! In five great zig-zagging skips his right foot planted itself in the rifleman's chest.

Off the man's ribs he flipped and landed, arms crossed. He blew raspberries at the nearest shooter. "Holy dooley, you could stand a scrub!"

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Lord Steam put his foot to the floor, and with a whistling, the steam powered automobile dashed forward, towards the gunfire. He hadn't ye mastered the art of manuevering the vehicle, but then, this was not a race track. He only had to get close enough to...

...there!

With a clunking noise, the two gatling guns on Bessie popped up, and opened fire, spraying the stun ammunition over the shooters.

"Take that, you scoundrels!" he yelled, as he targeted the incoming fire.

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The rifle-wielding thug went flying from Animus' overcharged kick. The move unfortunately left the animal-channeling hero in the middle of the group of gun-wielding bums, but Lord Steam's pinpoint accuracy managed to target the thugs without even ruffling the Aussie's hair. With the hobos dispatched a silence fell over the complex, broken only by the persistent beeping of Steam's brass chemical sensor.

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Lord Steam turned off Bessie, its Steam Engine still piping and its gatling guns whirring to a standstill. Good shot he told himself, as he stepped out to survey his handywork.

"Nice work, old girl!" he said, patting his vehicle affectionately and twirling his silver plated cane.

"Damn rapscallions shot at an unarmed man! serves them right!" he proclaimed. "Oh, I say, what's that!" he added, observing his piping chemical analyser.

"Lord Steam by the way, at your service..." he said as a way of Introduction. "Thanks for the rugby tackle back there. Damn scallywags!"

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He grimaced underneath his helmet as the man in period clothing showed that there were people more unsubtle than Darwin. There goes any sort of covert method. John thought ruefully. He did a quick sweep of the entry visually, making sure there were no snipers before breaking cover.

John stood, and came out of the tree-line towards the other two men. He gestured with his tranquilizer rifle at the still cooling barrels of the gatling guns. "I would suggest pressing our attack. If there any more defenders, they now know of our presence here."

He looked over at Animus. "You would be best on point with your sensory abilities."

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Animus stood stock still as if aware that something would save his bacon. Surprisingly, his ploy actually materialized as assistance. Looking over his shoulder, the surfer suddenly felt better that he did stand still. Even if that steam-powered monster did fire rubber bullets. Ouch.

The area looked clean from his scan. Animus crouched down and replied, "Anytime, mate. Lord Steam, eh? Name's Animus. What..." He stopped as John spoke.

"Good point. Let's put them in the zone before they get away!"

Tapping a dog-like tattoo on his left flank, Animus dropped down on all fours and began sniffing the area. He pointed down a path and trotted that way. Yes, still on all fours.

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GM

Animus' nose was instantly filled with a thousand scents, most of them with a harsh, chemical edge. Chlorine and fluoride were both there, as well as human waste. More immediate were the unwashed bodies of the gun-toting thugs laying just in front of Lord Steam's vehicle. The Aussie hero traced the scent deeper into the complex. Before long though it crossed another path and he had to make a decision -- follow the path towards what looked like a block of offices, or head after the smell of water.

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"Damn," mumbled Darwin. He came to halt at a crossroads. Sitting back on his haunches, the teen hero considered his options. Stroking his mustache was out of the question, mainly because he'd need several years before managing anything like his uncle's Manly Mustache. A glance at his companions, and he voiced his concerns.

"Two trails intersect. The chemicals are blocking a better sniff, mates. It's either a choice between the offices or the water plant proper. My moneys on the plant. What's to steal from a treatment plant office?" He looked between John and Lord Steam, hoping they agreed with his logic.

Then without a word, he nodded to himself and took off once more on all fours. His nose lead him straight down the watery trail and deeper into the plant!

"Hopefully, the nutters aren't trying to poison the wells."

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Lord Steam followed the curious antipodean at a more leisurely pace, keeping his eyes peeled for trouble this time.

"The plant does sound the more likely locus of scullduggery, I agree" he pontificated, dusting off his elegant victorian wear. "But no need to leap to conclusions. As for poisoning the well, I most horrible proposition - and yet I wonder what the motive is. The motive is key, you see..."

He gazed back at the unconscious assailants and stroked his chin.

"Hmmm. For one thing, I shouldn't mind having a little word, or at least, search of, our assailants. If your animal-like prowess can stretch to pulling, or dragging one to my vicinity. "

Lord Steam wasn't unfit. In fact, he was quite athletic. But he always preferred heavy lifting and menial labour to be done by others, if possible.

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Myrmidon policed their weapons, removing the firing pins just to be safe while the man continued to prattle on.

At the mention of having a word with one of them, John tapped one of the vagrants in the head with the butt of his tranquilizer rifle. No response, they were solidly unconscious.

He looked over to the man in period clothing, his voice a bit muffled through his helmet. "You won't get much information out of them. In any case I would prefer to stop the tampering of the water supply over trying to interrogate these men. We do not have enough time to do it properly." He made his way past the man and next to Darwin.

"You are free to stay here and gather intelligence if you wish while we reconnoiter the plant." He said nodding his head at the unconscious attackers.

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"Speed is indeed of the essence" replied Lord Steam.

"More haste, less speed" he continued, as he quickly and efficiently searched the pockets of one man who he guessed looked the most clever - or at least the less dim-witted of the thugs. Somebody who might have the modicum of intelligence to be nominal leader.

"Forewarned is forearmed" he spouted, as he patted the man down and examined his nails, eyes, skin, and clothes methodically but speedily.

After all, the more clues he had, the better. On the other hand, Myrmidon was indeed correct, there was precious little time to be lost.

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