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Ecalsneerg

Back In Black [IC]

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2.35am, Friday June 17th 2011

The man barely needed to use the grappling gun clenched in his teeth, even scaling the sheer surface that was one of Pyramid Plaza's towers. Like a jungle cat, he gracefully yet powerfully swept up the side of the building, only rarely spitting his gun casually into a waiting hand to fire a magnetic line and pull himself up a particularly tricky stretch.

Clad in nothing but a pair of black trainers, loose tracksuit bottoms and a dark grey t-shirt, the man moved silently, his feet barely heard bashing into glasswork, gentle enough not to break it.

Until finally, the man reached the window he wanted to, and eased himself up onto the sill, only then letting out a laboured, exhausted sounding breath, and pulling the thin metal rod from where he had tied it to his trousers with a piece of cord. With a phwwwwwiiip noise, the thin metal rod extended into a long metal cane, which the man casually, almost as an afterthought, whipped against the glass with a clunk, clunk, clunk.

<Elena, if you're not in your apartment,> thought John Fraser. <Get back to it. I'm on the windowsill outside what looks to be your living room. I'm the man with the... well, I'm the one standing on the side of a tall building unsupported. You get the hint.>

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Elena, if you're not in your apartment, thought John Fraser. Get back to it. I'm on the windowsill outside what looks to be your living room. I'm the man with the...well, I'm the one standing on the side of a tall building unsupported. You get the hint.

[bg=#BF0000]I can certainly appreciate the value of a dramatic entrance, John, but you could have just called. Or waited in The Lair. Your passcode still works.[/bg]

Arrowhawk thought he heard wind chimes, and felt a sudden blast of air as the fabric of space in front of the window tore open into the shape of a giant glowing ankh. The portal was over three meters high, and shone with a brilliant golden light, as though the sun itself were waiting on the other side.

[bg=#BF0000]I'll meet you in the command center. Feel free to help yourself to any refreshments on the way. I still keep it well-stocked.[/bg]

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John shielded his eyes from the sudden glare, scowling at the huge ankh. <Could have. But I prefer windows, personally.> Sighing deeply, he pushed himself off the side of the building and rolled through the mid-air portal, coming up in a practiced crouch.

His eyes scanned every corner of the room, ears straining for any sound as he instinctively took a chair in the corner to avoid being snuck up on, and so he could survey the room more fully. Rather than getting a drink, he instead chose to merely sit with both hands folded atop his still extended metal cane.

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Elena walked through the door a few minutes later, a folded cardboard tray hanging from two fingers, with two large Starbase Coffee cups. [bg=#BF0000]"The lobby of Pyramid Plaza has the only 24-hour Starbase branch in Freedom City. Advantages to being on the board. The occasional hundred-dollar bill in the tip jar helps keep it staffed."[/bg] She let herself fall down into one of the chairs scattered about the room, then used a tiny fraction of her telekinetic power to pry loose one of the cups and float it across the room to John's corner. [bg=#BF0000]"Triple latte for me, black as the starless night for you."[/bg] She sniffed her own cup, savored the scent, then took a sip. [bg=#BF0000]"You got my email, then."[/bg]

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Arrowhawk took a grateful sip, and nodded. He didn't much care for the petty details of a coffee bar, but coffee was coffee. "I did," he said grimly.

He paused for a moment, then spoke. "Months in Europe. Vivian Kriger, a.k.a. Valkyrie, died in mysterious circumstances." His normally stoic voice broke slightly, but coughed abruptly to conceal that fact. "So Doktor Archeville sent me to Europe, where SHADOW's main bases are hidden. We'd had a run-in with Ragnarok, and thought one of their cells was to blame for her death."

He looked up suddenly and met Elena's gaze with fierce, burning eyes. For a brief moment, even unmasked, his face appeared as if wreathed in shadow, eyes glaring red. But then the lined, tired face of John Fraser twisted into a growl. "I tore apart the continent searching. Nothing. Then I get your email, and find our old team mate dead. So I get to looking, and it turns out that strange things are going on in this city. Disappearances. Deaths."

He stood up abruptly. "Something has gone sour, 'Lena. What is going on?"

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[bg=#BF0000]"She isn't the only one."[/bg] Elena nodded toward a file cabinet. The drawer flew open, and a single, bulging folder floated out and soared toward Arrowhawk, falling open in his lap. It contained lists, police and autopsy reports, crime scene photographs, and a painted sketch of a man dressed head to toe in ornate black and red medieval body armor. [bg=#BF0000]"Artist's rendition of our suspect. I reproduced my visions as best I could. He's been quietly murdering metahumans for the past six months, and he's been careful enough to keep from leaving any witnesses, living or mechanical. I keep finding psychic echoes of him at crime scenes, on corpses. Whoever he is, whatever he is, he's thoroughly prepared for each target, or just insanely powerful."

[/bg]

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John flipped through the documents, eyes flickering over them in a practiced manner, reading swiftly but ensuring he got the important details. The man frowned deeply when he looked at the artist's rendition.

"My first instinct is to say Eric Michaels. But something doesn't add up." He glanced up at Elena as he kept reading. "The red armour fits, the assaults on metahumans too. The preparation and power level seem roughly analogous. But..." He flicked over a few pages, and grimaced.

"A blood eagle?! This has gone way too far. Michaels was a gun fanatic. If it was him, that wouldn't have happened. He thought he was in the right for championing humanity, he didn't kidnap or mutilate." John's expression grew even grimmer. "Why do I always end up fighting the anti-metahuman nutjobs in armour?"

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"Why do I always end up fighting the anti-metahuman nutjobs in armour?"

[bg=#BF0000]"For the same reason you send a thief to catch a thief: You know how they think."

"Malice is a great suspect at first, on a superficial level. These killings fit his M.O. But not his signature. This isn't his style. Whoever did this has poetry in his soul. A flair for the theatric and a twisted sense of humor. Eric Michaels is an angry, xenophobic, hyperanalytical psychopath with an overdeveloped sense of nationalism. He doesn't have a subtle or artistic bone in his body, and he wouldn't know poetry if it seized control of his new arm and started strangling him."

"And, as you pointed out, despite his chosen moniker, Malice isn't a sadist. As I'm sure you're aware, you don't usually see this sort of enthusiastic overkill unless the murderer had a strong personal connection to the victim, even if it wasn't reciprocated. But even if this was personal, even if this man killed Hellbound for who he was as much as for what he represented, that hardly narrows down the list of suspects. Orren had a talent for making enemies on both sides of the law, and ran with some pretty disreputable crowds. That's why he got along so well with Divine."[/bg]

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