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Piper of Riverside [IC]

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Lately a strange rash of disappearances has been afflicting the Riverside. For the past three nights a number of children, all under the age of twelve, have vanished during the night. While the number of missing children has finally come to the attention of Freedom City's finest, the police have been unable to find a single lead. There has been no sign of forced entry, no other commonality between the victims beside age and general location.

 

The fourth night since the start of the problem opens clear and bright; the full moon watches as several heroes gather to put a stop to the mysterious misdeeds occurring underneath its gaze.

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Lucy wandered the streets of Riverside,obstensively she was to meet up with Rhonda who had decided to introduce her to the girlfriend. Despite the rocky start the two were actually becoming friends, her first in the 21st Century.

But mainly she was trying to see if she could find out anything about the children who had disappeared. The little text below the picture of the televisions she had been watching had said they had all disappeared in this area. Though she was rapidly adapting to this new century she was still unsure where to start exactly, how did hero's contact each other? Maybe she should get one of those little telephone everyone seemed to be carring around.?

After all she was sure that a hero could only get messages through the Sisters at the Soup kitchen for so long.

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Blueshift was still in the beginning stages of testing her new additions to Mac. She'd finally been able to install the modification that would allow her to view everything that he could see. As she crouched on a rooftop she hand multiple streams of information flashing across her visor all at once. She was turning up anything and everything on children, orphans, any local orphanages, anything that could possibly be related to kidnapping. She turned up court cases. English common law, united states law. In less than a few seconds she knew everything there was to know about kidnapping. She just didn't know what had happened here yet. But that's what Mac was for. She focused on one of the screens within her visor. There was a streaming video from Mac displayed on it. She could see and hear everything he could as he looked around for evidence. Anything yet, Mac? She asked him through their mental link.


Nothing, Rachie. The tiny robot responded as it floated along down the street.

"Hoop doop dee doo doo" Mac hummed and whistled as he puttered along. He was ecstatic that Blueshift was letting him do this. He looked every which way, taking in all the surroundings he could, and beaming them back to Blueshift's visor. Then, just as he was passing a bank of televisions displaying the news, he saw her. "Why hello there, tall, dark, and gothic! What brings a pretty lady like you to this part of town this tiem of night?"

Mac! Behave! Ohhh. I know who that is...

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Jay Xavier had just upgraded his police-band receiver, one of the data-sources by which he kept track of trouble-spots that could use the help of a super-fast feline. And as luck would have it, one of the first trouble-spots that came up in the police chatter was Riverside, a place where some children had just disappeared. The beginning of a wave of abductions, kidnappings? Maybe. Jay didn't like that idea, and thought it would make sense to stomp on it before it got serious. No evidence as yet, so the police couldn't officially call it 'kidnapping' or 'abduction', nor could they really do much of anything about it. Yet.

Of course, Jubatus wasn't a policeman...


The fastest cat alive blurred down the streets of Riverside. He'd adjusted his usual schedule so that he hit that area four times, and touched each and every street in Riverside at least once, in each patrol-session. This was the second night of his Riverside-focused vigil; on the first night, he'd put his nose to use, sniffing out everything, on the grounds that whatever was happening might involve something whose scent was non-human, or at least obviously, distinctively different from the scent of mundane humanity. Maybe. That was the theory, anyway.

Hmmm... Jubatus recognized that tin can: Blueshift. She was talking to another woman, probably a goth if he was reading her appearance aright. No telling how long the conversation had already been going on.

Jube downshifted to the normal tempo of 1 when he was 30 feet away from the pair, and walked the remaining distance at a normal pace. "Hello, Blueshift. Who'd your friend?" he asked, gesturing at the pale woman.

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Sarah stifled a yawn as she stood atop one of many buildings of Riverside. She didn't have time to be tired with someone stealing children right on her home turf. Giving the street below another look, she shifted to another rooftop in the distance. This time there was something to catch her interest. The Revenant stood below her, talking to a cheetah man and some floating device.

Abruptly the masked form of the Cheshire Blade appeared next to the gathered heroes on the street.

"Hello Revenant. Are you here about the kidnappings, or just chance?" Turning to the cat and the construct, she gave a brief bow. "Good evening, I'm the Cheshire Blade. I don't believe we've met before."

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Macintosh to Baby Blue. Macintosh to Baby Blue. Seems safe. Proceeding with introductions.

"Hey, Jube!" The lively tin can called out, "Blue's told me about you. Greetings, Cheshire. Pleased to make your acquaintance. M.A.C. mkIII at your service!" Mac retreated to hover next to Jubatus, pretending to elbow him in the ribs, he said to the cheetah in a hushed voice, "So. One for each of us! Which one do you want? 'Cuz I'll take anything." Jubatus could have sworn he'd seen Mac wink, which was strange, considering the robot's lack of eyes.

There was a sharp "Cli-Klak" from the sidewalk behind the group. "Mac! Cool it!" Blueshift's cloaking device faded from her legs up as she approached the group. "No real need to meet, is there Cheshire? There's enough about all of you on the net to write a small biography." Blueshift held out her hand, and a small holographic screen pulled up bios on each of them. "Jube I've met. Human cheetah. All the trappings included. Cheshire - Atlantean magician with cool sword. Revenant, dead girl walking. 'Bout sum it up?" Blue smiled at the group collectively. "Anyone got any info besides pied pipers, rats, and old German fairy tales?"

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Lucy smiled and leaned down towards the tiny robot. “Why thank you Mac, though I’ve never thought of myself as a Byronic Heroine. It wouldn’t work anyway, I’m much too old for you!†she blew the little machine a kiss.

Lucy then turned to Cheshire and began to hold her arms out wide, before changing her mind and looking rather sheepish.

“Cheshire it’s a pleasure to see you again, though I’m not sure how hero’s great each other is it okay to hug, or do those air kisses or the bumping of the hands?†she then turned towards Jubatus “Hello there, Jube wasn’t it? Is it wrong that I had a desire to rub you behind the ears?" Lucy looked a little embrassed "I’m sorry that should have probably stayed in my head. “

Finally she turned towards Blueshift “You have me at a disadvantage young lady, though it’s a pleasure to meet you.â€

The smile faded and she took on a more serious tone.

â€It looks like we’re all here after the same thing. I’ve got nothing, my street knowledge is a little out of date, but I suggest we all pool together everything we know and try and get these children back safely.â€

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Initially, Jubatus found M.A.C.'S antics... bemusing. Lovelace and Babbage preserve us, someone's implemented a Borscht Belt comedian as an AI..? But Jube's bemusement ended just as soon as the flying hockey puck found a way to hit one of his nerves --

"So. One for each of us! Which one do you want? 'Cuz I'll take anything."

"Not funny, chip-for-brains," the cheetah snarled back, matching M.A.C.'s low volume.

“Hello there, Jube wasn’t it?

"You got it," the cheetah replied. "Jube, short for Jubatus, as in 'Jubatus acinonyx'."

" Is it wrong that I had a desire to rub you behind the ears?" Lucy looked a little embarrassed "I’m sorry that should have probably stayed in my head. “

Jubatus upshifted so his sigh, and the associated irritated facepalm reaction, would go by too fast for anyone with a normal-speed brain to notice. "Not your fault. I mean, I do find that sort of thing annoying, but given who and what I am, I can't really blame you." He shrugged, his shoulders moving in a peculiar forward-and-up motion. "Dealing with it's my problem. Not yours, and not anybody else's."

â€It looks like we’re all here after the same thing. I’ve got nothing, my street knowledge is a little out of date, but I suggest we all pool together everything we know and try and get these children back safely.â€

"Good idea," Jubatus said as he retrieved a smallish tablet computer from one of his many vest-pockets. A few quick-and-deft stylus-manipulations later, the tablet's screen displayed a map of the Riverside borough, with a small number of pulsing red dots scattered about. Raising the tablet up so that the other hero-types could see the map, Jube went on: "The last two days, I've been patrolling Riverside heavy. I've picked up some unusual scent-traces in these spots -- traces which form trails between certain houses and the closest available manhole covers. Anybody care to guess how many of those houses are the homes of kids who disappeared recently?"

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"Not funny, chip-for-brains," the cheetah snarled back, matching M.A.C.'s low volume.

"Hey there, don't get hissy, I was just joking."

"Mac! Behave!"

Mac bleeped out a tone that sounded like a mixture of shame and nervousness, "Sorry, Blue. Sorry, Jube." The little robot moved to hover behind Blueshift, who moved to join the group further.

Finally she turned towards Blueshift “You have me at a disadvantage young lady, though it’s a pleasure to meet you.â€

"Not much to see, Rev. Informantion and Invention. That's my business."

"Good idea," Jubatus said as he retrieved a smallish tablet computer from one of his many vest-pockets. A few quick-and-deft stylus-manipulations later, the tablet's screen displayed a map of the Riverside borough, with a small number of pulsing red dots scattered about. Raising the tablet up so that the other hero-types could see the map, Jube went on: "The last two days, I've been patrolling Riverside heavy. I've picked up some unusual scent-traces in these spots -- traces which form trails between certain houses and the closest available manhole covers. Anybody care to guess how many of those houses are the homes of kids who disappeared recently?"

"No guessing necessary. Every last home. I've been doing similar searching. Obvious conclusion, abductors retreated underground. Downloading a map of the Riverside Sewer system now. I've got lights. In case you're carrot intake's low. Retinal helps low light vision." Blueshift began fiddling with a multitude of gadgets on her person, making sure everything was in order. "Well, we've got a lead. Albeit a small one. Shouldn't waste time. Faster we track these kids down, better chance we have of finding them alive." She gazed around the group expectantly with the unspoken suggestion that she was waiting on the rest of them.

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“Cheshire it’s a pleasure to see you again, though I’m not sure how hero’s great each other is it okay to hug, or do those air kisses or the bumping of the hands?â€

Prescott smirked and gave Lucy a quick hug. "Hugging is fine, as is a handshake."

"No guessing necessary. Every last home. I've been doing similar searching. Obvious conclusion, abductors retreated underground. Downloading a map of the Riverside Sewer system now. I've got lights. In case you're carrot intake's low. Retinal helps low light vision." Blueshift began fiddling with a multitude of gadgets on her person, making sure everything was in order. "Well, we've got a lead. Albeit a small one. Shouldn't waste time. Faster we track these kids down, better chance we have of finding them alive." She gazed around the group expectantly with the unspoken suggestion that she was waiting on the rest of them.

"Good. Let's go everyone."


Finding the nearest sewer entrance with a scent trace, our heroes descended into Freedom City's absurdly spacious sewers. Once Jubatus became accustomed to the interesting new smells down below, he was able pick up the trail again.

The trail led the anthro-cheetah and his companions through several of the tunnels before coming to a dry passage with a section of wall that had been smashed down, opening into a stone tunnel that descended further into the gloom. As they approached the tunnel entrance the sound of rats broke the silence of the tunnels as a small swarm of the vermin poured out of the darkness. They stared at the heroes a moment before abruptly shriveling into dried husks as foul green smoke flowed out of their mouths and coalesced into six ape-like beasts with thick green hide, fanged maws, and scythe-like claws. With a deep howl the demons leaped to attack.

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In the seven-decades-plus-change of his former life, Jay Xavier had never once encountered demons, let alone demons that congealed out of smoke! What the -- huh!? -- But -- The shock of this surprise was great enough, not just to render the feline motionless, but also to kill the continuing Timeshift that kept him at the normal tempo of 1...

Back at his default tempo of 6, Jubatus recovered his equilibrium within a second or so of clock-time. Okay. Okay. It's weird, but it's real. Get your [bg=black]xxix[/bg] together, man! From Jubatus' point of view, the demons were drifting slowly forward with obviously lethal intent. The cheetah upshifted to a tempo of 40 times faster than normal (his practical upper limit) and thought about how he should respond: Duct tape their eyes shut so we can pick 'em off while they're blind? Do they even need eyes? Hm. They do seem to need limbs, so how about hogtying 'em with dee-tee? Not sure how effective that'll be versus things which condensed into solidity from a gaseous state, but it's worth a shot.

The fastest cat alive blurred into action -- taking one demon at a time, he pulled their arms behind their backs; bound their arms together by coiling duct tape around their wrists; and wrenched their feet up so he could duct-tape their ankles to their wrists. He then spent a precious few upshifted seconds looking over his handiwork, reviewing it for obvious errors... and seeing none, he downshifted to the normal tempo of 1.

"I bought us some time," Jube said to his comrades. "No idea how long they'll be stuck, so prep for the worst ay-ess-ay-pee." Then, turning his attention to the ensnared demons: "Okay. You guys want to explain what you're here for, or would'ja rather skip on down to the part where everyone starts whaling on each other?"

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"Cheshire! I'll set them up. You knock them down." Blueshift was already becoming invisible to the naked eye as she spoke. She tore off toward on of the demons that Jubatus hadn't managed to bind with duct tape and slid between the creature's legs, tripping it up.

Even as she did so she was sending commands to Mac over their mental link, Mac! Initiate autonomous combat mode! Friendlies: Blueshift, Cheshire Blade, Jubatus, Revenant. Hostiles: Six Demonic Targets; Four bound; Prioritize non-disabled targets. Combat role: Assist Type Alpha!

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Even as Jubatus managed to bind up the demons they began struggling furiously against the tape, completely ignoring his demands for information. Two of the fiends managed to quickly tear themselves free, only for the closest to be knocked off balance by Blueshift.

The Cheshire Blade, taking advantage of the opening her ally created, cleaved her blade into it's chest. The foul brute let out a shriek before falling to the floor, where it began dissolving into a greenish-gray slime.

Warping back next to her comrades, Cheshire aimed a glance at Jubatus. "Whatever bindings on the things probably wouldn't let them answer even if they were inclined. Also, demons. Not exactly the most interested in mercy."

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Commands Received Mac acknowledged Blueshift's commands over their mental link, Friendly units: Registered; Hostile Units: Registered; Assist Type Alpha initiated: Evade and Distract.

Mac zipped through the air and immediately hovered in the face of the last demon that wasn't currently bound. "OOohh Yea! Look at me!" A small metallic arm extended from the underside of Mac's Chassis. The tip of the arm began sparking violently like an overcharged cattle prod. "Yea! Conga line, everybody!" Mac flew around to the back of the demon. Music began projecting out of one of the speakers on the top of his chassis, "Conga, Conga, Conga! Conga like you mean it! Do not make me shock you! Hey!" The little robot probed the air around the demon with it's super powered Taser. Mac never actually hit the demon with it, he just threatened to, making sure the demon's attention was divided. As soon as the demon seemed fed up with the distraction and actually started paying attention to Mac, the tiny little robot activated it's defenses and was instantly invisible!

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GM

The demon MAC was taunting swiped angrily at the machine only for it to disappear. Deprived of its target, the brute turned towards the one who had banished its compatriot. With a bloodthirsty snarl, it leapt forward, slamming through the spatial distortion around Cheshire Blade and into her. Wrapping the heroine in a powerful bear hug, it bared its fangs and bit down into her shoulder, prompting a pained scream.

Meanwhile, the rest of the demons tore themselves free of the tape bindings and shook their claws at the heroes.

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Revenant stepped up to the demon that had just bitten her companion. Tapping him (it?) lightly on the shoulder, she gave the creature a stern look.

â€Excuse me sir, I believe it’s my turn to dance with the young lady.â€

The demon looked at her with a confused look on its face, just as she pulled her arm back and struck the demon. Revenant gave her a wry smile.

â€I’m sorry Sir it appears that you’re no gentleman.â€

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The demons were immobilized with duct tape -- but they didn't let a little thing like that stop them from trying to continue their attack. Fortunately, they also didn't seem to be able to do the gaseous-form trick at will, and (even better!) it looked like the tape was going to hold, at least for the immediate future.

On the minus side, none of the demons felt like explaining themselves. Maybe they didn't want to talk to him, maybe they weren't capable of replying; either way, the demons' speechlessness was no more than he'd expected. Failure of peaceful overtures, check. Taped-up incapacitation, check, at least for now anyway. Continuing evidence of hostile intent, check, the cheetah thought. Right: Time to see what these claws of mine can do to inhuman flesh, damnit. And with a short, sharp slash, one of the demons was down...

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