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GranspearZX

Apex Predators (IC)

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You're out of control.

I don't know what your problem is, Marcus, but I suggest you solve it. WITHOUT using your powers; it's clear that you're not the same person that you where when you came here. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Arcturus growled, swiping a claw at a tree as he passed by it. It was true... he had changed. Not in a way he could entirely be proud of, either. After his brief--VERY brief--stay in the hospital, he found himself being chewed out by Duncan Summers again. He'd nearly gotten caught using his powers in public, and on top of that, he'd nearly gotten himself seriously hurt. He wasn't even sure why he'd done it. There was probably good rationale for it at the time, but it escaped him now. He needed to let off steam... he needed to find himself again.

Why don't you take a few days to relax? his supervisor at the zoo suggested. He hadn't known the man more than the summer months he'd worked at the Hanover Zoo, but his advice was surprisingly sound. I know they say that weird stuff happens in the woods, but it always seems to put me at ease when I really need it, y'know? Clarity and peace of mind...

Of course, there was no way that Marcus was going traipsing through the woods unprepared. He was technically camping, but he'd been in his bear form for nearly two days. At one point, he thought he'd heard hikers, and did what he could to avoid them. Even if he hadn't, what were they going to say? A big bear walking through the woods was hardly the weirdest thing Wharton had to offer...

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I wonder how much bug spray I can put on before I risk iffixating myself.

Jasmine sat quietly on the top of the picnic table as she started to read the ingredients on the back of the label. She had tried various formula's of her own, but for some strange reason no matter what brand or type she used she was always feasted upon whenever she went to these things. Glancing around the area she watched the other earlier members of the company picnic doing their set up as she began to caught her exposed arms and legs to try and minimize the damage such a long period of inhabiting the wooded wilderness will provide in the form of insects. She wanted to wear more clothing than khaki capris and half cut off sleeves but the weather had proven to continue to be incredibly hot and humid today only being spared the usual nineties and hundred by some overcast shading the area and a near by swimming hole.

She stretched a bit as she was called over to help layout the pot luck of side dishes all wrapped in tupperwear and their respective store bought casings which didn't bug her that much as it did serve as a fair warning as to which things probably have less than fresh fruit and mediocre serving styles. If all else failed, the grill was already up and running and the cooking buffulo burgers she brought with her were already being grilled and reserved so they aren't all gone by the time she gets there like the last company picnic.

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The magic of the wilderness was dangerous. Arcturus knew that all too well. That was probably why he took the peaceful moments for granted. He wasn't entirely out in the woods for leisure, either; he was, technically, training. 'Finding his center', as it was put to him. It seemed like something rather far-fetched, but he had to admit that it felt as if there was a certain amount of truth to the concept. Physical activity often helped, and a run seemed like an excellent idea.

Arcturus wasn't exactly FAST, but he was still capable, and he actually enjoyed running. He had enjoyed a brief period on the track team at FDR High while he was there; he wasn't a long distance or even a relay runner, though. All he did was throw the shot put and javelin, but he still liked running with the rest of the team. It allowed him to forget everything, and let the world around him melt away... The jazz music playing in his earbuds at ridiculous volumes certainly helped.

He wasn't paying attention. He should have been paying attention. And the moment he let his guard down, his huge foot caught a root, and Arcturus went tumbling down a hillside...

...right into a huge picnic.

He grunted gruffly, confused and disoriented at first. The fall made his one of the earbuds slip out, and he didn't even notice that his bulk had landed him on a solid wooden picnic table--now pieces of one, at least. What was going on hadn't REALLY registered... until he heard the first scream.

...aw crap.

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The first scream immediately caught everyones attention, as did the direction it came from and the thing that caused it. There was a HUGE bear that just crushed the picnic table Jasmine had been sitting on a few moments ago. She barely had time to react as everyone else started swarming out of the camp and down the trail to the parking lot. A few people already had their phones out calling animal control, Jasmine had a gun. Okay, it was a bright red paintball pistol that she pulled out from a smaller case in her bag and expertly put together as she gained backed away from the bear and pulled out some pepper spray rounds.

There was literately no one left in the empty camp as she stood there gun raised, though really it would of been a bit more impressive a sight if her arms weren't shaking as she locked eyes with the very large large bear when she squeezed the trigger.

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"A BEAR!"

Arcturus grunted as he looked up. That was a rather embarrassing fall, and the fact that he was an eight-foot tall bear didn't diminish that fact in the slightest. People were scattering like he was some sort of monster. All except one person, at least... and she had a gun.

He'd never seen a paintball gun before. It was oddly fascinating, and it made him pause when he should have been long gone. She stared right at him as she raised it, and Arcturus raised a large, skeptical eyebrow. ...she's gonna shoot me with a paintball gun. Really? REALLY?

*paf*

His sensitive nose immediately picked up on the pepper spray. To say it was unpleasant was an understatement and he staggered backward, nearly tripping over the debris of the broken picnic table. He roared in clear discomfort, rubbing at his eyes; whoever this girl was, she was a disturbingly good shot. It hit him squarely in the forehead, and if the sting of the paintball wasn't enough, the pepper spray itself was wreaking havoc on his vision and sense of smell.

Who the hell carries pepper spray paintballs?!

Without thinking, Arcturus kicked the table in frustration, hard enough to go flying at Jasmine. He wasn't aiming at her--at this point, she was mostly a blur, and he wasn't really looking.

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Jasmine dodged to the side of the table and kept her distance from the bear as it swung around wildly in response to the pepper spray.

I hope it just leaves, I mean the mace should be enough of a deterent right? Then there wouldn't have to be a fight, I wouldn't have to fight a bear who probably only stumbled down following the smell of food. Poor thing, I probably shouldn't of used something so strong and I still haven't been able to make something to clear up the effects of the pepper ball.

She thought this, but she still kept her weapon trailed on the bear in case it didn't just leave.

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Water...

Arcturus growled irritably as he stumbled backward, feeling the slope where he'd fallen under his feet. He turned around and staggered his way back up. He turned around, eyes a deep and angry red--both from the pepper spray and the magical manifestation of his anger, barely kept in check. Still, he wasn't such a heartless monster that he was going to knock some random girl senseless. Even if she did have it coming.

For now, though, the imperative wasn't revenge, it was relief; there was a stream nearby and even in spite of the pepper spray, he could smell the river nearby. The sooner he was in it, as far as he was concerned, the sooner he could put the crazy girl with the paintball gun behind him...

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Jasmine kept her eyes on the bear as it turned away and lowered her weapon as she backed out of the campsite and started down to her van. It was leaving, but she wasn't going to turn her back on it, so she stepped back slowly, deliberately making sure to compensate for uneven ground or unexpected obsticles. This didn't help her notice the figure behind her at all, in fact she was even speeding up when she did this, so when she felt her back against something solid enough to stop her in her tracks, but fluid enough to definitely not be something inanimite she freezed for a few seconds before turning her head to see.

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GM

The figure didn't budge. At all. Nearly three times Jasmine's height, the armor gave off a disturbingly hollow clang when she backed into it, the red glow in its eye holes intensifying as it settled its gaze on her. For several moments, it seemed as if its stare was boring straight into her soul. It looked from her to the slope at the end of the clearing, catching a brief glimpse of the bear slipping back into the woods.

It looked down at Jasmine again, its voice echoing outward from its helm with a sound akin to gears grinding and echoing from within its solid, hollow body. "Move, human." Asking was more or less of a formality; mid-sentence, it was trying to shove her aside. Behind it, its arrival was somewhat obvious--cars had been overturned and shoved out of the way, as the armored golem had made a disturbingly direct line from wherever it had come from to here.

It didn't even move when Jasmine attempted to blind it, and it started to raise its massive fist in retaliation, unaffected entirely by the attack...

For a brief second, Jasmine was dwarfed by another shadow behind her; it didn't last long, as the big angry bear she'd shot came barreling back into the clearing, lowering his shoulder and trying to ram his entire form into the armored golem. It didn't budge--and, instead, shoved the bear backward. Arc landed flat on his back and rolled backward, displaying a disturbing amount of agility for a being his size as he rolled to his feet. Gauntlet hardly gave him a chance to breathe, focused intently on him as it swung a metal fist at him. Arcturus ducked, barely able to avoid the blow, his eyes still irritated from the pepper spray.

"You have really lousy timing, tin grin..." Arcturus muttered... At this point, any ruse he might have been trying to maintain with a civilian around was gone, considering Gauntlet might have actually hurt her if he'd done nothing. He glanced over at her to make sure she was okay, still trying to figure out how exactly he was going to deal with this when he had absolutely no idea what he was doing.

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Jasmine looked up the large armored thing like a deer in the headlights. Even when it talked she still had to take a moment to take in the scene. She tried to look at the cars and wondered where there occupants were. That worried her greatly, but not as much as the angry bear. Backing away as it plowed into the giant metal thing (she assumed it wasn't human, humans usually don't use human as an adjective) and nearly dropped her gun as it spoke,

"What?"

She kept backing away as she held her gun and starting switching ammo. So the bear could talk, well that was strange though not the strangest thing she had ever seen (she did live in Freedom City after all). What did that make the bear? Or more so what did that make the thing attacking the bear? It was all very confusing, but one thing was for certain, the metal thing didn't really seem to care about hurting people and the bear was stopping it, so leveling her gun she swept up her flash goggles onto her eyes and let a flash ball hit the metal giant on the side. But he wasn't effected in the least by it.

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GM

"I'd ask if you're alright, but... dumb question."

Running headlong into Gauntlet hurt more than he thought it would. At least he'd recovered, and his natural agility got him back to his feet before any permanent harm could be done. It didn't solve his primary problem though... Gauntlet had wrecked several cars in his straightforward pursuit, and there was no realistic way to outrun him. Even if he put enough distance between the two of them, there was no telling what would get in the way in the interim. He needed a plan... a distraction.

His stance became defensive as Gauntlet lunged at him again; the bear suddenly shifted his weight forward and lowered himself, deflecting the incoming blow upward, well over his head.

"Uh... you might wanna run, little girl. This is gonna get ugly." The last thing he wanted was someone getting hurt, and he had a general sense of where Jasmine was in relation to the metal monstrosity.

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While she certianly didn't round, Jasmine backed away about another twenty feet as she switched rounds. All the while wondering if everyone she has to fight with will be this patronizing or just people she's shot,

Okay, the pepper spray probably didn't help the talking bears mood any.

She leveled the paintball gun and steadied it on the moving metal, was it armor? That was strange, was someone in there or was it something like a golem. That would require more research later. Either way she pumped a shot of her more damaging paintball that ignited into a small spout of flame the minute it hit the armor. Though this seemed to neither phase nor even receive notice from it.

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GM

Arcturus tried to focus on the task at hand, his claws turning a bright red as a symbol appeared on the back of each hand, engulfing both in a small but intense-looking flame. He lunged at Gauntlet with a feral roar, flaming claws tearing a wide arc through the air. They scraped uselessly at Gauntlet's metal breastplate, and the metal monstrosity let out something that sounded like an irritated sigh. Its metal fist came flying at Arc faster than one might expect something that large to be capable of moving, nailing the bear squarely on the cheek.

There was a sound like shattering glass that came after--it wasn't loud, but definitely noticeable, as a reddish brown field of light appeared and disappeared around Arcturus's body. In that instant, he went from an eight-foot tall force of nature to a young man less than half of Gauntlet's height. He winced as he mentally recovered, still trying to piece together what had just happened, but it didn't take long at all for him to realize he was normal again... wearing shorts and a mask.

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Jasmine was a good thirty feet away and she had an excellant view of everything that was happening. From the bears useless attacks, to the hit that sent him back and then of course him not being a bear anymore,

"Well that makes things seem more, fesible."

She sort of just thought it out loud, but it was a bit easier to think that it was like a metahuman shapeshifter then a random talking bear. Either way, the not bear was still in trouble. Letting out a breath, she reached into her pocket and grabbed her more much more potent acid rounds. If this armor wasn't gonna slow down on it's own, she was gonna eat through it until it went down. She lined up the shot and with the singlemindedness it prosued the bear was able to get in exactly where it was going so she hit it head on with her shot which splattered acrossed it's chest plate.

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GM

Arcturus was just a little bit embarrassed.

Here he was with a bloody lip and Jasmine's shot made Gauntlet stagger. The metal golem let out a groan of irritation as its chestplate melted under the potency of the acid; he seemed well aware of the damage he was taking, reflexively moving an arm up to protect himself. Arcturus blinked a few times at Jasmine, more than a little impressed.

"Who are you? ...wait, never mind. Later." Arcturus crossed his arms and the same thin field of light surrounded him again. From Jasmine's position, she could see the birthmark on his back turn the same color. His entire body took on the same hue, and in an instant he was back to his former ursine self. His claws burst with magical power, once again wreathed in fire. He catapulted himself forward with a snarl, taking a vicious swipe at the spot where Jasmine had shot Gauntlet. The golem managed to stagger backward enough to make Arcturus's blow little more than a glancing one.

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Jasmine smiled at the damage inflicted, one because this time the creature noticed, and two, it made an opening her next attack. Switching cartridges quickly she lined up her shot and yelled out,

"Mr. Bear, you might want to move as far as physically possible, this stuff does not come out of fur."

With that warning in mind she aimed right into the hole she made in the armor with two shots of her two part polyurethane polymer which once it collided inside the construct, burst into a expanding mass of thick white foam that started to quickly fill the inside of the armor in every nook and crevice it could find as it solitified into a dense mass.

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GM

Arcturus wisely moved out of the way, and the shot slammed home right into Gauntlet's chest and creeping steadily into his breastplate. Despite being hollow, this caused the golem clear distress, and it let out a hollow roar as it scraped at the foam rapidly filling its chest. The bear stared at Jasmine for a few seconds before attacking again, aiming a low swipe at one of the golem's knees. Sparks flew from the impact but showed little sign of wearing the heavy armor down; as Gauntlet struggled, he ripped out a sizeable chunk of the foam covering his chest and threw it aside, his eyes flaring red as he looked past Arcturus to Jasmine.

She definitely had his attention now.

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Jasmine smiled from her stance about fourty feet away as she switched the cartridges again and lined up another round.

"You know what's strange, how long it took for the foam inside that armor. If there was someone in there, or some sort of circuitry it would of built up faster against the extra surface. But from the time it took, I guess you really are just an empty suit of armor. It really is a load off my mind, because I don't have to feel guilty about this."

Taking her shot she hit right in the hole in the center of the modified insulation foam. This round wasn't a chemical round, instead it burst into a small spout of fire which of itself wouldn't of been that harmful but combined with the incredibly flamable foam filled the entire armor with a goot of red hot flames.

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GM

Gauntlet roared, clearly made uncomfortable by the fire ignited inside his otherwise hollow body. As he staggered backward, Arcturus leapt forward, his claws still ablaze as he tore even deeper into the armor. The golem let out a sound that could only be discomfort, acrid black smoke billowing through the eye holes i his helm, and throughout its joints--anywhere it could escape. His lifeless eyes stared squarely at Catalyst as it spoke, its voice sounding like a weak echo and the rustling of dry leaves.

"You... I will... destroy..."

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Jasmine lowered her gun and switched ammo, another flame shot would be redundant afterall. An acid round for the armor. She finally approached instead of backed away and held the gun at his head level,

"Unlikely,"

She shot him dead on at the helmet and watched as the round ate through the metal. She let out a held breath as the thing finally stopped moving and tucked her gun back into her pack as she walked over to Arcutus,

"Are you alright?"

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"Definitely better than him. Geez..."

Gauntlet all but fell apart, the light in his eye sockets dimming as he crashed to the ground. The impact shook the ground; he easily weighed somewhere upward of 2000 pounds, and left a sizable indentation in the dirt and grass as it keeled over, smoke from the acid still rising from where Jasmine had struck it.

Arc wasn't sure he wanted to admit just how impressed he was. His first encounter with Gauntlet hadn't gone quite that well, and he raised a fuzzy eyebrow as Jasmine walked toward him. He looked around and there still wasn't anyone around besides them; most of the people had scattered between his fall and Gauntlet's appearance. Now that she knew he was human, though, he probably didn't seem quite as frightening.

"So... ah... thanks. I guess. Who are you?"

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Jasmine held out a hand to the bear,

"My name is Jasmine, and I was a pinicer on this lovely humid bug infested day. You and him sort of cut the entire thing short, thanks for that part by the way, not terribly fond of the great outdoors, at least not during mosquito season."

Looking towards the smoking no longer moving piece of armor she glanced down the hill to the cars and saw a couple of people climbing out and one or two more.

"Huh, it looks like they've noticed I'm gone, you don't suppose you could change back again? It's a lot less intimidating."

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"Oh. Right. Ah... Arcturus." He wasn't sure if he should give his REAL name or not. His huge paw dwarfed Jasmine's hand, but he was surprisingly gentle as he shook in return. "Sorry abo-.. wait. Why am I apologizing? You SHOT ME. IN THE FACE." To emphasize his point, he pointed a stubby claw at his eyes--of course, they were red anyway, making his point somewhat muted.

When he was certain no one was looking, he took a step away from Jasmine and changed back, a brief flash of light and magic reverting him to his human form. His mask was still on, of course, obscuring the upper part of his face. He was also still wearing just shorts. That wasn't the most pressing thing on his mind, however.

"...I'm gonna have to clean this up. I guess it's safe to say that the picnic's officially over, huh?"

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"Yes, I am very sorry, really I had no way of knowing."

Looking at the human form of the masked man she had to wonder where he got shorts that stayed with him when he switched form. Though she left that question to the side since another one was more pertinant. She walked closer to the armor examining the seemingly hallow shell before asking,

"What exactly is, was this thing? I mean, why was it even here, or why was it empty, there's no one in there right?"

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"Yeah, well... I guess not." Any actual damage that had been done to his eyes had more or less healed by now; the Beast Rune's powers accelerated his natural healing ability, making him a lot more resilient than most. He shrugged, looking over the face-down suit of armor as Jasmine asked about its origin.

"It's a golem. Magical construct. Well, more like a human soul bonded to an ancient armor... It's a long, unpleasant story." Marcus decided to let those statements stand as they were. After all, magic was a difficult concept for most people to swallow, and he had been told to keep that sort of thing under wraps as best he could from the average citizen. A young woman with acid paintballs, however, was anything but average, and he was certain it wouldn't upset anything to clue her in. She'd probably saved his skin. The very least he owed her was honesty when it came to what exactly she was dealing with.

"Short version: it wants my hide. I'm afraid this victory is only temporary though. There's probably a dozen or so cultists on their way to retrieve this scrap heap..." He kicked Gauntlet, frowning at the hollow echo. "I'm sure it'll come back even worse than this."

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