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Science Shenanegians (IC)

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August 10th, 2011
Lincoln
12:11 AM


Freedom City was a prosperous burg, a shining city of progress and opportunity. In recent history, the cleaning up of the Fens was often touted as an example of how things were getting better. But for the citizens living in Lincoln, time might have decided to stand still.

This was very evident late one night (so late it's early in the morning, as the joke went) on a corner deep in the neighborhood. The building was a glass-walled box that had changed hands between various entrepreneurs; at the moment it was a Qwik-'n'-Buy. Something things always stayed the same, like the high school kid manning the counter at such a late hour -- and the four other teenagers with big guns, wearing ski masks. The two with shotguns (one pump, one sawed-off double-barrel) were keeping the cashier covered while he emptied the register; the pair with pistols (one revolver, one Walther PPK knock-off) were ransacking the shop, showing a distinct preference for TV dinners and alcohol.

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While the terrified clerk did as her was instructed by the masked robbers, one of the store's late night patrons stepped calmly out from one of the aisles and cleared his throat. The simple sound was surprisingly loud and clear as it resounded in the broad chest of the mountainous figure, who looked over the tops of his sunglasses at the group and folded his heavily muscled arms. "I'm giving you one chance to walk on out of here," Keith LaMarr told the thieves frankly, his booming baritone echoing in the confines of the convenience store.

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GM

The robbers snapped around when Wail stepped into view, and one of the register crew started backing towards the door, dropping his piece on the ground. "Aw, $&@*, man! I didn't sign on for no capes!"

His partner pushed the teller back so he fell on his ass, then stepped forward and leveled the weapon at Wail's broad chest. "Man, you guys are &*%@! He's just a washed-up old teacher! C'mon, let's waste him!" The cowardly (or maybe smarter) thug fled into the night, while the remaining three opened fire on the hero. While their combat effectiveness was debatable (especially given that the one with the Walther knock-off was firing it sideways) they did kill a lot of food in plastic bags.

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"Hmph," LaMarr scoffed as one of the robbers sprinted for the exit. "Never wore a cape in my life." Weathering the imprecise hail of projectiles with considerably more success that the store's wares. He wasn't quite bulletproof, but his superdense muscle tissue was durable enough that they didn't do much more than sting. "Alright, you took you shot, jokers. Now SIT DOWN!" The broad-shouldered man's voice rocketed in volume, crashing outward with a force that sent the remaining shelves and racks clattering the the ground and knocked the suitably terrified thugs off of their feet.

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GM

Wail's carefully trained voice carried its subsonic vibrations across the block, and countless pets started wailing at the night while their owners felt and unaccountable shiver dance up their spine. In the store the effect was much more pronounced; the robbers were bowled over and stayed there, cowering, unable to gather their wits enough to flee. Behind the counter, the cashier was spared the worst of the scream's sonic force, but it still set his knees to knocking.

A bathroom door in the back of the store opened up and another young man in a ski mask barged out, carrying something sleek and black. He screamed and started spraying the shop without any more accuracy than his fellows earlier. The stream of bullets cut off with a sudden clicking as the gun either jammed or ran out of bullets.

Before Wail could retaliate, the worker vaulted over the counter and yelled, "I've got him, Mr. L!" The pointed some kind of needle-barreled gun at the thug that looked like something out of a Flash Gordon serial. There was a flash of light and the gunman was suddenly frozen in monochrome. An instant later LaMarr's erstwhile savior flew into a shelf of potato chips and knocked the whole display over.

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"Desmarais?" LaMarr asked aloud, frowning slightly in surprise at the ray gun's display before walking over with long strides to give the youth a hand up from his tangled position atop the chip rack. "Son, what the sam hill was all that?" The junior's penchant for debate made him one of the earsplitting educator's best civics students, but the bizarre weaponry was something new altogether. There wasn't much Wail hadn't seen over the decades, but turning someone to hueless newsprint qualified as odd even by his standards.

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GM

The youth winced at his surname, but he wasn't about to correct his teacher. "It's okay," he said, gesturing to the now-monochrome crook. "He's okay, I just kind of... dropped him outside of time. See, we're all existing in four dimensions normally, right? Not just length-width-depth, but those three and time, right? So I just kind of, moved him ninety degrees. To all the other dimensions. So now length is depth, width is length, time is depth, and... well, depth should be time, but then shouldn't he be getting taller and taller? Right now they just stand there, staring." Desmaris stalked up to the affected criminal and glared at him. "Same thing happened to the cat."

While the high schooler inspected his handiwork, Wail heard police sirens in the distance. Apparently the gunfire and his subsequent sub-sonic shout hadn't gone unnoticed by the neighbors.

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"...right," LaMarr responded finally, after giving the teenager a level look to make sure he wasn't just pulling his leg. "Des, I'm getting the impression you may have been holding out on your schoolwork." At some point, any superhero worth their salt in Freedom City either became a scientist themselves or learned to simply nod along when then the exposition came out. "Now, we're about the have the authorities asking a lot of personal questions," he continued, giving Desmarais a frank look, "so it's time to decide just how much of that you want to explain to them."

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Desmaris looked down at his feet. "It's just... something I figured out one day. I was bored and couldn't get to sleep, so I ended up looking at the air conditioner I had in my bedroom window. I kind of saw how to make the gun, and after that I just couldn't not make it, you know?" He looked up at the hero. "My mom and dad got mad at me for taking the A/C apart, but I don't care. I'm almost done with a force field generator, and a flight suit based off Freedom Eagle's look. I'm going to call myself Fly High Kid. But, um, my parents aren't so cool about it." He perked up suddenly and grabbed LaMarr's arm. "Mr. L! You can come home, talk to them! Tell them how cool I did in a fight!"

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"Son, slow down." LaMarr didn't have to raise his voice above normal, human levels for it to be commanding, resonating through his broad chest with the authority of dedicated teacher. "It sounds to me like you've a real gift there," he continued, pointing with a thick finger toward the teenager's forehead, "but you're smart enough to know that kind of power doesn't usually come free. Who knows you can... 'see' how to make things like that? Have you spoken to a meta-physician? Brain powers are nowhere to fool around or take chances."

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GM

"No one," Desmaris admitted. "I've been trying to keep it secret. I think my parents would overreact, and I know they wouldn't like the idea of my being a superhero. But you can come and talk to them! Tell them how well I did, how I kicked ass! C'mon, Mr. L, this is my chance to really do something with my life."

While the teen hero was pleading with Wail, a couple of FCPD cruisers pulled into the parking lot. Two uniformed officers apiece climbed out and looked over the cowering thugs. The lead officer, a middle-aged man with a bit of a gut, walked carefully around the would-be criminals. "Mr. LaMarr, right?" He glanced at the monochrome thug, still frozen in time. "Is everything okay here?"

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"That's right," LaMarr confirmed, nodding to the officer even as he tilted his head down slightly to regard the more sensibly proportioned man. "Just an ill-advised extracurricular activity by these young men who I trust are going to think long and hard about better uses for their free time." Wail put just enough heat and volume into the words to make sure the fear of right was well and truly instilled in the would-be robbers. Looking between the frozen thug and the police officer for a moment, he offered in explanation, "Freedom City, huh?"

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GM

Wail's remark was handled with the sort of easy acceptance that only an experienced Freedom City cop had. The young thugs were loaded into the police cruisers; with a quick adjustment to the weapon, Desmaris unfroze the monochrome robber and the entire group was carted away. The whole post-crime scene process unfolded with the speed of long practice, as the teen gave his statement and the young man's manager put in an appearance. Once it was all wrapped up it was already past the end of Desmaris' shift. "Um. Mr. L?" He walked up to Wail, shouldering a much-mended backpack, the time-gun nowhere in sight. "Mr. Mackly, my boss? He said he's going to be calling my parents, so I think everything's going to kind of come out into the open. So could you please come to my house and put in a good word for me? I really think I could do some good, but if my parents knew I building, well, the kind of stuff you saw, they'd probably ground me and never let me leave the house."

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LaMarr let out a heavy sigh, though admittedly his bass range didn't really allow for any other kind. "Alright, Des. I'll speak with your folks, but I'm not about to convince them to let you risk your neck like a fool, either," the broad-shouldered educator clarified sternly. "Don't care how meta-smart you got yourself, bringing a home-made gun to work with you? I know you know better than that." In Wail's experience one of the commonalities of superhuman geniuses was a tendency to get carried away with their work and forget to apply more common sense. That Desmaris was one of his students made it all the more important that he be more careful.

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GM

Des was driving a dingy white pick-up truck. He belted into the driver's seat and Wail managed to squeeze into the passenger side, even if he did cause the vehicle to list to one side. The young man concentrated on pulling out of a parking lot containing several police cruisers and a quantity of broken glass, but before long they were on the road. Des drove steadily east, heading towards the Southside neighborhood; the streets were almost deserted, and either the quiet or the audience was intimidating him because it was a long minute until he spoke. "Listen," he said finally, "I don't think I ever thanked you for actually, you know, stopping those guys from robbing the store. So, yeah. Thanks for that." He pressed his lips together and swallowed, hard. "Also, if we're lucky? Only Mom's up."

The young man pulled up in front of an apartment building right on the border of Southside and dug out a parking tag from under the dash, hanging it from the rear-view mirror. Stepping out of the truck, he glanced upwards and winced. "All the lights are on," he said. "Must mean everyone's up." He glanced at Wail and shrugged, helpless. "Oh well. Come on up and meet the family, Mr. L."

After a moment's thought Des declined to call the elevator for himself and the super-dense hero, instead leading the older man up four flights of stairs. He was panting slightly at the top, but still lead the way at a brisk pace. Stopping before a battered door with the brass numbers 429 on it, he dug out a key and opened the door cautiously. Inside was a small space, the entryway leading directly into a kitchen space. On the right was a sitting area and a hallway that lead deeper into the apartment. Wail could see a handful of doors leading off the hallway, and at least one small face peeking shyly around a doorjamb.

Immediately in front of him, though, was a round table with Des' parents sitting around it. Jacob Desmaris was a tall man, even taller than Wail, but thin and gangly, with a pronounced bone structure. The hero recalled something about him teaching history at Freedom University, and the pile of test and half-graded papers in front of him reinforced the notion. Cathy Desmaris was of average height (which still made her look short next to her husband) and nicely rounded; she was holding a baby that couldn't have been more than a few months old in one arm and trying to feed him a bottle with the other.

They both stood up when their son walked through the door, Cathy moving a little slower and more carefully than her husband. She rushed forward and pulled her son into a one-armed hug, with Jacob only a step behind her. After a moment Cathy pulled Lamont over to a green couch that could've come off the set of That 70s Show and sat him down, talking to him in a low voice. Jacob stepped up to Wail and offered the older man his hand. "Jacob Desmaris. You're Keith LaMarr, right? Lamont's manager called, said you stopped some hoodlums from robbing the store."

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LaMarr accepted Jacob's hand with a firm grip, noting that for once he didn't have to worry about enveloping the other man's hand entirely. "That's right. I happened to be nearby," he confirmed with a nod, releasing the handshake to stroke his beard thoughtfully as he chose his words carefully. There had been a time, some decades ago, when the metahuman known as Wail had been equally known for a quick mouth, but that was something the big man had long since outgrown. "As for stopping those punks... Can't rightly take all the credit there. Which is part of why I came by."

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GM

Jacob tilted his head a bit, looking at Wail askance. "Another hero? Lamont's manager said it was you. Or, was he one of those, appear-in-smoke, disappear-when-the-fight's-done types?"

The hero could see over Jacob's shoulder and noticed Des getting more and more agitated under his mother's constant, well, mothering. He abruptly stood upright, moving in the stiff-limbed way of the angry or indignant, and stalked down the hallway. He passed by the first door and went into the second, only failing to slam it with a sudden effort. Cathy rose to her feet and walked over to Wail, bouncing the baby in her grip. It had accepted the bottle and was sucking away greedily, wide eyes taking in everything. "I apologize for my son's actions," she said. "It's late, and I'm sure this whole thing was a huge shock to his system. Um, can I offer you some coffee or something? We had roast beef and carrots for dinner and I'm sure there's some left over if you'd wait while I heat it up. I don't know how often you get home-cooked meals, what with living alone and all that." Jacob opened his mouth, apparently to protest his wife putting so much effort in, but she stopped him with an upraised hand. "The man very well might've saved our son's life tonight, I think the least we can do is offer him some food!"

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"Ah, another hero... I suppose so, in a sense," LaMarr allowed somewhat thoughtfully, before clarifying in his deep, rumbling bass voice that somehow managed to remain a compassionate warmth, "Though I'm afraid you may be missing my meaning." Folding his hands behind his back he gently thanked Mrs. Desmaris for her offer but his expression made it clear that it was important they not be distracted from the subject he was so carefully broaching. "Thing is, your son had a hand in saving himself. Forgive me, I'm attempting to be delicate, something that's never been my strong suit. How much do you know about his... tinkering? Inventing and building."

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GM

The couple exchanged a glanced and Jacob raised one hand to tap his chin. "He did rebuild that air conditioner unit," he admitted.

"And his own computer," Cathy put in, absently adjusting the baby's bottle so it could get at the last drops of milk. "A few others, too. Made some money doing it."

"But... but fighting crime? Lamont? He could --" Wail was close enough to see, in agonizing detail, as the two adults went through a whole emotional range; puzzlement, a shocked realization, and finally, at least in Jacob's case, anger. He stalked down the hall and began knocking heavily at Des' door. "Lamont! Come out here young man! We have something to discuss."

Cathy took Wail's arm and began steering him gently to the door. "Thank you for protecting our son and telling us about his... activities." From the woman's tone, it was clearly turning into a family matter.

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The simple fact was that not many people could lead LaMarr anywhere without his express consent, and Cathy Desmaris did not number among them. "Ma'am, this is a family matter, I respect that," he rumbled, not moving an inch despite her polite attempts to guide him toward the door, "but I need you to understand something. What your son can do isn't messing around in metal shop. He has a gift." The emphasis on the final word made his meaning clear, something any parent in the metahuman-dense city would have understood. "That's something you're going to have to deal with. When you do, you'll have help." Nodding respectfully, he finally moved to the door and stepped outside.

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GM

Wail made his careful way down the the stairwell of the apartment building. Lamont was in a trick situation all right; he's lied to his parents, gone behind their collective back to engage in an activity he knew they didn't approve of. At the same time though, the boy had undeniable talent and drive. It would be a shame if he was discouraged from following his talent where it led him.

Outside it was a mild evening and Wail stopped to enjoy it. Suddenly, the evening calm was shattered by a tremendous explosion. It shattered windows, set off car alarms, and cause debris to rain down on the street. Wail looked up an saw a ragged hole in the building, just where the Desmaris apartment was. The hero could see something hovering there outside the hole; it was more of a shimmer in the air than a definite shape, hard to make out against the night sky, but it looked like an honest-to-God flying saucer.

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"Jiminy Cricket!" LaMarr swore as he spun around to view the explosion, not bothering to shield his eyes as debris tumbled down from above. Spotting the disc like silhouette by the building, he took off back inside and up the staircase. In his younger years, the sonic shouted wouldn't have hesitated to blow the intruding vehicle out of the sky with a single, well placed scream, but the benefit of experience made him wary of such an attack so close to people's homes, especially when he hadn't yet gotten a good look at just what he was dealing with. His hurried footfall left appreciable dents in the stairs as he ran, bringing him back to the Desmaris' door, which he forced open with a single, super-strong shove.

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GM

The door popped out of the frame whole, like a movie prop, and Wail was inside. He'd chosen the right apartment; the living room wall was gone, a hole blasted in it from floor to ceiling. Several men in what looked like padded vests and moon boots, all in a blue and white pattern, were crowding the room. They all held futuristic-looking rifles and most of them were keeping the Desmaris family at bay, but the hero could see two of them manhandling a struggling Lamont to the hole! As Wail watched, the interlopers flung the kid of into the open air. He flew into the shimmer -- and abruptly disappeared. It looked like bad CGI, but the earsplitting educator had seen enough weirdness in his time to recognize it as some kind of invisibility spell or cloaking device.

Whatever it was, the fog moved off as soon as it had Lamont, leaving Wail facing eight leveled rifles.

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GM

The troopers reacted quickly to Wail's presence. Two of them dropped to their knees to get a better firing angle, their rifles spitting out points of stinging light that bracketed the hero in a smaller space. Behind them, one of the soldiers that had thrown Lamont out of the apartment swung his gun around and fired from the hip, unleashing a hail of laser bolts at the veteran hero. He could feel the energy bolts stitching across his skin, the tremendous energy somehow getting through his increased muscle mass.

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The laser bolts stung, but they didn't slow Wail down for a moment any more than a handful of pebbles would have effected an ordinary man. "You jokers are making me laugh," he remarked in a casual boom, nonchalantly brushing dust off of his crossed arms with the back of one hand before taking a quick breath and exhaling with a single, harsh syllable. "HA!" The concussive force of the shout knocked the entire octet off of their feet and through the hole they themselves had blown in the wall to land in a groaning, stunned heap on the sidewalk below.

Making a low sound of annoyed derision, LaMarr, turned to look about the chaotic apartment, looking for his student's parents. "Cathy? Jacob?"

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