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Rage Against the Machines (IC)

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August 19, 2011

The Lab, Freedom City

10:23 AM

The Lab was quickly becoming a fixture in Freedom City, an example to all scientifically and technologically-oriented peoples as to how the future should progress. The research complex wasn't alone in the city, but in the after math of Viktor von Archeville's very public breakdown, they were getting more work than usual. One project in particular was near and dear to Jessica Parker's heart -- investigating ArcheTech's submarine research station, the Fjölnirskraft, was moored right next to the skyscraper-sized laboratory, and the young genius had spearheaded the effort to dissect and understand it.

Of course, the woman didn't work alone. Cole Jefferson, a student at Claremont and an intern at the Lab, was assigned to help her this morning. At the moment she was waiting on the floating pier that had grown up between the beached sub and the land, tapping her foot impatiently.

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Cole drank the last of his heavily laden caffeine coffee before tossing it in the trash. Since Vicky had introduced him to it, he had to admit he was becoming something of an addict. Still, it was a little thing. There were far worse things than a little caffeine habit...like going crazy and evil and attempting to destroy the world. Which was strangely related to today's project.

He headed for the pier, a good ten minutes before he needed to be there, as he reviewed what he knew of whatever he was working on today. Not much. He hadn't met too many people at the Lab lately. Most of which he found he was just as smart as, if not smarter. Most were a little better at him in their fields so he was at least learning stuff. It was fun either way. Learning new things, seeing what could be done. Very exciting. He didn't really know who he was working with today but he figured it'd be fun either way.

He walked onto the pier, noting the woman standing there already looking a bit impatient. She didn't look much older than him surprisingly. "Hello there. I'm Cole. I was told to head down here this morning to help out."

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Jessica turned to regard the young man, tucking a strand of hair behind one ear. She flashed him a tight smile. "Good morning, Cole, I'm Jessica Parker. Today we're going to be looking at the propulsion systems on the Fjölnirskraft." She turned to the sub, striding over to a rope ladder that had been set up along one side and climbing it rapidly. From this vantage point it was obvious that the submersible would never submerge again -- there was a perfectly circular hole in the top, almost two meters across. The edges had been beveled down from when Ironclad had violently broken through, so now Jessica could scramble down into the bridge without fear of slicing her palms open.

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Cole nodded back. "Morning Jessica," he said as he approached. He turned to follow her to the ladder and down into the hole. "Sounds pretty interesting. How many people have been through here since the whole event happened anyway?" He was definitely curious as to what he could learn from the Docktor's vehicle (or maybe former?) but he was rather doubtful that this was the first or even 21st excursion inside to poke around.

He noted the rather massive hole they were climbing through and couldn't help but try and postulate exactly how it was made. At least he didn't need to suit up just to get inside. Seeing the he control room of the dead vehicle certainly helped spur him on though.

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"Like, individuals?" The heavy doors leading out of the circular control area had been prised open and locked that way, but she was still quick on her feet when stepping through the gap. "Maybe twenty or so, including myself. How many excursions, though? Well, I've been inside almost every day since we moored it here, so." The interior of the sub was more or less what Cole had been expecting; narrow passages, lots of metal that was cool to the touch, and many, many locking portholes. Several rooms were partitioned off by hanging sheets, and turning a corner the pair ran straight into a primitive-looking totem of some description. It was hard to make out the details: a column of what looked like stone carved into vertebrae, creating an ossified spinal column and rib cage; inside the ribs were numerous skulls, some human and some obviously not, each one of them stained with blood and ichor. All in all it was unsettling to look at, and trying to resolve the details made one's stomach roil.

Jessica jumped at the display and turned away, clenching her teeth. "Goddamn shrines," she muttered. She disappeared into a side room and came out with a tarp that she draped over the macabre installation. "We found a number of odd-looking, well, religious figures here as well as we can tell. We think the Deep Ones brought them on board. And every time we think we've found them all, another one turns up."

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Cole followed along, her answer more or less what he'd have expected. He couldn't help but give each piece of equipment an intense look as they passed. Nothing was working at the moment so it wasn't like he could get much out of his private inspection. But he just couldn't help himself. He was curious by nature. Besides, this had been the high tech super sub of a world super genius before he'd gone bonkers or something. It was a techno-dweeb's dream in here...

Minus the creepy evil statue-totem thing that is. He flinched at her sudden jump and gave an equal shudder when he peered at it himself. "Ok, that's just kind of creepy," he muttered. "Is there a reason no one has removed or destroyed them? Besides the 'flinch and yuck' factor, if the really are 'religious' relics from evil extra dimensional entities, shouldn't they be somewhere else?"

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"We move them out whenever we find them," Jessica said, "those that can be moved anyway. But like I said, more just appear when our collective backs are turned. We're not sure how they're getting on board, but maybe you can help us figure that out."

The pair descended through several levels, moving steadily towards the rear of the vessel. Before long they were standing in what was obviously the engine compartment, a cavernous space that was dominated by long turbine engines. Water pooled on the floor, but one space near the very bottom had been dried off, the ever-present moisture held back by shimmering containment fields. Inside was a circle containing a hexagram; eye-watering symbols were chalked at each of the star's six points, and more disturbing effigies were spaced around the circle at regular intervals. Jessica leaned against the catwalk, looking down at the entire arrangement. She glanced at Cole and gestured at the circle. "Well? Any hypotheses?"

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Cole nodded and gave a final frustrated looked at the covered idol. "If they keep appearing, and are extra-dimensional, perhaps there is something of beacon or weak-point here, summoning/teleporting them in somehow," he muttered half-to himself as he followed he away and down.

Following her down into the bowls of the ship was fascinating, though he had some trepidations about coming across any of those statues in the dark corridors and by surprise. He really didn't want to end up screaming in surprise or anything. That wold be most embarrassing. Finally they stepped out onto the catwalk overlooking the massive engine room. He studied the engines, and the strange symbols, for several long moments until those symbols started to make his head hurt.

"Hmm? Oh," he said, drawing back by her words. "I admit my knowledge of the occult, the arcane and ...extra-dimensional creepy symbols is not that extensive. Given the lack of surprise at those things, I'm guessing they've been here during your previous explorations and did not just suddenly appear? Given that assumption, I might have to return to my previous thoughts about some kind of locus, or focal point, for those totems. Perhaps even a power supply for other dimensional anomalies." He paused a second in thought. "Of course, you could just be quite good at hiding your surprise and have become used to such strangeness and those things down there are new. Which implies that someone is here. And not a good someone either most likely, imply some level of immediate threat to both ourselves as well as the city depending on the level of danger," he said with a little shrug.

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"There aren't any Deep Ones on-board," Jessica assured the young man. "We're tied into the sub's internal security network, and we've set up our own multi-spectrum cameras overlooking important junctions." She turned back to look at the circle. "According to the computers, this vessel was cruising around the Pacific when the creatures forced themselves on-board. A bunch of them clustered at certain points -- including here -- and enacted certain... rituals. The next information we have from the GPS, it was located in the Atlantic. Quite near the city," she added. She leaned on the catwalk and faced down at the circle, but glanced at Cole out of the corner of her eye. "Thoughts?"

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"Nothing is infallible," he said carefully. "If the totems can spontaneously appear, undetected apparently, that certainly implies other possibilities as well." Cole pondered a moment. "Well, whatever the purpose of the ritual, it is still doing it which can't be a good sign from our perspective. How many others like this are there?" He paused. "Has anyone gone to those coordinates? The ship had to have gotten here somehow. Portal perhaps? Has no 'consultant' on this type of thing been called in to try and disrupt that," he said gesturing below.

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Jessica shrugged. "We've brought in a few, ah, consultants as you say. They claim that the energy is drained -- it's a car with an empty gas tank, a gun without any bullets. But like I said," she added with a wink, "we're keeping several electronic eyes on it at all times.

"Okay, didn't just bring you on board to look at creepy scribbles," she said, turning away from the circle and heading back into the belly of the craft. "Actually, we found an interesting device in the, well, I guess it's a galley here. Seems to take inedible, organic materials like wood or rotten food and turn out a basic protiEEEEEN!" The young woman's voice rose sharply as the entire corridor, indeed the entire sub, canted sharply to one side. She clutched to the walls and doorway for support as it rocked back; before it had settled, she was already moving down the hallway as fast as she could, making for the control room.

Once there she armored up in a blaze of light and leapt into the sky, thrusters propelling her and letting her hang in the air. Even as she watched, a ruby-red figure dashed out of the air and struck the sub on one side, rocking it violently. As it sped away from the impact, the energy bled away to show an incongrously young-looking woman in a black bodysuit with red piping, ruby energy streaming from the ring on one hand. She turned in place, surveyed the rent in the sub's hull, and laughed shrilly.

A flash of blue-white drew Ironclad's attention to the street, as a steady stream of incandescent energy tossed cars aside and turned the pavement into rubble. Above it all floated a burly man in a tee-shirt and jeans, his skin emitting a blue-white glow. He smiled broadly and gestured to the black-clad woman. "Well? What do you think, Dee?"

The woman put her fists on her hips in an exaggerated posture of anger. "I told you, Ajax! It's Dirae now! Get it right!" All of a sudden, the young woman noticed Ironclad floating above the sub, watching the carnage. "Look! Someone's come to play!"

The armored heroine regarded the pair cooly. "I suppose it's past time to tell you two to sit down, play nice, wait for the cops, et cetera?"

The red-energy woman thrust her fist in the air. "Play nice? That's for saps and losers! Me and Aaron -- uh, Ajax -- here have the power, and now this city is gonna play by our rules!"

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Cole had nodded to her with a smile. Scribbles were definitely not what he was here for. They were interesting, true...in a mind shuddering creepy way, but they were not his thing at all. He got bounced against the wall, stumbling as the ship rocked. He braced himself before the settling motion threatened to knock him down. "What the heck is going on," he muttered, before trying his best to follow along after her.

He wasted no time activating his own suit as he watched her fly out. It took a moment for the energy matrix to align and cover him during which he listened to the brief conversation. He made sure his stealth system was engaged as he jumped out. Having no real idea what was going on, he figured it made sense to be a little more cautious.

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"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Ironclad said, adjusting the power levels in her suit. "I think there's still one set of rules you'll have to follow -- airspace regulations! And the airspace above the Lab is strictly controlled, so I think it's time to clip your wings!" The armored heroine zoomed towards Dirae. The young woman grinned in anticipation and formed a thick, opaque shield in front of her -- which is probably why she was unprepared for Ironclad to drop suddenly and hit her from beneath with an uppercut. The black-suited energy controller spiraled off into the sky, flailing about her. "Now all you have to worry about is commercial jet liners," she said.

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GM

"DIRAE!" Ajax stared after the woman, then turned to Ironclad. "If you hurt her, I swear I'll kill you!" He gathered blue-white energy in both hands and flung them at her like a pair of glowing fastballs. The armored heroine crossed her arms in front of her face and took the blow there, shedding the energy and radiation easily.

"If I hurt someone," she called over, voice incredulous. "What did you think was going to happen with you blowing up cars all day long?"

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Where Cole was a generally happy and smiling fellow, when he became Torque in a crisis he got colder and sterner. He wasn't there to have fun. It became about putting the enemy down as fast and as hard as he could. There were no such things as rules or playing nice.

Which is why Torque hopped out of the sub and activated an energy disk without saying a word; he wasn't good at banter anyway. It was also why he didn't target the muscled fellow. Moving out of the big fellow's line of sight, he launched his disk up into the flailing girl. His suit's systems couldn't keep the stealth system engaged but that was why he had moved into cover after he threw. Quietly, he activated another disk with a cold smile as Dirae got slammed with his own attack.

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Ironclad stayed sheltered behind her crossed arms as her suit's systems analyzed Ajax's attacks and powers. Once he stopped flinging radiation blasts at her, she snapped her wrist blasters out and sent a volley of her own after him. It slammed into the powerhouse's broad chest, blasting him back a dozen feet or so. "THIS is why you don't attack Freedom City," she shouted after him. "Way too many folks here that are a lot more powerful, and that like PROTECTING others."

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Torque popped up from cover, sprinting closer to the actual battlefield and trying to make sure he still maintained a target lock on the targets. These were the times he really wished he'd made the suit flight capable. Still, the suit's speed enhancements were more than sufficient for the current task. He whipped the disk he had in hand up and towards the aerially tumbling woman, almost without looking. It flew true and slammed into her even as he hopped over several obstacles during his charging approach.

"I think we are supposed to ask if you wish to surrender," he said to them without inflection. He didn't care too much either way; but it would certainly minimize the collateral damage if they would just surrender.

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A quick Google search turned up the ground-bound hero's name as Torque. In any case, he seemed to be handling the black-suited flier well enough. Ironclad closed on the broad-chested man with the actinic blue energy, blasting him again in the chest. "I don't know if this is a 'stop and get arrested,' situation," she observed. "It's quickly turning into a 'sit down before you get beat down' situation."

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GM

Ajax took the hit with a grunt, screwing up his face against the pain. "Nobody beats me," he growled. "Did you hear me? NOBODY BEATS AJAX!!" With that he brought his fists around in a haymaker, again and again, throwing bolt after blue-white bolt of energy at Ironclad. The armored heroine slipped around the edge of the attack, getting clipping along her thigh but easily straightening out after a moment's wobble.

Dirae, for her part, took the discus hit on her left arm; that one hung limply, but she brought up her ring-hand and launched a searing red-white lightning bolt at Torque. The nimble hero evaded it and the energy blast left a wide scorch in the landscaped lawn around the Lab instead.

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Torque frown as the woman managed to shrug off the hit. It had been worth a try. He sidestepped her return attack easily enough. It certainly looked powerful though. "Ah, I was just attempting to observe the formalities." He turned back and shrugged. "Surrender before you get beat down," he reaffirmed.

He didn't bother to respond to Ajax's boast. It was wasted energy. Instead he launched another disk. This time at the loud mouthed man, right at his head. Not in retaliation or to shut the man up. No, it was just good tactics to take one target down quickly, combining their attacks. Of course, getting him to shut up would be a nice bonus too.

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Torque's discus was well-aimed and it hit Ajax squarely on the jaw, snapping his head back and causing his whole body to follow suit. After doing a lazy backflip, the glowing giant of a man began to fall to the ground, hitting with a thud that raised dust on the shoreline.

With the one enemy dispatched, Ironclad turned to the energy controller, only to find the woman almost in her face already! The armored heroine closed the distance with a quick burst of her thrusters and grabbed the other woman's wrists, forcing her arms back and stalling her flight.

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GM

Dirae struggled against the armored heroine's grasp, but machine proved more than a match for muscle this time. "Let go of me," she shouted, her voice shrill and angry.

Ironclad, unmoved by her twisting, cocked her head to one side. "I'm gonna go with a 'no' on that one. Listen, why don't you just power-down -- or whatever it is you do -- and wait for the nice folks from Blackstone to come and put you in a little box, okay?"

Dirae squeezed her eyes shut and went still. For a moment Ironclad entertained the idea that the villainess had actually given up this time, but after a few heartbeats the woman's eyes snapped open. The cool-brown orbs has been totally overtaken by a piercing red energy. "I gave you the chance," she hissed, "and now I'm gonna swat you!" With a scream she released a wave of red energy that smashed into the armored heroine and attempted to push her away, but Ironclad fired her thrusters and stayed close, hanging on to her target with, well, mechanical efficiency. Dirae stared at the blank mask just a few inches from her face, obviously flabbergasted that her trick hadn't worked. In a heartbeat that transformed into anger and she began trying to break free once more. "Why won't you just die," she screamed in frustration. "Die die die diediediedie!!"

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Torque gave a nod as he watched the lummox tumble over with a thud. One down, he thought satisfactorily. He looked up in the sky as Jessica and the red aura woman collided with Ironclad coming out on top. Despite the villain's attempt to break free, she was being firmly held. Still, she certainly didn't look like she was going to settle down, what with her ranting and raving up there.

He supposed they could just hold her until the authorities arrived...but that was too risky. There was a simpler solution. He activated another disk, forming in his hands, as he looked up. He gave his targeting systems a moment to get the optimum shot before slinging the disk upwards to slam into the back of Dirae's head.

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Dirae rode the blow, robbing it of much of its power, and came up grinning at Ironclad. The armored heroine transferred her grip to the villainess' waist, hefting her high. "I don't watch a lot of cop shows," she admitted, "but I think this next part is something like, 'Get on the ground!'" With a mighty heave she flung the black-and-red energy controller at the pavement, creating a loud crack and raising a cloud of dust at the impact site. When the dust blew away, though, both heroes could see Dirae floating in a crimson bubble, none the worse for wear.

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GM

Dirae's energy bubble snapped off and she dropped to the ground, staggering slightly before she found her footing. She glared up at Ironclad, one fist shaking in triumph and taunt. "You can't beat me," she shouted up at the heroine. "You can't even touch me! But I can do this!" She thrust out her ring hand in a straight punch, and a bolt of red energy blazed up towards Ironclad. The armored heroine rode the blow, tumbling slightly before her thrusters corrected for it and she stabilized again, having barely moved an inch.

"Is that what you can do," Ironclad shouted back. "Can't say I'm all that impressed!"

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