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Ari

The Closed Circle! (IC)

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GM

March 17th, 2012, 11.45 A.M.

The day had dawned bright and clear, the morning was almost done, and already the Tomorrow Tech Expo was half-filled with visitors. Companies from all over the world were eagerly unveiling technology, theories and plans that they all swore would increase the global standard of living within the decade, placing them on pedestals and letting the daylight stream through the vast windows of the skyscraper for the admiration of the crowd. Their trumpeted gadgetry was based, it was rumored, off of old villain electronics and blueprints retrieved from a strange base hidden in the Canadian Rockies.

Pride of place was given for the innovations of the Roesus Corporation, which was giving a demonstration of their new energy source that would, so their smiling representative said "Revolutionize the way we do business, power homes, vehicles and stations, and even aid us in achieving interstellar flight!"

The reasons the heroes attended that day were fairly varied, but they all ended up on the de facto robotics floor, where a Hungarian company was proudly displaying mining and transport droids, which were as far removed from the human form as one could wish. The Indian android show was the site of much wonderment, due to the graceful and human-like motion they performed with ease.

The day was to be roughly divided into three showings, at the beginning of each a chairperson would give a speech to the visitors, explain the ways in which their company was trying to improve the world, and then give directions to the snack trays in the eating rooms. With a flicker, the monitor displayed the head and besuited shoulders of a severe-looking young African man with close-cut hair and a Mephistophelean beard. With a grave smile he began "Beholders of tomorrow, I, Kefenste Solarin of Djoyar Technologies,..." the spiel began, with even some of the brighter smiles fading a little at what they had heard many times before, at least a dozen rehearsals being needed to make sure the least echo would go its rounds through the Modern-styled pillar of glass, concrete and steel.

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There were a lot of places Steven would rather be on a Saturday, but his dad had gone to the trouble to line up this job for him, and the money was decent, considering it was just the one day. He kept tugging on his shirt, wishing he could let it hang loose to cover his shining, feminine belt. He'd gotten a strange look from the floor supervisor for it when he came in, but Steven maintained that it was the only belt he had handy, and needed something to hold up the slacks. The supe had just shrugged and sent him out to gather empty trays and glasses, and empty trash bins as they filled. The constant motion at least kept him distracted, and Steven wasn't the type to slip or drop anything, so the boss had warmed up to him somewhat over the course of the morning.

As the next recorded introduction started, Steven smiled at one of the more exasperated Expo employees, who was all but grimacing at the umpteenth time she had heard the speech this week. Having just dropped off his last round of glasses, and not having picked any more up yet, Steven sidles over to the woman and remarks with a wink, "You think he starts every meeting like that? Must really wear on the board..."

The woman smiles a moment, and looks Steven up and down briefly. "Nice belt kid, you borrow that from your girlfriend?"

Steven instantly deflates, but stops himself before hanging his head. "Uh, it was my mom's, actually."

She responds with a sarcastic, "Nice," before turning her attention back to the screen. Steven, knowing the unmistakable signs of a lost battle, sullenly heads off to find more dirty dishes and trash to remove to get him out of the room.

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It was a forgone conclusion that the Lab, one of Freedom City's and indeed one of the world's foremost think tanks, would send a representative to such a convention. The only question was, who would they send? Supercape, while as much of a genius as any of the group, was more a physicist than an engineer and therefore not the best choice; likewise Protectron was a dab hand with a spanner but didn't have the in-depth training that would make an expedition here worthwhile. Miss Americana had the proper background, but the beautiful paragon would've overwhelmed the proceedings and made the entire thing too much about the Lab itself, which wasn't the intent at all. Dragonfly could have come, but she was hardly the talkative type. That left it down to Jessica Parker to represent the group's interests at the con, a job she was happy to undertake.

She had dressed for the occasion in a tan skirtsuit and white blouse, and walked around the convention hall, inspecting all the various technologies set-up for examination. In time she made it to the robotics area, where humanoid machines of every description were on display. She stopped by one booth that proclaimed itself to be for Samara Industries. "Excuse me," she said to the dark-skinned gentlemen running the booth. "Jessica Parker, with the Lab. Could you explain your product, please?"

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The Penitent was here for pleasure, to take in the sights of the exhibition. While definitely tied to the supernatural, hnd ae rather liked robots, because hey, who didn't? He had managed to downplay his threatening looks by picking up a pair of sunglasses, and a tacky red hawaiian shirt with some faded jeans picked up from a thrift store instead of his "biker from Hell" look he normally had going. He still got odd looks, of course, but that was inevitable when you looked like the Penitent did. He didn't even mind much.

He was personally interested in the androids the most, watching them with rapt attention, when his focus was broken by the starting of the man's face upon the main monitor. He moved over to get a better view of the screen, catching a poor sap getting shot down rather hard by some lady he had attempted to court. Though it was a bit rude, the Penitent couldn't help himself and cracked a small smile.

"Nyeh-heh-heh. Poor kid." He eyed the man on the monitor "Man looks almost as demonic as I do." His thick Appalachian accent poured from every word as he muttered to himself, a habit he had picked up when he changed.

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GM

"Our product miss?" asked the representative eagerly, quickly beginning a detailed account of their very shiny, very comforting-looking creations that apparently were meant to serve as hospital attendants, to perform needed care in case a nurse wasn't there at the time. They weren't a replacement, he explained with a rueful glance at their gentle blue eyes "The complexities of human medical needs somewhat exceeds out budget, after all. But if someone is choking, suffering an attack or otherwise in trouble, they'll be there to save the patient's life without fuss or hesitation. Overworked and harried nurses the world over will be given one less weight on their minds!" he declared with great enthusiasm.

One of the slightly dour prosthesis engineering company reps noted the Penitent's horns and..unusual pigmentation. Tapping him on the shoulder he asked politely "Sir, may I interest you in the replacement bones and nervous systems being made by Ajax Bodily Augmentations Inc.? Judging by your appearance I'm assuming you're already a supporter of human alteration, these are no cosmetic plastics, understand" he continued, steering the bearer of souls over to his own stand, a small tower of fine wires draped around a false skeleton, positioned precisely as that of another false one holding what was presumably an example of an organic network of nerves. "We have here everything a sufferer of ALS would need to move again, though it still requires frequent nano-inspection to make sure the cure doesn't become worse than the malady and start sending signals at random" he said in a quiet, grave voice. He glanced piercingly at Bram "It can even be used to circumvent most forms of paralysis. Your thoughts, sir?" he asked with sudden cheer, smiling brightly at the Penitent.

Steven was met by one of the other busboys, a guy named Frank a little younger than him, with a quiet, placed manner that contrasted sharply with the more high-energy types at the expo. He walked up without warning and muttered in his ear "Hey, Steve? Could you take this disk to the central media player in that closet? One of the tech guys wants to make sure a bug we found in one of the speeches won't have a chance to repeat'" he handed Steven a slim DVD case, with an unmarked disk secured within. He smiled lightly at the other young man and walked rapidly away, collecting garbage and re-adjusting perilously-balanced displays as he went.

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"Mr. Penitent, but you can call me Bram." He knew it wouldn't really pass as a name in most circumstances, but with his accent, it sounded like "Penaden". Extending his hand, he grinned "This is mighty amazing stuff, here."

He stroked his chin. "So you could overcome paralysis... ALS. Hot damn.". He rubbed the back of his head, looking at the skeleton. "Do you have any backers? Any contracts with governments? This stuff seems like it needs to get out there, and quick."

The Penitent grinned warmly at the man, having a great fondness for medical research.

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Jessica peered at the robots on offer. They were done up in soft shades of white and pastels, their hard edges encased in soft, molded plastic. "How are autonomous are they," Jessica asked as she slowly orbited one. "Can they administer injections or pass out drugs? What about their power source, how long can a unit last between rechargings? And how well can it react to changing circumstances? The Lab can be a hazardous working environment if you don't duck quickly enough, you know."

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"Huh?" Steven was briefly surprised by his co-worker's sudden, odd, request. "Uh, yeah, sure bro, whatever." Steven took the disc and wandered over to the media center console, looking around for anyone who might possibly be more qualified than him to be messing with this stuff. Looking around, he realized that included almost the entire room, and rather than try to pick one out that might actually work here, it would probably be faster to just do it himself and hope for the best. Removing the disc from its case, he looked for a cd tray, and once he found one, and made sure nothing popped out when he hit "eject", inserted the new disc. Steven waited a second to make sure the disc was accepted before closing the cabinet and trying to quickly walk away before anyone else could ask him to mess with something so clearly important to the event. He had never been so keen to take out the trash.

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GM

"Indeed, Mr. Penaden" assured the representative from Ajax. "We have contracts, bids and endorsement offers to spare. The only barrier to releasing it right now is, as I mentioned, a flaw that causes it to break down eventually and start sending unwanted impulses throughout the body. This takes about twelve years to come into effect, depending of course on the severity of the patient's case and how much time the spend around electrical sources, but it's something we want to be rid of completely. It is against our ethics to sell something intending it to break at some point" he smiled a little more genuinely and asked Bram "By the way: do you have a background in medical research? I'm sure we could use all the help we can get, and someone with an understanding of body modification would be invaluable in "

"Their intelligence is very malleable, and can serve as anything short of a surgeon if you program it right, currently that's what most of the team is working on right now, as a matter of fact. Don't want anyone trying their hand at setting the thing's behavior without know how to do it" he combed his coarse brown hair with some of his fingers at Jessica's query on hazardous circumstances.

After a moment's thought he admitted "They react almost too well with the basic A.I. installed. You can throw a pen at them from eighty centimeters away and they'll catch it, fired a pistol at one from a meter or so and it actually turned to absorb the impact(they're bulletproofed, as it happens), gave it something to detect powerful acids and tossed some at it in a cup, got out of the way long before the stuff hit the wall it had been against. But if you start messing with its programming to make it a better caretaker it really slows its reaction time, having to calculate what would be best for the patient than for themselves introduces a lot variables to the matter, which is why we're not going to have these little guys-" he looked at the 5-foot robot "-playing surgeon anytime soon with actual human organs and lives on the line" he shrugged, his face and small glasses reflecting the change of light as another of the speakers, a thick-set French woman with a friendly demeanor and curly gray hair, introduced herself and began her own brisk speech about how her company was going to change the future.

Steve went uninterrupted for about three minutes before a tap on his shoulder alerted him to Frank's reappearance. He seemed almost..grateful? "Thanks man" he said with unusual warmness "had to do something else downstairs, somebody had dropped some cracker boxes under those stairs, took a bit to get 'em out! Anyway, you see that guy over there?" he pointed at the horned gray-skinned man wearing a Hawaiian shirt talking to the solemn, red-haired rep of Ajax Inc. with the lined face. "Do you..I dunno..think about death when you get close to him?" he looked a little worriedly at the other busboy "Er..or is that just me?"

The room was gradually filling with other visitors filing down from the upper levels to reach the snack room below, chattering excitedly about the incredible things they had seen.

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The Penitent frowned softly. "No, I'm afraid not. Medicine's definitely not my forte." He looked at the man apologetically, and then perked up a bit. "But, in my line of work, I do tend to interact a lot with a lot of specialised sorts of people, and if you just give me a referral number, I could see about giving them your info and a way to contact you."

He shrugged his shoulders a bit, looking around. "Sorry I can't help more than that."

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"Of course they can react faster than a human," Jessica said, leaning in close to examine some of the visible gearing. "They're machines, their reaction time is always going to be better. That's why we use machines. Tell me, how good is their manual dexterity? And can they be operated via telepresence?" Remote surgery was one of the dozen or so procedures the Lab was testing and helping to refine, but the machines involved were either waldo units adapted from industry or spider-limbed creations straight out of a science-fiction story. Combining a caretaker unit with a telepresence surgical unit would save money and make sure that it could be used around the clock.

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"I dunno," Steven replies, "I haven't really gotten that close to him, I guess. I figured people in Freedom City would be used to people who looked like demons or angels or any other thing under the sun by now." Steven nudges his co-worker with an elbow and smirks at him, "Isn't it a little racist to just assume that he has something to do with death just because he has devil's horns, grey skin, sharp fangs, and whatever else? Maybe he has a serious bone disease!" Steven laughs. "Anyway, what was with the disc thing? I don't even know if I put it in the right place, I couldn't make heads or tails of all that stuff."

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GM

"Not a problem sir" assured the Ajax rep. "I didn't mean to put any untoward pressure on you. If you DO meet anyone who could help with this project, give them this number" he tore off a small strip of paper from a sign slid into a plastic slider and attached to the Tower of Babel-like display stand, and drawing a ballpoint pen from a hidden sheathe in his left sleeve quickly jotted down a number with a distinctly non-American order of numerals. "We, er, don't have an American branch I'm afraid. All our research is done in either Sweden or the UK, but we can easily get any potential associates to our facilities, they're all in urban areas near the coast. Again, no pressure meant" he smiled at Bram "So, Mr. Penaden, how did you come by those alterations, if you don't mind me asking? I've never seen anything so.complete. Mostly it's either a slight change to the skin or else changing the color and pupil shape with contacts"

"Oh yeah, easily" the Samara rep said cheerfully "Telepresence works like a dream with them, there's not even a second's delay, limb movement is smooth, and it can even do sutures on its own power. It's quite adept, to say the least!"

"Huh? Oh, the disk just had a software repair program that's supposed to smooth out this little problem with the next to last speech. The tech team caught it a little while ago but couldn't brew up a fix until now" Frank scowled at the Penitent "I could swear I just saw somethin' wispy floating about that guy..eh, probably just a reflection" he shrugged and grinned at Steve "And I am so not just sayin' that because he looks that way! I could feel something foreboding the moment I got within twenty feet of that guy. I'll prove it: go talk to him for at least two minutes, let's see how long it takes for you to start thinking about death. Go on, I dare ya!" he said, fighting to keep his grin from looking downright goofy(and only marginally succeeding).

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"Yeah, no thanks," Steven replies. "I'd like to come away from here with a decent reference, and I don't think bugging the guests is gonna get it for me. I'm probably already gonna get it for hitting on one of the employees. Ah well, it was worth a shot, right?" Steven winks at Frank before continuing. "Anyway, better get back to work before someone comes looking for us." Turning away, Steven continues his slow, deliberate attempt to look like he's working.

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The Penitent's mouth twitched a bit, and he leaned in. "Listen, I'm gonna be straight with you as my momma raised to be an honest man, but these... Augments, they're supernatural." He grimaced a bit, but shrugged. "I'm a sin-eater, someone who takes on the burdens of sinners to alleviate them and so on and so forth."

He lowered his glasses, revealing his catlike eyes as they undilated from their cat-like dagger shape to rounder form like with a normal animal, to show he wasn't wearing contacts.

"Not a bogeyman, though. On your side and all -- I like to help people and do what I can for the city.

He grinned softly, pointing down as he levitated just off the ground enough to let someone who had been told notice it, hoping to prove that he was not in fact lying. He just hoped it would go over well.

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GM

The rep of Ajax stared at the display of power, eyes widened and mouth slightly agape at it and the sudden revelation. He didn't seem actually frightened though, and after a moment he used to collect himself he said hesitantly "That is..incredible. I had no idea sin-eaters really exist" a worried look came over his face "Is something going to happen here? Is someone going to die at this expo? I mean" he quickly corrected himself "of course you'd have no idea. Not like you're an angel or something, sorry" he shook his vigorously "Forgive me sir, I'm still not fully adjusted to the idea of sin-eaters"

Steve had a great deal to do. A lot of the people just coming in from the downstairs were still carrying snack plates piled or carefully lined with cheeses, small breads and fruit. They tended to go through these rapidly and then seemingly teleport them into obscure corners of the room, with only about half actually making it into the trash receptacles. In their defense, there were lots of robots and little time to look upon them all, not to mention the other wonders the room held, like a sleek green headset that allowed people to 'feel' magnetic fields around them.

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Seeing the mess that had built up while he was slacking off, Steven cracked his knuckles briefly, before diving headlong into his work. If there's one thing from sports that should apply here too, it's that I can make up for rudeness with good old fashioned hustle, he thought. Steven's strength and dexterity made the job easy, though he did have to consciously hold back to not out himself as a super-being. He contented himself with simply getting the trash up off of the floor, and the fuller bins emptied for the time being, and keeping an eye out for any bigger messes. Seems like this day is never gonna end, he thinks, as the work begins to wear on him, Seriously, I don't know how Dad can do it.

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The Penitent's mouth quirked into a smile, and he chuckled softly at the man.

"It's not a problem." He raised his eyebrow at the mention of there being danger or a potential death. "But no, I'm not here for business. I just happen to be a bit of a geek when it comes to technology and all that. Grew up in the boondocks, so I never got to see it much until I struck out on my own."

He looked down at the number, and his smile grew wider. "I'll hang onto this and give it to anyone qualified and interested. You're doing good work for all of humanity."

He inched back, and gave a brief wave. "Anyway, I will stop taking up your time and let others get a look at whatcha got, but again, thank you for the number."

He gestured to it, and put it in his pocket, before turning and starting to head back into the crowd of the expo, whistling a tune to himself.

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GM

The day proceeded for the next twenty minutes without a hitch, until the lights went out and the windows were flooded with a wash of green shimmers.

With an electronic groan, the screen portraying the talking heads abruptly shut off, powering back on again to reveal a man dressed in a suit of armor that looked eerily like a mass of metal bandages. With a slight crackle he announced in a slight Austrian accent "Visitors to the expo, your cooperation is required: I am Weissnacht, and I have placed a force field around this skyscraper and shall shortly flood the building with my mechanical agents to secure the interior of this structure. You will know them by their great height and the blue lights they have on their faces" apparently seeing the growing horror and surprise among the guests staring at the screens, Weissnacht added casually "Do not be alarmed, I merely wish to draw the eyes of the local heroic population here" a flicker passed over the screen and he appeared to move several meters back. His voice, as close as before, concluded "As I said, your cooperation please. Struggling will not help you. Weissnacht out" at the close of those words, the screens clicked off, though for some reason sound could still be heard, the soft rush of wind moving at high speed through the concrete canyons.

The visitors, to their credit, soon regained their calm, most of them quite confidently predicting a speedy response by some League or other associate of civic-minded heroes. Some of them even laughed heartily at the mere idea of being frightened in this situation.

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The Penitent stopped, and watch the screen, before pulling off his shades and looking around at the crowd. Grunting a little bit, he cursed to himself.

Dangit, can't get a moment's peace in this city without someone trying to show off somehow.

Grinning to himself, he walked into visible space.

"Don't worry folks, I got this. Now I'm about to make a call to everyone, so I would appreciate if you don't all respond at once'n all and gimme a brain overload."

Focusing, he sent out the spirits to contact the people of the tower.

"GREETINGS WEASELY NA-CHOS! I AM YOUR CONSCIENCE! YOU HAVE BEEN VERY NAUGHTY!"

The words resonated throughout every person in the building's mind.

"No, but seriously, you wanted the attention of a hero, and you dun got it. I am the Penitent, resident sin-eater. I like beating up bad guys, cleaning up society and long walks on the beach. I'm sure you'd love to share something about yourself, but I'm a rather bit pressed for time, I am sure you understand. Well, anyway, if you could just go ahead and reveal just where you're hidin' out, I think that'd be great for everybody."

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Steven stares at the scene for a moment, stunned by the reaction. "Oh no, please everyone... wait, why is no one panicking?" Overhearing various predictions and discussions of who would save them first, Steven's wheels started to turn a little more. I can beat them ALL to it, ha! Barely got here, and I'm off to a good start!

Barely bothering to keep his speed down to human levels, Steven rushes off to find a private place with at least two entrances to change into his armor, so he can leave without it being obvious that he just ran in to change. The bathrooms all seemed to be occupied by the more nervous guests and presenters, and Steven was eventually forced to slip into a quiet access hallway before activating the four buttons on his belt buckle and engaging his armor.

Once suitably attired, Steven found an exit from the hallway a ways from the way he came in, and proceeded to look for any attacking robots, or evil geniuses. This promised to be an exciting afternoon.

[OOC]

Stealth (1d20=15)+9=24

Notice: (1d20=5)

[Apparently I cannot see, or BE seen.]

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Jessica's head came up when Weissnacht's announcement came on the air. She listened patiently, eyes on the screen, as the villain explained the situation and encouraged the civilians to remain calm. Amazingly enough, they did so, apparently so secure in the knowledge that a hero would be around soon to save them that they weren't even worried about being cut off from the outside world. Jessica straightened and stepped out from behind the nurse-bot, dusting her hands off. "Right, well, I'll be back in a moment. Just need to sort out th--"

Penitent's cry -- psychic, mystical, or something altogether more exotic, she didn't know which -- resonated in her brain and made her freeze in place for a moment. As its 'echoes' faded, she shook herself and continued her train of thought. "As I was saying, I'm just going to sort out this Weissnacht and then be back in a jiffy." She touched the bracelet/watch around one wrist and armored up in a blaze of light.

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GM

A round of applause greeted the emergence of the metal-bound Ironclad, the heroine a welcome sight to the expo-goers, mostly because the Lab's representative was most likely more than a match for most schmoes in battlesuits. A general chorus of "Go get 'im, Ironclad!" sounded from the assembled visitors, most of whom began settling in for an interesting part of the day.

The Penitent's mental call resounded through the building, the repentant spirits carrying his thought to the very summit of the skyscraper, where it was responded to by someone whose thoughts at least sounded like someone talking in Weissnacht's accent:

<I'm on the roof> was the scornful reply <And if you even try to attack me up here, I'll...> a sudden succession of images like blueprints flashed by almost subliminally <...you know, I think I'll keep that a secret for now. Suffice to say you WILL regret any actions you take against me, personally. You can blow up those robots all you like, it's no problem to me, I've got boxes of the things. Have fun in my force-field, and don't go anywhere now!> with an internal snigger, the received thought faded. Evidently his attention had gone elsewhere.

From above, the repetitive clanks of many heavy metal feet echoed from above, and several guests dashed down from the upper floors, one of them pointing at the staircase a few rooms away and yelling, ashen-faced "They're coming! Ge-! Oh!" he stopped and looked at the Penitent and Ironclad "Nevermind then! I was going to tell you guys to run and hide from the incoming 'bots, but I bet with you two here they won't be a problem" he casually strolled over to a forgotten snack plate, helping himself to a few slices of cheese.

Steve was taken utterly by surprise when two tall, lanky robots suddenly crept out from a janitors' closet that couldn't have possibly fit even one of them standing up. On silent fingers and toes they slipped down the hall, not seeing(or apparently hearing) the human next to them. Their destination seemed to be a room that controlled the power supply on that floor.

(OOC note: the robots aren't actually going to be THAT tall. They're just a head or so taller than most humans)

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The Penitent blinked, then grinned as he looked over at Ironclad.

"He's on the roof. But he's got some dastardly lookin' blueprints... Can't make heads or tails of them, though. I'll send 'em over to you and hope you can get a good idea... In fact, I think I'll send it out to any capable minds."

Quickly, he sent the mental images he received through his powers, this time selectively choosing those he remembered near the robotics portions of the expo, as well as Ironclad. After all, many minds working together were better than just one, no matter how bright.

"Now, while you think that over, let's prepare fer a rumble, little missy."

Grinning to himself while he took a defensive stance, facing the room from which the man approached.

"Now, Whitesnot, I've been thinking these few seconds, and it occurred to me. You're a man who hides behind machines like they're his big brother, and then pulls out the big threats when someone might beat him up.

"Do you know what that makes you?

"Do you?

"Have you guessed yet?

"It makes you a.

"NERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRD!"

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Corporal Cosmos was NOT about to go and miss a chance to beat up robots, that's what heroing is all about! Powering up his hard light fists, he takes advantage of their obliviousness and rushes forward to bash the robot on the right in the back of the head.

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