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Thunder King

The Shadow of the Evening

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GM

April 6th, 9:00 PM

Jane's Diner

Jane, in this case, was the name of the 65 year old owner of the small diner, sitting a good mile and a half away from a group of factories and industrial facilities.

It got good business from the regulars that came in from, or were on their way to, the shops. It sold all manner of comfort foods, from hamburgers to 24 hour breakfast.

Every Friday saw the arrival of five guys; Jim, Bob, Jack, Ron and Steve. These five men had been coming to Jane's Diner for about ten years, week in, week out, every Friday night.

It wasn't an especially cold evening, not for Freedom City. Still, the lights and warmth of the small diner were a welcome reprieve from the chill.

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The Penitent flicked the stub of his cigarette to the cold concrete below, and ground it out with the heel of his boot. He adjusted his leather jacket before heading inside, nodding to the cashier as he headed up to the gathered workers. The warmth of the diner was welcome to him, which, compounded with the anticipation of food, made for a rather good feeling in the Penitent's gut.

He grinned at all of them, and took a seat with them. He had done them all a solid during a factory incident, and helped them out on occasion, so he earned himself a free meal with them now and again.

"Howdy, guys."

He looked at all the faces around the table. "Say, now, where's Jack? He arrives early, usually."

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GM

"Jack, Jack's been absent from work all week." Jim said, sighing. "Don't know why, either. Maybe he's been sick? I hope he gets better soon." The other guys all nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, I haven't heard anything either." Bob said, sipping his coffee. "Though there have been rumors about guys getting sick in the other shops."

The others looked at him, surprised he'd never brought it up before. Missing workers? That was new to them.

"Where did you hear that?" One of them asked.

"From Ian, the night shift manager. He said two of his guys didn't come in for the past two days."

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The Penitent blinked, looking at them

Not been in all week? Doesn't sound much like him, but...

"You think there might be a gas leak? All it takes is a faulty pipe and then people are down for the count... But they're not calling in..."

He gritted his teeth a little, stroking his chin.

"You guys tried calling him at all? Give him a voicemail or something? Maybe just sent an email? I mean, even if he is sick, you might get in contact with the family, or..." He shrugged "Just ballparking here, of course."

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GM

"Well, we tried calling him, but, we got no answer. He's got this condition, a minor one, but sometimes it lays him out for a few days. So we assumed that was the reason. Come to think of it, though, I don't know why he wouldn't answer the phone." Jim shook his head.

Suddenly, it was as if a shadow had fallen over the group. Their friend was in danger, something was clearly wrong, very wrong.

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"That's... Darned strange." He rubbed his chin more.

He stood up. "Alright, guys, I'll go check on 'im, alright? I figure since he knows me enough there won't be too much of a ruckus when I get there, and I can beat any traffic by takin' to the skies."

He looked over at his friends, and then cocked a smirk.

"And don't think I won't come back later. I'm dang hungry." He wasn't really in the mood for joking as worry washed over him, but he figured a little levity might make the rest of the group set themselves at ease and enjoy the night.

As he headed out the door, he waved to them. "Tell me how the game goes, alright? High hopes this time."

And with that, he headed out into the street, and then off into the air to find Jack

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GM

It was now completely dark, even the rich colors of the sunset having faded several minutes before. The stars above were hidden by the well-lit streets below. The chill of the night air was piercing now as night enveloped the city.

Luckily, the Penitent had visited Jack's home before, or, at least, had escorted him home one night when the guys decided to make for the bar instead of the diner. He didn't live all that far away.

The house was an older one, but still stood well. There were a few spots, here and there, where Jack had intended to do some repairs in the spring.

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The Penitent slowed his speed, and then made a slow descent to the walkway as his boots clapped against the ground. Immediately, he knocked on the door, zipping up his jacket as he became aware of the decrease in temperature that came with sunset.

"Excuse me? Excuse me, is anyone there? I'm looking for Jack. They say he's not been at work for a week now and I've come to see if he's alright. I understand he has a condition."

He peeked at the door somewhat sheepishly, hoping his appearance wouldn't be too alarming at this time of night.

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GM

The door opened to reveal, not Jack's wife, but a young woman of approximately thirty-two to thirty five years old. She was not an unattractive woman. She stood at a little over five and a half feet tall, with piercing gray eyes and a strong, confident stance. She sighed, apparently quite used to strange goings on in a city like this.

"Who are you?" She asked. "I'm Detective Jeannette Renard, and this home is the home of a potential murder or kidnapping victim. If you know anything about the whereabouts of this man, please, let me know. If you don't, well, this is official police business."

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"Well, I'm the Penitent. Probably not heard of me, but I'm one of those superhero types that seem to be rather common here."

He grinned slightly at her, but it faltered.

"You said something about murder or kidnapping?"

The Penitent cursed, looking away.

So it wasn't a gas leak...

"I under this is police business, but given my own nation and my relationship with Jack as a friend... I would hope to be able to help in any way I can. I know the "look" is off-putting, but I really do only mean to help."

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GM

The officer raised an eyebrow. "Well, I can't give you the exact details, but your friend is missing. We really have no idea where, and there seems to be a few cases of disappearances like this." She stepped outside and shut the door behind her.

"Between you and me, it looks like something one of those villains or something is responsible for. There are a lot of strange things going on with these cases. If you really are a super hero, and if he really is your friend, maybe there's something we can do to help each other." She crossed her arms.

"Still, I can't, in good conscience, release any other details about the case."

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"I understand." The Penitent said, nodding to her.

"Well, Jack and I were friends. I met him while helping him down in the factories during an accident. Did the usual saving thing, and he and a group of friends of his became my friends. I did a few random odd jobs for them here and there. That's how I found out he hadn't been appearing -- didn't show up for our sort of weekly outing, and then a mutual friend mentions he hasn't been around for about a week at work, compounded with two others doing the same two days ago."

He ran his fingers through his hair.

"I get your position, but I will do anything I can to help, y'hear?" He extended his hand. "But glad to be a help, Detective Renard."

He sighed.

"Anything I should at least be watching out for?"

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GM

She sighed.

"Okay, I can tell you're serious. There have been more disappearances than this, and they seem to be...supernatural? superpowered? In origin. We haven't ruled out a kidnapping because we haven't found one single solitary body. These incidences have occurred in some very public places, to include underneath cameras. One man just vanished after a sudden blur streaked across the camera feed. A big, black shadow came in and took off with him. It couldn't have been moving at human speeds."

She handed him a business card.

"That's my professional cell, it's used for police business only." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a notebook and jotted a few things down.

"This is the list of addresses that the crimes took place at...we think. At least the few we can have actual locations for. If you want to take a look, be my guest, but try not to touch anything at the crime scenes, or we'd have to arrest you for tampering. Understood?"

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The Penitent nodded grimly.

"Understood, ma'am." He paused for a moment. "A spook, huh? Well, let's see if it can scare a man with a thousand ghosts on his back."

He turned, looking at the list. "I'll do what I can. Here's hoping it'll be significant."

The thoughts of Jack being dead were a bit much even for the Penitent, and his usually jovial demeanor wasn't apparent. It wasn't there at all. This thing wasn't some megalomaniac holding people hostage, or a bank robber with superpowers, or some freak anarchist. This was something that might have already killed people, and there was nothing in that for him to make light of. He took off into the air with an unusual burst of speed, not accelerating slowly off the ground like normal, but going full force the moment he lifted off the ground.

He looked at the list of addresses and the business card, and put both in his pocket after memorising the first address. He sped full-force towards it, and deep into the night.

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GM

The first address on the list was, as expected, not all that far away. It was likely the home of another worker at one of the local factories.

It was a small house in poor repair. The occupant was obviously not concerned with it's outer appearance. There was no car in the drive way, and no one was home.

Three men stood across the street chatting about this and that, apparently oblivious to the potential crime that had occurred to someone in their very neighborhood.

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The Penitent landed once again, noting the lack of people inside the house and silently cursing to himself. He sighed, running his fingers through his hair, before looking over at the three conversing people. He walked steadily over to them, a feeling of eerie discomfort washing over him.

He looked over at the house again, watching the windows as if expecting to see a ghostly face like in horror movies. Though he was not someone who get scared, he was someone who tended to worry about the strange things that seemed to happen in this city, especially since he had proof of the supernatural.

"Hey," he started "Any of you know what happened to the person who lives in that house over there?"

Unconsciously, he fiddled with the cigarette pack in his jacket, eyes still focused on the three people.

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GM

"No man, sorry." One of the guys said. "I mean, guy just didn't come home one night."

Another man spoke up. "I work with him, or did, if, you know, he's not alive anymore." He explained to The Penitent where he worked, and what shift the guy usually worked. He also explained that the individual in question liked to take his breaks out of the east exit of the shop, away from just about everyone else.

"I don't remember if he came back from break or not..." He said, shrugging his shoulders. "He was kind of a loner."

The evening grew colder, suddenly. The three men became keenly aware that their acquaintance might be dead, or in mortal danger. "I hope you find him, man. It's bad enough without people disappearing."

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The Penitent nodded gravely. "I'll do what I can." Backing off, he took off back into the sky.

Rather than head to the factory area, he landed for a payphone, and inserted a few quarters. Punching in the number the detective gave him, he breathed on his hands and rubbed them together to warm them up. When the phone clicked on, he started a little, his heart pounding a bit.

"Hello, Detective Renard. It's the Penitent. Sorry for not calling you on a cell phone, I don't have many personal effects. Anyway... Some information has come up that sort of helps a hunch of mine. The group I were just talking to, they said the victim disappeared at work, at the east exit of the shop he worked at." He gave the address of the place, and the shift. "I think that might narrow down where these attacks are happening. I know you're calling the shots here but I'll do what I can to help in any way."

He sighed, rubbing the space on his forehead right between his horns.

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GM

The detective sighed over the phone.

"Alright, go ahead and head over there, my men will be over there in about an hour or so. Don't touch anything, I just want you there to see what we see, and be able to follow the leads from there. Thanks for the help, by the way. Be there soon." She had a tired, but grateful, tone to her voice. It was clear this case was bothering and annoying her. Anything the Penitent could do to conclude the case sooner would be an asset to her.

She hung up the phone. The evening was drawing on. The Penitent did not know this, but she was already late home from work, already going longer than her shift. She had a solid lead now, and she wasn't going to go to bed while it was still out there, while the trail was still fresh.

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The Penitent dropped the phone onto the receiver, and stepped out of the clear plastic booth, looking up at the night sky and sighing softly to himself as he took off into the air again. Doubt and worry plagued at his mind. He only hoped that Jack and all the others would be alright when he got there.

He had to rely on his memory of the streets to reach the address from that height, and even then he found himself a street or so off when he landed, so he opted to walk in the dim light of the later-running factories and few-and-far between streetlights before reaching his destination. He wheeled around to the east exist, like where the men said their friend disappeared, and pulled a cigarette free from the box in his pocket, lighting up and puffing some smoke into the air.

Now, he played the waiting game as he waited for the Detective's men to arrive. Looking about, he watched his surroundings, and turned up the collar of his leather jacket.

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GM

The figure came dashing out of nowhere, striking suddenly. The Penitent turned away just in time, causing the blow to glance off of his thick, hardened flesh.

The shadowy figure slid away just out of reach and into the shadows. After a second, a low, sinister chuckle came from the darkness.

"This is amusing." The figure said. "I don't know what you are, or who you are, but you need to leave. We don't take kindly to such interference. Whether human or monster, I suggest you turn back...now!"

It was an obvious scare tactic. An ordinary human might turn and flee, or even some heroes. Not the Penitent, to the Penitent, the figure was showing off, and not too successfully.

"You're going to see this through? I haven't had a proper battle in years. Come, mortal, let us test our mettle against one another."

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The Penitent grimaced as his cigarette fell out of his fell, and with a peturbed grunt, snuffed it with his boot.

"Now look what you gone and did, you fruity little man." He glared at the darkness. "So you're hidin', eh? Doesn't really help your "I'm so scary" act if you hit a man then hide like a frightened little girl."

He bared his pointed teeth, and sent out an area blanketing message with his mind.

"But it doesn't matter, since I can get inside that nasty little head of yours. Oh, and by the way? Incoming."

He flung a fireball into the darkness, his face wrenched into a scowl.

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GM

The blast of flame pierced the shadows. The fiend barely had time to register what was happening before it slammed into his chest, causing him to roar in pain. The Penitent could see the flare up and could hear the sound of pain. It was quite obvious that the hit had not only landed, but had hurt.

"Oh, you are going to pay for that, mortal!"

He bolted from the shadows, arms out stretched. One hand, clenched in a fist, came soaring towards the Penitent's head. The fiend was angry, nor was he focusing. In his rage, he swung wildly, causing the fiend to miss by a mile!

He landed next to the Penitent and managed to turn around before a strike from behind could be landed.

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The Penitent grinned menacingly at the man, and then turned, grabbing his legs and making him fall to his back.

"And now we have some fun."

Quickly, the Penitent began to turn in place, and the man lifted off the ground. Rotating on his heels, the Penitent rapidly picked up speed, elevating the man until he was at a forty-five degree angle above the Penitent, who had now become a blur to the man he was spinning, though a dark cackle cut through the air quite clearly. Suddenly, the man jerked as he was let go, thrown at the nearest wall.

"Have a nice flight, buddy-boy!"

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GM

He growled and dragged himself to his feet. The Penitent was clearly showing off how much stronger he was than his foe. This would not stand. His muscles coiled as he suddenly dashed towards his foe, hand outstretched.

To his surprise, however, the Penitent rolled with the blow and was unharmed. The fiend's eyes went wide. This wasn't going his way at all.

"What are you?" He asked, not afraid, genuinely surprised. Even at his strength, this foe was completely unharmed.

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