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Street Sharks [IC]

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Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
8:52 PM


The night brought a nice chill to Freedom City, a relief from the heat of the day. A mini-heatwave had fallen on Freedom, the heart of Summer right in the depths of Spring. While the weather forecasts said it would break tomorrow, no one was holding their breath. Cannonade was already sweating under his flight jacket; he thought about the possibility of making a costume that'd allow him to run about in just his shirtsleeves, but tonight was not the night for that. So instead, he hung close to the water, taking in the cool breeze that was whipping up off the water.

He ran across the rooftops of dockside warehouses, looking down on the scenes below. There was always some game going on by the Waterfront, if you knew where to look. The smaller outfits competed over abandoned warehouses, using them to store or, in some cases, produce drugs. The larger outfits based their fronts out of the docks, using the apparent import of china dolls or stuffed animals to bring cocaine and heroin into the country. Cannonade slowed as he approached the lip of the warehouse roof, pausing to listen to the voices below.

"This isn't what we asked for."

"It's been a slow month."

He crouched down, taking some cover as he gazed down at the confrontation. Five men in pinstripe suits were engaged in negotiations - the kind that involved wagging fingers and visible firearms - stood toe-to-toe with four men in denim jackets, all looking like some matter of metalhead. Cannonade recognized the patch of the Death Road Ministry on their jackets.

"We're not letting you hold this place out of charity," said the lead goon in the suit. "If you think you can stiff us..."

"Don't think we care," said the lead Minister. He reached into his jacket. "This is our place now. You can go tell your boss where he can stick that cigar of his."

The men in the pinstripes went for their guns, just as the Ministers reached into their own jackets. Cannonade dropped down softly into the nearby alley, moving forward. Pretty good as gang negotiations go. Took thirty seconds for someone to do something stupid.

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While Cannonade seemed to be going for stealth, another hero went for essentially the opposite approach. At that moment, there was a sudden low rumble all around, and then a voice called out from above the various gang members.

"I had to actually work for a little bit to track this little shindig down. You boys may not be in Southside right now, but I have a feeling that'll change soon enough."

If everyone looks up, they'll see a man seemingly standing on the air. He's clad in shining, silvery metal, white cloth with golden highlights, and an impressive white leather coat. He's casually resting a rather sharp-looking spear on one shoulder, and sporting a confident grin on his face as he slowly lowers himself down further.

"We could spend the next 10 minutes having a long, drawn-out fight where I turn all of you into bruised wrecks lying on the ground while the cops show up. Or you could just put the guns down, sit down, and wait calmly. No one gets hurt, and your peaceful transition might let the law look on you a touch more favorably. I'm in a good mood tonight, so hey, up to you all."

He went silent, apparently waiting for an answer. This man was either insanely overconfident, or fairly familiar with this sort of operation. Or possibly both.

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Glowstar was, true to his name, a shining spark slicing through the air, a red star floating above the water. He was humming tunelessly to himself, watching the pattern of moonlight and stars on the waves. His thoughts were far away, meditating on his future -- or the lack of one. What was he supposed to do after Claremont? He was pretty sure that professional superheroing wasn't something you could get paid for, unless you worked for AEGIS or UNTIL. And neither of them would hire someone whose parents had been supervillains...

The young man scowled to himself and banked in towards the city, hoping to find something to take his mind off his predicament. Luckily he did, stumbling over the criminal gathering in enough time to hear Gabriel's ultimatum. "Or, you know, don't," he added, pulling up short and floating over the water. His force field crackled and made his costume look ruddy in the half-light of the moon. "I could use with a distraction. So go on and resist. Please."

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The man leaning against the brick wall across the street from the imminent altercation would have been inconspicuous had he not been a veritable mountain of muscle, easily six and a half feet tall and broad enough to put professional linebackers to shame. Keith LaMarr waited patiently with his powerful arms folded across the yellow zig-zag pattern emblazoned across his shirt, watching the confident hero in white and the aggressive young man who joined him threaten the assembled criminals. The aging high school teacher better known in some circles as the earsplitting Wail had seen the same situation play out more times than he cared to remember and something about this time didn't sit right with him. If everything was as it seemed, the pair already in the thick of it would have little trouble; otherwise, it wouldn't hurt to let things play out a bit before intervening.

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Cannonade, realizing his own entrance would be somewhat undercut by... well, anyone else's... just strode out of the alley, arms crossed over his chest. He spotted Wail against the far wall - with the presence of the super-strong shouter, these guys would be a piece of cake. "Y'know, at this point," he said, "it might be a good idea to pack it in. Three hots and a cot'd be a hell of a lot more comfortable than the other option."

For a second, it looked like some of the outfit goons were ready to lay down their arms and just go quietly. Then one of the Ministers just had to speak up. "Sorry, boy scout," he said, "that's the last thing we want to do." Quick as a whip, he pulled something out of the jacket - with the other Ministers acting almost in concert - and pressed it against his hand. The effects were instantaneous, as the gang members started twitching and convulsing, the objects falling from their hands. Before Cannonade's eyes, they started to change, growing larger and more bestial. Their frames burst through their clothes as their hair receded, giving way to sandpaper skin and serrated teeth. They were turning into hulking, bipedal sharks before his eyes.

"Goddamnit, is there anything people won't shoot up on in this city?"

The sharks moved towards the heroes, growls rumbling from the depths of their altered throats. They were hungry...

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"Maybe the next fad will be crushed and mixed Oreos, Pixie Stix, and Fruity Pebbles."

Gallows humor from the man in white floating in the air. He regarding the shark-men transformations with a raised eyebrow and a tilt of his head. The spear didn't move from its current resting place.

"Though this is new territory for me. Never dealt with a shark gang before. Only dealt with monkeys that one time..."

He shrugged as he trailed off, before suddenly his whole demeanor shifted. The spear whipped forward and pointed out like an accusing finger toward the cluster of criminals. When Gabriel next spoke, his voice rang out clear and sharp, and waves of sonic energy pulsed out, all but slamming into the collection of thugs and sharks. But instead of battering their bodies, the waves brought subliminal sounds that tried to trigger basic fear impulses in their targets. The ultrasonic waves sought to bring all of the gang members to their knees shaking with fright.

"You cretins are in for it now. Bad enough you bring mindless violence to our streets, push poison on our children. Now you clothe yourselves in the skins of beasts to savagely fight back against your rightful punishment? We are the angels of retribution and justice, and our wrath will be terrible, our actions swift!"

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The sermon certainly hit the outfit men where it hurt. The giant ravening shark-men didn't hurt, but the sermon was definitely the last straw. They turned tail and ran, two of them even letting the submachine guns fall from their hands as they focused entirely on getting the hell out of there. Likewise, one of the Ministers, his mind likely altered by the compound of gene-warping chemicals running through his body, also fled under Gabriel's barrage, running into the back alleys of the Waterfront.

The other Ministers, as well as one hitter who was obviously shaking in his shoes, stood their ground. One of them answered Gabriel's speech by leaping into the air, closing the distance between himself and the flying hero. He latched on, attempting to bite deep into the hero. Another, meanwhile, charged forward at the ground, bearing down on Cannonade like his colleague had. This one, however, had much more success, biting deep into his shoulder.

"Gaaaah!" He struggled to break the shark-man's grip on him. "What the hell kind of steroids do they put in this stuff?"

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"Hey now! No leaving the party early!" Glowstar rose into the air and dashed after the fleeing shark-man. The rest of the thugs seemed like normal street-scum, but he wasn't about to let some 'roided up animal-man run free and wild in the middle of the city. The young hero easily caught up with the fleeing monster and focused power into one fist. The man-beast juked into an alley and followed back ways, but Glowstar kept up easily as he continued to charge his blast. Finally he let loose with it, lighting the dark street with blood-red energy.

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The blast of crimson light illuminated a massive form sailing in a long arc that brought it down in the fleeing shark-man's path with enough crunching force to crack the pavement. "Used to be all about mixing your genes with jungle cats," Wail noted as he straightened to his full, imposing height. "Cheetahs, panthers, leopards." Taking a deep breath, the earsplitting educator let loose a thunderous bellow that visibly warped the air with its force, the cone of his voice knocking the shark in front of him for a loop and clipping another closer to the main melee. "But sharks I do not understand. When does that get fun?"

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The blast caught the fleeing shark full-on, sending him to the ground. He clutched at his ruined ears and let loose a dreadful growl that cut through the muggy night. Cannonade lifted his hands from his ears to watch as one of the Ministers who'd been on the edge of the circle staggered forward, blood running from his... well, I guess those are ears.

"Maybe Jaws really stuck with them," he called out to Wail. But something about the whole situation seemed weird... why did it seem familiar...? He buried the thought; it was distracting him from the manner at hand. "I guess no one told you," he said to the beast-men, "but sharks don't really have feet to stand on." He drew in a gigantic breath, and let it out in one torrential gust, trying to sweep the Ministers off their feet. The drugs had lent them new strength, however, as they all remained upright. As one, they began to advance on Cannonade... when the lone outfit man, the one who's tried to stand their ground, stepped forward and fired off a volley of bullets.

"Just try me. I know a guy in Chinatown who's been looking to make shark fin soup."

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Gabriel smirked just a bit when one of the sharks went running.

'Nice, I figured it'd just scatter the thugs, not one of-Lord preserve me!'

His eyes widened in shock as one of the shark-men propelled himself into the air and grabbed his coat for a few frightening seconds. It was in this moment that Gabriel decided that while stinging insects terrified him beyond the capacity for rational thought, sharks were pretty scary too. The gaping maw nearly got around his neck, but at the last moment he got his left arm in the way, and the creature's teeth closed around his armored and coated forearm. Still, the sheer force of the bite left his arm throbbing with pain even as his foe released his grip and dropped to the ground below. Gabriel took a moment to shake his arm out and flex the fingers on the hand before glaring down at the shark-man. He gestured at his foe with his spear.

"That hurt. We'll consider it resisting a citizens arrest. Hope you didn't have Mexican for lunch."

Suddenly, a lance of invisible sound waves struck the Minister's body, and his insides quaked and quivered at the sensation; Gabriel was clearly trying to incapacitate him through induced sickness.

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"Pool party." Glowstar officer his reply to Wail as he floated high above the action. "Or maybe a fashion show? 'Look at this year's model and their hydrodynamic performance!'" The teen hero coasted to a halt directly above the shark. "Of course, this model is going to need an overhaul by the time I'm done with him." Glowstar brought his hands in towards his core, red threads of energy leaking out of his body and coalescing between his cupped palms. Before long there was a golf-ball sized sphere of red energy there, black motes spinning off and disappearing. It grew quickly, to baseball and then basketball size. With a karate shout Glowstar spun in the air and thrust it towards the mutated mobster, and it broke into a thousand red-and-black lines that quickly closed the distance.

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"Alright, enough jibberjabber," Wail snorted in amusement at the multiple proposed answers to his rhetorical question. With the fleeing sharkman dealt with, the aging hero bent his knees slightly before propelling himself into the air with super-dense muscles. He came down next to the mutated mobster he'd clipped with his earlier shout, bringing his massive fist down first in a devastating haymaker. The shark didn't even have time to look shocked before he hit the pavement a split instant before Wail's boots, his unconscious form bouncing back up from the shockwave rippling though the pavement.

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The shark hit the ground belly first, practically bouncing as Wail leapt off of him. The Minister twitched once or twice before lapsing into unconsciousness, its growl trailing off like a run down lawnmower.

"Y'know, I've gotta wonder what the point is," Cannonade said. "All these drugs, all these treatments, all these tricks... all this stuff that's supposed to make a new you..." He lunged for one of the shark-men, but the giant predator was just a little too swift, sliding through Cannonade's hands. He could feel the sandpaper-like skin brushing against his palms, though given the resilience of his skin, they didn't do much damage. "All it does is just make these guys the same idiot. Only with new tinsel."

"What do you expect from rank amateurs?" said the outfit man, who seemed to have temporarily forgotten what side he was on. He opened fire on one of the shark-men, but the bullets bounced harmlessly off of toughened cartilage. Finally realizing that the battle wasn't going his way, he began to take a few steps back, working his way towards an obvious break.

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"Rank amateurs think they're sneaky. Think guys like us won't notice them trying to flee the crime scene."

Gabriel didn't even look at the armed criminal as his left hand snapped up, index and middle fingers pointed at the man. A bolt of sonic energy lanced out and hit the man square in the head, the rapidly changing ultrasonic/infrasonic sound waves likely scrambling his nervous system so bad he would be frozen in place. His arm stayed where it was for several moments, even as the shining sound controller kept his gaze firmly on the shark-man retching his stomach out on the ground. The spear in his right hand stayed leveled at his toothy opponent.

"So how about you just hang out over there for a minute, and Chum here can try to catch his breath."

He shook his head in mock sadness at the sickened gene-splicer.

"See, this is why we have all those preachy Public Service Announcements, kid. Because drugs really are that bad. See how sick you are now? I know I hate throwing up like that. Must be even worse with a shark's senses."

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Glowstar waited until he was sure the errant shark-man wasn't going to get up and run away, then he took off again and hurried back towards the dock where the other heroes were dealing with the rest of the enemies. He observed that most of the sharks and mobsters were unable to attack, but there were still a couple doing their best to tear into Cannonade and Gabriel. The teen hero let his arm hang by his side and forced power to precipitate down the limb and gather in his palm, until he had a baseball-sized globe of seething Terminus energies. He spun in the air and fastballed it at the nearest shark-man; the monster took it on the chin and spun in the air, landing on its feet and apparently unharmed. Glowstar stared slack-jawed for a moment before exclaiming, "That's just not fair! Big and clumsy or small and weak, those are your options! Overmuscled gymnasts is not what I signed on for."

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"Now where'd you get that fool idea, son?" Wail asked nonchalantly as he turned his attention to the surprisingly resilient sharkman who had shrugged off the energy tossing youth's attack. Stepping forward with a feint to the left, the mountainous man moved faster than normal muscles could have possibly moved so much mass, gripping his opponent's nearest arm and swinging around behind him, pinning the substance abusing abomination's limb against his back. A well practiced maneuver with a locked elbow pinned the opposite arm in a similarly useless position while Wail's own considerable presence anchored the helpless gangster in place. "Strong, fast, it all comes down to experience."

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Cannonade cracked a smile as Wail got the Minister in an armlock. "And funny thing about 'strong' and 'fast,' he said, "they all depend on whether you've got the room to exercise 'em. And, when you don't..."

The fist collided with the shark's midsection with the force of a cannonball. Cannonade hadn't had much experience with the sounds sharks made, but he imagined the hideous growling sounded a lot like pain. "Well, when you don't, you learn yourself wide open. Y'know, Wail, you look like one of those guys on the Boardwalk, posing with a prize catch. Want me to get out the camera?"

The shark-man only bucked harder at that comment, spitting venom and crimson flecks at the hero. Meanwhile, the outfit man - wholly convinced he was out of his depth, tried helplessly to regain control of his body, which was doing everything it could to work against him. But he was going nowhere. Not until the bigger problem was taken care of.

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Gabriel noted the other heroes keeping a good lid on the other conscious shark-thug before her turned his attention to the one still undergoing stomach spasms, though they seemed to be calming down.

'Time to calm down the rest of him,' Gabriel thought to himself.

Calmly he floated to the ground, his armored boots touching the concrete as he took a couple steps toward the shark-man, crouching a bit and letting the butt of his spear rest on the ground. The air shifted a bit around him, as he refocused his incredible talents to a more subtle approach, one that might avoid further pain and violence tonight. Before he even started to speak, an aura of subtle sonic waves surged around his body, and the subconscious "white noise" served to (in this case) relax the criminal, as well as making Gabriel seem profoundly more reasonable. He spoke in a friendly tone of voice, and his body language was open, honest, and inviting.

"Look, Mr....Hm. I don't know your name. At any rate. Look around you. You guys were in over your heads as soon as this fight started. We tried to end this peacefully. I tell you what. You didn't really hurt me that badly earlier. And I hate seeing a chap going through stomach pains like that, even if I caused them. How about you just sit back, sit tight, and wait this out. I promise I won't hurt you, they won't hurt you, and I'll put a bit of a good word in for you. That sound okay? No point in us getting our heads rattled scrapping; better to just sit back and relax, right? Don't worry, you should feel right as rain in a moment. Though I doubt you'll be hungry for a while."

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With most of the enemies pacified, Glowstar felt a little more secure in coming out of the air. He set down lightly and walked over to Wail, who was holding the struggling shark-man pretty easily. "That's a neat trick, Gabriel," he said to the white-clad hero. "You're going to have to teach me that some time." He paused, lined up a shot, and punched the grappling shark-man in the back of the head with a fist that glowed crimson. "Always nice to end a fight before everyone's bleeding on the ground."

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Although he could have reasonably held his struggling opponent in place for the better part of the day while the others took turns using the sharkman as an improvised punching bag, Wail's sense of fair play balked a bit at prolonging the beating anymore than necessary. "Forget the camera, son," he told Cannonade conversationally as he adjusted his grip on the restrained mobster. "This one's under the size limit, I'll have to throw him back." Flexing his trunk-like arms until something internal made of cartilage gave way with a unsettling popping sound, the broad-shouldered hero let the sharkman drop on top of his brethren in a mutated pile of bulging muscles and rough skin.

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Glowstar snapped his fingers and a red dome, black motes crawling over it, appeared over the piled-up sharks and gangers. "Well, this is a new one," he admitted. "I've beaten up thugs on Max, Speed, PCP, and drunk on way too much firepower. But shark-men, that's a different one." He cracked the bones of one hand and stared off wistfully over the water. "Well, there was that time in the park, but that was a shark-octopus. I don't think these guys have tentacles."

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The Minister went limp in Wail's arms, hitting the docks as soon as the veteran hero released his grip. "Shark-octopus?" Cannonade asked. "Yeah, that's the last time I take a swim off the Boardwalk. Don't know what the hell they're pumping in the water out here..." He looked to the outfit man, who hadn't moved from his spot ever since Gabriel had bombarded him with an aural assault. "You're not gonna give us any trouble, are ya?"

The hitter looked over to the pile of unconscious shark-men stacked like cordwood. "Wouldn't think of it."

"And when the cops show up, you're gonna..."

"Go quietly?"

"Good." With that taken care of, Cannonade turned to the Minister that Gabriel had managed to sway to their side. "All right, so, where the hell did you get this stuff?"

The Minister opened his mouth to speak... and nothing came out same for rasping growls and barks. Whatever the mutagen had done to him must have done a number on his vocal cords.

"Yeah, screw me for imagining this might be easy." Cannonade stroked his chin. "Something about all this seems familiar..."

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"Yeah. Same here. But what?"

Gabriel stared pensively at the mutated "Ministers" (an unearned name if there ever was one) for many long moments, before the sudden realization made him lightly slap his armored forehead.

"Duh! These guys are like mass-produced versions of Megalodon! You guys remember him, right? Genetic scientist, was trying to regrow a leg, ended up turning into a shark-man? It's like someone's managed to replicate the process. Which, I guess means they should eventually shift back; I don't think Dr. Kirkstrom stayed permanently changed. But..."

He frowned again.

"The guy was locked up solid, last I'd heard. Did he break out?"

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"No, he's still in Providence Asylum," Wail replied with a frown, running one hand over his grey-streaked beard. In his days a good number of the metahumans running around had been the result of accidents of science, whether experiments gone wrong or bystanders caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It sounded more unlikely before one took a look at the sheer amount of wild and unprecedented research had been happening, which each new superpowered sensation appearing on the scene rekindling the experimental fervor. He supposed it wasn't all that surprising that decades later science was catching up enough to duplicate those quirks of fate reliably, but he wasn't sure he liked the implications. "Voluntarily, too. They've got him set up with a lab in there, working to fix himself. Figure he's the only one knows enough about the whole freaky fishman thing to have a shot." It was pretty clear who they needed to talk to if they wanted answers. "Doc might not do housecalls, but you figure he takes appointments?"

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