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Shark Week: Ghost Sharks! (IC)

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Saturday, March 4th, 2012

4:02 PM

Waterfront warehouse district, Freedom City

Todd Hayden wove his cherry-red Mustang through the traffic of Freedom City was practiced ease, slipping from lane to lane and passing slower cars with barely a glance in his mirrors. As he drove he spoke, his words for the benefit of the three young heroes from Claremont academy that occupied the rest of the car. "My ancestors were pirates," he said. "Freebooters, privateers, sea dogs -- they sailed the oceans and looted and plundered to their hearts content. That's because for years they were also cultists of the Snake People.

"We came to the New World with the first wave of English immigrants. Settled up in Boston, among the coves and natural harbors. Eventually the family's wealth was tied up in investments on land, not the sea, and I guess they didn't feel the need to worship the old gods anymore -- or maybe Elijah Prophet got the last of the Dagon-worshippers and the rest of the family didn't want to burn, I don't know."

Hayden downshifted and pulled off the freeway, heading steadily towards the docks and piers. "I guess we just couldn't stay away from the water and easy money, though. In the thirties my family was involved with fascist groups in the States. Lots of people were -- I have a photograph of my great-granddad with Henry Ford. But when the war started we threw out lot behind the Nazis, tried to use our money and influence for them. We were almost found out by the first Raven and Lady Liberty, but somehow we just barely managed to keep out of jail.

"The family named was ruined, though. My grandfather and father were both gamblers and drunks. I inherited a pile of debts and a legacy scholarship to Georgetown. I just wanted to dig around in the dirt for my whole life, but once I graduated... I was going to spend my entire life working at business or end up bankrupt and living in a shoebox, working at a museum somewhere."

The car was crawling through access roads now, the sea close enough to smell. "When the Serpent People approached me, I... I knew it was a deal with the devil, but I thought I had the upper hand! They told me where I could find some old sunken treasure in Chesapeake Bay. I paid off my family's debts with that and started looking to dig abroad. They told me where I could find old Atlantean ruins, outposts from their war thousands of years ago. A whole chapter of history no one knew anything about! It was absurdly easy to make my name, and then I could pick and choose where I worked.

"That's when Ernest showed up, and the Serpent People started leaning on me harder and harder. They wanted to know about navy movements, they had me drop sonar buoys and magical trip mines at dig sites. In the Middle East, I handed off money to some man whose name I never got. A week later, an archeological dig in Yemen was dynamited! I thought I should turn myself in, go to the Freedom League, whatever, but Ernest -- or at least one of them -- was always there."

Hayden stopped the car and nodded at a row of warehouses. "The one on the very end, that's where the shark skeleton was delivered to. I... I don't know if I can help you any more than this."

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Crow sat in the back of the car, using that singular Crow-Glare. His eyes bored into the back of Hayden's head as they drove; he didn't offer any explanation as to how he'd appeared, why he was there, or who he was at all. Eerie.

Hee, the spooky tactic was working! Just like a proper cowl!

When Hayden finished, the black-clad hero walked up beside his window (wait, wasn't he in the back seat), and fixed Hayden with that same Look. His voice was low, and brooked no argument - a tone he actually practiced regularly.

"Progression of bad choices. But you're making up for it. We'll take it from here. Go straight to the Freedom League. Now. Tell them everything. If you do not, we will find out. And then we will find you."

Glare.

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It had taken a bit of maneuvering, but at last Subito had figured out how to arrange the flagstaff to keep it from bumping against anyone else in the car: temporarily passing it into the realm the Blue Dame mainly inhabited, with the understanding that when it was needed she would hand it right back, no matter the circumstances.

His sky-blue feathered cap fluttering elegantly in the breeze caused by the car, El Heraldo listened with a deepening frown to Todd's tale, looking more and more concerned as the man went on. When at last the winding story of Serpent People, evil ancestors and dynamited archaeology digs concluded, he said angrily "Why didn't you tell someone? when you were outside the house, at least? I bet the snakey guys wouldn't want to reveal themselves by killing a dude in broad daylight, not if there were people around anyway." He glared at the warehouse Hayden indicated, adding a bit more softly "We'll do this gladly, but please, if you ever get caught up in something like this again, tell someone! Secrecy is our enemies' greatest weapon." as the car stopped he got out, the Banner appearing above his head just high enough for him to catch it before it fell on him.

Leaning on the gently waving red white and blue, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the sounds about him, searching for any sign of their enemy...

Man, Morgan is growly today. I wonder if-

To intimidate, and impress the words more strongly.

...Oh, okay, that makes more sense.

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Kristin was doing some glaring of her own. At Morgan.

If you ever plant a magic mind-reading thingamajig on me without telling me ever again I'm going to punch you so hard! she thought at her magic using friend. It's useful and all but you have to tell me before you do that sort of thing!

She listened mostly in silence to Hayden's tale and marveled at how easily - and stupidly - the man had gotten himself into such deep trouble. "You really had better go straight to the league," she said, echoing Morgan's comment but leaving out the veiled threat. They can make sure you're well protected until all of this is sorted out.

As they came to a stop she straightened in her seat and eyed the row of warehouses dubiously. "Okay so I still don't know as much about the serpent people as I'd like. Are they all going to be as fast and annoying as Ernst was back there?"

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"Okay so I still don't know as much about the serpent people as I'd like. Are they all going to be as fast and annoying as Ernst was back there?"

"Seein' as none of them will want to get beat up, hit with knives or otherwise hurt, most likely." answered Subito with a shrug. His attention was elsewhere, and the full import of Glow's question slid past him when his eyes alighted on someone he knew right off the bat couldn't be up to much good, not unless there was some chartiable work that could be done with what looked like a shotgun and machete. Pointng him out to the others he said more softly

"That guy over there, in the coat. You see him? I'm gonna go see what he's up to." sliding the bandera into its holster, he walked directly up to the man with firm steps, looked him over gravely before meeting his(I't's?') saying in a clear voice "I am El Heraldo, who are you, and what are you doing with those weapons?"

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The robed man seemed startled to see El Heraldo step out of the shadows and speak up so boldly. "Listen, Sir Mix-a-Color, this isn't any of your problem." He opened his robe and showed off the weapon inside, a nasty-looking double-barrel shotgun that had been sawed off to only a few inches in front of the hand grip. "Just move along and we can avoid any unpleasantness, ya understand?"

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I see. I wonder if he's in league with the Snake People? Come to think of it, this reminds me of the last time I tangled with them. Though this time I didn't have much warning.

""Do I understand?" I do indeed." came the crisp and businesslike reply, and with a rasp of his boot on the rough ground, El Heraldo stepped forward, snatching the gun off of the man, its snapping belt and dangling holster following the weapon's departure. Holding it up to the eye level of the man in front of him he said sternly "This? This shall not protect you if you attempt to do evil in this city. Now, I ask again: who are you, and what are you doing here?" While he spoke, he had grasped the end of the sawed-off barrel and was slowly, for maximum effect, bending the entire thing around in a short loop, ending once the muzzle was a couple of inches from the stock. The sound of the groaning metal was like a file against his ears.

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The man's eyes widened as he saw his weapon taken away and destroyed by the super-strong protector of Puerto Rico. He backed away, jaw opening slackly. "But... the Lady said that you couldn't... oh, no! How did you find us!?" He turned and ran as fast as his legs could carry him, quickly reaching a door that lead into the warehouse. He wrenched the door open and dashed inside, letting the heavy steel plate bang shut behind him.

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Crow appeared at El Heraldo's shoulder. He looked at the weapon. Then at the doorway. Then back at the weapon. Then at El Heraldo. The black-clad hero rubbed his jaw underneath the bandanna. Thoughtful-like. Glow just got mental silence from him; and the pebble was ice-cold. The magic had clearly worn off by now.

He tapped the Puerto Rican hero on the shoulder and pointed at the bent shotgun barrel. The eyes over the bandanna looked rather wry.

"...too much, y'think?" Crow snerked.

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"...too much, y'think?" Crow snerked.

"Oh come on!" exclaimed Subito hotly, looking over the broad flag of the Bandera at Crow "How was I supposed to guess he would just dash off like that?" he looked around for a good place to put the now-useless gun, saw nowhere handy, and with a grumble sild it over his other shoulder, jumping into the air and taking flight with a burst of golden smoke that swirled about him. Still only a foot or so off the ground he observed the warehouse with no little frustration, glancing down suddenly he said "Hey, Crow, you're real good at seeing thing most folks don't, did you notice anything off about the guy?"

Calling over to Glow he said "Sorry he got away! Want me to just go in after him, or should we make a plan and stuff first?"

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Glow chuckled as she jogged over to Heraldo and Crow, her body already highlighted by faint green light - with shotgun toting bad guys around she wasn't taking any chances.

"What did you think he was going to do?" she asked Heraldo with a grin on her face. "He thought he was all tough and intimidating with his gun and you just swipe it an bend it in half? The look on his face was classic!"

She shrugged. "I'm not sure we just want to go charging in there without some idea of what we're going to find. Especially since that guy is probably telling all his mates that he just kicked your butt then had to run when more of us showed up."

"Do you have any more of that see-through-buildings mojo left?" she asked Crow with a raised eyebrow.

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"I thought he was gonna surrender or something," Subito grumbled, tugging his hat further down onto his head in a huff "Not go running into a building I could probably just tear the roof off of. Wonder if that is what he's told his pals?" he pondered vaguely "It sure won't do him much good if we all come bashing in and prove him wrong."

He slowly spun himself around until he was upside down, his head roughly at the level of his two schoolmates and his feet stretched towards the sky, a look of serious concentration on his face. "Not really much of planner, but right now I'd vote we just charge in and overrun them before they can get themselves sorted out" he said casually.

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While the heroes stood around and debated what to do about the warehouse, the cultist who ran inside was busy. He fell to the feet of a withered old woman with skin the color of mahogany, wearing a long, purple dress. She was holding a long, curved dagger in one hand and reading from a leather-bound book, which she closed carefully when the man began to blubber in terror. "Miss... mistress! Heroes, there's heroes outside! One took my gun and completely destroyed it! I... we have to run!"

"Run?" The woman's voice was as dry as her skin. "We do not run. The Mayombe shall gain power from the deaths of these interlopers! My children, attend me!"

Two figures appeared from the darkness of the warehouse. One was an a much younger, more attractive version of the old crone, her ebony skin smooth and her dress hugging her curves seductively. "What is it, Mother? Why have you dragged me away from my studies?"

The other figure was only barely humanoid; in fact he looked closer to a huge serpent, albeit one with a human face and two arms. He hissed at the younger woman, showing his forked tongue. "Have more ressspect for your mother, Dahlia!"

Dahlia stuck her tongue out at the snake-man in a fit of petulance. "Oh, quiet yourself, Cottonmouth. Your brain may have rotted listening to Mother ramble on, but some of us have a life outside this stinking warehouse."

"A life of listening to our followers prattle on, no doubt, dear Daughter." Lady Mamba walked over to Cottonmouth and took his arm in one hand. "Nevertheless, dear children, still your arguments. Our house has been discovered by meddling heroes, and it is time to defend it! Cottonmouth, you shall stay with me. Dahlia, since you love our dear followers so much, why don't you lead them in the fight? Remember, both of you -- if we fail, our patrons shall surely have a grim fate in store for us."


The chill silence of the night was shattered by a sharp crack like a lightning bolt hitting nearby, and suddenly at the end of the pier was a wizened old woman and a hulking man-snake abomination! The woman raised her hands above her head in a gesture unmistakably arcane. "Begone, intruding heroes!" The doors to the warehouse banged open and a flood of robed figures brandishing an eclectic mix of pistols and long knives poured out, urged on by a darkly beautiful woman in a long, purple dress. "Begone, foul vigilantes! Or the Mayombe shall drink your heartsblood!"

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Glow's head snapped to the side as the lightning bolt came down, and she blinked her eyes clear after the sudden flash, just in time to see the hulking snake-man silhouette on the pier.

Aww man..

Then the door to the warehouse banged open and her head snapped back to look as the group of cultists charged out. The young telekinetic wasted no more time, and the air around her flared bright as she thrust her hands out towards the group. A wave of mental force exploded amongst the cultists as Glow unleashed her power and attempted to scatter them before they could attack!

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The black-clad Crow spun to face Mamba and Cottonmouth, squaring off, and met Mamba's eyes. Snake-like irises met with hawk-like gold, and he spread his feet slightly as the backwash from Glow's barrage set his coat to billow. He pointed a finger at the old witch, and she could feel the menace radiating from the young Cowl. His voice was preternaturally calm; even eerie.

"You. The spirits cry your name, Mamba. The dead you abuse."

He took a combat position, one hand behind his back. That hand slipped a piece of chalk from his pocket, and made two tiny lines on one of the runes on the glove's backplate. He held up his hand, and ethereal, ghostly power; similar to the kind that erupted when he cut away at a villain's resilience, wreathed his hand.

"This power you abuse. See how it feels."

He opened his hand, and a harsh word in Gaelic tore from his mouth as those energies coalesced into an orb above his palm. The eyes fixed on Mamba, and he swung his hand around...and Crow felt something jog his arm. Maybe it was a muscle twinge. Or maybe...something...was helping with this one - an angry spirit, perhaps. Either way, an ethereal orb, far larger than he had envisioned, shot across the distance between him and the two villains, aiming right for the villainous crone!

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The heroes hit hard and fast. Glow's telekinetic wave knocked the cultists about like ninepins, but they were packed so tightly that most of the energy was expended on the front ranks. They fall back onto the ones behind them, and so forth until the entire group had tumbled. Dahlia, though, saw it coming and managed to step back from the wave, tsking as she stepped forward over fallen bodies. "Get up, you lazy louts!" She lashed out at the groaning, fallen cultists "Get on your feet and fight! Like you're supposed to!" One or two staggered to their feet under her verbal assault, but the majority were out of the fight.

Crow's crackling ball of necromantic energy sped down the pier and homed in on Lady Mamba, but at the last moment Cottonmouth dove in front of the sphere, taking the hit himself. He cringed and twitched as several of his scales turned black and brittle, apparently the remnant of an attack by... an ice-wielding foe? A shadow-beast, maybe? In either case, Lady Mamba reacted almost as if it was an attack on her own person. "You two-bit rune-slinger," she screeched, raising her hands about her head. "How dare you cast magics at my baby!!" A torrent of water lifted itself from the bay and slammed into Crow, its sheer mass almost overwhelming the young hero.

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Subito held onto the brim of his hat with a thumb and forefinger, whistling in quiet amazement at Glow's telekinetic prowess and Crow's(underhanded, but ingenious and unexpected) tactics, eyes narrowing on the large snake-man who had leaped to intercept the attack on the wrinkled old woman who seemed to be the leader of the band. I'm kinda strong, he looks pretty strong, maybe I can get his attention if THIS doesn't punch him clear through the wall! he thought, tensing himself on thin air before hurtling at the bulky Cottonmouth, arm extended to bring the full force behind him to bear!

And he missed. By a not insubstantial distance.

G-! Peace, we will try again I KEEP MISSING! Then let us take more care next time, plan your attacks, do not strike blindly Faugh, very well he thought furiously, glaring at the imposing monster in front of him, no little worry about what he'd just tried to hit seeping into him...

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Cottonmouth twisted his heavily-muscled body with disturbing, sinuous ease and evaded the colorfully-costumed hero's grab. "Wressstling with a sssnake is a bad idea," the bodyguard hissed. "You're bound to get bit!" The sharp head snapped forward and two large fangs, each as long as El Heraldo's thumb, punctured the meat of his arm. Cottonmouth retreated and circled around to be between Mamba and Crow again, but the hero of Puerto Rico could already feel the snake-man's poison moving through his veins.

Dahlia, meanwhile, led the charge from the rear with the two remaining cultists. They drew wickedly curved daggers and looked to protect the priestess' flanks, while she sketched arcane patterns in the air. Her pupils shifted to yellowed slits as her gaze settled on Glow. "Beware, young hero," she hissed. "The power I throw at you is ten thousand years old. Tremble in terror at my feet, and I will at least grant you a swift death!"

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Glow felt the pressure on her mind as Dahlia's sorcery took hold, but she maintained her concentration and brushed the assault aside. "Just because it's old doesn't mean it's better," she replied in a calm, dismissive tone as she locked eyes with the priestess. "I mean, just check out what I can do with telekinesis that's like a year old!"

As the young heroine spoke the cultist to Dahlia's right was snatched up in a flare of light and flung bodily at his knife-wielding comrade.

"How about you just surrender now? I promise your jail term will be lengthy and boring!"

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The ease with which Glow threw off Dahlia's foul sorcery raised Crow's spirits - the girl had guts. Not that he showed it outwardly - those same cold eyes focused on Mamba under his hood. His dripping hood - the wave she had thrown at him had broken off of him like water on rock. Slowly, the cowl started walking forward; reaching a hand towards Cottonmouth and twisting it in midair. The snake-man was promptly floored by another savage bruise which reappeared on his chest; echoes of a powerhouse slamming a fist right into his chest and the ghost of the subsequent impact into a wall hitting his brain like a freight train.

Mamba had about a split second to note that her guardian had just been dazed before a voice came from behind her. And the black-clad hero was no longer in front of her.

"You should have known better."

Pain. The cowled hero had spun on his heel, and slammed the heel of a boot wreathed in earth energy clean into her side! It was like an earthquake hit her, hard. In the space of a blink he was back where he had been, stepping inexorably forward.

"I'm the shadow that stands behind. The raptor waiting to strike. I am Crow. And you're done."

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Subito was getting a bit unnerved by the attitude of his comrades. 'S one thing to be confident in the face of danger he thought another entirely to be treating these guys like they're nothing. For all that he knew little about the gang they were fighting, he DID know that actively mocking people while fighting them made them more likely to try to settle the score. Then again, as Glow neatly dispatched the people who seemed like the servants of the two women, and Crow seemed to call up hurts the giant snakeman had suffered before, he admitted this was at least a little bit borne of jealousy at how litle he had managed to do in the short time they'd been fighting. After all, in only a couple of minutes at most the majority of their foes had been quickly defeated before he could so much as land a punch.

So he decided to do something rather..strange. With a fierce and precisely-aimed uppercut that drove his fist into Cottonmouth's torso(and jarreing his arm fiercely), he sought then to fold the man's lower body against his upper, hoist him over his head, and throw him bodily at the younger woman who seemed to be the second-in-command. The sheer sinuous slithering ability of his foe proved to be a little much for him though, and Cottonmouth managed to wrestle out of El Heraldo's grasp with ease.

By TH- Peace Hrmmmmggg...

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The fight seemed to be turning against the Mayombe. Cottonmouth was writhing in pain and Lady Mamba had taken a nasty boot to her kidney from the hooded cowl. Dahlia had seen her small army of cultists fall with almost contemptuous ease from the young telekinetic, and then the woman shrugged off her strongest mental attack. The young sorceress stepped back into the warehouse, fear flickering over her face. She raised her hands -- and fog raised with them, the air growing gray and thick around her. "You shall not capture me, hero," she spat. "I will rise again, and the Mayombe with me!" After a moment Dahlia was completely obscured from sight, and then the heroes could clearly hear the sound of retreating feet

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Glow took a step towards the now fog-shrouded warehouse, then pulled up short as she glanced back and forth between it and the battle that still raged on the pier.

Damnit... these two are more important.

"You'll get yours!" she called after Dahlia as she turned on her heel and moved to help her friends. A hammerfist of mental energy formed above Lady Mamba then lashed downwards, but unfortunately the Telekinetic's aim was off and the attack did little more than crack a plank on the pier.

With a quiet curse Glow exploded into motion and yelled out "Hey snake-boy! Over here!" as she somersaulted up onto a nearby crate, attempting to distract Cottonmouth from his fight with Heraldo.

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Nobody escapes.

Crow gestured sharply to the other two, and then towards the dazed and reeling villains before them. Heraldo and Glow were extremely capable, he couldn't see Lady Mamba and Cottonmouth presenting any trouble to them whatsoever in their current condition. A quick wipe to return the runes on the glove to their former state - the dark energies wreathing Cottonmouth dissipated; maintaining concentration on that spell wasn't required by this point, and he needed the gloves back to normal.

A hand darted into his coat interior, bringing out a small tool he'd been saving for just such an occasion. A black iron mask, embossed with intricate silver designs, was put over his eyes; he stared at the warehouse like he could see through the walls, head turning slightly like he was tracking something. He froze. Mask fixed on one point. And then Crow disappeared.

As Dahlia bolted for the Zodiac, she heard a sound from above her; as two knives flashed out of the darkness and ricocheted about the crates and flats and such surrounding her. They did not strike, which likely amused the fleeing sorceress immensely; at least until she nearly tripped over a nigh-on invisible wire. Sharp eyes could pick out a whole web of them, tightening around her!

Quiet laughter in the dark. Laughing at her.

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Dahlia flailed wildly as she went down, pushing herself to her feet and raising her hands in a spellcasting stance. After a moment, though, she dropped her hands and instead cocked her hips. "Why don't you come down here so we can talk," she called out in her best sultry tone. "I think we could find a much more pleasant way to kill time between the two of us."

Outside the warehouse, Lady Mamba wasn't going down without a fight. She called up an orb of blue fire and tossed it from hand to hand before flinging it at El Heraldo; but the patriotic paragon ducked the blast and it barely even singed the feather in his cap.

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