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Tiffany Korta

Right by My Side (IC)

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Onika Studio's, Monday 21nd May 2012

It was a small studio, but one with big dreams. At the moment they were creating content for the local market. And they were having some measure of success, especially with their new game show Box O Money. It main gimmick was a massive Perspex box filled with cash; they claimed a billion dollars, which would count out each winners money. So proud were they of this success they would proudly proclaim this to all there visitors and show the box to all the visiting audiences.

Now they were try to pilot a chat and variety show using a local radio personality with a variety of local and acts from outside known for their local connection.

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Sat in the tiniest of dressing room Agnes was trying had to keep calm. Since her return to the pop scene this was probably her biggest break, yes it was the equivalent to local telly but it could be enough to bring her to public attention. Plus it was the first time she would be seen since she had been stuck in her hero form, she was trying to hide the fact that she was now permanently six foot tall with heels, but someone was sure to notice.

She had decided to perform her newest song in a jazz style with an all local band of some of the best musician she could find, and a wonderful slinky sequined black dress.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Starlight had arrived at the station in a taxi as Liz Moya. She didn't think it would be a good idea to suddenly appear in a closet in a flash of light like she was used to, so she had spent some money on a cab, instead. Now she walked through the doors of the building and up to the receptionist's desk. She tapped her fingers on the counter to get the woman's attention and gave her a smile. "Hello, there. I'm look for Agnes -- er, Annice Stone. She's supposed to be performing today?"

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A young runner still in his teen’s guided Starlight to Agnes dressing room, pass the massive sound stage that proudly proclaimed it was the home of Box O’Cash. The dressing rooms were tucked back at one corner of the building and by the size of the room she was quiet low on the pecking order, thought at least she had the room to herself.

Agnes reaction was immediate she embraced the hero in a massive hug. “Hey Liz you made it, I was afraid no one would make it. Let me look at you…†she held Liz at arm’s length “I think you look more radiant than ever. Please take a seat we've got a while before they start recording, help yourself to the rider it’s not much but hey it’s free…â€

Agnes seemed to be nervous about something and Starlight could tell she wanted to her ask her something.

“Um I was wondering do you notice anything different about me?â€

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Liz stopped at the threshold and almost called back the gopher to tell him that she had been led to the wrong room, but then she remembered Agnes' super-powered form. She stepped into the room slowly, but was quickly pulled into a bearhug and reciprocated in kind. She smiled at Agnes' compliment and glanced down at herself. She'd chosen a fairly humble form for herself on this world, but that was intentional; the last thing she wanted to do was draw too much attention to her civilian life.

"Thank you," she said nevertheless, responding to the compliment for an entirely different reason. "I'm here for you today, though. But I didn't expect -- ahem." She looked around conspiratorially and then leaned in to whisper. "I didn't expect to see you singing as Young Britannia!"

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Agnes collapsed into her chair.

“It’s that obvious huh? It seems I’ve been become the Avatar of Justice, which mainly means I’m a 6 foot tall Amazon. I really don’t know how Fulcrum copes with being so tall.â€

She opened a bottle of water and offered Liz one.

“It’s probably best I can’t drink over here the whole thing was a little rough.†She looked a little thoughtfully for a few seconds, but then came back with a large smile “But today’s not the best time to tell that tale. What about you how have you been doing?â€

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Liz took the bottle of water and looked around for somewhere to sit, but the room was almost too small for two women. She settled for leaning against the wall and playing with the water bottle, not opening it just yet. "It's been quiet, all told," she admitted. "School's been fairly boring, but Mr. Albright still thinks I need to go." She made a face at the idea of college. "Mr. Albright still thinks I need to get a degree, but I don't think it'll help much."

She gave her friend a good look and smiled slightly. "So how are you handling being 'Annice' all of the time? Is your label going to launch you as a new artist, or what?"

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“Well I guess I’m not the best to lecture on school but it’s worth getting a decent education. But it you want to follow your dreams then I say go for it. I mean it worked for me, though it was a tough road.†She gave a wistful little smile “And I’m here for you anything I can do to help. I could get so work down at my studio, or even some studio time it you want.â€

Another sip of water as she considered the question.

“There are some days when I think I could be just Agnes the businesswoman, and then someone recognizes me or I hear a song and I remember why I want to get on stage. That’s kind of why I’m here to build up a bit of a reputation before I release my album over here. After all people look to what happening in Freedom City, if I can make it here I can make it anywhere.†She gave a little smile “As someone once said…â€

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Liz was not, in truth, overly impressed with Freedom City; it had a goodly number of people with interesting powers, yes, but at the end of the day it was simply one place in the galaxy. There were Lor settlements that Freedom City would have been lost in, and Starlight had walked their streets (and fought through their airspace, to tell the truth). "I couldn't imagine not being... my other half," she admitted, still toying with the water bottle. "It's what I do, you know? Wake up, eat, go... out onto the streets." She smiled faintly. "As for staying in Freedom City... no. The world's too big to be in one place your whole life." She grinned toothily at her friend. "If you make it big here, you'll be touring all of the world. Still think you'll be calling Freedom home then?"

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Agnes eye shined with excitement “I don’t know what it was like in Spain but back home there was an allure about the States. And Freedom City well it had Superheroes, when I was little I always wanted to visit this place. It’s got a crazy energy like no other place in the world. But I’m tied to the UK it’s my home, I just work in here. It helps that I can teleport so I can work here but still get home in time for my soaps.â€

A runner gave a knock and informed them that it ten minutes to show time.

“You could still come up and play with us I could walk you through the song right now if you want.†she gave a cheeky smile.

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Liz's face colored more darkly than usual as she blushed. "No, no," she said. "I'm, I'm not close to professional level, Agnes! This is your big chance to break into music here in the States, I don't want to ruin it for you." She waved the comment away. "Besides, I don't even know if you need piano for your song, and I only really sing in -- well, I don't sing in English, at least!" Grue didn't really sound like any human language, but hopefully the alien's friend wouldn't be able to tell it from Spanish.

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Agnes gave a little smile “Trust me there’s a very fine line between an talented amateur and professional. It’s amazing what you can get away with just a vocorder and pretty look.†Her smile turned into a frown “Wow that sounded almost a little bitter didn’t it.â€

She stood up, smoothing down her sparkly dress.

“But you really should drop by the studio sometime; I’d like to hear you play. Let’s go have a look at the studio. I’ve got you a good seat near the front, or if you want you can watch backstage. Your part of my staff today.†She gave a little laugh “Well you’re my only staff at the moment.â€

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Liz stood, still holding onto the water bottle. "AutoTune is a crime against good taste," she agreed. "In any case, I cannot promise what you would think of my music. It is a very... eclectic sound." Blending Earth and alien styles would do that, after all.

"I am surprised your agent did not send any crew to help you," she commented. "I would think that this, being your 'big break,' would be important to him as well. And that he would pull out all the stops with making sure it goes smoothly."

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Agnes looked a little sheepish and tried to cover this by bursting into action.

“Let’s get going there start to panic soon. You know one of the advantages of my change is that I can potter around in these heels without feeling a thing.â€

It was a few steps towards the studio before she decided to explain her rush.

“Since my return it’s kind of been just me and my Manager, she’s not the biggest in the world in fact quite the opposite. But she was just about the only one who would represent e after the diva I’d become off of my earlier fame. Ah here we go.â€

The studio was quite a decent size the stage being split into two, part being the desk where the interviews were going to take place with a modern almost new room feel. Behind the desk was a massive video screen where images could be displayed. The rest of the stage was a performance area where Agnes band were already setting up.

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They were both met by the host of this new show a pretty Asian woman by the name of Ami Hu. She seem quiet friendly as she explained, mostly for Liz’s benefit, that they would do a take of the show’s introduction before the band was introduced and a couple of takes, if necessary, of them play before, if time, she would carry out an interview with Agnes.

It wasn’t long before they were show to their places and recording of the show began.

“Hello ladies and gentlemen I’m Ami Hu and welcome to my new show.†There was a pause as the audience applauded. “I’m happy to say I get the honor of opening the show by a track by an UK artist who has made Freedom City her second home. Ladies and gentlemen I give you….â€

At that point the studio was plunged into darkness, whilst from the gloom came another voice.

“Please that British Invasion stuff is sooo last century. Now you have the honor, no the privilege to be present during the unveiling of Freedom Cities newest Super Villain…†a single spotlight illuminated a figure at the back of the room “…MERGE TROIS!â€

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Merge Trois gave a little mock curtsey.

“And I’m help but my very, very, close and personal friends Merge Trois...†Another spotlight and the monitor showed another Merge guarding the entrance to the studio who gave a little salute “...and of cause Merge Trois.†This Merge was escorting all those from backstage onto the stage." She gave a friendly little wave.

“So you are all now my hostages.†She tilted her head and gave a gormless expression “But Merge are you crazy? Freedom City is full of Superheroes, some of which could be in this very room right now.†Looked around sweeping her arms for emphasis. “Well I’ve thought of that and thanks to my good friend Camera Obscura I can keep a watch on all of you.â€

She sweep her arms out and the screen displayed a live shot the entire audience, with one section sweeping over everyone before panning back to the stage.

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After Agnus had been introduced and the interview was under way, Liz had retreated to the backstage to watch it all play out. She was genuinely interested in hearing her friend sing, so she simply leaned against the wall and settled in. Maybe that's why Merge Trois caught her off-guard -- either way, the superheroic shapeshifter found herself being herded onto the stage with all the technical people who made the show actually run. Three villains, all with matching outfits? That struck her as more than just coincidence. In any case, the first thing to do was the keep the bad guys from hurting the innocents.

Liz stepped forward from the crowd, facing one of the Merge Tois' at random and speaking up. "Alright, then," she said. "You have us. Now what do you want from us?"

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The Merge Trois nearest Liz leant in towards her and made a little gesture with her hand “It’s all about the Benjamines baby. This young talented woman here†she gave a wide sweeping gesture towards Ami Hu “Must be worth quite a bit to this studio, among others concerns. And this woman might be past her prime.†She stood in front of Agnes and looked up at the much taller woman “Much be worth at least a few Quid†she put on awful fake British accent.

Agnes for her part just kept her cool and gave a tight little smile. “Going to be tough spending all that cheeda in lockdown.†She put on a near perfect local accent, similar to Merge’s own “If this is just about me and her, than just let everyone else go.â€

The main Merge just shook her head “I’m afraid there are just too many valuable people in this crowd to let anyone go just yet.â€

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"There are many people here who are not valuable," Liz pointed out to the supervillainesses. "It profits you nothing to keep all of us confined, and by letting the least valuable of us go free it establishes a good rapport with the police. Plus, you will not have to keep track of so many hostages." If the office worker seemed a bit too calm and collected for someone being held by a superpowered villain, well Freedom City was a wild town. It probably wasn't her first time in this situation!

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“Y’know she might actually have a point.†This was Merge Prime standing at the top of the audience “But not everyone, we still need some unimportant people, more hostages means more attention. Let’s say a third†This was Merge Two by the door “l suppose that means me then.†This was Merge Three on the stage.

She stuck her tongue out at Agnes, who the two had been staring each other out for a few seconds, and moved to the front of the audience.

“Ennie, Minnie, minie, mo … you!†seeming at random Merge Three picked out member of the audience and bought them out to the front, before hustling them out of the second door into the parking lot.

Whilst this was all going on Agnes managed to get close to Liz before whispering to her friend.

“When the time’s right I’m going to distract them. Try and sneak out of here and find out what’s going one. I’m probably a little too obvious to sneak out.†Despite the situation she couldn’t help but smile.

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Liz frowned. She wasn't sure how her friend was going to distract a trio of criminal-minded superhumans, but odds were it wouldn't be pretty. On the other hand, Liz couldn't act without revealing her identity -- not that Agnes could either. Which meant that whatever she was about to try would be spectacularly dangerous. "Do not act too rashly," she whispered. "I do not want to have to explain to the police why they have to bury three bodies in one grave."

The young girl moved as close to the door as she could without invoking Merge Tois' wrath. She might not have much time to move once things started happening.

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Seeing that Liz was ready, and that Merge three hadn’t quite shut the door yet, she dug down deep and drew up, metaphorically, her inner diva. She read that some recording artist like Alice Cooper and Eminen had real trouble separating who they were from the stage persona. She hoped that never happened to her, she hadn’t enough other lives rattling around her head without adding another one.

She snatched the mic and stand and swinging it around walked to the edge of the stage.

“Do you know WHO I AM, well do you? I’m Annice Stone and I came here to sing, and I’m blooding well going to sing if you like it or not.†With that she began to belt out a song

“I-I, I’m not living life

I’m not living right

I’m not living if you’re not by my side

Oooh-ohhhâ€

She wasn’t quite sure why she’d pick that song it wasn’t even a favorite of her. Especially as it had that creep Chris Brown in it, she’d love ten minutes with him alone in a room, but somehow it seemed to remind her of this lot.

Merge three rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders “Now I’m not one to stopped good music, but we’re going to have to cut your feed.†As she spoke the microphone went dead and there was a blur around her and there was another Merge beside her.

The two Megres moved with surprising speed up onto the stage deftly avoiding the swinging Mic stand and grabbed Agnes arms, whilst she remembers not to show her full strength and allow herself to be restrained.

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A part of Liz wanted to stay and watch Agnus/Annice bawl it out, but that was hardly what she needed to do right now. As soon as the Merges moved toward her friend, Liz was off. She didn't dare use her powers of flight, but she was pretty fast on her feet either way and made the stage door, banging into the fire bar and getting out safely.

Just outside the door, Liz slowed down, breathing deeply. A quick glance confirmed that the hallway was empty, and with a little twisting of her body Liz was replaced by Starlight. The long-limbed alien heroine stalked off deeper into the building. She needed to find a control booth or similar, so she could get a better look at the studio, before she could plan anything.

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The corridor was the opposite side of the building where they had been shown in, behind her was the Fire Door where the freed audience had left the building. Through the still open door she could the flashing blue lights of the obvious Police response.

Between the two massive rooms, which were probably the two studios that this building contains, was a smaller corridor. Based on Starlights memories from earlier this corridor wasn’t on the other side of the building. This to her seemed to be the obvious place to put a control room.

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Starlight flew along the corridor at speed. Her plan was simple; the hostages they had already convinced Menage to release would alert the police. Starlight herself couldn't tell them much more, without revealing who she was, so that was out. She needed to get a better overview of the situation, and that meant seeing inside the studio. Which in turn meant getting to the control room. While she was there, maybe she could also play some tricks to make it harder on the criminals. Turn off the lights, or blare out sound at top volume, something like that.

A tiny part of her worried what was happening to Agnes. She had taken a great risk to get Starlight out of the room, there was no telling what kind of revenge the Menages would seek.

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