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Smoke on the Water (IC)


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Noon, August 24


The Penitent was not having a good time here in Freedom City. Ever since he arrived, he had been dealing with his friends being harmed, the world mistrusting him, and worse yet, as of today he had been framed for a crime twice. This time, though, the people were sure to make sure that the person committing the crime looked exactly like Bram. It did, but it still wasn't him. Now he had been laying low, but he had been brought of hiding when he had found out that more heroes had been shown to be acting erratically. The first was Jubatus, a super-fast cheetahman. Apparently, the public believed he had gone feral and started prowling the streets and hunting down people. But right now, there was Wave-Eye, and the Penitent had arrived just in time to catch him in the act, assaulting yacht-goers and dragging them beneath the waves.

"Wave-Eye, what the heck are you doing! Let go of the nicely dressed man!"

The creature that appeared to be Wave-Eye had a man in a white polo and shorts in his grip, who was obviously panicking. "Oh God, he has a demon with him!"

"Oh, slow down Skippy. I'm on your side."

The presumed Wave-Eye called up to the Penitent. "Go away, you simpleton! This does not concern you! This is a matter for the people of the sea!"

"Okay, simpleton? Really?"

The creatured tightened its grip around the man's neck and bared its teeth. "I'll kill him if you don't go, Penitent!"

The Penitent grimaced. This was not like the Wave-Eye he had met. Yet, if he had been framed... Possibly Wave-Eye was being framed too?

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The reverberations of something being dragged into the water had been going on for several minutes now, and Wave-Eye was suspicious, swimming towards the distant splashes with all speed, squinting at the dim figures above the water. Is that the Penitent? But who is he confronting? He looks like a particularly ugly triton... he thought, hesitating for a moment, before soaring up out of the water and landing in a spray of salt water, shouting "You! Release that human and...by the teeth of Tlaloc, another of me?!" he turned to Bram "Penitent, what is the meaning of this?" he asked as he tensed for a spring at his bizarre double, claws hooked to tear and rend.

One of my people, I need not hold back he reminded himself grimly.

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Liz Moya was relaxing on one of the few stretches of beach open to the public in the upper-class neighborhood of North Bay. Class distinctions meant little to the shapeshifter from another world, but she was cognizant of a greater number of boats in the water, along with nicer cars in the parking lot, and the toys being played with looked both newer and more uniform, like they were from a single line of water toys instead of the ramshackle collections she'd observed elsewhere.

Liz was a careful observer of this curious creature that called itself humanity, which is why she was visiting the beach instead of on one of her usual routes in the city core. At the moment she appeared to be wearing knee-length shorts, flip-flops, and a bikini top, and she was slowly devouring an ice cream sandwich. The day was getting to its hottest point and even if the power of the Light kept it damaging her body directly, she still felt the heat of it. The pressure caused her attention to waver, and she started walking down the sand, away from the main concentration of people. Down the curve of the shoreline, she could make out what appeared to be a gathering of the sort of people endemic to the city: a large, grey-skinned figure with spikes protruding from his body, and a pair of even taller scaly figures also shaded red. It was possible these people were heroes, but it was equally likely that they meant the beach-goers harm. She frowned slightly and increased her pace towards them.

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"Something is happening and you don't know what it is… Do you, Mister Jones?"

The old song wafted through Jubatus' mind as he looked at the mugger he'd just apprehended. When Jube downshifted before the mugger's eyes, he'd intended to tell the perp to give up peacefully, but he hadn't even managed to get the first syllable out before the perp's face went bloodlessly white and he turned to run as if Jason Voorhees was after him—and his stench of sheer, raw, terror suggested that this wasn't any kind of trick.

A siren's wail heralded the approach of officers of the FCPD. Excellent. Now, what's this twit think he's doing? Jubatus thought to himself. Running from any cheetah isn't a smart move; running from me is just plain stupid. It was the work of an instant to catch up to the mugger and duct-tape his arms and legs together. Okay, perp's well and truly caught. Next move: Ask him W-T-F his malfunction is. But when the cheetah downshifted, the mugger screamed "Don't eat me!!" just before he passed out.

This wasn't the first time a criminal had reacted to Jubatus as though he were the subhuman predator he physically resembled—but it was among the most intense such reactions. And these oh-god-I'm-dead reactions had ramped up in the past couple of weeks, occurring decidedly more often than they used to…

Well, whatever. It wasn't like Jube could do anything more than he was already doing to convince people that he was as human as they were, in all ways beyond the purely biological. The police car screeched to a halt; two officers in STAR Squad body armor stepped out. "Hi, guys! He's—"

One of the armored officers squelched Jube's words: "Step away from the suspect."

"Not a problem," Jubatus said as he complied with the order. The silent officer took charge of the mugger. Oh, joy. Just my luck to get one of those STAR Squadders who really thinks superheroes are intruding on their turf. "Anything I—"

"Quiet," the same officer said—and this time, he unholstered his weapon, which he didn't quite aim at the feline.

Who pissed in his cornflakes this morning? Jubatus thought. Whatever. They clearly aren't interested in dealing with me on any level, so I'll just leave 'em to do their jobs here. "Later, guys." Whatever reply either STAR Squad member might have uttered, Jube was beyond earshot by the time it would otherwise have reached his ears.

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