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Speaking in Tongues(IC)

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GM

August 8th, 2012, 8.40 P.M.

Over the years the urban decay of the Southside district had become almost a byword for the darker side of Freedom City. Quite different from the relatively compact poverty and desperation in the Fens, the Southside rot had spread over several square miles and dug its fingers more subtly but no less intractably into the lives of the people, their shops and small factories that made up the heavily-populated area of the city. Most of the real danger was at night, obviously.

Feet and heart pounding furiously on the cracked pavement, the middle-aged man raced down the street, his dark skin deepening into a cold black as he raced through the shadow cast by a squat hardware store. Breathing was slightly painful by now, and he thanked his lucky stars that he had decided to keep practice running at all. Glancing behind him, he slammed heavily into a wall that hadn't been there before. Collapsing to the ground, his blurry vision cleared to behold a man broad and thick enough to actually be mistaken for a wall. Lifting the man up by his collar, he was tossed in a heap against the chain-link fence of a nearby alley, crashing his left shoulder painfully against the asphalt. With a groan, he began desperately "Please..I-I won't tell the cops abo-" a punch that painfully drove the breath from his lungs silenced him. "No. You won't" came the quiet reply, the mountain of a man lifting his prey up, aiming his fist for another blow, slamming one of his feet into the ground to steady himself for what looked like to be the mother of all punches...

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Suddenly, there was a bar of metal holding back the wall-like man's fist. Just past the edge of the fist rests the end of the bar, which apparently bears a shining spearpoint. On the other end of it is a man clad in white and silver, holy symbols and angelic script scattered about his armor. There's a sarcastic smile on his face as he speaks; his tone is friendly, and his words casual, but something in his bearing suggests this is not a man to trifle with.

"Well, maybe he will. I'm always curious about the goings-on in my neck of the woods. Besides, we live in America, don't we? Free speech, First Amendment to the Constitution, all that fun stuff. Don't you remember it from school?"

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Wave-Eye had strayed too close to the shore again. "Curse my weakening heart" he snarled to himself as he soared from rooftop to rooftop, tough claws digging shallow grooves into the roofs as he jumped. So far he had come across one human trying to attack and rob another, and had stopped the wretch by landing next to him and staring silently at the would-be robber. The sounds that he knew by now where humans calling for help, or fleeing from danger had been slowly driving him mad, and there were not monsters enough in the ocean to distract him from it.

Falling out of the sky and landing in the alley(which he filled a non-trivial portion of with his bulk) with a tremendous *THUD*, he observed the situation for a moment before turning to the white-clad spearman, a harsh gurgle coming from his jaws that turned into "Hail, I take it you have this well in hand?"his enormous black eyes staring flatly at the divine sonic champion.

The gigantic man dropped his victim and whipped his arm around the spear, stepping backwards to get a better look at the two interlopers. Clearly shaken, he still had the courage to adopt an aggressive stance and snarl "Don't get involved with this, super! This guy's not near as clean as he'll try and get you t'think. I'm just making sure a loose end of my employer gets tied up. You, and you" he pointed at Wave-Eye without daring to make eye contact "fishman, leave this to people who know what's going on, and clear out" he folded his arms and looked down at Gabriel, doing so with a 7ft tall triton being a little harder.

"I have never known a human who that would work on" the fishman said mildly as he reached out and helped the other man to his feet with a spined claw-like hand, leaning him against the adjacent wall of a hardware store. "Wave-Eye" he added courteously, by way of introduction to the spearman "I look forward to this man's humbling."

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Gabriel actually laughed at the thug's words.

"Seriously? Do you seriously not know who I am? I'm all over Southside, and I have been for a couple of years, Mr. Mountain. But to refresh your memory, the name's Gabriel."

The spear was now resting against Gabriel's shoulder, while his free hand pointed two fingers at the thug. The air around the fingers shimmered a bit, and a low hum could be heard.

"It's not my business whether he'll end up with some criminal charges attached to his name. It is my business that you not threaten him, and that he be able to pass on his hard-earned knowledge to the police.

But what you should really concern yourself with is the fact you don't scare me at all. I've taken down demons bigger than you,fought half a hundred undead warriors alongside a couple of necromancers, and faced down were-sharks, just to hit the tip of the iceberg. You're not even a speed-bump in my day, buddy. So stand down before I knock you senseless, or decide to reduce you to a vomiting wreck."

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GM

The huge man stared at Gabriel for a few seconds, jaw dropping at the brief speech and its more salient details. Stepping backwards he plowed unconsciously through the chain-link fence behind him, starting at the sound of tearing metal before saying "Yeah, screw that" and dashing off into the night, hurling himself into the air and soaring over the rooftops out of distance.

The older man stared at the shining figure who had scared off his tormentor "Ah-I..." he coughed heavily, still not recovered from having the air pushed straight out of his lungs. Collapsing partially to the ground despite his supporting wall, he managed to gasp out "Th-thank you sir. My name is..." he struggled to pull in another breath, finally getting his lungs working properly again and saying much more strongly "my name is Morris Cheval, I work for a small shipping company around here. A few weeks ago I heard about this new place that needed experience hands called 'Double-Decker', and I figured that I might as well get a little extra hours in. Times are pretty tight Mr...uh, Gabriel, you know?" he said glumly, apparently knowing a little more about the superhero than his would-be murderer did "I needed to pay for the rent somehow. Anyway," he sighed and sat down while still looking in gloomy awe at the divine champion "I go there for work, everything seemed alright for the first two weeks, then just a few days back these..people showed up. The woman who runs the place claimed they were heroes from the Midwest, but I was suspicious. I started hanging around after hours and listening to her talk with them in her office. Horribly, I was right: they're villains! They got driven out by some kind of hero group way west of here, and they're laying low while they blackmail the boss. In the meanwhile they're using her company to get themselves some supplies to make a doomsday device or whatever it is they want."

He hung his head "I was caught a few hours back, but managed to run. Then..this happened" he waved at the ruined fence nearby.

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Gabriel warily watched the large man vacate the premises, not entirely trusting him to not turn and attack, even with 2 heroes nearby. When the man was gone for sure, even to his ears, he closed his eyes for a moment in concentration. Wave-Eye might catch a very slight, brief hum in the air before Gabriel relaxed, the spear disappeared, and he walked over to listen to the victim speak. He nodded a couple of times while Morris spoke, sympathy leaking out on his face.

"Sounds worse than I thought. But it also sounds like you've done nothing wrong. Your boss has put herself in a bad position, but then again, it's hard to say "NO" to a group of villains. The police are on their way now, and I'll make sure they send an alert to the League and AEGIS. Doomsday weapons and villain groups tend to grab attention. Though..."

He looked thoughtful.

"Where are they holed up? I might try to get a little more information directly, get a feel for the level of threat out there."

He spent a moment making sure Morris would stay calm before turning and taking a few steps to his fellow hero down the alley. He reached out a hand while smiling in greeting.

"Nice to meet you, Wave-Eye. Bit surprising to see you inland, I suppose, but such is the life of a hero, eh? Name's Gabriel, if you didn't catch it before."

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Morris looked deeply relieved at Gabriel's words. "Thank you, sir. Uh, I mean Gabriel. You sure you're not a knight?" he asked tentatively. At the series of questions he winced "They live somewhere else in the Southside, I couldn't find out where, though. They were quite vague about their housing arrangements to each other. What you could do" he said eagerly, getting to his feet "is ask Mrs. Scallop a few questions. She owns Double Decker, she's the one they were blackmailing. I'm sure she would gladly accept any help in this, if they carry out their threats she'll be ruined!"

Wave-Eye somehow rolled his eyes, saying with a cold smirk "Or perhaps she will send us to those wolves, saving herself and getting into the graces of her blackmailers." To Gabriel he bowed with surprising grace and said more warmly "A pleasure to meet you as well, Gabriel. I assume your chosen title and your powers have some connection to the mighty spirit of whom so much is said?" he eyes and scales gleamed in the moonlight.

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"I'm afraid I'm not eligible for knighthood from England, and currently America doesn't hand them out."

He kept a straight face while he said this, but the humor sparkled in his eyes.

"Hm. Well, it's a lead nonetheless. I'll make sure she understands we'll be there to help."

He took a moment to get the address for Double Decker from Morris, before the police car arrived to help take him to safety.

"Go in peace, Morris."

He turned back to Wave-Eye, raising an eyebrow.

"Let's save the judgement one way or another until we talk to her. I've got a knack for figuring people out, so. As for having a connection to the "mighty spirit", if you mean the Archangel Gavriel, yes. He's the one who...Hm. I think the proper word is "unlocked" or "triggered" my powers; I had the potential before that, but Gavriel helped unleash it. It makes for a handy surprise when people try to shut my powers down by cutting off magical or divine sources, and I sound-blast them into unconsciousness anyways."

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Wave-Eye had loomed impassively in the background as the police had arrived, the beleaguered officers thanking Gabriel for his help, carefully ignoring the giant fishman standing behind him. Watching the cruiser drive off into the night for a few seconds before turning his attention again to the superhero. He listened with great interest and approval to the explanation for his powers, the idea of supernatural powers granting strength to mortals a very familiar concept to him. The chiding still rankled, though the fact that Gavriel was his patron kept a civil tongue in his head.

"Well, if a servant of the Logos thinks so well of you, I won't argue with that. I still do not trust this...Scallop. What do they have on her, I wonder?" He shrugged expansively, an easy feat for someone of his size "No matter. There is work to be done. Let us see this woman. Lead the way, Gabriel." Turning and leaping up onto the roof he watched for the shining champion to lead the way, the city still unfamiliar territory to him. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop he kept pace with the flyer, calling up to him "Tell me, what name did this..archangel Gavriel speak for?"

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Gabriel rose into the air and made sure not to outpace Wave-Eye's rooftop leaping. He shrugged at the other hero's question.

"Hard to say. Maybe they found evidence of illegal activity, maybe they threatened her life, or maybe her family's lives. We'll just have to figure it out when we talk to her, I suppose."

He had to process the next question for a moment, trying to decide how it was meant.

"I'm...not entirely sure what you're asking. I mean, he came to me as an Archangel of God after I'd prayed to be able to make a difference."

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Nochehuatl's face brightened as much as it could "Ah! 'God' makes this easier than I expected. One of the monotheistic faiths, speaking the title freely...you are a Christian, Gabriel? They seem to dominate this age, I have heard that they reach across the globe. It was not so in my mother's day. Ah well" he shrugged as he leaped the gap between two roofs, scraping the surface as he skidded to a halt on his landing. Taking a moment to get his bearings he sped on, following the glowing figure exactly.

"Tell me, why did you need to pray? I thought your race already had free will? Did you just need the power to change some wrong?" he ran easily along "Tritons like me, we are not permitted to ask the High Ones for aid."

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Gabriel was a bit taken aback by the odd way Wave-Eye discussed things. He was slow to respond, not wishing to turn things into an over-long lecture, but also wishing to make clear his thoughts and beliefs.

"Ah, yes. I'm Catholic, specifically. And yes, Christianity is one of the largest faiths in the current world, though numerically there are a couple others in the same general league. I'm not sure how accurate it is to say they "dominate", though.

As for why I pray? It's not about whether or not we have free will, or even a slot-machine approach to power. It's about communication with God, and it's as much about how it changes me as anything else."

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"I do not know what a slot machine is. I take it it involves gambling somehow, which fits what you were saying well enough" Wave-Eye said, still speaking loudly on the presumption that Gabriel needed the extra volume to make out his words. "Communication with a god, trying to speak to them before being called upon...that still is wholly alien to me. Most of the High Ones stood for their order above anything else. Approaching them out of turn as anything but a subservient was met with high penalties. I guided enough young souls to the Tlalocan to know that much. " his huge eyes swung up to to the sonic champion of the holy word "Such power as you have certainly sounds like it would change someone. Has it?"

His tireless legs pounded on, sending him over a tiled roof onto a flatter one with a scrape of nails on concrete.

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"Well, it was more the idea of "put a coin in, pull a lever, get something out", but that works too. My point was that, for me, it's not about "give Prayer 1 for Result A" or some such. It's about communication and relationship. That's what it's always been about with Jehovah. Even when things were...stricter..prayer was always welcomed and even encouraged. I can't imagine being struck down for praying."

He managed not to say 'it sounds horrible', but the implication was there. At the question of power changing him, he was silent for a bit.

"Somewhat. Mostly it's given me a much broader sense of responsibility. Before, I was just an "average" person whose highest goal was to help people in rather mundane ways. Now I'm part of the Freedom League, and I daily end up saving lives. But my power could be misused, so I constantly check myself to make sure I'm not misusing it. It's a burden, but it's one I bear gladly."

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'...I never thought of it like that. None of the drowned..they never said anything like that either'

"I understand what you speak. It was..perhaps not the kindest way of treating u-of treating you, I should say. I am glad to hear you have welcomed your gifts so thoughtfully, Gabriel, and that the giver was so generous. But why have communication and relationships with beings that, by their very nature, you cannot understand? I never understood my mother, the Queen of All Oceans Chalchiuhtlicue of the Jade Skirt, because she stood on a higher plane than I and saw farther than many even among the Teotl. She never loved me, though as her child I of course adored her, and I was never less worthy because of it. In the underground lakes that were lost in the Shift of the Great Walls, we played among her watery train, hundreds of us tritons. She never smiled or frowned once, though we all sensed her approval or her anger..." lost in the reverie, Wave-Eye nearly missed his footing and shot forward with a sharp hiss from the roof, claws scrabbling on the building concrete before he hauled himself up and over the lip, where he once again began running, casting an apologetic look up at the other hero

"Agh! I yammer, and those years are lost. I ask your pardon, Gabriel. How close are we to the Double Decker and Mrs. Scallop?"

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"To whom much is given, much is required. Words in the Scriptures I follow, and generally good words to live by. I've been generously gifted, but I should be generous in return.

As for why? Because, while I can't fully understand Him, I can to a degree. And He wants us to. It's not a one-way street by any means."

He smiled at the thought, but his face shifted to alarm when Wave-Eye fell. The triton caught himself before Gabriel's aid was needed, but perhaps it was best to focus on the matter at hand. He took his bearings and slowed to a stop a couple buildings down, waiting for Wave-Eye to stop as well. He pointed as he spoke.

"Over there. We made good time. Looks like they caught Morris pretty quickly. Best to keep your guard up; no telling how many of them are in there, or how strong they might be. Hm. I'm not terribly good at stealth myself. Might be best to just walk up to the front door and knock."

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GM

The Double Decker turned out to be two buildings. An administrations office and a depot for trucks, with the office partially overlapping the depot and garage. It was mostly in red, with a cartoonish double-decker English bus on one of the walls, its apparent insignia.

A knock on the glass and steel door was answered by a chipper security guard with bulging arms and twinkling brown eyes. Through the door he called out "Hello there, Gabriel! You need something? We're just about to change the shift here so I can't talk long, sorry" he looked apologetically at him, glancing nervously at the fishman lurking in the background "Er, we didn't lose someone, did we?" he asked anxiously.

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"Hello! Well, if at all possible, I would like to request to speak with Mrs. Scallop. Nothing serious, just a few questions. I like to keep my ear to the ground here in Southside. One of your employees was accosted on his way home, and I helped him out of his sticky situation; Mr. Morris is fine, just giving his statement to law enforcement.. I thought she'd like to know the details, and I can see if there's something I can do to prevent future issues along those lines."

Gabriel was calm and confident. He hoped the man at the door was a regular guard, and not someone from this villain group "undercover". Still, if he was, the hero in white felt he had a good chance of things...

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GM

"That's great to hear! I'd heard that old Morry had gone running off for some reason, glad to hear he's okay."

With a sigh of relief the security guard nodded and opened the door for the two supers. "Come on in, Gabriel. She's just upstairs and through the first door on your left. Evening..uh..sir?" he offered nervously to Wave-Eye as the duo walked in, shutting and locking the door behind them before returning to his post with a wave to the Southside hero. The place was alive even at that late hour, the sounds of loading and unloading audible at least dimly throughout the building.

Mrs. F. Scallop's office was easy to find, the small nameplate on the walnut door being the biggest clue. Knocking on it got a dispassionate and distracted "Come in!"

A thickset and rather powerfully-built African-American woman turned out to own the name in question, sitting behind a stout desk and busily checking over a large stack of delivery orders, matching them against the files displayed on her computer's monitor. With a dour look up at the pair she asked crisply "Evening gentlemen. To what do I owe this?"

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Gabriel nodded his thanks to the security guard.

"My thanks, sir."

He continued in thoughtful silence until they reached the office. He waited until Wave-Eye was inside, then closed the door. A slightly sad look crossed his face as he spoke.

"Ma'am, we know about what's going on here. We're here to help. One Mr. Morris was being accosted by a gentleman of dubious legality a few blocks away. Once I'd settled that dispute with some diplomacy, I asked him what had brought about the confrontation. He explained that your company has been beset by persons of ill repute, low character, and rather more ability than the average man or woman. I'm choosing to think the best of you, that you're in an impossible situation and have simply tried to survive what is likely no small number of threats."

He smiled then, and made a quick sweeping gesture.

"I'd like to help you with all of this, as would my companion, Wave-Eye here. All we require is whatever information you have on hand. If worse comes to worst, I have friends I can call for help who can, shall we say, level the playing field. But the first step must be yours."

He sat down in a free chair, folding his hands in his lap and waiting patiently for Mrs. Scallop to speak.

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Wave-Eye had followed close behind Gabriel, creating a powerful and rather humorous contrast between the handsome, trim and white-clad sound controller and the hulking red-scaled monster wearing bright bronze armor. He was quite cramped in the human-sized hallways and doorways, needing to crouch just to get up the stairs at first. The smell alone was strange to him; the acrid scent of drywall, the chemicals suffusing the carpets, the low presence of dry rot and mildew in the upper recesses where few bothered to tread. After the first blush of novelty with the new developments of human architecture Wave-Eye decided quite casually, waiting behind the terrifyingly thin door and walls, with the vibrations of the trucks, music and all else coursing through the building, that he hated this place.

'No stone, no brick, no smell of earth and too far from the sea. I could never stand this place' he thought dourly, glancing around at the cramped and low-ceilinged office as they entered. He stood impassively by and let Gabriel deal with his kind without interruption, knowing that he wouldn't do much good in delicate things like.

'Perfect place for an ambush' he thought suddenly, looking at the close walls.

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GM

Mrs. Scallop's blase and unconcerned face underwent a significant change as Gabriel spoke, and she slowly put down the papers and looked more and more closely at the purely-dressed hero. When he concluded, there was a pregnant silence before she answered hesitantly. looking him over with great care.

"Sir, I appreciate your offer to help, but I think you've gotten into this situation a little too quickly" tapping the button on her monitor that caused it to go dark, she folded her hands, put her elbows on the table and rested her chin on the knuckles, going on to say

"You see, my late husband, Jason Scallop, got much of the money that started Double Decker from this gang of super-powered criminals back West, a gang called the 'Wreckers'. Not the most bright or pleasant bunch, but they managed to build up a concrete enough criminal empire stretching from Colorado to Mississippi. As you might expect, much of the money that this company makes has gone into paying off the rather horrific debts we-that Jason accrued. Only this month, ten years after the business started, have I finally managed to pay the final installment to the Wreckers. Jason killed himself five years ago, thinking that it would be impossible to ever make up the difference which reached to the tens of millions." She looked over at her window with a thoughtful expression "I would guess Morris heard the last few meetings and assumed the worst" she smiled pleasantly at the pair, leaning back from the desk and tapping the power button again "I assure you Gabriel, everything is now finished with. The Wreckers will likely not stick around to pick fights with a city like this and return to the Midwest, where I am sure there are plenty of other supers to deal with them."

She nodded to the door "I appreciate your concern, but this time your gallantry and..Wave-Eye, was it? Your and Wave-Eye's is not required"

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Gabriel sat still for a few moments, seeming mulling over their hostess's words. In reality, he was concentrating on adjusting his powers. He had some suspicions, and they needed to be confirmed or denied. His voice suddenly spoke in Wave-Eye's ears, a voice Mrs. Scallop couldn't hear, and that his lips weren't moving to produce.

--Please don't react; you're the only one who can hear me. Something's going on. I'd like to request you go out to the hallway, but no further. I fear these 'Wreckers' may be close by, but I'd like to shake things up on them a bit. I'll signal you when to re-enter; unless it's extremely urgent, please don't break anything if possible. Dramatic entrances should be saved for only the choicest of occasions.--

Wave-Eye could hear the amused smirk in Gabriel's voice, despite the man's face remaining impassive.

Even as he spoke to his fellow hero, Gabriel extended his hearing around them, outside the walls of the room he sat in. He paid particular attention to the wall Scallop had glanced toward more than once. Something told him all was not what met the eye. A sympathetic look crossed his face.

"I'm extremely sorry to hear about your husband, Ma'am. I'm sure he'd be proud of what you've accomplished here. My companion will start heading out. Perhaps it would be wise to let me know what I should communicate to law enforcement? I'm afraid I made sure Mr. Morris went to them to communicate what was going on. Perhaps we can determine a way to make sure everyone comes out happy?"

--Now only you can hear me, Mrs. Scallop. Please do not panic. I wish to help. I am a member of the Freedom League. I have faced worse than what these Wreckers can offer, and I'm sure we can take care of them for you. I am asking you again, please help me. If not for your sake, then for the sake of your employees. I'm here for them, not you. Please help me take care of these people; I don't want them in my city.--

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--Please don't react; you're the only one who can hear me. Something's going on. I'd like to request you go out to the hallway, but no further. I fear these 'Wreckers' may be close by, but I'd like to shake things up on them a bit. I'll signal you when to re-enter; unless it's extremely urgent, please don't break anything if possible. Dramatic entrances should be saved for only the choicest of occasions.--

'Ah, of course that would be the case. Even a deal so simple as this is fraught with as much treachery as the interplay of the marine nations was' Wave-Eye thought sourly, saying aloud "I tire of this, I will wait outside. Let me know when you have done, Gabriel" he added to the sonic champion, giving him a light eyeroll in response to his implied smirk. 'Few times when such entrances are the choicest one can make.'

He carried his vast bulk backwards out the doorway, stooping under the low wooden arch and, feeling the approach of footsteps, weaving easily around a passing harried officer worker, who gave him a startled look and dashed on by. With a snort he leaned against the wall, careful not to rest his full weight on it, in case it gave way. He waited for Gabriel's signal, closing his eyes and focusing on the pulses of sound vibrating through the floor and walls...

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GM

"Don't trip any of my assistants, Mr. Wave-Eye" the owner of the Double Decker called after the retreating bulk lightly.

An edge of unease crept into Mrs. Scallop's voice as she answered "Oh, you told Morris to do that? A shame, that will take a while to clear up" she now looked fully at the wall to her right, taking one of the orders from the sheet and beginning to write on it rapidly with a pen as she spoke "Best thing to do would be to just come clean about it. I'll tell them about how it happened, and if they can do it they're welcome to try and catch the Wreckers, though I dare say by now they're getting close to the state border" she held up the sheet, on which was written Four of them on the other side.

She looked pleadingly at Gabriel as she went on blandly

"Will that do?"

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