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The Fourth Freedom(IC)

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The Fens, 4871 Stanwick St., September 8th, 11.45 P.M.

Farridah Sallhid locked the door of the small corner store behind himself, humming quietly as the key turned smartly with a *click*. It had been a good day, he decided. Twenty new customers, all but two had bought something, most of them had been open to conversation. 'Maybe my father was wrong?' he thought to himself, 'Maybe I can make enough here to get a place ready for them?' Turning around, he took a few seconds to realize the knife held against his chest. Looking up, he saw the twelve faces gleaming in the stark lamplight. He stepped backwards only a single step before coming up against the hard glass of the door, feeling the knob dig into his side as his eyes widened with understanding and terror.

Each of the men had the tattoos and other signs of the infamous Crusaders. He suddenly had a twisted vision of the Arabic over his door being like the opposite of the lamb's blood in the story one of his Jewish friends had told him. They were savoring the moment, but for how lo-he took a deep breath and shouted

"SOMEBODY, PLEASE, HELP ME!!"

'And now I will die.'

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Morgan hefted his bag yet again, resisting the urge to swear volubly at the vagaries of fate that had knocked him into this situation. Okay, so he's working on first assignment of the year. Good. He hears a knock on the window. Strange, but not so unreal. Then he's talking to a small wind sylph who knows an embodiment of a brick tenement building who's heard from a sewer goblin that the Crusaders are planning to beat up a bunch of the inhabitants of said building.

Aaaand that's about where his evening went from peaceful to pacing around dark alleyways wishing he had a snack.

Still, wasn't all bad. He'd heard of the Crusaders - racist bunch of scumbags. Sylph hadn't been too particular on the numbers, but she'd sworn up and down the clever and dangerous Crow could easily send those fell mountebanks packing to whatever dank hole they crawled from. Her words, not his. Personally, he was more inclined to send them not so much to a familiar dark hole, but a prison-like dark hole. Preferably in the back of a paddywagon. Besides, a bit of old-school night patrol was just what the doctor ordered. Besides, they were thugs! Dime a dozen muscleheads with more hyperbole than brains - trash them, find who gave the orders, and then send him to jail and keep those families from getting their home torched. Or worse.

Unfortunately - that's where the best laid plans could go...well...awry.

Crowe had just emerged from an alleyway when three highly unpleasant things happened. One, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Split second, he whirled and got a full view of unpleasant thing number two. A pack of men. Twelve men. Twelve men with tats, and hoods, and...and him not with his coat on. Morgan made to duck into the alley. And then got the third unpleasant thing.

He saw the knife. And the man screaming for help.

Didn't even take a decision. A streak of light lanced out of the darkness, and a ringing of metal on metal as a matte-black throwing knife bounced off the serrated blade in the thug's hand, sending it crashing to the ground and clattering away. If eyes turned to it's source, they saw a young man outright charging towards the thugs, a throwing knife in each hand - held in reverse-grip. Reckless, but given his options...

...bugger. "Get inside, now! RUN!"

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Lilian's time in Freedom City so far has been great. She's moved into the West End, to a small Brazilian neighborhood. The West End is so ethnically diverse, if you walked long enough you could find anyone who could speak your language. Still, Lilian was proud of her little nook. She was proud of her job also. Working at a bookstore was helping her learn things for school. That's another thing she was proud of, school. Everything was going according to plan. She would have her GED soon enough.

Lilian had become somewhat of a minor celebrity in her neighborhood. It's very hard to hide her powers so she gets a lot of questions. She also gets a lot of requests. Her door is regularly lined with notes. Some want minor things done. "I roofed my frisbee, can you get it?". Some want damn near impossible things done. "Go beat up the bullies who make fun of me.". Though there was this one time where someone was waiting on her.

An elderly woman by the name of Zita, who lived two appartments down from Lilian, wanted her to check on her grandbabies living in The Fens. Zita had heard there was gang type violence going on over there, but this time her grandchildren had actually been tipped off about an attack by some group named The Crusaders. Zita explained that The Crusaders were no ordinary gang they were a bunch of white people who hated anyone not white. Lilian too Zita's plea to heart and said she would investigate personally.

That night around 10 o'clock, Lilian became Tenebrous. The costume was pretty generic, but it was her costume. She was proud of it. Off into the air towards The Fens she went. Though, an hour had past since she started searching and nothing had came up. She was wondering if this was the wrong night. Or worse, if she had missed the whole thing. Her reluctance was shattered when she heard a scream for help! Tenebroud flew into action! The was a good dozen of them there! Also there was another hero!

Tenebrous followed up Crow's daring swoop with a dark blast at the mugger. "You pick the wrong night, crackheads," Tenebrous proclaimed triumphantly, "Now you face Tenebrous, Lady of Darkness." She looked to Crow and then back to the group, "Also that man."

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The King of Suits had been half a block away when the scream for help had rent the air, and had almost stopped short of catching a purse-snatcher with shock. Hastily collaring the thief, he had tossed the purse to its rightful and grateful owner with only a furious shout of "For God's sake, call the police!" to her before jumping up into the air and grappling to the top of a nearby tenement building. Upon reaching it he raced off towards Farridah's shop, a terrified premonition rising in his brain as he ran. 'Don't let me be too late don't let me be too late...' he cleared the distance between the housing complex and the dull grey porn shop's roof, the distant white on green sign already visible 'ohpleaseohpleasepleasepleaseno' he hurled himself off of it, and beheld the Crusaders, with the shopowner at knife-point! 'NO'

He barely had the presence of mind the use the grapple gun to send himself whirring through the air into their midst, and on his way down the situation changed completely. Before his astonished eye, the knife-wielder's weapon was sent clattering to the ground by some kid with knives of his own! '...Wait...' Then he was blasted away by a stream of pure darkness from a...well-developed woman in a black bodysuit and domino mask! '...Ah, this...this is'

He landed with a sharp thud of his boots on the pavement, head bowed, one hand on the ground to steady himself, the other already reaching for the ram gauntlet at his belt, the red and black cape swirling around his armored costume like the wings of a vast bird. Rising, he slid the gauntlet onto his hand and turned slowly, gathering his wrath, his lips above his beard pulled back into a furious grimace. Turning to face Farridah he said sharply "Mr. Sallhid, do as the young man says. Get out of danger." Turning on his heel he looked at the Crusaders, blue eyes gleaming with a blazing anger. "Prepare yourselves for defeat!" he shouted, lunging forward and slamming the gauntlet into the closest of the gang members, pulling sharply on the triggers over his palm that sent the short ram forward with tremendous force! As they fell to the ground, he tossed it further back on his arm, punching and striking two more to the ground in groaning heaps, one of them landing painfully on their hidden gun.

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Heroes were popping out of the woodworks, it seemed, but that didn't deter Tenebrous from the fight. Zita's grandbabies would be safe. She whistled down to the group of Crusaders, "It seems like you are surrounded." She grinned, "Now you have two option. You can either run away like the scared little boys you are or you can end up like that guy," she points to the one she knocked silly, "or those guys," she motions to the ones King of Suits put down, "Or those guys." Tenebrous targets four of the Crusaders standing all pretty in a row. Black beams fall on their heads like some entropic rain.

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At the sudden emergence of two other heroes, Morgan immediately checked himself; leaping sideways and out of the line of fire as the rain of blasts hit dirt. Back to a small door culvert, out of sight for a moment. Reassess the situation - the teen subsumed his mind into the Crow identity for the time being. Two unidentified figures, both heroic in nature; or at least they dress the part. One an energy wielder, other using unidentified tech...

Wait...

A certain shiver up the spine. A raising of hackles. A coldness rushing through the veins.

It was familiar.

And it wasn't a pleasant familiarity.

Reassess later - twelve opponents, eight currently unconscious and requiring medical attention. Four remaining. All armed. Firearms were present. First priority, disarm, then interrogate. The intelligence on Crusader numbers was faulty - he needed better info.

Quick-as-you-blink, as the remaining Crusaders were struggling to regroup and retaliate, that coated figure leapt sideways once again from the small culvert; four shining streaks flying forward from his hands and rebounding off the alley walls. Once, twice, three times, four - impacts and howls of pain as blunt force trauma caused pistols and knives to hit the ground. The hooded teen rolled on his shoulder and came up to his feet in a feral posture, another quartet of knives held between his fingers - and all of them could feel a cold stare pierce them from under that hood.

"Surrender." He said quietly. One word - he didn't need any more.

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Tenebrous watched as the plain clothes hero easily disarmed the rest of the standing Crusaders. She was about to raid down on them again, but they looked like they wanted to surrender. Which was good, but was that all of them? Twelve people on one guy? That didn't even look like Zita's grandchild they were attacking. She flew downwards, sstill keeping her guard up and walked towards the two other. "Good evening," she curtsied to King of Suits then to Crow. Looking at Crow with a smile, she crossed her arms, "I am assuming you know my name as I shout it out when you took the first Crusader's knife? But then I do not have your name," she looked over to King, "or your name either." She looked around defensively as the others tied up the criminals, as if she was expecting more to pop out at any moment. "My name is Tenebrous, Lady of Darkness." She smiled at Crow again, "You can call me Lilian."

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GM

The small group of Crusaders that had remained standing after the flaring scourge of entropy had descended upon them and had their weapons knocked clean out of their hands quickly raised them heedless of the thin trickles of blood running down their arms from small nicks. "W' surrender!" one of them shouted, bald and terrified in the cold light of the streetlamp "Don't kill us, please!"

"I don't think they deserve it, sirs and madam" Farridah declared, closing the door behind him that he had only gotten halfway open in the short battle "but they did only threaten me. I will call the police, let them know they need to send some people to clean up the filth in front of my store" with that he walked inside, slamming it shut behind himself as he rang the local station.

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"An excellent idea, Mr. Sallhid"

Tossing the ram gauntlet back onto their space on his belt with a clack of metal on metal, the King of Suits bowed politely to the others, calmly producing handcuffs from a loop on his belt that he began to industriously bind the hands of the Crusaders with. To Tenebrous he said conversationally "A pleasure to meet you, Madame Lillian. I am the King of Suits, a local protector of this area. I'll call you Tenebrous if you have no objection" he smiled at her warmly, his earlier fury having melted away entirely. "I prefer not to use fellow crime-fighter's real names in this line of work. It carries rather profound risks to us, after all. You, young man" he called over cheerily, his blue eyes switching to Morgan "what do you call yourself? Something that strikes terror into the hearts of criminals, I presume?"

With a click the last of the gang members was 'cuffed, and he dragged the last unfortunate over to the other two heroes. "Now then, I have no idea how we all got here at the same time, but I have never questioned Heaven too closely. I will have to find out what these..men were planning," he glanced grimly at the cowering gangster in his iron grip "and if any other such attacks are in the cards. If either of you wish to help, I would be honored"

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Crow didn't say a word to either of them; not trusting an association of voice to clothes. He should have been in costume from the start - stupid error. Really stupid error; came within an ace of ending up on the floor of this alley with a good few stab wounds. No question that Morgan was good, but twelve on one? Those were odds to balk at. Still would have done it anyway, keep the unlucky sonofagun from getting shanked in a dark alley, but...Morgan clamped down hard on a shivering sensation that began climbing up his spine. Price of doing business, maybe - but being reminded of your own mortality was never pleasant.

Instead, he gave the young lady that had saved his arse a nod; a slight sense of thanks from it; and without a word he dropped the bag and bent over it. Quick, deft movements; doffing the pea coat and revealing the front of the black hoodie - an emblem of a bird in flight emblazoned on the chest. A greatcoat covered in strange designs of silver thread, gleaming in the streetlight's illumination; that hung down to the ankles was swung over his shoulders and his arms were thrust through the sleeves, and a strangely shaped black object was pulled from an interior pocket and pushed under the hood. When the figure turned to face them, Tenebrous and the King of Suits got a clearer view of the features under the hood - or rather what was now covering them. A black iron mask with a slight beak over the nose - strange whorls and designs along the edging.

"Crow." He said somewhat monosyllabically. "Bird of prey, hunting for some lowlives. These looked as good as any." A breath. Consideration. "Timing was excellent on assistance. Will repay in kind. Thank you."

The blank mask inclined to both of them now, and then without another word turned to face the Crusader in King's grip. "We have questions. You have answers. I advise you choose your next words with exceptional care."

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GM

It took the Crusader member only a few seconds of looking from the black man with the cowl and vicious weapons, the Hispanic woman in black that used black rays of horror that seemed to sap the life out of people, to the weird knife-wielding kid in the iron mask to blurt out to Crow "I-I'll tell you! I'll tell you everything, just don't hurt me!" straining against the tight grip on his collar he babbled "We weren't gonna hurt the guy too bad, just scare him! People like him don't belong here, me and the guys, we-we just wanted to get 'im to leave!"

He looked imploringly up at Morgan "I'm telling the truth! Us in the Crusaders, we're not murderers!"

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Tenebrous nodded to King of Suits. She didn't expect others to give their real names. She was just giving the heroic citizen a bit more leeway in the department of names. Though it seemed this citizen was more than met the eye. After Crow was suited up and introduced himself, she grinned, "It is nice of you to join us, Crow." She looked to both men, "Well, it look like we have a neighborhood watch. I think you are in The Fens for the same reason as I? Nasty hateful people doing nasty hateful things?" She pointed to the ground, "Like these fellows."

Tenebrous faced the Crusader after he cried out for mercy. Her outline sucked in more light than usual as she floated enough to see the man eye to eye, "He does belong here though. He pay his rent and bills just like any other. We all deserve a chance, right? No matter who we are. As long as we don't hurt anyone not hurting anyone else!" She sighed and pulled her hair back, stepping away from the Crusader. A thought ran through her mind like a light bulb going off. She turned back to the talkative Crusader, "How many groups of you are out here tonight? Where are the rest of you?"

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Staring into the eyes of the creature before him that seemed to consume the light around them, the Crusader felt a horrible sensation of unreality, like when you realize that you're in a horrible dream, and that doesn't do you a bit of good. "There was only us, I swear! None of the other guys were up to it, they wanted to wait for a better time, when they could be sure they wouldn't get caught like during an attack by Sky Lord or something. The rest of us are..they're.." a sudden look of defiance came over his face "No, I won't give 'em away. You can do what you want to me, I won't betray them to you!"

He sounded much surer than he looked.

Farridah came out of the shop with a jangle of the bell, looking not a little pleased at the sight that met his eyes "Commendable, wretch" he told the Crusader brightly "but I don't think your honor counts for much when it doesn't frown on attacking unarmed men for the crime of darker skin and a different birthplace." To the heroes he said "I have called the police, they will be here shortly, and I think they will want me as a witness, so I will say here until they arrive." Sitting down on the sidewalk, he settled in to wait and watch.

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Crow's face below the mask and hood were quite expressionless. He looked between Tenebr-mental apologies, Lillian and the King for a moment, then back at the Crusader. Without warning, a hand snapped out and seized the front of the Crusader's shirt, dragging him forward; strength belying the teenage hero's height. Dragging the racist thug inexorably forward, Crow moved to the side of the alleyway, picked the man up rather lightly...

And then just hucked him into a thoroughly unpleasant-looking dumpster sitting wide open. There were flies around it. And a very particular odor.

Then one moment the black-clad hero was standing in front of the dumpster, the next he was standing on the edge of the dumpster's lid, closing it. It sealed with a mighty slam, and then with a truly peaceable look on his face he crossed his legs under him, sitting in a lotus position atop the steel construct.

"Thirty seconds."

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Blinking in surprise at Crow's rapid takeover of the Crusader, the King of Suits wondered anxiously if he had accidentally triggered some deep hatred in the boy "I take it you have some experience with this work?" he asked mildly, wandering closer with long steps to the dumpster. "I would speak up, if I were you!" he called down to the Crusader "Your fellows and then your name would be a good start. We can move on from there" he smiled brightly at Morgan "I don't think it will take him long to see reason" he said confidently, resting against the wall beside the trash container that, like all other such things in the Fens, was utterly filthy at all times('Except late Autumn, it seems').

"So, Tenebrous, I take it you came here quite by accident, heard the call for help from the good Mr. Sallhid"(he gestured respectfully to the shopkeepr) "and leaped to his assistance? I was patrolling just down the block when i heard the cry" he jerked his head in the southerly direction that he had been just a few minutes before.

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"Well, it look like we have plenty of witnesses," Tenebrous smiled at Farridah. Watching Crow drag the conscious Crusader over to the giant trashbin and then huck him in it was something she'd call a lesson. Sure their were nice ways to go about things, but some needed less social finesse. Taking stock of Crow, he seemed to be in the same age bracket as her. Maybe they could compare notes after this thing is done?

Tenebrous turned to King of Suits when he addressed her and shook her head. "No, actually I am here on 'official business'. Someone tip me off about racial gang violence. I came here to investigate. I really do not know this city that well, but I have good tracking skills. It is a big place here." She stopped talking and smiled, "Sorry about that, I am rambling."

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His eyes were closed under the mask, but his hearing was sharp. The hands, now bereft of knives (where had they gone? Now you see them now you don't...), rested on his knees - he seemed quite inured to the banging sounds and muffled curses coming from the interior. Even if he did bounce once or twice from particularly dedicated bashes to the lid of the dumpster.

Crow spoke slowly - placidly. Though his tone was cut with cold; in this situation, Morgan Crowe was sure as hell not at home. Crow was. Stick to the persona - and hope this Crusader told his friends. "If he doesn't see reason, I have other methods." None that immediately sprang to mind, granted, and even with the frightening demeanor he stuck to he was decidedly unwilling to try messing with a person's brain using magic. Parkhurst and Archer had drilled that into his mind - magic needed responsibility. Still, he could get inventive.

"Same deal. Heard through certain elements-" Quite literally. "there was trouble in the offing. Don't like it when things like this come knocking in my town." The cold mask faced each of the conscious and unconscious Crusaders in turn. "Makes me...irritable."

The last word was punctuated by a light tap to the top of the dumpster.

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"Same deal. Heard through certain elements-" Quite literally. "there was trouble in the offing. Don't like it when things like this come knocking in my town." The cold mask faced each of the conscious and unconscious Crusaders in turn. "Makes me...irritable."

Marceau sought hard not to wince 'Well, that was a terrible plan of mine. Hopefully this man will talk quickly enough. Young people shouldn't have to be so...driven...'

"Indeed? I would be deeply grateful if you would share what you know, as this is the first I have heard about this." he turned his bright blue eyes to Tenebrous, adding kindly "Don't worry, give it a few months, take time to read the maps once in a while, you should learn the ins and outs of this place quite easily. I was an immigrant once too, a few years back. I was in precisely the same situation. About your informant.." he glanced sharply at the dumpster as it vibrated with a particularly furious onslaught, and the Crusader within shouted faintly "Lemme out! I'll talk, I'll talk!" the King of Suits smiled broadly, nodding to the masked youth "If you would do the honors, Crow. Anyway, Tenebrous, did your informant mention anything specific? Any extra details could be tremendously helpful." He grinned winningly, and not a little hopefully, from under his mask.

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"Nothing specific, actually," Tenebrous shook her head, "I was given an address and some directions. This place isn't even near the place I was told to go." She smiled big, "I guess we head them off at the pass?" She chuckled and looked over to Crow, "Well, that is certainly one way to deal with things." She floated in a lotus style position as she watched the interrogation. "The Freedom League says it takes all kinds," she nodded, "but to not go overboard." She sighed a little bit confused, "I know I have my stopping point. What about this guy?"

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"Restraint is wise. Making the criminal element think you don't have it?" He kicked the spot where the dumpstered Crusader had bashed, and shrugged. "Also wise."

His movements were swift in reply, though - pushing up the lid with a light jerk and yanking the (now rather rank) thug out from amidst his newfound smelly peers, dumping him rather unceremoniously on the ground in front of the three of them. Crow held the lid up with one hand then, the other being placed in a pocket; and turned the cold, iron glare on the man now joyously celebrating that which many often take for granted - namely fresh, clean air. His tone, unlike his stare, was actually very polite.

"Do continue, please. You have our full attention."

He highly doubted the thug wanted it.

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GM

Looking thoroughly wretched after his brief imprisonment in the dumpster, the Crusader made a listless attempt to clean off some of the garbage that had gotten stuck to him and his clothes, realized it was hopeless, turned shamefacedly to Crow and began in a low, defeated voice.

"I'm Frank Jones. There are about five other groups scheduled to attack later tonight when we were supposed to get back. They're hiding out in the basement of an apartment building a mile west of here, it's called the 'Blanche Heights'. Old place built in the 20's, its name in a huge wire thing on the roof, can't miss it." Glancing away from Crow's iron face and into the impassive eyes of Farridah he shuddered and hurriedly went on "There's maybe ten guns for all of us, mostly knives. The real threat are these eight big guys. The big guys were our secret weapon, Max-users or something. They were gonna fend off any supers or masks we ran into crazy enough to try and police the Fens. Then there's.." his voice sank to a whisper that the King of Suits and Tenebrous could barely hear "...The White Knight. He's the brains behind the scheme: we were to rough up the people, he'd torch and smash their places. He said it would drive out the-" he launched into a brief listing of slurs describing the manifold nationalities and ethnic groups this operation was supposed to drive from the city, with especial note of the Hispanics in West End and the African-Americans in Lincoln who were the primary target of the White Knight's fury. "...and the Jews in Midtown. He really wants them gone." Frank concluded at last, bringing the racist list to a close. He cringed at the look in the eyes of his captors, mumbling "Don't hit me."

Farridah had produced a slim pipe from one of his pockets, and was quietly smoking. The incense-like smoke curling into the air.

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Tenebrous cocked her head to the side when she heard the name White Knight. Where had she heard that name before? She did a squuint of remembering. The only thing she COULD remember is that he was a racist American, possibly with superpowers? He gets ran out of The Fens every now and then. "Well, why have they not locked this guy away for good," she asked thinking out loud. "He is obviously harmful if he can get that many people under his control." Tenebrous pondered as she floated in her lotus position. She snapped out of her pondering when she realized that those addresses were close to or right on where she was supposed to be now! "Crow! King! We must hustle! My mission is where those fools are!"

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Crow held up a hand where Tenebrous could see it, a gesture meant to stop her cold as he did some swift mental calculations. Five times twelve... "Sixty on three. An estimate." He said quietly. Though the assumption he'd be going with them was never in question. "Odds to baulk at, especially as a frontal assault. Add that five of them are close to metahumans, and one is a hellfire-powered threat, and going straight in would be extremely...unwise."

A breath - he mentally tallied their assets and looked at each of them in kind, then at the thugs. "...can discuss capabilities en route to the building, out of thug earshot. One moment." The teenage hero rounded on the thug, picking him up and dusting him off before putting the man's back to the dumpster. And made a...

Polite request.

"Describe the hideout in as much detail as you can. Back entrances. Side entrances. Escape routes. Garages with getaway vehicles. Everything you know. If you don't know, kindly point out someone who will."

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"Well, why have they not locked this guy away for good," she asked thinking out loud. "He is obviously harmful if he can get that many people under his control."

The King of Suits winced at that. He knew that problem all too well. "In truth, that is not possible, Tenebrous. To make a prison totally inescapable is currently beyond anyone's competency save God's. There are too many things that can go wrong even before they are incarcerated. The vehicle carrying them could be hijacked, they could be teleported out, they could leave a perfect duplicate of themselves in the hands of the police while they go on their merry way, or even just run off after putting people in such danger that it would be irresponsible to chase after them. Catching the sorts of people who make the lives of superheroes such agony is rarely as easy as it seems, miss." He frowned at the dirty asphalt for a few moments, deep in thought of the people who had escaped justice despite his best efforts. 'If they were my best, why were they not enough?'

Shaking that off, he looked back up and smiled "But this time, I dare say a group like this can make sure White Knight stays behind bars for good. Or at least for a good long time." He glanced over at Crow as he lugged Frank out of the dumpster and began interrogating him "Let us wait for one moment while Crow finds out what we need to know to stop them, then we strike."

'These are long odds, but these two appear capable enough that there is little danger.'

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GM

This much closer to the terrifying young man, Frank gulped nervously as he stared up at the imposing iron mask. At last he found his voice.

"There's three doors. One for the staircase up to the lobby, one for going down into utilities, and the third leads to the back alley. There are windows, but they're pretty small and don't open. W-we tried. A lot." Gulping a little and hastily trying to moisten his mouth for a few awkward seconds, he took one hesitant glance around and then launched into more explanations. "I don't know if there are any garages attached to the place..." he saw Crow's look and desperately protested "Really! I don't! You gotta believe me!" shaking nervously he at last mustered the courage to add "None of the guys came in their cars, we didn't want to risk being caught in them so we left them at home. White Knight can fly, so that's how he gets around. We haven't posted any watches, you could probably take us all in without much trouble if you distract the big guys first."

Hope dawned "C-can I go?"

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