Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Electra

Midnight City (IC)

Recommended Posts

October 31, 7:30pm

Halloween night had not been an especially auspicious night for the last several years in Freedom City. If it wasn't zombies rising from the grave or demonic forces attempting to take over the living world, it was cold, rainy weather that kept the little ghouls and goblins in their homes. Tonight, though, Halloween was crisp but not too cold, cloudy enough to be menacing, but without any actual rain. It was about as ideal as the holiday could get, and the trick-or-treaters were out in force. Tony North Bay didn't have as many wandering children as some newer neighborhoods where the McMansions crowded close to each other and the street, but for those who were enterprising and fearless, the haul could be worth the effort.

At the end of one long driveway stood an especially dour and dangerous-looking manor, stark black and looming like a giant animal over the landscape, thanks to a few adroitly-placed spotlights in the backyard. A van full of middle-school children pulled up to the curb outside, disgorging a gangly vampire, an AEGIS trooper, Lady Liberty with most of her outfit obscured by a puffy pink jacket, a very short Midnight, and a yellow Angry Bird. The group milled around for a few moments, checking flashlights and treat bags before turning their attention to the very intimidating road ahead.

The trees were thick with spiderwebs, and the bushes lining the lane seemed to rustle even with no wind to stir them. A line of luminescent footprints down the driveway beckoned the brave to continue, past the hooting of night birds and the ominous creaking of invisible wood and ropes. Somewhat hesitantly, Midnight led the way, playing his flashlight over the footprints and making his way down the path with the others close at his heels. It wasn't long before the music started, faraway and eerie, just loud enough to be heard in the still night.

Share this post


Link to post

The expansive yard to either side of the curving driveway up to the mansion had been transformed for the holiday into a decrepit graveyard strewn with off kilter gravestones, weathered statues missing limbs or pieces of their faces and an eerie fog that rolled about the grass in a shifting carpet, spilling onto the pathway and causing the costumed children to shuffle closer to the center and each other. The direction the faint, ominous music was coming from seemed to shift subtly, first to the left then behind them back the way they'd come then from the beckoning double doors up the semicircle of steps. Only the hesitation to be the first one to turn back outweighed the growing dread.

When the finally made it to the door, they were greeted by an enormous jack-o'-lantern's toothy grin and a life-sized Frankenstein's monster sitting heavily in a ramshackle electric chair. The children paused for a moment, looking between each other until the boy dressed as Midnight stepped forward again to reach up for the heavy knocker on the door. Unfortunately, his stature left it well out of his reach, requiring the pink-jacketed Lady Liberty to nudge him aside and slam the knocker into the ancient wood thee times. At the third resounding impact, the monster to their right abruptly rose up with a tortured groan, looming well over six feet of stitched together flesh and torn clothing.

The vampire's shout of shock was cut short when the children slowly noticed the large bowl of candy balanced in one of the monster's hands while the other produced a generous gift card for Starbase Coffee for the van's driver. "Nice costumes," the creature congratulated them in a surprisingly soft-spoken voice.

Share this post


Link to post

Once the kids had their bounty of giant candy bars and were off again, congratulating one another on how none of them had ever been even a little bit scared, the front door opened with a theatrical creak. "Nice job," Erin said with a grin, stepping out onto the porch with a thermos full of coffee. Frank had helped her come up with the pieces for her Bride of Frankenstein costume, a simple white dress and long gloves, the iconic black and white fright wig snugged over her auburn hair, and small, almost dainty neck bolts. The fact that she hadn't needed white foundation to make the black eyeliner and lipstick stand out was a minor frustration, but one she'd gotten used to. "I thought that vampire kid was going to wet his pants when you stood up."

She passed him the thermos and took a Snickers bar from the bowl, peeling back the wrapper to have a bite. "Looks like we've got another half hour of trick-or-treat time, then we can decide if we want to hit up the party or not. Either way, I'm glad we decided to dress up. This was fun." Erin smiled at him, her face nearly glowing in the dim light. "I want the next group."

Share this post


Link to post

"Nnh, coffee good. Burned bean bad," Trevor groaned as he accepted the thermos, doing his best Karlof impression. Although it was, as usual, difficult to tell, he was enjoying the holiday immensely. Besides the welcome relief of a Hallowe'en without city-wide disaster or personal emotional trauma, decorating the manor grounds and dressing up had long been a favourite tradition. A flair for the dramatic ran strong in the stoic Hunter men; it had, in fact, been at a costume party hosted at the very same mansion that Travis Hunter had first donned the guise of Midnight, originally with the intent of providing his guests with a good scare before fate had intervened. There was definitely an element of getting back to his roots in causing pre-teen vampires to befoul themselves.

Setting the bowl aside, he leaned over enough to kiss Erin on the cheek. "Me too. Glad, I mean. Glad you're having fun, too."

Share this post


Link to post

Erin slid a companionable arm around his waist and tilted her head so she could rest a cheek on his shoulder without putting the wig in his face. "It's been pretty much forever since I did any Halloween stuff, I'd kind of forgotten about a lot of it," she admitted. "Carving the pumpkins, decorating the porch. One year my dad put out an old scarecrow on the lawn for a week before Halloween so everyone saw it, then on Halloween he stood out there instead and scared the bejesus out of the trick or treaters. It was really funny." Her smile went wistful for a moment, but it was a good memory now, not a sad one. "And I think your grandpa's having fun too, playing with the lights and sounds downstairs. He's a man who knows how to set ambiance."

Share this post


Link to post

"Like to have seen that," Trevor murmured quietly, squeezing the hand resting on his hip briefly. He'd met the Earth-Prime counterpart of Erin's father, true, but they both knew that wasn't the same thing. "He does love Hallowe'en," he said of his grandfather, the make-up and false stitching exaggerating his small smile. "Was one of the first, not wearing a strange uniform or armor but a costume. Being more than just a person, tapping into something." Catching himself before he could launch into an entire, tersely worded dissertation on the nature of fear and the rise of the mystery men, he gave Erin an apologetic glance. "Ahem. Not talking about work tonight."

Share this post


Link to post

Erin bumped his hip teasingly with her own. "Yeah, you do go on," she joked. "But I like hearing stories about Midnight and the mystery men. I wish he'd tell more stories about it. Hey, here come the lights, we must have another group." She narrowed her heavily-lined eyes. "Green lights and light fog, it's little kids," she deduced. "We should probably just answer the door this time." The walk up the drive was calibrated to the ages of the children making the journey, strange lights and fog for the little ones, orange lights and strange noises and music for the middle schoolers, and a full-out chase with red lights and pounding feet behind them for the teenagers.

By the time the kids reached the door, all it took was the Bride of Frankenstein opening the creaky door to have them wide-eyed with excited fear. "Happy Halloween," Erin began, then suddenly noticed a familiar face in the little crowd. "Hey, Yolanda!" she greeted a tiny girl in a slightly oversize doctor costume. "I like your outfit!" Setting aside the candy, she crouched to give the little girl a hug. "These your friends from school?" Once she was clued in, Erin noticed a few strange things under the masks and costumes, a little boy who seemed to be glowing, a girl Toodee whose blue skin did not appear to be painted on. They all seemed to be having a good time being scared.

Share this post


Link to post

"Probably tell stories if you asked," Trevor suggested thoughtfully, absently scratching at his neck where sizable metal bolts were adhered with a custome batch of spirit gum his grandfather had whipped up for the occasion; it didn't have any unusual properties, really, but the chemist took pride in going above and beyond what could be bought off of a shelf, in the same way Trevor insisted on building nearly everything component he used from scratch. "Think he just gets tired more quickly these days, even just talking."

He stepped to the side as the young group arrived at the door, leaving room for Yolanda to sprint ahead of the group and return the hug. "Hi, Erin! Happy Hallowe'en," the seven year old greeted before letting go and looking as gravely solemn as she was able. "Sorry. I'm supposed to say 'trick or treat'." Happy as she was to see one of her rescuers, the girl was obviously taking the acquisition of candy very seriously indeed.

Share this post


Link to post

"Yes you are," Erin agreed gravely. "It's important if you want the goods." She did a magician's pass and fanned out a selection of king-size candy bars for Yolanda's inspection. "Just one," she reminded the little girl, "I don't want your big sister yelling at me." She smiled to show she was only kidding, then beckoned the other children to come pick out candies as well. "Hey Trev, come out here," she called. "Meet Yolanda, Ellie's little sister. I told you about her. And her friends from Nicholson, too."

Share this post


Link to post

"I know," Yolanda told Erin as she carefully selected a chocolate bar with nuts in it and deposited it in a sizable pillow case. "Dressing up like a doctor means I've gotta be responsible. Uniforms are important like that."

Striding over next to Erin, Trevor's reserved body language fit well with the stiff nature of the character he was dressed up as. Looming far above the children with his ruby-on-onyx eyes unconcealed for once, he offered a faint smile. "Hello."

Yolanda looked right back up at him, unblinking and evidently undeterred by his appearance as she performed a silent adjudication. "Hi. You're very tall," she informed him earnestly.

"Yes," Trevor agreed with a brief nod that the Nicholson student returned as if they'd reached an understanding.

Share this post


Link to post

The other children were also quite impressed by Trevor's size and imposing costume, but their family histories meant they were generally sturdier stock than most children their age. "Your house is huge!" the little glowy boy told Trevor. "And creepy. Does it have a ghost it it? I saw a ghost once at school when I was out in the hallway and it stared at me with big big eyes and it told me to go back to class!" he announced proudly. "When I grow up I'm going to be a ghost and be a superhero too, did you know that? Ghosts can be superheroes, I saw it on TV one time and there was a ghost who blasted the bad guys and was invisible in the daytime!" He gave Trevor an expectant look, obviously waiting for a reply.

Erin laughed at the verbal outpouring. "No ghosts here," she told the little boy. "Sorry. Maybe you'll find one at a different house." She tucked the remaining candy bars back into the bowl, after tossing a big Hershey bar to the grownup chaperone standing back off the porch to keep an eye on things.

Share this post


Link to post

Yolanda gave the ghost enthusiast a pensive look. "I'm not sure what I want to grow up to be," she confided quietly to Erin, looking as serious as ever. "There's a lot of choices. Maybe something with a uniform, though. Like you and Mr. Steve?" Turning back to Trevor as the group prepared to leave, the little girl hesitated for a moment before asking, "Could I maybe visit you and Erin here sometime? When you're not being scary for Hallowe'en?"

"Anytime you like," Trevor told her with another nod, more than a little charmed by the trick-or-treater's ardent manner. He gave the school children a wave as their chaperone let them back down the path to the street.

Share this post


Link to post

"You can be anything you want," Erin promised Yolanda, running a quick hand over the little girl's hair as she stood up. "You don't have to decide yet, you have plenty of times. But HAX is a nice place to work." One arm wrapped around the bowl, she watched with Trevor as the kids headed off for more candy-fueled adventures. "She's doing well," Erin commented when they were out of earshot. "But it's got to be a little weird to grow up in a school like that, especially when you don't have any powers yourself. Claremont was enough of a shock, and that wasn't full of little superpowered kids. You ever been there, to the Nicholson School?"

Share this post


Link to post

"Mmh," Trevor murmured as he watched for the lights of the vehicle to trail away. "Very strong. Reminds me of someone." Taking a seat again, he opened the thermos and took a sip to preserve his deadpan. "Nicholson? No, haven't had a reason. ...children generally don't like me." Gesturing to his spooky get-up with his free, he allowed himself a wry smile. "Hallowe'en excepted." With a break between groups of trick-or-treaters, he surreptitiously slipped a chocolate bar from the bowl and opened one end, breaking off a piece and offering it to Erin.

Share this post


Link to post

Erin displaced a stuffed witch to sit down next to him, taking the offered chocolate and breaking off a corner of her own bar in return. "She'll have to be strong," she mused aloud. "But she's got a lot of good people on her side. That'll make the difference." Reaching out, she squeezed his hand lightly.

In the distance, in the quiet, tinny Halloween music carried on the wind from the yachts on the bay. "It's funny to think we've been out of school a year and a half now," she decided. "Feels like forever sometimes, and it's weird not seeing everyone every day." She brightened then. "On the other hand, I've been banking my pay and I think I can just about afford a bigger place now. Charlie's gonna be happy about that."

Share this post


Link to post

Trevor murmured a soft approval at the plans and shared happiness at her success. Some part of him still wanted to make the case for Erin moving into the manor's ample room but the larger side recognized how important it was for her to have a space that was wholly her own after being a refugee and perpetual guest in turn. While her current apartment was by no mean unpleasant and he didn't consider himself overly materialistic, he did think she deserved better. Can take the rich boy out of the mansion... he mused inwardly. Ultimately he couldn't claim to have made his own way in the world nearly so completely as Erin; just one reason he remained quietly in awe of her.

Realizing belatedly that he'd let the conversation lull even longer than usual, he coughed lightly. "Have to keep the cat happy, yes."

Share this post


Link to post

"Especially if he takes after his father," Erin pointed out with a chuckle, not seeming to notice the lapse. "Every time I come home and don't find him right away, I feel sure he's learned to walk through walls or teleport or whatever it was that Oliver could do. So far he usually turns up in the closet, but I think it might be a matter of time."

They got one more group of trick or treaters in the waning minutes of the trick-or-treating hours, a group of high school students who were quite entertaining to scare the living daylights out of. As the clock struck eight and the lights along the driveway went out, Erin looked to Trevor. "Well, we can hit up that fancy party," she suggested. "There's still plenty of time left. Or we could just go out, maybe take a ride somewhere." If she stayed here, Erin suspected she would only stuff herself on leftover candy till even her enhanced metabolism regretted it.

Share this post


Link to post

Subtle though it was, the expression on Trevor's face illustrated his feelings about another physics defying feline quite eloquently. "Reasonably sure he's not a manipulative super-intelligence, yes?" he asked for the countless time. They'd never really gotten the entire story behind Oliver's interventions and the missing details sat uneasily with the analytical young man.

Debating between how to fill the rest of the evening, he made a soft, thoughtful noise around a mouthful of chocolate and nougat. He wasn't usually one for candy or confections in general but like any food he was liable to eat whatever happened to be at hand without much thought to preference. "Been a while since we had much time to ourselves."

Share this post


Link to post

"That's certainly true," Erin agreed, kicking back in her chair and looking at the clouds that scuttled across the moon. "The way my work schedule's been lately, plus street patrols, plus Liberty League work, I can't remember the last time before tonight that I wore anything that wasn't some kind of uniform or pajamas." She glanced over at him, a smile curving the corners of her mouth. "I suppose we could always just stay in tonight," she offered. "Your grandpa will probably be heading to bed before too long. We could, you know, work in the garage or whatever." As she spoke, the outside light display that Travis had been controlling shut down entirely, bathing them in darkness. Erin cast a wary glance up towards the house, wondering if she'd been overheard or if it was just fortuitous coincidence.

Share this post


Link to post

Both corners of Trevor's mouth turned upward at the timing, his equivalent of a face-splitting grin. "Probably," he agreed in a recomposed deadpan, stacking mostly empty bowls on top of each other to carry them inside. "Been social this year," he rationalized to Erin, holding the door open for her, dramatic wig and all. "Embassy visits. Birthday parties. Awkward dinners. Think we're earned a night in." In the mansion's main foyer, he deposited the bowls on a side table and drained the last of the thermos before placing it alongside them. Pausing in thought for a moment, he considered their outlandish attire before suggesting, "...still want to see the flying saucer downstairs?"

Share this post


Link to post

"Really?" Erin asked, surprised and pleased. He'd mentioned the flying saucer a few times, but they'd never managed to get around to actually taking the tour. "Hell yes," she assented with a laugh. "I've been hoping to see that thing for ages, but I've never caught sight of it anywhere in the garage. I should probably change my clothes," she added, "but I've only got my work uniform with me, and I don't want it dirty." She shrugged. "I guess this way we'll be like our own horror movie double feature, right?" She checked to make sure her wig was still on straight, then swiped one more candy bar from the bowl. "Lead the way!"

Share this post


Link to post

"Yes, The Frankensteins meet the Space Men. Classic cinema," Trevor asserted in a grave deadpan only enhanced by the carefully applied false stitches and faint green foundation. Following Erin's suggestion, he led the way to the grandfather clock in the adjoining room that hid one of the passages down the Midnight Manor, the subterranean base underneath the mansion. "Down further than we usually have reason to go," he explained regarding the elusive saucer. "Only used twice that I know of. Launch shaft was collapsed in... '58? I think?"

Share this post


Link to post

"What was it used for?" Erin asked, ducking her head to avoid catching her wig as she followed Trevor through the secret door. "Did your grandfather build it, or was it an artifact from someone else?" As they walked down the many stairs to the deep basements, she looked around, taking in the shrouded equipment and closed-off doors. She rarely came down to this part of the Manor, lower even than the secret HQ from which the Midnights had always done their hero work. Last time she'd been here, it was to determine whether she'd been compromised as part of Dr. Archeville's evil scheme to take over the world, and she hadn't really been in any frame of mind to explore. Tonight, though, the darkness and general air of disuse were entertainingly spooky rather than unnerving, and the destination a lot more fun.

Reaching out, she brushed a hand lightly across the back of Trevor's neck, right where she'd painted a very stylized scar for him. They really didn't get to spend enough time alone together these days, she decided. Maybe she'd actually take some of that vacation time she'd accrued, before Thanksgiving and Christmas and all that baggage came down, and they could just take a weekend off somewhere.

Share this post


Link to post

The Manor's lower, less used spaces had none of the smooth polish of the main headquarters, instead still bearing the rough hewn walls that betrayed their origins as a series of naturally occurring caves. His metahuman eye allowed him to see as easily there as in broad daylight even with the spottily illumination of the flood lights spaced along the corners of the stoney ceiling but there was still an unsettling ambiance. With his muscles reflexively tightening he stood abruptly to his full height at Erin's unexpected touch on the back of his neck before training and careful control won out over nerves a moment later. Forcing his shoulders to relax, he gave the young woman an accusatory glance before answering her question. "Captured during an invasion the Liberty League fought off. Alternate universe Martian empire, turns out. Mostly kept out of the papers."

Share this post


Link to post

Erin chuckled at what was, for Trevor, a substantial startle. "Sorry," she murmured, only seeming a little bit actually sorry. She took his hand instead, the staircase just wide enough to let coordinated people to walk abreast. "So it's an actual Martian UFO from another dimension. That's really cool," she decided as they walked through the flickering shadows. "I just hope it hasn't got a Persephone or something like her. That was weird. I think she had it in for me." Erin shook her head at the memory of the cheerful yet oddly sinister AI on James' spaceship, then put it aside in favor of gawking at their surroundings. They were deeper now than they'd gone to use the scanner, and the cave disappearing into darkness overhead was awe-inspiring and creepy. "This place is always bigger than I thought," she marveled.

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...