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Last Stop (IC)


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6:42 PM

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Port Royal, Freedom City, United States

Port Royal was not Arcturus's usual patrol route. It was too far outside the city, and too posh for most street criminals to bother with. Lately though, there had been rumblings in the arcane community. Something was out on the fringes of the city, something dark and heavy laying over the neighborhood like a smog. The bed-and-breakfasts looked more empty and neglected than usual, and the residents scurried about, always looking over their shoulders. It was a definite issue, which is why the big man was prowling around the community after the sun went down.

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Visiting Port Regal had never really crossed Arc's mind. Oddly enough, the first inkling that something might be 'off' with the area at all was a post on a forum he frequented. It was the same way he'd learned about the demon summoner in Pennsylvania. Just like before, he was investigating it--what ever it was--alone. He kind of hoped it was nothing and that he could go back to studying.

All he really knew about the place was that the Providence Asylum was somewhere around it. Just entering the area made him feel a little uncomfortable, though Marcus couldn't place it on instinct or something genuinely amiss. It was only vaguely familiar, as he'd been to the amusement park once or twice in the past year. He had his mask and uniform on--something he still wasn't completely used to. This time, however, he was wearing Claremont colors, and he'd made it a point to make some 'modifications' to it so that it wouldn't be shredded if he had to use the Beast Rune. Walking around in bear form seemed fun, but there was no reason to scare people who already looked even more on edge than he felt.

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Ashton, Freedom City, United States

The suburbs didn't seem like Blue Jay's normal territory. Not any tall buildings to swing off of, far too many lights at street level to stay hidden in the shadows. Which made it a challenge for the archer's skills, which is why she made it part of her normal territory.

She crouched in an alleyway and watched a line of cars roll through an intersection. That was another thing; not so many cars and buses, not so many strange, modern machines. She wasn't used to all of them, and it could get confusing for the poor girl raised in the forest. The suburbs were less overwhelming, a bit more relaxing for her. Once the cars cleared she dashed out, timed her steps carefully, and got to the other side of the street by exploiting a break in the traffic. The Century Mall was just a strip of shops, but the brightly lit parking lot dissuaded her from going around the front. Instead she scurried around the rear, keeping out of the lights spilling off the loading dock.

A cry caught her attention. At the edge of the lot, pushed up next to the chain-link fence, was a woman only a few years older than Blue Jay, dressed in a red-and-white striped uniform. She had a parka on against the cold and was swinging her purse furiously at a trio of thugs in leather jackets that had her cornered. "Get away from me, creeps," she shouted, trying ineffectually to fend off all three at once.

The encounter was sadly predictable. The biggest thug timed her swings and ducked in, knocking the woman's bag to the side and closing to body-check her into the fence. She hit hard and went down, and the tough stepped in close. "You gotta learn to handle this smarter, lady." His hands moved fast and a flick knife appeared in them. "Or this is going to end up being an even worse night for you."

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Arcturus ventured down the street, keeping his eyes and ears open. The hints he had picked up were non-specific, but dire enough to warrant this check. Still, it seemed the neighborhood was dreary but basically quiet...

"Hey! Stop throwing things, dammit!"

"Get away from me, copper. I ain't done nuthin', you can't take me away. This is my home!"

Arcturus sprinted around the corner to see one of Freedom City's finest being pelted with empty tin cans by one of Freedom City's homeless. Or rather, pelted with a tin can; as it rebounded off the officer's peaked cap, the vagabond capered around to pick it up and throw it again. The officer was trying to protect his face from being cut by the rusty edges of the can, and didn't seem to be able to catch the vagrant. "You can't take me away from my home," the homeless man insisted. "I know my rights! You can't take me away!"

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As the thug raised the knife high, an arrow streaked out of no-where and snapped the blade off from the hilt, leaving a pathetic stub of metal attached to the plastic.

Blue Jay stepped into the light and nocked another arrow, drawing it up to her chin. "Test. Okay. IQ test. Minus five for threats in public." One of the thugs charged her and she loosed the arrow, taking him in the calf and dropping him to the ground. "Minus twenty for attacking solo." The second miscreant attacked as the archer lazily drew another arrow from her quarrel. He lunged at her, she spun and dodged the blow, and used the momentum of her spin to deliver a resounding ax kick to the small of his back. He went down, whimpering. "Minus fifteen for telegraphing your attack." She nocked the arrow and glanced around for the leader -- only to see him hauling ass down the street, bag in hand. Blue Jay sniffed, slotting the arrow back in her quiver. "Okay, plus thirty for diversionary tactics."

The young heroine raced after the young criminal, the pair keeping neck and neck through the twists and turns of the alleys. She caught sight of him and skidded to a halt, pulling the bow to full draw -- but that span of breaths, he kicked in a boarded up door and disappeared inside. Blue Jay swore under her breath and raced in after him.

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Arcturus watched the scene with a little more curiosity than concern. A lone officer against a homeless guy... armed with a can. It's all fun and games until someone needs a tetanus shot. But helping the officer seemed like the right thing to do. He continued his sprint forward, stopping just long enough to leap into the air to try and cut the homeless guy off. The Beast Rune, half hidden by his uniform, turned a soft but noticeable red at the exertion of power, and he turned in midair so that he was facing the homeless man when he landed. He put one hand up, eyes slightly narrowed beneath the furry cowl.

"Hold it."

It was a simple command, laced with implication in his tone on the possibilities of what could happen if he didn't. He didn't intend to do much of anything though--hopefully stalling would give the officer a chance to catch up and do his job. If anyone knew what was happening around Port Regal, it was the cop. It was the best lead he'd had so far.

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The entrance of the blue-and-gold clad Arcturus caused the homeless man to pause in his bombardment, which gave the officer time to spring forward and grab the other man by his grubby wrist. "Okay, Leon," the man in blue said, "that's quite enough for one night. I think it's about time you slept it off in the station, okay?"

Leon struggled, but between a well-fed and trained police officer, and a malnourished vagrant, there wasn't much of a contest. Still, he protested vocally. "You can't do this to me," he shouted. "I ain't drunk. I just been run out of my home, and you're gonna throw me in jail!? What kinda cop are you?"

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"Temperature's supposed to drop pretty hard tonight," Arcturus commented. "Shelter and a guaranteed meal is a small price to pay for a quick sobriety test, hm? I'm sure this nice officer will let you go about your business in the morning."

He offered an encouraging smile. Arcturus would have smelled any alcohol on the guy, and he was sober enough. Getting him off the streets was more for his own safety than anything else, especially if what his forum buddies were saying about Port Regal was true. Then again, no one really had anything concrete--but one of these two just might. He decided to ask the homeless guy first, purely on a hunch. "Maybe I can even do something about your home. Where exactly were you living before?"

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  • 1 month later...

The thug raced away from Blue Jay, fear of incarceration lending him speed. He turned corners at random, trying to break the archer's line of sight, but she was always a few steps ahead of him, always rounding the corners before he could get away. Finally the wrong turn led him into a dead-end alley and Blue Jay slowed as she rounded the corner, feeling her heart beating fast and a sheen of sweat on her forehead. "Okay," she said. "Good run, bonus points for that. But now you're trapped, so just hand over the bag..." The thug lunged at a door leading off the side of the alley, and with a metallic crunch and a flurry of rust particles he broke through the latch and into the interior. "... You can keep running. Connard."

Blue Jay approached the door and went through quickly. The interior of the building was dark and dilapidated, with moss growing on the walls and broken junk collecting in the corners. She could hear the criminal's footsteps echoing as he got further away, but it was harder to discern the direction. The archer slowed in her pursuit, prowling slower, inwardly cursing the need to move slowly but realizing that if she tried to hurry, she'd just make more noise and confuse the issue further.

She heard conversation and stopped dead, straining to hear. She couldn't make out words, just the thug's voice and someone else, someone low and angry by the tone of it. She heard a strike and then the thug's body came sailing through a nearby wall, crashing through plaster and wood to half-embed himself in the next wall. Blue Jay looked through the hole at what had thrown him and was greeted by the sight of a large man, made of mismatched parts, his skin patches of grey and yellow and green. The dead man's eyes rolled in his sockets as they fixed on Blue Jay, and with a roar he lurched forward, charging her!

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Leroy glanced between Arcturus and the police officer, and decided that the man dressed in the leotard was easier to talk to. "I'm at Royal Station. The end of the purple line, you know?" He wheezed out a laugh, chuffing Arcturus on the shoulder.

The police officer sighed and scratched his head. "The Royal Station was supposed to be the end of a new spur of the subway line. They were planning to finish it in the eighties but I think Moore... well, I'm not saying the office of the mayor of this city was ever involved in embezzlement, okay? I'm just saying that a lot of expensive projects went bankrupt while he was in office." He shrugged. "A lot of the homeless around here sleep there, when it starts getting cold. I guess they prefer having their own space to staying at a shelter, or something."

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"Survival is survival. So long as they aren't hurting anybody, right?"

Arcturus nodded. There was a certain amount of freedom that came with not staying in a shelter. For some people, it was a matter of pride; he knew one particular homeless man drifting around Midtown who had actually been a lawyer. Above all else, protecting the weak was Arc's job, and it couldn't always be done on his own terms. And when it came to things magical and supernatural, it was surprisingly convenient having so many normal folk around as trusted eyewitnesses.

"Moore was a little bit before my time, but I've heard the stories. Tell you what, though... If you go with the officer--Leroy, right?--I'll check your place out and make sure you can go back there. What exactly ran you off anyway?"

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Blue Jay drew, nocked, and fired all as one smooth motion, almost without thinking. The arrows all struck home on the hulking dead man, but the creature seemed to barely notice the pinpricks. The archer broke to the side and tried to get some distance between her and the charging zombie, but the patchwork man proved quicker on his feet than she could have anticipated. He barreled through the narrow hallway and swatted at her almost casually; it barely caught her, but even that glancing blow threw her against the wall, hard. Her limbs turned to jelly and she fell to the ground, ears full of the roaring of her own heart.

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Leroy looked around, apparently checking the shadows for anyone who might be watching. "Nuthin' happened to me," he said, "but Maggie, and ol' Henry, and the new guy, Amar? They just gone and vanished. Poof, no one's heard from them in weeks." He shook his head dolefully. "I ain't gonna let some monster in the tunnels snap up Leroy, no sir no how."

The police officer managed to coax the homeless man into the back of the police cruiser and pulled out a map of the neighborhood. He showed Arcturus where Royal Station was supposed to be put in, before pulling away and returning to the police station. The subway station had been planned to be a grand building in the style of the time, but ever since the plan was abandoned the building was simply a huge, empty shell. A little bit of investigation found out that one of the wooden slabs covering the door was loose, and he was able to slip into the dark building.

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Arcturus was on a time limit. He did, after all, have a promise to keep, and he didn't make them idly. Missing people was always a touchy subject for him; the last time a friend of his went missing, he turned up dead. It was a small miracle that he hadn't flipped out and killed his friend's murderer; just thinking about the entire incident made the Beast Rune glow faintly on Arc's back.

He decided to proceed with more stealth than brute force. After the officer and Leroy pulled away, Arcturus slipped into the abandoned station, unceremoniously shifting into his bear form where his senses were much much sharper.

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Blue Jay's vision cleared and she rolled to the side, more by instinct than anything else. It was a good move though, since a moment later the zombie's misshapen foot came down where her head had been. Jay rolled to her feet and did the most counter-intuitive thing she could think of: she grabbed the zombie and began climbing him.

Her nimble form scurried around his broad torso and onto his back, always a grasp away from thick, powerful hands. She climbed up to his shoulders and sat there for a moment, swaying, lining up her next shot. She brought her hands together and raised them up, then struck a hammerblow at the base of the zombie's skull. He swayed suddenly and threw her off, but she landed on her feet and was ready for more.

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The dark of the building was no lighter to Arcturus's bear eyes, but his enhanced sense of smell led him better than his sight ever could. Of course it wasn't an unequivocal blessing; he quickly became aware that a few dozen people had called the lower levels home, people for whom regular baths were a luxury and a dream. Once he got over the shock of it, though, he realized that the smell was stale, old, more the memory of filth than something vibrant and renewed. Before long he found out why, as one massive paw overturned a cardboard sheet to find a woman's body, her throat ripped out and the blood drained from her body. A nearby box shack held a similar surprise, and underneath a veil of threadbare curtains three people, evidently a family group of some kind, lay intertwined and still.

It was a grim business but he couldn't turn from it, and soon the tally was completed. Twenty bodies, all homeless or vagrants, all dead by a single, precise blow. All left where they had fallen. All bloodless.

And then suddenly the smell of blood increased tenfold, and the hero could hear the sound of claws on stone.

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There was certainly nothing divine about this, however and Arcturus held back a growl of rising anger. A vampire? Or something far more sinister that he hadn't even considered? It didn't take him long to mentally sort the myriad of scents he was getting, but the knowledge didn't distract from the grim scene that lay before him. Leroy was lucky to have gotten out when he did, and it seemed almost as if something was nesting here.

His ears perked as the presence of the predator was confirmed; he couldn't quite see it, but he could smell it, along with the blood. It said a lot that he was actually more accustomed to that smell than magic itself. Nevertheless, he took a quick look at his surroundings before moving away from the sound, trying to locate a safer vantage point to see what he was dealing with. The Beast Rune was itching for a fight, and Arcturus wasn't sure how long it would be before the inevitable became reality.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Blue Jay rolled to her feet and came up in a stable firing position. The zombie was still stumbling about from her last blow, so she pulled several arrows out of her quiver and snapped the shots off, one after another. They struck the zombie low in his legs, all aimed for tendons; and from the way it was stumbling as it tried to close the distance between them. It swung one meaty paw through the air in an attempt to hit her, but she easily ducked under the blow this time and came up ready for more.

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Arcturus heard the scratching stop, start up again, and then stop again. "I can sssmell something warm and living," a voice drifted from out of the darkness. It sounded higher than Arcturus was, though the echoing in the close space didn't make it easy to pinpoint. "I can sssee you, so big and waaarm in here. Mmm, so big and warm and full of blood, when everything is dead and cold." There was more scratching, slower this time, coming close to Arcturus. "I'll drink up all your blood and be warm again, then bring your bones to the Master for his playing. Doesn't that sound lovely?"

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Was this thing for real?

Unfazed by the taunting, Marcus's mind was eerily calm in the face of the creepiness of the surroundings. It was a rare moment where Marcus and the Beast Rune were more or less working in sync. Clearly whatever it was intended to hunt him--as an apex predator, the Rune found the very notion insulting. Arcturus was about ready to go absolutely nuts, right up until it finished speaking.

Your master, huh? ...so there IS more to this than just some roving monster. Good to know.

Arcturus held back his first instinct to ignite the Flame Rune on both hands; there was no sense in giving the creature another easy way to pinpoint him. It clearly couldn't see in the dark, putting them on almost equal footing.


"Show your ugly mug, monster." Arcturus sank a bit in his stance, ears twitching at the scratching sounds. The smell of blood was getting closer, and he intended to rid this place of this creature, one way or another.

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