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The Great Escapist [IC]

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January 4, 2013

4:02 p.m.

I can't... I can't do this anymore...

Jonas Wolff's eyes closed for a moment, opening again as they focused on the computer screen in front of him. His hands felt wholly separate from the rest of him, tapping at buttons, thumbs fiddling with the analog sticks with expert precision. Despite the headphones covering the preteen's ears, he could still hear them in his head. His mother's thoughts, screaming at his father for coming home late again. His father's resentment, raging at the lack of trust despite his complete innocence. A simple misunderstanding, turned to so much negativity...

He wanted it all to stop.

The first call about the 'incident' came at around 4:30. A building in Ashton had suddenly turned into something out of an 8-bit video game--all five stories. It didn't take long for police, fireman, and even a news crew to arrive, but there seemed to be very little that could be done at the outset. The front doors hung wide open but nothing inside could be seen, save a swirling red and black vortex.

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Swooping out of the sky with a trail of golden smoke in his wake, El Heraldo, who bore the national spirit of Puerto Rico, landed with a thud and a click of his Banner on the pavement. Dusting off one deep blue sleeve of his truly resplendent costume, he waved cheerily to the gathered citizens, saying with great confidence "Never fear, Freedonians! Your heroes arrive!"

All smiles, he walked with firm strides directly up to the band of police officers, extending a broad hand and asking "Excuse me, but what appears to be the situation? Heraldo, at your service!" he glanced at the bizarre sight of a house rendered into something he'd seen only in retro video games, shuddering despite his outward composure. Unlike a lot of the Claremont students he still was quite inexperienced in the strange things they were called upon to deal with, and something like this affected him much more than it ought.

He had heard over the police chatter in a passing car about the incident while on patrol, and had raced over as quickly as he could.

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Most of the local police seemed relieved to see El Heraldo swooping down onto the scene. The man in charge, however, merely raised an eyebrow behind his shades. His badge read "Harper"; the only person on the scene wearing a black suit, he was trying to keep other officers and onlookers well away from the swirling vortex that had been the complex's front door.

"The situation? Well... hell, kid, you tell me." He motioned for Heraldo to cross the tape. After all, he DID just fly in, making him uniquely qualified in comparison to the other officers.

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Arcturus watched for several minutes, fiddling through his pockets for his cell phone. The building had certainly ranked high on his 'weirdest thing ever' list, and the year was just starting. He was almost disappointed that he couldn't smell a trace of magic around, meaning that it was likely something outside his usual comfort zone.

He was in his costume, but he hadn't approached yet, watching from an adjacent rooftop as Heraldo swooped in. There was no way he was going to try this alone, and he definitely wasn't going to allow Heraldo to do the same. Thus, the day was saved by the power of technology. He had Elias's phone number from their last excursion together; that was his first text message: "I need your help in Ashton: 2204 Kings Road."

He also sent the same message Kat. Why, he wasn't really sure... probably because he knew she'd say 'yes' no matter what he proposed, and he wasn't even sure what was going on yet. With that, he tucked his phone away and hopped down off the roof, landing in the alley on the other side before approaching the police line on foot, waving Heraldo down as Harper beckoned him across the line.

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It took about five minutes for Kat to get there.

A little slice of reality in front of the building started to peel away, bleeding red mist as Warp's head peeked out of the red-black void about seven feet above the roofs. Looking up, she saw a building made mostly of pixels framed against an ordinary cityscape. Kat shook her head blearily, Freedom. She jumped out and landing in a crouch on the rooftops, the hole in the world mending behind her.

She stood up straight and scratched at the back of her neck. Kat thought she recognized the flag in the the bizzarely dressed hero's hand, and his outline seemed familiar . . . Subito? Kat raised an eyebrow and stepped forward, reality caving to her will. She burst out of the open air behind the police line, tucked one hand behind her back and waved cheerily at both heroes. "Hey Arc! Got your message."

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Gladly following 'Harper' through the police line 'Why does that name sound so familiar?', Heraldo looked a little surprised and abashed at the confidence "Well sir, this looks like some kind of transformation to me. When did this happen, and did anyone see how exactly it turned into..." he waved his free hand at the blocky and ugly looking house "...this?" he was about to ask another, also highly pertinent question when he turned and saw Harper letting Arcturus through the yellow tape, and started at the sudden call of Kat's nearby voice. Spinning around to face Warp, the stocky Puerto Rican boy all but jumped over to her side, walking with her up to Arcturus. "Glad to see you, Warp!" he told her warmly, sheathing the Banner on his sky-blue and gold back "With all three of us" he nodded at the runemaker respectfully "We're bound to find out what happened!"

When they reached Marcus the young paragon greeted the magician with a raise of his wide-brimmed hat "Hello Arcturus! Any clues about this..." he waved vaguely at the transfigured house "...event. Thing? Is this magic?" he asked curiously.

He glanced around the perimeter, hazel eyes resting with a jolt of nervousness on the reporters before he hurriedly looked away. 'Geez, this was bad enough when just guys like Jack Jackson were wanderin' around...' He smiled reassuringly at Harper.

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The final arrivals were a couple of minutes behind.

Encased in the shimmering light of her telekinesis Glow swooped over a nearby building with Errant - wrapped in a similar field - in tow. She pulled up just above the little group of heroes and lowered the telepath lightly onto his feet, then dropped down next to him. "That's pretty weird," she noted as she looked over at the pixellated building, gave a wave to the bemused police officer manning the crime-scene tape, then turned towards Arcturus, Heraldo and Warp.

She greeted them with the ease of familiarity. "Hey guys, Errant needed a ride, hope you don't mind me tagging along as well? What's the go with the Nintendo-building? Some sort of magic?"

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The resident Claremont political dissident stood there, looking and feeling. He rarely wore the Claremonter uniform, and right now he had on his 'heroing' hooded sweater, a mask pulled up over his lower face, and a hat ducked down. Both the sweater and the hat were emblazoned with a cartoonish grey skull and crossbones (on the back of the hoodie and above the bill of his cap). Blame the fact he had discovered stuff by anacho-punk acts. Either way he looked as much graffiti artist as hero. Which wouldn't be the first time that had blended. He frowned a little bit as he looked at what was happening, his hands in the pockets of his hoodie.

And then he noticed Harper, and his demeanor changed, and the people around him could feel hostility radiating from the boy.

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The gaudy Heraldo brightened even further when Glow and Elias arrived, calling over "Glad to see you two! We could use all the help we can." he said warmly, shaking the telekinetics' hands with his own crossed over each other. Stepping back to give Kristin and Elias room, he gestured over to the house with a shrug of his broad shoulders "Sorry Glow, but I'm afraid I know about as much as you do right now." he smiled apologetically at his friend, adding "As far as I can tell, it probably is magic, and done by somebody human, which is a pretty big relief-Errant, you alright?" he asked the hooded hero anxiously, surprised at Errant's sudden change from his usual cold indifference and watchfulness to deadly wrath.

Glancing at the policeman he offered quickly "Sorry officer, but Erran't not had many favorable encounters with the police. This won't be a problem, I promise." he added with a sweeping bow where he held one hand behind his back and the other over his heart. Stepping over to the reserved psychic he whispered

"Buddy, snap out of it, we've got a job to do. What's with him?" louder he asked Arcturus "So, any ideas so far?"

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"I'm not the police."

Agent Harper adjusted his shades a bit, regarding all five young heroes with a look that could only be described as skeptical. Then again, that seemed to be a rather permanent fixture in how he looked at everyone. 6' 2" and athletically built, he seemed far more capable than the average police officer, but didn't seem to possess any powers of his own. His badge seemed to indicate he was an AEGIS agent, an entirely different beast from the black STAR vans that were closer to the door.

"As far as I can tell, there's some sort of dimensional disturbance here. Not the first one I've ever seen, but this is new. Never seen it manifest on the outside of a place before... it's one hell of a projection. Really, that's all I've got until Psi-Agents get here. Of course, STAR couldn't wait and they sent two squads in about 20 minutes ago. No word yet, on them OR whoever was caught inside when this started..." Agent Harper didn't seem at all amused by that, giving the group another once-over.

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"That's not magic."

Arcturus shook his head, arms folded as he stood a few feet behind Heraldo. He seemed a little more at ease as the others showed up, but he was still giving Agent Harper a wary look. "There's definitely something weird here, but it's not magic. And nah, I don't mind at all. Might actually need all hands on this one."

He picked up a rock and threw it at tossed it at the side of the building. When it hit the 8-bit brickwork, there was an odd sound effect--a dull, almost cartoonish thud as it fell harmlessly to the ground. "This looks like something out of a video game..." Arc moved towards the door and the STAR vans, stopping at the edge of the sidewalk and looking at the entrance. "It doesn't seem harmful from the outside, but with people inside, well..."

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Yes, definitely Subito, she thought, her smile long and sly as the boy jolted at her calling. Warp followed along, watching Heraldo out of the corner of an eye, hands clasped behind behind her head. She had never really seen him in full heroic regalia before. It looked . . . well it looked silly, like he belonged on top of a cheesy parade float. "Well, I dunno. Once we find the problem I could definitely help it go away, but . . ." Warp shook her head. "I don't know this."

When she heard Kris' voice Kat's face lit up for a moment . . . until she actually saw who she was carrying. Kat wiped a hand across her face and turned around to face the pixelated apartment building, hands on her hips. What went on behind her, Kat pretended to ignore. "If it isn't magic, what did this? I didn't think mutants could make something this . . ." A pause, a frown. ". . . Fancy?"

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His eyes flicked over to Heraldo, and it was in the span of moments that he was back to being as cold as ever. Stepping around the Heraldo, without another word, he walked right up to the building. And if he wasn't impeded, he moved right up to the gaping chasm, feeling outward with his powers. He turned his head back to them. "Of course you aren't, Agent Harper." It was hard to tell what he was referring to, but then he was a telepath so there were gaps in his words unless you were the person he was speaking to. "But then you don't really have a choice, your Psi-Agents are what? Another 20 to 30 minutes out, and that means close to an hour for the STAR squads and how much longer for the people already there? That's why you are going to let us through. Because it is a calculated risk. And if you tried to bar us, likely we'd still go in."

A pause then before looking at the others. "Illusions or reality warping, either doesn't bode well. We can twiddle our thumbs if you want. But if that was the case we wouldn't be here, would we?" And with that Errant reached out and touched the black portal.

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"It's not magic? You're sure?" Heraldo asked Arcturus with some surprise, glancing dubiously at the house transfigured to look like archaic graphics. He shrugged it off('Not like I know a lot about this myself...') and turned back to the group, just in time for Errant to deliver his crisp, somewhat hostile exposition to Harper about how vital the gaggle of Claremont students were. It would have rankled the patriotic paragon somewhat that Elias was acting so cavalier and impatient about finding out the basic nature of this 'dimensional disturbance', but he was more off-balance that he had missed the clear as day AEGIS insignia on Agent Harper's badge. Of course, that paled in importance to one of the team simply walking into something that could lead anywhere, such as straight into the hands of whoever had done this, but Heraldo was feeling irritated enough that his warping priorities never once occurred to him.

To the man he said simply "My apologies sir. I'll be sure to pay closer attention in the future." with a slight inclination of his head as he doffed his hat and replaced it while swinging back around to the others. With a slight grimace he said the young wizard "Arc', sorry but I'm going to go after Errant, it isn't likely I can do much to help figure out what caused this shift, but I can help him in there..." he looked back at the house than shrugged and turned to his schoolmates, smiling reassuringly at the lean and uneasy Kat "...I think. Warp, you and Glow are probably the most powerful people here, if ol' Runebeast" he gestured with a red glove and a wry grin to the powerful, bald form of Marcus "can figure out a bit more about what's causing this and how, you girls might be able to just blast through anything we come up against. I mean," he clarified hastily "That is, if he can give you two a boost with his magic, maybe alter your powers so they can strike across dimensional boundaries?"

The fantastically-attired hero lapsed into silence for a moment, feeling the uncomfortable weight of anxiety and the unknown crouching just out of sight. Adjusting his cap he said blithely "Well, talked enough nonsense for one hour, see you soon. Good hunting!" and walked briskly into the doorway after Errant.

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"Not magic. I could smell it if it was... There's something off about it though..."

Arcturus started to move forward, shifting into his bear form as he stepped up onto the sidewalk. "Yeah. Definitely off. There's traces of magic. Which makes no sense at all. There's definitely a difference though. Hell, people thought my abilities were psychic for a while. There's overlap, but they're usually separate. Psychics can do this, but I always thought it would take a LOT to pull something like this off."

The big bear's gaze found Harper as he spoke. He couldn't help but find Errant's assertion amusing, and didn't make any move or gesture to stop him from reaching for the portal. In fact, he wasn't too far behind Heraldo, waiting to see if Warp and Glow would follow suit. "Glad to see that collarbone's healed up, by the way."

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It was weird to see Elias see hyped up and catty. He was supposed to be all quiet and solemn and weird, marinate in his own quiet, suffering loneliness. Kat had realized that he'd had a bee up his butt about something ever since he started glowering, but it wasn't until he opened his mouth and stalked off that she realized it wasn't a bee. It was a whole damn hive. Kat watched Elias march off into the portal and stared.

She whistled and turned to Harper, a lopsided smile on her face. "Jezz, did you shot his Mom or something?" One by one the heroes followed Elias into the vortex, taking it head on, on its own terms. Staring for a moment at the swirling pixelated portal, Warp closed her eyes and shrugged, shaking her head. "I can't do any good out here. And I sure as hell can't shoot cross-world."

Warp stepped up to the doorway and turned to Kris, "still; this," she said with a smile on her face, "is stupid, reckless and mad." With the tone she used, Kat might have been talking about new rides at Disneyland. She leaned back on one leg and pointed with her thumb. "Wanna see what's on the other side?"

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The inside of the portal was dark; once inside, it seemed all at once disorienting--falling, floating, flying. It was hard to tell until the two of you were dumped onto the ground, the portal spinning a good six or seven feet above the pair. It was dark and the moon was high in the sky, amidst pixelated trees. The area was surrounded by a number of white floating lights as well, illuminating the clearing and seeming to keep whatever was out in the wilds at bay. A lone howl filled the air, followed by a panicked cry for help somewhere to the north, followed by gunfire.


"I didn't do anything." He shrugged at Warp, his frown deepening at Arcturus's comment. He didn't say anything about it, however, simply looking down at his watch. "You have one hour.

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The young paragon was quite used to flying, but falling, flying and floating at the same time and in every direction was pretty far out of what he knew. Flailing in the air with a cry of "Brarrrrrrg-guh!" when he hit the ground, Subito winced and rubbed absently at his shoulder as he got his bearings.

The surreal world around him didn't give the stocky teen much confidence, and as he got to his feet and listened to the sounds off in the distance, he drew the Banner. Turning to Elias Heraldo said earnestly "Errant, can you detect where that's coming from? I might not be able to figure that out on my own. Whoever that is, they need our help!" With that, he flared with golden smoke, and from the way he stood ready it was clear he was waiting for the sign to go rocketing to the rescue!

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Elias said it simply and put a hand on Heraldo briefly. "You need to be calm, we can't afford to make any mistakes, I'll see what I can find, but if we rush ahead with no backup we are not helping."

And then he closed his eyes, so as to obscure the faraway look on his face as he reached out to scan what was happening, to try and find what those screams were. It happened quickly, but it was still going to take time, and that was something that was more a luxury than a reality at this particular juncture.

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Glow nodded at Warp and Arcturus, then worked her neck and shoulders around to loosen them up - something as strange as this was an obvious source of tension and the joints popped noisily as she stretched. "Well we're sure not going to achieve anything waiting out here," she said with a shrug. "I'll take two orders of 'stupid, reckless and mad please'."

The Australian heroine stepped towards the portal, then turned briefly to look back at Harper. "How many STAR squad guys did you say were in here?" she asked the agent. "Might be nice to know how many we're supposed to drag back out."

She waited on the answer, ready to step through as soon as she had a count to work with.

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Slumping back to Earth, Heraldo looked agonized at the distant sounds of someone yelling for help. "But...alright, fine." He stood with the Banner over his shoulder "You'll do your best, I know, but...still want to just go help them, whoever they are."

He looked up at the door floating in the sky, frowning and adding nervously "Er, I'll try and catch them when Kat and the rest come through." That at least what something he could do.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Harper blinked a few times at Glow's question. "Two teams of four. Dunno how many civilians... should I have written this down?" Suddenly he was far less confident about allowing minors to do this sort of thing, special abilities or no. Before he could really voice that objection, all three of them slipped into the doorway. He looked down at his watch. "Don't make me regret this."

It wasn't long before the portal spat out three more figures--first Arcturus, then Warp, and then Glow. Arcturus managed to land on his feet just fine, shortly after Errant's mental sweep of the area had begun. Having seen it before, Arc moved towards Errant, notably defensive as he looked around, sniffing absently at the air.

"...hm. I can actually smell the trees. This is just gonna keep getting weirder." He looked at Heraldo, who looked ready to take off at a moment's notice; he started to ask what they had seen when another volley of gunshots rang out into the night.

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Subito had readied himself passably well for the split-second work of catching anyone not able to make a soft landing on their own. Whistling in quiet admiration at the young wizard's nimbleness, he had just been about to ask Arcturus a very pressing question when the shots cracked savagely through the air! Darting several yards into the air on instinct before he caught himself, the patriotic paragon glowered at Errant for a second before flitting back down and asking his question "How real is this? Real enough to hurt people?" he glanced at where the reports came from "And should we go charging over there?"

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Glow yelped in surprise as she suddenly found herself in mid-air, but quickly snatched herself out of the sky with her telekinesis before she could fall. After turning in a circle to inspect the surroundings she lowered herself lightly onto her feet on the ground next to Arcturus. "Alright, I guess we better get to it," she said as she heard the shots ring out in the distance. "There should be eight STAR squad guys in here, and an undetermined number of civilians. Guess it's going to be easiest to find the STAR squad guys - follow the gunshots."

She glanced over at Heraldo. "We have to assume that everything in here is real enough to hurt us until proven otherwise," she said with a shrug. "I think we better split up so that we can search for people faster, have any of you guys got a way to keep us all in contact?"

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Warp landed in a crouch, stood up and peered at the pixelated landscape with her arms crossed. She turned sharply in the direction of the gunfire, tilting her head to one side. "I'm not really looking forward to going over there," Warp admitted. "If I was alone in the dark with just a gun, and I saw something moving when all I'd seen was nasty, first thing I'd think to do . . ." Warp made a finger-gun and pointed it at everyone in the group in turn. She let that sink in for a moment. "So do we have any way to let them know who we are before we go in shooting range? And can anyone here see in the dark, cause that'd be super helpful in finding anybody else. A flashlight would be great too."

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