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The night of January 15, 2013
2 AM

The call went out to le Renard Rouge's, Cobalt Templar's, and the Liberty League's line, one after the other, at a time that just happened to catch them all when they were otherwise indisposed. The woman's voice on the other end is rough and raspy, with the tension clear as she speaks.

"Listen, this isn't my usual thing. I do a lot of really bad stuff for money, but I draw the line at Terminus bullsh-...damn, thought there was a tail on me! Anyway, listen, You need to get out to Grant Pharmaceuticals this morning and catch him in the middle of the meeting he's gonna be having. Come at nine-thirty on the dot to his office on the forty-first floor of the Grant Tower in City Center, you do-gooders should be able to find out where that is, right? Yeah. Wear your shark-suits, because he's packing some heavy firepower. I'm going to be thirty fathoms down and heading away from Freedom City at about twenty knots while you're taking care of that, so don't try and look me up. Just remember that Trawler doesn't play that Terminus crap.

"

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Corbin frowned at the phone message. He'd never heard of this "Trawler", but just the mention of "Terminus" had him on edge. The implications of shady deals at Grant, well....

'Man, scary or no, I can totally believe that place has got its fingers in stuff like that. Anything to get an edge and make a buck...Better not tell Dad, he'd probably rant for an hour.'

That he'd rather not inadvertently bring trouble down on his father helped that decision; Albert Hughes typically left hero work to his giant of a son, but if it was something "mundane" at a business the usually-quiet man had loudly railed against at least a half-dozen times in the last year...Corbin worried his father would stir up questions and trouble, and someone would come after him.

But the other worry is that this didn't sound like it was just "ruthless corporation finds scraps of Terminus technology". This "Trawler" lady had mentioned "heavy firepower", and anything Terminus at a biological research company gave him an unconscious shiver up his spine. He recalled the dead world Wander came from...

"This definitely isn't the time for solo crap. Let's see what Trevor knows..."

He pulled out his smartphone and fired off a quick text/email to his former teammate.

Hey, Trevor. Got a weird call from a "Trawler" lady, sounded like a heavy smoker or something. She was saying Grant Pharmaceuticals isn't just dirty, but dealing in the genuine T article. Said something about a meeting at 9:30 tomorrow morning, big meeting, catch "him" in his office. Also said there was "heavy firepower". Smells like a trap, and I got the willies about that place having their mitts on T. I think we need to meet up, maybe get some others in on this.

After a moment, he copied the message to Erin (without changing), reasoning she'd likely want to be in the loop, and might possibly have just as quick of access to Trevor as Trevor's own phone.

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Erin picked up her phone when the message arrived, carrying it over to the one upholstered chair in her apartment. Charlie hissed and jumped away as she sat down without looking, fluffing his fur and glaring at her from the safety of the windowsill. She paid him no attention, keying in her password and taking in the message. It seemed to be addressed to Trevor, which was odd, but the contents were at least as germane to her. She scanned the message through twice, then smiled. At last, time for some action.

Rising, she went to her closet and pulled on her purple and black uniform, buckling on her belt and sheathing her bat. She picked up her communicator and thumbed it on. "This is Wander, I'll meet you all at the HQ."

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Joe was making his way back to the apartment at the tail end of his patrol. 2 AM was pushing it, but he'd been able to make it work most of the time. Coffee was a godsend, especially when you had to be on the line at 9 AM the next day. He swung in through the window and landed right before his bed. He was just working his way out of his jacket when he noticed his League communicator was still flashing. He picked it up and checked the voicemail - first came the message from Trawler, swiftly followed by Wander's broadcast.

Oh, great, the Terminus, thought Joe. I can put that right up there with "lions with rabies" on the list of things I never wanted to have to deal with. He looked to his bed, feeling the load of fatigue coming down on him like lead. Then he shrugged his jacket back on and made his way to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. Got a feeling I'm gonna need this...

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Deep underground a blinking red light nearby a workbench altered the hunched figure of Trevor Hunter of yet another message being relayed from his various personal and 'professional' lines. The young man scratched his cheek absently and he glowered at the insistent distraction, reminding himself that he hadn't bothered to shave in the better part of a week. Letting the tool in his hand clatter atop the pile of parts he'd been working on, he pushed one of several empty mugs out of the way to access his recent communiques. Rubbing the bridge of his nose and willing himself to full wakefulness as he read, Trevor mentally reprimanded himself for not paying attention to the original voice mail until now.

Performing the telepathic equivalent of knocking on a clubhouse door, he moved to retrieve his costume while contacting Eve Martel over their ingrained link. --Eve, what can you tell me about Grant Pharmaceuticals?-- The white haired gymnast's family ran one of if not the foremost biomedical companies in the world. Hopefully she'd be privy to scuttlebutt he wouldn't have already heard about their competitor. --Sounds like they may be mixed up with the Terminus. Or it's a trap.-- Even his thoughts sounded tired, but he pushed it aside as he donned his mask. "Redbird."

"Finally," the autonomic intelligence spoke up immediately, her voice a mixture of relief and eagerness as the headlight of the Night Cycle housing her consciousness lit up. "A call to action! I understand fresh air is important for biological warriors, yes?"

Midnight made a flat sound through the filter of his mask and began taking stock of his equipment. "Hmph. ...what day is it?"

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Eve wore a frown. She was her robe down in the sitting room of the first floor of the Parkhurst Hotel; she had just returned home from a quiet patrol and was about to slip into bed where her girlfriend was asleep when the message from 'Trawler' was relayed to her. She had already listened to the message five times, and playing it again for the sixth she still shivered at the mention of Terminus.

She was running through what she remembered of Grant Pharmaceuticals when she felt Trevor's mental 'knock.' --Off hand, not much,-- she replied, unsurprised at Trevor's question. She quietly padded up the stairs and slipped into the bedroom as she 'talked', changing from her robe and back into her costume. --Got some strange message,-- she continued as she slipped out of the Hotel. --Thinking of taking a closer look.--

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Mark had gone out of the country to finally meet his girlfriend's family for the holidays, and between one thing and another had only recently gotten back into Freedom City. When he answered his League communicator, he was still on Socotran time and wide awake. Sitting at his kitchen table, he sipped the coffee that had been a Christmas gift from Trevor who knew how long ago and futzed around for a few moments with his Liberty League communicator. Midnight Manor had always been the team's gathering place, and Mark had learned from long experience that Trevor objected to people just barging in on him. "Midnight, it's Edge," he said as he changed into his costume. "I'm about to head over to your place so we can plan." He had no doubts Trevor had gotten the message too. "Is anyone else there yet?" With his free hand, he texted back to Corbin, "C U @ Midnite: Edge."

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Corbin sent a quick acknowledgement to Edge, followed by a quick notice to Trevor (his mother would scold him for being impolite otherwise). As he headed downstairs, he scrounged up some paper and pen to leave a note for his parents.

Mom, Dad,

Hero stuff came up during the night. Not sure how long I'll be busy. I'll be careful, really. Don't wait up.

-Corbin

As the paper was laid on the counter, he was, in a brief flash of blue light, clad in his "classic" costume. His expression was grim; if the Terminus was truly involved, dire consequences could be ahead. He quietly opened and closed the doors, glancing around once more....Before streaking into the sky.

As a precaution, he flew up several thousand feet, and "slightly" adjusted his position, before flying straight down. His prodigious willpower kept his excess power leashed, and there was no tell-tale flash of light or trail of fire in his wake, though he did provide a momentary flash of blue against the night sky. He landed behind some bushes not too far from the front door, and when he walked out he was dressed in his "civilian" clothes. His hand reached up to knock, but...He knew Trevor's grandfather likely needed his rest. Instead, he opted to message Trevor.

Mark said to come to your place. I'm at the front door. Didn't want to wake your grandpa. Let me know if it's unlocked; I'll try not to get lost inside.
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As Corbin sent his message, he felt a soft whoosh of air and heard a quiet thud behind him. Erin brushed herself off from her landing, looking around to take stock of the situation. "We should go in through the garage," she told him. "You don't want to wake up Travis." She led the way down the steps and around to the massive garage, keying her way in through security with the ease of long practice, for all she looked slightly... ill at ease? Uncomfortable? Whatever it was, after a moment the door swung open and she gestured him inside. "I'll leave it open for the others, they should be coming soon. Midnight's probably already downstairs."

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--You too? Hrm,-- Midnight replied to Eve, tallying the multiple channels the supposed tip-off had been set through. --Lacks discretions for a whistle-blower. Grouping at Manor; garage is open.-- There wasn't much point in being subtle over a telepathic link. As much as he doubted even someone expecting her would spot la Renarde Bleue née Sage if she decided to scout ahead on her own, they could at least walk into a potential trap in force. --Your favourite co-captain is already here.--

Quietly thankful that his uniform hid his slightly unkempt appearance, he replied aloud to Edge over the communicator. "Wander, Templar. Renarde en route. Pick up Cannonade on your way." There was, at the end of the day, little that could beat an inter-continental teleporter for sheer convenience. Pulling a lever on a nearby control panel caused a china cabinet in the mansion above to rotate away and reveal a downward staircase as Erin and Corbin approached, beckoning them enter.

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Down below, with a map of the headquarters of Grant Conglomerates on their tabletop, they began making plans for their infiltration of the meeting. Trap or not, a threat from the Terminus was well-worth taking seriously. The easiest course seemed to be to send in multiple fronts; Midnight and Sage would make their way into the building stealthily, Edge would simply walk in wearing a casual disguise and pass himself off as an employee (Mark's talent for talking his way out of trouble was even greater than his ability to find trouble), while the powerhouses waited in reserve to burst into the meeting if the evidence of crime and Terminus infiltration did prove to be accurate. "OK, this all seems straightforward enough," said Mark as he looked over their plans, having learned enough in his years with the Liberty League and Young Freedom to actually be able to follow conversations like this. Something seemed awkward around the table, particularly with his two friends Erin and Trevor, but he knew how private they both were and despite some worries tried to focus on the tactical planning.

We can sort their relationship out later. Things have got to be okay! They're always so good together...

"Weird that we all got the call," he said, trying to change the subject. "You know, I wonder if Trawler heard about what happened on Graduation Day and thought we could handle the Terminus fine ourselves? That's got to be it."

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"Didn't have a key. I'd just texted Trevor. Midnight. You know."

He gives Erin a sidelong glance as she calls her boyfriend "Midnight" and clearly displays a fair bit of...he couldn't pin it down, but something was going on. If it hadn't been 2-something AM, the Terminus wasn't involved, and he hadn't assumed Erin would punch him in half through the wall, he might have gently said something. So it was probably better he didn't!

He followed her down into the Cave, eyeballing the china cabinet entrance with a thought toward his own "secret base"...

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Cobalt Templar nodded at the plan.

"I can stay sky-bound, keep up a platform for us so we can all go in together without being on the roof or something. It's not subtle, but it at least gives us the distance option. And I can get us in there quick; it'd be a wild ride, though."

His wide grin gave the impression he wouldn't mind trying such an entrance out, though. But as he contemplated the mysterious call, he frowned.

"It was routed around, so at least this "Trawler" doesn't know who I am behind the mask. But I thought that whole thing was kept secret? Isn't it more likely she just picked a smaller hero group, you guys, and then a couple other heroes? I'm not front-page stuff, but I'm all over the city, and I'm by no means subtle. And Eve's got some connections in the science business. Maybe she connected just enough dots? Though....that's not really a great thought, either.

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"Does it really matter?" Erin asked. "We don't actually know how many heroes got the message, just that we particular heroes all know each other and are talking about it." She sat with her hands folded on the table and her back ramrod-straight, studying the information they had. "If I had to pick a company who'd be consorting with the Terminus, it would be Grant. Pharmeceutical companies, with few exceptions, make a living off monetizing human suffering in the first place, and everybody knows that Grant is shady. You hear all kinds of rumors about what they're up to. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out this is absolutely true." She looked up at the others and shrugged. "Anyway, even if it's a trap, we have to go check it out, right? We'll just be careful and make sure not to get caught in whatever anyone might try to spring."

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Cannonade arrived at the mansion as fast as he could; the combination of the coffee and the night air whipping across his face as he leapt from mansion to mansion with mighty bounds helped snap him back to full alertness, and he was almost fully awake by the time he touched down at Midnight's front gate. Looking over the plans for Grant, he considered the risk and the possible issues.

"Man," he said, "last thing I want is Terminus influence in meds." His thoughts weren't with the thwarted Terminus invasion - though he'd heard bits about it from Edge, Wander, and Midnight - but with Mister Motley's little "experiment," that had brought the city to its knees. He didn't quite know how Terminus-fueled powers worked... but he imagined it wouldn't be a good thing to have them thrust on the city at large, especially packaged in a pill bottle. "Question is, where's the heart of this thing, if it's going on? Too many places do it in the basement..."

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--What can you tell me about the Salvation Army Spartan?-- Eve thought to Trevor while she listened to Cannonade. --Respecting his confidentiality of course.--

"Could mean Freedom League security was penetrated," the fox-masked heroine said, with a nod toward Edge, when Cannonade finished. "Which does matter," she continued with a pointed look at Wander, "but one that thankfully is not a concern or priority, I'll pass the thought along but you'll have to trust the League to manage their house." She shrugged, letting the matter drop, and glanced down at the building plans for Grant Tower. I could be in there right now...

"There is the possibility that Grant Pharma, corrupt though it is alleged to be, is being set up. Won't know until I start picking apart heads."

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--You'll like him; stands up for little people,-- Trevor told Eve, using a deadpan which had taken practice to achieve telepathically. --Grandson of the Legionnaire, from the war.-- There really wasn't any need to specify which one to the young woman carrying on a mantle of her own, even without the added clarity of their mental link. --Strong, tough, level headed, hates Nazis. Good man.--

"Not secret from Annihilists," Midnight pointed out aloud simultaneously, eyes narrowing behind his featureless mask. His challenge to the armies of the Terminus after their victory against Martinet and her forces had almost literally been asking for further reprisals. "Need information, not debate. Renard and I will infiltrate." It was difficult to tell but the black clad mystery man seemed to be a little terser even than usual.

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"Only if we're right there behind you," Wander put in, her face set in stubborn lines. "You two may be the sneakiest, but that doesn't mean your asses aren't going to end up in a sling. You stay in touch, and Edge can move the rest of us in as soon as there's a hint of trouble. If this is the Terminus, last time they laid a trap for us it happened almost faster than we could handle it, even though we were all together." She looked down again at the map, her face going cold. "And anyway, if there's a chance for us to bust these guys down, I want to be in on it."

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"Okay, well, sounds like we've got a plan..." Mark missed cues about a lot of things, but he could feel the tension in the room like he could cut it with a knife. "Look, we'll forget about me sneaking in. I'll be with the powerhouse group while Midnight and Renard do their thing," Nice costume, by the way, Eve! he thought in her direction when he guessed her mind was turned his way. "I suggest we start on the roof," he said, pointing to the big wide roof of the Grant building that towered some twenty stories above all the neighboring buildings. Like any amateur historian, Mark was no fan of the giant glass boxes that had replaced urban architecture after World War II even in Freedom City, but in this case the sheer size of the glass tower would work to their advantage. "The meeting is just a few stories down from the roof. While you guys infiltrate, we can keep our ears open..."

-

The next morning, after just a few hours sleep, Edge was in costume and hanging out on the roof of the Grant skyscraper with Wander, Cannonade, and Cobalt Templar. He was in his subdued stealth costume, such as it was, the dark gold and blue he wore only about as bright and colorful as a Blue Angel jet fighter. They all had their commlinks open as Trevor and Eve did their thing, the meeting below was just a few minutes away from starting. The inside of the big corporate skyscraper was bustling and excited with the start of the business day; office workers were finding their cubicles, Bob the Breakfast Guy (if his cart could be trusted) was selling hot egg sandwiches in the lobby, and soft Muzak was playing down on the radio. The junior executives were filing in down in the small, wood-paneled meeting room where the big get-together was supposed to be held, talking in hushed whispers about the boss' new project.

Between one thing and another, it was a tense morning.

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Corbin hadn't gotten much sleep; he'd decided to spend the "down hours" he had catching a nap on the couch in his forest hideaway. It wasn't like it was far enough to delay him any when it was time to move the plan along....

Currently he was standing on the roof with the others, having darkened the blues of his outfit a bit, and forgone the cape for the moment. He eyed the other heroes on the roof, his own anxiety ramped up a bit due to some of the lingering tension that basically all of them sensed. Finally he cleared his throat and spoke up.

"So. Uh. The Liberty League. Pretty cool deal. How's it been going for you guys? Any particularly exciting showdowns with villains or whatnot? I don't catch the news much lately."

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Down below, the meeting was indeed taking a sinister turn as Midnight and le Renard Bleu listened in from their clandestine location, their data relayed to the heroes upstairs. Jonathan Grant had entered right at the hour of nine and was in a sour mood, though not directed at anyone in the room. They were too much his loyal toadies to attract his notice. His bodyguards had swept the room for bugs, but luckily they hadn't quite done a thorough job. "Now that our technological partners have failed, it's up to the biologists and chemists to do the heavy lifting. As usual!" He looked around at the junior executives, his executive's blonde crewcut almost a halo in the light from the big floor-length window behind him. "What's our progress on production?"

One of the junior executives, one of several nearly-identical looking young men in red polo shirts and black slacks, said, "Street-level distribution is at 80%, which is well within our current expectations. We should be outcompeting most non-syndicate dealers of zoom and max within the next 12 months, and most of the syndicate distributors are already buying from our front companies. The black market will be ours by 2014."

"Good, good." Grant drummed his fingers on the table. "I'm concerned about what we're doing with the vaccinations. Too much close distribution is just going to give us outbreaks of T-babies at every hospital and school, and not only is that going to get traced back to us, setting a neighborhood on fire is going to be very bad for business. If we expand our push out through the free clinics and the HIV test sites, we can still get full distribution without endangering our operation. Or the general public, aka our cash cows!" he added with a laugh.

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"So. Uh. The Liberty League. Pretty cool deal. How's it been going for you guys? Any particularly exciting showdowns with villains or whatnot? I don't catch the news much lately."

"We dealt with Medea's ex-husband a while back," Cannonade said as he kept his eyes on the building. "He was trying to set himself up as a hero and secure a beachhead for Hades. And there was that thing with the space ghosts. Apparently the Soviets got up to some really unsavory stuff during the Cold War and left the end results lying about. "

He realized, a second too late, that he might have sounded too brusque talking to Cobalt Templar. Honestly, he was probably just as nervous; all that he truly remembered of the Terminus was running with his parents during the Invasion. He'd been five then; if it hadn't been on PBS and didn't involve animals, toy trucks, or dinosaurs, he hadn't paid much attention to it. But that fear still cut on a primal level, even if he couldn't quite remember how it had manifested. He decided to take his gaze off the building for a second and turn to Cobalt Templar.

"How about you?" he asked. "Anything big?"

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Wander stood absolutely still and listened to the incriminating board meeting over her earpiece, completely ignoring her companions on the roof. As Jonathan Grant outlined his plans, her lips pursed together tighter and tighter until there was a ring of white around her mouth. When he came to the part about the vaccines, though, she seemed to come alive again all at once. "No." she said flatly, a death-knell sound of finality in her voice. "You don't get away with that, you son of a bitch."

In a heartbeat she'd drawn her bat from the sheath at her waist, but this time she didn't twist her hand to spin it to extension. Instead she looked at it and tossed it aside, the silver rod flashing in the sunlight as it rolled across the graveled roof. Another heartbeat and she was over the rail, seeming to defy gravity as she swarmed down the side of the building using tiny handholds and her own acrobatic grace to descend to the level of the executive meeting room. The double-paned glass of the panoramic windows didn't even slow her down as she broke through, dropping down in front of Grant as he cowered from the spray of glass.

Wander stared down at him, an avenging angel with a face full of righteous wrath. "Your murders for the Terminus end here!" she told him, then drew back her fist. The snap of his neck was clearly audible as her fist connected with his chin, the snap of his spine less so as his body flew like a projectile across the room, straight through the wall and into the waiting room beyond.

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--Well that confirms it,-- Eve thought to Trevor, thinking what they heard (and that Trevor would have obviously recorded) would be enough to finally pin a conviction on Jonathan Grant. --Let's gr-.--

The noise and shower of glass interrupted the Blue Fox's train of thought, and she watched frozen by shock, as Wander dealt a lethal blow to Grant. "You idiot," the hooded and masked heroine snarled as she slipped from her hiding place and into the ostentatious meeting room. There was a red mist forming near her right hand that, in the space of a few heartbeats, had solidified into a long and slender triangle shaped blade.

"I can't read the mind of a dead man," the fox masked woman said, pointedly ignoring the other executives as she stalked across the room, though curiously her path placed her between them and Wander. --Wander killed Grant,-- the telepath thought simultaneously to Cannonade and Cobalt Templar. --Get your asses in here, double time.--

Oh Erin, Eve thought to herself, thankful for the mask.

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Erin stared at Eve for a bare second, her eyes glittering, her fist bloodied. "You just don't understand!" she yelled, an edge of hysteria or madness in her voice. "You won't make them pay, but they have to pay! I'm not going to wait any longer! You'll see!"

She spun on her heel and ran back to the window, then impossibly, directly out and down the wall of the building, propelling herself faster than gravity could've hoped to carry her. In barely a second, she was at the ground level main doors, where a bored-looking security guard watched the people reporting in for work. Long before he could so much as reach for a weapon, her arm was around his neck, nearly choking him as she continued running.

"You and I," she told him with a crazed smile, "have work to do." At 9:30am, the streets of the city center were not as densely packed as they'd been thirty minutes earlier, but there was still plenty of crowd. Wander paid them no mind, bowling through them like a bocce ball through wet grass as she and her startled hostage bolted down the nearest subway entrance and onto the commuter-laden platform.

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"Few days ago I took on some Wasp Ninjas with the new Bee-Keeper. He's a pretty cool guy."

CT didn't really know Cannonade, but he seemed decent enough. The tension was mostly them having to wait for something to hap-

"Wait Wander what are you-"

And then she was over the side of the building. Templar was still standing up straight from where he'd been leaning against an AC unit when he "heard" Blue Fox tell them Wander had killed a man. His eyes widened in momentary shock.

"Oh, الجمل النÙايات على الÙطير."

With that rather unique statement he took off at a run that almost instantly morphed into blurred flight. But he was too late; Wander was already moving, and even though his speed was greater he needed precious seconds to build it up and he was reacting not acting!

"צריך ללכת מהר יותר צריך ללכת מהר יותר." he muttered to himself, his eyes narrowing in the whipping wind. He'd almost caught her when she-

A hostage? He almost slammed into the pavement, only averting that at the last second. She was still moving, quicker than he'd ever seen her do. He gained ground, but then she went underground, and it was only by scraping the ceiling, staying in her slightly-cleared wake, and a fair bit of luck that he managed to not hurt anyone as he tore through the air. He yelled, only half-expecting her to hear or care.

"Quid agis, desine quaeso quid hoc est furor!"

Of course, she spoke no Latin, so he switched to English after gaining a touch of control.

"Stop this madness, Wander! You're going to hurt a civilian!"

He managed to reach her and, with a near-titanic effort, pry the security guard from her grip into his own arms, even keeping the poor man mostly intact.

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