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January 15, 2013

Blackstone Prison

With rumors of clandestine Terminus activity circulating through the city, it was only natural that the Freedom League wanted to interrogate their most high-level Terminus prisoner...and only natural that the most experienced expert on the Terminus would be part of the interrogation. Steve was waiting for Gabriel when the latter arrived on Blackstone Island, standing near the outer perimeter fence in a suit and tie and looking as menacing as any of the prisoners inside. "Good morning, Gabriel," said the former drone, his expression hard to read as he faced an imminent reunion with the monster who had destroyed his life. "Thank you for calling me on this case." With a faint smile, he cocked his hand towards the outer gate where the 'blackguards' were watching attentively at the arrival of the famous Gabriel. "They thought I should wait for you to actually go below. It seems I set off the security system."

-

Down below, in the ultra-high-security wing where the clone of Shadivan Steelgrave was currently sleeping in his cell, the man in the cell opposite was whistling. Miss Americana had been called in to repair a very high security, albeit damaged computer system; the tough, albeit rigid, circuits inside the cell's door control, among the most high-security in the entire facility and a restricted design trusted to only a few super-geniuses, had fractured into pieces like broken glass the night before. Only a backup system had kept the big impervium door blocking his cell from sliding right up and out of the way. "Yeah, 37042 thinks he's funny that way," Officer McInnis was telling Miss Americana, the stocky blonde rolling her eyes with a guard's amused distaste for a persistent prisoner. "Courts say we can't actually stifle him if he's not attacking people with his sonic powers, and he's been in here long enough to know the score. Nothing says we can't put you in solitary, though, does it 37042? " she called, rapping on the impervium with her billy club and making the whistling stop. "No pretty girls like me and Miss A to look at in there!"

The only response was a single, defiant wolf whistle and a wordless grumbling that finally lapsed into silence.

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Miss Americana was dressed down for her visit to prison today. Instead of her normal tailored designer wardrobe, she was dressed for work in a loose-fitting maroon blouse and navy slacks, her hair pulled up and back in a bun with a few rhinestone barrettes. That had turned out to be good forethought, since at the moment she was laying on the immaculately-scrubbed floor, digging up into the much-less immaculate guts of the door system. Already she was covered with a fine powder of dust from the destroyed systems and had used a barrette to wedge open a particularly stubborn coupler latch.

After several more minutes of work, she sat up, resting her arms on her knees. "It looks like you're going to want a modifier for that court order," she told the guard. "He may not be attacking people with that sonic whistling, but I'll bet my favorite boots that when I get these components back to the lab I'm going to find sonic damage is to blame for the disintegration. A single supersonic melody isn't going to do much, but if he's been at it for a year, well..." She picked up a bit of the dust, sifted it through her fingers. "I can put some extra shielding in there, but you're going to want a suppression cuff on him from now on. If the backups had failed, or he'd managed to destroy them as well, he'd have been standing in the hallway to say hello next time you came in."

As she jotted a memo on her pad to have the proper equipment and tools delivered, Miss A took a moment to look around the high security ward. This was a psych ward, she'd been told, reserved mainly for prisoners who were threats both to the general prison population and to themselves. If the clone of Steelegrave was any indication of the sort of prisoner they kept, she could understand why the warden kept them isolated. For now, though, the short hallway was quiet, the crazy villains apparently having a bit of a lie-in this morning.

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"Morning, Steve!"

Gabriel touched down, all whites and silvers like always, waving a "hello" at the guards and staff nearby. He chuckled at Steve's comments about the security system.

"I set a few metal detectors off myself, these days."

Gabriel gave a smile and a wink to let both Steve and the guards know he was joking. In truth, he was somewhat nervous. While fallen angels and fae lords and ladies were practically normal for him to face these days, the Terminus was still unknown enough to make him nervous. And the Steelgrave clone they'd "rescued" had left him wondering if he had about 10 extra angles working, even now...

"Didn't seem right to keep you out of the loop. You might be some of our best insight regarding...this source. Anyways, guess we should check in with the security fellas, huh?"

He strode up to the men at the gate and quickly got them both going through the door. He was all smiles and politeness and formality as they descended into the deeper sections of the prison.

"I'm guessing Miss Americana is already down there?"

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"Miss Americana is here?" Steve flushed along his scars at that, putting his hand in his sport jacket pockets. "That is, uh, a surprise." He leaned close to Gabriel as they boarded the elevator to the psych ward, his voice quiet. "Listen, Gabriel, while we are down there, if you could...keep an eye on things with her for me, that would be very helpful. Things have been very...complicated between us lately and I don't want it to interfere with the operation." He coughed a little and straightened up, still looking a little pink along the lines in his otherwise dark face. "This is a very important day for me. You know what it means for me to confront even a shadow of the dark lord Shadivan Steelgrave." He looked away as the doors slid open, letting them on the psych ward level. "It would be...appreciated, my friend."

-

"All right, I'll make a note of that," said Officer McInnis, frowning as her narrow-tipped marker squeaked along on her clipboard. "Outside of the whistler there, things have been mostly quiet today. 45034 is off getting her art therapy today, so it's just us and you-know-who down here. What can you recommend for anti-sonic material in the meantime? We can get almost any part in under 24 hours." She cocked a finger towards Shadivan Steelgrave, the goateed despot still snoring in his bunk. As she spoke, the desk officer, Officer Johnson, a middle-aged African-American man just beginning to grow a paunch, was just rising to his feet greeting two familiar faces. "Special guests today," she murmured. "Talking to Steelgrave about that Terminus stuff."

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"Yeah. Some sort of "technical consultation"; one of the guards mentioned it while I was making arrangements for us to come in today."

Both eyebrows went up at the mentions of Steve needing him to provide....creative interference.

"Um. I...understand complicated. That's fine, I'll talk to her, you can go give Steelgrave your patented glare. You know, the one that made those OVERSHADOW agents toss down their guns a couple months back?"

His expression grew more grave at Steve's final comment.

"Yeah. I know this is a tough moment anyways. We need to keep our head in the game, no problems."

--------

As the elevator opened, Gabriel stepped forward with a smile and a handshake for the desk officer.

"Good morning, Officer Johnson. Thanks for helping us out today. Here's our temporary badges. Anything else? Excellent."

Procedure and pleasantries finished, Gabriel strode down the dark hall, all but shedding light on his own, the stark overhead bulbs casting a slightly odd glow off of his silvery, otherworldly armor. He'd spotted Miss Americana and Officer McInnis almost immediately. He stopped next to both of them, giving a smile and a nod of his head to each.

"Officer McInnis, a pleasure. Miss Americana, nice to see you again. Wrapping up your consultation?"

He cast an inquisitive eye at the partially-disassembled door, and the fine powder spread around its base.

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"Good morning Gabe, Steve," Miss A said, the perfect pleasantness in her voice belying any hint of the awkwardness Steve had suggested. "I'll be a little while yet, I'd rather not leave this shield running on its backup mechanism any longer than necessary. But I'll do my best to keep the volume down," she promised. "You're here to ask about the rumors that have been floating around lately, I assume?" Normally she and Steve would've discussed all of this in more detail beforehand, but ever since that horribly awkward night before Christmas, he'd been keeping his distance and she'd been letting him. It was all she could do to keep her own balance, let alone find one in their strange pas de deux. "Good luck with that, I think he's sleeping."

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"I will soon awaken him," said Steve, walking over to the cell and smashing his hand against the button that rang a bell inside the cell. "Steelgrave!" he barked. "Get up!" The former lord of the Terminus did just that, starting ever so slightly before yawning ostentatiously and smiling at his former victim. He looked a little rumpled, and decidedly less handsome in prison fatigues than power-armor, but the middle-aged man with the slight paunch looked more like a successful business executive than a gleeful betrayer of ten thousand worlds.

"Oh, it's you, Steve," said Steelgrave, crossing his legs and putting his hands on his lap as he looked over at the grim-faced Omegadrone. "Hey, sorry I haven't called, but they don't let me use a lot of electronics in here." He grinned. "So how you've been? What's this I hear about you having a girlfriend these days?"

"You have the arrogance I remember," replied Steve, folding his hands behind his back as he glared at Steelgrave. "I had wondered if life in a cell of steel and stone would change you."

"What, this? It's nothing, really. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful they didn't put my head on a pike, or just toss me back home so I could get the same treatment from the other, stuffier me? But this isn't so bad. I mean sure, they're still figuring out what to charge me with, but you know there's nothing they can do here that'll be as bad as what could have happened back on Nihilor." He gave Steve a probing look. "You remember, right?"

Steve blinked at that, his nearly expressionless face working for a moment, before he said, "The Freedom League has gained evidence of clandestine Terminus infiltration into this world. Drugs. Weapons. Devices known only to those intimately familiar with the technology and culture of Nihilor. There have been...incidents on the street, and in homes. Those in power seek to squash this threat before it can challenge the safety of their community."

"Sounds like they have a problem." Steelgrave shrugged innocently. "What does it have to do with me? I'm down here in what passes for Hell in a cell, remember?"

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"The worrisome rumors, yes. We have to make use of all our resources, no matter how distasteful."

He eyed the jury-rigged cell security systems.

"Looks like you at least know what's what in that thing's guts. And if they get rowdy in there, well."

He smirked.

"I'm sure you'll keep them in line."

That was when Steve woke Steelgrave up and confronted him. He frowned as Shadian almost immediately started working his way under Steve's metaphorical skin. He was not happy with the situation, not one bit, and it quickly showed on his face. But his stride was smooth, controlled as he walked over to visibility in front of the cell.

"It has to do with you because your brain is still intact. You seem to have most or all of the "real" Steelgrave's knowledge. Even locked up down here. So if this was an existing plan from before your "download" was made, you'd know of it. If it isn't, you could speculate based on your knowledge of yourself and the others.

We're giving you a chance for conversation and to show of your superior intellect. Humor us with what you might know or speculate, hm?"

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"It's not a bad idea, Gabe, but I'm afraid it's not likely to succeed." Miss A rose easily to her feet, walking just into sight of the clone in the cell as she jotted a work order on her pad computer. "He's not the real Steelgrave, merely a handful of cloned cells forced into reproductive mitosis and imprinted with a selection of memories to make him feel like he was the man himself." Her voice was mild, totally dismissive. "The mental matrix is almost certainly faulty, listen to how he's already cracking under the strain of even mild incarceration. A pawn like this would never have gotten information on any important operations from his betters on Nihilor. You'd probably have as much luck interrogating him as you would the cheek swab that spawned him."

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"Hey,I know more than you'd think, honey," said Steelgrave, giving Miss A a cutting look. "I know that little victory your little friends had over Omega a couple of years ago? That's not going to last. The Terminus is coming back, and it's coming back _here_, and I want to make sure I spend my last few years in a comfy little cell instead of getting pulled apart on another lab table." He stood up and began to pace, considerably. "Subversion, huh? Sounds like something I'd do. I have to admit, Mandragora may have a prettier face and the Martinet may be a better fighter, but you're not going to find anyone else in the Terminus with my ability to make plans." He grinned at some private joke and said, "It seems like a legitimate plan. Invasion hasn't worked and kidnapping your kids for grins hasn't worked, so why not go in through the back door? A lot of people are open to being...realistic about these things. Especially for the right price."

"Yes, that is something with which you would be very familiar," agreed Steve, his arms folded like a cigar store Indian. "But this dimension has proven to be made of sterner stuff than others. The population is proud of their freedom, and will not give it up so easily, whatever promises or bribes you make to the weak-minded among them. What has your counterpart offered them?"

"Oh, who's to say?" said Steelgrave with a wave. "Power, immortality, the whole nine yards. It's not that hard to make the kind of chemicals I used to take to stave off old father time. A lot of people will happily make the choice to live forever at a despot's side than die stupidly fighting him. Like your parents did, Steve."

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Gabriel reached a hand up to his face and gave an exaggerated yawn.

"Oh, sorry about that. You're just so boring. I mean, "I like plans, yes" and "oh I'd offer power and eternal life and junk" are...well, those are kind of "duh" things. We could have figured that on our own! You're not totally stupid, so sure you've got plans."

He leaned over a bit to Miss A and Steve and stage-whispered.

"Except diet plans!"

He straightened out and brushed some imaginary lint from his jacket.

"I think you're just clueless. I mean, you clearly don't actually know anything. I guess we could just leave? I don't feel like playing entertainer for a guy ripping off Errol Flynn. It's as dull as that brain of his."

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Before Steelgrave could respond to that, the elevator doors slid open again. "Prisoner 53024 coming in," called a new guard as she escorted in an oddly familiar face. With her hair cut very short and her face oddly young, 53024 was still recognizable as Erin White, aka Wander. Or rather her dimensional duplicate, Singularity. A civilian employee of the prison was walking with 53024 as she returned to her cell, excitedly holding up a watercolor drawing of birds flying over a deep green forest. "This is very good work, Erin, I think it's some of your best yet." They headed by the group with just a glance in their direction, Erin's cell door sliding open to reveal what was almost certainly the most comfortable cell in the psych ward. "Do you want to hang it up here, or leave it up in our studio?"

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Steve turned and stared in shock at the new arrival, for a moment completely distracted from his interrogation of Steelgrave. This isn't right! This isn't right at all! Forgetting for the moment that things were awkward between them, he leaned close to Miss A and whispered, "What is she doing here?" Steelgrave's attention was off them both for the moment, the former despot still glaring at Gabriel. "She is supposed to be elsewhere and with her super-team today."

"Hey, that's your funeral, Paddy," Steelgrave finally said, crossing his arms confidently. "You think you can handle people jacked up on T-meth and Martinet's Tears, that's fine by me. I'm way down here in my cell so if they rip your arms and legs off I don't even have to see the bloodspray. I know you people like to dress up entropic radiation as some kind of normal superpower, but we all know that's not the way it is. Drugs with T-juice in them are going to be addictive, deadly, and that energy's not going to just go away because someone smoked it up their nose. Equal and opposite reaction, kids."

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"In here," Erin decided after a moment's thoughtful consideration. "Put it up like a window." She gave the three strangers in the corridor a curious look as she passed, but one without a hint of recognition, then stepped uncomplainingly into the cell that looked a lot like a dorm room.

Miss Americana was distracted from Steelgrave for a moment by the new arrival as well, watching her with a considering look. "That's not the one you know, Steve," she explained. "That's Erin White EVM1, codenamed Singularity. Or more properly EZO2, I suppose, but that's not where she was picked up, and it's just more confusing given the other one's designation. In any case, Young Freedom rescued her from Anti-Earth, but she needed some serious reconditioning. I did some of the consulting work on her cell."

She turned her attention back to the cell in front of them, giving Steelegrave a bored look. "And I suppose you know something about these drugs and how they're supposedly being disseminated?" she drawled.

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"Hey, that's your funeral, Paddy," Steelgrave finally said, crossing his arms confidently. "You think you can handle people jacked up on T-meth and Martinet's Tears, that's fine by me. I'm way down here in my cell so if they rip your arms and legs off I don't even have to see the bloodspray. I know you people like to dress up entropic radiation as some kind of normal superpower, but we all know that's not the way it is. Drugs with T-juice in them are going to be addictive, deadly, and that energy's not going to just go away because someone smoked it up their nose. Equal and opposite reaction, kids."

Gabriel snorted as he leaned against the wall next to the cell door.

"Wow, Paddy? What's next, jokes about potatoes? Oh, wait, maybe jokes about priests? Possibly about leprechauns? I mean, sheesh man, at least try for some original material.

Besides, I've fought ghouls that nearly ripped my guts out. Bodily harm from one source isn't any scarier than another."

He gave a another derisive snort.

"Also, "T-meth"? Wow. You guys can barely make anything up! At least "Martinet's Tears" is sort of original-ish. Bet you didn't come up with that one. Still, those sound kinda scary. What, would your plan involve "throw a bunch of drugs and a couple wacky guns at street gangs and see what happens"? Not pleasant, but hardly world-shaking. Maybe if your plan was to try and take us down in about 40,000 years or something. Still, seems pretty lame."

Of course, he was actually glad; they'd just gotten information they might not have had before, information the League could use to start tracking some of these drugs on the street.

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Steelgrave shrugged. "Suit yourself, big boy." He took a seat back on his bed, still studying Steve. "You know, Steve, you surprise me," he said conversationally, turning back to the former Omegadrone. "You grew up in that little hovel in the Black Ghetto, you've actually seen what entropic drugs do to proles. You remember that riot when the cruciform toxin leaked out and addicted that whole block?" From the look on Steve's face, his eyes narrowing and jaw setting, he certainly did. "I thought you, of all people, would be the most upset about this leaking out. Or are you just inured to all the horrible stuff by now?"

"So you were watching me. I suspected as much," replied Steve evenly, staring through the 'glass' at Steelgrave as his metallic voice became a cold, distant monotone. "Grim as the cruciform madness was, I have seen as much and worse. You, of all people, should know that. I have faith that the defenders of this dimension are wise to your schemes, as they have been so many times before."

"Hey, not _my_ schemes, not really. If my double is here, though, by all means track him down and give him my love. You have been looking for the power emissions from his suit, right?" asked Steelgrave ingenously. "45.2 in the entropic band, with the magnetic overlay?" Steelgrave's armor was built almost entirely around manipulation of electromagnetism.

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Miss A input a quick order into her computer, one that would have every sensor array in Freedom City tuning in for that frequency, even as she maintained a cool facade. "if it were that easy, everyone would do it," she pointed out, subtly shifting into a more flattering tone of voice. "All the intel we have on your suit suggests that you've got plenty of tricks up that sleeve. Your counterpart wouldn't have had such a successful run without superior tech skills and strategy. There are any of a dozen places and ways he could hide from sensors. Still I imagine you could probably take a good guess as to where we might find him if he's in the city." Her fingers never stopped moving as she spoke, bringing up data, scrolling through results, and even working on a new schematic for the Whistler's door controls. There just weren't enough hours in the day.

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"I've dealt with plenty of...exotic...drug dealers before, Shady my boy. Still, interesting tidbits for sure."

He looked over and watched Miss A typing away for a second, before turning back.

"But are drugs and schemes the only angle? Guy like you, seems like you'd love a bunch of shiny, high-tech goodies. Blasters, bikes, jets, armor, stuff like that. Sneak it in, hand it out. Or is that not subtle enough for your double's dastardly deeds? Though there's a question."

He gave an exaggerated thoughtful tap on his chin.

"Would he be cowardly enough to hide back in the Terminus while this is going on, or prideful enough that he felt the need to be "on the front lines"?"

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"You can stop wasting your time, Miss Americana," said Steve firmly as he strode up to face down Steelgrave. "I no longer believe that this version of Steelgrave has any knowledge of the events transpiring in Freedom City." He met the sly-faced Annihilist dead-on, gazing at him with burning eyes and a stone face through the steelglass that kept them apart. "For all his intelligence, he has allowed his self-worship to blind him to the real threat to the world that he has made his new home. Where he might have been an ally to the heroes here, instead he has been nothing but a sneering distraction for them. I find the misuse of your intelligence contemptible, Steelguard." he said with real animosity in his voice.

Steelgrave looked a little surprised, but covered quickly. "Well, you've been eating your Wheaties lately, Steve. Are you always this forceful when the two of you are...together?" he added with a hasty wink, obviously a little rattled by the change in his former slave.

Harrier suddenly smiled, an unfamiliar look for his warped face. "I warned you at our last encounter that your human arrogance would be the death of you, Shadivan Steelgrave."

And then suddenly Steelgrave's eyes went comically wide and his mouth fell open, and frantically the former viceroy of the Terminus whirled wildly on Gabriel and Miss Americana. "Wait a minute, he's-"

Faster than either Gabriel or Miss A would have believed, Harrier's pike snapped open in his hand and he shoved it forward and up, right through the glass with a hideous shattering sound, impaling Steelgrave through the head with a sickening squelch. As security alarms frantically began to blare and the prison guards at the other end of the corridor shouted into their radios, all three going for their weapons, Harrier smirked and pulled his weapon free as Steelgrave's ruined body fell to the floor. "Sic semper tyrannis."

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As the guards closed in, shouting an order to halt, Harrier's armor erupted from his body and encased him in cold grey Terminus steel. "Obstacles in my way. You should leave the prison now." He whipped his bloody pike around and fired a shot at the security table, incinerating several alarm panels and producing a shriek of feedback from the speakers. "EMERGENCY ALARM ACTIVATED - ALL CELLS IN PSYCH WARD OPENING." Miss A knew well enough what that was, the emergency systems installed years ago to make sure that prisoners didn't die in their cells in the event of a prison-wide fire or other natural disaster. Slowly the glass shields slid down and away from the bloodied cell that had once held the Steelgrave clone and the well-appointed cell-turned-dorm room that held the white-faced Singularity, and across the way the impervium began to drop first, revealing the long-occluded face of the Whistler. He proved to be a muscular man with long black hair turned grey and a goatee and mustache to match, his prison fatigues rolled up to reveal powerful arms covered in tattoos. He looked around in shock and calculation at first, then his eyes widened at the sight of a bloody-piked Omegadrone sharing the corridor with him.

As the glass began to drop, Harrier's jet roared to life and he flew right through the group of guards, coming to a landing inside the open elevator car. He didn't press any buttons, but instead raised his pike and began to carve his way through the tough impervium alloy of the car's floor...

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Gabriel frowned at the "together" comment. But before he could give a sarcastic reply, everything seemed to happen at once, and suddenly Steelgrave's clone was dead and Steve was...victorious?

"Wait, no, Steve, that's no how you-"

And then he was armored, and entropy was flying, alarms were singing, doors were opening, and it had all gone to hell. One of the first layers, anyways. Things were now very bad. He took a crucial moment to assess the situation, then spoke with confidence, calm, and authority in his voice.

"Miss Americana, why don't you go nicely ask our friend what he's doing and if he'd like to sit down and talk about things. Guards, perhaps go help the young lady over there calm down a bit, she seems distressed. We have everything under control."

His gaze locked on "the Whistler", a single accusing finger raised.

"And you. Stay right where you are and keep your lips shut. There's no need to whistle Dixie just yet. So behave. Or else."

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The guards didn't listen at first, instead opening up on the madman who had just murdered a prisoner and was evidently trying to make his escape. But the blasts from their armor couldn't penetrate Harrier's armored shell, his faceless head aimed at the ground as he concentrated on cutting a hole through the floor. When there was a pause in the blasts, he spoke with a voice gone sepulchral. "If you do not stand with me, you must stand against me. If I thought you had the power to impede me in my efforts, I would punish you for your alliance with the forces of evil." They did step back at that, letting the superheroes deal with what was obviously a super-crisis! For his part, the whistler didn't respond to Gabriel directly, instead watching the combat with fascination and narrowed eyes.

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With half her attention focused on her computer work, Miss Americana was only watching Steve from the corner of her eye as he spoke with the Steelegrave clone. She wasn't sure what caught her eye, some hint of motion, some warning in his voice, but she looked up fully just in time to see the former Omegadrone drive his fearsome pike straight through a forcefield and into the body of his old enemy. For a split second, Gina was back in her basement, staring a dark computer screen in blind horror at what had happened, completely unable to comprehend the sudden murderous violence. For all his fearsome appearance, Steve was one of the most temperate men she knew, erring always on the side of nonviolence when possible. What had he done?

Sheer self-discipline had her mustering all the resources of her phenomenal mind and shoving herself back into the robot body before Miss A had a chance to do more than buckle slightly at the knees. "Oh my god, Steve, what are you doing?" The alarms began to blare as the cell doors popped open (there's a vulnerability that needs fixed, thought the tiny portion of her mind still devoted to repairs), allowing access to the hallway from the cells. There was no need to check on Steelgrave's condition, the horrific head wound and staring eyes told the story well enough. In the cell down the hallway, Singularity was screaming in fear and cowering at the back corner of her cell, almost certainly not a threat unless confronted directly. The Whistler was a cipher, but for now he seemed content to watch the action unfold. That left Miss A with just one priority, stopping her lover before he hurt anyone else. Finding out why would come afterwards.

She took to the air, shooting down the hallway like a beautiful bullet as she followed Harrier into the elevator shaft. Without even slowing down, she slammed him into the wall of the shaft, pinning him with her body as she began to look for the wiring that would disable his armor. "Steve, you have to stop this," she said urgently into his ear. "You know this is wrong. This isn't going to help you."

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"When my hands touched your naked flesh, did you never imagine where they had been before? What deeds I had committed with them?" Harrier laughed a bitter laugh, his voice as acrid and pungent as acid eating through steel. "You know nothing about me, about the man I am, because you were too wrapped up in your own pathetic little neuroses to ask. Stupid woman, I have..." He leaned close, and told her something he had done. "and you think the death of one betrayer, or twenty pawns, means anything to me? Feh, where is your brilliance now? Take whatever sordid trauma left you so broken and begone from my life. I have found a new and greater master. JUSTICE." And with that, he squeezed the trigger on the pike he was still clutching, still pointed down and away from anyone, and a brilliant flash of searing white light washed over Miss Americana's sensors. The mini-EMP pulse didn't attack Gina directly, or even the physical manifestation of the robot: after all, Steve knew both too well for that. All he did was briefly fry her servos, letting him shove her aside and simply step through the hole he'd carved in the base of the elevator car, disappearing into the darkness below.

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Everything seemed to happen at once. Gabriel's eyes narrowed as he witnessed the confrontation between Harrier and Miss Americana. His hearing was sharp enough to catch most of what the Omegadrone said, if not all of it. Between that flash of light and his words, Miss A was practically out of the fight, the guards were confused and scared, and that poor girl was terrified. Part of him knew Steve was up to something larger, something that needed to be stopped. But that part of him was drowned out by the part that couldn't ignore the screams of a frightened child. He closed his eyes, took a breath, and then gazed for a moment at the guards.

"All of you, please stay calm. Miss Americana and I will deal with...with him. Right now we need you to calm down, coordinate with your fellow guards about what is going on, and help keep the prisoners safe and contained. I'll make sure Mr. Whistler doesn't give you quite as much trouble for a minute or two there."

He walked down the short distance of the hall, crouching down a bit to look in the room at Singularity. He gave a wave and a smile at the scared teenager.

"Hey there little lady. I know it's really scary out here, but I need you to help me out and be calm. These nice ladies and gentlemen are going to take care of you. I need all of you to sit tight. You don't need to worry. My name is Gabriel, and I'm here to help. You don't have to be scared."

He stood in a swirl of white and silver, striding down the hall, his spear flashing into existence as he stepped. He paused outside the cell of the Whistler for a moment, giving the man a significant look while resting the spear on his shoulder, as if to remind him of his words a few moments ago. Then he took a couple more steps and stopped, looking in the elevator at Miss Americana. He spoke again, his volume decreased but his conviction soaring even higher.

"I know this is a terrible moment for you, Miss Americana. I can't truly imagine what it's like for you right here and now. But I do know that there are a lot of lives counting on us to be the heroes the newsies think we are. So you need to stand up on your own two feet like I know you can, and help me face him down. We can mourn and wonder later. For now, we are the only ones who can stand in the gap. So please, help me. Stand in the gap, Miss Americana."

He then took a couple steps back and looked right at the Whistler, pointing two fingers at the likely-crazy man.

"You are going to stay put."

There was force behind those words. Enough force to lock up a man's brain for a bit, in fact!

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