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January 15, 2013


West End

There's a man in a giant robot suit marching down the street, calling down vengeance on all who have oppose him. Just another day in Freedom City. "Fools!" boomed the voice of the giant automaton, the pilot just visible inside. "Everyone always said old Jerry Craven wasn't ever going to amount to anything, but look at me! I've got a giant warsuit! Now I'm big, and YOU PEOPLE ARE SORRY! AHAHAHA!" He laughed manically and stomped forwards, people fleeing in terror as he made his way from the warehouse that he'd simply walked his way out of, heading in a leisurely fashion towards the sea. His suit was big, towering as tall as the small tenements on either side, and wide enough that he nearly brushed them on both sides as he went. This was a big problem for the neighborhood; one false move in that big suit and the whole thing would come crashing down on the neighborhood!

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"Well, ol' Jerry's got a point," a wry voice noted conversationally from atop a building about a block away from the advancing behemoth. "He does have a giant warsuit. That's definitely something most folks can't claim. I know I haven't got one." The swashbuckling hero known as Jack of all Blades turned to his teammates assembled behind him. "We've gotta bring thing thing down in the street, not on somebody's pizzeria, entendieron? Will, I'm thinking vines. Goggles, if there's something to short out over there, I want it fried. Hermanita, see if you can get your gal pal on the horn."

Watching the battlesuit with a scowl nearby, Jill O'Cure scoffed. "I can't even believe we're wasting our time with some loser who couldn't take getting picked on in high school, you want me to waste her's too?"

"Decommissioning weirdo science weapons is kinda her speciality, right?" her brother pointed out with a raised eyebrow. "What's got your unmentionables in a bunch? You've been weirder than usual for like weeks now." So it had seemed on the handful of occasions he'd actually seen her over the past month and change, at least. The younger Espadas had always kept busy but she'd been blowing off family dinners, training, even actual emergencies lately. It wasn't like she didn't have good reasons in every case but it was enough to make him take notice.

His questions earned him nothing but an eyeroll. "Clamp down on the paternal hormones, 'Dad'. Maybe I just think we could be doing something more constructive than dealing with idiots every time we turn around. But clearly that makes me the crazy one." Holding up a dismissive hand to ward off any further conversation, she fished out her cellphone and dialed Mara's number.

Nonplussed, Jack turned back to the others. "Okay, so... familial drama later, hitting the giant metal armor guy until he falls down now, yeah?"

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[bg=#555555]"Already on my way."[/bg] And indeed she was - even before Jill's call had been redirected to her suit, Dragonfly was cutting a blue-tinted line through the sky on four blade-like wings of energy, headed straight for the West End. Not that she'd been displeased to get a call from her significant other. [bg=#555555]"Heard the news, thought it was worth investigating. Save me a piece - want to know where he got the suit. Trace it back, find the seller. Encourage them to stop. Not fond of rogue machines causing trouble in my parts of the city."[/bg]

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Time and tide waited for no man, as it turned out, or rapidly incoming super-geniuses. The giant armored suit and its absurdly tiny pilot finally did come to an obstacle, a city bus which had been delayed by the traffic jam of panicked flight away from the giant machine just a little too long. "Hey! You people better get out of there!" said Giant Jerry over his suit's tinny loudspeakers, reaching down to pinch the bus between his suit's massive fingers as the doors flew open and people began fleeing for their lives. "I want to see how far I can throw this bus! Maybe all the way over the river! That's what you can do when you're BIG!" He laughed manically and began to straighten up, bus still in hand.

Flying close on her way past the roof, Mara had a bit of a start at the sight of the giant suit, which actually closely resembled some sketches Steve had done for her of Terminus technology. But this was not the giant mechanical murder-armor he'd described, rather the big black and red powersuit, looking almost like an angry insectoid humanoid with its compound eyes and spiky metal body, was almost like a child's drawing of the deadly Terminus warmechs she'd seen. If someone had taken those pictures of those genocidal monsters of steel and dialed them down enough that they could safely fit inside the confines of a children's book, Jerry Craven's giant armor would be just about right.

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"Couldn't we, y'know, not topple it?" pondered Geckoman. "Fry the circuits but keep it standing upright. Then nobody's pizzeria is getting trashed, we win the day, and can go to said pizzeria!" He loftily waved a hand as he turned to get into the Pitchoo, fixing the parachute to his back more securely as he went. "Just an idea."

At which point, he flicked his commlink on in his ear, and hit the thrust button, the egg-shaped green craft firing upwards into the sky before the door had even finished closing, spiralling upwards and upwards so as to avoid it meeting the same fate as the bus. "Listen, man!" shouted Geckoman's voice over the speakers. "You don't need to throw that bus!" His hand strayed over to a bolted on panel on the controls for an experimental giant electromagnet. "We can talk about this!" Chris kept a finger over the activation button, entire body tensed.

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"Not enough plant life in the area I can manipulate into halting something that big," Guardian Willow quietly informed Jack of all Blades. Though she had regained some measure of her former power after the Gorgon's visit to Earth, without the additional influx of power from her sister Willow's abilities carried some heavy restrictions.

"Let us hope Geckoman can appeal to reason," she continued keeping her voice pitched low. "While we come up with a way to move Jerry and his toy somewhere less populous, like Wharton. Let nature properly show her contempt for devices such as these, while the forest swallows it." The last line was delivered with a feral gleam in the ancient defender's eye, clearly Jerry Craven crossed a line he wasn't aware of.

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"Yes, okay, that sounds awesome. Do science to it," Jack agreed, pointing encouragingly as Geckoman boarded his ship. "The fact he puts that parachute on immediately is really damaging my confidence in this plan," he admitted to the women on the rooftop once the bright green hero was off. "We gotta talk to somebody about getting some trees planted around here. Some greenery, some shade, some giant robot restraining material. If that's not urban renewal, I don't know what is." There was some tension in his voice as he put one foot on the edge of the rooftop, keeping an eye on the raised bus. He trusted Chris to deal with any impromptu projectiles but he didn't like watching and waiting in the meantime.

"Encouraged to stop breathing, maybe," Jill muttered into her cellphone before hanging up and scanning the sky for Dragonfly's approach. One of her hands lit up with the crackling blue light that meant she was preparing a force field while the other clenched and unclenched irritably as she waited for the situation to predictably spiral out of control.

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"Aaah! Don't sneak up on me!" yelled Jerry, his booming robot voice sounding distinctly fearful at Geckoman's approach. "I'm very on edge right now!" He made as if to throw the bus at the Pitchoo, but couldn't make it: Geckoman's well-timed magnetic charge had pinned the big vehicle right to the giant fingers of the suit. "Aaah...man, what the heck!?! My mother was right about city buses!" A moment later, with sheer speed that belied the bulk of his massive armor, he stepped forward and his other fist came down like a gigantic hammer on the Pitchoo, instantly smashing the flying craft directly into the pavement beneath with a sickening crack of crunching asphalt and broken metal. Not for the first time in his career as Geckoman, only Chris's sticky hands kept him from being pulped like the insides of a dropped egg, but looking at the giant warsuit _through_ the now-cracked open roof of the Pitchoo, it was pretty clear they'd need a different strategy.

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Geckoman flipped himself out of the way of the careering wreckage, narrowly avoiding jagged metal by bare millimeters, his costume tearing even if his skin was untouched. "Ouch. Oh, baby," he crooned to the Pitchoo. "Did the big mean robot hit you? I WILL KILL HIM!"

The green-clad gymnast leapt out of the wreckage, easily flying ten feet into the air with a single bound. As he did so, he reached into his pocket and aimed a small gun at the robot, a magnetic clamp attaching itself to the giant warsuit's arm. "Hey, asshole!" Geckoman whizzed into the air on the magnetic zipline at breakneck speeds, wind whipping past him as he scaled the huge robot. "BRING IT ON!"

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"Oh, jeez!" Seemingly blind to the gecko making his way up the surface of his big armor, Jerry bent his massive metal frame down over the smashed Pitchoo, bringing his glass-domed pilot's capsule to within just a few meters of ground level. It was tough to tell if he wasn't paying attention, or was just that thick. "Man, I really smashed this thing up. Oh man, was this the Pitchoo? Sweet. Hey, I wonder if I could bring down the Raven's jet too! That would be totally wicked!" Police bullets from a few exceptionally fearless STAR Squad officers were beginning to bounce off his bulletproof glass bubble, but Jerry didn't seem to notice. "He must not even have been in it. That's good, because now he'll suffer knowing I broke his ride! Hah-hah-hah!"

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Jack ran a gloved hand over his face with a groan as the Pitchoo was rent apart. "I can't decide if we should have seen that coming or not," he bemoaned, producing his lighter with a flick of his wrist and summoning a blazing construct of semi-solid heat, flames licking hungrily about his opposite hand as they shaped themselves into a rapier. "Alright, moving onto Plan B, then."

"Me importa una mierda. Here's your Plan B." Her expression cold, Jill raised the hand awash in bioelectricity and pointed directly at the cockpit of the massive robotic suit. The effect was immediately obvious, the entire contraction shaking as Craven seized up then trashed at the control, hands clutching his chest. His jaw worked soundlessly, his expression contorting in fear and confusion and from his position on the suit's arm Geckoman could faintly hear a wet something like a water balloon being overfilled to bursting. The man who had been so animatedly maniacal moments before abruptly went slack, his towering armor still.

Jack blinked, looking between the halted armor and his sister. "...what? Dios, did you just give the poor desgraciado a heat attack?"

"Of course not," the younger sibling replied without concern. "I created a force bubble the size of a marble in his atrioventricular valve, then expanded it until his heart exploded from the inside out." As Geckoman watched, blood began to leak from the corner of Craven's open mouth, staining his teeth and pooling about the control panel of the armor. "Problem solved."

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Dragonfly stopped short, suspended in mid-air as she watched Ellie...as....what? no - not - can't - wouldn't - but - what? - wouldn't ever but has been acting odd lately but not that odd but she wouldn't but she did and I don't I can't whatdidshewhywouldwhatno

The heroine's wings actually flickered for a moment as her concentration briefly broke, but her attention was purely on Jill O'Cure, her whole body slack like a puppet that only had one string left to hold it up. [bg=#555555]"E--Jill....what...why...."[/bg] She turned to look at the fallen would-be villain before turning her head back toward her girlfriend with an unseen expression of empty confusion. [bg=#555555]"What did you do...?"[/bg]

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"Am I going to have to draw a diagram? Use shorter words? Loud man blood pump go pop, comprende?" Jill groaned in annoyance, waving splayed fingers in jazz hands to emphasize how much of her time was being wasted. "Look doll, it's not like I don't respect your baggage and all but seriously, you're telling me you couldn't take a five minute break from all that impractical space warp tech, let your screwed up brain come up with some armor piecing laser and put the whole Power Corp out of everyone's misery? I'm sick of this wishywashy idiocy!" Her voice rising in volume as she turned back the group at large, Jill threw her hands up in the air, where they began pulsing with sickly, green, malevolent light. "I see decent people dying in the hospital all day and we're messing around with kid gloves trying to spare this sort of garbage?"

Her brother rocked back on his heels for a moment, mouth moving silently as he tried to speak. All at once Jack snapped back to crystalline focus, his mind leaping to the only conceivable explanation. "It's Archeville's maldito nanites again! Geckoman, get Fulcrum on the horn now!" he barked, adopting a ready stance with his fiery blade leveled towards Jill. "Willow, 'Fly, we've got to pin her down for her own good until we can fix this. Hermanita, don't make me knock the crazy out of you."

"Oh, go ahead and try you pathetic, moronic little man," Jill scoffed through a feral snarl, jagged shards of blue light springing up all about her. "It's a miracle you can keep your pants on long enough to have a coherent thought let alone inconvenience someone with an IQ out of the double digits."

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When all hell broke loose downtown, Fulcrum was among the first responders. The chaos spread outward like a shock wave and reminded Fulcrum of the other nightmares she had faced over the years. Yet this one seemed different. Scripted. She didn't like it, and in all the excitement, she missed the initial call from the Interceptors.

The soon-to-be call beeped her earpiece as the reporter frantically asked yet another question. "Are you saying these 'wrathful' are being mind controlled? Do you have any evidence to support this theory?" All around the impromptu interview, police herded citizens to safety as debris rained down from a distant battle.

Fulcrum shook her head, squinting at the bright, and unnecessary, camera lights. "All I am saying is that some of the best known heroes in this city have all gone homicidal in the same way at the same time. Obviously some outside force is at work here," she replied, holding up a hand and cutting off the reporter before looking into the camera. "All available resources are being diverted to the crisis. Everyone seek shelter and stay calm until an all clear is sounded. Keep the lines clear for emergency calls. This is not a drill."

Her ear perked as the alert finally registered. Ignoring the reporter, she put two fingers to her ear, "Jack is that you? I could really use you guys downtown..."

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[bg=#555555]"....it's...no. No."[/bg] Something in Jill's response finally shook Dragonfly out of her confusion and hesitation, and she straightened out - even her suit seemed to pick itself up, armored plates adjusting and lit portions brightening as if it was as determined as she was. [bg=#555555]"I...you aren't her. Or someone's done something to you. Either way, have to stop you, for your sake."[/bg]

The armored heroine disappeared, space wrapping in around her as it blossomed outward less than a foot away from Jill. [bg=#555555]"....and because you'd stop me."[/bg] Before she was even completely back into normal space, one armored gauntlet shot out, wreathed in twisting energy and the hopes of ending the fight quickly.

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Willow didn't say anything as she glanced from Jill to Jerry, amber eyes narrowed, as she quietly considered what was happening. The ancient being glanced down at her hands, hands stained with more blood than any one being has a right spilling, then balled her slender fingers into fists. She stalked, hunted and killed for millenia, ruthlessly enforcing a mandate that still bound her to this day. What Jill was saying made sense to Willow.

But the first thing the Interceptors taught Willow, the first thing that made her realize she could be more than some soulless enforcer, more than a bioengineered weapon, was that it wasn't just what you did but how you did it. So while what Jill said resonated with Willow, it was wrong.

There was no battlecry, not attempt at conversation; In a swift motion the ancient guardian pivoted on one heel and leaped at the medic.

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"Oh, you can just go to hell, you decrepit, pointy eared, moss encrusted bruja," Jill snarled as she back flipped away from Willow's attack, leaving the dryad to dent the rooftop. "'Oh hey, she's ticked off because we keep wasting time with pointless fights instead of doing our jobs! Let's have a pointless fight!' You can all go to hell with her!" Landing in a crouch, the incensed medic raised her hands with malicious intent, sending out a wave of crackling blue light.

Jack had no way of knowing that thousands of force field micro bubbles had suddenly popped into existence in his very veins, blocking the flow of blood and wreaking havoc with his pulmonary system. All he knew was abrupt, searing pain as his fiery rapier disappeared from his hands and he fell to his knees in agony, struggling to stand or even open his eyes as a strangled protest crumpled in his throat.

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Geckoman held his hand up to his ear, talking over the commlink. "Fulcrum, get your ass down here, Jill's gone nutter-butter. Erik thinks it's the nanites agaAAAAAAARGH!" Chris fell to his knees in pain briefly as his entire circulatory system convulsed as the little bubbles ruptured blood vessels and damaged internal important thingies.

He waited a brief moment for the pain to pass. It wasn't healing like it should. He could feel it not healing. "Oh. Oh, Ellie," whispered the Interceptor. He stood up. This wasn't nice. This wasn't what he believe in at all. They should be restraining Jill without violence. But... if she got another couple of good blasts in, she'd kill him, probably seriously injure Willow, and Erik... he didn't have any resistance to that kind of power.

He began running along the giant robot's arms, arms powering his body along, and at the apex of the arm, at the tip of one of the robot's fingers... he kicked off. With a roar of effort, he threw himself into the air with every ounce of strength he could bring to bear. "All right, one shot to make this work. Oh Lord, this is GOING TO HURT!" The Geckoman soared through the air across the vast gulf between himself and his team, a green blur across the backdrop of the sky... and brought every inch of that leap's momentum crashing down into a drop kick upon Jill's shoulders. "Geckomaaaaaaan!"

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Geckoman's foot connected solidly with Jill's shoulder but the medic managed to twist with the momentum of the attack, sending the brightly costumed hero skidding across the rooftop next to Willow.

Nearby, Jack managed to force one foot underneath the rest of his body, rising to crouch on one knee. His body screamed at him with such fury it was almost impossible to distinguish what it was trying to tell him, but he recognized the feeling of rampant internal injuries. Gonna... be pretty embarrassed if I... die again, he mused weakly to himself as his vision swam and he tried to focus on the continuing fight. Pretty sure I don't have another 'do-over' in me.

With a cough that felt like it was tearing his lungs into strips, he sputtered, "H-ckh-hey, hermanita... is this a b-bad time to hck-uht mention... a-always thought th-that haircut... looks terrible on y-you?"

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Dragonfly's suit shouted a dozen alerts into her head as soon as the blue light hit her, which would have been a much better warning if it had been more than a half-second before her body felt like it was full of needles and fire.

She powered through, though - she had far more pressing concerns than her own personal health. Hauling herself back upright (when had she nearly fallen over...?) her wings flared back into being and drove her forward, circling her around behind Jill; the familiar click of the armored heroine's gauntlet was the only warning available before she thrust a fist-full of lightning against her back.

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When the taser hit Jill, her head spun 180 degrees on her neck and she SCREAMED a wordless cry of inhuman rage in Dragonfly's face, mouth gaping wide to expose hungry, gnashing grey teeth and eyes that blazed black and red fire in Mara's direction, sizzling so hot Dragonfly could feel the heat pouring from the twin gouts of flame on her girlfriend's face as if she was welding with a propane torch without a mask on. A moment later, her head whirled back to face the rest of the Interceptors, and she looked at them with the same anger and disgust as before, as if the whole terrifying display of her hellish inner nature had never happened.

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"Gecks?" yelled Fulcrum. If Jill had gone loco like the others...well...Mona never mentioned that Ellie frightened her the most out of the team.

Wasting no time, she shot up into the air and arced toward the West End. Crossing the city in the blink of an eye became second nature ages ago, and spotting targets on the rapid descent was a useful skill. Which even considering the time of day, the flash of bright lights from the rooftop was unmistakable. Or the giant robot. Or her friends fighting through visible pain. Or the wrecked Pitchoo. Ouch.

She dropped from above and threw all of her power into her musculature, or according to Ellie and Viktor, what passed for muscle. Grappling wasn't her specialty despite her size, and the giantess knew she needed a strong grip to keep the small, nimble Espadas sibling in submission. Upside down she dropped behind the medic, sweeping one arm under Ellie's right and the other one trying to lock and straightened the left. With any luck she'd had control of Ellie's upper body and could lift her off the ground.

Fulcrum didn't say anything, instead putting just enough squeeze on the hold to get her point across.

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Willow held up a hand to ward off Jill O'Cure's attack not that it did much good, the ancient guardian inhaling sharply at the pain the cascaded through her. The sensation quickly passed as the golden eyed woman felt the power the sustained her shift and adapt to the assault, instantly repairing the damage, leaving her no worse for wear.

She noted that Erik, on the other hand, wasn't so fortunate.

Dragonfly and Fulcrum's arrival spurred Willow back into action, brow furrowed in anger. "I don't know what you did with Jill," the dryad said, gripping the obvious inhuman impostor by throat. "But we will find her." Face once again reverting to its impassive mask, Willow applied smooth steady pressure to 'Jill's' throat, crushing it.

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Jill's throat crumbled like tissue paper wrapped around a soda can beneath Willow's grasp, the robot's eyes flaring a searing red again before falling into eerie mechanical stillness. A bare second later, suddenly the 'remains' erupted in a silent wash of pale green fire, a searing bright light that scorched the eyes and skin of those around, burning hot enough to ignite the roof beneath their feet! Those still paying attention could see a robotic skeleton emerging from the ashes, albeit one melting itself like so much candlewax amid the searing white-green fire that had erupted from what had once been, no, what had maybe never been Jill O'Cure.

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Even knowing by now that this was not the real Ellie - not her Ellie - Dragonfly felt sick inside watching the robot's throat get crushed. She'd expected it to come to this as soon as the thing's head had spun around, and she'd been worried it could come to this for longer than that, but to see it happen right in front of her was...well, it was going to show up in her worst dreams for a while.

It was also distracting enough that the explosion caught her utterly by surprise - the plasma got caught in her force field and harmlessly shunted away, but still: she needed that body. [bg=#555555]"No! Can't--"[/bg]

Her wings flared as long and as spread as they were able, their normal distinct hum fading into something a bit outside human hearing as she held out her hands and did...something...to the space around the body. The air grew thick and fragmented, space pinching together around the fire and reacting to the noise of her wings like a thousand tiny shards of glass vibrating to a tune only they and the animals could hear. And as the twisted fabric of the world washed over the imposter's remains, the flames dissolved.

[bg=#555555]"Mmh. Need that body. Someone knows where Jill is. The real one. Going to find them. Pretty sure there will be violence."[/bg]

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