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Stop the Presses (IC)


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January 14, 2013

9:21 AM

Monday morning at the Freedom Ledger meant the weekly meeting for the editors and staff reports of the paper. Of course, Kyle Conners currently worked as a freelance reporter, but he often found it useful to be around the office when the meeting got out. It certainly never hurt to be seen from time to time and being around after the staff meeting could lead to an assignment or two as the stories that still needed to be covered were fresh in the minds of the editors. Like anyone else with a busy schedule, if they saw someone they knew to be looking for work, the chances were good they would not look any further.

While Kyle waited for the meeting to end, he was working with one of the production staff on the layout of a story he finished over the weekend. One of the graphic artists was still finishing up on a couple of graphs that would accompany the story, so the earliest the story would likely run would be the Tuesday morning edition.

A sudden increase in volume in the large, open newsroom was a likely indication that the meeting was over. Glancing away from the computer screen and looking over towards the conference room, Kyle could see the staff reporters and editors all filing out, most heading off towards their desks or to get more coffee, some others stopping to talk in groups of two or three.

One of the editors, Carl Jacobs, was making his way along the isles of the newsroom towards his office. As he went, he glanced over to see Kyle. "Conners." He called out. "In my office."

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Clapping the graphic artist, a man a few years older than him named Lenny, on the shoulder he inwardly grinned, "You got it from here? Sounds like duty calls."

Lenny glanced over, commenting "Yeah, sure. Sounds like Carl's a slight bit annoyed though."

"When isn't he?" Kyle asked with a shrug before making his way through the room, avoiding the people milling about or rushing between cubicles. Every time he got within reach of them, his hunger growled. It took a titanic effort to not reach out and take a little nibble of a person's lifeforce but he managed.

Stepping into Jacob's office he closed the door behind him. "Yes, Mr. Jacobs?" he said, attempting to show the respect he knew the older man liked to receive from his employees.

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Jacobs had taken a seat behind his desk, almost lost behind the stacks of papers piled up on top of it. "I have an assignment for you." He said as he glanced at his computer screen for a moment, checking to see if there were any urgent emails he needed to attend to immediately.

"There is a book expo and convention being held today at the convention center down near the Waterfront. Normally Susie Waller," Kyle recognized the name as the Ledger's regular literature columnist and book reviewer, "would handle this, but she is on bed rest after breaking her leg while skiing over the weekend. So I need you there like twenty minutes ago. One of our freelance photographers, Dave Newman is already there, so you will have to meet up with him. Just mingle and check out the scene. Try to talk to some of the authors and publishers there and maybe some of the fans that always seem to come dressed as wizards or vampires or whatever is big these days and see what you can come up with."

Jacobs looked up from his computer screen and over at Kyle. "I know this is not exactly the type of story you would prefer to work on, but we need to have someone cover this, and you’re here. We will make it up to you. Rick," Kyle recognized the name of the sports editor, "is going to have you cover the Rayguns' game with the Celtics Thursday night."

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Nodding Kyle said, "You got it. Tell Susie I hope she gets well soon." When he mentioned the Celtics-Rayguns game, Kyle all but jumped and clicked his heels. He had not covered a sports game in weeks and the real estate beat was getting dull.

Stopping by Lenny's cubicle he checked on the older man's progress, "Looks good Len. Text me if you need any input from me. Carl needs me gone twenty minutes ago." On his way out he pulled his phone out to call Dave and let him know the change in plans. And just as he stepped out of the front door a taxi pulled up, letting out a passenger. "Must be my lucky day," he said to himself before getting into the now empty back seat and giving the driver his destination.

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The cab driver pulled back into traffic after Kyle had indicated their destination. Dave's phone rings a couple of times before he picked up. "Well, you have not missed much so far." Dave replied after Kyle explained what was going on. "Things are pretty slow at the moment, people still making their way into the convention and such. The big ticket authors won't be start showing up until around lunch time. I will start moving over near the main entrance to wait for you."

Kyle's cab ride was relatively short, taking about ten minutes, which was mainly due to traffic. After paying the cabbie (and being sure to get a receipt for his expense report), Kyle made his way into the convention center. He did not have to look far before he saw signs indicating the way to the book convention. A short walk later, he was making his way through the main entrance to the exhibit hall, his press pass getting him through without having to pay admission.

Once inside, he had little trouble spotting Dave, who was standing off to one side, his camera around his neck and a camera bag over one shoulder.

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Shaking hands with Dave he couldn't help but look around in admitted awe at the crowd and the people dressed up like their favorite literary characters. As has been the case for years, Hogwarts students were popular, though Hufflepuff house seemed underrepresented. Dozens of men and women in dusters, not terribly unlike the one he'd kept after his trip from Earth Victoriana and was wearing now, carried lengths of carved wood and milled around with people who wore white plastic-looking armor or carried lightsabers.

Glancing back at his compatriot he shrugged and started rummaging in his pockets for his recorder, "Anywhere in particular you want to start Dave? By the way, I don't suppose you snagged a copy of the schedule?"

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The room Kyle and Dave were in was a long, rectangular space, the several double doors Kyle had just come through being the main entrance, though there were a few other exits visible along the sides. Rows of booths and displays were set up around the conference hall, making it somewhat difficult to see what all was going on from were Kyle was standing. Most of the booths seemed to be manned, though a few were still in the process of setting up.

After shaking hands, Dave looked back over the crowd with Kyle for a moment before the two began discussing their plan for covering the event. "Yeah, have one right here." The photographer replied, handing the schedule to Kyle.

"Well, so far I have just been getting a lay of the land so to speak." He then continued. "Took a walk around and got a feel for where everything is, or will be once it's all set up. The publisher's booths and other related services are all in here, and where most of the book signings will be I believe. There are some smaller rooms off to the sides where there will be some seminars and writing workshops, primarily for those hoping to get published."

"Like I said on the phone, the really big time authors won't be showing up till lunch or this afternoon." Dave stated. "And I believe here is one that we will want to be sure to be around for just before noon." He pointed at a section of the schedule, at which Kyle saw the name of the author for the wizarding school series that was so well represented among those dressed up for the convention.

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Looking over the schedule he noticed aside from the previously mentioned best-selling children's author he noticed that the hosts of Writing Excuses were going to be there as well. "Okay, we've got two places we need stop. I see Penguin and Scholastic have their announcements around two and two-thirty respectively, a costume contest at three," Kyle rattled off, somewhat interested.

He followed as Dave lead, showing where the first booths had set up, the pair getting interviews and excellent pictures from the people in the merchant's hall and the more photogenic cos-players.

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"Okay, sounds good." Dave replied as he started back towards the maze of booths beside Kyle.

Time began to speed by as they got to work exploring the convention, stopping for interviews and otherwise observing what was going on. They briefly stopped by one of the writing and publishing seminars, talking with a couple of aspiring authors. Back in the main convention hall, it was beginning to get more and more crowded as the morning went by, as one would expect given the big name authors that were scheduled.

During one point when Kyle was standing off to one side while Dave was taking pictures of a group of cos-players, the reporter heard a faint chime from his cellphone indicating a text message. Taking it out, he glanced quickly at the screen and saw it was from Megan.

Just got us tickets for Blues Brothers this Sat. 8:30 PM
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Taking the break in his job, he quickly typed back a reply to Megan. Memories from the other night flooding into his mind after reading her message.

Excellent, I got a tip about a great Chinese place on 60th yesterday. If it's anything like the last place Janet suggested, we're in for an excellent time. Pick you up around 7pm?

Putting his smartphone back into his duster's pocket he made sure to set the device to vibrate. He liked talking with Megan but having your cellphone go off mid-interview was just bad for the image of 'serious reporter' he was trying to maintain.

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Shortly after putting the cellphone away, Kyle felt a slight vibration indicating there had been a response text. When he took a moment to look at it later, he saw Megan had responded.

Great! See U then.

But in the meantime, he focused back on the task at hand, which was covering the convention for the Ledger.

Dave had finished with his pictures, and the pair moved on once again through the convention hall. Kyle spoke with some of the representatives from various publishers, getting some great material that might make its way into the final piece.

As the noon hour drew closer, the crowd inside the convention hall was getting larger and larger, the number of people dressed like wizards having noticeably grown. Kyle and Dave were not far from the main stage where the author would be appearing, which is where the majority of those dressed like wizards were now gathered.

While Dave was taking some pictures, Kyle absently mindedly scanned the area. As he did he noted a trio of individuals dressed as wizards that drew his attention. For one thing, they were walking away from the stage, where most everyone else similarly dressed were gathering. But what stood out about the three even more was that they did not look at all like the types that would read a book, much less come to a book convention dressed as a wizard. Each of them looked like they would be more at home in some dive bar in the Fens, and one of the three was as large as any lineman Kyle had known while playing college football.

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Kyle eyed the trio of rough looking men, guys who looked like some of the Max abusing muggers he too often faced off against while patrolling at night. Thinking quickly of a way to follow without making Dave suspicious, he pulled out the schedule and turned to the map. Luck seemed to be on his side, "Dave, the preview of the new fantasy series from Mercedes Lackey down that way in about ten minutes. Let's get you in there for the unveiling of the cover art."

Giving the other man minimal time to argue, he started moving down the same path the other three had taken, chatting to distract his cameraman.

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"Oh, yeah, sure." Dave replied, a bit thrown off by the sudden change of plan. He snapped one last picture of the group gathering near the main stage and set off with Kyle in the direction the trio of rough looking men were headed.

As Kyle talked to keep Dave distracted, he kept an eye on the three men. When he had tried to determine whether they might be carrying any guns, he had noted one appeared to have one of those prop wands, and that the robes they were dressed were associated with the evil wizards in the series.

The out of place trio made their way back towards the front of the exhibition hall, moving off to one side of the main entrance to stand at the edge of the crowds coming in. One glanced at his watch a moment before looking back up, almost appearing to be waiting for something to happen.

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Kyle stood off to the side, pulling out his phone while Dave moved to cover the cover art. "I'll be up in a second, text from Lenny back at the office," he lied as he started thumbing away at the keyboard, as if to return a message.

Once Dave was out of the way, Kyle maintained a quiet vigil on the out of place trio. While his instincts screamed that they were up to something, and his Hunger thought the big one might have some sort of power to make a 'meal' out of, he knew he could not just stroll up and start taking nibbles of their life force without cause.

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Kyle waits and watches the three out of place men for a while. So far, they are doing nothing but standing off to one side of the main entrance and apparently waiting for something. After a short while, Dave comes wondering back over to Kyle.

"Hey, got some great shots. Did you get everything sorted out with Lenny?" The photographer asked. "We should probably be getting back towards the main stage, it's almost time for the headliner to make her appearance."

The trio of rough looking "wizards" did not seem like they were going to be moving anytime soon.

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Clicking the screen lock on his phone he looked up at Dave, Kyle replied with a bit of a huff, "Crap. I'll be along in a minute. Still hashing some things out with Lenny." Of course Kyle could not tell his companion the fact both his crime fighting and reporter's instincts were telling him the trio of out of place men were up to something.

Once his photographer had walked off, Kyle reached into his coat's inner pocket, feeling for the domino mask he kept in there. He could not consciously explain it but he knew he was going to need it very soon.

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Dave gave a slight nod. "Sure, no problem. I am sure it will be some time before the crowd dies down anyway." He replied before he headed back towards the center of the exhibit hall where one of the convention’s main attractions was set to soon appear.

Once Dave was gone, Kyle renewed his observation of the three out of place men. They continued standing off to one side, appearing to grow more and more anxious as time passed. A few minutes later, the sound of cheering filled the exhibit hall, clearly a sign that the headliner was out on stage. The noised died down, but Kyle could faintly hear the sounds of the author talking over a microphone, though it was not so loud that it carried all this way over the other sounds in the convention.

The three men appeared to focus slightly, but remained in place. Eventually, Kyle could no longer hear the author speaking, a likely sign that she was now likely signing books. It was not long after that that he heard what sounded like some sort of commotion back towards the main stage. That was quickly followed by some shouts, and then screams. Then there were a number of gunshots, which were quickly followed by more screams.

And the exhibit hall began to fall into chaos.

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As the crowd broke down into chaos after the gunshots, Kyle slipped back into a dark alley between a pair large display booths and withdrew his mask from the coat. Attaching it firmly to his face, he kept his head down while wading into the surge of chaos.

Noticing the trio of toughs moving towards the front, specifically the admissions counter and their cash box, the reporter followed behind. He got a little worried when he saw one had pulled a gun but quickly shook it off, knowing the thug had just unknowingly signaled himself as the first to sate Siphon's 'Hunger'.

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Some people in the exhibit hall had ducked down behind the display booths, trying to hide, but the vast majority were running for some exit or another. As Kyle made his quick change, he heard more gunshots sound off along the perimeter of the room, causing more panic.

As he stepped out, he caught a glimpse of the two men he had spotted by one of the side exits. One of them was holding a pistol in the air, having apparently just fired it. This served to cause the people who had been trying to run to that exit to turn instead towards the main exit.

Starting towards the trio he had first spotted, Kyle joined in with some of the fleeing crowd. As he closed, he saw one of them lift up the "wand" he had spotted before and touch the tip to a security guard who was starting towards the sound of the gunshots. The man went ridged like he had been shocked before dropping to the floor.

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Sneaking quietly, what little sound he made muffled by the noise of a panicked crowd in a confined space, Siphon stepped in close to the gunman. Mentally unchaining his 'hunger', he reached for the neck of the thug carrying a smoking gun. As soon as he made contact with the other man's flesh, he felt his power go to work, drawing a fragment of his opponent's vitality away.

The suddenly less able bodied criminal let out a slight grunt, staggering in place. His fingers instinctively relaxed, allowing the handgun to fall from his grip and clatter to the floor. Luckily, the weapon didn't discharge, allowing Kyle to reach quickly and grab it to stick in his pocket.

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"What the?" Replied the companions of the man Siphon had just disarmed and fatigued. But before any of them could do anything, the hero pressed his advantage, reaching out once again to grab the same "wizard" yet again. Once again he felt his power drain some of the man's life force. This time it was enough to drop the man to the ground, unconscious.

The man holding the "wand," which he had just used to shock a security guard, took a slight step back, then he lunged forward, jabbing the "wand" at Siphon. The attack was clumsy, and for someone who had spent years dodging linebackers while trying to run with a ball, it was simple to step aside. The tip of the "wand" crackled with electricity, a clear sign to the hero that he wanted to avoid it if at all possible.

The large guy then stepped forward, his arms opening wide as he scowled. "You some kinda superhero?" He asked, not really seeming interested in the answer, as he tried to grab Siphon in a massive bear hug. Once again, it was like avoiding defensive linemen, and a slow one at that, and Siphon was able to jump back out of the man's reach, as he closed his arms around now empty air.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"No genius, I just like wearing a mask and picking fights with cerebrally under-endowed packing guns and a tazer that looks like a piece of kindling," Siphon replied, his powers already calling out for more. Ignoring the big man for the time, he reached out to grab the man with the shock-stick.

Once he made flesh contact, by grabbing his face, the wand clattered to the ground followed shortly by the man who had been holding it. Bracing himself between the big guy and the weapon he waved the last man standing with a mocking gesture. "Come get some."

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The large man scowled as Siphon subdued his other companion while simultaneously insulting them. With something that sounded like a growl, he took a step forward and swung a large fist at the superhero. However, he was not any better at that than he was at trying to grab the former football player, and Siphon was able to easily sidestep the attack.

Around them everything was still complete chaos. Not able to use any of the side exits because of the similarly dressed thugs that had taken position there, the conference goers were all rushing towards the main entrance in an effort to get away.

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