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Your Spirit Lives On [IC]


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Monday, February 25th

9:32 PM


He realized it hurt the mystique, but Nick really needed a cup of coffee. The urn had broken at work late in the afternoon, he'd found himself quite short of beans when he got home, and now that he was out on the street, he could feel himself starting to flag. So far, the night's patrol had been really peaceful - many of the ghosts were staying in at their haunts, there didn't seem to be new restless dead, and he hadn't run into any street crime. And he didn't exactly want to be dealing with anything while he was less than alert. 


There was a 7-Eleven on the corner of Lark Street. It was far from his preferred brew, but it would do. The cashier certainly started when Nick entered - having a man made up like the dead would do that. Nick had been amiable for the entirety of the visit, but the clerk never really let his guard down. Guy probably doesn't have many heroes stop by, he said. Or at least heroes that look like me.


He'd just gotten back to the Pale Horse and taken a sip when he heard a loud bang in the distance. Any vague hope of it being a car backfiring was cut off by two follow-up bursts. He jumped into the car and took off towards the source of the gunfire. And now we're back in the swing of things... so to speak.

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More than a month after the so-called Day of Wrath, Keith LaMarr was still dealing with the fallout on a lesser but still frustratingly personal level. Even after it had been revealed as a deception - something the aging Freedom City native uncharitably thought should have been immediately obvious to anyone who'd been around even half as long as he had - and the kidnapped heroes recovered, distinct ripples of anti-metahuman and anti-vigilante sentiment had still been sent out. It hadn't taken long for JCHS to recieve complaints from a vocal minority of parents fearing for the safety of their children while LaMarr was on staff and calling for his dismissal. Ironically enough, he'd simultaneously gotten a swell of support from parents glad to have a public, unmasked hero as a rolemodel for their children rather than those evidently untrustworthy types who kept their identities a secret.

Ultimately LaMarr had little fear for his job. The reasons may have been different but it was hardly the first time such a cry had gone out. Decades of heroics in the community meant that public opinion had long since swung over to his favour; the people of Lincoln had few enough champions and strong traditions of loyalty. Even so, it had meant a battery of parent-teacher confrences and meetings. There wasn't a person alive who could best the earsplitting educator in a genuine shouting match but restraint had necessitated sitting through the sort of tedious and misplaced rhetoric for which LaMarr had little patience.

The trio of gunshots cutting through the noise of the city at night did little good for the perpetual headache the litigation had generated but as LaMarr set aside a half written lesson plan and charged out the door of his first floor apartment with thunderdous footfalls he hoped that the catharsis of putting some fools in their place might.

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Nick pulled around the corner to find a young man racing out of a warehouse, scrambling across the street with no care for traffic or anything else. He had a gun in his hand, but he didn't seem to care very much about that fact. No, what he was focused on was the individual walking out of the warehouse. Where the young man was scrambling desperately, his pursuer was walking slowly and deliberately. The attacker, dressed in a raised hoodie and black BDUs, opened fire. He missed the target - at first. The bullets struck just in front of him, sending sparks flashing up from the sidewalk. It was enough to make him jump - and stumble when he landed off balance. He turned towards the man chasing him, fear painted across his face, as the attacker raised his guns... 


The blare of a car horn caused the attacker to turn. The burst of phantom fire that narrowly missed his head helped to drive the point home. 


"Anyone ever tell you it's a crime to disturb the peace?" Nick said. "Mind you, that seems to be the least of your problems. I don't know what your beef is, but --" 


The attacker didn't even bother to listen. He looked up at Nick, stared him right in the eye - and the sense of death hit him right in the face. The guy charged forward, and the first thing Nick noticed was that he didn't even bother to raise his guns as he charged forward. The second thing was that he was moving a fair bit faster than your average guy. The attacker dove forward towards the car - and then through it, turning somewhat indistinct as he took to the street on the other side. And even then, he didn't slow down, and Nick couldn't help but notice his feet didn't bother to touch ground. 


"Been a while since I dealt with a good vengeful spirit," he said. He hit the gas and, through an impressive feat of automotive juggling, managed to pull a U-turn in the narrow alley. "Let's go talk to him about healthy avenues for outrage." 


Meanwhile, Wail watched as the phantom gangster took off down the street, floating at close to top speed...

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  • 2 weeks later...

The added mass that accompanied Wail's superdense muscle tissue came with more than a few complications, but one advantage it provided over many of the bruisers of the metahuman world was the ability to move that mass with surprising speed when necessary. With a prodigious leap that took him over a lamppost and left another set of cracks in the disrepaired road of Lincoln, he placed himself in the phantom criminal's path. "Hold up, freaky phantom!" the aging hero demanded, letting loose a lance of sonic force, a low, thrumming note that shock the window around him and punched forward like a cannonball.

The attack went right through the gangster, knocking a few bricks loose of the wall behind it. LaMarr gave the advancing ghost a flat look. "So it's gonna be like that, is it?"

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Nick put the pedal to the metal as the ghost tore down the street, flying like a bird over the cracked asphalt. Pretty soon, he noticed he wasn't the only one giving chase - Wail was racing along the sidewalk, trying to catch up with the hostile spirit. All right, he said, trying to focus on the road, take care of this ghost and its business, then you can gush and be the biggest dork in existence over meeting the guy. 


He watched as Wail's vocal blast tore through the ghost - it was incorporeal enough that the burst went right through. He didn't have enough reach to try the claws, but fortunately, there was a way around that. A bolt of eerie blue flame coalesced in his open palm; he stuck his free hand out the window and let fly, aiming to strike the ghost around the midsection. At least, he was until the Pale Horse took a pothole the wrong way - he fought to maintain the wheel with his right hand, while the bolt of mystical fire struck uselessly against a brick wall. But it did do one thing right, as the ghost turned its attention to Nick. To his eyes, it grew more substantial, taking on mass as it raised its guns towards the Pale Horse's engine block -- 


"Oh for the love of --" 


-- and opened fire, punching several holes in the hood. The car was still going at a fair speed, which meant he hadn't crippled it, but it still didn't look pretty. Nick cursed, vowing to try and get some better protection on the car once the night's business was concluded. 

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Wail took note as the Impala came screeching into the battle and the insubstantial gangster took on a more solid appearance. "Here's hoping this doesn't make me look like a damned fool," he muttered under his breath before kicking off of the pavement again with enough force to close the remaining distance between himself and the phantom, bringing one sizable fist down in haymaker backed by gravity down into the reasonably solid thief. Once again his attack went clean through his target but this time is displaced ghostly substance in the process, evaporating the floating form back into the ether.

"...humph." LaMarr looked from his fist to the space where the gangster had been a moment before with a subtly raised eyebrow before turning to damaged car as it pulled up.

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Nick came to a complete stop as soon as the phantom shriveled away into nothingness. To his eyes, the ghost wasn't... well, "deader than dead" would do, as he'd never really come up with a good term for it. Odds were the blow had been tough enough to knock out the animating consciousness, meaning the ectoplasm it had meant to work together was boiling away into nothing. He would have liked to interrogate the ghost, but this was probably preferable to more collateral damage - or an utterly destroyed engine block. 


"Nice to see you, Wail," he said, hoping the casual tone would cover up the fact he felt somewhat out of his league being around such a veteran hero. He cast a glance back down the streets, to where the whole incident had started. "Left someone behind while giving chase. Think we might want to get his side of the story." 

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Giving the skull-faced hero in black an appraising look, Wail greeted, "Sorry, son, I don't keep track much these days; should I know who you are?" It wasn't a challenge but a legitimate question. LaMarr had had time to reacquaint himself with the modern heroes of Freedom City but he just wasn't tied into the community the way he'd once been. Fortunately the younger man's garb made it clear enough he belonged to the occult side of things which was certainly in keeping with the bizarre specter he'd just demolished. "Ghost mobster, huh? Not enough of the solid sorts around?"

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"Name's Nick Cimitiere," he said, thinking he really should have led with that. "And, yeah. Ghost gangsters. You'd think, after a while, these guys would learn that they can't take it with them." He looked back down the street. "I got this guy's attention while he was trying to take out one of his rivals. Think he might be able to tell us a bit more about this whole mess." 


Needless to say, by the time Nick had gotten back to where he'd left the fleeing target, he'd decided to flee even further. But the shot-up warehouse was still there. The scent of cordite wafted out the doors, somewhat fainter thanks to the night air... as well as the scent of blood. Nick ripped open the doors to find three dead men lying on the floor. Two were Hispanic, one black, and all had apparently been reaching for their guns when the phantom had gotten the drop on them.


"Jesus," he said. "Looks like the dead guy wanted company. Or had a real score to settle." His eyes scanned the warehouse; there was a symbol on the far wall, an eye shedding a single tear. It looked like it had been drawn in blood. Fresh blood. "And he had a message he wanted to spread. I swear I've seen that before..."   

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"Jimminy Cricket," LaMarr exclaimed with the tone of an oath as the door opened and the grisly scene was revealed. He made no attempt to conceal the anger in his expression as he knelt down just outside of the pooling blood to get a better look at the dead men. The waste of life combined with the almost absurd inclusion of the undead specter had the veteran hero setting his jaw as he let out a long breath through his nose. There were enough pointless deaths in Lincoln without the help of ghosts and he wasn't going to tolerate it.
Standing to his full imposing height slowly, he turned to observe the mark on the wall. "That's the tag of the DGC, the Darius Green Collective. Fancy name for a bunch of jokers think they own damn near a dozen blocks of the neighbourhood." He gave Nick an openly appraising look. "I've thrown down with ghouls and goblins plenty of times but I'm no expert. That face paint just for show or you have some idea what this could be about?"

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"I know a thing or two about the restless dead," Nick said, in the same tone that a pediatrician might use to indicate he knew a thing or two about childhood diseases. "Given that this guy's targeting gangsters, odds are they're the ones who took him out - or, on a slim chance, took out someone who he really cared about. Possibly both of the above. And given that he took the time to throw up the tags of another gang while doing his dirty work, there's a good chance he was in the game. I mean, it could be a false flag thing, but most ghosts with minds for revenge don't really go for that level of sophistication." 


He looked to Wail. "Way I see it, there are two ways we can find out about this particular spectre. There's the slow and peaceful way - poke around the newspaper archives. And then there's the quick and fun way. You know where these jokers hang out?"

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Wail made a flat sound that both indicated in the affirmative and suggested a bone deep disgust. LaMarr may have been a believer in second chances for individuals but as groups he had little patience and considerable ire for violent gangs, particularly when it came to their claims to territory that rightfully belonged to honest folk just trying to live their lives. "You take care of the boogeymen, I'll handle the flesh and blood fools," he told Nick, leading the way out of the crime scene and toward DGC's turf. "Brother my age has enough ghosts following him around."

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The clubhouse of the Darius Green Collective was a well-maintained kind of run down, somewhere between an artist's collective and a drug house. The two-story house was covered in graffiti, much of which stylistically boasted about the prowess of the DGC. It was clear Nick and Wail had arrived in the midst of a party - music was thumping with the intensity of a low-grade earthquake, kids in street attire were hanging out on the front porch, and discarded liquor bottles turned the front yard into something of a minefield. One of the partiers seemed to notice the two over the chaos; he pointed them out to his buddy, who ran inside. By the time they got to the front porch, the man - who couldn't have been older than 17 - had somehow managed to scrape together a cool front. 


"Didn't know a party was cause for the capes to get involved," he said.


"What can I say," Nick said. "Slow night." 

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"Now that's a fool term," Wail commented conversationally, his voice menacing not because of his mild tone but the palpable weight of obvious restraint laden over every syllable. All it would take to break the levee holding back arise of righteous fury was an excuse and woe to the one who gave it to him. "I've worn prison jumpsuit, a gold-plated tiara and a three-piece suit, but Lord knows I've never worn a cape." Stepping forward to loom over the teenager on the porch even with his feet firmly on ground level, he asked coolly, "We've got three dead kids like yourself and your tea social club's crybaby logo painted in their blood. You'd best hope what you've got is answers. The 'now' is implied."
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The young man, who obviously had more guts than sense, instantly got up in Wail's face. "Man, who the hell do you think you are, coming here and --"




The kid turned at the sound of the woman's voice. She wasn't much older than high school's age, but she carried herself with a palpable sense of gravitas. "Deacon says not to give them trouble. The house is open tonight." 


The kid quickly made himself scarce as the woman crossed the front yard. "You'll have to excuse him," she said. "Some of the newer members don't understand what tonight means. My name's Alisha. If you'd come with me..."


Nick held up his hand. "Before we go wandering right into your gang house," he said, "what do you mean by 'what tonight means'?"


Alisha studied him. "You can stow the distrust, white boy," she said. "Don't know about you, but I've got a feeling every we could put into your friend would just result in a lot of wasted bullets." Her gaze turned to Wail; there was a hint of appreciation in it. "And second of all - tonight means remembrance. Deacon can tell you all about it."

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Wail offered Nick a minute shrug turned into a larger gesture by the size of the shoulders delivering it. The young woman made a fair point; he was bulletproof for the most part, after all. The aged high school teacher could certainly understand the need for remembrance, though he remained wary as he followed Alisha into to house. "How about at least telling us who this Deacon joker's supposed to be?" he rumbled as he stepped in an unhurried manner and cast a level gaze back and forth throughout the interrupted party. "All the little would-be feudal lords start blurring together after a few decades."

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"You can talk to him yourself about that, Wail," said Alisha. "I know he's got a thing for meeting legends." 


Alisha led the two into the house. Men and women, none of them likely older than 24, were sharing drinks and dancing to gangster rap; there was a distinctive presence of black and gold amongst their clothes, perhaps the colors of the gang. As Nick and Wail passed, there were a number of hushed whispers, as well as the usual pointing and staring. Nick's attention was mainly taken with a mural painted on the far wall of the living room. It depicted a young man, probably not even out of high school, against an urban backdrop. He was floating a foot off the ground, dressed in immaculate white T and sneakers, with a halo reminiscent of a medieval saint around his head. I knew some gangs were into sanctifying their dead, but that's probably a bit much...


Deacon was upstairs. He looked like he wasn't even old enough to drink, but he still cut an intimidating figure - a linebacker's build, seated in a wrought iron chair, clad in black BDUs, work boots, and white tank. His eyes glanced over Nick, barely pausing at the necromancer's outre appearance, but something in his eyes lit up when he saw Wail. "Not often we get someone like you around here," he said. "Welcome to our home. Anything we can do for you?"

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One of Wail's eyes twitched behind his sunglasses at the implication that he wasn't present enough in the neighbourhood but he let it pass. "I know why you kids came together in the first place," he rumbled instead, reminding himself again to keep his voice level as he prepared to answer the question, "and I may not like what you've turned yourselves into but I can at least understand it. Some undead banger floating about, leaving more kids dead, lying in their own blood with your sign on the wall I have a little more trouble wrapping my head around." He gave the seated teen a hard look. "So what you can do for me is provide some illumination."

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Deacon locked his gaze on Wail. "Dead banger, huh?" he said. "We been lucky about our numbers. Real lucky. So it ain't like we got any --" A light shone in his eyes. "Well. Well, I'll be damned. Heard a rumor some of my guys might have spotted him. Just thought they might be seeing things..."


"All right, then," Nick said. "Who might they be seeing?" 


"Darius, man," said Deacon. "Whole reason we're together. Kid was... hell, he was my best friend. Alisha was his girl. He kept talking about wanting to do something good for this neighborhood. Making it safe, secure." He shook his head. "Guess the Rojos didn't take to it. Bastards. But after the funeral, we realized we couldn't just let something like that stand. We had to drive the others out. Protect Lincoln, you know?"


"Yeah, I can see where you're coming from," said Nick. Form a gang to beat a gang. Makes some sense, I guess... "But your friend opening fire isn't going to bring peace. If you've got some idea where he's been --" 


Deacon held a hand up, shaking his head. "I know about you, ghost talker," he said. "And you oughta know that if he's doing this, that means it's his unfinished business. Means he's taking out the people who put him in the ground. Thought you'd be down with that."


"There's a time and a place for justice, and a time and a place for peace. And given that your buddy's been painting your sign all over his handiwork, how long do you think it's going to be until their friends decide to settle the score?" 


"Let them come. We got support from the other side." 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wail let out a long breath, closing his eye briefly and very visibly forcing himself to hold back a more kneejerk response. Taking off his sunglasses with one hand he gave Deacon a level look. "Son, you know who I am. You know what I've given to the community, to making this place better for you than it was for me at your age. Alright? You know this." Tucking one arm of the glasses into a pocket he rubbed the grey streaked beard covering his square jawline with the opposite hand. "And I need you to understand that I've lost the most important people in my life. I've been where you are. Hell, I'm still there. You never stop being there. So I'm not about to tell you you're wrong."

Folding his arms over his chest, the aging hero's gaze turned harder. "I am telling you you're being a damn fool about it. I could tell you horror stories about messing with the supernatural but I shouldn't have to. You were here a couple years back when the dead started walking the streets on Hallowe'en. That's still recent damn events, boy." Unfolding his arms, he pointed a finger directly at Deacon, his voice taking on a little heat as he went. "And that isn't even the point. You think killing those three boys was divine justice? You think they didn't have best friends, didn't have a girl or boy waiting on them? I don't give a damn who's ghost is doing it. You don't even try to stop it and you best not ever claim to be protecting Lincoln again while I'm in earshot."

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Deacon shook his head. "You think we disrespecting you?" he said. "We know what you've done for this community. We know it could be a hell of a lot more worse around here. But Lincoln still needs help. You think the Rojos give a damn 'bout the proper way of things? They target those outside the game. Store owners, youth pastors, kids..." He shook his head. "Darius probably coulda done it the right way. He might've gotten some real peace. I'm not that guy. I just know that I ain't gonna get those guys to the table. I just gotta show them a big enough gun."


"Hey, I know the Rojos, too," said Nick, thinking back to the Halloween several years back when they'd been calling up several things he'd had to put back down. "You think that's gonna drive them back? They're just going to think it's a bigger challenge."


Deacon gave him a glare, as if sizing him up. "How often you come down here?" he said. "You 'know' them. I've been dealing with them - and the mess they make here - since the time I could crawl. Man's gotta do what he's gotta do."


The sound of feet flying up the stairs caused Deacon to fall silent. Alisha burst into the room, somewhat out of breath. "Deacon..." she said. "He's shown up again. Darius. They say he's at Crenshaw and 4th. Tearing up a Rojo house."


"Do the soldiers know, or --?"


"They were the first to find out."


Deacon turned to Wail and Nick. "You wanna go talk to the man himself?" he said. "Looks like he's holding court."

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  • 2 weeks later...

"'Not that guy'?" Wail scoffed tersely, raising a broad hand to make it abundantly clear he was was uninterested in hearing that line of argument. "So you're a robot? Not in your programming? Spend more time on your decisions and less on your excuses, son. Jesus, 'soldiers'." Mouth twisting in annoyance, he turned about to leave the room. "Let's go, Voodoo. Time to keep some fool children from ending up statistics."

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Nick raced out of the house and to the Pale Horse. He took to the road, but he wasn't the only one - a car full of DGC members tore out along side him, the passengers loading up guns as if girding for war. Nick shook his head, and leaned his head out the window. "Run down," he said in a voice echoing with firing pistons and grinding gears. The car came to a stop, the various bangers looking confused.

"Trust me, you'll thank me for this later."

Others had obviously beaten him there, though. The gunfire could be heard from three blocks down, and by the time Nick and Wail got there, it was all-out war. The members of the DGC were laying down suppressive fire outside; they weren't aiming to take out Rojos as much as keep them in. The Rojos, meanwhile, were trying to return fire from the windows. But Nick could glimpse something moving through the empty windows... and somewhere in the building, lives were ending, one by one.

Great. Right into the war zone.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Without slowing for a moment, LaMarr waded into the ticking of the firefight, anger pulling at his features behind his sunglasses. A few bullets found him as he made his way to the center of the chaotic street fight, flattening and falling to the pavement as the collided with the hero's super-dense physique. Taking a deep breath, he brought one foot down in a street shaking stomp and shouted, "ENOUGH!" The force of the single word rippled outward as it visibly distorted air and sent gang members stumbling backward and falling to their knees. Cries of surprise and pain were drowned out by the echoing ring while guns clattered to the street and hands futilely attempted to cover ears. "Go home," Wail continued in a voice that was merely a thunderous roar. "Now."

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The soldiers of the Darius Green Collective didn't need to be told twice. Most of them dropped their guns onto the sidewalk, running for their cars like the world was on fire behind them. They dove in and sped off, breaking all sorts of traffic laws in an effort to get as far away from Wail as humanly possible. The gunmen at the windows likewise began to withdraw, rushing into the depths of the building and ceasing gunfire. But one set of shots kept ringing out in the building...

"Looks like someone's got a pair on them," Nick said. He raced into the building, trying to get a sense of where the spectral assassin was. His ghostly perception could only really perceive what was in front of him, however, and he didn't feel like pulling the slow search when this guy was trying to mow everyone down. He closed his eyes, trying to reorient his sight and pick up the flow of ectoplasm in the air. He opened them again, and picked up a distinct presence about two floors up. Without stopping, he moved for the stairs.

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