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The Devil In The Details

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The Seventh Chakra was, quite literally, a hole in the wall.


It was a surprisingly nice hole in the wall, though. Located on the southern end of Ashton, the club seemed to be underground, its entrance wedged between two larger businesses that were closed by the time it actually opened. As the sun set, a small line could be seen forming on the sidewalk, The violet, glowing logo shining above a single purple door. Standing at the entrance was a particularly large gentleman in a white suit and purple tie, allowing patrons to enter the building in either small groups or one at a time.

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"This appears to the place!" said Supercape, smoothing down his suit. Despite the urgency of the situation, he had elected to wear some rather large sunglasses and a rather low and wide hat. He had no wish to reveal his secret identity to Trigger and Smokey, despite their apparent willingness to help. 


He had decided to keep half an eye on them. Crooks and swindlers, no doubt, but they seemed to realise they had bigger fish to fry today. 


Supercape marched up to the large bouncer, stifling a gulp. The man was significantly taller, and much more wide, than he was. Sure, he would be no trouble to subdue with a few choice radiation bursts, but for now, he wanted a more discrete approach. 


"Just the three of us, Sir!" he said with as much confidence as he could muster. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The patrons in line ahead of Supercape actually seemed normal--or at least what passed for normal in a nightclub. There definitely seemed to be a dress code, and for the most part, no one seemed to be in an overly negative or aggressive mood. Part of that was probably the big, suited gorilla standing at the door. He regarded Supercape with a raised eyebrow, and there was a faint recognition of Smokey. He barely seemed to register Trigger at all.


In the time between the apartment complex and here, Smokey and Trigger had changed clothes into something considerably more appropriate. Smokey was wildly uncomfortable in his suit and white tie, restricting himself to a single cigar; Trigger had gone for a simple collared shirt and slacks.


"...huh." There was a faint, but noticeable glow in the man's eyes. It lasted only for a brief moment, but he reached behind him, pushing the door open. There was a distinct difference in temperature; the air conditioning was going pretty hard inside, sharply contrasting the somewhat humid air of the evening.


"Fine. Go on." He gave Supercape a more scrutinizing look before simply turning ahead, closing the door behind them and facing forward to assess the next group of patrons.


Once inside, there was simply a long, white hallway, stairs leading down and to the right, then to the left again. Posters lined the walls for various shows, all current, playing in the Theater District. At the bottom of the stairs, the hallway extended another fifty feet or so before ending at two white doors, manned by a single, long-haired man in a fedora. He looked impossibly gaunt at a glance, bearing long, hawkish features. The brim of his hat covered his eyes, and he was quietly shuffling a deck of cards as he stood between both doors.

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Supercape nodded to the bouncer, noting the brief glow in his eyes. 


That's not normal! he noted to himself. 


Our lady of mystery has clearly been busy. 


He studied the gaunt man ahead, noting his eyes were under cover. Noting he was gaunt. Concluding it was suspicious, to say the least. 


"Good day to you, Sir!" he started, as boldly as he could. 


"We are here to see...errrr...." he paused for a fraction, wondering how he should term the lady in question.


"...the lady of this establishment!" he concluded truthfully, hoping the mercurial nature of the term might profer some informative retort. 

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  • 3 weeks later...



"The lady's busy."


The man's voice had a very gravelly quality to it, like a lifelong smoker. Almost on cue, he reached into his shirt pocket with his left hand, producing a cigarette. His right hand put the deck of cards down on the small table between them, and he drew one, holding it up in the air. "One card, for the lot of ya," he said. "Guess right and you're in. Guess wrong and... well..."

His voice trailed off, leaving the consequences open to interpretation.

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"The deck, as they say, is not in our favour..." said a sweating Supercape, pulling at his collar. For all his considerable ability to shift around time and space, he had never quite gained physical courage. 


What could it be? some trick? sleight of hand? a code? think..think...would our lady have some card associated with her? The Queen of...diamonds? spades? surely not hearts?


Or is it just a joker?


No...no code...he told us to guess...


That's pretty long odds...


"The Queen of DIamonds!" he answered, without hope. 

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The man paused for a moment, then put the card face up on the table--an ace of clubs. He started to say something before stopping mid-breath, pausing and looking slightly upward as if listening to something. Trigger slapped his forehead, whispering in Supercape's ear.


"Told you... don't you have like, X-ray vision or something?"


The whole thing seemed moot, though, as the card-wielding bouncer motioned over to the door to the group's right. "Right this way. Seems you've got a friend around here... otherwise I'd be kickin' all three of ya out."

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Supercape groaned as he saw the ace of clubs. 


"Errr...yes" he mumbled apologetically, hoping - without justification - he wasn't sweating too profusely. 


I'm walking into a trap...


He whispered back to Trigger. "My dear man, I can sense subatomic energies and quantum events that the best laboratories in the world can only dream of. X-Rays included. The trouble is, that does no good. You see, X-Rays will penetrate the card with equal ease, unlike visible light which will be absorbed or reflected in differing amount according to the perceived color of the..."


He trailed off. 


"Never mind, I'll save the physics class for later. I can't see through things, no. And I would have to bend light to see the opposite side of something. Hmm...I suppose I could try..."


He stopped himself again. 


"Lead on, Sir!" he said to the mysterious bouncer, cursing the ace of clubs.

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The man merely shrugged, allowing the trio to get by him. He didn't follow, but the door shut behind them without the hat-wearing man so much as touching it. It seemed that no one had been thrown out yet; the black-and-white checkered floor reflected the soft violet lights overhead, leading from a narrowly lit hallway into a much larger bar. There didn't seem to be many people around--a few dozen at the most, scattered around the booths around the edge of the room. The bartender looked up at the three entering, but said nothing at first. Instead, the older gentleman at the piano waved Supercape over.


"You boys went through quite a bit of trouble just to hang out at a club," he mused, amusement lacing his tone. All the while, he never stopped playing...

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Supercape walked slowly towards the piano, placing his hand on it. His foot started to tap to the beat of the tune, quite unconsciously. 


"It's been a hell of a day" he agreed, pausing to wipe the sweat from his brow. It had indeed. Long, tiring, and dripping with adrenaline. And a gnawing anxiety that threaded through it all like an unpleasant stomach ulcer. 


"And I fear it's not over yet. Quite an unusual little club you have here. Enigmatic, to say the least. Normally this would be quite enough to excite my curiosity, but today I am gripped by something quite pressing. A certain lady, one of significant power and authority, whom I believe either resides here or is at least in its embrace, one way or another..."


"Nice tune, by the way", he offered by way of platitude. 

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"I didn't take you for a jazz fan, but thank you." He smiled. "And call me Anton."


Trigger glanced around the room; other than a few inquisitive stares, no one seemed too concerned that they were there. Smokey had, instead, headed straight for the bar to get himself a drink.


"You must be looking for Ms. Azel. I've gotta say... you boys jumped right down the rabbit hole on this one, didn't you?" Anton chuckled and leaned back a little, his fingers nimbly gliding over the keys. "This is a... sanctuary of sorts. Good place to come if you've got an eye for the extradimensional and the supernatural. Definitely not a place for confrontation, but... I'm sure upstanding gentlemen like yourselves wouldn't go around looking for trouble."

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"I don't really" answered Supercape. "It's just I am really good at looking, and when I find something, I'm quite good at sorting it out.."


The Supernatural is another matter altogether though! What have I got myself into? It should be those strange Parkhurst people sorting this out. Ah well, too late to back out now! I'm in this far and the clock is ticking...


"And you are quite correct, concluding it is Ms. Azel I am after. She has caused me considerable..concern. I'm not sure who, or what, she is. But she has been handling interdimensional portals like they are toy balls. And that's a dangerous thing to do as far as I am concerned..."


"This...sanctuary. I don't suppose you could tell me where it is, exactly? I feel like Dorothy right now..."


"And perhaps more importantly, where could I find this Ms. Azel?" he asked, firming up his resolve. 

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"I wonder what she's gone and done now," Anton mused with a sigh, bringing his song to a close. There was a light clapping as he stood up; he bowed to the sparse crowd before starting to pull Supercape to the side.


"Now, let's be serious, boys... what exactly has Ms. Azel done to warrant a veritable house call? This place is the sanctuary; we don't really condone fighting. Keeps everybody more or less honest, and I'd like to keep the Seventh Chakra a safe place if at all possible. That and the bartender just rip your soul from your body, and nobody really wants that. Quite a messy process, from what I understand..."


Anton looked over at the bartender and Smokey, who had struck up a conversation well out of earshot of Trigger and Supercape. They seemed to be getting along just fine.

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Supercape didn't quite have the time to worry about Smokey right now. Although if he had space in his head, he almost certainly would have. 


He felt overcome with vague anxieties. 


"I'm not here to fight, Anton. It's not  really my thing, and I'll  try and keep my two friends here out of trouble in that regard. All I want to do is protect my home. And that means the whole world I come from. Ms. Azel, well - I'm not entirely sure she is a threat, but I'm pretty worried she might be. She has what can only be called a disregard for safety. And that's being charitable..."


"What I need to know is who she is, and what does she intend to do? If that isn't going to involve the rending of worlds and universes, then it's fine by me. I don't want to break a pax..."

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"I can't really say what she intends to do," Anton mused, rubbing at his grey-streaked chin. "She's something of a power broker though. Very good at getting people in contact with other people, no matter how... undesirable the outcome. Pretty sure she wouldn't just destroy a universe for kicks though. You're probably overestimating her on that front."


Anton sighed deeply. "I'd worry more about the folks she makes deals with than her specifically... She didn't make one recently, did she?"

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"Oh fantastic" sighed Supercape, deflating at the thought, his elbow slumping on the polished piano. 


"So there is someone behind the Lady" he said, wondering about just how dangerous this was, and how out of depth he felt. He could travel to any corner of the multiverse, and had a better conception of the infinite space and time, but this club, and these schemes left him feeling very out of his depth. 


"And yes, it just so happened she did" he answered. "And I don't know where he is, or how much trouble he is in. I can't say I am desperately well inclined to this man, but he seemed to be sinking in a world he didn't really know. He was desperate for power. And that makes me very concerned. He could do potentially anything..."


"Say, how would I go looking for the Lady and any, er, business partners?"

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"That sounds about like her clientele." Anton motioned over to a nearby table, offering Supercape a seat. "She seems to seek out the most despairing souls she can find and offer them a choice. Of course, they never see it as a real choice, giving in to their fears, and... well, the results vary. Some realize the curse they called down upon themselves. Others... aren't quite so quick on the uptake. I can relate."


Anton paused in thought, clearly lost in them for the briefest of moments. "At any rate, she's been in Freedom City for a fair amount of time. Long enough to shore up her defenses in a surprisingly mortal fashion. An army of lawyers. Probably has an officer or three in her pocket. None of her resources, mind you, but it comes with the job of professional sowing of chaos among humanity. To what end, I'm not sure. I could, of course, get you a list of the properties leased in her name; that would at least be a start. As far as business partners... hard to say. Pretty sure I don't count."

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"I've faced an army or two in my time. But an army of lawyers would send a shiver down the bravest man" said Supercape in all honesty. Sure, he respected the law, but it sometimes seemed that lawyers twisted the essence of justice. 


"The list of properties is a start, anyway" he said, trying to drum up enthusiasm. He had visions of finetoothing a list of legal documents and trying to penetrate the web of jargon and small print he suspected she had wove around her. Still, something might come up...


"I thank you for your help, sincerely. I don't come here to cause chaos, but rather prevent it. I'm all for a little anarchy of thought, but actions is another thing. If she really is out to sow chaos in Freedom City, then I am here to stop it..." he concluded with more resolute conviction. 


If he had the list, perhaps Trigger or Smokey might cotton on to something. 

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"Hey, it's no problem. It's pretty well established that I'm something of a neutral party around here. Probably because she thinks I can't really do anything. I suppose in the most direct of circumstances, she's not entirely wrong..."


He reached for one of the napkins on the table. Setting it in front of him, grabbed a pen out of his shirt pocket and began writing. As he was finishing, Trigger walked over to the table.


"It seems Smokey's social skills aren't entirely a wash. Our mutual friend is rumored off to see Knives--or Taraxus. From a distance, I'd imagine. Apparently this Taraxus isn't powerful enough to go out during the day without being burned by the sun, but his strength will start returning after sundown. Now I see why she whisked him away when she did..."

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Supercape nodded, impressed. 


"Your friend Smokey needs a pat on the back then. A little liquor can grease the wheels of wagging tongues, no doubt" he concluded, studying the list Anton was finishing off. 


"Knives, no, lets call him Taraxus now, seeing as how our mutual friend seems to have manipulated him to something other than his normal self, is going to be in hiding until sundown. I don't know why that is, maybe ultravoilet light, maybe not. But she appears to be keen to keep him running. It's like some vampire, I guess. Maybe he is a vampire. Magic and undead, its out of my league. Normally Nick Cimitierre or someone would be looking after that side of things, but right now, all we got is us..."


He showed Trigger the list Anton had made. 


"And this list. Anything ring a bell?"

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"Not immediately," Trigger mused for a moment as Anton handed over the list. "I know some of these streets though. Some of them are abandoned properties, some are new developments like that apartment building in the Fens. I don't think they have basements like the last one though... I'd know. Unless someone else can install biometric fingerprint locks."


"Show-off," Smokey commented, coming up from behind Trigger. He wasn't drunk, but it was pretty clear he'd had a few from the faint scent of alcohol on him. He looked over Trigger's shoulder at the list. "Hey, that one's way in Port Royal. Abandoned subway station or somethin'. Lots of homeless guys hang out there 'cause the city kinda gave up on the place...:

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"That's the place" said Supercape, intuitively, folding up the list and stuffing it a pocket that appeared on his costume as if by magic, sparkling slightly. 


At least, I hope it is. But its the best lead we have right now, and pretty good at that that. If she does deal in empowering lost causes, a supply of desperate homeless people would be ripe pickings. 


Not for the first time, Supercape lamented that Freedom City, so abundant of marvels, should still have homelessness. Such was the machines of cities, it seemed. 


"And if you know the place, Smokey, you are just the man to get use there. Although first, we have to get out of this establishment, wherever it is. It feels...odd" he added, giving voice to the uncomfortable sensation his supersenses had given him. 


"Anton, I thank you for your help, and your fine playing. I have to go, and try and make sure nothing distasteful happens. It was a pleasure" he smiled, bowing. 


"Play it again!" he added, before striding out of the bar. Destination: Port Royal. 

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