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Monday, April 15th, 2013
7:32 PM

The O'Neil Housing Projects were not exactly the finest place to stay in Freedom City. It wasn't like anyone expected anything better out of the Fens, but the place had one hell of a reputation - gang violence, break-ins, and a thriving drug trade. But it was also home to several people who really didn't have anywhere else to go, and who were trying their hardest to reach for something better.

Cannonade knew of at least one of them. Darnell Franklin was a guy he knew down at the foundry. They weren't exactly the best of friends, but they'd shared a few lunches and talked about how the Comets were doing. When he didn't show up for work on Monday, he didn't really chalk it up to anything weird - probably just illness. But then Alex - who was friends with Darnell - had mentioned that his phone was going directly to voice mail.

After he'd gotten off his shift, he'd decided it wouldn't hurt to stop by the O'Neil projects as part of his nightly patrol. When he got there, he found the place on complete lockdown. Cop cars were around the block, with a SWAT truck or two for variety. And it looked like some of the cops were making adjustments to the types of robots the bomb squad tended to use.

Yeah. There's no way this can be good.

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When Lucy Meeks didn't show up at the theater before the performance, the director was livid, and Kat was too. They fumbled through the play without her, and Kat did her best to play both parts, darting in and fudging the lines and praying the audience couldn't tell. She followed the director into his office after when he phoned in Lucy's number, eager to hear her getting told off . . . But nothing came through. Cell phone, personal line; they called the main apartment complex and still no one answered. Kat felt her anger switching rails to worry fast; an innocuous question was enough to ferret Lucy's apartment complex out of the concerned director, and then it was only an issue of getting affairs in order and stepping out of sight.

Twenty minutes later Warp fell out of a hole in the sky, landing the peak of a roof overlooking the O'Neil projects. Her heart turned over twice in her chest as she saw the flashing lights and cars gathered around the building, like a flock of crows waiting around a body. Another flash and Warp was standing crouched on a lightpost overlooking the scene, leaning dangerously forward, peering at the tenement. There were a lot of cops outside, but no residents that Warp could see. "Hey," she called down from her vantage point. "What the hell happened here?"

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Something growing in the Fens, y'know. Now you couldn't possibly ignore that, could you?


Tazel, why do you insist on propelling me into every stinking mess you get wind of?


Me? Me? I just exist to serve the great and powerful Cantos!


Yeah, right. And to find anyway you can to free yourself of your bond. And to create as much misery, havoc, and despair as you can whilst you wait for that day. Now shut up and let me drive...


The evening was upon Freedom City, the sun still the sky but hanging low, casting shadows. Carmen had heeded the words of the fiery demon in her belly. Of course, she knew that practically everything Tazel did was to get her into trouble, but he couldn't lie to her direct command. If the imp had come to know of something in the Fens, then she had better check it out. 


She was not in a mood to investigate this as Carmen Cantos. Instead, as she rode he adapted bike into the Fens, she was dressed as Pitch. Smoke belched from her mouth, with flickers of fire hinting at the demon down her gullet. Her leather trousers and bracers were studded and smouldering, as was the jet black silk stop she wore, a backless number that revealed the ink of the Cantos tattoo running down her spine. 


She pulled up as she saw the bomb squad and Police. 


Here I am, smoking like a smouldering bonfire, and I run into a bomb disposal squad...great. Should have kept it undercover...


She ticked off the engine of her humming motorcycle, aware that her entrance had been rather dramatic. 

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Among the students of Joseph Clark High School those living in the Fens were considered, without a trace of irony, to be from a 'bad part of town'. As such Keith LaMarr tended to consider them at risk and meriting a certain extra attention. When Tasha Brand failed to show up to class to deliver her civics project, he'd taken notice. Checking with the school administration revealed that her younger brother had similarly been absent that day and a call home to their parents went unanswered.

That was enough to warrant a trip to their apartment building after the school day ended. The police presence and assorted colourful characters on the scene confirmed that this was going to fall under the requirements of his previous day job. "Watch the language," he calmly advised the apparently teenage teleporter on the lamppost, methodically rolling up the sleeves of dress shirt he'd worn to work that day as he strode over. "Keith LaMarr," he introduced himself to the officer overseeing the robot's preparation. "Might be able to help. Hoping this isn't more fairy tale stuff, though," he added, with a nod to Cannonade.

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The grizzled man in SWAT gear maintaining the base of operations was a familiar presence to any hero who'd spent long enough in the game in Freedom - Capt. Maddicks, head of the FCPD's STAR Squad. He was trying to keep his shop together, though more than a few of his men were distracted by the presence of Pitch. "Glad you all could make it," he said, in a tone that indicated he'd been waiting a bit too long for such a thing. "As far as anyone can tell, the O'Neil Projects just... vanished off the map as of 0400 hours local time. No calls going in or out, no presence on the power grid... it's as if the place is somewhere else."

Cannonade looked up to the towering apartment buildings. "For a place that's gotta be somewhere else, it's sure taking up a lot of real estate."

"We haven't sent any men in to check it out," said Maddicks. "But that doesn't mean others haven't gone in. We found an Atlantic Gas and Electric truck around the corner, ticketed and booted all to Hell. Odds are some city employee went in to find out why the place had gone dark and didn't quite make it out."

Cannonade didn't say anything. He just kept studying the building. "For a place that's off the grid," he said, "it's sure got a lot of lights on."

"The lab boys are trying to find a way to explain that." Maddicks produced a small stack of photos. "So far, this is all we've got of the inside. We sent in a robot with a camera we managed to borrow from the bomb squad. Signal went screwy the second it went over the threshold, and cut out about a minute after that. But we managed to get some images."

The photos showed a white, austere interior, nothing but a long hallway with a series of red doors. Cannonade looked up at the building, all red brick walls with the more-than-occasional bit of graffiti. It was a hard match to picture.

"I know what you're thinking," said Maddicks. "Those photos don't match up at all with the building plan. As far as we can tell, what we're seeing on the outside is O'Neil. What we're seeing inside is... well, elsewhere."

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Ignoring the police officers and onlookers, Pitch coasted up to Maddicks and Cannonade and comrades. She clicked off the engine and sing herself off. A belch of smoke coming from the exhaust and her mouth as she did. 


She gripped the head of the Cantos Stick firmly as she walked, with her characteristic limp, to them. 


"I may have some inside information on this..." she explained, her lip curling into an irrepressible smile. 


Ha Ha, very funny sneered an unamused Tazel, as he rumbled in her belly. 


"Something is growing in the building" she said, gesturing with her stick. "I don't know exactly what, but it's not of this world. And if its growing, that means that the clock is ticking..." she explained, giving her stick back to the floor and drumming her fingers on the head. 


"Has anyone been inside yet? Anything living, that is?"

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Warp glanced from her perch at the schoolteacher and raised an eyebrow. "Yeah," she said, casting her eyes around the blockade, keeping her voice deliberately bland. "That's what's wrong with this picture."

When Captain Maddicks started his presentation Warp crossed the distance with a thought and peered at the pictures as though she understood what it meant. It wasn't until Maddick was finished speaking that it clicked. "Sounds like a one-way portal," she said, like it was the most common thing in the world. "We've gotta stop it, yeah, but . . ." Warp bit down on her bottom lip. "If all that's in there is this weird hallway, where did O'Neil go?" And where are the people inside?

Edited by Freely Seek
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"So that's what it takes to get one of these places repainted," LaMarr mused in a soft bass rumble as he looked over the footage from the complex's interior. "Bigger on the inside, trans-portal door frames, subatomic mansions, it's all been done. Nothing to lose your cool over." Cracking the knuckles of his broad hands absently, the veteran hero considered. "Hhn, doors. Anything stopping us from tying a lifeline to a belt and wading on in? Somebody's has to get in there and start checking what's behind Door Number One and friends."

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"I think there may be a more...disposable...option" hissed Pitch through some smoke. 


Under normal circumstances, it may have taken some time to find such vermin. But this was the Fens, and not even the good side of the Fens. Trash was plenty, and ill managed. And with such an abundance of garbage, rats were plenty. 


It took only a few minutes to find a suitable one for Pitch and bring it to her. 


She looked into the mangy creatures eyes, mumbling something in Latin, and, hissing and smouldering, she brought up the Cantos devil stick, touching the creature with the brass goats head on the tip. 


"Time to serve, my rodent friend. Be my eyes, and ears..." she whispered to it, as the Cantos stick thummed, and penetrated the small creatures skull and brain. Penetrated its soul, such as it was. 


Carmed stepped back, firmly gripping the Cantos stick, seeing the world through the rat. Larger, brighter, and full of smells. 


"That will do..." she said in an almost trance like state, as she sent the creature scuttling off to the mysterious estate...

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"As far as we can tell, the people inside are not on this plane of existence," said Maddicks. "Attempts to signal individuals inside over loudspeaker or via flashing lights have resulted in no response. The lights are on, but nobody's home."

"And no one's really wanted to go in through the front door, have they?" asked Cannonade.

"Some of my men were getting ready to rope in and check it out, but if you're looking to volunteer..."


The rat scurried across the pavement, guided by Pitch's will. From the outside, the projects smelled as they would on any other night - ozone, refuse, and the faint whiff of plants brought out in an attempt to add charm to the place. There was little interest in outside, however. The true treasure lay inside. The rat worked its way to the front doors, twisting and contorting its body until it could fit through the narrow crack. It popped through --

-- and there was a sensation of... passage for Pitch. It was hard to describe - a feeling like falling asleep on a train or in flight, only to wake up closer to your destination. You knew you had moved, but it took you a few seconds to truly process that, and you didn't quite know how close you were to the destination. The lobby did, in fact, look different inside -- there was, as the photo from the bomb squad robot had indicated, a long white hallway, stretching off into what seemed like infinity. There was a voice echoing down the hallway, the clear, booming voice of a man...

"Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your apartments while we work on fixing the basic structure of the universe. If we're doing this right, we should be able to get your place back where it was in... oh, about six hours. If all --"

A sound like a bomb going off filled the hall, followed by a terrible roar.

"...oh, that can't be good."

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Pitch snapped open her eyes. She wasn't entirely sure what she had heard, but she didn't like the sound of it. 


She dragged her mind back to the scene outside the estate, with the Captain Maddicks, Cannonade, Wail, and Warp. 


"That can't be good" she repeated, lost in a moment of the dream. 


"I guess that place is sealed off, another dimension, another time, I don't know. My little friend got in, so I guess people can come in and out. I don't now f'sure what's going on in there, but it sounded like somebody was repairing the universe. And it sounded like that somebody got rudely interrupted..."


She turned her gaze to the building. 


"And I'm guessing that means we don't have the time for a robot or any fancy plans..."

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That hit home, really. Warp had helped to ward off kidnappers with submarines, bank robbers with cold powers, theater-hating ghosts and more. "Maybe." She said, propping both her hands on her hips. "But people in danger is always people in danger, no matter how much it happens."

Alternate dimensions and weird otherworldly stuff? Just what she needed. Warp wore her best wry smile to keep the anxiety from her face. There was nowhere in the world she couldn't go, but if it wasn't in the world . . . Warp watched Pitch work, tapping her fingers against her side, fighting to keep from chewing on her lip where the others could see her.

Once Pitch reported back, Warp felt relief. A call to action was something she could contribute to. "I'm guessing that means walking through won't kill us then." And just like that, Warp was gone from there, and standing in front of the O'Neil's door. It took a step to take her inside, and Warp was overwhelmed with a curious sensation. She shook her head, looked around into the endless hall.

"Huh," she said, glancing around, fighting back a pit of uncertainty in her stomach for umpteenth time since she started this heroing business. She stepped to the side to examine the extradimensional invasion a bit more closely. "Neat."

Edited by Freely Seek
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"Damn fool child...!" Wail groaned at the young woman's abrupt disappearance and step into the uncertain situation. "In my day teleporters knew a thing about looking before they damn well leaped," he muttered, stomping off toward the apartment complex's entrance himself, glowering all the way. Keeping calm was one thing, ignoring potential danger was another. "Maddicks, if your boys have that rope ready, give it here," he called as he neared the gateway. "You're not going to find a better anchor than these old bones."

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Cannonade just shook his head. "Really, there's gotta be better ways of doing that," he said. "Guess I could use a loop as well. Let me know when we're ready."

Soon enough, Cannonade had a thick cord around his waist and was tied to Wail. Once he was sure Maddicks and his men had absolutely secured the rope, he began the trudge into the dimensionally-displaced apartment. Passing through the front doors felt entirely strange, like the world had fallen out from under his feet, only to be replaced by an entirely different planet. There was a lobby of pure white, unmarred by anything like dirt. Cannonade even lifted one of his boots, just to test - there wasn't even a footprint, despite the fact that he'd been tracking mud outside. And there, in the middle of the lobby, was Warp.

"Um, excuse me?"

Cannonade looked up to the ceiling, trying to source the voice that was echoing out of everywhere. "Yeah, hey, new guests. Welcome to backstage. I was wondering if you'd be up for lending a hand."

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Pitch put the rope round her, grumbling at being last, although she had - she conceded, been the first in, in some ways. 


Besides which, they needed to act fast, and she wasn't the fastest. 


She had a fleeting thought to set a fire outside the building, in case she needed to jump back out through some flames, her "firewalking" trick. But then, that was not going to go down well with some fire officers, and time was short. 


So lets Rock!!! she sang to herself, accompanied by an imagined guitar riff. 



"Yeah, hey, new guests. Welcome to backstage. I was wondering if you'd be up for lending a hand."



"What is this, a concert?" she asked aloud, wondering if her mental affirmation to Rock was an unconscious prediction. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Looks more like theater to me," LaMarr opined, tugging experimentally on the line fastened to his waist and looking about. He hadn't cared for the transition between the building's exterior and wherever they were now; nobody with Wail's kind of weight like feeling unsteady on their feet. The uncannily pristine surfaces of the hallway they were standing were unnerving as well and he was glad to have his sunglasses against the impression of blank canvass. "How about you show yourself and talk straight with us?" he requested of the disembodied voice in a tone that made it clear he wasn't really asking.

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