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September 1, 2013

Typhoon City (formerly Qalansiyah), Free Kingdom of Socotra

From the perspective of Freedom City, anyway, it started small. A freak storm in the northwestern Indian Ocean, lashing coasts as far as the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. A sudden media blackout on the island-nation of Socotra; with even its ample (and often illegal) Internet going dark. Socotra was on the radar of only a few people in the city with its lord and master gone largely into retirement, and a brief blackout was an occasion for concern, but not alarm.

Of course, some people had closer ties to the Socotran royal family than others. Standing on the roof of the royal palace of Typhoon, on its best days a magnificent palace of Arabian and Indian styles, surrounded by ever-flowing fountains of fresh water that were among the tallest such in the world, Mark Lucas stared at what lay in Qalansiyah harbor, and beyond it, and for one of the few times in his life honestly had no idea what to say. He took the hand of his girlfriend Nina al-Darsah, princess-turned-college-student, and when he made eye contact and saw the fear she would never, ever, ever admit to having, he said the only thing that made sense. "I'm going to call for help."

"Well...I suppose," said Nina, putting her arm around him, the shadows in which they both stood casting her dark face into gloom. "Normally this is something the royal family would handle amongst ourselves, of course, but this, yes, this is something that your friends could help with." She hugged him, stepped aside so he could disappear without her, because what princess would leave her kingdom in a time line this? and said "Hurry."

With a nod, Mark's costume flashed up around him before he vanised himself - reappearing in the main foyer of the famous Midnight Manor! "Trevor, Erin!" he called out loud as his shoes creaked on hardwood floors. He'd been gone just half a day, but what a day it had been! "I need your help with something! Something...big!" He had to laugh at the absurdity of it.

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Trevor's head poked out of the adjoining library almost immediately, one slender eyebrow raised above his onyx and ruby metahuman eyes. He stepped out into the foyer with an open textbook balanced in one hand and a steaming mug in the other, his expression grave as swift, smooth strides carried him over to his friend. "Situation?" he demanded without preamble, snapping the book shut and setting it aside on a nearby end table. The ominous shadows the mansion cast across the lawn outside the large pane windows told him that evening was fast approaching but given Mark's recent penchant for globetrotting it could have been anything that brought him seeking aid. Knowing him, it likely was.

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At the shout from the foyer, Erin turned off the music in the kitchen and turned off the pot of water on the stove. No matter what Mark's "something big" was, it was extremely likely that her plans for spaghetti and meatballs tonight had just gone out the window. At least she hadn't put the noodles in the water yet, so nothing would be wasted. She paused for a second at the weird laugh. "Please don't say you're getting married," she muttered under her breath as she headed for the foyer. With Mark, there was just no way to guess.


She walked into the foyer, but a cursory glance didn't bring any clues. Mark was wet all over, as though he'd been standing in rain that wasn't falling here, but that wasn't unusual given the company he kept. "What's up?" 

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"Well, it's...it's like this." Mark took a moment to collect himself, spreading his hands as he usually did before he started into a story. "So, the other day, I stopped by Nina's place. You know, her mansion in Socotra. And we," he knew from experience that his friends weren't interested in that part of the story, so he went on, "we decided to go sneak around Socotra for a while and see the sights. You know, get a real feel for the place." He coughed. "And so while we were out, suddenly this freak windstorm breaks out over the islands, and Nina gets really angry. She stands up right there in the cafe and yells 'There's no storm scheduled for today! What fool dares interrupt my date?! I will rip the water from his lungs!'" Mark did a pretty good imitation of his on-again off-again girlfriend after hooking up with her for over a year now. 


"And so I told her to call her dad, because maybe something came up, and anyway it's getting creepy now that people are bowing to her, and so I take us over to the palace and Typhoon is gone." He swallowed. "I asked around, and his guards don't want to talk to me because of that one time that...well, Nina said they heard some kind of commotion in his study, and then he was gone, armor and all. But that's not the worst part. Nina's brothers Durian and Pakhar show up when she sends out the family emergency signal, and just as Durian is calling in the rest of the family with their teleporter, a body falls in the harbor. A really, really, really big body." He thought for a moment, reached into his costume pocket, and took out a zip drive. "This is kind of unbelievable, so I took some pictures and..." When a suitable medium was found, Mark plugged it in and called up a still image of the main harbor of Typhoon City, the largest port in Socotra. There were the famous skyscrapers with their multinational conglomerates, casinos and drug parlors; the statues of Typhoon with the perpetually flowing fountains all around them, a symbol of the intimate tie between the royal family and the very survival of the kingdom...


And there, nose reaching higher than any of the skyscrapers and attached to something infinitely more massive, was a head - a head attached to a body that stretched almost out of camera range in the subsequent shots, evidently taken from a very high point in the city. The body was human-like but with bright red skin and a single massive golden fist; it was that of an Arabian-looking man with a fierce mustache and beard, his eyes widened in what looked like shock. He was dressed in what looked like traditional Arabian clothing, all flowing robes and headpiece, albeit with cloth that glittered in the half-light overhead. On his head was still affixed a simple golden circlet, like the beginnings of a crown.


There was a crater in the being's chest deep enough to park several jets in. "It's...maybe three miles long?" said Mark, sounding a little shaken. "The head is maybe a thousand feet high, see here?" he pointed. "The...the al-Darsahs showed up just in time, we _just_ managed to stop a tidal wave, and now most of them are holding up the body to stop it displacing all the water...and I didn't know what to do!" he admitted. "I can probably destroy something that big, I guess? But then we won't know what it is, or what it's doing there, and what happened with Typhoon...and I know he's really bad, but can you imagine his kids fighting over that country? Especially since they take turns making sure the water supply actually works? That's a couple million people whose taps are going to stop working...not to mention get sick if that body stays there long enough. It's pretty warm in Socotra this week..." 

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Having led them back into the library with its smart screen, hidden tastefully behind a sliding wooden panel that maintained the room's warm decor, Trevor poured over the images from the thumbdrive, eye narrowing in concentration. "Something big," he repeated, letting a soft breath of mild exasperation out through his nose. "All hands on deck," he suggested, tilting his head slightly to one side as he attempted to calculate some rough sense of scale based on the landmarks next to the massive corpse. "Hnh. What kills something that big..."

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"Where does something that big even come from?" Erin added, studying the massive corpse. "We've seen giants before and really big monsters, but I've never even heard of any humanoid who could stand on his tippy-toes and catch jetliners." She scrubbed her face with her hands. "It seems like Nina's family should be able to tow the corpse out to sea and sink it slowly there, it's not like something that big is actually going to raise the ocean levels or anything. But if we don't know anything about what happened or where it came from, there's a possibility that the next time one could fall on land, or come through alive and pissed-off that we sank their relative. Have you checked the Freedom League's records?" she asked Mark. 

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"The forensics people in Socotra had no idea what was going on," said Mark with a little shrug Trevor's way. "I mean they tried, but they only had a couple of days and anyway..." He winced at the memory. "They don't do that well with independent investigations with the royal family right there." He hmmed. "I was pretty busy when it popped in, but from what I heard, it just...appeared there in the harbor, with the hole in its chest, falling over. We just managed to catch it. It was like it just came out of thin air, and a lot of thin air at that." He shook his head in response to Erin's question. "Nope, I came right here. Socotra's libraries are pretty heavily edited, so I couldn't get much there, and of course they and the League block Internet access to each other. And besides, Nina's _whole_ family is there. Even the ones that don't have diplomatic immunity like her dad, and who still have international arrest warrants. You know what the League can be like sometimes." He smiled thinly. "I may not be super-discreet or anything, but I know people who are." 


"What worries me," he admitted, folding his arms as he looked at the picture, "is Typhoon going away just before the corpse fell. I mean, sure, he's a killer, but you guys know his record. If he killed a giant, he'd be standing on the dead body and pronouncing it "Dead Giant Day", and maybe organizing a parade, not running and hiding. Nina won't admit it, but she's worried too, she was pretty...ahem. Hey, uh, should I go get Joe and Eve?" he asked suddenly. "We should probably make this a team thing. Yeah, I'll do that. Be right back!" And with that he popped away, leaving the other two to plan for the trip while he rounded up the rest of the Liberty League. 

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Edge appeared in Cannonade's apartment foyer and found no sign of the pugilistic powerhouse. "Hey Joe! You here?" he called, ready with a cover story for his secret identity if someone not in on the 'game' was there. When there was no sign of an answer, he picked up Joe's house phone and called the emergency contact number Cannonade had given the League. There was no point in using his international phone right here in Freedom City, especially not when he was still waiting for a call from Nina to see if maybe her country was overrun by mountain-sized giant corpses. 


"Hey, Joe?" he said when Joe picked up. "It's Mark. We've got a situation. Can you make it over to the manor immediately? We need to take a little trip to Socotra about a giant corpse. I'm at your apartment, by the way, is that cool? I'm gonna go get our French friend in a minute, if you-know-who hasn't tagged her first." 

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Joe Macayle was sweaty, bruised, and beaten, but not in the way he usually was on most nights out. His friends, after a number of missed rendezvous and cancelled meetings, had finally talked him into attending a concert. He'd been throwing himself into the mosh pit for quite a bit, to the degree that it took him a good while to realize that his comm device was buzzing. He ducked out as soon as he could, and listened to Mark's story


"As long as you don't break anything, we're good," he said. "Give me five." He ducked back in to tell his friends that he had to leave early, as he was developing one hell of a migraine. Once that was done, he went to coat check in order to retrieve his "gym bag." He ducked into a bathroom in the next building over, managed - by some miracle - to find a fairly deserted stall, and emerged about a minute or two later as Cannonade. Soon, he was off into the air, headed for the Midnight Manor. 


"Giant-sized corpse, huh? We got any idea who might show up to claim the body?" 

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"Nope!" said Mark. "It's about three miles long, so it's way bigger than anything anyone at UNISON has ever heard of. Even the old Greenland giants weren't anywhere near that big. It doesn't make a lot of sense, science-wise, but it is a real thing. I'm gonna go pick up our French friend, I'll meet everyone there at the Manor. Our friends there can probably fill you in pretty well. See you later, Joe." 


And with that, he vanished from Joe's apartment and appeared before the front doors of the Parkhurst Hotel. Mark remembered from previous visits that the local ghost population got really mad if you just popped inside without asking, and sometimes the mystics who worked there got agitated too if you broke their spells and stuff, so rather than risk getting into a fight with Eve's roommates he just stood there in front of the building and dialed Eve's emergency contact number. Her super-emergency contact number. 


"Hello! It's your good buddy Mark! We have a pretty serious crisis in Socotra we need to deal with. There's a really big corpse floating in the harbor and my girlfriend's dad is missing. Are you free?" 

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"You can hang up now," stated a familiar French-accepted soprano from the other side of the doors before Eve Martel, the Blue Fox, stepped through and closed them quietly behind her. The hood of her costume was down displaying hair the color of a lightning strike and she held the fox mask in her hand, sage green eyes regarding her friend and former teammate calmly.

There was a flicker of a smile on her face, and a nod of greeting, before her expression turned serious. "I was about to turn in," she said, making a vague gesture to the upper floor of the hotel in the direction of the room she shared with her girlfriend, "but the ghosts let me know you were here, so I came down to see what you wanted. Heard what you said."

"I'm not exactly thrilled to help a rogue nation, but then I wouldn't be. I'd be helping you." She raised a white eyebrow and asked, "So what are we still doing standing here?"

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Despite his youth, Mark was no rookie - he knew better than to interrupt a colleague when they were presenting themselves. "Let's go," he said in agreement with Blue Fox's words, and within the twinkling of an eye they had reappeared in the Midnight Manor library room where Mark had left Trevor and Erin - by a quirk of magical power rather than muscle, they arrived just as Cannonade entered. "Okay, so are we ready?" he asked, looking at the others with uncommon concern. "Or...or maybe try and figure out who the dead guy is on the way?" he added. Normally Mark wasn't much for research, but three-mile-high corpses weren't really in his usual wheelhouse. He glanced over at the monitor, still displaying the pictures he'd got from Socotra. "Oh, right, the giant dead body!"


He related the story to Joe and Eve, with rather less animation and more concern than Mark usually reserved for stories about giants and missing supervillain tyrants. 

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"I guess the first thing to do is have a look at it," Erin said, sounding somewhat reluctant. She'd had more than enough experience to know what a corpse smelled like after baking in the sun for a couple of days, going to look at one the size of a medium-sized town was bound to be unpleasant. "Maybe it'll have a wallet or something to tell us where it came from. Are we going to be able to move it around any, or are we going to need scuba gear?" Trevor surely had scuba gear and maybe a submersible craft down in his basement somewhere, but Erin would just as soon stay out of the waters around Socotra, giant or no. 

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Controlling the smart screen with the palm sized tablet he'd pulled from his back pocket, Trevor brought up a series of satellite images of the coastline that updated every few seconds. They weren't as high resolution as he would have liked but were probably clearer than the Socotran royal family would have been happy to hear about. "Hnh. Can run sensor sweeps on-site. Markers for interdimensional travel." There was no way anything that big could have been living on Earth, at least not their Earth. With the steady stream of problems they'd had to field from alternate dimensions and parallel realities he expected he'd be able to recognize the signs if they were there to find.

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Cannonade was honestly at a loss for what to do. He'd seen some really weird stuff, both independently and along side the Liberty League, but mile-long bodies plopping down in the harbors of potentially hostile foreign powers wasn't exactly in his wheelhouse. Still... 


"Okay," he said, "last I checked, giants weren't exactly common on Earth. I mean, we can debate that with the guys who deal more in the weird, but I think we can say that even if giants are here on Earth, we probably would've noticed 'em by now if they were all that big. So... it came from somewhere else. And judging by what he's got on, he's gotta be a high profile target. And what happens when a high profile target gets bumped off? Someone wants to claim credit. We know anyone in touch with this stuff who could point us to the magic world's equivalent of a Bin Laden tape?"

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Mark wandered off to the mansion library while everyone researched, paging through volumes of Arabian lore in his usual distracted, short-attention span way. "It's really, really heavy," he said to Erin, "but if I work with Tempest, er, Nina and some of the other al-Darsahs, we can move it around a little. Disintevaporating it will be much easier when the time comes."


Using the League scanners he was tapping into, Midnight found that there had indeed been an extra-dimensional incursion into the space around Socotra just before the gigantic corpse had appeared in the harbor. But this was no dimension he was immediately familiar with; it wasn't one the Liberty League had visited before, and was obscure enough that it wasn't in the usual Freedom League registry either. It did seem to be magical, as Cannonade had speculated - but that was all. Whatever was happening in Socotra was coming from terra incognita. 


"Wait a minute..." Mark looked up from the book he'd found and held it open to the others, revealing an artist's depiction of a red-skinned man in traditional Arab dress, one whose hand had been replaced by a single golden fist. "That can't be right, that can't be on Earth," he said doubtfully. The image was an artist's rendition of Hubal; king of the ancient Arabian pantheon, a moon god long since supplanted by Islam. He looked at the picture, then said seriously, "I think we need to go now..." 




Once everyone had their supplies, Mark opened a doorway and the heroes stepped through onto a jetty in Typhoon City harbor. The giant corpse was instantly obvious, looming over even the decadent skyscrapers and thrusting-high palaces by the harbor's edge. The floating wreck was perceptibly higher in the water than it should have been, a half-dozen lines of pure typhonic force in the water reaching out from various points along the shore showing where the al-Darsahs were doing their work to keep the harbor from slopping over. In the shadow of that great face, with mist still darkening what normally a clear blue sky, the air was cool - the faint, unmistakable noise of seagulls. Thousands of them. 


Behind them was the royal palace of the al-Darsahs, a sprawling compound dotted with statues of the royal family as tall as the several sub-palaces that surrounded the main building, a gaudy edifice of Arabian and Indian design with onion domes and curling gold minarets that served no spiritual purpose. It could have swallowed a half-dozen Midnight Manors, but lacked the character of that old house. There were uniformed guards posted in the green lawns and beneath the dragon trees that dotted the brick walkways of the palace grounds, but despite their assault rifles and body armor they did not seem interested in challenging the newly-arrived superhumans.


Within a minute of their arrival, Nina al-Darsah appeared from over the harbor, riding a permanent wave that vanished as she leaped up to join them on the jetty. The usually sharp-tongued princess didn't seem as interested in her usual arrogant banter as she looked over at the corpse and said, "There's still no sign of Father. Not underneath or....inside, as far as Durian can sense." She swallowed, and took Mark's hand without seeming to think about it. "We have kept the animals of the harbor at bay as best we can, but they are many and this is a very great corpse."

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--Well this place is all a bit ostentatious,-- la Renarde Bleue thought to Midnight over their mental link as she took in their surroundings. Her vulpine mask concealed the raised eyebrow she directed at Nina's arrival, her status report and her grasping of Mark's hand. The masked and hooded heroine, politely, kept her personal thoughts to herself.

"We will locate Typhoon later," Fox said, voice and accent clear despite the mask. "I will lend what strength I can to protect the people, the harbor and the city, but we need to remove that corpse. And quickly,"

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Cannonade looked out over the bays of Socotra to the titanic corpse, thinking about metaphysics. He didn't exactly devote much attention to the realms beyond. He still prayed, every now and then - less in the "Our Father" sense, and more in the "Oh Jesus" sense - and knew that there were things beyond this world. He remembered a sermon from back when he was younger. The reverend had spoken about what it meant to follow the word of God when it was clear that there were other gods who were making their presence known a lot more. He said that God's word had been simple - "You shall have no other gods before me." There were other gods, sure. Others might worship them. But they were people of God. It had stuck in his head, even when he was tangling with people who got their blessings from voodoo gods, Greek gods, and gods that he really didn't want to think about.


This, however, threw a wrench into what had been his stable, if somewhat undeveloped, view of cosmology. Here was a god. An old god, and perhaps a mostly forgotten god, but a god nonetheless. And he was dead. He was still pretty impressive when lying in repose, but he had ceased to exist. It produced a lot of questions he really didn't feel comfortable exploring. At least, not now. 


"So..." he said. "How're we gonna determine cause of death? We gonna get a mini-sub and go through his veins? Hell, does he even have veins?" 

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--No argument,-- Midnight replied in the telepathic equivalent of a sardonic drawl. The overcompensating pomp of Socotra did little to win over someone who preferred understatement and subtlety. --Even so, try to play nice. Mark really does like Miss al-Darsah.--

Pulling a pair of components from his belt, the black clad detective fitted them together, unfolding a small parabolic dish extending from a cylinder roughly the size of an electric toothbrush. Thumbing button on the bottom, he held it upward momentarily. As soon as he did the seagulls in the area began squawking in distress and flying away from the massive corpse.

"Ultrasonics," he noted brusquely for Nina's benefit before handing the device to Cannonade. "Excuse me." With another set of tools already in hand, Midnight made his way to the shore to begin his examination of the body and interrogation of the onlookers.

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Erin did her best to help with the research, but she was better suited to gathering supplies. She didn't even have the base of historical knowledge that the others had to work with, despite some hard cramming in school. At least she'd probably come in handy if whatever had killed a massive maybe-god showed up to go a second round. 


As the team took in the macabrely gruesome scene in the harbor, she tested the air and grimaced. "Smells a little like my first trip to Freedom City," she muttered. "We're lucky that the water is keeping the worst of the smell down. Here," she added, taking a couple of small pots of menthol camphor out of her knapsack and passing them around. "Smear some of this under your nose if you get close to the body. It'll help." Not bothering with it herself, she followed Midnight out towards the shore. "This thing is going to be a serious public health hazard in another day or so even if it doesn't flood the harbor," she remarked. "But how the hell would we do an autopsy, orbital laser?" 

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"Without my father, people will riot and dehydrate in the streets. They will-" Mark shot Nina a hard look; he knew better than the others just what kind of stress this event put on his girlfriend but that didn't mean throwing away her allies was a smart move. At Mark's look, Nina ratcheted back the prickly edge that has rolled into her accented voice and said, "So naturally, we need all the help we can get, hah-hah." She smiled politely. "We would be honored to accept your assistance, Mademoiselle Renarde." As she flew up to show Eve the best place to apply her telekinesis, Mark took a moment to wonder if this is what normal couples were like, communicating with each other without using words in a crisis. Studying the corpse, though, he decided that this was really not what you could call normal. 


Eve wound up on a jetty a little ways down the harbor, directing her power alongside a middle-aged man in an ill-fitting black suit. Given to paunch and with a greying mustache, he had the look of a man who had once been handsome before letting himself go to seed many years earlier. "Bonjour, my fair lady," he said in French, winking a bloodshot eye at Renarde Blue. "I didn't know we were going to be bringing in pretty girls-" 

"Durian al-Darsah, you shut your fat drug-addled face in front of guests in our kingdom!" Nina and the older man had a rapid-fire conversation in Soqotri that ended with Durian turning back to his watery support with a scowl. The princess turned back to Eve and said sharply, "Listen, if he says anything else unbecoming a prince of Socotra, or tries to take any drugs in front of you, just destroy his feeble mind, all right? I can't deal with this right now!" She jetted off there, leaving Eve to her work - propping up the corpse was no small feat, but precisely-applied telekinesis, working with the rest of the royals, was enough to help keep it out of the water. 




Edge joined in down at the docks, acting as usual as the velvet glove around Midnight's fist as they talked with people. (Wander was, naturally, the bat in that fist, which had once led to a very strange conversation around Midnight Manor that Mark was no hurry to remember). Most people down by the harbor hadn't seen much, or at least not much they thought was significant - it had been the usual cloudless summer day in Socotra in this time of year when suddenly the sky had darkened, clouds had formed, and then "there it was, big as...that!" said one man with a wave at the great corpse floating in the harbor. No one had heard anything about Typhoon's disappearance, but they were all nervously sure that he would "be out at any moment" to help the nation handle this particularly great crisis. 


"The palace guards might know something more," Mark murmured, "or one of the royals if we can catch them. I think all of them on the island but Nina were actually there in the palace when the sky opened up and when Typhoon went away..." 


Smearing menthol under his nose (luckily, Mark hadn't yet noticed the scent), Edge went to help Midnight with the autopsy, a deeply unpleasant task. But at least they could do it quickly, and between his ability to warp space and Wander's mobility, they were able to help Trevor get a much faster look at the giant corpse than if he'd actually had to climb around on it himself. The exact cause of death was readily apparant - the city-block-sized heart of the fallen giant wasn't damaged, it wasn't destroyed, it was _gone_, with marks that it hadn't simply been cut out but had in fact been ripped out from the inside, as if some great force had simply acted right through oddly resilient, shiny flesh and bone to rip the watery organ free and then do...something with it? There was no sign of a heart that would have been taller than many of Freedom City's skyscrapers. A more detailed autopsy might have revealed more, but it wasn't bad for the work of some minutes. 

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Cannonade bit down on his tongue with enough strength to leave marks in steel - fortunately, when he focused, his flesh was a lot tougher than that. There were minefields he'd go merrily skipping through before he tried to get involve in the royal politics of Socotra. He'd already snarked at Typhoon once - and he hadn't been dating a teammate. While he didn't quite get what Mark saw in Nina, he wasn't exactly going to launch an intervention - especially when the girlfriend in question could drown him with a thought. And the last thing he wanted to do was get between her and the Charlie Sheen of her royal brood. 


It said a lot that the royal affairs made him want to turn his attention to the pleasant task of figuring out how a deity had had a heart the size of Pyramid Plaza ripped from his chest. "Y'know," he said, "I know this isn't my area of expertise. Most of what I know about gods and hearts comes down to a guy in a funny headdress ripping one out while talking about Kali. So... you think that's what happened to this guy? Some stronger guy ripped it out for power?" 

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"Hnh. 'Snakes'," Midnight grunted absently in response to Cannonade as he strode about the edge of the massive crater in the corpse's chest, crouching periodically to get a closer look or take small samples. --Whistle if you need a hand,-- he telepathically offered la Renarde, though she could tell from the tenor of his thoughts his attention was occupied by the investigation.

Straightening, the masked detective rejoined the others, grimly muttering, "Forced down, out. From within..." Tilting his head slightly, he estimated angles based on the damaged he's seen to the impossibly scaled tissue damage. One advantage of dealing with a body of such enormous scale was the superfluousness of a microscope. "Forced down. Tentacles." Midnight raised a hand to chest height, fingers pointing downward and lowered it at a steep angle until it was level with his sternum. "Not just strong. Frigid. Constricted blood vessels, brittle tissue." The way he said, with only the barest of emphasis, was enough to make clear that the temperature had been extreme enough to make note of even next to spontaneous tentacles the width of subway trains.

"Steep angle. Could have been human sized attacker," he illustrated with a brief gesture from his chest to a point nearby the toe of his boot. After a beat of quiet, he turned almost imperceptibly toward Edge. "Typhoon. Controls water temperature?" With no sign of the gargantuan murder weapons beyond the damage they'd done, a psychokinetic or matter manipulator seemed a strong possibility and one with a penchant for emulating sea life had disappeared just as the body had appeared.

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Wander leapt down next to Midnight, her costume smeared with dark fluids that didn't really bear thinking about. She'd obviously gotten pretty close to ground zero in her necroptic investigation "The wound is really clean," she added, "I mean, comparatively. If the heart gets ripped out of something that's alive, the chest cavity is going to fill with blood, the lungs will collapse, and the blood vessels will give way. Especially if the body's laying prone and face-up like this. Even without the heart pumping, you're gonna see a lot of blood gushing around, coagulating at the wounds, you know?" She looked up at the looming wall of corpse. "That didn't happen here. Maybe it has something to do with the blood vessels being frozen, but either way, it makes it harder for us to tell whether the guy died here or got dumped here." 


She shrugged. "Either way, it's sort of a stroke of luck for us as bystanders, cause we don't have tens of thousands of gallons of blood in Socotra harbor to try and clean up along with the body. Between that and all these water controllers, the damage should be pretty minimal. And the fishing ought to be amazing." 

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"Oh, sure, he can make ice, he can make steam, he can do anything with any state of water," said Edge affably, "he...oh." Picking up on Midnight's meaning, Edge shot a glance over at the waterfront, where Nina was flying around from sibling to sibling, organizing the al-Darsah family's protection of the bay. "Yeah, yeah," he said with a nod Midnight's way. "The only thing that's strange to me is that if he killed this, this thing, a giant, a god, whatever," he said with a gesture at the mountain-sized corpse, "you'd think he'd be right there!" Despite himself, his voice had fallen into a whisper, albeit loud enough for the other heroes to hear. "Waving the heart around like he's the champion...but that would explain where all the blood went," he said with a nod to Wander. "I don't know anything about magic," he went on to Cannonade, "but..." 


Mark was interrupted, however, when a giant flamed into existence on the chest of the fallen god - tall as a football field, with a massive goatee, ponytail, and red harem pants and vest, flame made an outline of the ifreet as he called in a voice that reached the edge of the docks where the heroes waited. "I AM AL-SHAHADA, FLAME-SHADOW MESSENGER OF THE GODS OF ALLAT! I HAVE COME TO SUMMON WITNESSES FOR THE TRIAL OF MUHAMMAD AL-DARSAH, THE MORTAL TYPHOON!" 


"Oh, crap, Nina!" Mark vanished in an instant, reappearing across the bay to try and talk his girlfriend down before the al-Darsah family went for the divine messenger!

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