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It's Never Just the Dark You See(IC)

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Caniff St., Riverside, Freedom City

11.45AM, September 7th, Saturday, 2013

 

"So yeah, if we schedule this for Monday, we can-ohmyGOOOOD!" Charlize Fellows, temporary manager for the acts at Hot Licks, dropped the papers she had been sorting through in the mad jump away from the window. Standing and trembling, a nerveless hand pointed out the offending portal,  she stammered out to the older woman she'd just been talking to "S-s-snake! Mz. Stone, there's a giant snake outside!"

 

A casual glance outside quickly proved that while remarkably easy to startle for a lifelong Freedonian, she was no liar. A massive ebon-scaled snake was, in fact, seeping from a jagged black tear in thin air down the street, turning a shovel-shaped head this way and that as its black tongue slid in and out experimentally. It ignored the shocked and panicky people rushing away from it yelling in horror, seeming instead to be looking for something.

 

"W-what should we do Annice?" whispered Charlize as if the snake could hear her "Get out the back door?"

 

Suddenly the pitch-black reptile swerved, and one enormous eye looked straight at the singer.

 

'You cannot hide, lighted one' shouted the distant voice 'Come, and fight'

 

 

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Only in Freedom City could a near perfect day be ruined by a giant serpent appearing in the street. Hot Lick’s were one of many act’s that had actually booked a recording session at her little studio, and now she’d have to deal with both the serpent and the band.


“Agnus call me Agnus.†it was almost a force of habit by now.


“Get everyone out through the back door I’m going to call for help.â€


Once she made sure that everyone was out of the building, and the opposite side of the building, she went out the opposite side to go and meet the serpent. No costume for now it gave her an advantage that the Serpent didn’t know about.

 

“Hi there I’m afraid the Lighted One isn’t in right now. I’m Agnus Stone can I help?â€

Edited by TiffanyKorta

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Evidently her foe had no interest in the others as they ran, letting them dash off out of sight or just far enough away to get good pictures. Unblinking and unmoving, the massive snake looked at Agnus for a few pregnant seconds. It then very crudely exploded with a tearing noise, splitting apart into four long ribbons that hung in the air, rippling like the nearby river.

 

'We wish to kill you' the flat voice was multiplied now, so many it actually had some kind of texture to it, sounding like silk over sandpaper and cooling hearts 'If you are not the lighted one, you are tainted enough by the Burning that it does not matter' one ribbon flowed towards the young woman, hovering only a few meters away. That was more than close enough to see the shapes melding within its depths; shapes of people mostly, though many stranger things flashed in and out of view. The shadow seemed to have to fight against transforming into what she saw. A face, leg or hoof swirling into momentary existence before vanishing.

 

'You are an affront to us, whomsoever you are. So to answer your question Agnes Stone...' the ribbons slid over the pavement around her, arms like swords growing from their distorting bodies '...you can help by remaining still' they announced as the blades leaped at her!

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The soldiers of darkness struck well, ethereal blades sweeping through the unprepared bearer of Justice with horrible coordination, feeling like knives of frozen steel rather than shadow!

Surprisingly the attack left only minor cuts and bruises in their path, though the icy chill shocked Agnus enough that for a few seconds she couldn't so much as move. Seeing this, the shadows laughed with their hideous voices "You are Burned, but not Aflame yet!" one called out mockingly, its inchoate body roiling and spinning "Brothers, let us take her to our world, and drain the Light from her as she dies!"

A chorus of agreement slid from the three others, and at once two of them joined their limbs together and started cutting through Earth-Prime's dimensional barriers, cutting open a black portal to the depthless Shadow-World! The very sunlight seemed to quail as they carved the air.

The other two reformed into a serpent half as big as the one they had come in the form of, but no less sinister for the lesser size. Cold dark eyes stared down at the yougn woman while its obsidian coils began lashing around her, obviously intending to hold her still for the journey into that domain of death...

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Sometimes Agnus really wished for the quiet life when shadow snakes didn’t attack her out of no where. Then again it came with the uniform, the one she really didn’t have time to change into instead she identified her protective aura and hoped no one put two and two together.


“Sorry guy’s but’s I’ve not got a dimensional trip and slow death pencilled in today. I can do Friday if you’d like to call back?â€

 

As she spoke she picked out the potential weakest of the four at this moment, thanks to lifetime of experience, and sent toward it a stream of bright light for it’ trouble

Edited by TiffanyKorta

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Hissing with frustrated hunger, the shadows' coils had lashed out only to be turned by the shield of light that bound around Young Britannia, their limbs flung back with muted shrieks like something from far away in a tunnel.

 

Thus repelled, one of them drew back and shifted a wavering hand into a blade, using it to carve through the sky itself and open a black gash in the air, blackness roiling in impenetrable depths. It was distracted, though, and a distracted enemy was a weakened enemy, and the Light never shunned a chance to destroy the darkness!

 

Agnus's bolt of light smashed through it, the creature's dying wail of surprise and pain warping crazily as it was hurled into the portal. Then things got a little weird.

 

As the mingled power of Light and Shadow met the blackness of the Schattenwelt. an explosion of power burst from it, a white blaze slashed with the waves of black that curled around the primal combatants and dragged them into the portal, the power of Light burning the shadows as the Shadow tore at the very roots of Young Britannia's power like a forest of hooks. All was black, inky, cold, but the champion of Freedom could sense that somehow she was traveling, sheathed in a dying ember of cold, pure whiteness smothered out of sight in the oppressive cold and silence broken only by faint whispers and the feeling of hateful eyes.

 

How long this was Agnus couldn't say, but just as the power was starting to flicker away...she burst out of the dimension of darkness, and slammed headfirst onto a flat plane of hard asphalt. All around her were the familiar buildings of Riverside, though they were off in a way that wasn't immediately obvious.

 

It was rough, had cut her cheek, and was grimy and cold, but after the eerie depths of Shadow's Stronghold it was a blessed relief. The sky was cloudy, sirens wailed in the distance, and she could tell at once that something was wrong. The Light's presence was...weak.

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With a few choice words Agnus picked herself off of the ground and looked around where she had ended up. She couldn’t say quite how she knew but her extra senses were telling her that she was a long way from Freedom City, and worse of all a long way from the UK.


Once she was sure that she wasn’t about to be attack again she took a second to heal all the cut’s she’d taken from the fall and considered her options as to what to do next. She could quite easily teleport herself home, even if she wasn’t on her Earth anymore, though it would be easier if she knew exactly where here was. Beside she was curious as to why those serpent thingies had gone to all the trouble to bring her here.

 

Making her decision to explore this place a little first she held up her hand which burst in bright light, though it seemed to her a little dimmed, and set off to explore.

Edited by TiffanyKorta

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At first the place seemed just like Riverside. Just on a dismal day.

 

There were the shops and small offices, the curving street with its excellent view of both the Great Bay and the stately Riverside Park. The skyline looked about right, and the people looked more less like the bright, happy folks she'd seen a little while ago. The differences though, they started small and quickly came to overshadow everything that had felt familiar.

 

The shops were all right, except for the painted-over anti gay-slur graffiti that most of the more risque bookstores and toy stores had, the cracked glass, the dirty alleys, and the offices all looked just a little rundown and seedier than before. As she passed the people, they gave her a wide berth and their smiles became much more fixed, and something like fear was in their eyes. On closer inspection many of them also seemed to be weary, their faces worn with stress and their bright clothes almost desperate. They edged away from her and averted their eyes from the light in her hand. As she looked, Young Britannia saw that the skyline was...less. There were fewer buildings than usual, and many of them looked either old and unkempt or new with harsh, glitzy lines. The homeless and beggars were on just about every street, nobody giving them a second glance as they hurried past.

 

Riverside Park was murky and forbidding, with high tangled trees, almost like somebody had transplanted part of Wharton Forest onto the peninsula. The sky was dark. The blue a flat, muted gray with only the slightest hint of blue, like color had been leached from it. Clouds rolled over the city in huge oppressive bulwarks, throttling the sun into a pale shadow of itself.

 

As she approached to two young men who darted against each other when they caught sight of the costumed heroine, one of them, the more elegant and darker of the pair, hesitantly asked her "Uh...hey. Um...are you with the Chessmen or some s***? Just askin'!" he added, jerking away and holding up his hands with a pathetically placating grin.

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Though things didn’t seem particularly good it was looking like she had been dumped somewhere else, another Earth or another Time, The fact that she had done both before said a lot about how her life was right about now.


“Well Agnus I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.†despite herself she couldn’t help but grin at that.


Luckily her tone was a little more serious when she actually met people from here, whatever her was. She couldn’t quite put her finger on what gave it away, maybe she was just gene savvy, but this world screamed oppressive state in a shabby 1984 way. Which did mean the people would respond to authority figure without questions. Useful for her right about now.

 

“Language!†she put on her best matrony tones “Chessmen... history... now! Unless you want me to take you in...†she scowled and harangued them, giving now time to question why she was asking such questions.

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Though clearly surprised, neither of the young men dared to question somebody like her, falling over each other in their eagerness to explain. The first grinned sheepishly "Oh, sorry ma'a-er, miss? Didn't mean to say that s-" "Stuff!" his partner burst in "Yeah, sorry, um..the Chessmen?" they darted glances at each other even as they spoke "They're that bunch of megas-the good kind, not like those other guys-, dress in black and white, like ten of 'em, they've got all kinds of weird powers like yours-" "Not that we think your powers are weird or nothin'!" clarified the first man, to the thankful look of the other who resumed "Anyway, they started back in June, remember when the news was all about that hostage thing in Brussels? That was when they showed up."

 

"Nobody knows who they are or where they come from, seein' as they don't show their faces..." he paused, frowning as he remembered "...well, 'cept that Castle guy, but nobody's been able to work out who he is either. Nice guy, nice abs, too...uhm, right, yeah! They're like, those comic-book guys, superheroes, goin' around the world, saving peoples' lives from wars, fires, mudslides, enforcing order in rogue states, that stuff. They mostly keep outta politics though" he added, lowering his superfluous sunglasses to give Young Britannia's Union Jack outfit a dubious once-over "they're backed by that Hanks Conglomerate, got like a million different kinds of merch, tv shows; you name it, its got them on it." While they'd spoken a crowd had started to gather, although unlike the ones on her Earth this one stayed a healthy distance away from what they were staring at. A few of the more daring took photos, but the rest seemed to be preparing themselves to make a dash for it at a moment's notice.

 

Suddenly, a powerful feeling of approaching danger struck Agnus, followed by the excited shout behind her of "Hey look! It's one of them!" as the nearby Freedonians turned and caught glimpses of something in the sky, pointing out the fast-growing black ribbon racing towards them...

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Agnus did something that they probably would have found surprising, she gave them a broad friendly smile.


“Thanks a lot you’ve been a great help, stay frosty.â€

 

With that her aura flared into life as she lifted up into the air trailing light beside her, she mused that that such a dull and dreary world must rarely see such brightness. This group might have the answers she was after about why she was here, but she wasn’t going to risk civilians on top of that. Specially as they had the feel of being anti-hero and possible something much worse...

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Soaring through the air, Young Britannia quickly closed the distance even despite her weakness, mostly thanks to the other's great speed. As she lifted off, she heard more than a few exclamations of surprise and excitement from the crowd,mingled with the click of cameras, and just before she was out of range she heard the gleeful shout of "Go Brite Brit!"

 

In a matter of seconds though, she and the approaching figure were face to face.

 

He fitted the description given by the man below with his black & white costume patterned like a chessboard, and from the raised eyebrow and careful once-over he found her an unusual sight. The man was black,  surprisingly well-built and clean-shaven, with dreadlocks hanging to his broad shoulders and a friendly grin. Standing on a swirling platform of what looked like black, oily water, he stepped forward on it to offer his right hand, which bore a black glove. "Hey there, sister!" he said warmly "What's a gal like you doin' around here? You lost your way? I'm Castle of the Chessmen, if you need help I'm here to give it!"

 

The Light's whisper grew louder.

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“Lost? You have no idea!â€


It was frustrating that everything was just slightly off and she didn’t know exactly what was going on. It was a little like trying to complete a jigsaw without the picture and thousands of pieces. And she couldn’t help but feel that the only possible image she could use was a little wonky.


Still right now it was all she had. Bit of a risk but hey any port in a storm.

 

“This might sound a little weird, but I’ve just arrived here from another dimension, care to give me the 5 cent tour?â€

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"Another dimension?" Castle started back a little, the black river swirling around his feet, frowning as he looked her over once again "Ohhh...kay? Well, I dunno much about that, not real big into quantum mechanics ****, you know? But you seem pretty okay, so I won't hold your otherworldly past against ya. Still, I'd love to know what you call yourself, 'specially when you're not wearin' that cozy number."

 

"Dunno what King'll say, that girl's hard to figure sometimes, but I can probably show you 'round Freedom, sure." With a shrug and a stamp of his foot, the black river swept out and under her feet with a faint chilling of the air...only to be burned away by a flare of light. Looking now deeply baffled, Castle motioned again, more gently this time, and the encroaching power was flung back again. Rubbing his chin thoughtfully the young man glanced back at the city below them. He glanced back from Agnus to the dully glittering skyscrapers below before coming to a decision "Ehhh...That's not too important I guess, you can fly anyway. C'mon, I'll give you a look around. Stay close!"

 

He shot downwards gracefully, spreading his arms out and flinging himself into a swooping twirl as he fell, the black river a ribbon that dissolved behind him.

 

Leveling out as he got closer to the ground, he slowed to call over to Young Britannia "We'll just stick to Riverside and Midtown for now, the rest of the Chessmen will be back in a couple of hours. If you're really from some other world, then..." he shrugged, turning upside-down just in time to evade a flagpole and righting himself with a cocky smirk "...you'll wanna talk to the dudes in the Boardroom.Our main base," Castle added at the patriotic paragon's questioning look "it's like some kinda future-barracks, even got a huge prediction machine! Hanks made it for us when we were first starting out. He's a hell of a guy, brilliant and wise and everything you'd want in a leader. You'll like him, all megas do." From the light in his eyes and the deep admiration in his voice, this was no mere hyperbole.

 

The tour was relatively quick and uneventful. Castle was very ginger about getting too close to the public with another 'mega' in tow, especially one who seemed to defy a lot of his expectations. Young Britannia caught him glancing worriedly over his shoulder at her once or twice, but he was mostly at ease and eager to explain his world to the lovely visitor.

 

"This is the Vigilance statue, commemorating the greatest man our world's ever seen! Some people say it talks whenever something big's about to happen. Dunno about all the dark steel, but it's a classic look. Not like the big guy would have wanted us to think he was all sappy, you know?"

 

"The Graveman Building, supposed to have some kind of really secretive tests going on here, about aliens or something, that's why it's all closed off. Still, they're probably doing something good or they'd be shut down."

 

"City Hall! All those frescoes with the eyes and masks on the walls, they were done in a single night. Nobody knows how or who did them, but anybody messes with them gets hurt, and hurt bad."

 

Along the sweeping tour Agnus couldn't have helped but notice something odd: whenever they soared over an alley, shot past a window, wheeled above a humming street, she saw something. It was never there when she glanced back, but she knew she'd seen it. Somebody ducking out of sight. The city was darker than Freedom City was, the lights dimmer, the clouds thicker, even for her it was already a little hard to make things out when her guide pointed them out to her.

 

"Aaaand here we are! The Boardroom!" sang out Castle as they dropped on the manicured front lawn of a stately manor where Freedom Hall was on her Earth. It was four stories high, with intricate ironwork around the windows and roof depicting stylized chess pieces, and a very gloomy look. "We should only have to wait about ten more minutes-"

Suddenly the heavy checkerboard-patterned doors slammed open, and a slim young woman with a long red ponytail, wearing the same outfit as Castle save for a crown on her chest and a mask covering her face, marched through them up to the pair. Halting to give Agnus a cold glance she barked "Castle! What the %)@$ are you thinking?! Hanks is having a meeting in ten minutes and you drag your new girlfriend over here? Get inside!"

 

Visibly stunned by this outburst, Castle waved his muscular arms furiously as he protested "Whoa, whoa there King! This here's a new mega, Britannia, claims she's from another universe! I was just gonna have her meet the guys and see if we could help her out!"

King's silent stare was disbelieving and contemptuous enough that it sent a brief shiver down Agnus' spine, and made her guide visibly squirm. Fortunately, he quickly rallied, giving the woman an earnest smile and powering on "It can wait until after the meeting, we'll get the heads-up from Hanks and sort out what's going on later. She won't cause any problems while she's here, we might find something out that'll help us if this happens again, and we'll be following orders too. 'Look into any unknown variables', I think are the words in the charter, that right King?" he asked with a meaningful quirk of his eyebrows. The new arrival had slowly relaxed, nodding tersely at the final words "Yeah Castle,  that's true. We'll...give her the benefit of the doubt for now. You" she pointed at Young Britannia "Don't make me regret letting you in. I'm King, leader of the Chessmen, and I don't trust you. Let's get inside." she added, turning to go back into the mansion "We don't want to keep Hanks waiting."

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This was seriously hinky stuff she was a little disturbed by what she saw around the city,it didn’t help that she felt a little distant from the source of her power. It was one of the drawbacks of multi-dimensional travel and this is wasn’t her first rodeo, though it was several lifetimes ago...


And there was the strange feeling that they were being watched if this world worked anything like her own then she had a sneaking suspicion of who it might be, thought now was not the time to investigate the claims. First let’s see how far the rabbit hole goes.

 

“Young Britannia and I’ll be as quiet as a church mouse.â€

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The heroic name got little more than a look of renewed confusion and irritation from King, the officious mega leading the way into the Boardroom, down hallways of cold lights in high ceilings and thick oak walls scattered with paintings of hard-eyed old men and imperious young men from years past. Doors passed them on the way, each a rich mahogany and bearing a small red sign indicating which department they defended. A few had the comics and newspaper clippings often used to try and give life to faculty offices, with about as much success.

 

At last she stopped before a larger set of doors marked simply 'Meeting Hall'. 

 

Turning on her heel, the Chessmen's leader pointed at a nearby comfy couch "Alright, you, British Youth or whatever, you wait out here until we're done. Don't touch anything, you got me? It'll just take fifteen minutes." 

 

Castle gave Agnus an encouraging wave and smile over his shoulder before he vanished along with King into the room, the national heroine catching a glimpse of a large table full of men and women in checkerboard costumes, all listening intently to a thin man with blond hair and narrow glasses at the table's head.

 

Then the door shut, and all was quiet.

 

A little later...

 

With a bang, the door opened, the crush of duochrome Chessmen leaving in a haze of laughter, chatting about something happening in Bombay. King and Castle alone gave YB more than a curious glance, the others turning away on seeing her. Watching the others go, King nodded when they'd rounded the corner and moved back to the meeting hall, beckoning to Agnus "Hanks wants to ask you a few questions, without most of the team around to 'get ideas' about other worlds."

 

Castle was beaming, and had a spring in his step, even more than usual. "It'll be fine," he assured Young Britannia "he just wants to make sure you don't turn people British or whatever, and the light stuff really got his attention" the mega added.

 

The room was spacious, but sparse. There were windows, high slits almost out of reach on the walls, a row of lights above the oval table of polished wood, and chairs for sixteen. At the end, reading some papers by the angular sunlight, was the thin blond man from earlier. Hearing them come in, he took off his glasses and glanced at the newcomer superhuman. A peculiar look flashed in his eyes, but he only nodded at flicked a hand at the nearby chairs.

 

"Good diu, young lady. I am Peter Hanks, Hanks Conglomerate. Maker of the Chessmen. Regina and Castillgano," he said at last after another moment's cold inspection "tell me you come from...outside. Is this true?"

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Agnus took a seat at the table and put her feet on the table, the tiniest of test of the man’s patience to see how he would deal with questions of authority. She had picked up a distrust of authority from her parents, one of disadvantages of being raised by recovering hippies. She doubted she’d ever be able to be part of a team, or even lead one, in the near future.

 

“Yeah I just came inside from the corridor where you made me wait.†she gave a broad grin “Sorry I kid, yes apparently I come from another world it probably called Prime something they tend to call themselves that...â€

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The joke fell even flatter than she'd expected. Hanks barely even blinked, King looked annoyed, but Castle's lips twitched noticeably.

 

"I see...so, your world sees itself as the centre of creation? A natural assumption. Tell me about you." he gestured at her costume "You can emit light, something no mega on this world can do, and your uniform looks like the national flag used by Great Britain, can you explain that to us? Do countries on this 'Prime' have naturally-ocurring megas, or are you a government creation?"

 

"Please keep in mind, we have had no contact with other worlds, what seems obvious to you may be wholly opaque to outsiders." He fixed her with his clear eyes "Please, omit no detail. We might be able to help each other."

Edited by Arichamus

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There was no real reason to hold anything back from this guy after all he was one of the good guys right? It was just that since she had got here she had been getting these bad vibes from just about everything. Call it Britannia intuition but something was just off. So whilst she was going to answer his questions she was also trying to remain a little guarded.

 

“Doesn’t every world think it’s the center of the universe? Your is just as suitable a candidate for Prime as any other world, heck for all I know it’s and we’re just the pale imitation.â€

 

She was also quite worried about his question about her powers, so she tried to keep the information to a minimum.

 

“Natural, Spirit of the nation, and why can’t anyone here use light powers?â€

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"Psychic block." was the crisp reply. Hanks regarded Young Britannia dourly "Our race is better adapted to low-light environments than most on the planet, from my work it would appear we instinctively avoid making our environment brighter. It protects the retina, and makes us less susceptible to predators. Which is more information than you've supplied, so it seems there's still work to do." Resting his chin on his knuckles, Hanks lapsed again into silence. It was quiet enough for the ticking of the antique clock stuffed in one corner to gradually dominate the atmosphere.

 

Suddenly Hanks' slowly closing eyes shot open. "So. Here you are. How can my conglomerate and Chessmen be of assistance, Ms...Britannia?" his forehead creased "Look, do you have any other name I can call you by? It's just that 'Young Britannia' sounds so...jejune."

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