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Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Later morning

DeCosta High School, Freedom City

The crowd had swelled beyond the gymnasium's bleachers, leaving many spectators standing on the basketball court or out in the hallway. The low murmur of conversation was an effective white noise, but the young girl perched on a top row was still able to pick out a few strains of conversation.

"... Hope I can ask him about the tax on... "

"... Wonder what he was thinking when he voted for... "

"... Just who is running against him, again?"

"... Whatever happened to his son after that fight with... "

The Tona Baudin winced and purposefully turned away from that last one. It was more than a year ago that her robotic duplicate had tried to kill Aaron Walsh, and had then turned that same homicidal programming on her friends and allies. She had since repaired those relationships, but now the Congressman was back in town on the campaign trail, which her friends insisted had nothing to do with killing people. Still, Tona was making sure that no one else was going to try and attack Representative Walsh this time.

She turned up the hood of her dark green hoodie with a fletching design and settled into her seat. Walsh was supposed to be out at any moment, and this town hall meeting was supposed to go on until past lunch, so she had to be ready to wait all day.

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Cannonade stood at the back, trying not to draw attention to himself - which was easier said than done, seeing as he wasn't exactly dressed for a town hall meeting. The helmet kinda gave it away. Then again, it was hardly like he was the figure most likely to draw the eye in here. Ever since the Day of Wrath, Representative Walsh had been enjoying a high profile - and, with that heightened profile, came heightened scrutiny over some of his more interesting positions. It said a lot about these times that aliens - and not the ones from the next country over - could become a major campaign plank. And with semi-fringe positions came definitely fringe personalities.

Joe didn't really care for Walsh's campaign platform, but he also didn't care for civilians getting hurt. So he was camped out, trying to focus his attention on the crowd and the wings, and not on the tide of talking points that was about to wash over him.

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Silhouette was there, not that anybody noticed, which was as it should be. In fact she was right there in the front, almost directly behind the podium, though only by a few feet. A couple curtains were there, but she was set off to the side so her broad side faced directly into the curtain. Under exceptionally close scrutiny, someone could perhaps figure out she was standing there, or they could walk into her, which she generally avoided as it would give them rather nasty cuts. But she was exactly where she needed to be, a shadow on the wall for Mr. Walsh. She didn't particularly care about what he had to say, politics were something that didn't interest her, but she couldn't reject a clear invitation if there was a chance there was a threat on his life. Goodness knows he's had some excitement in the past. She was surprised she was asked at all really, it wasn't that she wouldn't be competient at it, after all, if she figured to make a living, she could of be a spectacular body guard because of her well tuned sense of paranoia, it's just that she was as much of a ghost in the superhero community as she was to the villains. It was curious who might of suggested, though honestly she suspected it was Amir, if only because he was the only person she knew who was wealthy enough and likely enough to name drop her as such. Still, she was here, and she was as close as she really could be to Walsh during the speech. Hopefully it would be exceptionally boring and uneventful.

Edited by Aoiroo
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More security pushed into the gym and the babble died down as Representative Walsh made his entrance. Applause greeted him and he responded with a smile and waves. He went down the first row of bleachers, pressing the flesh and calling out to individuals and groups he recognized in the crowd. It would be easy to pass it off as the normal crowd control from a career politician, but there was an undercurrent of openness and honest that had helped propel Walsh to his high office. Tona wasn’t interested in that, though; like his security detail, she was scanning the crowd, watching for people reacting too much or too little to Walsh’s arrival.

It went smoothly, and before lone the representative was up at the podium. The stump speech passed smoothly, and before long citizens were lining up at the microphone to ask questions. To the archer in her perch, all of this was more white noise as she continued her vigil.

“Representative Walsh, I’m a member of the local school council, and I wanted to ask…â€

“… And given your votes on Bill HS 67-09…â€

“Mr. Walsh, I’m a vet, I served my country, and I hope I can talk you man to man…â€

“As a father, I’m sure you understand the dangers…â€

“What do you think of T-Babies now?â€

The question startled Tona out of the half-sleep she had fallen into, the wash of questions and lack of danger sapping her attention. Now she was focused again. Representative Walsh had been one of the strongest voices against Terminus-powered superhumans, after all, until his son had come out as having Terminus powers of his own. Tona hadn’t paid attention to the congressman’s own political revolution, but she had to admit more than a little curiosity.

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It was, for the most part, the kind of town hall meeting everyone expected - the usual concerns about everyday life, with the occasional curve ball thrown at high speed. Cannonade kept paying attention throughout, tracking all of the issues - while this wasn't his usual setting, it didn't hurt to be informed. Still, that wasn't his first priority. His eyes scanned the audience, tracking for the first sign of upset.

And, when someone asked Walsh about T-babies, he refocused his efforts. Walsh's past policies were well-known, and didn't exactly make him well-liked in some quarters - and quite favored in others. It was all just a matter of seeing if either of those groups would be inflamed enough to strike.

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Sil watched the Representative closely, it was, an important question. She knew several what was dubbed terminus babies, it was definitely a hot issue in Freedom City which had the highest concentration (partially cause that's where a lot of them went to school, she had no idea there was a high school until she found the elementary school). Either way, it would effect the crowd certainly. This was a high school after all, there was a chance that some of the parents in the crowd were in fact the parents of so called terminus babies and if things turned violent she'd have to watch for any overly protective parents as well as would be extremists. It went both ways, those who were afraid of terminus babies and those who were afraid for them.

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Walsh didn't seem surprised by the question, but he did take a moment to collect himself. He took a deep breath and gripped the side of the podium, his knuckles going white. "I have made some mistakes in the past, held to misguided opinions. Now, anyone who remembers the invasion of '93 would never discount the danger of the Terminus." His hand rose to brush against a not-quite healed scar. "They cost us our mightiest hero, and created a whole new breed of superhumans.

"However, we must be careful not to paint all peoples with the same brush. There are individuals in the world today with powers from the Terminus, yes. And there are individuals with powers from nuclear reactors, and lightning storms, and earthquakes, and ancient monsters." Walsh leaned forward suddenly, almost seeming to lock eyes with every member of the audience. "But none of those people are the forces they they control!

"Superheroes are a diverse lot, as diverse as the people the protect. To come down on one group is to do a disservice to them all. I support full prison sentences for those who use Terminus powers in the commission of a crime, just like anyone who used a ray gun or a magic staff or super-strength. But T-Babies should have the right and the opportunity to grow up as individuals, and make their own way in the world, just like any other free man or woman."

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Tona found herself nodding along with the Representative's words, and shook the effect off with some effort. It wasn't hard for her to see why this man had become a leader, with speaking skills like that. She sat back, calmed and certain that he was a lying liar, look at him standing up there so smug, we should just bash his face in just rip and tear AND CRUSH AND KILL AND.

Tona stood suddenly, breaking out in a cold sweat as the red rage washed over her and swept away. Slowly, the rest of the auditorium stood, eyes fixed on the Representative. She suddenly feel the tension rising in the room, and it seemed like the crowd was in breathing in synch. It didn't take a genius to realize that things weren't normal, and she reached down to her bag.

Walsh ran a hand through his grey-streaked hair as he watched the crowd literally rise up against him. "Now I think you should all calm down. I'll get to all your questions in due time."

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As one the crowd moved towards the stage; even Walsh's security turned and made a grab for the Representative. Tona was about a far away from the stage as possible, and not in much of a position to get closer. Still, there was a back left temptingly open for her, and the archer aimed a low kidney punch at the man in front of her. The blow was textbook and the man crumpled without a noise, but soon several blank-eyed adults turned and began advancing on her. "Merde," she breathed. "If you can't all wait in line, I'm not going to play nice with you!"

She scooped up the bag underneath her seat and turned, jumping off one wall to the other and to a sports banner hanging from the ceiling. She shimmed up to the rafters and crouched there, beginning to assemble her weapon.

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Sil immediately stepped in when the security and tried to get some quick precise hits that would knock out but would not overly harm them. However, as much as she hit, they got right back up and headed straight for Walsh. Slipping around she set her stance in front of him keeping her feet spread as she waited for the attack.

"Mr. Walsh, I would say run, but that seems unwise at this time. Stay behind me, don't panic, don't move. They will not get past me."

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Cannonade felt the sharp tug of rage at the front of his mind. He had no idea where it came from at first - Walsh's words had seemed pretty inoffensive; had his mind been wandering? But then he heard the murmurs in the crowd, and saw the all-too-familiar agitation. He knew the score.

So... either they had the crap luck to get a crowd full of people who wanna hang up Terminus babies in front of city hall, or this is mind control. He moved forward from his position and into the fray. There some kinda law in this town that says when a crowd reaches a certain size, it has to get mind****ed?

He saw Silhouette was already taking point in front of Walsh, and the archer was taking care of the guards. That left the crowd. This would probably suck for them, but it would suck a lot worse than the alternatives. He stepped in front of the angry mob, took a deep breath - deeper than any normal human ever could - and let loose. Suddenly, there was a hurricane in the gymnasium, forcing the crowd to make an effort to stay on their feet.

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Silhoutte's blow made the security guard reel, but one woman working alone couldn't hold back a crowd. It was useful, then, that Cannonade crashed down at the front of the stage and blew up a mighty wind, knocking down a good many of the spectators-turned-crazed-thugs, and forcing Blue Jay to hunker down against the wind. As the crowd struggled to its feet, a woman on the bleachers spoke up. A woman who was surrounded by the more muscled members of the crowd, and who wasn't throwing herself so blindly into the attack.

"Superheroes," she said, sighing petulantly. "This could have been so easy, so... well, not neat. Someone getting beaten to death with bunch of bare hands usually isn't very neat. But it's very easy when it's not your hands beating them!" She laughed briefly before settling down again. "Oh well. Let's see how you heroes react when you're not just blowing them all down!" Her eyes glowed red, and the same color was soon glowing in the eyes of the crowd. They scrambled to their feet and rushed Cannonade, bowling him over and burying the young man in a mass of pummeling bodies!

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Blue Jay balanced on the beam, watching the fight below. Cannonade was getting overwhelmed, but the archer couldn't do anything about that. She didn't have enough arrows to deal with everyone in the crowd, but luckily the one in charge of all of this had had the hubris to single herself out. She had her bodyguards, sure, but no one ever expected an attack from up high. Jay nocked, drew down --

-- And had to drop the arrow to grab at her perch, as a volley of red rubber balls arced from below and threatened to overbalance her. She turned and watched, incredulous, as the rubber balls fell back to the mind controlled crowd, who picked them up and prepared for another volley at the archer. "Oh, what's the matter, little miss bow-and-arrow?" The girl at the center of this chaos craned her neck to look up at Blue Jay. "Too much time at archery camp, not enough time playing dodgeball with everyone else?" She turned back to Walsh, already dismissing Jay. "I'll get to you in due time, don't worry. Business before pleasure, though."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Silhouette examined her options, they didn't look too terrible good. Crowd control wasn't especially her area of expertise, and it wasn't like she could talk them down. At least, she very much doubted it because the severity of the reaction suggested outside mental stimulas that would otherwise block reasonable conversation. Given, someone who was good at it would have a chance, but she was most definitely not. Cannonade was good with crowd control, and he was making an effort, but he couldn't reasonably cover all aspects such a large crowd reliably enough to guarentee the safety of Walsh. No, he didn't have the tools, he had a hammer and they're were far to many nails to pound down.


She assessed her options again. She couldn't talk, so what was she good at in this situation. Attacking didn't work, and she was very fair at fighting. Not that she really wanted to fight these people, as riled as they were they weren't acting without a prompt, they weren't making their own choice to act this way, or were being overly influenced otherwise. That made her angry, but she pushed that aside, it wasn't useful right now. She was good with locks, she was good at acrobatics, and most of all, she was good, no really one of the best at disappearing, and that, actually was what she needed to do, her and Walsh.


In the confusion helped by the archer pelting the crowd in rubber blunted arrows, she walked over to Walsh, leaned over, and whispered,

"Now, this isn't going to be pleasant, but bear with me, it's much easier, and we're much less likely to be seperated."

Grabbing his arm she with a boost hoisted him over her shoulder in a fireman carry then started off the back of the stage. Finding cover in the very crowd that was after them she disappeared with Walsh in tow out of the auditorium before anyone was the wiser.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Cannonade rubbed his aching muscles. He'd been swarmed before by mind controlled individuals, so he knew how to respond to such a crowd with minimal force. But that had been before they'd struck - almost as once, sending a hard jab of pain running through his body. Getting struck by people who didn't have powers usually had all the impact of getting shot with a Nerf dart. So, again, either he had the bad luck to end up in a very bad crowd, or...

Crap. Whoever's pulling the string's got a way to make sure everyone has firepower. He could try cutting his way through the crowd, but they were so tightly knit together he wasn't sure he could gain leverage - and if that was a glancing blow was like, he'd hate to think of what they'd do if he was in the thick of it. He brought has hands out in a wide sweep. Just gotta hope I can get this right.

Just because the puppeteer was providing firepower didn't mean they would provide armor. So when Cannonade sent a shockwave cutting through the gym, he tried to make it the lightest weapon of mass destruction he could possibly manage.

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Cannonade's mighty clap sent a ripple through the crowd, pushing them back and giving him some breathing room. It also seemed to disrupt the hive mind Crowd Control was inducing, as several of the civilians were holding their heads and groaning like they had a bad headache, even as the villain tried to get them back in line. "Stand up," she screamed at them in a petulant tone, eyes flaring with power. "Get back on that big lug! Pull him down and -- ack!"

Of course, focusing on the people slipping through her grasp meant that she wasn't focusing on the ones who were supposed to be keeping the archer busy. Blue Jay tagged Crowd Control on the shoulder and back before more of her bodyguards moved to cover here.

Once they were out of sight of the mind-controlled masses, Walsh stepped away from Silhouette, adjusting his glasses with a nervous touch. "Thank you, miss," he said, glancing at the doors. "I don't suppose you have an idea of who that is doing that to those people in there?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Putting a hand on her chin she thought about it,

"While this matches the M.O. of a previous spirit of fury I've encountered I doubt that's the case. No, this seems like the work of a mercenary who's been dubbed Crowd Control by the Interpol. I guess someone put a hit out on you, not too surprising really."
She stretched for a tick,

"While I would be fine fighting them myself, that's not why I'm here of course. Plus, Cannonade is perfectly well equipped for the job. Doesn't matter how many people are in there if they're all normal humans. We should move on in case they notice you're gone."

Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a black cap,

"Put this on, if you have any perscription sunglasses those too. Keep your head down and keep close. They may have more people under control outside the building, or a sniper in case you leave through any designated entrances. My car's out back, if we can get there I can get you to a police station or the Freedom League to be safe."

Edited by Aoiroo
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Walsh clenched his teeth and looked at the gymnasium doors, visibly torn. Most of his life had been spent protecting people, whether it was as a beat cop in Freedom City or arguing on the floor of the Senate building in Washington, D.C. Running away from a fight -- from a fight that was centrally about him, no less! -- was against every fiber of his being. But he had to admit that going back in there wasn't going to help anyone. He took the pair of sunglasses Silhouette offered, but stuck them in his jacket instead. He pulled out a snub-nosed revolver instead, checking the chamber quickly. "The police who escorted me from the airport should still be out front. That woman's influence can't reach that far, we should go out that way."

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She took a step,

"They just turned an entire gymnasium of people into mind puppets to revolt around you, and you don't think she CAN'T also control the police."
Holding up a finger,

"Mr. Walsh, it'll be simpler if I take you myself. If they attack you or if you get into a police car then get kidnapped because Crowd Control's also manipulating the cops, then things go from bad to worse faster because then we have to hunt you down to make sure some terrorist sect or something doesn't use you as leverage or something or another."

Pushing her head on the side she let out a sigh,

"The short version is, I'm here to protect you. The police are fine men and women in uniform I work with them a lot on the drug beat, but nine times out of ten they just aren't equiped to deal with metahumans of this caliber. So I'm going to ask you again, can we please just go to my car?"

Edited by Aoiroo
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Cannonade breathed a quick sigh of relief - he was able to grade the shockwave enough that it knocked the civilians for a loop without blowing their eardrums out of their heads. But with the controller's influence down, he wouldn't be so sure they'd take the next blow as well. Which was where precision was needed.

He charged towards the crowd, shoulders raised as if engaging in a running tackle. The controller would probably be guiding the crowd to take the brunt of the impact - which was why Cannonade touched off the second before he hit the first crowd, taking brief flight as he soared over the crowd. He knew where his target was, which was why he was able to time his arc well enough to come down right on top of her. His fist drove right into her chest, and he managed to swing his other arm around with the momentum, wrapping tight around her.

"Now," he said, "let these people go, or I make you start eating the floor."

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Crowd Control fairly squeaked as Cannonade swept her off the floor. Her feet dangled free as she struggled uselessly against his grip. "L-let me go," she demanded, flailing against the paragon's arms. "If you don't I'll... Have them all dog-pile you! You won't like being buried under a couple hundred bodies, would you?" Her eyes flared and the crowd moved, but restlessly; fear was slipping into her self-control and more and more people were shaking off her influence.

Blue Jay seemed content to let Cannonade swing the assassin about, and instead turned towards the stage to make sure no one tried a last-minute attack on the Representative. Only to notice, just now, that he was missing and one of the exit doors was standing open. She swore and fell, running from head to shoulder to bowed back across the top of the crowd. She made it out the doors with a rolling leap, coming to her feet glaring at --

"Silhouette." She lowered the weapon. "And Representative Walsh." She checked the hallway, then turned towards the doors leading into the gym. "Get the target out of the trap. Good idea." She paused. "And to where?"

"That's where we disagree," Representative Walsh said. "There's cops outside, we can get their help. And even if they're nabbed by that woman in there, we should still call 911 and get some back-up. It can't hurt to have a police escort whever we end up going!"

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"It's honestly like I'm talking to a wall."

She turned to Blue Jay,

"Has Cannonade knocked out crowd control, I'm not going to the police if there still there to be controlled. There unreliable variables in this situation,"
She turned to him,

"I know it seems wrong, but it's true, mind control by it's nature makes it hard for standard law enforcement to be reliable, plus they have guns. I can maybe intercept but if you get shot by a cop what's gonna happen? It won't matter if their mind controlled, if they hurt you they're gonna blame themselves for the inability to protect you. We need to keep things at a minimum. I suggest we take him to the Freedom League, they're equipped for this sort of thing."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Blue Jay frowned. She was against the idea of cars in general, but Walsh didn't seem like he would want to swing through the city, especially not with her. Getting the Freedom League involved seemed like a good idea, Walsh was an important enough individual that they wouldn't argue with protecting him. But how would they contact the League...

In the gymnasium, Cannonade was having no trouble containing the flailing ninety-pound girl in his grip. Finally she went limp, and just glared at him. "Go halfway across the world," she growled, "and I get bear-hugged by a 300 fanboy. This is a disgrace." The lights in her eyes winked out, and so did the lights in everyone else's eyes.

The civilians struggled to keep their bearings, but the security guards snapped back into action... by looking around, confused and just a little angry. One focused on the obvious superhero in the room and snapped, "Where did the Representative go?"

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Cannonade didn't even bother to dignify her mistake with a response. Instead, he took a quick look around the room, making sure that all the civilians were let loose and that there wasn't some forgotten housewife sneaking up on him with a fire extinguisher. "Everything's fine, folks," he said, slightly tightening his hold on the mind controlling assassin in his grip. "Representative Walsh is secure. Just return to your seats; we'll make sure everything's sorted out."

He leaned into Crowd Control. "So," he whispered, [color-#800000]"either you came halfway across the globe 'cause you've got a really, really particular grudge against a Congressman, or someone's paying your meal ticket. Who?"

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Blue Jay chewed the inside of her cheek, going over different plans in her head. "Okay. I'll get to the roof and cover the police. You go out and let them know we have the Representative. If they attack, I'll cover you while you fall back. We can pin them down and steal --" She was cut off by the door opening and several of the Representative's security barreled through.

They moved to surround Walsh, but they slowed and simply put themselves between Walsh and the doors. "Heroes. Thank you for keeping the Congressman safe while the, uh, supervillain attacked." No one seemed to want to mention that the villain was attacking through the security personnel. Blue Jay seemed content to pull her hood forward and try to blend into the shadows.

Crowd Control gave a short, nasty laugh. "Oh no. Can't go betraying clients, not for any profit. So go chuck me in Blackstone, big, dumb, and handsome. I'll get out and double my fees on the street cred alone."

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