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Saturday, May 10th, 2014

5:35 PM, EST

Midtown, Freedom City


Lively. Spirited. Boisterous. These words hardly did justice to the thriving scene that was Freedom City's Midtown, its streets packed with life on this balmy summer day. Some might say this place was the very center of the city, its heart pulsing to the rhythm of its multitude of clubs, eateries, and weekenders alike. But for all its charm and citizenry out enjoying their summertime Saturday, even Freedom City -- a veritable mecca of superhero activity -- isn't without its hazards. Pickpockets, thieves, mobsters, and yes, even super-criminals were an ever present risk. Such was the price of living amidst Freedom City; a place where anyone might be a costumed hero.


But this afternoon seemed unusually quiet. Serene, almost. No police sirens blared their way through the streets. There was no raucous between super-powered giants brawling through the skies. Not even a single cry for help made its presence known. It was the quiet many of Freedom City's heroes yearned for; a sense of solace and peace. A chance for good, honest folk to relax and enjoy themselves amongst the bustling populace.


Or perhaps it was just the calm before the storm.

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It was a good day. The sun was shining, the wind blew warm, children laughed and played, and Blue Jay was invisible. It was a lesson she had learned at a young age, that even people who can fly rarely think to look up. So like when she was young and learning to hide from the very footsoldiers of terror, she was perched as high above the street as she could physically manage, snugged up next to an art deco statue of a man throwing himself into space. Very aspirational and very appropriate for Freedom City, but for now the archer was content to sit and watch the city life pass by.

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If there was one thing Raven had drilled into Nevermore's head, it was to never trust a quiet day. Oh, a day without a theme villain attack, that was fine.


But a day where literally nothing was going on? That clearly meant something was going on. The only problem was figuring out just what it was! And while the young costumed crimefighter had a sharp mind, he was having trouble sussing out just what it could be. 


He'd stopped exactly one mugging earlier, and his only activity beyond that had been to land nearby a litterbug and glare until the young man had hastily placed his garbage in a nearby public trash can. It was literally that slow for a crimefighter.


He wouldn't be out so early, but he had some homework to take care of that night, and both his parents and mentor had insisted he'd have to be home early enough to take care of it.


So there he was, high above the streets of Midtown, crouched on the corner of a roof like some sort of art deco gargoyle, his cape occasionally stirring in the breeze. 


He was starting to get hungry. 

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From atop their immortal rooftop guardians, the city was exactly as it seemed to our young pair of guardians: the streets were alive with the humdrum of life, yet still serenely placid in its mundane nature. Young people laughed and cavorted whilst traffic moved on briskly as parents and loved ones wound their way home from a busy weekend workday, while others were making their way instead towards the inner sanctum of Freedom City, intent on an evening of fun and jubilation, intent on throwing away their cares, worries, and various responsibilities for one fleeting moment.


But whatever hope of a plain and normal day these people had, however, was about to go up in smoke. Literally.


In a sudden rush of screams accompanied soon after by the thunderous roar of an explosion, the pleasantness of the bustling hub came to a screeching halt. From their lofty vantage points, turning southwards towards the heart of Midtown, the cause of the commotion still remained a mystery. Yet, signs of trouble had already begun to rear its ugly head in the form of dark plumes rising through the mid-afternoon air. It was close, whatever the ruckus was; couldn't be more than a few blocks away. Whatever it was, it sounded serious.


As if that weren't enough, the deafening cacophony of the citizenry in panic reached new heights as another wave of screams erupted through the streets, spurred on by a blinding beam of eerie crimson light as it streaked through the sky, taking a chunk out of a nearby apartment complex as it reached the pinnacle of its arc. Whatever was going on, two things were certain: superhuman powers were involved, and it was escalating fast -- real fast.

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Jay was broken out of her quiet reverie by an explosion and a rising cloud of smoke. Just the sort of thing to spice up a day, if you were already the sort to dress up in colorful clothes and run at explosions anyway. The archer nocked her bow and carefully chose a perch, then leapt off the building.

As she fell she loosed, and the arrow lodged in a helpful gargoyle. The line went taunt and the archer was propelled forward in a long arc, eventually coming to a halt on a new perch. In moments she had selected her next swinging point, and was ready for the next leg of her journey. And not for the first time, she wished she could just fly around the city.

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Hunger for food was replaced with hunger for action. The apprentice of the Raven stirred from his perch and ran across the rooftop he had taken refuge on, before suddenly he propelled himself out into the air above the street...


Until his cape snapped to a rigid shape, and the air caught beneath the wings he had just sprouted. With a slight grin, Nevermore was moving above the busy street that was now buzzing with panic. He started to lose a little altitude...before he suddenly went into a dive, picking precious speed up. Perhaps 25 feet from the ground he snapped his cape to full extension, whipping back up in an arc that left a few people staring.


He reached the pinnacle of his climb...and suddenly his cape was fluttering cloth. But that wasn't a major issue, really. The grapnel launchers in his gauntlets meant that he was moving through the air on high-strength wire lines without a care in the world, his cape trailing behind him as he swung along to the sight of the explosions, his body twisting through expert patterns in the air as he drew close to the sounds of injustice making itself known on the world. 

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With each hero whipping through the air with the greatest of ease, it wasn't long before the duo had respectively closed the gap; flying, climbing, or otherwise traversing the distressed urban locale with all due haste until the cause of the commotion was in plain sight.


As the young costumed vigilantes reached the apex of their journey and came face-to-face with each other, the scene painted before them made itself plain as day. Where once a busy thoroughfare existed amongst the metropolitan cityscape, the road itself had been forcibly reformed, replaced by a man-sized crater now standing center stage amidst a gaggle of ruined, turned over vehicles and shattered windows. Thankfully, no one seemed to be hurt, the panicked populace -- though still awash with terror -- having made their own hurried escapes, fleeing to the safety of the edge of the blast zone as if the hounds themselves had been set upon them.


All of them, save for one lone individual.


Standing at the center of the newfound crater stooped a young man no older than our erstwhile heroes, clad in casual street garb and his form ensconced in an eerie crimson glow. The energy was vibrant, but also dark; erratically rippling and flowing outwards in small waves from his person, and with each pulse came a sharp realization: whatever it connected with was slowly being eaten awayWhomever this unmoving fellow was, one thing was certain: he was dangerous, and more than capable from a cursory glance of ripping everything around him apart. Concrete, asphalt, glass, steel; the energy was certainly non-discriminatory, as evidenced by the small area of destruction it had brought about.

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Well, that was certainly something to break up the day. Blue Jay fixed her grapnel and lowered herself down, touching onto the pavement a good distance away from the center of devastation. She eyed the destruction warily, her keen eyes picking up that it was slowly expanding. She kept her distance from the glowing man, but also kept her hands well away from her weapons. She racked her brain for things Mali complained about when she drove downtown. "I know the parking tickets are ridiculous," she said, "but you didn't have to destroy the rest of the cars on the road."

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And suddenly almost right next to her on the ground was Nevermore. It's like the guy's trained like a ninja or something.


Instead of his normally threatening, slightly hunched profile, Nevermore is standing up straight and tall. His cape is rolled back over his shoulders, giving a clear view of his armored form. His arms are held up in a semi-relaxed stance, wide apart, with his hands open and palms facing the man in front of them. His movements are slow, deliberate, and easy to track. His speech is clear, and while there's a slight gruff edge (to presumably go with his costumed self), he seems to be making even that non-threatening and more open.


"Hello sir. My name is Nevermore. Are you alright? Do you need a doctor or something?"


He pauses to give the man time to process and answer.


"Blue Jay and I are here to help. We don't want to hurt you. What's your name? How can we help you?"

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The teenager, in perhaps the oddest show of gratitude for the pair of would-be saviors outside of his impressive blast radius, waved frantically towards the pair of costumed heroes.


"I-- you can't," he groaned, each syllable sounding as if the kid was being socked in the gut. Even Blue Jay's quip fell on deaf ears as the boy struggled to keep his eyes concealed by his arm and his stomach -- now a visible shade of darkening purple through the smattering of holes in his shirt -- from the quickly dwindling number of onlookers as they fled the scene. "Not safe. Can't keep it... controlled... chased..."


As the boy prattled on in an attempt to explain the situation, the tense already tense situation reached a new peak as a deafening echo roared through the streets.




In a heartbeat, a sickening thump resounds itself against the unguarded flesh of the mid-meltdown teenager as the gunshot rings out overhead, the perpetrator a single rubber-tipped round bouncing itself off of his back. Painfully, the dark-haired kid lurches forward, and in that small instant his arms falter. Another brilliant flash of light rocketed out as he thrust his head upwards, accompanied by raw, chaotic energy as they travel from his eyes into the sky, finding its mark against the upper-most corner of a nearby brick building before he could cover his face again. Like a knife through hot butter, the eerie red beams sheared through the stonework building, causing the masonry to tumble downward and land smack dab into another unmanned car, crushing its metal frame with relative ease.


"Urrrrgh," moaned the superhuman youngster as he struggled to keep on his feet, doubling over slightly as a fresh bruise slowly painted itself on his skin. "He... he won't stop... please..." he continued, his tone rife with desperation. It was clear he was confused, afraid, and under duress; the pressure was getting to him, and with each new welt he gained, the rippling outline of energy only served to grow wider. He was steadily losing more and more control over his powers with each blow from his unseen agitator.

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