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Drugs & Death, Inc


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February 28th, 2015


The Fens, Freedom City, New Jersey

Miras stood at the edge of the rooftop and watched the police wheel the body out of the tiny apartment. She knew she really shouldn’t be here, she knew that it was a violation of the anonymity of Narcotics Anonymous, but her brain wouldn’t just let it go. She had missed Allison’s tousled blonde head at three weekly meetings, and after a couple of drinks the woman’s sponsor allowed that Allison wasn’t answering her cellphone, either.

It had been a little bit harder to track her after that, as NA didn’t keep membership records, but she found the food bank Allison volunteered at and someone that Allison had taken home one night. That lead Miras to a dinky apartment in the Fens; at least she hadn’t had to break down the door to get inside. Inside it had been, well, the sort of place someone lives when they’re working too many hours at four different minimum wage jobs. The only thing that didn’t fit, the one thing Miras had been dreading, was Allison’s corpse on her bed, a needle still in her arm.

She had called the police from a payphone and waited. To give credit to Freedom City’s finest, they responded quickly to an anonymous phone call from the bad part of town telling them that someone had ODed. Now the witch’s eyes followed the police and the paramedics as they wheeled the body away. She rolled an empty glass bottle between her fingers; it was a simple sort that existed by the hundred in any pharmacy. The label had been peeled off, and someone had drawn dozens of tiny ‘Z’s had been drawn on it with markers and fit it with a new rubber cap. It was perfect to hold a sample of intravenous drugs. A drug that had killed Allison.

Miras felt something sharp cutting into her palm and looked down at her hand. The bottle was suddenly broken into little glass shards. She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. Whoever was behind this would pay for Alison’s death, but Miras wouldn’t let the scumbag take her own life and freedom away.

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Richard Cline had done cocaine for the first time at the age of sixteen. It was easy to get your hands on drugs when you hung around the Crime League, and his mother had assumed that he'd get tired of coke the way he'd gotten tired of cigarettes. That hadn't happened - he'd loved the stuff, and wanted more! Juvie had made it harder to get his hands on the white powder he loved so much, but it had been damned easy for a young Fast-Forward, eighteen years old and absolutely convinced of his own immortality, to get his hands on mountains of cocaine. Between the dealers he robbed and the police evidence lockers he cleaned out for fun, sometimes the hard part had been figuring out what to do with all the cocaine. 


Paige had never liked it, sure she'd smoke some things with him and even take some of the more interesting pills that turned up, but she drew the line at coke, horse, and anything else that addictive. He hadn't really listened as the years went by and he needed more and more, as he slept less and less and started waking up hallucinating half the time. He'd quit a few times, but he'd always come back - until the last time. He'd never raised a hand to Paige, but his fights with cops, vigilantes, and other villains had gotten more and more violent, until finally a tearful ultimatum from the girl he'd loved had gotten him to swear off cocaine for good. He'd been clean twenty-five years as of that summer. 


Volunteering for Narc-Anon had been one of the first decent things he'd ever really done. When Kiki Hernandez, a friend from meetings and fellow sponsor, had called him in for help, how could he have refused? He paused on the streets of the Fens to zip up his jacket, shivering slightly against the cold. He'd forgotten how cold it got in Freedom in February. Especially on nights like this, with a young girl, one of Kiki's, dead, and for what? For some damn dope dealer? With a snarl on his face, the veteran speedster started moving again, zipping towards the apartment complex.

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Starlight wasn't sure what had made her stop when she saw the emergency vehicles. They were hardly an unusual sight in Freedom City, least of all the Fens. She wasn't sure what had made her wait and watch as the paramedics wheeled out the body bad. Bodies were nothing new either. This complex in particular was infamous for being occupied mainly by lowlifes and junkies. Here, an fatal overdose was practically an everyday sight.


She should know. This was where she had overdosed.


Still she watched, hidden in the shadows of the alley, unable to look away. One of the cops said something into his partner's ear, and they both laughed shortly. A joke. If she had died that day, they would have made jokes.


They loaded the body into the ambulance and closed the doors. Her eyes were fixed on the cold, impersonal vehicle, all blinking red-and-blue lights and gleaming white paint. It looked strange, almost surreal, against the backdrop of cracked streets and overflowing gutters.


She realized she was digging her fingernails painfully into the flesh of her inner arm, and shoved her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket. Her sleeves were rolled up past her elbows, despite the cold. Cold never seemed to bother her anymore.

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When the cops were gone, Fast-Forward zipped into the alleyway, his footsteps splashing the puddled water there in a quick _zip_ of accelerated motion - at least if you were outside his time bubble. He had a lot of experience with locks, having been the primary lockpick in his various family groups over the years. But the thing about alley doors is you usually didn't need to pick them! He stopped for a moment to check the door itself for prints or other signs of evidence, scrutinizing it at super-speed before he pushed it open and stepped inside the building. Man, thought they'd never leave - does it smell like bacon in here, or is it just me? He'd learned, from long experience and coaching from his lady, that you didn't talk about cops that way to their face if you weren't going to fight them. And not in front of other people if you didn't want it to get to the media...

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A headache was starting it's dull throb behind Starlight's eyes. She leaned her forehead against the cold, damp brick wall, squeezing her eyelids shut. One by one, she heard the emergency vehicles leave. The sullen point of pain in her skull persisted.


When she opened her eyes again, the street was empty. She rubbed a hand across her face, the material of her fingerless glove scraping roughly against her skin. With a sigh, she began summoning her will, preparing to transport herself elsewhere. There was nothing for her here, and she was going to need to recharge in a few hours anyway.


As she began to glow softly, as prelude to her teleportation, she glanced at the apartment once more. And stopped. The glow faded.


Someone was going inside.


There was a man there, pushing open the door. His back was to her, and it was dark, but she could see he was no cop. Is he wearing a costume?


Curiosity overcame her better judgment. She released the energy she had been summoning, instead letting herself fade away. In moments, she was invisible. She fixed her gaze on the apartment the man was entering, concentrating on the living room visible through the door, and then she did teleport; slipping away, just for the barest fraction of a second, into pure light, materializing inside.

Edited by R. Bluefish
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Miras watched the cops and EMTs from her high perch, wishing that Deosil's journals talked a little bit more about scrying invisibility and a little less about orreries. She waited patiently for the last vehicle to leave, then wrapped fast time around herself and walked to ground level in a matter of seconds. She passed through the front door and up the steps of Allison's apartment just as quickly, slowing down as she approached the door. It was even easier to spot before, since now it was covered in yellow police tape, but Miras frowned when she noticed that someone had torn the tape down and left the door open.


The mage flattened herself against the wall, creeping down the hallway until she was at the threshold of the door. She peered around the edge moments before a glare brighter than a spotlight shone out, chasing away the dingy shadows that clung to the corners of the shabby apartment.

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As the women arrived, Fast-Forward moved into action with lightning reflexes, both physical and mental. And so it was that Starlight and Miras were greeted with the truly bizarre sight of a famous Discovery Channel host in the middle of the dead woman's apartment, as if this was all a Supercrime! episode about superhuman burglary. "Hey, kids," he said, his voice quiet and tense, as he stood with his arms folded behind his back, keeping an intent eye on both of them, occasionally moving so fast he seemed to blur as he shifted his gaze. "I assume we're all here because of the innocent girl who died because of the poison some scumbag put in her body." His eyes narrowed. "I don't know either of you, but I assume nobody's stupid enough to rob this place right now."

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Miras slowly stepped around the door and into full view of the others in the room. There were a few things she had expected to find tonight, but one of them was certainly not seeing a TV show host with his own Tumblr show up in Alison's apartment. The woman in street clothes with a glowing halo around her was more what she was used to, but Miras quickly regained her equilibrium. "I'm not looking to steal from a dead woman," she said, her tone cold. "I'm here to find out who is responsible for killing this woman." She focused on breathing steadily, but she couldn't keep a thread of anger from entering her voice. "If you're wearing a camera and think you're going to turn this into an episode of your show, we're going to have a talk off the record, Richard Cline."

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Fast as lightning, Richard had flipped open his Narc-Anon card. "Twenty-five years since I took my last hit, and I still can't stand the bastards who get fat and rich off a' other people's misery. I'm a friend of Kiki's." He snapped the card back in his wallet fast, like slamming shut a switchblade. "The speed's not just an act, in case you're wondering." He looked over at Starlight and went on, "I don't know you either, lady, but it sounds like we've all got a reason to find out who did this. We're all on the same team, right?" The lone-wolf action heroes in the movies Fast-Forward had loved watching as a young man had been terrible team players - he tried to make himself _not_ sound like Stallone. Except better-lookin', obviously. 

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Starlight wasn't sure what she had been expecting when she entered the dead woman's apartment. What she definitely hadn't been expecting was a robed woman and...that one guy with the show. She had never watched much TV in her previous life.


She tried not to let her surprise show, keeping her voice rough. "Somebody OD'd. This is the Fens, it happens all the time." Trust me on that one. "Unless we're going to step on every dealer in the city, I don't think we're going to find whoever she got it from."


She glanced sidelong at the woman in robes, trying to surreptitiously get a look under her hood. Unsuccessfully - despite the light Starlight was emitting, the other woman's features remained indistinct. Weird. She turned her attention back to the room. "I've been trying to clean this place up for a long time." Almost six months. "What makes you think I need - or want - your help?"

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Miras ground her teeth at the other woman's tone and took a deep breath, trying not to let her anger get the best of her. She was doing that a lot. "I'd you need help, because someone's dead." Her anger immediately flipped into despair and she sighed, all the tension leaving her in a moment. "We all need help, or Alison would still be alive and telling us to get out of her apartment." She took out a shard of the bottle she'd crushed, showing the defaced pharmacy label. "She OD'd on something called Doze. This is a new street drug to me. It's injected, obviously, but that's all I know. Can anyone shed some light on it?"

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She called her Alison. They were friends. Feeling suddenly slightly ashamed of herself, Starlight looked away quickly, casting about the room for something else to focus on. "Yeah," she said, trying to cover her embarrassment. "I've heard of Doze. Some new drug. Seems to be all the rage. Makes you feel all fuzzy inside. Like you don't have a care in the world." Must be nice, she caught herself thinking.


"Thing is," she added, "I tried to figure out where they were bringing it in from. And I don't think they are. Near as I can figure, it's being made right here. In the city."

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Fast-Forward zipped around the room, so fast he was a blur even to the two superheroines. He looked in cabinets, under beds, in the trash, and even in the unpleasant places behind the furniture where it seemed many of Alison's syringes had fallen. When he was done, he found himself with a pile of unpaid bills for the apartment, food, and other things, and a cheap cellphone he had to slow down to use. "Crap, stupid piece of new-fangled junk..." he muttered, despite the fact that the phone was by no means a new model. "Okay, I've got...JASE here and it says he's her DOZE guy." He looked at the two women. "Let's go find him and kick his ass." 

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Miras nodded at Starlight’s information. “If it’s just in this city and they’re making it here, maybe we can stop them cold here. Stop them from making anymore Alisons.â€

When Fast-Forward started scrolling through the cellphone, Miras did her best to read the names over his shoulder. “Her dealer’s number? That’s a pretty good lead.†She made a motion with her hand and a smartphone with a cracked screen appeared in her hand. She quickly dialed the number for JASE and waited, tapping her foot.

The voice that answered was low, fast, tense, and suspicious. “Who is this? Who the ^*@# are you? Why are you calling me?â€

Miras threw her mind back to her darkest times, trying to fit back into her old skin. She hunched her shoulders and licked her lips, trying to project nervousness and desperation through the cellular connection. “Yeah, I, uh, my name is Sophie? And Alison said you could, um, could get me some Doze?†Her voice came out higher, younger, and she hated it. She felt like she was swimming through heavy oil, like something was dragging on her.

“Oh, yeah, Alison. Man. Alright.†Jase’s voice got smoother. Miras imagined him leaning back in his chair, growing more relaxed. Tipping his fedora. “Yeah, yeah, I mean. I can’t sell you Doze, you know? But I think I can sort of, you know, help you if you need some. If you need the help, alright?†Miras rolled her eyes; she could feel his wink through the phone.

She managed to keep it together for a couple more minutes, simpering and wheedling a meet out of Jase. Finally she tapped her phone off and made it disappear. “I’m going to need a chemical bath with acid and a steel wool brush to get the stink of this guy off me. But first we have a meet. There’s a restaurant called the Deuce around here, apparently, where this piece of garbage hangs out.â€

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Starlight watched the whole display, feeling with every passing moment both more impressed and more unsettled. It was like watching herself - the way she had been before. Desperate, pathetic, and terrified, utterly terrified, of not getting another fix. Whoever this woman was, she had some serious acting talent. That, or she knows from experience, she reflected.


"Deuce, huh?" she said, feeling herself start to glow a little brighter with anticipation. "Wanna go ruin his day?"

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Richard's hands balled into fists as he talked, remembering the past. Drugs had been easy enough for him to come by back in the day, when his powers meant he could take down all but the most heavily-armed dealers, and he'd sneered at the stupid junkies who had to beg for their fix. I was the same way, though. I was just too young and stupid to understand it. When I get home tonight I need to tell Paige how much I love her. Fast-Forward extended his hands to the two women, obviously expecting them to take them, the slight blur around his form increasing a fraction as he began to build a time bubble around himself. Oh, right! he remembered quickly. This is what happens when you do all your crime-fighting with family. "You kids need a ride?" 

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Starlight eyed his outstretched hand with a touch of unease. Allying with other superhumans was one thing, but she wasn't sure if she wanted to start actually relying on them just yet. "I'll be fine," she said. "I think I know the general area. See you there."


There was a blinding flash of light, and she was gone.

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Miras blinked away stars in her eyes when Starlight disappeared, waiting as the light faded from her. She glanced at Fast-Forward's outstretched hand, but shook her head. "I appreciate the offer," she said, "but I have my own go-fast juice. I don't know how it would interact with yours, and I don't really feel like finding out just now." Wasting no more time, Miras blinked into superspeed and fog, and was gone.

She didn't keep an encyclopedic list of Fens restaurants in her head, but she moved outward in a spiral pattern and found it quick enough. Deuce was in a corner unit of a mostly-abandoned office building. The neon sign in the front window read OPEN 24 HOURS in buzzing fluorescent. It was indistinguishable from any other greasy diner in the city, and just thinking about the menu made Miras's arteries harden.

The parking lot was hypothetically illuminated by big sodium-halogen lights every couple dozen feet, but most of them had blown out and not been replaced. The result was big patches of semi-darkness, one of which held a rusting pick-up truck. Jase said he was coming in a white vehicle, and it was technically white under all the rust, and in any case Miras thought it would be better to warn the driver in case the drug dealer brought something dangerous with him.

The man behind the counter was young, and thin, and defiantly muscular. He was dressed in a ratty Halestorm tee-shirt, and as Miras approached his passenger door at something approaching Mach 1 she saw a big, chrome handgun in his lap. His driver window was open, so she came up behind him and plucked the gun out of his grasp. "Hello, Jase," she said, cheerily lobbing in the bed of the truck. "I'm Alison's friend. Want to have a chat?"

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Starlight had been waiting at two hundred feet above ground level for what seemed like only moments when she saw Miras appear below, next to the rusted heap of a truck. I suppose that's my cue.


She dropped like a stone, the wind whistling in her ears, her jacket whipping around her. Moments before hitting the concrete, she pulled up. Her body blazed with sudden brilliance, illuminating the entire parking lot, casting wildly dancing shadows from the streetlights. She landed in a crouch, rose, and strode towards the truck. She took three steps, then there was another burst of light and she vanished. She reappeared leaning against the side of the vehicle, bowing her head down to look at Jase through the window. She was still glowing, her eyes two expressionless orbs of hard white radiance, burning just bright enough to sting his eyes.


The window was rolled up. She waved her hand in an idle circular gesture, and a thin laser sprang from her fingertip, cutting a perfectly round hole in the glass. She put her face up to it. "Just a few questions about Doze," she said. "Which, by the way, you will answer. One way or another."

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Fast-Forward hung back and let the kids do their thing, ready to jump in if they needed help. Jeez, look how young they are. Even the dealer, who looked like a real punk-ass, couldn't have been outside of his early twenties. This was all bringing him back to his youth, and not in a good way, filling his head with memories of a life and a world he'd left behind him many years ago. As was usually the case, he found he just couldn't sit still under pressure. When he realized he couldn't pick up on their conversation, he zipped closer just as Starlight said her piece. "Way it works is, we can do it nice. Or we can do it hard." He zipped around to the opposite window. "Your choice, kid." He wasn't going to call this punk son, not when he knew deep down in his soul his boy was worth ten of him. 

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Jase started when Miras appeared by his car door. "What!? What!? What are you going on about? I don't know any Alison! I was just going to get her help, honest, and you can't do this to me I have--" He cut off abruptly Starlight streaked towards him like a neon meteor, lighting up the dark parking lot. Surrounded on both sides by women radiating power and anger, his defiance crumpled. "I, I, I, I'm just a guy, okay? I know a guy and sometimes he gets me stuff, any sometimes I share it around. To, you know, friends! And if those, you know, friends want to pay me back, well that's what friends do, right?"

Miras felt a sick anger twisting in her gut. This guy was a human worm, feeding off the misery and addiction of others, and he wasn't even courageous enough to admit it openly. At the same time, he was probably addicted himself, and the mage's better side was whispering that she should help Jase as well. Even though she only really wanted to grind his face into the asphalt.

"I, I, I get it from this guy in Greenbank, right? I can tell you where he is!†Miras felt her anger grow hotter. Somebody was brewing this poison in her own backyard.

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Fast-Forward made a big show of taking out an old-fashioned digital watch, programming it with little beeps and boops, and showing it to Jase as the countdown began. He didn't sound like a friendly dad, or a TV show host, when he glared at the dealer. He sounded like the punk kid who'd run these streets thirty years earlier, who'd have beaten a dealer from the wrong gang bloody just to put on a smile on his face and take the stash and cash for himself. "Ten. Nine..." 

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Jase was trying to shrink into the upholstery of the pick-up truck. "Yeah, yeah, alright. It's this place in Greenbank, down by the river. I don't know an address or anything, like I don't know what to put in Google, but I know where it is." The drug dealer began talking quickly, describing stores and turns and all sorts of other landmarks. Miras leaned in, comparing the story to her own mental map of the area. As the terrified monologue came to a close, she swore loudly to shock Jase into silence. This place wasn't just in her neighborhood, it was right outside her home!


She stalked away from the truck, doing her best to breathe deeply and control her anger. After a minute she turned back to Jase, walking back to her place by the driver side door. She held up her hand to make sure the dealer could see as she summoned smokeless fire. Her palm and fingers were wreathed in blue-yellow flame, the fire licking around her digits without burning her or her gloves. "We're going off," she told him, "and stop the person getting you drugs. You should get help for yourself, because if I find you dealing drugs in this city again, you're going to find out what my hand is feeling right now."


Miras walked away from the truck, heading for the far end of the parking lot. She waited for Fast-forward and Starlight to get near her, clenching and unclenching her fists while she felt the anger boiling through her. And while she waited, she felt a different part of her sitting off to the side, almost coldly watching her own emotions and wondering how to make it into a song. "I know the place this ---hole is talking about. Just follow me and I'll lead you right to them." Miras wrapped herself in magic and sped off into the city, making a beeline towards her home.

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Starlight was about to ask if Miras was all right when the other woman sped away into the city, faster than was humanly possible. She closed her mouth stupidly, then glanced down at Jase. "What she said."


She took a few paces away from the truck and looked over her shoulder at Fast-Forward. "See you in a minute, I guess." Summoning a bright aura of light, she launched herself skyward, following Miras from the air.

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Fast-Forward was barely visible as the women set off on their journey, an impossibly fast blur of motion that went by them...well, much the same way they went by people who were standing still! it didn't take him long to find the destination to which Miras had dispatched them, a place he could easily have burst into all on his own. But Richard had learned his lessons from his impetuous youth and so he waited for the other heroes, zipping around Greenbank at great speed. He left a fiver on a McDonalds counter and grabbed a Whopper. He read a discarded newspaper left behind at a bus station. He visited the FORCE Ops memorial, small though it was - and when the others arrived, he was there to greet them. Rapidly wadding up his burger wrapper, he asked Miras, "What's the plan, kid?" 

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