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Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Millennium Mall, Freedom City, New Jersey

Afternoon

 

The Millennium Mall was a huge place, filled with shops of every description, and packed with roving crowds of shoppers, families, and couples. Ami Rask was indistinguishable in the crowd, and it was only partly because of her height. In the crowd she was just another young, pretty girl, holding big bags and with a hot credit card in her purse. She had been shopping for most of the morning; with the weather turning, it was time for her to update her spring wardrobe. It’s not that she didn’t have anything from the last couple years. It was just that she didn’t have anything new.

Ami dropped into a heavy leather chair, one of the sets placed strategically to help exhausted shoppers rest and recuperate. As she breathed, she watched the crowds passing around her. A woman eight or ten years older than she was, pushing a stroller with a sleeping baby in it. An older man, with gray in his hair, walking hand in hand with a bald man. A harried man carrying his toddler in a baby bjorn, while texting. The displays of affection made her smile as she rested, a window into the lives of normal people.

More people came by and she watched them, growing more pensive. A young couple, his arm around her waist, window-shopping. An older pair, with kids running around their feet. It made the young girl acutely aware that she was shopping, all alone, for herself.

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Unlike some girls, Casey was not much of a clothes horse; she didn't go to many parties or dances, had never really had a serious boyfriend, and was more of a jock than anything else. Also having an overprotective and somewhat conservative father in the military tended to squelch any fashionista tendancies.

But part of going to school away from home was a chance to try and do new things, so when her friend Sakurako suggested a weekend shopping trip, she finally agreed to tag along.

The Millennium Mall was a lot more glamorous than anything back in Colorado Springs; she'd been to few fairly swanky places when she visited her grandparents in Miami, but her father didn't let her buy very much. As usual, Casey was fairly covered up, even though cool temperatures didn't bother her at all; a navy-blue windbreaker, red flannel shirt and blue jeans were more or less standard for her, but the jeans were a bit more snug than usual, and she actually had on a pair of super-cute ankle boots. For Casey, this was downright daring; nervously fiddling with her glasses and constantly readjusting her shoulder bag, she was alternatively delighted and embarrased by the increased attention.

Turning to Saku, she said, "Wow, this place is really big!"

Edited by Heritage

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Sakurako sighed. "Casey. We aren't going to be interrogated here. Relax..." She said, scratching her head a bit. "Just remember, Summer is just a couple months away, the initial deals are starting to creep about and if we don't take advantage, and with the quickness, we'll be looking at trying to figure out how to keep a plus-size one piece swimsuit on."

 

She stuck her tongue out letting Casey chew on that remark.

 

She decided to just do a "random select" method of dressing, she took a long sleeved sailor blouse, but decided to sport a pair of red converse sneakers and a pair of bluejeans. All under a white windbreaker she has tied around her waist. "Besides, I'm the strangely dressed one, but most of my casual stuff is in the wash, and I've not broke most my casual stuff out of storage yet from moving here." She said, straightening out her backpack which had her suit and her EMWand tucked in a pocket on it. Of course it's appearance of looking like a Sonic Screwdriver toy made it look mostly harmless.

 

She smiled. "Maybe I should look over Cabela's and see if there is any stuff I can get for some fishing. Or at least getting away from things in the simulator."

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Ami waited a few moments, and then stood up, feeling her second wind. She had only gotten to maybe half the stores, after all! Her mental map of the mall said that there was a juice stand just around the corner; she’d check out a few more stores and then get something with proteins and carbohydrates to refuel. She approached the next storefront, eying the jewelry in the display cases. Many little pendants and earrings studs, set with a variety of gemstones. She really didn’t want to buy any jewelry today, but some of the pieces were quite eye-catching.

 

Ami wandered into the store, the short woman’s nose practically on a level with the glass cases. She demurely deflected the sales people with a quick blurt of French, making a slow circuit of the display room; she was about two-thirds through, nearing a twitchy teenager in chinos and a polo, handsome despite his obvious unease. She looked up, their eyes met, Ami smiled briefly -- and then the man reached out, grabbed the biggest bag in Ami’s bunch, ripped it from her grasp, and sprinted out into the mall.

 

The young woman gave a squeak of surprise and tried to follow him; but a crowd quickly gathered around, and while Brigandine could have parted them easily Ami Rask was effectively blockaded.

 

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GM

 

As Casey and Sakurako stood at the mall entrance, debating where to go, a handsome man, about their age, approached them. He was dressed in skinny jeans and Oxford shirt, buttoned loosely at the neck, the outfit showing off a trim, fit frame. Despite all that, the man looked nervous and jittery.

 

“Hey ladies,†he said, sidling up close to Casey. “It looks like you’re a little lost.†He reached out and put a hand on Casey’s hand, on the one holding her bag. “Why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for, I’m usually pretty good at --â€

 

The girls never found out what he was good at. They all heard a yell from further down the thoroughfare, and looked to see another young man running towards the exit, trailing a line of security guards. He looked incredibly close to the man they were already talking to, and was clutching a large, white bag to his chest. “I’ve got it,†he shouted at the man. “Grab it, Jase, and start the car!â€

The young man Casey and Sakurako were talking to sighed and visibly relaxed, and a moment later he roughly shoved Casey into Sakurako. At the same time he grabbed her shoulder bag and pulled, trying to rip it out of her hands, but the young superheroine’s inhuman strength prevented the theft. “Let go,†he yelled at her, his voice suddenly angry and his face twisting into a snarl. “Give me your damn money!â€

 

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Sakurako was angry, here was her friend... no... best friend being assaulted... but not very successfully. She knew Casey had to remain on the down low, so she had to act quick! Luckily this was the distraction Sakurako needed to suit up. She dived behind a pillar and pulled the scarf on her blouse. "Well there goes my outfit!" She thought as a little trick she set up for getting out of her clothes quickly went into motion as her jeans, shoes, and blouse seemed to rip at their seams and burst as a set of airbags placed at strategic points inflate to popping. Tossing away her torn clothes she puts on her suit and vest over the black one-piece garment she wears for modesty, and steps out from behind the pillar pressing a button on the wrist of her suit tightening it to her frame, not looking too pleased as she stepped over to the would-be thief.

 

"By Einstein's Equations... You really are a mental juggernaut, aren't you, son?" Endeavor queried, leveling her EMWand at the assailant. "Best unhand her, or I will get very, very cross." She said, the EMWand fully deployed, glowing, arcing electricity and at the ready to fire. "Running isn't an option either... surrender? Totally on the table though."

 

Note: Suit is in a pink and white color scheme

Edited by The Osprey

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When the strange young man suddenly sidled up to her, alarm bells went off in Casey's head; his words sounded relaxed and confident, but everything about his tone of voice and overall demeanor said the exact opposite. Of course, the kicker was when he made a grab for her bag; it was made of hemp, and surprisingly strong, just like its owner!

She made like she was merely planting her feet, but between her tremendous strength and gift of flight, Casey was making herself damn near unmovable, or at least to a non-powered human. Thr fact thst the bag also held Miracle Girl's costume made the stakes even higher! "No, you let go, you creep!" Normally this loser wouldn't even present much of a challenge, but Casey had a secret ID to maintain.

Then Sakurako did her thing, and the blonde powerhouse had never been happier to see her friend and her technology; shooting out coiling snakes of electricity, it looked like something out of an old horror movie, only much scarier. Casey cocked her head and shrugged. "I don't know, you might want to do as she says!"

Edited by Heritage

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Most days like this, Alek would have been at home with his parents, or at Claremont studying, or maybe training at the Rookery.

But he had had an "itch" today to do extra patrols. And while Raven and Nevermore were generally beings of the night, his Boss wanted him to be his own hero and not just a sidekick. So he'd been driving around when he caught a radio blast about a disturbance at the mall. Now, purse napping and the like were typically not his focus, but all jokes about "mall cops" aside, recent history made him wary of just ignoring it.

So it was that in front of the man being chased by a line of guards and Ami, a dark shape dropped out of seemingly nowhere and resolved into an intimating figure with inhuman white eyes and a flowing cloak that hid his shape. For the moment, he simply stood in the way of the fleeing bag-snatcher, as if his mere presence might command the thief to stop!

Edited by KnightDisciple

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The running man's eyes grew wide as Nevermore seemed to just appear in front of him. He gave a harried shout and threw his shoulder into the crimefighter. He had good form and plenty of momentum, but he clearly wasn't interested in the follow-through.

 

His twin continued to pull fruitlessly at Casey's bag, even as Sakurako stepped into the light. "You don't understand," he said, his tone desperate. "I won't go back empty-handed. I can't! I need to get her something to show how I feel!"

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Nevermore saw the man's charge coming. As far as those around him could tell, he barely moved. Ami and some of the mall guards (depending on their experience) might catch what looked like boots under the cape shifting slightly.

 

Which is why when the unarmored but eager young thief hit him, Nevermore didn't so much as grunt or shift his position at all. He just stood there, a glowering, inhuman head with eyes oh god eyes without anything but white the eyes above a shapeless mass of a body glaring down at him. When he spoke, there was a slightly inhuman rasp to it.

 

"That. Was a mistake."

 

His cape flared out, arms clad in dark armor shot out fast as snakes, and suddenly the white bag was falling to the ground, but was caught by one of those hands, while the other was doing something to twist the thief's wrists together for a few moments. The bag was set down, the cape obscured things for a moment, there were a couple of distinctly un-manly cries of pain, and then the man-shaped shadow drew back, the cape-thing revealing the bag-snatcher restrained with zip ties around his wrists and ankles, his eyes unfocused in pain (and possibly a couple of nerve strikes).

 

The dark hero gave the guards a respectful nod, giving them the space to take over the capture of the young man, while Nevermore himself turned and walked over to Ami. At first it made no sense why the avenger of the innocent would be doing so, but then he stopped and held out the slightly battered white bag.

 

"Hope nothing's broken. Tried to be gentle with it."

 

More than he can say for the thief. His face is both expressionless and grim, but his voice is slightly less raspy, so he's clearly at least trying to be nice and friendly.

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"I'm sorry... so sorry..."

 

Endeavor pressed a button on her EMWand and a bolt of lightning slammed into the guy trying to steal Casey's bag. She had tuned it down so the damage wouldn't be permanent. But he would remember.

 

"Don't got time to ask who this girl is..." She said, turning to Casey. "Luckily you got a strong backpack."

 

She looked over to the wreck that was her clothes. "Just lost a favorite blouse over this."

 

"I wager once we talk to the authorities we could shop for some new clothing, but... t-shirts just don't have the same charm as what I had."

 

She kept an eye of the person she bolted, noting where the portable defibrulator was mounted on a wall nearby, just in case his heart was stopped.

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Ami slowed down as the pack began to pile up, and she jumped up on a bench just in time to see Nevermore's quick, economical takedown. She was impressed with the speed of his moves, with his strong stand and quick, sure moves. She watched him as he walked towards her, her own feet shifting slightly to give her a chance to jump away if he come at her with the same moves. But, at the end, he simply handed her bad back to her and she took it, quietly. "Merci beaucoup, monsieur oiseau de nuit. I am sure it is fine. It is only clothes, after all."

 

She hopped down and walked up to the man, shooting a glanced between the twins. "Hm. I wonder what he wanted? He wasn't really acting like a thief. He was too scared for that." She walked up to the other man, nodding slightly at the two girls. "Bonjour et excusez moi, do either of you know these persons?"

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The sight of her friend zapping the would-be purse snatcher was mildy upsetting to Casey, though she knew Saku would never use lethal force; electrocution, even at a low setting, just looked kind of nasty. She was also disturbed by his last words before the EMWand dropped him; was this just a bizzare attempt to impress a girl? Crouching down next to the boy, she quickly checked his vitals to make sure he'd recover.

When the French girl approached them, the tall blonde could only stand up shaking her head. "No idea; he said something about not coming back empty-handed, and showing her how he felt." She put her hands on hips and sighed as she addressed the unconcious delinquent. "Buddy, any girl who's impressed by purse snatching is not a keeper!" Then she looked up the new arrival. "So are you the other girl who's purse was taken? My name's Casey, and this is Endeavor."

Casey belatedly noticed Nevermore was here, in full costume yet; unsure of the protocol of encountering another student in the field, she thought it best if she avoided eye contact.

Edited by Heritage

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Ami slowed down as the pack began to pile up, and she jumped up on a bench just in time to see Nevermore's quick, economical takedown. She was impressed with the speed of his moves, with his strong stand and quick, sure moves. She watched him as he walked towards her, her own feet shifting slightly to give her a chance to jump away if he come at her with the same moves. But, at the end, he simply handed her bad back to her and she took it, quietly. "Merci beaucoup, monsieur oiseau de nuit. I am sure it is fine. It is only clothes, after all."

 

She hopped down and walked up to the man, shooting a glanced between the twins. "Hm. I wonder what he wanted? He wasn't really acting like a thief. He was too scared for that." She walked up to the other man, nodding slightly at the two girls. "Bonjour et excusez moi, do either of you know these persons?"

 

Nevermore hadn't missed the shifting of her feet. It just made him smile a bit; not a mocking smirk, but one of admiration. He gave her an inclination of his head.

 

"Vous êtes les bienvenus, manquer. Cependant, je suis d'Raven pas la Chouette. Je suis connu comme Nevermore."

 

He would have winked, but the eyepieces kind of killed that. He turned as the conversation went to a discussion of the thieves. He considered what Casey said, and the seemingly crazed behavior displayed by the two, and frowned. Which was a bit intimidating in his getup.

 

"That sort of crazed infatuation and single-mindedness...it suggests they may have had their minds tampered with."

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Ami's eyes darted over the scene, taking everything in. She was almost certain she had seen both these girls around the Claremont campus before, and her mind worked analytically to put two and two together.

She was interrupted by Nevermore’s observation. “Mind control? That is a complicated matter.†She briefly wished that her powers had a more cerebral bent; she was sure that her aunt could have sorted out their minds with a few seconds’ work. Ami had confidence that she could do it herself -- she was a Martel after all! -- but it would take her some more time.

It took more time and a few quiet words, but before long the two attempted thieves were in different offices in the employees’ area of the mall, resting on chairs. Ami sat near one of them, keeping on eye on him and waiting for him to wake up. She kept the other eye on Nevermore. “<You speak French excellently, but you still have an accent. Where did you learn ?>â€

Edited by Raveled

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The armored vigilante had given a non-committal grunt when Ami observed things could be "complicated".
 
"Complicated may be understatement."
 
He'd followed the whole "posse" to the offices, finding himself standing next to some of the chairs, unsuccessfully trying to loom in a brightly lit and well-furnished office area. There just weren't enough shadows to really pull it off, though he was certainly still a somewhat imposing figure. He turned his head just a bit when Ami spoke more French at him.
 
"<Yes, I do not practice my French as often as some of my other languages, so the accent remains. I learned it...>"
 
Inside his well-guarded mind, brief images of classrooms carved from rock and smelling of sweat and blood and fear flashed through his thoughts before being shoved back into his mind-vault and securely locked away.
 
"<It was not a public facility, and is no longer active. I am sure you would not have heard of it.>"

Edited by KnightDisciple

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Mall security ended up putting Casey and Sakurako in the other office with their 'perp', seated across from him in uncomfortable chairs; apparently there was paperwork to fill out or something. The room was drab, ugly and brightly lit, with minimal furnishings and decorations, and cardboard boxes filled with next week's ad fliers stacked everywhere. Casey was glad she didn't really get hot or cold anymore, because she had a feeling the room was overly air conditioned, though maybe the culprit was just shivering due to nerves.

After eyeing the boy for some time, the blonde teen finally blurted out, "So who exactly were you trying to impress? She must be a real prize if you can win her heart with a stolen purse."

Edited by Heritage

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Endeavor sighed, opening the faceplate of her suit's helmet while setting her bag down between her legs. "Had to be important to attempt to assault a teenage girl. A unprotected one at that." Sakurako said, looking at her wand. "You did look... desperate. Why were you put up to this? There's just no logic for someone to ask someone else to do a petty mugging in the middle of broad stonking daylight with God knows how many pairs of eyes looking at you."

 

"By Sherlock's pipe... this is vexing. There's just no value to what my friend had in her bag, just some pajamas for her sleep over. I'm just sorry your localized probability had you end up being in the same point in time and space as I was."

 

"So... clear your concience... or better yet if you're under threat then by whom?"

 

Casey could tell Sakurako was flustered at least. She starts breaking out the big money words when suitably angry. She tapped her EMWand on her nose, it glowed slightly. "So many questions..." she said as it flicked open, humming slightly. The way Endeavor said that her last words hung in the air like a lead balloon... about to fall.

Edited by The Osprey

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“<You speak several languages? That’s very European. It’s refreshing to find someone who doesn’t think that other countries just> speak English with an accent, or English BUT-LOUD-AND-SLOW!†She switched languages smoothly, and her last words came at a loud, heavy, stomping cadence quite unlike her normal speech. She giggled at herself, until she suddenly realized that her noise had woken up the suspect.

Ami sat up straight, smoothing out her skirt and waiting for the young man to sit up, realize where he was, and react to Nevermore. She knew, though, that it was important to take control of the conversation before the cowl started in. “Good morning,†she said. “I would like to know why you were so very, very eager to steal my new bathing suit.â€


The boy sat on the chair, hugging himself, shooting looks between Casey and Endeavor. He finally focused on talking to the one that wasn't holding a live wire. “I, I, I had to get something for her,†he told Casey. “I couldn’t go back home empty-handed. You have to understand, I can’t go back empty-handed! She'll, she’ll…†He hugged himself harder, shrinking into himself. “She’ll ignore me! I have to have something to give to Sam. She’s so beautiful, so perfect. She deserves all of it!†He began shivering slightly, regardless of the temperature. It almost looked like a junkie who was being denied a fix, except that this was a tanned, healthy-looking teenage boy!

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“<You speak several languages? That’s very European. It’s refreshing to find someone who doesn’t think that other countries just> speak English with an accent, or English BUT-LOUD-AND-SLOW!†She switched languages smoothly, and her last words came at a loud, heavy, stomping cadence quite unlike her normal speech. She giggled at herself, until she suddenly realized that her noise had woken up the suspect.

Ami sat up straight, smoothing out her skirt and waiting for the young man to sit up, realize where he was, and react to Nevermore. She knew, though, that it was important to take control of the conversation before the cowl started in. “Good morning,†she said. “I would like to know why you were so very, very eager to steal my new bathing suit.â€

 

"<I do, yes. And thank you, I suppose.>"

 

Nevermore didn't think it would be wise to say "I am not a native-born citizen of this country" out loud in this context. Secret identities and all that.

 

"<Though you are perhaps a bit too harsh; I have not observed a majority of tourists truly think that. There are obnoxious people in all countries. Even France.>"

 

The slight smile on his face suggests good enough humor he'd have winked at her. Except for, you know, the eye covers. He pondered talking to Boss Lady about a way to get them to retract or go transparent or something. Might help dealing with non-combatants.

 

As Ami began speaking to the now-awakening prisoner, Nevermore fell silent and tried to remain still, simply observing the clumsy teenaged thief.

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"This... isn't normal. Even for a thief..."

 

She looked over to Casey, whispering to her. "What ya think? Psychic control? Bewitchment? I paid a little attention at recognizing potential mind control methods in class last week. I always call it 'Defense Against the Dark Arts' class but I wager you get the point..."

 

She returned her attention to the boy in the room. She sat her hand on his knee, after kneeling down on both her knees. Her expression went from annoyance to concern. "Okay... doesn't it seem... wrong... that someone like that wants you to steal for them? True love isn't won by trinkets and material things it's... ephemeral. It is something that's true between people. It doesn't need things to exist, it needs... well... trust. Trust between two individuals that goes beyond material interests. Feeling like you constantly have to go out and take things just for someone's attentions isn't love. It's slavery. Slavery to a slothful, prideful individual who only cares about their own self interests and would use you as some sort of... drone."

 

"Doesn't that feel wrong to you? Isn't there something in you that's twisting at this fact?"

 

Endeavor was holding back tears at this point. Seeing free will corrupted like this was firing up her emotions. "Tell me.... where is this Sam?"

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“Sam’s back at home,†the thief said, speaking mostly to Casey even while he was answering Endeavor’s questions. “She mostly stays at home with Dad, or with Dad’s friends. She doesn’t…†He frowned and furrowed his brow, trying to remember something buried deeply. “She always wants to meet new men, but she hates it when they bring their wives or girlfriends along. I don’t remember what happened to Mom…†He grimaced and put a hand to his head, and shivered powerfully. “I’m getting a headache…â€


“It was all for Sam,†the boy muttered, his eyes mostly on the floor. From time to time his gaze would flick up, though, to look quickly over Nevermore. “Are… are you the Raven? I think that if I bring you home to meet Sam, that’ll be even better than buying something! She’s always going on about how she needs to find the Raven again!â€

Ami blinked in confusion, giving Nevermore a sideways look. With the armor and the cape he did indeed look something like Freedom City’s most well-known investigator, but usually villains wanted to stay as far away from the Freedom League as possible.

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Nevermore's mouth moved very, very slightly. Into a pale shadow of a frown. What the boy was saying was...not encouraging.

 

"No. Not the Raven. Just work for her."

 

Perhaps not entirely shocking, all things considered, but an interesting tidbit. Then again, most all the police and other law enforcement in the city knew that, or had a superior who understood that.

 

He took a single step forward toward the boy and settled himself, that cape of his disguising much of his form.

 

"How does Same know the Raven? Did she say? And what's her full name?"

Edited by KnightDisciple

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Casey was deeply disturbed by what the kid was saying; it sounded like Saku was dead-on about this being some sort of mind control. The headache sounded like he was trying to resist the control in some way, which was a hopeful sign; maybe the longer he was away from this Sam, the stronger his resistance became? Maybe this Sam had to recharge her 'drones' through physical contact or proximity.

 

The blonde shifted forward slightly and gave the boy a friendly smile, and did her best to maintain eye contact. "My name is Casey, and I want to know all abut Sam; she sounds really interesting! What's she like? Has she known your dad for a while?" It sounded like something bad might have happened to his mom; the thought made Casey sick to her stomach, but she did her best to keep the horror of her face. "What's your name, by the way? And was that your brother with you earlier?"

Edited by Heritage

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The criminal kept looking at the floor as Nevermore approached. "Sam knows the Raven," he insisted. "She says that she used to date the Raven, until someone stole him away." He frowned slightly. "Sam is sure that the Raven is a guy. I thought the Raven was a woman, but Sam is sure that the Raven is a guy, and Sam has to be right."

He looked up, smiling softly into Nevermore's mask. "Samantha Cline. She's beautiful. She's got the biggest green eyes, and these wings, and the way she flies around... I could watch her for days. And I know if I bring back something to make her happy, it'll all be okay."

Ami sat quietly in the chair, letting the thief ramble, her gut churning unpleasantly. This kid was deep under someone's spell, that much was obvious. The name Samantha Cline didn't trigger any memories for her, but her Martel training had included how to recognize brainwashing, and this was at least that. She hoped that there wouldn't be any permanent damage, once Sam was taken out of the picture.


"Samantha Cline." The boy relaxed suddenly, like just thinking about the object of his obsession was soothing. "She's so beautiful. I never thought someone with wings or arms like that could be beautiful, but then I met Sam and she showed me how. I mean, she met Dad first and he brought her home and pretty soon I wasn't worried about school or Twitter or anything like that. I just needed to make Sam happy."

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