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Some Alleyway
Southside, Freedom City, New Jersey
Monday, June 1st, 2015
1:04 AM

GM

In less than 24 hours, the Claremont class of 2015 would be walking across the stage.  Normal high school seniors may have spent their last night without a diploma talking to their girlfriends.  Throwing a rager with friends.  Or even sleeping the night away.

Tona had other plans.  Blue Jay had been spotted throughout the night actively skulking the Southside moving from rooftop and preventing crimes as she saw them.  At some point she ran into Samaritan, Vonnie who was taking full advantage of his Summer vacation, and the pair began an unofficial game of "who can catch the most criminals the fastest".  Blue Jay was winning, but to Vonnie's credit the boy had no quit.  

In a night full of purse snatchers and muggings, when a woman gave a blood curdling scream it was easy to assume they were in store for more of the same. Chasing down the scream they found themselves in an alleyway.  What they found was nothing short of horrific.  The woman had an arrow struck through her eye.  Signs of pressure from something small like a digit pushed against her neck.  The corpse laying there.  Silently contrasting what until just a few moments ago felt like a bustling night in the city.

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Blue Jay usually worked alone, unless she was patrolling with one of her girlfriends. She recognized Samaritan from the school, though, and something compelled her to let him stick around. Maybe it was nostalgia for the school where she had started a new life, or maybe she was feeling lonely after so long separated from Sam, or maybe she was just feeling aware that she was about to leave behind the most safe and secure part of her life she had ever known, and wanted something to distract her from it.

So it became a game for the pair of them, traveling high over the city and swooping down to pluck unwitting criminals who were in the midst of performing their illegal trades. They never got too far away from each other, even though Blue Jay was sticking rigorously to one of her usual patrol routes. Vonnie would swing by occasionally, calling out his total, while the archer kept her own number silent. She fully expected to win their little contest; it wasn't even in doubt.

The scream that cut through the air attracted both heroes. Jay paused at the edge of the roof and swept the area visually, then roped down to the bloody and unmoving body. Something nagged her about the body, even as she checked the woman's pulse just to be sure. She did a double-take at the arrow before the penny finally dropped and she felt a hard, cold weight in her belly. The woman had been killed by an arrow -- one of Blue Jay's arrows.

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Vonnie knew Blue Jay by reputation, of course. He’d never met the girl, and never put any effort into caring whether or not he did. This wasn’t exactly unusual for him. He felt that way about the entire senior class, and most everyone else he’d probably never met. Which is why he was able to play it entirely cool when he ran into her on one of his roving patrols. Vonne never stuck to a specific route, instead just randomly swinging around the city looking for trouble. He could get from Hanover back to the dorms in less than an hour and it was summer break, so…who cared where he was, really? Besides LJ (his girlfriend) and Vina (his younger sister), anyway. LJ was at rehearsal for that play, and Vina was…what was she doing again? Oh, right. Girl’s night out, though she ought to be home by now.

 

All that said, he was bored out of his mind when he ran into Jay. Nothing exciting happening tonight, not at all. Doesn’t do much to make a guy feel useful, not even a little bit. He’d actually spotted her from a ways out, if spotting was the correct term for using his spatial awareness. And, well…Vonnie was, as ever, a teenage boy with all that implies. If he impressed this older hero girl, she might do…something interesting. He didn’t know what, but hell. Hormones, teenage insecurities and extreme boredom have been a bad combination since the beginning of the human race. And Vonnie, god bless him, was naturally a bit of a showoff anyway. So he started…showing off.

 

It was a little irritating how he couldn’t quite keep pace, especially with someone who had no powers at all, but he could totally tell she wasn’t, you know, unimpressed with him. That counted for something, right? Right? Right. And then the woman screamed. Vonnie knew instantly that his boring night was over. He swung in right on Jay’s metaphorical heels and instantly kicked himself for not paying more attention to his spatial awareness.“Well, she’s dead. Hmph. Think we can trace the arrow?” He spoke casually, but exaggeratedly so, as if he wasn’t feeling particularly casual at all. He searched his memory. A figure, maybe? Male? Female? It was no use. If only he’d been paying attention…

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Samaritan's notion of tracking the arrow got a single, lifeless laugh from Blue Jay. "Yes, we can," she said. "They're made by ASTRO Labs in job lots of fifty. Carbon fiber shaft with nano-mechanisms allow the head to be tuned to three different settings." She pulled an arrow from her quiver and demonstrated the knurled knob at the end, how it could be turned and the arrowhead collapsed into a blunt surface, or the end pushed out until it was distinct and sharp, or how the entire construction would pull back and shove out razor-sharp spines. It was also readily apparent, even in the dim light of the alleyway, that the arrow in the woman was a twin to the one Jay held in her hand.

She put her arrow back and carefully checked the body over for any other sign of attack, then began prying out the arrow that was still in the woman's head. It was slow work, but the archer was patient and determined. She made sure to mostly use the palm of her hand and her fingers, keeping her thumbs tucked in. Her gloves would stop her getting any fingerprints on the weapon, which would be important in determining who was trying to frame her.

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GM

Blue Jay's foray into forensic anthropology was as thorough as it could be given the circumstances.  The arrow unmistakably one of hers in appearance.  The deceased appeared to be in her mid thirties with no identifying marks such as tattoos or the like.  Brown skinned of apparently Latina descent, her long brunette hair was well managed.  At least for being on the ground of an alleyway.  She was wearing a brown peticoat with a blue sundress underneath.  There was an odd smell from her breath that was hard to place.

Perhaps signs of poisoning.  Perhaps just signs of a late meal.  It wasn't something that could exactly be verified in their current location.  The woman also seemed to be carrying a purse.  Searching the contents, Jay was mostly able to find the normal mix.  Makeup,. hair bands, gum, things of that nature.  There was a locked cell phone coupled with a single piece of paper.  The words "Renounce Yourself" written in an Algonquin language (Ojibwe specifically).

For a moment.  If even the faintest of moments.  Samaritan had the distinct feeling they were being watched.  He couldn't "see" anything that proved this.  And almost as quickly as the sensation had come, it was gone.  Not as if the sensation had moved away.  But, almost as if it had completely disappeared.

That was when the sound of the nearing police sirens blared.

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Blue Jay recognized that the note was in her mother's language at the same time that she translated it, and the whole world went crystal and froze. She had the sudden, creeping realization that so many people have to deal with at certain points; that while you are watching the world, the world is also watching you. Adrenaline flooded through Jay's tiny body and she found that her heart was pounding and she was breathing in harsh gasps. She forced herself to calm down, to think clearly and collect herself.

And then the sirens started, and she wanted to bolt. Instead she stood carefully, stowing the murder weapon in her quiver. "We need to get off the streets," she said to the younger Claremonter. She drew a grapnel and smoothly launched it to the rooftop, quickly ascending the line.

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Jay was gone before Vonnie could ask why. It wasn’t his arrow in the dead woman’s eye. That said…spending the rest of evening answering questions from the cops? Vonnie was a dark skinned kid from New York City. He knew how things were. Avoiding that whole situation sounded like a fantastic idea. Also, he didn’t have a thing to add to what the cops would find out for themselves. So, he leapt towards the wall, and in that split second before gravity reasserted herself, leapt off that wall and straight up. He triggered a grapple at the roof edge, and with a well practiced effort, arched over and onto the roof itself.

 

There, he had a second to process. Was that my imagination? I mean…nobody can hide from me.  I have wall hacks. Light doesn’t matter. Being quiet doesn’t matter. I’m being ridiculous. One of the things about his spatial awareness that Vonnie kept to himself was that he didn’t just have wall hacks. He had clothing and even skin hacks. And unlike his eyes, they didn’t come with an off switch. Which was why he wasn’t paying attention earlier. His mother had managed to cram some respect for females into his head. Like all things, sometimes this was good, and sometimes it was bad. So he had noticed Jay’s pulse and breathing jump. “You all right? That can’t have been your first dead person. Heaven knows it wasn’t mine.” His tone was still exaggeratedly casual. Vonnie wasn’t so jaded that death out of flippin’ nowhere didn’t through him off. And then there was that…no, it was his imagination. It was, d@#% it.

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Blue Jay took a deep breath, calming herself down. She gave Vonnie a look, deciding that now wasn't the right time to give him the short version of her own life's story. Instead, she kept it short. "Someone is trying to trap us," she said. "We were a block away when that woman screamed, and the cops are here already? This is a set-up." She glanced around the rooftops, considering their options. "We need to keep a watch," she said. "Someone knows we're going to be here, and wants to see what's going to happen when we run into the cops." She pointed at a tall building with a garish orange-red neon sign at the top. "We'll watch up there," she said. It didn't have a good angle on the alley, but it would have an excellent angle on every place you could watch the alley from, and when you were hunting hunters you didn't stake out the prey; you staked out the blinds.

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Vonnie flashed a grin and moved. Sure, in a world with where people could break the speed of sound at a slow walk, he wasn’t all that impressive. That said, the human eye has trouble comprehending that level of speed. Vonnie was fast on a purely human scale and...it was a thing to see. He was behind the sign in a hurry, and when Jay got there, he had a question. “So…are we just not gonna talk about somebody stealing your arrows? Because, man…that’d throw me right off. That is messed up. Locks exist for a reason, bad guys.” He was just casually leaning against the neon sign, not even looking in the correct direction. Just look cool, man. Your first team up with an older hero. Well, besides Starshot, and he ended up being kind of lame. Got to make a good impression. “I mean, of course it’s a setup. Why would it not be a setup? Personal property where it shouldn’t be? Cops are right on time for once? C’mon. I’m sixteen, not stupid. I read, sometimes.”

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GM

The police were searching the alleyway one man scoped out the body.  With his partner calling it in while making his way deeper inside.  Blue Jay's mask picked up the police transmission.  The only thing that was new information was that the call alerting the police to the alleyway was placed twenty minutes before either Vonnie or Tona had arrived in the area.  Then the usual back and forth nothing else out of the ordinary to be heard.  Heck nothing looked out of the ordinary.  

People gradually began showing up to see the police in action.  There were a couple of curious eyes from nearby windows.  But, none that seemed unusual.  None other than the man smoking in front of a low rent motel not too far away.  He didn't have a clear view of the alleyway, but he could see the entrance for sure.  At the very least the police and crowd were hard to miss.  Yet, not once did he turn his head in the direction of the slowly growing gathering.  Not once did he even grow curious as to the going ons in the alleyway.  

There was enjoying a cigarette, and there was enjoying a cigarette way too much.  Human nature wasn't so inclined to just ignore a ruckus with that much dedication.  Instead of someone watching the scene.  It was someone doing everything they could to avoid actually looking in the direction of the alleyway.  Even with the magnification Blue Jay's masked provided neither teen could get a clear look at the smoker's face due to the fact he never turned directly towards their direction.

It was distracting.  But not so distracting as to stop them from seeing an archer positioned inside the fifth floor of a pharmaceutical depository.  A building far and away from where the smoker was.  The archer had his bow drawn, his sights set on one of the officers.  All he needed to do was to pull back and nock the arrow...

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Blue Jay didn’t react to Vonnie’s speed. She had learned that it was important not to let the heightened heroes see you gaping at their powers, so she kept her face carefully impassive as she swung up to the roof. She knelt at the edge, carefully arranging herself so that only her head was poking above the edge of the rooftop. “They’re not my arrows,” she insisted. “They’re ordered in lots from ASTRO Labs. Anyone could order some.” She repeated the idea to herself like a mantra. It was much less disconcerting to imagine someone ordering the same type of arrow from ASTOR Labs, than to imagine them infiltrating Claremont Academy to steal her arrows.

She was quiet as the police went through their routine, listening carefully to the chatter back and forth. There wasn’t any great revelation forthcoming, nobody talked about how their evil plan to frame her had hit a wall. It was frustrating, but the hunter hadn’t expected anything to come of the investigation; she started scanning the area, checking places where someone could see the alleyway from. Her eyes focused on a window across the alley, the mask’s sensors easily cutting through the gloom to reveal the assassin there sighting in on the cops.

Blue Jay didn’t waste time saying anything. In a breath she was kneeling on the lip of the roof in perfect draw position. She loosed a volley of arrows straight into the window.

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GM

The archer in the window reeled back immediately after the first arrow .  Rolling out of clear view and using the walls of the building as cover.  Blue Jay's staking out of the position had made it  too difficult to take the shot.  The officer's life temporarily not in danger.  Leaving, the mysterious archer to plot out his next move while pinned down.  And for the Claremont students to plot theirs in turn.

Down below the civilians and officers remained oblivious to the archery going on overhead.  A mixed blessing as without a clear angle on the archer's face it remained possible that the arrow intended for the officer was another one similar in style to Blue Jay's.  They had the higher ground, but the archer had the more heavily fortified position.

Even behind the building Samaritan could tell the archer was still on the same floor.  It was a bit far for him to give an exactitude of what was going on.  Confirming, at the very least, that the figure had not taken any steps away from his concealed window position.  Which was arguably more information than the archer had on their position. At least as with Blue Jay covering the window.

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Vonnie didn’t even have to think about it. A cop was in danger and didn’t know it. What else was Samaritan even for? As Jay’s first arrow was leaving her bow, he leapt out into space and triggered a grapple to launch. “Don’tforgetthesmokingguy!” He tossed over his shoulder as the grapple caught and he started to swing. Where was he going? Why, though the conveniently open window, of course. He timed the swing just right, and hurtled though the window at top speed just as Jay’s last arrow thudded home. The plan? Smash into this jerk, feet first. “Boot to the head!” The list of flesh and blood humans who could take a top speed collision with Vonnie and come off worse, well…it wasn’t all that long. Or so thought Vonnie.

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GM

And Vonnie would have been right in that the Archer would have been reeling had the blow connected.  But that wasn't the case.  The man had a wall as cover to push off of and retreat further into the room.  "We welcome you to your absolution."  The archer barked in a gruff voice.  

Vonnie looked around the room real quick.  It appeared to be too empty for 'we' to be used as an adjective.  There were some file cabinets nothing that would hold the medicines that moved in and out of the storage cycle.  But, that was the thing.  He had to actively look around to confirm this.  His Spatial Awareness was dampened in some way.  At best it felt like an ordinary person's use of the sense.  

Which was to say far from a conscious effort.  In fact, he couldn't even feel the archer directly in front of him.  "We did not expect to be found so early.  No matter.  It simply speeds up the timeline."

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GM

Suddenly and without warning Samaritan found two men fading into view.  They were wearing brown hooded robes with a strange dial on the center.  Their hands clutching the dial indicated it was the reason for their sudden appearance.  In one fluid motion they each drew a sword.  Taking up a defensive "Freedom is death."  One of the hooded figures told Samaritan.  

"Death is Freedom."  The other added.  They were on completely opposite sides of the room.  Swords poised to attack Samaritan the moment he came closely.  "Samaritan, are you worthy of Freedom?"  Maddeningly enough Vonnie's spatial awareness seemed to be left inert as far as the hooded figures were concerned.  He could still tell his position relative to his surroundings, but their dials seemed to keep themselves just out of reach from his spatial sense.

On top of the depository Blue Jay suddenly spotted the appearance of a different hooded figure of her own.  This one was armed with a bow.  Its sights set not on the police officer, but directly on the Claremont Archer herself.  It was an open challenge.  One that Tona would not get the option of backing out of.  The rooftop archer reached into her quiver all while waiting for Tona's response.

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Blue Jay cursed as her shots failed to connect, and cursed again as Samaritan bounded off without even waiting to coordinate. She stood and swept her gaze across the face of the building that she can see; there were no more open windows, which meant that there probably weren't anymore sniper nests prepared. If these people meant to run away then they'd likely be heading for a car, which meant moving at street level...

As the hunter considered which direction they would take, her attention was drawn to the roof. She watched the other archer saunter out into the open, her own fingers suddenly twitching in anticipation. She stood, drawing nocking and loosing an arrow in one smooth, fluid motion, and sending another after it before the first was halfway to its target. Blue Jay backed up from the edge of the roof, ducking behind a ventilation duct; then, after a quick breath, she popped out on the other side and sent another shaft winging across the way.

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Vonnie affected an even cockier attitude, covering being badly shaken. He hated, absolutely despised, when people found a way around his spatial awareness. “The concept, or the city?” He took a running step, bounced off the wall and crashed feet first into one of the swordsmen. Harder than he meant, but it got the job done. Guy was out. “Because, I gotta say, I’m an American. Being worthy of freedom the concept comes with the package.” He regarded the remaining swordsman and the archer. “The city, well…how should I know? I just live here, man.”

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GM

Tona's arrow flew true.  HItting the Archer positioned on the rooftop square in the shoulder.  In response, the robed figure scurried behind the entrance to the roof of the building she was on. Firing back an arrow off her own towards Blue Jay the archer found herself unable to properly aim.  Pain in her shoulder torquing against the muscle.  No doubt a consequence from Tona's arrow.

"Your reputation precedes you.  Such recklessness or is it foolishness?   Hard to tell with youths."  The remaining swordsman lunged forward.  His sword barely grazing against Samaritan's side.  A superficial laceration as Vonnie narrowly avoided letting the sword actually rend his flesh with his preternatural reflexes.  The remaining Archer did not sit around to watch how the fight continued.

"Farewell, Samaritan."  Walking backwards he taunted before slamming the door shut.  Delaying Vonnie's pursuit further.  Or perhaps baiting him into a chase?

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Vonnie barely flinched.  He grabbed the wrist of the remaining swordsman, pulled him forward, and buried his other fist into the man’s solar plexus. “Man, you think the youth know? Somebody flunked Teenager 101.” The man slumped unconscious to the floor, and Vonnie walked to the door the archer had both gone through and shut. “So…you’re just gonna leave then? No sniping unsuspecting police officers? Cool. Don’t let the door hit ’cha where the good Lord split ‘cha. See ya sucker. And, of course, bye Felicia.” Vonnie was many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. He knew a trap when he saw one, and without his spatial awareness there wasn’t a chance in hell he was following Archer further into the building. He walked to the open window and leaned back against the same wall Archer had used to dodge him initially. Wonder what Jay’s up to?

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GM

It wasn't long after Vonnie turned away that there was a large booming explosion from behind him.  Pretty much everyone on the block caught the sound.  Including the police officers running towards the source of the commotion.  There was no signs of fire or smoke.  Just the sound of a large collapse of material.

The archer on the rooftop stood up from her cover and looked around.  Visibly examining the scattering of law enforcement below.  Before, scanning the roofs for Blue Jay.  The moment she caught sight of her target the archer nocked an arrow in the direction of Claremont's premier archer.  This one sailing straight in the teenage archer.

Vonnie heard some more subdued noise coming from behind the door.  Before the sound came to an abrupt stop.

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Jay turned and the arrow glanced off her back, bouncing into the air and pin wheeling away. She completed her turn with an arrow drawn and nocked, and let it fly. Several more shafts followed it as she kept moving in one smooth motion, ending up crouched behind an air conditioning unit. She was sure that she could win this duel, given time, but it would slow her down -- maybe slow her down so much that she couldn't find the assassin. And where the hell was Samaritan, anyway?

She tapped her combead, tapping into a band commonly used by Claremonters. "Where the hell are you," she hissed. "I'm tying up this archer on the roof, but I can't drop him yet. Did you find the sniper?"

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