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The Sound of Stagnation (IC)

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Friday, May 1st, 4:32.

One of the few pleasures of working hard was knowing that one was about to get off of work and be paid for that labor - and the laboring dock workers of Freedom City knew that well. Crates with goods going to every corner of the globe passed through to be distributed along the Eastern Seaboard and over the country, or vice versa. A task of Sisyphean proportions, as it seemed no matter how many shipping containers they loaded or unloaded, there was always another cargo ship coming into port, another few tons of cargo to be loaded. But hey; one man's impossible task was another man's job security. One worker clamboured out of a loading crane to wipe his brow, already thinking of the cold beer and quiet refuge he'd retreat to when his shift was over.

 

"Harry! You asleep up there?" His supervisor laughed from below, pushing her hardhat up to peer up at him.

"Whaddya mean?" The mildly offended worker complained, looking - as he so often did - vaguely confused. 

The supervisor gestured to a pair of shipping containers to her left. "We need to get that ship loaded up before five! You forgot two." She pointed out, her clipboard hanging from her waist. "Really, man?"

"Th' heck I did, Stevens!" Harry complained, producing a shipping manifest from his back pocket as he climbed down. "Says here, boxes seven-three-ay-seven-twelve to seven-three-ay-seven-forty - neither'a those two are on the manifest. Dunno where they're from."

Stevens frowned and peered at the manifest once Harry made it down, then at the two strange containers. "Weird. Where's this boat going, anyway?"
"Pfah - England, somewhere?" Harry guessed. "Who gives a crap. Call up th' foreman an-"

 

For a moment, Harry gaped - he was speaking, but there was no sound to be heard. Stevens quickly realized that the dock had fallen into an unearthly silence where it would normally be filled with a horrible racket in all directions. Nothing could be heard. Not the cry of a single gull, the waves, yelling from worker to worker. Stevens and Harry exchanged a confused look, before Harry began pointing frantically above the ship he'd been loading.

 

Hovering several feet above the rows and rows of shipping containers was the vague outline of a man, a massive gout of flames indicating that a jetpack of some sort was keeping him in the air. "If you believe I'm allowing this filth to cross the ocean into my beloved England, you've another thing coming, young man!" The figure declared angrily, the crisp and disapproving voice of an English Gentleman cutting through the enforced silence of his anti-sonic grenades. In golden armor crossed with red and blue highlights, the Tranquility Tyrant set down upon terra firma, his heavy battle armor dispelling the silence he'd enforced. All of a sudden came back the roaring of industry and commerce, the startled exclamations of the workers and then, abruptly, the whirr of the Tyrant's massive cannon powered up. "Load these containers, ruffian, and be quick about it. The only suitable destination for this ship's foul cargo is the bottom of the sea."

 

Harry gaped at the powerful-looking cannon leveled at him, then started scrambling back up into the crane in a panic to do as he'd been told - unaware that those containers contained only a bevy of powerful explosions, dedicated to destroying the cargo ship long before it would cross the ocean. Hopefully, somebody would arrive to see what all the ruckus was about.

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Rachel Isis was fully intending to spend her afternoon in a cute little coffee shop near the city's bay. The sea added serenity to her cup like a sprinkling of sugar, though she personally didn't have any preference against straight black coffee...because it was largely ornamental to her persona, rather than for flavor or nutrition or side-effects. Her fingers flicked across her tablet PC, looking through a few of the new exhibits she was going to be expected to know by heart here in Freedom City, and generally making blithe use of her easy first week. Not that Freedom City wasn't exciting, but it certainly did seem to be suffering from a lull at the mo-

There was a sound of panic nearby. Shouts and crashing and what sounded like a jet engine powering up.

Ras-Izh was in motion before she even really knew what was happening. It didn't matter what was happening; Dawnstar would be there, because people shouting meant trouble. As the crowd outside the coffee shop turned their heads towards the ruckus, the young woman in the cardigan stepped back as subtly as possible, removing her glasses in the process. She didn't start flying until she had edged her way around the corner, and then went directly to the roof of the building to shed her civilian clothes. Maybe two minutes from when the sound of panic and disorder rang through the air, a shimmering golden woman in a red leotard was already blazing her way towards the docks at breakneck speeds.

There - descending from the light of the sun - came the Dawnstar, with roughly the same expression as a disappointed schoolmarm.

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The Tranquility Tyrant eyed Harry the dockworker nervously clambering up the ladder back into his crane while Stevens backed away with her hands in the air. "This is no vocation for a woman, for the record." The armored gentleman noted in clear disapproval, keeping his quietly whirring cannon fixed on Harry. Stevens, who was more occupied with the giant gun, had a moment of incredulous surprise at being offered chauvinist life advice by a villain in power armor.

 

A shadow descended from above, and Tranquility Tyrant took a moment's pause to internally remind himself he'd anticipated opposition to his quest. This was, after all, Freedom City - and a few uncultured swine in leotards could be expected to leap up in righteous indignation to stop so much as a man jaywalking. Turning his upper body towards the shadow, cannon still trained on the floating woman above, the Tyrant gave Dawnstar a witheringly disapproving look to match her own. "Young lady, I'm sure these hard-working men are eager to go home. If you'd kindly skip off for ten minutes or so, I'd be happy to teach you the err in interrupting a man's work once I've finished what I'm doing." He 'offered' like a strained father dealing with a troublesome, slightly spoiled child.

 

"May I suggest that you use this time to find something more proper to wear out of the house?" The Tyrant added. While he was completely aware that the woman 1)Flying in 2)Freedom City in a 3)Cape was odds-safe a superhero, old habits dying hard was pretty much half of what the Tyrant was all about. And shooting his mouth off didn\t mean that the old man was in any way lowering his guard. It'd be trivially easy for him to twist his cannon around to intercept a direct charge by some enterprising do-gooder, which was something he was fully prepared to do if Dawnstar didn't get the hint and step off.

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Oh, now this man was just a treat. Powered armor meant she could punch as hard as she wanted to without having to worry about hurting the man inside the tin can, though at the moment she might have "forgotten" about wanting not to hurt squishy mortals. Sexism was something of a human invention; the Ultima had only negligible physical differences between their genders, and pregnancy was an extreme rarity. It was one of the things that Ras-Izh had had to spend so much time adapting to in the human world.

Dawnstar's hair floated behind her, basked in the golden glow of her own aura. "I'm sure these hard-working men won't mind my interruption, as this will take much less than ten minutes," she responded, her hands becoming alight with cosmic, golden fire. "This is your one warning. Leave, and let these people get back to their jobs." She extended one hand in preparation for a nasty blast of energy, just in case her new perp made any aggressive movements. "I assure you, the alternative is quite unpleasant."

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"Please continue your work, sir, whilst I handle this interloper." The Tyrant called up to the dock worker, who'd taken Dawnstar's arrival as his cue to work as slowly as possible and not at all whilst Tranquility Tyrant's attention was focused elsewhere. "I'm sure we'll be able to handle this with the usual... discretionary silence." Stevens took the opportunity to make good her escape, dashing behind some nearby shipping containers and out of sight

The Tranquility Tyrant didn't bother to face his floating, glowing opponent full on, confident that he could deal with her in a summary fashion without missing out on progress. a small nozzle-like device extended from his shoulder and levelled itself at Dawnstar, momentarily glowing bright blue - projecting a massive cone of disorienting anti-sound, annihalating even ambient noises that the mind was naturally acclimated to hearing, such as the flow of one's own blood. A silence so complete, one could not hear themselves think. 

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He leveled some kind of gun at her. Dawnstar, naturally, took this as a cue for aggression. Unfortunately, she reacted too late to avoid the wave of...something coming at her. Silence wasn't supposed to be a physical force, and yet it was right now. The wave collided with her head-on, and Dawnstar grunted in response. Total silence overcame her, including the thrum of vril in her body. Fortunately, she was made of tougher stuff, and managed to keep her stuff together (if only just barely).

Her response was immediate and violent, a screaming bolt of cosmic energy from her outstretched hand. Or rather, the bolt would have been screaming, if she wasn't surrounded by quite unnatural silence. A lack of sound didn't make it any less dangerous, of course, and the golden glow lanced down with surprising accuracy for someone who was actually quite ill-experienced at hitting moving targets.

Fortunately for Dawnstar, her enemy wasn't moving.

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The blast of energy slammed into Tranquility Titan's cutting-edge power armor and, other than briefly twisting with the attack, he did not so much as recoil to indicate that he'd been physically struck. Wearing a mask was good for that, although he somewhat ruined it by opening his mouth. "Pernicious girl!" The cultured, malevolent man sneered, finally bringing his cannon to bear on the Ultiman do-gooder. "You dare lob such piddling attacks at me? Didn't you father teach you not to strike a man, lest he retaliate?"

Bringing his cannon up, the various dials and spinny-bits whirling to indicate that it was a dangerous and scientifically advanced device, the Tyrant paused for a moment to relish in the outbreak of combat. "It brings me no pleasure to incapacitate such a lovely young woman, but you've made it clear that you're determined to jump hip-deep into trouble! Hah!" With a twist of his wrists, the massive cannon discharged a blast of concentrated anti-sound, a blue beam of dangerous intensity!

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Once again, Dawnstar failed to avoid a blast from that stupid suit. Since this was her first real combat experience in a while, it did make a bit of sense that she seemed to be so poor at flying out of the way. The blue beam of solid silence (THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN SCIENTIFICALLY POSSIBLE!) slammed into her red leotard, smacking her resistant flesh against her rigid Ultiman bones, and leaving her in a slight amount of...discomfort.

"Piddling, huh?" Ras-Izh responded, ambient sound allowing. If her blasts were so inconsequential, maybe it was time to break out the big guns. Her vril laced back into her body, her muscles tensing with cosmic power as she reoriented her body downwards and shot like a bullet directly at the armored man below. She had had just about enough of his condescension, and it was time to show him the error of his ways. With her fist. There was an audible crack as a super-empowered fist collided with the metal of the Tyrant's suit, trailing an aura of golden glow behind in mid-flight.

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The powered armor of the Tranquility Tyrant was a modern work of art - the combined effort of two walks of life, corporate and criminal. It was a product of the most talented minds of generations united in the singular pursuit of a wealthy man's money, able to bend steel and shoot quiet at people, among a few other tricks. Destructive tricks. But faced with a blow from the polar-born art-hound, even Humphrey's vaunted armor was poor protection - Dawnstar 2 slammed into his braced frame like a rocket, her fist pounding into his chestplate with no room for discussion. 

 

The blow was enough to almost knock him off his feet, but not quite - and thanks only to his armor. With a stunned "FAH?!" The Tyrant took a half-step back, his weapon lowered, his senses rattled by the might of the attack.

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Never let your enemy recover. Never give them a chance to get back on their feet. Dawnstar took the momentary lowering of her enemy's defenses as a cue to hover forward, a left cross coming in during the aftermath of the calamitous assault she had just mounted. The sound of steel buckling beneath her hands never really got old to her, and as she made her second attack, she thought to call over the villain's shoulder.

Because Dawnstar was not a stupid girl or a glory hound, her attention turned momentarily to the civilians on the docks around them who hadn't yet fled. "Get clear of here and call the police!" Her voice was clear, despite the annoying blast of pure "shut up" she had endured moments ago. The humans around her needed to be safe, and more importantly, the authorities needed to be alerted. This scuffle would be over shortly.

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A whirling hook. Mask, you old fool! Even if it was coming at his shoulder, the blow was too close for comfort - and now that he'd recovered from the initial power of that first blow, Tranquility Tyrant was more than ready to throw down in melee combat. "YOU DARE?!" He barked, sounding as though he'd just caught one of the estate servants defecating in his prize-winning shrubbery. Bringing his arm up, servos grinding, the Tyrant managed to catch that second follow-up blow before it slammed into anything fragile or easily broken. Like his face. 

Twisting his grip around, the Tyrant grabbed hold of Dawnstar's wrist and attempted to sieze the Ultiman hero by the neck, pushing backwards towards a shipping container. "You impetuous little cur! I aught to put you over my knee right now!" The enraged old man howled. "Enough games! TIME FOR A LESSON!"

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Well that was less effective than she'd hoped. Her fist had connected, but even after being repeatedly dented, that armor refused to give up. She needed to back up and try another strafing run...but that would have to wait a moment. The loud man who shot quiet at people had her by the arm, and that simply would not do. Ras-Izh wrenched her arm away the moment she felt an armored gauntlet on it.

She had no need for silly speeches and repartee. As she broke away, Dawnstar delivered a floating kick towards the man's head, more power than care thrown into it. That...proved to be an ill-advised idea. Her boot sailed harmlessly past the man's helmet. She needed to be more cautious about where she placed her attacks. Bringing the hurt was optional, compared to actually landing a blow in the first place.

"On our first date? For shame, good sir!" she mocked idly, with a smirk on her face. She was doing just fine. Maybe a bit of wit would go a long way. If she could keep him getting reckless like this...

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Generally speaking, the Tyrant tried to avoid getting into fisticuffs with brightly-coloured do-gooders - his cannon was a much more effective weapon. But despite the power of her initial strike, this was, after all, just some blonde waif in need of a stern reminder to leave the combat business to her boyfriend or daddy. "Quiet, you!" he barked, dipping nimbly under her kick once she'd shimmied her way out of his grip. 

He HAD been intending to simply knock her out and leave her here to be collected by somebody else, but it seemed the doll would need to get roughed up a bit more before that became a viable option. As her leg was still in the air, the Tyrant decided to deliver on his threat - and although spanking was usually done with an open hand, a closed fist and a punch to the lower back instead of the behind would have to do. Loud-mouthed upstart!

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Did he literally just kick her in the butt? Oh my god he did. Fortunately, Ras-Izh's rear was a little more durable than a mortal woman's. She grunted and turned around with an annoyed look on her face. "Classy. What'll you do next? Pull my hair?" This man was getting irritating. Like, severely irritating. The stories her mother had told her of walking the earth as a goddess had included nothing about frustratingly persistent chauvinistic pigs in power armor.

She tried another punch, but this time it seemed it was she who was upset. Her fist soared harmlessly wild, her otherwise-immaculate hair flying out of place in sheer irritation. She needed to reevaluate her strategy. Take a moment to exploit her healing factor and come in for a second go. But no...he was going to keep shooting her no matter what, and if she backed off, she'd be putting others in danger. That was absolutely unacceptable. Keep tanking the baddie.

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The Tranquility Tyrant couldn't help but smile behind his mask as the blonde hero started losing her cool. Attacks going wild, taking shots at his pride - yes, this was most assuredly a rookie. "It does not matter if I best you, brat - in a few minutes, that ship will explode, and carry the whole of America's foul cultural export to the bottom of Freedom Bay!" He boasted. "You might as well have stayed home and practiced your crochet, darling - at least you'd have a skill worth mentioning, save getting in lucky hits!"

Clenching his fist again, the Tyrant spun and unleashed a whistling roundhouse punch that threatened to easily shatter the ribs of a normal person - a normal person he knew this girl wasn't, at this point. Even if he was condescending enough to reach the center of the Earth, the Tyrant hadn't gotten this far by underestimating opponents of any shape. 

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Right. Villains liked to talk about their plans. Dawnstar would have to do something about that, and soon. Hopefully she could do so after she knocked this guy out, though. Unfortunately, he was much better at defending himself than she was...and frankly, that was irritating all on its own. Distracted in her thoughts, and the thoughts of the people who very well might be killed if she didn't stop those bombs quickly, she missed a duck and got slugged in the ribs.

"Nnfh!" Good. He was close enough. Hit him again.

Dawnstar's fist came up into the suit's belly the moment she was given an opening, connecting hard with the metal beneath her fingers. In the recoil of the blow, her voice came in very low. "Lucky, huh?" Leaving herself open to get a good shot in was a bad idea, but she needed to put this man down. Now. He didn't seem to be having much of a problem hitting her, so why would she worry about her failing defense? Put him down before he puts you down.

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That hit was very nearly enough to lift his feet off of the ground, and it certainly discouraged him dropping his defense for another all-out-attack. Tranquility Titan threw an elbow at the Hero that came up short, and stumbled backwards to create a little more distance. Just enough distance to draw a pair of grenades from some compartment on his thighs and pause in clear threat. If Dawnstar wanted to press the attack again, some seriously explosive nonsense was going to be the cost - potentially.

Truth be told, some seriously explosive nonsense had been the plan from the start, but on a less personal scale. But if palming a couple grenades would give him some breathing room, that was a bluff the Tyrant was more than willing to make. 

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Grenades. Ras-Izh's mind immediately began racing. Two kinds of explosives at the moment, and...how close were those civies? Hopefully they had had the sense to run when the blasting and smashing had started happening. If she could punch him out before he set off anything grenade-ish, that would be optimal. If she failed, she'd probably eat explosives to the face. Dawnstar didn't care about things like that, of course. She was immortal...but this man wasn't, meaning his life was worth infinitely more than hers, even if he was a criminal.

"You can surrender now," she warned, hovering her face mere inches from his helmet, "and be taken in for due process. Alternatively, I can hit you so hard you forget what year it is, then deal with the bomb you've decided to endanger innocent people with." Everyone deserved their chance to surrender. Even though he'd already had his, there was no way he'd actually hurt the dock workers over  something this trifling.

But just in case...

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How dare this floating bint try and take away from the glorious purpose of his grand mission? He had to keep this foul shipment of contemporary culture from spreading out into and poisoning the rest of the world - especially his beloved Great Britain! But his suit was already showing signs of light damage, damage that would take weeks to repair. Far too much money, in his opinion, as well. But what could one do? There were only a couple of ways this ended well for him, and the amount of ways it ended well with the completion of his objective were  shrinking by the moment.

"A deal, then, my dear." The Tyrant suggested with a wicked grin audible in his voice. "You haven't time to subdue me AND find the bombs - nor can you hope to subdue me and prevent any casualties. I hope you understand that, thus far, I have been... shall we say 'generous', when ti comes to the lives of the riffraff." He growled. "I can provide you with a list of the trapped containers in exchange for my release in good faith - nobody needs be hurt, and nobody has to know. You get to save the day and prove what a capable young miss you are in a man's world, and I leave with a shred of dignity in tact. What do you say?"

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As it turned out, Dawnstar was not perfect. Every human deserved a chance to surrender. Every human had some good somewhere in them. This human had taken that chance to surrender, and used it to convince her that he honestly didn't have any good in him. Being a pig was easy to shrug off, but toying with the lives of others in order to insult the person trying to save them wasn't. With a deep sigh, Dawnstar spoke in a somewhat beleagured voice.

"Counter offer," she began, then slugged the power armored man in the helmet, hard enough to dent the metal. "You sit here and wait for the police. I'll go dispose of those explosives on my own."

Dawnstar sighed and flew slowly towards the ship, her voice booming impressively as she did so. "Has anyone who works here made the ill-advised decision to stick around the possibly-exploding ship? I can get rid of these containers one at a time, or just toss the entire cargo into the bay, but it would help if I knew which was which." Of course, Dawnstar was entirely prepared to just start shucking crates far out into the water, but it would be much faster and safer to deal with individual possible-bombs instead of just assuming all of it was dangerous and saving the ship/sailors.

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