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Ari

Sky Crime! (IC)

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6th July, Monday, 2015, 3.45 PM

The skies above New York City, 37,500ft. above sea level

The Lady Aetheria, flagship of the Sky Lord's fleet

The warning shot flashed by Eileen's face like a meteor and struck the dead end to her right as she left the main hallway, a small porthole admitting the sight of a vast plain of clouds gleaming in the summer sun.
The impact left a sharp stink of hot steel, and a fast-fading circle of red-hot metal on the wall.

"There's nowhere to run, girl!" barked the slightly metallic voice of a soldier. With their anachronistic heavy helmets and masks, it was impossible to tell which of the twenty-odd people aiming their weapons down the hallway at the glowing young woman had said it. But there was no mistaking the note of triumph in the voice, and the deadly intent of the archaic-looking guns.

They were staggered along the harsh steel corridor, leaning from open doorways and crouched against the walls, nobody in anybody's way and all very calm. Behind her, the Lapis Lamp could hear the pounding treads of her well-armored pursuers, slowing down as they neared, the far-off baritone of the radio man crackling through the halls. "Attention, attention. Escapee is cornered at junction 3-H! All units not in pursuit, return to the prisoners!" As if cut off, the clanging alarm ceased.

And with a *SLAM* that jarred her skull, the door crashed shut behind her.

In the abrupt silence that followed, the appearance of the Sky Lord at the far hallway mouth, backed by heavy-armoured troops and leaning on his sceptre with a profound look of disappointment, was almost comically anticlimactic. The robust old man shook his white head and sighed "Young lady, I commend your youthful exuberance and energy, but this was the only possible outcome. Power down and return to your cell, there is nowhere left for you to run."

Before Cerulean was a forest of steel and fire. Behind her was a wall and a sickening drop.

So many choices.

 

Edited by Ari

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Cerulean's nerves were singing with tension, but she was feeling surprisingly less hopeless than she would have anticipated, if someone had been describing this scenario to her rather than being in the midst of it.  But being in control...somewhat...of events appeared to go a long way to preventing panic from rearing its inconvenient head.

"Well, this was the outcome I was hoping for, at least, Darth Babbage," she shot back cheekily.  "Pretty much no chance that any of the hostages are going to get caught up in the crossfire now, right?"  She was clearly outnumbered and apparently outgunned -- time to see what she could do about that.

The single, bright-blue heroine abruptly became seven or eight of the same, crowding her end of the hallway and facing off against the Steampunk Menagerie.  With identical cocky grins, they all raised their hands in unison and unleashed a flood of incredibly brilliant light that filled the corridor from ceiling to floor, wall to wall, and enveloped the armoured goons and their antique leader.  Hah!  Take that!

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Eileen's reward was a chorus of surprise, anger and pain as the goggled soldiers, including the hulking armored brutes in spiked helmets, tried to shield their eyes or turn away faster than the speed of light. Miraculously, most of them were able to avoid the worst of the luminous fusillade, and scant seconds after the shouts began the soldiers, squinting through the glare at the multiplied girl, raised their weapons and replied with a hail of retro-futuristic gunfire!

Not a single shot hit the real Eileen, instead hissing and spitting into the bulkhead behind her with unfortunate but predictable results.

Sky Lord, growling and rubbing his eyes, was the first to notice the wall behind Cerulean was glowing red-hot under the barrage, and his decades of experience in the sky sent him charging down the hallway. His stentorian voice rose above the gunfire "Stop shooting, that's an order! Stop-!"

Then, with a muted groan and hiss, the thick square of metal simply flung away from the airship, and the pressurized artificial atmosphere followed it in a vortex of howling wind! The armored soldiers managed to anchor themselves in time, and the riflers grabbed hold of each other with the ease of frequent practice, their leader quickly using his flight harness to rocket to safety. But none of them were standing at the edge of the sudden abyss.

With a feeling like she'd been hit by a brick wall, Cerulean shot out of the hallway and into the open air, tumbling head-over-heels as her vision was alternately filled with the majestic and powerful Lady Aetheria and the sickening miles between her and the cheery orange-hued metropolis of New York. After the deafening cacophony in the metal halls of Sky Lord's vessel, the eerie silence of thin air was downright alien.

It hadn't started out like this. In fact, things had been going pretty well (if boring) just twenty minutes ago, on flight BOS-FCY 5TE...

Shortly before the falling and the shooting and the running...

"Excuse me, you mind if I sit here?"

The pale middle-aged man was thin, as was his salt-and-pepper mustache, his grey suit and his wry, apologetic smile. He gestured to where Eileen had vaguely noticed him before, where a long-suffering family had installed their blessedly-sleeping infant "I don't dare try and get my seat back, you see."

Edited by Ari

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Eileen had been distracted for much of the short flight not only by her nervousness towards flying, but also in trying to analyze why it didn't seem so bad when she was sitting in a comfortable chair but the mechanism was entirely out of her control, versus being overtly exposed to the dizzying drop below but being responsible for holding herself aloft.  She wasn't the sort of person that surrendered control easily when she didn't have to, and so it made little sense that she felt more comfortable with someone else flying her about.

And yet, this was the most relaxing airplane she'd ever been on, and she wondered why her neuroses weren't currently giving her fits.

The counter-distraction of her proposed seatmate pulled her out of her own thoughts, and with a glance back up the aisle her eyes widened and she gave an overdone shudder.

"No, sir, I don't blame you," she told him whole-heartedly.  "Of course, sit down," she urged him.  If it would keep that baby from starting up fussing again, she'd give up her own seat for the rest of the flight....

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Murmuring "Thank you" the aged man sat down with a sigh of relief, leaning his head and neck against the backrest. "Marc Niemand, minor government functionary," he introduced himself, pale eyes shut "wishing I was back in Freedom already. I've been wrangling with the mayor's office of Boston over a solid silver statue of the new Silversmith until I flinch every time I hear 'silverware'. It's going to be in a glass case, indoors, and finished in 2020. The woman it's celebrating has barely enough footage to make a guess at her face.They might as well not even have bothered."  Shaking his head wearily, the man opened one eye to regard Eileen. "If you ever become a superhero, please, for all our sakes make sure somebody knows what you look like."

Leaving the embrace of the airplane seat with a grimace, Marcus took out a generic notepad with a cardboard cover and began writing in it leisurely.

Outside her window, the plane broke through a cloud bank to reveal a stunning sight: a vast field like rolling plains of cotton balls or fluffy snow, the world below only visible in far-off snatches of sunny metropolis and field, and a blue sky that quickly darkened almost to black above the plane.

 

 

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There were numerous ways that Eileen wanted to reply to that oh-so-tempting opening, but she managed to restrain herself.

"Eileen Labatt, student," she introduced herself in return.  "Just making a trip to visit with my family during the summer break."  She'd never thought of a statue being made of her before, and the idea just seemed...silly.  Sure, she had some powers, but it wasn't like she was anyone important, right?  If everyone who could do something unusual and had a costume got a statue made of them, the countryside would look like there was a plague of Medusae on the loose.

The view outside her window caught her attention, and her nervousness about flying began to climb up out of the quiet background hum that it had been behaving itself with until now.  Was that...some kind of storm cloud?  Were they about to get into some rough weather?

"Holy cheese," she muttered to herself, craning her neck to try and get a better view.  When the sky went that kind of dark, she'd learned to expect hail, or something of the sort.  How well did a plane fly through a hailstorm, anyhow?

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"Strange," Marc murmured, glancing up from his notepad to see what Eileen was looking at "normally if it gets that dark, it's because there's less light to reflect off the atmosphere and hide space. But it's only..." he inspected the ratty analog watch on his wrist "...3.20, and storm clouds are too heavy to-"

With a blare of brassy music, the plane's annoucement system roared to life, a stern, commanding voice thundering over the radio ~"PASSENGERS OF FLIGHT 5TE! This is the voice of your captor, the voice of the Sky Lord!"~

On cue the children who had managed to fall asleep began to very loudly complain about their rude awakening, their screams and howls mingling with the shocked cries of the passengers on Eileen and Marc's side of the plane. Descending from the veil of darkness came a massive rigid airship at least twenty times the size of the passenger jet, its sleek surface a dull gunmetal ornamented with Art Deco silver lines and the gold wingéd crown of the airborne authority! From stem to stern the dirigible was crowded with very visible and very archaic-looking cannons, mounted small guns and what could only be described as a gothic ray-gun on the nose. On the downward slope something was written in spiraling white cursive letters forty feet across, though it was impossible to make out.

Marc went stiff with horror, staring at the gold crown insignia. The flight attendants were only slightly less paralyzed, and though they were doing the best they could to prevent a full-blown panic, their efforts were obviously doomed to failure.

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Eileen gaped out the window as the impossibly ostentatious, anachronistic airship made its melodramatic appearance, and was ashamed to admit to herself that her immediate, gut reaction was 'Cool!'  Considering what was happening, the whole situation was very not cool, but there was more than enough geek in her to admit that this Sky Lord certainly had balls to go with his sense of style.

Her wrists had actually crossed before she stopped herself, and she separated her arms quickly before her transformation could begin.  This...wasn't at all a good time to do so, despite the instincts screaming at her to do something!  For one, she was in the middle of a fairly small space full of people, and transforming in plain sight wasn't a good way of keeping people from finding out her secret identity.

For another, she was inside the airplane.  The zeppelin was outside the airplane.  She couldn't think of any way of getting from inside to outside while the plane was in flight without blowing a big hole in the side and likely killing everyone.

For yet another, yikes!  Outside was tens of thousands of feet in the air, and one of the last places she'd like to be, given an option.

So, for now, it looked like Eileen was going to have to deal with panicked civilians, rather than Cerulean with thumping bad guys.

Also yikes.

Pushing herself up out of her seat, she hauled herself to the aisle so she could stand and be seen, if people were inclined to look at her.  And she began to babble.

"Everybody!" she shouted out, pitching her voice over the rising hubub.  "Everything is going to be fine!" she called out brightly.  "There's no need to panic, not because one oversized gasbag comes riding in on another oversized gasbag, spouting threats!  We're over New York City, there's like, a bazillion heroes down there that are going to come and save us in no time!"  Sucking in a quick breath, she began listing viable heroes who were associated with NYC in an attempt to keep people off-balance enough that they were paying attention to her, rather than the immediate situation.

"There's Metro Champion, and the Antagonizer, not to mention the Star Family and their Cosmic Hound, and don't forget about Skipjack!  Plus, we're not all that far, really, from Freedom City, so there's Dragonfly, and Harrier, and Miss Americana, and..."

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Whether because she was telling them something they all wanted to believe anyway, the idea of being rescued by the famous superheroes native to the metropolis below, or just because of her winning personality, Eileen's words had a rapid effect. The swelling terror was nipped in the bud, and the reassurance that, against all the signs to the contrary, everything was going to be all right, the other passengers were more or less settled down only a few minutes after the pitch of fear had started.

Remorselessly, the voice continued over the wails of fear and confusion that were mostly just coming from the children ~"Your captain will now fly you into the cargo hull of my craft, The Lady Aetheria. You will disembark in an orderly fashion and be interred by my command. Resistance will be punished, but cooperate and you are in no danger. I have no intention to make a habit of threatening innocents! Sky Lord out!"~ With another clashing crescendo of music, the transmission cut out, even as the plane began to turn to follow the airship. As they swung downwards, Eileen was able to decipher the letters: "Most Potent and Elegant Empress of the Skies, The Lady Aetheria".

Approaching the airship from the rear, the captain's voice crackled over the intercom, quiet and sad ~"I...this is your captain, Michelle Rogers. I'm sorry. He had us in his sights since 3 o'clock and took over the plane somehow. We couldn't even tell you until now. Be safe, people, there's nothing we can do, don't try and be a hero."~ A cavernous door cycled open, engulfing the plane and revealing the warehouse-like room inside. ~"See you outside."~

The door cycled shut with a thunderous BOOM. Almost instantly afterwards, the plane shuddered as it touched down, rolling to a gentle halt less than halfway through the cargo bay. The plane's doors were opened with a hiss of equalizing air pressure. Then the soldiers filed in, gas-masked and helmeted, with long coats, ushering people out. There was no pulling or threats, but the guns in their hands and the insistence of their gestures brooked no argument. Crying children were unceremoniously given a puff of green gas that sent them instantly to sleep, and one by row by row of seats was emptied and marched through the emergency exits, The air marshal was politely but firmly disarmed. Outside, the bay was filling with soldiers, and on a shelf above the plane several large guns were slid into place, pointing down at the passenger jet in a businesslike manner.

With a faint thump, the soldier for Elieen and Marc's row arrived. They pointed very distinctly at the pair, and then at the opened doors. Their other hand held what looked like an old automatic handgun, but something about the construction was off for a gunpowder-and-bullet system. The magazine glowed a faint blue, for one thing.

Marc got to his feet with remarkable calm and grace considering his earlier horror. After a moment's silent communication about his luggage across the aisle, the soldier nodded and let him retrieve it.

That left them facing Eileen. The free hand jerked again at the opened door.

 

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Eileen had sank back into her seat with a shaky sigh and a sweat-beaded brow as the rising levels of panic in the cabin subsided instead to tense but manageable worry.  Just goes to show, if you talk fast enough you can sell people on just about anything.  She desperately hoped that yes, there would be a posse of heroes coming to rescue everyone, but she also knew they were quite a distance in the air, and unless someone's radar picked up the suspiciously large airship and called in the cavalry, odds were that nobody groundside knew what was going on.

Which meant that it -- gulp -- might just be up to her, once she got herself into a position where she could take action without risking everything.  And, well, even that was risky in its own right, because there was no way she could keep the airship from crashing if she broke it too much, and she wasn't sure she could crowd everyone onto a hard light platform, even if she could get them all into one place.

She would definitely have to play this one by ear, and decide whether or not it was worth the danger of trying to fight back.

She needed more information.

And so, when it came to her turn to be ushered off the plane, she smiled up at the guard in geeky enthusiasm.

"Awesome outfits," she told him approvingly as she got to her feet again, ducking to avoid cracking her head on the overhead compartments.  "It's way cool that you guys get to use steampunk in your work uniforms, amirite?" she added with a grin, seeing if she could elicit a response from the otherwise-silent goons.

Left behind in her seat, tucked down in between the seat cushions as well as she could make it go, was all of her ID.  If possible, she didn't want them to be able to tell exactly who she was, should she need to bust out of here later....

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The soldier fell in behind Eileen  "Niece tells me it's 'dieselpunk'," their voice didn't sound muffled, cutting through the chilling air like an unusually clear phonograph recording "but I haven't had the chance to use the internet in about five years, so I wouldn't know." Somehow, the crisp, meticulous sound failed to capture the voice's depth or accent. It was like the kind of voice that's easier to capture in your head than in reality with throats and tongues and lungs. A bloodless voice.

Outside the plane, the passengers were divided into two roughly equal groups and surrounded by square walls of the masked and coated servants of the Sky Lord, in staggered ranks three deep. Through its metal segmented surface a faint tingling could be felt, the only sign of the massive engines propelling the ship. The square Eileen was led into also held Marcus, who was carrying a small suitcase and looked almost at ease, smiling encouragingly at the teenager. "I estimate we'll be released soon," he said over the low hum of nervous conversation around the pair, smoothing his thin mustache "Sky Lord values his image highly, and holding people hostage for long works against any cause."

"GUESTS! YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE!"

The white-haired man with the severe, sturdy face and immaculate blue military uniform had appeared seemingly from nowhere, standing on a catwalk section that was lowering from the ceiling, his right arm folded behind him and the other carrying a small brass megaphone. On either side of him stood a towering hulk of metal shaped generally like the soldiers surrounding the hapless passengers. Noting that all eyes were on him, the man cleared his throat and addressed the crowd without the tool. He sounded like he looked, old but energetic and with a steely edge to his Freedonian 'Jersey accent.

"I regret that this was necessary, citizens and guests of the United States of America, but believe me when I say it was necessary." Landing on the 'ground' level with a soft clang, the man approached the squares of prisoners, his right hand carrying a slim but ornate sceptre that supported him as he walked. Eileen and Marcus were on the outskirts of the clustered passengers, and she saw his cold green eyes pass methodically over the faces of the captives, lingering with a slight wince on the sleeping children. Lumbering beside him, the hulking suits of armor let off occasional puffs of a clear gas that smelled strongly of antiseptic, their echoing, crushing footfalls drowning out the faint tremour of the engines.

"As you have likely already guessed...I am the Sky Lord, ruler of the atmosphere, formerly Mortimer Lawson before I realized my destiny. Without your knowledge, enemies of this free...no, half-free nation, have used your presence as an attempted shield. They intended to prevent my taking them by stealth or force, so I was forced to do this instead." He looked again around at the passengers "Captain Rogers!"

A thin woman wearing a white captain's uniform broke from the pressing crowd, "Yes! I'm here!"

Sky Lord nodded "Thank you, for your cooperation. Your passengers will be taken to the cells on the starboard side of the Lady Aetheria, besides the following who were traveling under pseudonyms:" putting on a pair of spectacles taken from his breast pocket, he tapped a button on his sceptre, causing a holographic display to light up showing a list of names which he began to read off. The people led or marched before him varied enormously, but as each name was called Marc's face lost first its smile and then its colour, until "Nelson Manderley, alias Marcus Niemand!" resounded through the air. He didn't say anything, and let himself be hauled out of the crowd and lined up with the rest.

Regarding the huddle of men and women in suits with cold disdain, Sky Lord announced "Now, to make sure nobody tries anything foolish...squad five, stun lamps!"

As one, the soldiers of the Sky Lord stepped back, even as the tiles beneath the prisoners became transparent, revealing a massive, complex machine underneath! A machine that lit up in a blaze of red light that slammed upwards among a din of confused cries as the people around Eileen rapidly lost consciousness!

Edited by Ari

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Eileen slowly came to, and her head felt fuzzy for far too long, considering the circumstances.  She found herself in comfortable little cell, complete with sleeping and sanitary arrangements, water and apparently food service, computer, gun turret, and no way out.  Given the layout and amenities, she abruptly felt like a hamster in a cage...and didn't much like it.

"Oooof, knocked out by freaky bright lights?  Awkward," she muttered to herself, more than a little put out by the fact that she'd been laid low under her own ballywick.  Apparently whatever it was that restricted her from using her powers until 'activated' didn't even leave useful stuff like her ability to absorb excess light accessable

Totally unfair.

Well, she definitely wasn't going to just sit around and see what happened, of course, but she had to be careful before she tried anything.  Taking her time, she went over small cell rather thoroughly, looking for any signs there was a camera concealed somewhere.  Given that there was a gun in the ceiling, she imagined that there was likely a way of keeping an eye on the hostages as well....

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The quick search turned up a number of audio receivers, including an especially bulky one hidden in the air vent under the bed. Small microphones were tucked into the corners of the bedding area and under the monitor of the internet console, but nothing could be found that looked like it was keeping an electronic eye on the cell. On closer inspection, even seemingly mundane objects in the room had some hidden function. The mattress, for example, was attached to a vacuum/air-flow system that seemed to branch off into the rest of the ship.

After the hustle, chaos and tension from earlier, things in the cell were pretty sedate. It was downright startling when somebody knocked on and spoke through Eileen's cell door.

"Hey! Prisoner, you awake? There's food if you want it. Just shepard's pie or spaghetti today, cook got sulky again."

There was a faint thrumming outside, and the clink of porcelain.

 

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Well.  Being spied upon audibly wasn't great, but it was a fair sight better than there being cameras in the cells as well.  The air exchange system built into the bed wasn't comforting -- clearly, they were taking into account the possible need to gas their hostages again.

Sitting on said boobytrapped bed, she pondered as to what might be the best way to go about doing things.  It was a given that she wasn't going to just sit around and wait for rescue to arrive, or for something to go catastrophically wrong and ending up with people getting hurt.  Which meant, of course, that she herself was going to have to be careful not to do anything precipitous like, say, blow the ship out of the sky.

First things first, she'd have to get out of this cozy little deathtrap.  She--

...managed not to squeak, quite, when her ruminating was interrupted by knock and voice at the door.  Apparently, there was food service on this flight.

Thinking quickly, she shushed the empty room with a hissing exhalation and shifted a bit on the bed before answering.

"Uh, yeah, I'm awake," she replied, her voice high and a little nervous.  "Um, shepard's pie?" she called out dubiously.  Worst of all, she really was hungry, but she wasn't planning on eating any of this food.  This was more in the way of seeing more about how the whole cell system worked, and possibly getting her hands on something useful in the process.

The plan, as far as she had figured it out so far, was to give the unseen listeners a few tidbits that suggested she wasn't actually alone in the cell, that she was being rescued and there was a secret way out of the cell, and then she'd blow herself a hole out and go cause a ruckus.

If nothing else, she should be able to be overt enough that she might attract just the sort of rescue attention that everyone needed....

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"Alright, just a sec, gotta heat it up a bit..."

Something tingled in the air, and with a rattle of crockery the meal-door opened into the cell, letting a ramp carry gently down a plate of steaming potatoes, vegetables and a hearty slice of aromatic mutton. As the meal came to rest on the shelf at the ramp's end a chair flipped up to meet it and the door clicked shut.

"Wait, hold on"

The door slid open again, admitting a napkin-bundled set of cutlery.

"Guessing you already know water's next to the bed, my cart's got some flavoring for the food or drink if you don't like mutton. Any questions? Anything you want me to tell another prisoner?" From the sound of their voice, the soldier on the other side of the door had been at this for a while, and the words were rapid and almost mechanical.

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Well.  At least this Sky Lord seemed to be enough of an anachronism that he was taking his host duties seriously, regardless of whether or not they were all involuntary prisoners.  The food smelled amazing, and her stomach gave out an embarrassing gurgle.

"Um, thanks," she called back, sounding a little nervous.  "No, I'm good, no messages for anybody."  Go away, go away, time was wasting.  If she was going to do this, she wanted to get started, and knowing there was a guard out there dispensing food was a good thing -- better than not knowing whether or not anyone was there at all.  She could take him into account, when she busted out of here.  And given that he was obviously bored with his routine, he wouldn't be ready to leap into action.

Well, since there were no cameras, and the food slot wasn't going to be opening again soon, it was probably as good a time as any to get into character.  Pushing back her shirt sleeves, she crossed her wrists and pressed the sigils together, starting the luminous transformation into Cerulean.  One...two...three...four....

The light grew too intense for her to see, and on the sixth heartbeat it crested, then faded away, leaving her transformed.  No longer a helpless prisoner, but a powerful and trouble-causing superhero.

Now, considering the humane treatment of the prisoners, it seemed pretty unlikely that the Sky Lord was the sort to just kill them all, should things go wrong.  So, all she had to do was convince him and his men that things had, indeed, gone all too wrong.

"How did you get in here?" she hissed in a high, nervous voice.

"Just one of the many powers a hero has in their arsenal, miss," she replied to herself in a voice that was low, but as confident sounding as she could manage under the circumstances.  "In fact, I'll be getting you out the same way, and you'll be joining the rest of the rescue force."

"I am?" she squeaked in a muffled voice, beginning to feel just a bit silly with the radio play she was putting on here, but it was the best way she could think of to try and preserve her identity.  Plus, possibly make whoever was monitoring the cell audio believe there were other heroes aboard.

"Yes, you are," she replied with wry, tolerant amusement.  "Just relax, and breathe normally."

"Wait -- what are you going to be doing?" she breathed nervously.

She chuckled softly.  "I'll be focusing all eyes on me, so nobody goes looking anywhere else.  Now, here you go."  She paused for a few long seconds, counting silently to herself.

"All right," she muttered, squaring off against the door, hovering a few inches off the floor.  "And here I go."

Raising her hands, she unleashed a rapid-fire barrage of light bolts at the door, looking to either blow it off its hinges, or just shatter it entirely...if she was lucky.  She hoped she was lucky, today....

Edited by Mad Scientist

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For an instant, the door held. Another and it had burst out into the hallway, leaving a red-hot hole in the wall and shards of hissing metal embedded in the opposite wall. The meal was evaporated.

As the echoes of the explosion died away, a new sound began: the long, mournful wail of an emergency siren, digitized and seeming to come from every direction! A voice rang out, sounding like a 1940's radio announcer "Alert, alert! All troops to stations! Cell breach in arch A09, superhuman presence suspected! Pilots to gyro-Gryphons! Alert, alert!"

Down the hallway, the soldier who had given Eileen the food swung around at the explosion of noise. Seeing the living lantern surrounded by her blue nimbus and the hole in the wall of her cell they leaped into action, lunging over to a small red lever and yanking it down like their life depended on it. Another claxon clanged to life even as the soldier dashed madly around the corner and out of sight, their footsteps receding even as others both heavier and more numerous drew nearer.

All along the ceiling, mounted guns swung down, quickly turning to get a lock on Cerulean as soldiers in the hefty powered armor burst into view, their deceptively primitive weapons crackling to life.

"Intruder spotted! Commencing capture!"

Now...

After the raucous, metallic din of the airship, the upper troposphere was a peaceful, if stomach-turning, change. The wind whistled softly past Eileen's ears as she tumbled towards the distant clouds, the fragments of the wall already vanishing into the gentle white cover. New York City lay below her like some abstract painting poking through gaps in the cotton wool of the lower atmosphere.

Far above, small buzzing things darted from the sides of the Lady Aetheria, rapidly swinging down to intercept the young light controller. It was hard to make them out in the fading light, but something about their approach and shape whispered 'danger'.

There wasn't any flitting silhouette of Elite's Ex-Jet(it was shaped more like an 'E', but that was beside the point), a silver flash of the Star-Car or the red-gold streak of Metro Champion. Incredible though it seemed, the massive airship had remained totally undetected, and Cerulean the only one around the power to do something about that.

 

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Well.  First things first, do not panic over the ridiculous amount of open air between feet and ground.  Ignore the fact that it's several miles, and get down to business.  Right?  Okay!

With her first call for help disappearing into the clouds below her -- and she hoped that the debris from the wall wouldn't hurt anyone when it crashed into New York City -- Cerulean first stopped her fall, then reversed course and headed back toward the giant airship and its tiny, buzzing fighters.  While by far the easiest thing to do would be to simply wreck the airship and send it crashing, crippled, to the ground, it was also by far the least safe thing she could do, for the hostages, the people of New York, and yes, the dieselpunks currently crewing the ship.  They were committing criminal acts, but that wasn't any call for what could be a death sentence.

Splitting off her light-generated decoys to make it more difficult for anyone to target her in particular, she gathered herself for something that she'd never tried on this scale before.  Arcing around to what seemed to be the prow of the airship, keeping an eye on the little buzzing attackers, she drew the vast well of Light that seethed within her into a tight ball, then let the radiance burst out from her in all directions, turning herself into a brilliant, shining beacon that would sear the eye of anyone who looked at her.

If she could render a portion of her opposition unable to see, including those who were piloting the airship, perhaps she'd have a chance of convincing them that this whole thing was going to be more trouble than it was worth....

 

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Inside the Lady Aetheria's navigation chamber, its pilot stumbled away from the viewing equipment, clutching their masked face and groping for the heavy-duty goggles hanging beside them. After a moment's struggle, they fastened them overtop their already

From the outside, the dirigible listed noticeably, no longer on the swing that would have brought its guns to bear. A precious bit of time on Cerulean's side.

Meanwhile, the specks had grown quickly as Eileen had flown closer to their mothership, revealing themselves to be golden-hued craft the size of fighter jets, but with no visible engines and with hulls ornamented to resemble mythical griffins. Their wings in feather-like segments ablur and roaring with the incredible speed at which they vibrated, the squadron tore through the sky towards the blue-blazing heroine.

Diving into an attack, the leading ships let loose crackling lances of electricity from the open beaks on their noses, but the bolts failed to hit Cerulean. The closer stabbed through one of the illusory images, barely near enough for the real article to feel the heat and smell the stink of ozone. The pair of bizarre ornithopters howled past Eileen and began the slow work of turning back, while the rest of the squadron droned rapidly closer!

 

Edited by Ari

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Yikes!  That felt like it was more than a little bit close, and noting the clockwork flappy birds had to make attack runs much like any other aircraft would, Cerulean decided to start using the terrain that was available to her.  And considering they were thousands of feet in the air (and man, that air was cold, especially when your heroic outfit had the 'benefit' of full sensory transmission), terrain consisted of the massive airship.

Leaving a glowing net of contrails behind her, the brilliant blue heroine and her decoys flitted up close against the mass of the immense dirigible.  A rumbling thunder vibrated in her belly as she approached one of the massive encased propellers that directed the Lady Aetheria's passage through the heavens, and with a careful approach to stay out of the windstream, she landed upon the protective coping and turned to face the gryphons.

Try and get a decent shot on her now, boyos!

Well, they tried.

The four still in position began an attack run at her, and she took the opportunity to use her sniper beam on one of them.  She'd been tempted to call it 'Looks Can Kill', but she wasn't really comfortable with the idea of killing people anyway, and so the beams that shot with incredible range and unerring accuracy from her eyes merely caused some structural damage and likely some consternation from the pilot as controls overloaded inside his cockpit.

The remaining three continued in on their attack run, however, and in concert launched what looked like crackling nets composed of pure electricity at her.  One went wide, but the other pair slammed into her, despite many tasty decoys to target instead.  Electricity crackled painfully over her, and she yelped in a most undignified manner, but the thought of falling off and getting sucked through the churning props gave her enough adrenaline to stay on her feet.  What a way to go!

The first two gryphons made new attack runs as the other three peeled off, but her choice of terrain paid off as one had to break off its attack early to avoid running into a support stay of some sort, and the other didn't manage to avoid it, clipping a wing and spinning to crash into the side of the dirigible with stunning force!  The massive airship itself seemed little worse for wear, but the flier was clearly damaged beyond simple repairs.

The first gryphon she'd blasted was just now beginning to come back on heading, and so it was the same trio that had nailed her before that began another attack run again.  This time, however, she had a moment to prepare, and as they approached a brilliant ball of light was forming between her hands.

And before they got into optimal attack range on their end, she unleashed her Big Gun on them -- the Kamehameha.  An incredibly intense bar of blue light, fully twenty five feet across and over five hundred feet long, lanced out to catch all three fliers within its cornea.  The lead gryphon came apart entirely, the pilot ejecting in time to descend earthward under the slowing effect of a pair of madly spinning back-mounted gyroprops.  The next in line appeared to have been partially shielded by the first, but the third lost bits and pieces of its bird as it was hammered spinning back through the air by the titanic blast.

And that damnable gryphon that was still coming tagged her with another of those electrical nets, this one managing to wrap around her face as well!  She felt like her eyeballs were being fried, but she gritted her teeth and pushed through the pain -- the alternative was far worse than coping with it.

She speared another with her eye beams, and was hit in return with something new, a focused blast of intense winds that threatened to rip her right off her perch upon the prop housing!  Her feet skidded across the polished metal, but she managed to retain her footing.

She returned fire with another massive, brilliant blast -- that, hopefully, might be visible from the ground far below, especially if people are looking up to see where the debris of shattered attack gryphons is falling from -- and scattered two of the three attacking birds again.  The third took more damage, mechanical wing struts cracking, but it came on, a direct attack run.  And kept coming.  And coming.  Until, too late, Cerulean realized that it wasn't trying for a close shot, but was going to try to smear her against the side of the airship in some sort of kamikaze run!

Her attempt to dodge came too late, and she was *wuffed* off her feet with a bruising impact.  She managed to put enough elevation in her aborted motion to continue rolling up up the front of the cockpit rather than being wrapped around the beak like a hood ornament -- action heroes, eat your heart out -- and then all was noise and battering and debris as they crashed bodily through the support wall and smashed into the interior of the airship itself!

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GM

By some miracle, the briefly-polarized ornithopter and its charged passenger avoided smashing into one of the hundreds of support beams or armor plates criss-crossing the Lady Aetheria and instead blasted through a gap, the Gyro-Gryphon losing its vibrating wngs to the super-hardened flex-beams on either side and launching like some avian-themed javelin into the interior, ploughing past frozen figures in uniforms and blank masks sitting or standing before banks of viewscreens, screens that frequently burst in showers of sparks as the vehicle and its two passengers roared past! Behind them, a segmented wall fell into place over the hole they'd made, sealing the gap via pressure difference.

At last, with a final crash that seemed to rattle the teeth from Cerulean's head, the plane smashed to a halt. As an afterthought, the pilot's seat ejected in front of the young superheroine, throwing its pilot face-first into the wall, which they rebounded from with a startled grunt and a quick loss of consciousness. 

Surrounding the girl, her erstwhile carrier and unwitting chauffeur, towered what could only be the command-center of the Sky Lord's ship. It was shaped roughly like a conning tower, a column of information-gathering and remarkably advanced sensory readouts staffed by a large number of officers, many of whom now crowded the upper catwalks, shouting and pointing in amazement at their returned guest. None of them looked well armed, and those on her level were already moving very quickly away to cover or passageways leading deeper into the ship.

"Call for backup! Inform Sky Lord!" shouted one of the more enterprising officers, breaking from the herd in a mad dash for a vivid red device shaped like an ancient telephone mounted on the wall. As if on cue, others began to follow her example, and almost before quiet had set in the familiar ruckus seemed ready for another round.

"Surrender, superhero!" another yelled(from the back of the crowd) "we have your corrupt officials captive, and if you dare continue our leader will-!" the officers melted like snow, quickl revealing the speaker, who fumbled awkwardly, glancing left and right in vain hope of support "...will p-punish the...passengers?"

Edited by Ari

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Cerulean was battered, bruised, and frankly more than a little surprised that it hadn't been worse than that, all things considered -- hard light force fields for the win!  Hauling herself up off the nose of the crashed gyrogryphon, she completed the motion by rising a few feet into the air, taking in the scene about her.

Yes, she was surrounded by many of the Sky Lord's troops.

On the other hand, these were likely roughly the equivalent of regular Navy, rather than the aviators and marines she'd been wrestling with for the past few minutes.  You wouldn't want to be in front of their ship-mounted weapons, but face to face?

She noted that her decoys had lapsed at some point in the past few very busy moments, and made a mental note to do something about that, but her attention was on something that Expendable Extra: Crewman #3 had said.  'Corrupt officials'?  Had there been people of import on that flight, rather than just your everyday cross-country commuters?

"If your leader punishes any passengers, he's going to forfeit any leniency that anyone more generous than me might be willing to offer him," she replied, her voice a a little high in her excitement.  "Gosh, all this attention, and fixed right on me?" she added, almost coquettishly, realizing the opportunity that had presented itself.

And went Nova.

Brilliant blue light burst out from her, radiating in all directions and washing over the multitude of faces staring at her, aghast.  She brought up her decoys, splitting off into a multitude of versions that, with luck, not many people could even see at the moment.  Still glowing like a small star, she looked about the room and tried to figure out the best way to go from here.  She was sure as hell making things up as she went along, but her improvising hadn't seemed to have caused any disasters as of yet....

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GM

The excited shouts quickly gave way to resounding cries of suprise and pain, the featureless masks obviously not enough to protect the command staff from such a brilliant assault on the senses.

The formerly dim room now ablaze with sapphire light, Cerulean's eyes quickly found a formidable(though very open) door with a harshly military sign next to it that tersely explained "Security Centre". Some of the officers had been moving towards it, but all unlucky enough to have their eyes open were forced to exert every effort defending themselves from the sunlike superhero, dropping to the ground or pressing against the walls, putting every possible obstacle between their eyes and her light.

Among the mass of viewscreens, dials and gauges, one picture grabbed attention, both in its size and content.

In some large room elsewhere on the Lady Aetheria, Sky Lord was walking up and down before the people selectively taken from the passenger list, all of whom were bound to a large, ominous-looking machine that attached by cumbersome tubes to the prisoners' heads. The airy archvillain was obviously shouting, gesticulating, haraunging his helpless victims while coated and masked technicians worked a wall full of levers and switches and dials, bringing what looked from various read-outs like some chaotic energy to heel!

Surrounding the dais holding their lord and his victims was a whole squad of the heavy soldiers Eileen had spent so much time running from, and the angle was not nearly enough to see all their number.

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