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This Concludes Our Broadcast Day [IC]

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Williams Street

Friday, July 10th, 2015

9:32 PM

Friday nights were far from quiet in Freedom City, but this one was at least the kind of buzz that many were used to. The streets below were bustling, and while Liberty Park itself was fairly empty, there were still the occasional couples strolling across the lamplit paths, as well as those who'd decided to seek some shelter from the summer humidity by the cool of the lake. 

Cannonade was happy to take to the rooftops tonight. Things were going well at work, classes at night school were going okay, and he hadn't had anything horrible to deal with on the streets lately. There'd been the occasional bit of street crime, but things had mostly been on the level. In all honesty, he was starting to feel a little bit restless. He was waiting for something to happen - either to break the boredom, or to thrust him back into potential unpleasantness.

When it came, it came fast. For Harrier, it was a burst over his in-suit radio - discordant, shrieking static that almost sounded like screams. For Oracle, it was a sharp sensation of the darker side of human thought, black as night and curdled as old milk. And for Cannonade, it came when he saw a young woman open a fifth-story window, step out onto the sill, and prepare to jump...

Edited by trollthumper

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Caradoc had to pause for a moment and figure out if he was actually hearing screams on his radio or if he was simply overhearing the usual terrified screaming for mercy that often crept up in the back of his mind. When he figured out what he had heard, though, he turned and wooshed through the air after the source of danger. When he saw the woman on the ledge, he took immediate action, flying close enough to speak to her without flying so close he might intimidate her into jumping. He had plenty of training in this area. And she jumped, and he caught her and dragged her screaming to the doomforges. Pushing those thoughts aside too, he floated in the air, using his implanted microphone to speak so as to avoid the voice that came when he spoke through his armor - the voice that would be of no help now. 

"Hello," he said. "What are you doing out here?" he asked frankly. 

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Click, click, click.... Polished dress shoes tapped out a soft rhythm on concrete.

Zephyr strode away from the calmness of the lake shore, her book sliding into her backpack. Summertime, and her home's AC was on the fritz. She had predicted that the fuse on the ancient device would go out, and her parents had reacted with their usual level of apprehension - considering her uncanny accuracy other times. But in this case, it hadn't been a premonition. Although her home was lovely, it had an ancient wiring system and still used conventional screw-in fuses. That lovely archaic technology, left to them by her great-grandmother, along with the house itself and the ring she wore... was the reason she was at the lake rather than her stifling upstairs room at the old house. The wiring had never been intended for central air. At least it was a fuse and not the wiring itself.

Click, click, click... The sound was barely audible against the city's noise.

Finally, the sun had set, and the still air was cooling as she began walking towards the park exit. The hustle and hum of city life echoed on another level with the young psychic, a background of softly dissonant thoughts merging like a buzzing of a beehive, a white noise that she was used to. Although she was as aware of the minds around her as she was the physical presence, sometimes the former gave her more insight than the latter,

Click, cli...

She stopped mid step, lavender eyes widening in shock. Her long raven hair and summer dress swirled in a breeze that no one else was affected by, and a visible shudder of revulsion ran through the young girl's form. Like ripples from a pond, a twisted wave of toxic emotions passed her by. She senses the effect it has on people around her, and uses that, crudely triangulating from the minds around her that are affected and their distance from her - a distance the powerful psychic measured in *miles*. Steeling her will, she vanishes in a column of crackling yellow and black light. She teleported towards the center of the disturbance, leaving a series of saffron flashes in her wake, recalculating her math with each jump.

But what will she find?

Edited by shojikitsune
Tense and flow.

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Cannonade was edging forward, trying to stay out of sight - this wasn't his first time dealing with a jumper, and he knew pushing forward could easily cause her to lose balance. But, before he could reach her, Caradoc took the lead, speaking to her. The shrieking was still there, as low and unnerving as before - but now, he could swear he heard dirge-like notes piping through it. 

"There's... something in there," she said, trying to maintain her grip - both on the ledge and, as it sounded, her wits. "Something on... the boards. Something in... it tried to get in, and I think it's there, but... it wants me to... wants us to... oh God, they're in there..."

Oracle, meanwhile, found herself in the lobby of the building. The security desk looked like whoever had been behind it had cleared out in a hurry - chairs knocked over, papers scattered on the floor. Something was playing over the PA system - it sounded like the scratch of a needle hitting the end of a record. Upstairs... there was a storm. Despair, rage, grief, and the brief, stabbing sensations that indicated blood might soon be spilled...

 

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"Come to me," Caradoc assured her, "and I will carry you from this." He knew he was fast enough to catch her on the way down - but the still-shuddering memories in the back of his mind meant that was the final option in his mind. Plus, lacking the fine control of Miss Americana or other flying people, he knew there was another risk; that he would grab her ankle so hard that stopping her broke the bones in her leg. "Whatever is in there, you will be safe from it - and it will be defeated." The last was a promise, even if he didn't know the answers yet. He considered radioing Miss Americana for help, but he knew Gina was out of state - by the time she could get the robot over here, the woman would already have jumped. He spread his arms, ready to catch her while deflecting her body weight from the many spikes in various places in his armor - spikes rendered invisible by his holographic disguise.

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Zephyr targets the negativity she felt. With a deep breath, the psychic began to radiate love, like that she felt for her parents. It's a warm, gentle sensation, designed to blunt all other forms of emotional manipulation. From the outside, the entire building and a radius equal to its height was suddenly blanketed in a softly glowing amber dome. There was no resistance to the dome, and it had no affect on the nonliving. Living things, however, found the warmth and compassion a parent feels for their child radiating through them.Nothing hampers people from passing in or out of the dome either, it's not a force field or barrier. An upset dog that was barking quieted and sat with its head tilted as if merely curious. A baby stopped crying. And a teenage couple on the side street who had arguing suddenly stopped and are staring at each other and blushing furiously.

Oracle knew fear, loss, anger, and despair, and she knew how to counter them. She will push her powers to encompass a radius matching the height of the building, in case there are people nearby who were affected. The warm emotions she projected won't cause any harm to anyone who wasn't affected, but could save the lives of those who were, While she radiated love and peace, she searched the office for the source of the scratching noise that was coming over the PA. If there was indeed a record player or other device, than the record itself may well be a clue. Once she has whatever caused the disturbance disconnected from the PA, she used the PA system herself to compliment her wave of compassionate love. She keeps her voice calm, reasonable, quiet but firm. The last thing these people needed were more loud shocks to their system, but they were more likely to listen if they calmed down even a little.

"This is Oracle. Your emotions have been toyed with. What you have been feeling is not genuine. Focus on my voice. Cast aside negative emotions like hate and fear, and think of a cherished memory. Draw strength from that image, whomever and whatever it may be, whether a person, a place, a thing, or an ideal. Things should return to normal very soon."

She readied her phone to call one of the instructors at Clairemont, since this job may be too big to handle on her own. She sensed two rather resolute minds nearby. Heroes on patrol approaching heroically. It made her feel even happier knowing that she wasn't trying to fix this alone.

Edited by shojikitsune

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The woman walked into Caradoc's arms and clung to him, weeping and struggling. He was able to set her down on a distant roof; when her feet touched the surface, she inched forward, but then retreated from the edge, lying down right in the center. It appeared she didn't trust herself around heights. 

Cannonade, meanwhile, saw it all happen. He'd been able to hear a thing or two from the distance - especially the bit about "something" in there. As he moved forward, he saw somebody go racing by in the window, as if chased. He moved faster, leaping through the open window into the hallway, He turned to look at where the person had run from, searching for a pursuer - but found no one. He heard a scream behind him - the target was clawing at a locked wooden door, screaming senselessly. What the hell is going on here?

As Caradoc flew back and Cannonade entered the halls, both could feel a sense of calm sweeping over them. Oracle extended her senses, trying to mitigate whatever was gripping the employees. But as she did, she felt a push - no, more a sense of inertia. Whatever was driving these people to madness wasn't quick to give up...

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Caradoc took only a moment to take in the situation before he made his decision. An outside observer would have seen him twist and adjust the hilt of his massive, over-sized blade; but of course the reality was that Harrier was overcharging the emitters at the tip of his power pike. This would mean overheating the staff and mandating a cooldown; but to end the threat in this place it would be well worth it. He was familiar with the idea of mechanical mind control; of electronic devices that with their energies could master the very human soul. He turned and jabbed his pike into the wall, driving it deep, so that his blade penetrated the electrical wiring inside the building. He twisted the shaft of his weapon and plunged a bolt of energy directly into the interior of the wall, the room, the entire structure.

The key is to apply enough pressure to silence the voices of machines without burying the occupants in broken glass and plastic. All across the small office tower, electronic devices connected to the walls jerked and guttered, sparks flying across their screens as they burned out, while the ambient radiation was such that even cellphones flickered and buzzed as their signals were cut. He kept up the pressure, listening to the small eruptions he could hear nearby, before stepping back into a room left half-darkened by the smoldering remains of the fluorescent bulbs that had once been overhead. He wiped the fragments of broken glass that had fallen on his armored body clean, glad that the damage had been no worse than that. And much less even in other rooms.  

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Oracle moves to the main stairs, and begins to help those she can individually, She moves calmly amid the chaos, up a level towards the darkest sensations.  She's never encountered such resistance before, and seeks to overwhelm the negativity with as much cheerfulness as she can project. she won't be defeated by some static 'thing' regardless of how powerful it seems.With a deep breath, she expands her emotions again, seeking to blanket the area with calming, positive feelings.

And all the lights explode, the elevators short out and the hallway is plunged into an ozone-scented chaos, leaving the young psychic with an absurdly shocked look on her face.

"What is this, Akira?" she sputters rather angrily. Somehow, she maintains the second pulse of emotion while wondering if perhaps there was really something wrong with her powers. "Never-mind, there's a mystery to all this, and that just heightens it."

She abandons attempts to use the elevators and sticks to the stairs, hoping that she can finally get through to the residents without the now likely useless PA system. As long as the electrical overload didn't cause any fires or otherwise injure anyone, in case she now has to deal with those.

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Harrier could feel his influence run through the machines, subtly disrupting circuits and quelling speakers without making them explore in showers of sparks, plastic, glass, and wiring. Oracle, meanwhile, could feel the thing pushing at her mind start to quake and tremble, as if trying to exert force outward but having it driven inward. Her influence caused the other force to buckle and, eventually, break. Between the two of them, a sense of calm overcame the building once more... if a shaky one. 

Upstairs, Cannonade watched as the man scratching at the locked door slowly calmed down, then looked at his hands as if he wasn't entirely sure how he'd gotten to this place. He turned around to see Cannonade looming over him and backed into the door with a gasp. "Hey, it's okay," he said. "I'm not part of the creepy stuff. I'm here to help. Where are your coworkers? They need any help?"

"I... I don't remember," said the man. "There was Jenny, Lucas, Omar... we were all on the sound boards when it... we shut the broadcast down when we heard it, but... where are they? Is it just us? What happened?"

"I'm trying to figure that out myself."

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Oracle teleports from landing to landing, skipping a few flights in the gloom of the partially lit stairs. Soon, she should be exiting into the hallway where she sensed the minds unaffected by the weirdness.

Of course, she had no idea she would see a pair of super heroes, both older than her, but she knew *someone* had been trying to help. She can also see the damage to the electrical systems is stronger here, which comforts her considerably, given the timing of the power surge coinciding with her empathic projection. And the freaked out fellow sitting by one of the doors, one of the many minds affected strongly.

"Well, this is another fine mess," she comments glibly as she walks forward, still radiating the light that made everyone calm.

Oracle walked to the man, kneeling down and checking him for injuries. A young girl in summer clothes was likely far easier to take in than heroes in armor and costume - even if she was glowing and radiating peace. "What in the world is going on here? Everyone in the building was out of their minds for a moment. I felt it all the way over at the lake. We had best search the rest of the building, in case someone acted on those negative feelings before they were stopped. I sensed actual PAIN up here somewhere. Although it could have been emotional pain. It could have been physical injury. Also, whomever was at the desk, or should have been, is gone. Lobby and stairwells are empty. Left things a mess down there. And there was an odd hissing or scratching on the building's PA system."

The girl blinked, as if focusing on the others finally. "Oh, I am Oracle. I sense stuff. I predict stuff. Like the start of a very long night for all of us..."

Edited by shojikitsune
typos

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"There was an electronic signal acting on the minds of those inside. I have destroyed it. Er, I have defeated ye mystical techno-sorcery," Caradoc said, stumbling a bit as he remembered to add the mystical Camelot patter to his speech. "For now. We were fortunate to be close at hand. Forsooth." His sword in hand, he paced the room, footfalls heavy as he inspected the damage, face impossible to read behind its blank mask. "It did more damage than I had hoped. I hope all are well." His head turned back to the others, judging the two of them - he'd heard Cannonade described by Wander, and the fact that Oracle was a stranger meant something too. "I am Caradoc, knight of Techno-Camelot. If the machines have survived, perhaps the technicians can tell us where the signal came from." His head turned away again. "I have seen signals used to drive the living to suicide before. It can be done." 

Edited by Avenger Assembled

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Signals that drove people to suicide. It was the kind of thing that Cannonade could easily believe existed - especially given all the things he'd seen - but it still didn't sit right. But then... This really ain't my department. He looked over the other heroes - he'd heard tales of Caradoc through Wander, but the young woman... she was new. And he wasn't entirely sure she was all there. But, she sounded like she was dealing in psychic stuff. Psychic stuff wasn't his forte. It took all types - if some of them had minds like steel, others probably had minds like hurricanes.

"All right," he said. "As long as we're going around the campfire, name's Cannonade." He turned to the man who'd been clawing at the door. "Where was the main recording area?"

The man led the others back through the building. The recording studio was a mess - knocked-over chairs, scattered papers, and bloody handprints against the glass. The others seemed to be alive, though, if not in good shape - a young man in a Black Label Society T-shirt and a young woman in a crop top were checking each other for injuries, not making eye contact with one another, whereas another young man in a Hawaiian shirt was bandaging what looked like bite marks on his forearm. The man in the Hawaiian shirt looked up. "Frank!" he said. "You made it out. Good. And... you brought heroes? Damnit, how far did this thing go?"

"Not too far," said Cannonade. I hope. "I'd hate to say this, but... you think whatever did this might still be in the system?"

The other young man brave a look towards the sound boards, then looked away just as quickly. "We were running The Top 9 at 9," he said, "and recording it for the website. If it's stuck anywhere, it'll be stuck on there. Not sure you want to open it up, though..."

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Oracle knew the question wasn't directed at her, but she still answered in her deadpan delivery. "I felt the emotional shift from the lake shore in the park... and I wasn't listening to radio or webcasts. I had one of those low tech devices called 'books'..."

She sighed. Machines always seemed cold, indifferent. Hard to trust what you couldn't completely sense. "I will radiate calm again, while someone who knows how to work these things can search for whatever happened. That should blunt the efforts of any ghosts in the machine that target our emotions again. Also, is there a way to stop it from playing on the internet? A password or something? I am not able to extend my powers enough to calm a city... or a planet. This building, yes."

"It's not just the sound boards though." The girl focuses that eerie gaze on Caradoc for a moment. "There were other devices that 'yon mystic knight did valiantly eliminate', as if everything wired in was generating the signal." The deliberate eye roll at the accent slip the knight had made earlier could have been detected from orbit, but there is no malice behind it. "My experience was stranger. Imagine having to try to 'shout' louder than someone else. Basically, that's what I ended up doing. There was *someone* shouting back, and mechanical devices *usually* don't shout. Well, some do. It depends..."

The girl seemed to drift off into an elsewhere again, as if listening for something. Then she blinked, and began to help with the bandaging and the other simple tasks she could do, while being prepared to squelch any residual negativity in the broadcast should it be copied on the archive or work over the Internet.

"We should be expecting outside interference in our search."

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"Are you capable of tracing the location of the telepathic signal?" Caradoc asked Oracle frankly. "I would find a way to do the same - but the electronic signal I traced came from here, this very building. I took no chances with yon destruction," he went on. "Better to damage all - than have all be damaged." He listened to the words of the technician, cocking his head, before saying gravely, "Instruct us in the operation of this system and then leave the area. Perhaps you could evacuate the building entirely," he added to Cannonade. "Assuming that we missed no one in our search." His grip tightened on his blade's handle as he turned his conversation to the technicians in the control room. "I am familiar with influences such as this - and Oracle has the power to control emotions. But you here need not cast your souls into the fire again." 

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Oracle blinked again, "I would recognize it if I sensed it again. I could then give a distance relative to myself at the time. I didn't think of that the first time because there were so many people here that were affected."

She closed her eyes and reached out for minds in other rooms,on other floors; making sure to scan the building in detail for minds. Not only was she looking for the malevolent presence she sensed and fought earlier, but others who may need help.

"I agree though - the building should be empty, in case my protections fail. It will free me to target the mind behind this and act, rather than react."

Could it be some sort of combination of things? As powerful as she was, Oracle couldn't use a technological medium to affect minds. That spoke volumes to the nature of this dark mind she sensed.

"The one that did this... searching...."

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The man in the Hawaiian T-shirt stepped forward, pointing to the console. "The archives should be trapped here," he said. "The signal came on around... 9:27? We flipped it off, but... well, if the city's not burning, I think we did good." He shook his head. "Anyway. You can call it up here, use this to slow it down, use this to adjust the volume - we're not working with a CSI lab here, but you should at least be able to isolate something."

"Thanks," Cannonade said. "You need help leading everyone out?"

"I wouldn't say no, but I don't think they'll need much convincing."

It took ten minutes to fully evacuate the building - most everyone had cleared out after coming to their senses, but a few needed to be stabilized or convinced that no one was still out to kill them. No one died, thought Cannonade. We were lucky... and we've gotta make sure there's no chance to get unlucky. When everyone was clear, the machine was flipped on.

The strains of Walk the Moon blared out of the speakers for a minute, as the singer was entreated to shut up and dance. Sharp stabs of static were the first signs of intrusion - Oracle could feel those stabs poking at her head. But she was prepared. The barrier went up, and whatever dread or fear was laden in the signal was drowned out. Leaving the signal itself - droning and distorted, like a funeral dirge through broken pipes. 

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Oracle resembles a 60-watt bulb, her aura of calm casting everything in a warm light that  stifles the miserable emotions produced by the song. "How interesting - who or what ever made this noise was as powerful an empath as I am. And they seem to have found a way to preserve the emotions in the signal. That is something I cannot do."

She sounds almost a little jealous, but listens carefully, seeing if she can learn anything from the interruption itself, or the depressing music that she hears. "Is that an organ? Or maybe - horror of horrors - a bagpipe?" She definitely recognizes the signal's malevolent and depressing intent, but determining the origin will be a challenge.

"Yes, the empathic attack starts with the first bit of static and just gets stronger. But how did they get their brain on this frequency?" She restarts her phone and checks to see if there are incidents of emotional control  within the station's broadcast area. She's not much use with the broadcasting technology, but perhaps she can see just what the scale of the problem is.

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Caradoc placed the tip of his blade against the ground and leaned forward, bowing his head as if in an attitude of prayer. "Given technological help, empathic attacks can be launched that stimulate all neural frequencies simultaneously - cybernetically-controlled brain tissue, the world-shattering waves used by the great drone ships of Cosmic Entity #2006, the Black Singers of the..." His voice stopped with a quick contraction, as if he'd been about to say something too painful for words. Caradoc knew full well that his words wouldn't help Oracle with her efforts to track a source for this signal, so instead he concentrated on listening to it; immersing his mind in the darkness of the sound, casting about for anything familiar. He hadn't been lying - he'd heard plenty of broadcasts like this before. 

After a while, he hmmed. Lacking any knowledge of how to work the equipment, he was left with no way to solve the mystery he'd found. "There is a song here beyond the psychic distortions. Can the one be filtered from the other?"

Edited by Avenger Assembled

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"I can't," said Cannonade. "Last time I tried dealing with the songs on my iPod, I bricked it." He studied the console, as if hoping that staring at it long enough would unveil the secrets of audio engineering... but then he shook his head. "I think we're gonna need help."

He headed out. After a few minutes, he returned, the tech in the Hawaiian shirt returning with him. "Omar turned out to be all kinds of curious about how this crap is working."

"Yeah," he said. "I mean, there's all kinds of weird in this city, but you feel like you've gotta keep it at arm's length. Getting a chance to actually touch it - with gloves, of course--" He looked up as he heard the grinding coming from the speakers. "That is safe, right?"

"Well, we're not going nuts... yet."

"That's really reassuring. Thanks." Omar sat down behind the console, pulling at the dials and sliders, trying to make sense from nonsense. "Okay, that sounds kinda familiar... just a second... I think..."

As the song died out and started again, it sounded almost legible. It was still distant, somewhat faded, as if it was caught on a poor transfer, but at least it sounded like music. And somewhat familiar music...

"Wait," said Omar. "I know that song. High school band... big concert... 'Nearer My God to Thee.' Why the hell is this thing being looped through a song that old?"

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Oracle ponders this new revelation, the fact that there is indeed music backing it. "Perhaps it's a link to the 'attacker', using a song linked to his past? Or an artifact left over when the attack was recorded? An echo of someone's past... "

Oracle closes her eyes, and tries to track the empathic signal, seeing if anyone matches the mood within range, even as she suggests an improbability.

"If this is a high school band playing this song, then any way to narrow it down? Of all the songs played in all the years at all the schools in all the world, they had to play this one... although that's a very difficult thing to ask. Still the school would need to be large enough for a suitable sized band, so maybe we can narrow it down that way, then narrow the list further my seeing if wee can bring up their programs?"

She focuses that flat eerie gaze of hers on the recording machinery, "Could this have played at a distance from whatever recorded the attack? As in background noise while the empathic attack was recorded?"

It was mysteriously mysterious...

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"It is a song of endings," Caradoc pronounced with authority - an authority that came from painful experience. "And of escape. It is a song that speaks of flying from a world of cares to the embrace of a creator god." It was one that he had heard sung before, and played before, and known before, on worlds long past. "One common across many worlds, and places, and times. This is grim." He paced the room, sword in hand, then turned back to the other heroes. "But why use this song as the cover for an attack?" he inquired, his mind still on it. "Surely one more easy to recognize would have motivated more to listen. If listening, and its consequences, were the goal to begin with." He turned back to the technicians. "If you can locate the source of the transmission, we can make sure it does not play again." 

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Oracle looks up from her smartphone with the slightest smirk, giving Caradoc another one of those measured glances. "Oh, the irony..." She pauses just enough that some people might become uncomfortable, and then relays whet her internet search turned up.

"This is the audio track from a CNN standby tape that recently was leaked to the media, performed by a military band in full uniform. It is older quality, probably ported from VHS or other analogue media recorded years ago. My music match app found the tape uploaded to YouTube. According to the leak source, it's queued by CNN to play 'if the world ends', and stuff."

She raises an eyebrow and continues with her monotone monologue, "The person who did this needed internet or TV studio access and the desire to research a lot. Interesting. Apparently," the smirk comes back, 'this sort of thing was either done as a message, a deliberate clue, or as a very bent joke."

She busies herself with checking to see how readily accessible the video and audio tracks are, and possibly Geo-tagging of the mansion the video was made at. "This specific version is NOT easy to find, perhaps looking into the download history might help. Also, they are in front of a mansion - maybe I can locate that place and it may be relevant. Or a red herring. Something about the video IS important though, because there are many versions of this song available. Why chose this one, otherwise?"

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"Location's not important," said Cannonade. "Think I saw the same story you did. They played it in front of Ted Turner's mansion. But, yeah, you're right. Whoever chose the song to accompany the head screwing must have a sick sense of humor." But what would be the purpose of that? If you could loop it into any song, why not make it something that made sense for the station you were targeting? Then again, if this thing had a rapid onset, you didn't really need to provide much subterfuge. "There any way we can track the signal?"

"Well, we could get a certain area," Omar said, "but triangulation has 'tri-' in it for a reason. You'd need a second receiver to bounce off of in order to narrow down the area. For some reason, they're still broadcasting to us - maybe to make sure it does everything it's supposed to - but we're just one, and --"

Omar's eyes swept over a nearby laptop. "Um. One second." He browsed the page, looking it over, his face twisting. "Okay, so, apparently Twitter's lighting up about WSTR going off the air following a sound like, and I quote, 'metal screaming.' This is one of those 'be careful what you wish for' cases..."

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It was, like much else today, grim news - but it was grim news they could at least build upon. And begin bringing this to an end before more nightmares can begin in this free city. "We have our next target." Caradoc realized quickly there was one important obstacle keeping him from this destination - he had no idea where it was. He turned his armored head towards Omar, the only clue to where his attention was focused. "Where is that?" As soon as he knew the answer, he turned to Oracle. "I am capable of flight and Cannonade of mighty leaps. How quickly can you travel?" he asked her seriously, his amplified voice metallic and tinny behind what certainly appeared to be a genuine suit of armor. Once fast travel was arranged for them all, he was off with a roar of flame, erupting up against the blue Freedom City sky. 

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