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The Nightmare Before Recess

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March 15. Freedom City. The West End. Summers Elementary School. 12:15 PM


Her name was Ruth. Ruth Yamashiro. Her father’s parents were from Japan. Immigrated in the last Seventies. Her mother’s were card carrying Jewish Freedonians since birth. She was six years old, and soon to graduate from kindergarten to first grade. She was excited about the change, but also scared. She was a good girl, who did what her parents told her to do. Perhaps more perceptive than most children her age, but not oddly so. She had plenty of friends, and seems to be well on her way to a normal childhood and life. As normal as one could get in Freedom City, at any rate.


The truth was, Ruth had a secret. She’d only told her best friends Kanako and Esther, and they didn’t even believe her. She could hear people think and move stuff with her mind. Some people thought too quiet and it wasn’t like she could lift more than her plastic chair, but still. She was like a superhero, only she was six. Her mom said a superhero’s first duty is to grow up big and strong. So, Ruth had to wait until she was older. It was okay. She liked being a kid. Grownups had so much on their minds, and she didn’t understand most of it. But it was weird. Ever since she’d started listening, really listening, to the grownups around her…she’d been having nightmares. Her mom and dad were worried, but she couldn’t just tell them about her powers. Then they might not be special anymore. Besides, she never remembered what they were about anyway, and they didn’t wake her up. Everybody had bad dreams sometimes, and they always went away after a while. She just had to wait, and everything would be fine.


The kindergarten teacher’s name was Emily Corazon. She was 24, and not a full year out of college. Full of vim and vigor, she wanted to teach little children and give them a lifelong love of learning. Yes, she was a optimist. A regular ball of sunshine. That said, she kept it down to a dull glow as it was naptime. It was a good class, she thought. Good kids, yes indeed. Even though some were a little rough around the edges, with patience, kindness, and good old fashioned elbow grease she’d won them over. Now, as the year marched on (heh, marched) she was beginning to realize how much she’d miss them when June finally rolled around. In September it seemed like she’d have them forever, now there was almost no time left. Wait. What was that? Was Ruth having a nightmare again? Maybe Miss Corazon should wake her? She really seemed to be having a bad time there.


The screaming started at 12:15. Monsters out of a small child’s darkest nightmares roamed the halls. Terrified students and staff hid in classrooms and offices. The police had arrived quickly, but found themselves out of the league just as quickly. The few that had escaped told impossible tales about what happened inside. This was a situation that required superheroic intervention.

Edited by EternalPhoenix
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Elis was visiting the ER on a consult when the radio at the nurses station squawked the alert of a disturbance in the West End.  The nurse turned it down ignoring it as it was well outside the hospital's service area unless the closer hospitals managed to fill up.  None the less he had heard enough to piece together a picture of what was going on, nightmare creations were not always literal nightmares but it bore checking out.  Stepping into a supply closet his coat and business casual attire faded replaced by the blue and white costume of Sandman, with a thought he stepped through the dreamlands emerging outside the school not far from the command center.  Sandman straightened the deep cowl of his hood as he approached the men in charge scanning the surroundings for signs of dream creatures.  Few true denizens of dream or nightmare could could hide their passage from his senses for long.  "How many still inside?"  he asked plainly, turning his pupiless gaze upon the officer in charge.  The children had to be the priority, then they could deal with the hostiles.

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Daphne was enjoying lunch with her friends, or at least her virtual ones, enjoying the ebb and flow of the forum conversation. She was enjoying a interesting conversation about the introduction of the classic golden Johnny Rocket  to the TV show when she felt something strange. She’d been psychic since her birth and had only gotten stronger the longer she spent on Earth, the psychic murmur of humans was like a comfortable safety blanket. The psychic presence she suddenly felt was definitely not friendly in any shape or form. Without hesitation she took off to she if she could help, forum time could wait until later.


Quickly on the scene she decided to drop in and say hello to the police, sometimes they tended to think for some reason that she was the bad guy and cause all types of trouble. She hoped the two pigtails hat she teased her hair into would make her red skinned Grue features less threatening.


“Hello detective I’ve come to see if i can help.” Noticing the other hero she gave a broad smile and offered her hand “Hi there I’m Miss Grue pleased to meet you.”

Whilst Daphne was playing it cool, she was actually pretty excited to meet any new hero. Though now she was a lot better at hiding her emotions, mostly...

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Ever since the formation of her relationship with the Interceptors, Buffy had found herself growing curiously fond of the West End. She frequently went out of her way to patrol there when she was in the tights, and after many nights of exploring it at super-speed, she felt like she knew it like the back of her hand. Actually, she knew it considerably better than the back of her hand, because she generally spent very little time examining the back of her hand. She wouldn't go so far as to say that she had the West End in her blood, but after her painful battle with Downtime and Wildcard there, she at least felt confident stating that her blood was in the West End.


That was why, when she heard of a disturbance at an elementary school there, she was halfway across the city before she had finished putting her fashionable wig on.


A blue-and-silver blur flashed down the street towards the police cordon, suddenly slowing and resolving into the shape of Echo skidding to a halt. "OkayImherewhatsgoingon," she panted, then, upon noticing that she sounded like an Alvin and the Chipmunks record, paused to adjust her personal timefield to more closely match that of those around her. "Okay, I'm here, what's going on?" she said again, this time at normal speed. "Who do I punch?"

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Detective Watson introduced himself quickly. “Watson, Weird Squad. Not the real name, but it doesn’t matter. Good that you’re here. My officers know how to deal with super powers if they have to, but this is something else. Unfortunately, most of the students and staff are still in there. Phones work, sometimes, so we know that most of the classrooms just had to shut their doors. Whatever these things are, they either can’t or won’t operate them.” He sighed. “It happened so fast. One minute everything’s fine, the next monsters are roaming the halls. Only one that got out were in the cafeteria, right by the front door. Something’s weird with the doors out of the building. Anyone can get in, nobody can get out. Had radio contact with the first two officers on scene, but haven’t heard from them in a little too long.” He looked at the three heroes. “That’s basically it.” He pointed to a few adults in food service gear who were with a few school age children, just outside the police barricade. They were sitting on the ground. All save one were either crying, rocking, or both. They were supervised by a pair of EMTs, just in case. “Those are the ones who got out. They said…look, it didn’t make any sense to me. Maybe it will to you.”

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With a nod Sandman took the Grues hand, "I am called the Sandman."  he intoned quietly which like as not came off as terribly mysterious despite primarily being an artifact of his discomfort with the heroic moniker phenomenon.  Looking over the building and the grounds outside he frowned slightly, "Hmmm,"  the dream guardian hummed thoughtfully and looked back to the fellow heroes, "It would seem whatever has entrapped those who remain is entrapped as well."  he noted and turned his attention to the children with a softening of his features.  "I imagine violence will come sooner than we'd like."  he suggested to Echo direly, "For the moment perhaps we ought offer comfort and see what can be learned from the witnesses."


With that he strode the group of frightened children and their ad hoc caretakers, "You are safe here now."  he said gently crouching down next to the child who was not crying as drifting motes of iridescent sand rained down in a calming fall over the other children,  "We're here to help, what did you see?"  he asked gently moving naturally to the child's level his voice full of the practiced calm of an adult well used to worried youngsters.

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Echo joined Sandman besides the child - walking, not teleporting for once, because she figured that if she startled these kids there was decent chance they would wet themselves in fright, and there were some things even heroes weren't prepared to deal with. "It's okay, see, we're superheroes!" she said cheerfully, squatting down beside the youngster. "Like on TV! You may remember me from..." she drew a blank, "er...well...I'm Echo. Hello."


She cast a cautious glance up at the building. She didn't see any eldritch abominations... "Okay, kid, now what we need you to do is describe to us what you saw in there. Did it wear a cape? Did it monologue? How many tentacles? More than four? Please don't tell me it was more than four." More than four tentacles, and critters tended to respond discouragingly to being punched in the face.

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Miss Grue stayed a little away from the other two heroes, some people mostly adults seemed unnerved by her visage and with everything going on she didn’t want to scare them any more than they already were. And also crowding the kid wouldn’t be a comfort to them after what apparently happened.

That said she wasn’t exactly doing nothing. As gently as she could she probed their minds with her telepathy to see if she could find out what they had seen, it helped that the others were prompting them to remember what they had seen.

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Sandman’s…sands…did their work well enough, however, the children were still shaken by their experience. They babbled nonsense about monsters and the wide and varied things that scared small children in the middle of the night. All save the one. This was a boy, with eyes so blue they practically glowed and hair that was such a pale blond it might as well have been white. Which was a bit odd, as he appeared to be a Pacific Islander otherwise. “No. They’re wrong. I saw.” The boy’s voice was utterly devoid of anything approaching human emotion. “I see lots of things. Nobody believes me, but I do.” He took a second, as if remembering something incredibly important. “Her name is Ruth. She can hear what people think. Even the bad things people want to go away. Shouldn’t have woke her up. Her dreams built the wall between the bad thoughts and outside.” He wobbled on his feet, the effort clearly straining the limited resources of a child’s body. He did not, however, stop trying to do…whatever he was doing. “They’re out now. Wasn’t…s’posed to…happen…not…fair…” The boy’s eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed. Just before, his eyes had dimmed to a more normal shade of blue.


Meanwhile, Miss Grue’s mental explorations revealed more or less what the children had said. Only with a touch more coherence. Stone golems, humanoid spiders, and even clowns were represented. Things only children would be terrified of. The boy’s mind, however, was a different story. It was orderly and quiet, quite unlike the barely intelligible chaos that was the mind of your average grade schooler. It was basically a DVD library, with each DVD representing a memory. They were clearly labeled and in chronological order. But most importantly, there wasn’t a hint of anything resembling emotion, conscience, or anything typically associated with a fully functional human. It was like…his soul was missing, but without the spiritual association. More than that, she could tell that she wasn’t the first telepath to have been in here. Someone with much more skill than she had forcibly turned this boy away from the serial killer’s path. Suddenly, Miss Grue realized she wasn’t alone in his head. But as to where the other presence was, she had no idea.

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Miss Grue was fairly use to more logical orderly minds, having grown up surrounded by machine intelligences, but she’d never come across any humans quite so organised before. And whilst most of her knowledge of human psychology had been learned from TV cop shows Daphne knew enough to realise that this a potentially unhealthy mind.


“I think I’ve found something important, but it’s difficult to put into words. It’ll be easier to project it directly into your minds, I promise it’s just a projection and I won’t be reading any of you thoughts.”


She waited until they others agreed before showing them what she’d discovered, as a image of an image she softened any impact such an cold mind could cause the untainted.


If you need to communicate with me just think it like this, I’m going to try something but don’t worry nothing can harm you with me in the way.


Then she gently probed around the boy's brain trying to find the other intelligence she sensed earlier, hopefully she could find more answers for them all.

Hello is there anyone there? We just want to talk to you, we mean you no harm.

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Whoah!" Echo's arms flashed out to catch the boy as he fell, gently lowering him to the ground. An uneasy feeling was starting in the bottom of her stomach, and every word from the boy made it sink a little deeper. That...doesn't sound good. She didn't voice her concerns, because the last thing they needed was to alarm the kids and civilians more than they already were, but she was starting to wish that the rest of the Interceptors were here.


Miss Grue showing them the psychic image of what she had sensed did nothing to alleviate Echo's fears. "So...what does this mean?" she asked. "Evil mind-controller? Psychic monsters?" She flexed her knuckles unconsciously. "Is it something we can just...punch?"

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Standing as Echo caught the fainting boy Sandman turned a rueful gaze to the gathered heroes, "All of the above."  he intoned quietly in response to the question.  He had no doubt now the child psychics dreams were made manifest within the school.  "There are few surer portals to our world from dream than the mind of a child,"  he paused as he looked up at the over run school, "The same unfortunately holds true for nightmares."  the dream guardian spoke sternly and nodded as he began to step toward the school, "We'll have to defeat the dreams and nightmares to reach her."  he explained, "And then hope we can wake her without harm, get her the help she needs."

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There’s some irony. The mental voice seemed to come from everywhere in the boy’s mind. Talking was exactly what I was trying to do. Unfortunately, only a fellow psionic could withstand that sort of strain from more than a few moments without preparation. And even with, it seems, the poor boy did not last nearly long enough. There was a sense that she (the presence did appear to be female, at least in tone of voice) was laughing ruefully. Though I must admit I didn’t expect a Grue, of all things, to come to my rescue. You could say the Unity and I…have a history. She laughed ruefully again. Hello, Grue and friends. I’m having the most terrible nightmare, and all before recess. A little help, if you wouldn’t mind?

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Ironically for someone named after her species Miss Grue hadn’t had much to do with her own kind, though she’d heard that they’d done some pretty bad things in the past. Despite this she couldn’t help but optimistically think that such things were done by the bad sorts among her race. It’s why she’d never hidden who she was despite some humans reacting badly to being around a Grue.


I don’t think you’ve ever met a Grue quite like me, I’m no longer officially sanctions by the Unity. It hadn’t taken them long to work out she didn’t quite fit into the normal Grue mission statement I can’t speak for the others but I’m more than happy to try and help you stop all this trouble. But we could use a little more information about what we face.

A little optimism was a good thing that didn’t mean Miss Grue was stupid.

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