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August 15th, 2016, 6.00PM

An abandoned subway car, underneath Stark Hill...

 

It was a remarkably pleasant dream that Osla Jonsson was abruptly jerked from.

 

Standing on the half-rusted roof of the car, eyes twnkling as he met the groggy woman's gaze, was a man in furs and leather with red hair that flickered and shifted like fire underwater.

 

"Osla. Dearest debtor." His voice, as usual, was full of a childish self-satisfaction at talking down to someone who could never hurt him. It was, admittedly, a rare thing for the nominally-bound trickster.

 

He began to pace the roof, his illusory booted feet making no sound "I have decided not to wait, as I'd at first expected. An opportunity has presented itself already." He grinned down at the archer "You are going to attack a superhero tonight. Not directly," he frowned and his pacing grew more rapid "Your victim is none other than that most valiant and stalwart champion of unalloyed justice, the Hammer Thereof. I have no wish to lose such a valuable fish, so this battle while certain to rattle will serve you danger's most minutest dish."

 

"He has a safehouse for some weapons and sensitive information that he cannot trust to Stark Hill." As he spoke, the man took out his dagger and began idly scratching at the wall with it "You are to go to it and destroy everything in it. How hardly matters to me, though a little self-preservation and restraint never hurt anyone. All I care about is that it is done, and done tonight."

 

"That's all. Be a good girl and don't die. I could never keep a straight face in front of your father if I had to tell him." With a snicker, the man was gone. But the scratches on the wall remained.

 

Garf-Stav corner. Remember, a Hammer falls...

Edited by Ari

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Osla sighed and rolled out of the bunk she'd installed in one corner of the car. She knew that the churl would cash in one day, she just didn't expect it to happen so soon, and with something so brazenly wrong. From what she'd heard, the Hammer of Justice had protected this city for years! But... she idly picked one of her gauntlets up, sliding it on. The fact was, the magnitude of the wrongs in this city was too great to fight them unarmed, and worse, to fight them with the burden of having broken a pact with an irate deity. 

 

She walked over to the directions he'd scratched in the wall in runic script. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath in, and then out. Maybe she could wriggle out of this. Get the Hammer to relocate his essentials, inform him a Norse god had some weird interest in his aims. Surely that would be something he'd want to be prepared to combat? That seemed like a just course of action. 

 

"Kamphundr!" Osla suddenly snarled, punching the patch of wall so hard that her hand burst through, sending the offending fragment of rust and aluminium clattering off into the darkness somewhere. Fuming, she turned, to begin her pre-patrol workout session...

 

A few hours later...

Arrowhawk stood atop a rooftop, scouting out the corner. So, this was the place. She wasn't so naive that she thought just walking into a man's base would go down well, so was examining the area first, ensuring that if he was nearby, or any sign of him was, she could just speak to the Hammer directly, instead of dropping in unannounced.

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GM

 

Her perch afforded the young archer a perfect view of the local refuse, human and otherwise. The faltering streetlamps illuminated little episodes of misery, one a block, while the lights of the hurrying cars pitilessly picked out the alleys.

 

Even if she hadn't had such good eyes, Osla wouldn't have missed the three men in rumpled suits furtively carrying a bodybag out of a ground-floor apartment and towards a waiting pickup truck.

 

But with them she could see very clearly that the bag was moving, struggling.

 

Absently, the man carrying the head gave the bag a savage punch somewhere in the region of the throat. The struggling stopped.

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There was suddenly a loud clang and a squeal of metal, and a solitary figure stood in front of the truck. Arrowhawk stood, looking at her work, then turning her head slightly to take in the men on the street. Her stance was confident and ready, tensed and prepared for a fight. She didn't say anything, merely taking a couple of steps backwards, casually, like she was letting someone past her in the aisle of the grocery store.

 

In the pickup truck's hood was embedded a medieval style axe with a thick wooden handle, the blade barely visible from how deep it had been slammed into the vehicle. Arrowhawk waited for the men's eyes to be drawn towards it before breaking her silence, by loudly and pointedly cracking her knuckles.

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GM

 

The man in the lead stopped first, startling the others into a brief chorus of curses as they stumbled to a halt. In horrified silence, the man looked at Osla, then at thw truck, then at Osla again. The first time was with berwilderment and shock, the second was with incandescent rage.

 

Dropping his end of the bag with an ugly *smak* his hand dove under his creased suit jacket, drawing out a handgun. All too willing to dump their cargo, the rest followed hurried suit until a trio of trembling firearms was levelled at the archer.

 

"I just payed that off, you bastard!" their leader roared, lips pulled back and eyes aflame "Go tell the Schusters or the Malakovs or whoever the *{%# you work for that they ain't welcome in Bedlam! This is Scarpia turf!"

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Arrowhawk didn't budge, or even particularly flinch, as the three men drew their firearms. She merely grinned widely, white teeth visible in the dim light. She fixed her gaze on the leader of the trio, looking him up and down quickly and contemptuously. Did these fools really think she was a mob enforcer? In this attire? 

 

She took a single step forward, ensuring it was heavy and deliberate, clumping on the pavement. Her gaze remained fixed on the first man, the one who'd first drawn a gun on her. "Alright, then. You first, it would seem." She grinned even wider, seeming disconcerting in how unfazed she was at three armed men trying to threaten her.

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GM

 

Stepping back as she advanced, the blustering guy began to visibly wilt and Osla's megawatt stare.

 

"H-hey, w-we ain't scared of you! Stay back! Guys, don't just stand there, shoot!"

 

Startled, the other two men hastily tried to line up the young woman and gun her down, but failed miserably. Two sharp *KRAK*s blasted through the air, but the bullets whined harmlessly past Arrowhawk and embedded in the truck's tires.

 

The apparent leader all but screamed "No you idiots, like this!" Clenching his gun in his fists, the man gave a wild yell as he fired...and another yell as the shot took out the windshield in a shattering cacophany.

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Arrowhawk coldly, decisively took a couple of steps forward, ears ringing a little from the roar of their guns, confident their aim wasn't good enough to strike her. As she closed the distance, she accelerated the pace. Contemptuously slapping the leader's gun aside with her right hand, she quickly threw a left hook into his face. She followed up with a quick uppercut, using the momentum to step to the side and grab one of his compatriots. With a mighty haul, she spun around, sending the two of them crashing into each other, then into the wall behind them, and then into a heap on the floor.

 

Almost as an afterthought, she quickly kicked the third man in the shins and jabbed him in the temple with a solid elbow strike, knocking him to the floor. "Gentlemen," Arrowhawk said cordially and conversationally. She calmly walked over to the body bag, now lying on the pavement, and knelt down to unzip it.

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GM

 

As the zipper was pulled down, a pair of skinny arms shot out, flailing so much that all of Osla's skill was needed to avoid being struck on the nose. Following them, spluttering and yelling a variety of curses, came the rest of a very young woman at least two heads shorter than Osla. Black and with her frizzy hair piled into an amateurish beehive, she was wearing a lot less than an August night by the Great Lakes warranted.

 

Leaping ungainly to her feet, she stared blearily about at Osla, at the unconscious, groaning men and at the bullet-riddled pickup truck. She peered closely at the archer "Huh, whuzappen'd? Who're...?" Suddenly remembering herself, the girl pounced on one of the men and wrenched his coat open, trembling hands extracting an incredibly gaudy small purse. She opened it, took out a roll of bills and held it up to the streetlamp, eyeing it critically.

 

She flung it away with a snarl "Fake, of course. Why'd they gimme real money? I'd just spend it all on drugs! Yeah 'cause Scarpia's boys're just so gosh darn clean, you know what I'm sayin'?"

 

Snatching a packet of cigarettes and a lighter from the same coat, the girl slumped moodily onto the sidewalk and started smoking. After a moment she glared side-eyed at Arrowhawk "What you want? Get lost, Freedom City's that way."

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Osla blinked suddenly. This... was not an expected development. At the very least, she'd expected more shock at what had just transpired. Not for the woman to be relatively unconcerned over having crawled out of a bag. She briefly stooped to lift up the bag, proffering it over the woman she'd just freed.

 

"Why were you in here?" Arrowhawk asked. "And who were those men? You were in a bag, and you were visibly fighting it." She opened her hand, letting the bag drop back to the sidewalk with a soft whumping sound. "It would seem to me that this is a situation meriting a little more of a response than a 'get lost'.

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GM

 

"One, I never asked for your help, two, they were Scarpia thugs, this is Scarpia-territory from here to the other side of Stark Hill, three, it's none of your business and you wouldn't care even if it was." The girl hunched in on herself, glowering at the sidewalk like she hated it personally.

 

"'Sides, it wouldn't have been too bad. I mean, I'd probably have lived. Now I'm a witness to some super beating them an' they'll wanna take it out on me if they ever see me again. Thanks a lot, Freya, great job."

 

Lapsing again into silence, the as-yet nameless young woman scratched at her scalp with glittering fingernails.

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Osla knelt down in front of the young woman, pulling her hood back and shaking her braid out and down her back. She let out a weary sigh. "If I did not care, would I be out here, dressed like this?" A wry smile formed on her lips as she gestured down at herself. "This is my business, because you're wrong. From here, to over there, is my territory, not that of the Scarpias. And I assure you, I will make it known, if they come for you, I will be there."

 

She put a hand on the woman's shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly. "I do not like what is going on this city any more than you. And I don't plan to let it go unchallenged. But please." Osla squeezed a little firmer, an urgency in her voice. "I need your help. Please."

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GM

 

Flinching a little at the unexpected contact, the girl nonetheless looked very differently at Osla. Almost catiously hopeful.

 

"Um, well.." She swallowed and went on quickly "Those guys tried to fool me. They came to where I usually, uh, hang out, and said they needed me to come meet the Hammer of Justice. Apparently he wanted to 'interview witnesses' who'd seen somebody attacking somebody just outside the Hill. I knew it was bull****, that ain't my place, but they were offering good money so I went along with it. We went in there." 

 

Standing up, she pointed at the apartment building behind them. Only one room, on the second floor, had its lights out.

 

"It was a real fancy-looking place, but didn't look like anybody actually lived there, you know what I mean? They did something with some statue thing and a bookcase moved. They went in, I heard some shouting, then they came out in a hurry with the bag, stuffed me in and, well..." She didn't look at the pile of men, but she took an especially long drag of the cigarette.

 

"I'm, uh, Zelda, case you need me later. I'm usually on Shambliss, by that pawn shop with the green diamond on the sign."

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"I'm Arrowhawk, pleased to make your acquaintance, Zelda." Osla glanced up at the window behind them. Whatever was going on here, and what link did the Hammer have to these men using his name to lure unfortunate women in? She pensively stroked her chin. "I will be going in to investigate. Please, do me a favour. Go home tonight. Be safe. There's going to be a bit of a commotion." Arrowhawk stroke around to the car and, teeth gritted, pulled her axe back out of the car one-handed.

 

She strolled back to in front of the window, judging the distance. She smirked at Zelda. "Want to see something cool?" Arrowhawk took a couple of light springing steps forward, before leaping twenty feet up and crashing through the window.

 

 

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GM

 

With a thunderous crash the wood and glass of the window effectively disintegrated, spilling out into the darkenéd room with a clinking and clattering that went on for several seconds after Osla had got back to her feet.

 

Outside, Zelda stared in blank astonishment at the feat until she abruptly remembered both herself, where she was, and who the unconscious men lying nearby were. With a flash and a jangle the girl dashed into a nearby alleyway and away to the south-east. 

 

Inside, the room was...clean? The blood of Asgard's hunters had given Arrowhawk eyes far better suited to the Moonless nights and shadowéd valleys of Jötunheim and the endless caverns and cloistered skies of Myrkheim, so even with the lights off it was pretty easy to grasp just how uncannily neat and movie-set-like it was.

 

There was a Kitchen, with pots and pans and a bowl of assorted fruit on the counter. The fruit was wax, and at least one of the pans had its price sticker still on($2.95).

 

There was a Living Room, with a Bookcase full of books that even Odin would have passed up in disgust. A coffee table(mysteriously bereft of cofee table books) had a bust of a Black man in old-fashioned clothes on it, with what looked like a neckerchief around his high collar.

 

Through a door could be glimpsed a Bedroom, with a bed that had never been slept in and an end cabinet with a lamp that wasn't plugged in. There was no visible Bathroom, probably accessible through the Bedroom.

 

The door of the apartment at least was pretty real. And overed in locks and bolts.

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This room was discomfiting. Clearly, no one lived here. Surely, no one could stand to. This was an approximation, a ruse of domesticity. The fruit not even real, the bed untouched. But who would go to such effort to make such a room? And to such pains to secure the door? To stage interviews for an assault? This all seemed very contrived. 

 

Arrowhawk decided to take Zelda's advice, and walked up to the coffee table, and the bust upon it. Not sure by what device this would open the hidden door in the bookcases, she resolved to simply roughly backhand it with a heavy degree of force.

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GM

 

With a *snap* like crushing chestnut shells, the head twisted neatly around. Simultaneously, there was a faint clik and the Bookcase swung near-noiselessly inward, revealing a short concrete passage that bent sharply, leaving its termination out of sight. On the floor of the passage was dust that had only recently been disturbed, the imprints having very carefully avoided specific bits of the floor.

 

What illumination there was came from a series of orange bulbs jutting from the walls, arranged so that they ranged from roughly head-height, to waist-height, to foot-height, though they were clearly intended to match someone much taller than Osla. Rounding the bend a steel door came into view, windowless, sturdy, handleless and with a keypad next to it. Over which a cover had dropped almost before Arrowhawk had caught sight of it in the fiery gloom. 

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Arrowhawk stalked into the passage, dimly lit by the low light. She softly laid her feet into the disturbed dust, following in the footsteps with those to have previously entered, avoiding whatever traps may be left for interlopers. But she knew she was on the right track by the door in front of her.

 

She planted her feet firmly to brace herself, before planting her hands on the frame next to the keypad. Summoning up all her strength, and that in Fenrir's Gauntlets, she began to pull. Sweat beaded on Arrowhawk's forehead, but the edges of the door began to pull towards her, and she managed to get a stronger grip on the door. From there it was much easier, heaving the door towards herself, distorting the metal slowly but firmly until an opening wide enough to pass through was formed.

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GM

 

As the rigid steel gave way before Arrowhawk, her eyes took in a new and remarkably mundane sight: a bank of computers, a wall-safe,ma wall-spanning array of high-tech gear, a map of Bedlam with multi-colored pins landmarking arrows and lines, a spotless corner of workout gear that would have been the centerpiece of any normal gym, all contained in a room the size of Osla's subway car.

 

Further examination was delayed when holes opened in the wall before her, and a hail of spikes hurtled out!

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Arrowhawk reacted, but not quite in time. Her eyes going wide, but not having the chance to even gasp, she turned in the narrow gap she'd forced in the doorway, feeling a sharp stinging pain on the side of her face, and some short sharp impacts, feeling spikes gouge into her armour, some of them being turned aside and clattering to the floor, some embedding themselves in the plating.

 

"<Odin's blood,>" cursed Osla, stepping through into the base, eyes quickly taking in the scope and scale of the room. Maps, computer equipment, a gym... this very much resembled her own headquarters. Whose was this? Who went to the trouble of outfitting such a base, and luring innocent people to it to kidnap them in such a way? She carefully began to look closer across the room, looking for some clue as to whose base of operations this was.

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GM

 

Stepping inside, the map of Bedlam with its neatly-arranged circles and connecting lines caught Osla's eye. It was hard to tell in the extremely dim light(which a normal human wouldn't have been able to read anything in at all), but its composition had the air of a rough-sketch from an expert's hand. Stark Hill was surrounded by a thick red line marked 'S', detailed enough to extend around individual businesses and buildings. Others littered Bedlam City, though none so clear, and even a relative newcomer like Arrowhawk could tell at a glance what kind of borders these were.

 

It made sense for a vigilante like the Hammer of Justice to be tracking the organized crime of the city, but that left a lot unanswered.

 

On the computer screens there was at least a little more information: one of the monitors was still on, showing a lengthy to-do list:

 

08/15/2016

 

Meet with Boss S. about shipping lines. FC interests, conflicting. Comm-worthy?

 

Bangers on Hill streets. Deal with.

 

Weekly city-survey. Drop-in patrols

 

Meet Scarpia in. men about shooter I.D., question witness. NOTE: CANCELLED, RETURN TOMORROW

 

Think of better name than 'Hammer of Justice'. Too long. The Hammer? Captain Justice? Retro in.

 

Explain about Jess to Elle. Deserves to know.

 

Cut down on carbs. No Ave. Bread stop.

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Arrowhawk frowned as she examined the evidence. What was going on? Was he tracking the mob? But if so, why was he meeting with them? And why had someone lured that woman to the false apartment? It would be a good way to find and silence witnesses for a shooting, but the men had taken them to the headquarters of the Hammer of Justice. She could barely believe it. Was the Hammer of Justice in on it? Was he trying to silence witnesses? There was only one way to find out. And she'd decided to find him anyway, hadn't she? 

 

She made her way to the rooftop, looking up at the sky. With slow, steady movements, she drew and nocked an arrow, firing it vertically up into the air. At the apex of its ascent, the arrow exploded and splintered with a bright flash of fire and light. "HAMMER!" Arrowhawk roared to the night. "I HAVE NEED OF A WORD!"

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GM

 

There was no ominous thud of footsteps, or a gruff voice demanding an explanation, or a really vicious left hook.

 

There was no absence of howls of pain, gunfire and incredibly vicious cursing from behind her, where a distressingly large group of men with guns and night-vision goggles was arrayed on the street.

 

"Stop it!" bawled the apparent leader, a man with a truly impressive mustache and an AK-47, tearing the goggles from his head and clutching at his face "Just shoot the mask and stop whining!"

 

"We can't, sir!"

 

"Why not?!"

 

"We all looked up at the arrow, sir, can't see a thing now!"

 

"[Not okay, man, that is not cool] with a tire iron!" screamed the leader, who squinted through eyelids that seemed to be holding back a waterfall and leveled his gun at some region generally adjacent to Arrowhawk, opening fire with lots of gusto and no form!

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Amidst the white flashes over their vision and the streaked, smudged tears, the men could see a dark shape run to the edge of the building and leap off it towards them, cape streaming behind it like the wings of an avenging angel. It didn't make a sound hitting the ground, landing smoothly and without losing speed. Arrowhawk roared loudly with fury, a pealing cry that pierced through the night air. 

 

She hit the first man at around thirty miles an hour, kneeing him in the stomach and letting herself be propelled forward by her own momentum, slamming the man down into the ground. Lunging upright, Arrowhawk snapped out a heavy one-two to her right, before pivoting to deliver a crushing roundhouse kick to her left. Contemptuously backhanding a man to the floor, she pulled her bow from her hip and snarled at the remaining men. "Did you not come here to give me a fight?"

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GM

 

As you might imagine, the display was a little above what any of the men there had expected. Unused to being on the receiving end of super-powered violence, a few of the upright ones threw their guns aside and dashed into the night(making their goggles actually useful again), followed on their heels by the furious curses of the ones who stayed behind for reasons that would have been a mystery for a much more contemplative mind.

 

Behind Arrowhawk, two of the men she'd downed got unsteadily back to their feet, unloading their carbines at the armoréd heroine in a hail of bullets that mostly just riddled the already-vandalized truck. An anguished moan from somewhere nearby indicated that its owner was still there and feeling the destruction.

 

Far away, there was the sound of helicopter blades...

 

The seeming leader jerked his head up "Wait, how...?" was all he managed before collapsing back to the asphalt.

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