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October 16, 2016. Freedom City. Parkside. The Hayward Building. 12:05 AM.

 

Everything seemed quiet on the top floor of the Hayward Building. This floor, and the seven below it, belonged to New Horizon Media. However, the actual media operations were housed elsewhere. Virtually no one, aside from a few night owls, would normally be in the corporate HQ at this hour. Or anywhere else in the building, for that matter. Tonight was different. Five minutes earlier, precisely, three nondescript delivery vans pulled up in front of the building, and armed men boiled out of them and inside. The front desk was taken completely by surprise and was forced to surrender immediately or be shot. The men had a military bearing and their weapons and gear fit it to a T. A team went up in each elevator. They quickly and quietly secured each floor. Now (as in five minutes later), the men were in total control. However, the plan was not to take the building. Their employer was only interested in one piece of information. It was locked away in an windowless executive office, on a unplugged USB. So when the man in the ten gallon hat kicked in the door, it was not exactly a surprise to the occupant. Her name was Amanda Walton, and she’d been riding herd on the European News division for nearly twenty years. The man in the hat addressed her in an exaggerated drawl. “I reckon you know what I’ve come for. Give it to me, and this can stay nice and civilized.”

 

Walton was flatly unafraid. She’d seen a lot, from being raised dirt poor in Detroit, to reporting on heinous crimes across the Eastern Hemisphere. “The truth will come out, Cowboy. Just a matter of time. Wheeler can’t keep your existence secret forever.”

 

“Cowboy” shrugged. “Probably right. But you know how he is. Man gets what he wants.” The situation was tense. However, this was Freedom City. Even in the middle of the night, could it really be possible that nobody noticed this brazen crime in progress?

Edited by EternalPhoenix

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The Pitchoo settled into stillness, hovering outside the top floor of the Hayward Building, gravjets quietly whirring in the cold night air. Geckoman fiddled with the controls for a moment, sliding one of the cannons out to dangle from the bottom of the craft, pivoting to aim itself at a window. 

 

He'd picked up a 911 call, from someone claiming to have been working nights here, when the building was seized. They'd had time to hide in a maintenance closet before the building was taken. Apparently there'd been a lot of them, organised, with guns. Seemed like a comparatively quiet evening.

 

The gangplank on the Pitchoo slid down, and Chris walked to the edge of it, lightly twiddling with a button on his wrist. The canon pulsed, a burst of crackling blue-yellow energy blowing a window wide open, glass shattering and crashing inwards over the carpeted floor as Geckoman leapt into the room, whipping out a couple of escrima sticks as shards bounced off his shoulders. "Dynamic entrance! Even the Russian judge is impressed! Woo!" He did a little spin on his heels, and sauntered across the room. 

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Quiet patrol nights were a blessing, especially in the fall.. Late football practicces often meant that Coach Clark Noble's job went on longer than necessary, and that day was no different. Two hours of sleep and several cups of coffee later and Crusader was out, and his first stop was to visit Old Freddy.

 

Clark had visited the elderly homeless man before. He'd even tried to get Freddy into a homeless shelter, but he insisted on spending his nights wandering downtown. He was of average build, most of his frame hidden by a heavy coat even though the winter hadn't truly started yet. If Freddy saw anything amiss, he always managed to slip it into his and Crusader's usual conversations.

 

"Lots of vans around tonight," he said. "Reminds me of my days in Kuwait..."

 

Freddy's war stories aside, he followed the lead all the way to the New Horizons Media building, just in time to see a veritable horde enter the building. He could feel his grandfather's knowledge pushing back at him, pointing out the precision, the squad division... and the ordinance.

 

"Great. But how do I get in..."

 

Crusader sighed. Apart from his shield, he had little in the way of... well, anything. His wits were more than enough to deal with the typical street riff-raff but this seemed a little more involved.  The one advantage of one os his past lives being of a criminal background, however, lay in the realization that none of the vans had gone anywhere near the actual delivery entrance. In moments, Crusader was there. Before he could contemplate how to pick the lock himself, a man burst out of the building, nearly running Clark over.

 

"Shh. It's okay. You're fine." Crusader paused, letting the man gather his thoughts. "How many?"

 

"I... I don't know. I just... I didn't see."

 

"Don't worry about it. God your phone? Good. Call the police and head that way." He pointed down a nearby alley, well out of sight of anyone that might have still been lingering around the vans.

 

"O-okay... what are you gonna do?"

 

Crusader didn't respond, slipping inside the building and shutting the door behind him. That's a really, really good question...

 

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A different crew would have charged at the abrupt Gecko-vasion, bullets flying wildly. These men, however, were true professionals and quickly took up positions just out of line of sight of the superhero. Every man had cover and was at least partially concealed behind various pieces of furniture or doors. There was only five of them, and they knew they were likely badly outmatched. However, they had their orders and they were to delay any responders for as long as possible.

 

In Walton’s office, “Cowboy” sighed. “Thought I’d have a minute. Eh, doesn’t matter.” His fist lashed out and smashed Walton out of her chair and to the floor. Stunned, she could do nothing to stop him from casually going into her top drawer and retrieving the USB he wanted. “You know…I forgot to mention something. Face was here earlier. Me asking was just a courtesy. Dunno why nobody ever takes advantage of it, but I ain’t about to stop.” He stepped out the door and sauntered to the elevators. The men up here were between him and whoever’d made such a racket coming in. He had what he’d come for. It was past time to leave. He sighed a bit. Professionalism wasn’t what it used to be, if these men were this sloppy. He pressed the Down button and waited. A quiet “ding” indicated the elevator was on the way.

 

Meanwhile, downstairs silence greeted Crusader’s entrance. The back area was entirely deserted, the off loading crew (such as it was) long, long gone. Their equipment was safely stowed, but the double doors to the building’s interior were unlocked. In fact, one was standing open, propped that way by a little stand attached to the bottom of the door. And through that open door Crusader could see one of the armed men who had invaded the building. He was facing away, but his positioning was clearly so that he could look both towards and away from the loading area door. At any second, he’d swing his head back and spot Crusader.

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Crusader moved as quietly as the low-light conditions would allow, careful of where he was going without actually knowing where anything was. It was the thing that made him most apprehensive about the situation--unknown layout. unknown numbers. It was a tactical nightmare, but it was one he'd willingly signed up for. There was no way he was going to back down now, and he had decided quite some time ago that moving forward once he'd started was his best option.

 

On the bright side, the other innocents that had managed to flee were long gone, giving him some maneuvering room. He couldn't help but wonder, though, why a bunch of armed goons were storming a media building. Broadcasting something seemed like more of a thing for a building with an actual studio, not a corporate office.  The number of vans bothered him too; he felt as if the answer was right there but evasive, like an itch that he couldn't quite scratch. Either way, he had to do something...

 

The moment he saw the armed man in the doorway had a problem. The hallway he'd stepped into war dimly lit, but narrow and left him nowhere to hide and no way to get close without being seen. Going back was counterproductive. And he still didn't know how many opponents he couldn't see.

 

Ah, screw it.

 

Crusader's right hand tightened into a fist as he prepared to hurl the impervium shield at the 'lone' gunman.

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