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When The City Sleeps

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Tonight, there is no moon. The glowing lady that dances above the Southside's mismatched roofs collects the train of her silvery ball gown and withdraws behind thick, gray clouds. A chilly breeze steadily blows in from the South River, driving away the smog lingering over the neighbourhood. The odd siren howls. A dog viciously barks at an imagined prowler.

Lincoln Avenue is deathly quiet. Monty's Garage stands like a single defiant soldier against an advancing enemy. The lights out front are turned off. At the end of the block, a brick low-rise is gutted and blackened from what appears to be a recent fire. The tension between the crooks who have always resided in the Southside and the new urban professionals buying up tenements and brownstones is growing more palatable each day; cigarette butts and Evian bottles litter the street outside the garage.

Inside, on the first floor, Monty pours water into a coffee pot from a white basin sink in the men's bathroom. He leaves the bathroom and walks past the main work area, where red metal shelves are lined against the wall. The entire room smells strongly of motor oil. He enters a small office partioned away from the lifts and power tools. Couches and chairs surround a battered television. He slides the pot into a coffee maker on a nearby table and flicks it on. The machine gurgles to life.

"They better be coming soon," he mutters to himself. "A man needs his sleep."

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Kevin pulls absentmindedly on his new uniform. The Atoms gave it to him when he finally got in for his checkup. He hadn't expected the gift, but they said that they felt they owed him for his help against the Meta-Grue, and it wasn't much to them. For his part, Kevin appreciated having a way that he could act as a superhero in public without giving away his identity. The mask even reacted to his expressions - the eyes growing wider in surprise, or shifting along with his eyebrows so that he didn't look like a kid in a Halloween mask. Of course, he soon found that those eyes still glowed a brilliant viridian green when he started to sense chi.

The uniform shows off his trim physique, appearing similar in design to the Atoms' uniforms. The colors, however, are a mottled green and black. It is almost reminiscent of camouflage (though not the sort that would do much good in the city). His face is completely masked, and his hands have gloves on them, so it isn't even clear what race he is. Hopefully, he thinks to himself, Nightrival would recognize him. It was hard enough making his way over.

"One disadvantage of this uniform is that I can't take a taxi or bus," he thinks. At 11:50 pm, he finally reaches Monty's Garage. Taking a moment, he looks around for any others. He'd rather follow someone else in than be the first person inside (especially since he feels a little self-conscious, dressed as he is).

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Grim comes whistling up the street in full costume swinging two large bags from KFC, one original, the other extra crispy; usually when someone says bring chips, everyone thinks someone else is gonna bring some actual food, and all you get is chips. If you're lucky, someone might have grabbed a coffee cake at Jewel, but that's about it. The chicken and sides had set her back a pretty penny, but she was convinced it was a worthwhile investment in camaraderie.

Obviously she didn't ride the bus over the river in her costume, but after a quick duck into a nearby alley, Grim was ready to show up at Monty's for the first meeting. She knocks on the door and waits to be allowed in, shifting her weight from foot to foot.

Oh man, maybe I should have brought some drinks - crap!

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Kevin spots the young woman heading down the street. "If she isn't someone else that Nightrival called, I'll eat my hat," he thinks to himself. "Well, mask, maybe."

The bags she's carrying jog part of his memory. "Crud; I was supposed to bring food," he thinks. "I can't get any now. At least I packed some cash; maybe I can chip in later." Nothing to do about that now, though. He walks up to the same entrance, keeping his distance from her in case she thinks he's a threat rather than a potential teammate.

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Grim hears someone approaching from behind, but judging from the pace and complete; lack of stealth, it's either a friend or a foe so confident you don't want to give him the satisfaction of being surprised. Hoping for the former, she turns to face the newcomer; judging from his outfit, he's a very brave man. She nods and raises one of the bags in greeting.

"Hi, you here for the audition, too? Man, I loooove American idol, don't you? Do you think Simon's really that mean, or does he just act that way when he's on TV?" ;)

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Kevin cocks his head in confusion and wrinkles his forehead. Somehow, the details of his face are conveyed without actually showing the face itself.

"What in tarnation are you talking about?" he asks. He's clearly not a native of Freedom City, with a Texas twang a mile wide. "Do you need any help with those bags? Here, let me get the door."

He steps ahead of her, knocking on the door and testing the knob to see if it's still open. Thankfully, it is, and Kevin opens it for the woman with the chicken. He quickly scans the interior. There's someone inside, but it doesn't look like Nightrival. Well, they are a little early. Remembering why he opened the door, Kevin moves back so that she can walk inside.

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"What in tarnation are you talking about?" he asks. He's clearly not a native of Freedom City, with a Texas twang a mile wide. "Do you need any help with those bags? Here, let me get the door."

Unfortunately the new guy doesn't get her sense of humor, which is sad but hardly earth-shattering, but on the plus side, he's some sort of Southern gentleman, so that's kinda nice. She smiles and nods as she sidles past him and calls out to anyone in the shop.

"Monty, you here? I brought some grub for folks but I totally spaced on any sort of beverages; do you have any drinks?"

Grim then turns her attention back to the new face, er, mask as she puts down the bags. "Thanks for your help with the door, appreciate it." She holds out a gloved hand in greeting. "I'm Grimalkin, nice to meet ya."

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Kevin responds with a firm grip and shake. He knows the right way to do it, too - not too soft, even though Grimalkin is a girl.

"I'm Hub. Nightrival called you here as well?" he says as he shuts the door. He doesn't say anything about not having heard of her. After all, she's never heard of him either. The name's a bit strange too, but maybe it'll become clearer once she talks more.

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The workshop is dark inside but the lights from the office gently illuminates the room. A dented blue Oldsmobile sits quietly, half-covered by a tarp. Pictures of vintage cars cut out from magazines are taped to the wall. A few seconds after Grim calls out, a figure steps out of the office with his hands in his pockets.

"Who's there?" he asks, peering into the dark. He walks forward and the two heroes see a man in greasy overalls appear in the light. He spots the heroes and lifts his eyebrows.

"Oh, it's you! Glad you can make it." He pulls out a white card from his pocket and looks to Grim. "I got this letter from that friend of yours a few days ago, asked if he could use my shop for some kind of meeting tonight. Of course, I agreed. You and him pulled me out of trouble that one time. It's the least I can do."

He turns to Hub and offers his hand. "How's it going? I'm Monty. Come on in and make yourself comfortable."

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The ocean breeze swept over Megan Howell as she stood at the bow of a massive yacht, looking over at the lights of the North Bay Yacht Club as they drew closer. She was absent mindedly tapping one foot in impatience in how long it was taking to get back to the docks, knowing she was going to be late, a thought that was infuriating for someone who really had no reason to be late to anything.


Earlier this morning, she and dozens of other students from North Bay Academy had set off on the yacht belonging to the family of Thomas Keller, one of Megan's fellow Seniors that had just graduated from the prestigious high school. They had set out for some cruising along the shore and just having a good time. Megan had gotten some sun, gotten a bit tipsy from some margaritas and made out some with another fellow Senior, Randy Larson. But Megan had thought they would be back a bit sooner than this, but had lost track of time some during everything.


Glancing at her watch again, she realized she might not be too late, if she could get the other girls from the cheerleading team that had rode with her home quickly. As the yacht pulled into its slip, she headed back towards the aft of the boat, where most of the other students were gathered. On the way she passed a few couples spending some last few moments together.


Finding the other cheerleaders that had gotten a ride from her earlier in the morning, Megan gave them a smile as she came up and picked up her bag. "You girls ready to go?" She asked, glad that none of the girls were too drunk.


Once they were docked and people began to disembark, Megan led the other girls off the yacht, stopping to thank Thomas for a great party. As they headed off, Megan found Randy down at the bottom of the gangplank with some other guys. He looked over at Megan and moved a bit closer to her as she came down. "Hey." He said with a small smile. "I'll give you a call later this week."


Megan gave him a smile and nodded. "Okay, sounds good. Have a good night." She then continued down the dock towards the yacht club's parking lot. Soon she had all the other girls piled into her BMW X-5 and was on the road to get them all home.


Soon she had dropped of the last of the other girls, and headed off to park in a residential area a short ways off. Grabbing two bags out of the back of the SUV, she noted the cross streets and then headed off down the street. A short ways away, she took off in a blur of speed, moving into a dark area where she was changed into her Velocity costume in an instant. She was then speeding off down the streets, heading towards the water so she could take the quickest route towards Southside, which was across the water.

Less than a minute later she was in Southside, zipping down the dark roads towards the address Nightrival had mentioned in his voicemail message on the phone she used as Velocity. It was only seconds after that that she found the garage and saw a pair of individuals in costume making their way into the building.


Megan did not recognize them, but figured that seeing as they were acting pretty casually, they likely were not criminals, and one of them, another girl, was carrying KFC bags. With a flash of movement, she followed after them, getting inside before the door closed, kicking up a small wind in her passage before she skidded to a halt a dozen or so feet inside and was facing the two in costume and the guy introducing himself as Monty.


"Hey, sorry I'm a bit late, kinda got hung up." She said with a smile.

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A loud gush of wind pummels into Monty, who squints and nearly tips over from the force of Velocity's sudden arrival. He finds his footing again, smiles and brushes himself off.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to living in this town," he chuckles. "How do you do? I'm Monty. You must be another one of Nightrival's friends. Please, c'mon in - I hope I made enough coffee - but make yourself at home just the same."

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"Yep, I'm Velocity." The teenage superheroine replied. "And no thanks on the coffee, believe me, its about the last thing I need. I'd be bouncing off the walls, or at least running up them."


She looked over at the other two figures in costume. "Hey there. I brought some desserts." She said, holding out a bag that was from an upscale bakery in Hanover.

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Sen unceremoniously dumped the young man on the ground. He could hear the kid let out a ragged sob through his teeth. He sat up in the pavement and looked up at Sen.The black makeup he wore on his face was streaked with tears and sweat. "Wha... what were they?" He asked terrified. He couldn't even look at the building across the street where the two of them had just shot out of with him over Sen's shoulder.

Sen glanced back at the building though. It was just another unassuming abandoned building in the Fens. No one would notice it much except for the fact that door had been diagonally bisected by Sen's blade and lay out in the street and of course the inhuman and scaled, and crested form laying in the door way. It lay there cut in two the same way the door had been. Which was because it had been standing in the doorway when Sen was making his escape.

"Demons," Send replied. "What did you think you were joining." The youth's eyes grew big.

"I didn't know. I mean, I didn't think that... what..I.." He trailed off. Send didn't respond he looked down at his exposed Katana. The demon's blood that coated it hissed and bubbled then was absorbed by the sword. The sword had drunk deeply tonight. It was one thing to find a demonic cult another thin entirely to find one full of actual demons.

"Go home." The boy jumped. He probably just thought of his parents who were probably worried sick about him. "No more cults, no more occult, and no more make-up." Sen had seen it too many times. Young kids thinking they could dabble in the occult. They didn't really believe, it was just another thing to get mo and dad's attention. Sen turned away he had one more stop to make.

Without another word Sen leapt into the air his boots hit the side of the building as he raced up the the vertical side. HE somersaulted onto the roof and turned south. He raced across the rooftops of Freedom City as he headed to his destination. This city was still a little strange to him. IT was nothing like Tokyo.

As he ran he could make out another form form flipping though the rooftops several blocks down. The rooftops were a highway for the supers of this city. He had stopped investigating a long time ago. Something whizzed over his head high above him. Another super zipped past making Sen seem as if he were standing still.

After a few minutes Sen reached the south side. It didn't look much different than the Fens. Except the abandoned buildings here weren't abandoned they just looked like it. Sen reached Pennsylvania and continued down until he saw the auto shop.

He stopped and watched the building for several minutes. He trusted Nightrival, but what if it hadn't been him who had left the letter? He had gotten on several short lists since he began working this town. Finally he decided he had waited enough. He hopped down to the street, approached the door and knocked.

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"I'm Hub. Nightrival called you here as well?"

Grim smiles and shakes the new guy's hand warmly. "Well actually I've been working with Rival for a few months now; I was doing so-so in the Fens by myself, but I knew I could really use some help, y'know, pick up some tips and pointers and stuff, so I sort of tracked him down here in Southside." She pretends to look over her shoulder for any eavesdroppers, and leans in to whisper conspiratorially. "I've kinda been his sidekick, but don't let him know I said that, okay?"

She grins and winks and is starting to unpack the chicken when Monty shows up, which causes her to pretty much drop everything to give Monty a big hug and a quick peck on the cheek. "Hey, big guy! It's so good to see you! How's everything?"

Her warm mood goes just a bit chilly when Velocity breezes in, looking all fabulous; Grim's sensitive nose picks up just a hint of sea salt, margaritas and just a whiff of suntan lotion from the young speedster, which curdles her stomach, because she smells money.

What, she couldn't tear herself away from whatever beach party she was at all day in Cancun? She's like the fastest girl alive, how can she be late for anything?

Then she picks up the intoxicating smell of baked goods wafting through the air, and catches herself involuntarily licking her lips.

Oh man, if those taste even half as good as they smell, I am in big trouble.

Trying her darnedest to be civil, Grim forces a smile and indicates the food with a wave of her hand. "Um, feel free to help yourself to some chicken...those cookies smell fantastic." She takes a deep breath and holds out her hand. "Hi, I'm Grimalkin, 'Grim' for short, and this is Hub; I think we all fight crime."

Just then there's a knock at the door, and she turns to their host.

"Monty, do you want to get that or should I?"

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Velocity looked over at the other girl as she spoke and gave her a smile as she indicated the food that was set out. "Thank you, but I think I'll need to pass. If I eat too much this late, I'll have to run a few laps around the state to be sure to burn it off before going to bed."


She then shook Grim's offered hand. "Nice to meet you Grim."  The speedster then glanced over at the man in costume and gave him a wide smile. "Hi Hub."

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Hub nods to the newcomer who zoomed in just before he closed the door as she greets him. He can't help but think how much it would hurt to get hit by her. The faster you run, the harder you hit - it's been drilled in his head since he started playing football back in Pee Wee. "Of course, it also looks like she'd snap in two," he thinks to himself.

"I messed up with the food. I didn't really have a way to stop by the store, dressed up like this," he says. "I'll chip in some to cover you guys." He takes a deep breath and looks at the two women. "Actually, there's someone else I would've thought would get called over here. Maybe..." he begins to say as a knock comes at the door. He glances over to it, and his eyes blaze green beneath the mask.

"Yep, that's him. Hello Sen, one sec," he says, raising his voice for the second half to carry through the door. The mask's eyes return to their usual neutral white as he walks over and opens it up.

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"Ah, don't worry about it any." Velocity applied with a dismissive wave of her hand when Hub offered to chip in some for the deserts she brought. The stunningly attractive young heroine then turned towards the door as there was another knock and Hub seemed to note who was on the other side before calling out to him and moving over to open the door for this "Sen."

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Sen wallked into the door frame of the small shop and quickly glanced around quickly noting the occupants. There were more than he expected.He looked at the man in the green and black. Who was this? How did he know Sen's name. He did sound very familiar.

His eyes flickered over the two women. They were both rather pretty. Particularly the blonde. His eyes lingered a hair of a second longer before movign tot he rest of the room. Were any of them useful in a fight? He would have to trust Nightrival's judgment. His eyes went to the man in the overalls tarrying in the back. Monty bowed his head, almost a nod. "I am Sen."

Then his eyes came back to the man before him. "How do you know me?"

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"Hey, big guy! It's so good to see you! How's everything?"

Monty smiles and returns Grim's hug with equal enthusiasm. His forearms poke out of their sleeves as he wraps his arms around the hero, and they appear lean and sturdy from years of working in a garage. He blushes when Grim pecks him on the cheek.

"It's good to see you too, darlin'. I'm doing just fine, considering the circumstances."

"Monty, do you want to get that or should I?"

Monty approaches the door but suddenly stops when he hears Hub's elevated voice and sees the hero's eyes glow brilliant green. He crosses his arms and shakes his head, watching with amusement as Hub opens the door and greets the surprised Sen.

"I think the young man has it under control, darlin'."

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Hub chuckles at Grimalkin and Monty's conversation. Of course, any gentleman would get the door rather than let a lady do it. He takes a step back to let Sen in all the way, then closes it as he looks around the room.

"What, it hasn't been that long since we were in Freeport, has it?" Hub says. "I picked up some new duds, but it's the same Hub underneath. I figure I'll go by that name now when in uniform, try out the whole secret identity thing." He smiles, and the expression seems to shine through.

"And for the knowin' it was you through the door? Well, I'll just keep that as my little secret. Looks like we've got five heroes here, and Nightrival still hasn't shown up yet," Hub says. If the others count up the people who have arrived, they'll notice that he's including Monty in the number of heroes. "I figure we've all got a few secrets here."

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Sen's eyebrows climb as the realization dawns on him. "I see." A slow smile creeps across his face; a rare expression. "It suits you." He continued to move into the room. Sen had never bothered to come up with a disguise. There was no secret life for him to protect, he had never known another life besides that of a warrior.

Having introduced himself to the building's owner Sen stood before the two women he did not know and bowed slightly. "I am Kiyoshi Sen of the Ryoushikage Clan." He stood back up and looked expectantly at the two women, to introduce themselves.

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Velocity gave a dazzling smile to the newcomer, noting the sword he carried. Hopefully he isn't as quick tempered as the last "hero" I met that carried a sword. She thought.


She then gave him a little wave. "Nice to meet you Kiyoshi Sen. I call myself Velocity when I am out doing hero work."

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Monty graciously returns Sen's greeting with a slight bow.

"I like your style, young man. Welcome to my humble abode."

He stands amid the heroes with a pleased look on his face, seeing that they're getting along amicably after meeting each other for the first time. Well, some of them anyway. Monty infers that a few already share a history together. Hub's remark of having five heroes doesn't escape him; he only smiles awkwardly and gazes at his shoes in reply. When there's a pause in the conversation, Monty clears his throat.

"Isn't this something. I figured you all would be rough housing the moment you came in here. Every once in awhile, folks hear about heroes bashing on each other when they meet. I've already had enough of superpeople turning my place upside down." His smile widens, half joking and half hospitable. He points to the office with an open palm. "Now, if you fine folks mind stepping into my office here you all can get started."

The heroes enter the office and they see Nightrival lounging on one of the well-worn couches. His feet are resting on the coffee table beside a steaming mug of coffee. His nose is deeply buried in a copy of Super-Vision Magazine, a glossy monthly publication that features Freedom City's heroes. If any of the heroes peeked inside the office from the garage, they swear no one was seated there a moment ago. Monty looks genuinely surpised.

"Now how did you get yourself in here?" he sputters. "You're worse than a darn old alley cat!"

"'Ey, Monty. Th' coffee's good."

"Nevermind that! Get your feet off my table! And have you ever heard of a coaster? Didn't they teach you manners in that barn you grew up in?"

"Well, no. I was only there fer a week. Th' Korean police chased me out."

Nightrival stands up and drops the magazine on the table.

"Of course they chased you out!" replies Monty, "just look at how you treat a man's coffee table."

"Fine. I'll keep my feet offa it. Ya happy? Why don't ya go up an' watch yer stories?"

Although someone may not notice, Nightrival subtly winks at the group.

"Alright, alright. I'll leave you folks alone. Call me if you need anything."

Monty salutes and saunters out of the office, closing the door behind him.

"Wow, ya all arrived," says Nightrival. "Thanks fer comin'." He seats himself back on the couch. "Grab a seat."

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Velocity smiled at Nightrival as he made his way into the room. "Good to see you again." She said.


Then with a blur of movement that was almost too hard to track, she moved over and set out the deserts she had brought, and then was over sitting in a chair near the couch Nightrival had taken a seat on.

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Was Hub telepathic or something, because that would be cool...and also terribly scary, considering some of the things Grim has done in her time.

But he's all polite and stuff; he wouldn't just go rummaging around in there uninvited, would he? He made that comment about secrets.

Grim bows slightly towards the new guy who appears to be some sort of samurai, which is actually pretty awesome. "Hi, uh, I'm called Grimalkin or just 'Grim'; it's nice to meet ya, Sen."

I wonder if he knows Ren...and if they're mortal enemies... :(

The young heroine smiles at her mentor's exchange with Monty, then plops down on the couch next to him with a goofy grin. "Hiya, boss; ya miss me?"

Then of course Velocity needs to go all 'whooshy' and perfectly arrange the cookies and stuff like Martha Stewart on Zoom.

Jeez, would have been nice if you laid out the chicken, too, Speedy Gonzalez. I wonder is she's vegan or something? Or maybe she just lives on nectar like a hummingbird; yeah, nectar and margaritas... :roll:

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