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[IC] Hot Off the Presses


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Thursday, April 13th, 2017

The Freedom Ledger Office, Freedom City

2:24 PM


It was a slow news day so far. There had been some reports about a corrupt politician going around the entire last week, so the quiet was certainly appreciated by most of the office. Everybody needed some time off occasionally. Still, slow news days meant that generally, the one thing most people did was smalltalk. Smalltalk, or stare at the screen of their respective preferred devices.


Something which Dancia Devons now had ample reason to do, as she received a message by an unknown number. Which, in her line of work, usually either meant trolls, death threats, or information. In this case, it was, most likely, the latter.



Remember that thing you said back at the Christmas party
Have something that might interest you, and could need some help with it
Where and when can you meet me
Preferably Riverside, but I can adapt




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Dancia had spent months on her own as she recovered, yet after a short time back in Freedom City she was already bored on this slow news week. She'd already used up all of her fake traveling stories to the other members of the bullpen, plus a few trips to help people and even then things were pretty quiet. At least she had some time to consider whether she'd put back on her costume, though she was considering the blue costume Centurion has worn briefly. So any distraction was welcome and Bonfire's e-mail was like a breath of fresh air.


Sure Riverside is fine I'm going to have to hurry to get there, so text me where you have in mind and I'll join you as quickly as I can.


Costume or no she was still going to take advantage of the fact that she could fly.

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Great! Staying at the Quazi right now, Charleston street. See ya then


 Dancia had actually heard of the Quazi before. It was an artsy café, apparently affordable enough for most of Freedom’s millennials. It had gotten a surge of popularity recently thanks to an article by one of Dancia’s friends and co-workers. And judging by what she’d heard, it wasn’t entirely easy to get a seat there anymore. Then again, the time probably helped. Probably not too much activity during the early afternoon.


Some time later


The café was surprisingly full. The weather was nice enough for people to be sitting outside, and many did. Almost exclusively people in their 20s, almost exclusively dressed in stylish and/or extravagant clothes. It didn’t take long to find Bonfire, he did stand out, all things considered.


He’d claimed a nice table below a tree as his own, his laptop currently on said table, all of Bonfire’s stuff next to him on a seat. When he saw Dancia approach, he raised his hand, then grabbed the bag on the seat and instead placed it on the ground next to him.


“Hey, cool that you could make it. Now, where do I start…”


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This really wasn't Dancia's scene, but it was a pleasant enough place and even if the whole thing was a bust she could always write a blog piece on a place she would have been unlikely to get an invite.  She'd didn't had time to get changed, well okay she hadn't had anything suitable wear at home, but she was still well dressed from what she normally wore at the office. This and her general confidence made it look like she belonged to a place like this.


With a friendly smile at Bonfire, she slid into the offered chair.  

"I'd suggest the beginning, I've heard it's a very good place to begin!"

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“Okay. I’ll go with what I assume is the beginning, no idea about the bigger picture. One of the reasons I sent that message, if I knew exactly what’s going on  I’d be dealing with it at this moment. “


Bonfire laughed, clearly not entirely serious about the last part, and then continued, speaking with little opportunities to get interrupted. Probably a practiced skill, if Dancia’s experience was anything to go by.


“Soooo. There’s been some chatter recently, and … well, kinda hard to explain this, but I suspect there’s some sort of rogue newspaper involved. And you’re arguably the most qualified person I know when it comes to media, even if it’s a bit different from the usual. “


“Sounds weird, I know. But, essentially, here’s what I’ve gotten right now. There’s been some chatter about some strange “paper” being published. Nobody actually knows anything more than that, but everybody says that they knew of somebody who had an option to read it, and then disappeared. “


“I have no clue what’s going on. And you’re probably a bit closer to this than I am, so maybe your expertise could be useful.  

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In a position like Dancia's, still being a junior reporter, it paid to keep track of all forms of social media. And whilst that including the newest means of telling the news it also included the oldest methods.


"Those kind of papers turn up all the time normally those with some message to sell, like X villain is also the hero Y and various other conspiracies." she took a quick look at the menu, wondering if she could claim this one as expenses


"So I'm guessing that means that this one is of the special kind? That means there's a story here for both of us, so what's the deal and how we're going to split the lead on this one? I mean I’ve read you blogs it’s good, so good that I should be worried!" she gave a relaxed smile, she wasn't one to claim the big story over the lead from another.


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“Well, it takes one to know one, you know? “


Once more, Bonfire’s reaction was a laugh. But it was true. He’d been following Dancia’s entries ever since the two first met back in December, and she’d become one of the many pages he visited almost daily to stay up to date with things. And perhaps he’d even taken some of her writing style and incorporated it into what he did himself…


“But, I’d say let’s worry about that one once it’s all done. We can split it, or create a cool story of us working together, or just independently report on it. “


“Now, as for the paper… See, that’s the strange thing. Everybody I talked to says it exists, but nobody actually knows what  it’s about. Just that it exists, and that somebody they know talked about getting one. And then, radio silence. I suppose you could call it a lead in that I can dig up stuff on these people, but … yeah, not a lot. But that’d probably be a good place to start first, I’m sure somebody has an apartment we could … break into, I guess? “

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Dancia hadn't heard of such a thing, but she had been out of the country for several months, not that could have told from her constant blogging. Not that she doubt anything like that would happen in somewhere like Freedom City.


"I assume you have sources that I can take a look at? And I'd like to avoid too much breaking and entering if we can help it, I have to be able to quote sources and all that. And the owner of the Ledger is a stickler for keeping things honest."


And besides she was thinking more about what the legacy of Centurion meant, and that included behaving in a certain way.

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“Well, I’ve got a few E-Mails, and one or two phone calls. Didn’t record the latter ones, but I could probably talk to those people again if it came down to it. Plus, there’s the talk on the street, TM, not that that’s something I recorded either. “



“Yeah, it’s nothing. It’s why I feel like the best place to find anything new is the … victims’, let’s call them  that until we know more, apartments-slash-houses. Might give us a better lead than a few statements. And worst of all, I can do that stuff and leave essentially zero tracks. Questionable, sure, but unless we want to involve AEGIS in this off of a few statements, probably the easiest way. Plus, you know, I'm always a source. Not the most trustworthy one though, rpobably .... “



AEGIS. If Cass’ experience told him anything, they probably already were aware of this. Chances were they’d already been looking into it too, so perhaps they knew more. Of course, if they didn’t, and he’d figured it out first, it would serve as a nice little … taunt … towards them. Which, at this point, probably was fair.



Then again, the people he’d talked to weren’t exactly the people who put a lot of trust in the agency and the police in the first place. So it was totally possible that wasn’t the case. Cass wasn’t sure which option he preferred, truth be told.

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Technically Dancia had connections to AEGIS due to the League, but she wasn't sure if the channels were still open after what had happened. Not that she'd expect them to tell her anything, they tended to play things close to their chests. That really left investigative journalism, which was luckily something she had a few skills at hand.


"You really need to see the hoops that we have to jump through to keep things on the level to get printed, maybe if this story is pans out we'll see what we can do!" she always enjoyed helping other heroes out however she can.


She thought through the options that they could follow before adding.


"Let's go take a look at the place, but no B&E unless absolutely necessary, you'd be surprised how good an eye I have for such things."

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“Okay. The first place I was told about’s pretty close by, just down a few streets. On the fancy side, actually, if it’s anything like the area it’s in. Which would be a bit strange since most the others I was told about are more street-level. ‘s the reason I’m checking this one first. Might be a coincidence, might be something more.”


“Anyways, that can wait a few minutes. Not every day you can get a seat at the Quazi, after all. I’d offer you something off the menu, but I’m already paying enough for myself, this place might be “cheaper than the really fancy ones”, but it’s still on the expensive side compared to some of the chains. “


Bonfire made his point by drinking some of the coffee standing in front of him. All the cups here were fancy, a very modern look. In fact, it was similar to the rest of the café’s style. A bit of that typical French café charme hidden inside a lot of modern elements.

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It was slightly... irksome, that as this was on spec job she really couldn't claim anything yet on expenses. And boy did she not need to spend any real money right now, it didn't help that she had spent so long on hiatus. She settled on a reasonably priced pastry and a coffee and settled down to wait for a little.


"Well with prices like this I hope that the story is really worth it." a smile suggested she wasn't completely serious "Next time I get to choose the meeting place, I know a number of dives suitable for meetings.”

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“Sounds good. This place is a rare treat. Mainly because actually getting a seat’s difficult enough, even when I turn up like this. And I know they’re fans! Some place smaller and cheaper probably would be a good alternative…”


Coffee and pastry arrived a fair bit faster than Dancia had originally expected, and lived up to the Quazi’s reputation for the most part. The plain coffee wasn’t the best, but judging by the menu, it wasn’t meant to be. And after some time, the two packed up.



A few minutes later…


The apartment building didn’t fit in with the rest of the neighbourhood perfectly. Not because of stylistic differences, but because of all the buildings in the area, it looked the least well-maintained. Not run down, but not perfectly kept either. There was nothing out of the ordinary in sight, a slight disappointment, perhaps.


“Okay, this is the place. Third floor, Jester. Not sure how we’ll get in though, any suggestions?”

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"Well, this looks interesting, obviously not been anyone here for a boy. Do you know if it's rented or owned? I assume you know something about who went missing."


How they were going to deal with this was something that Dancia had been worried about as well, she wasn't adverse to breaking in if it necessary. But she'd like to avoid it if necessary, and helpful she had a few extra tools that might help them.


"Hang on a second let me think about this, maybe we'll get lucky."


With a little concentration, she opened her senses, listening for any sounds inside the building whilst her x-ray vision allowed her to look through the walls into the place. She was honestly a little nervous if this would work, she was a little out of practice.

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“Some basic information. Male, in his thirties, has some contacts to a few underground scenes of varying legalities. Apparently a big fan of the UWL. Not sure that’ll help, but it’s one of the things I was told. Works an office job with a construction company, I think. That, the area we’re in and the fact it’s on the third floor make me bet on “rented”. “


There was not much in terms of noise coming from inside the building. From the basement, Dancia could hear the power, heating, and washing machines. And further up, on the second-topmost floor, the sounds of children playing. And beneath that, the sound of a woman.


“He’s in … Singapore right now. Sent me a message earlier today, you know how it is, timezones. He’s already in bed probably. Unless his flight’s today, in which case he might be on his way home already. I should actually …”


A quick glance revealed that she was on her phone, pacing around the room while two young children, one perhaps even classifying as a toddler, were in the room with her. The apartment belonging to the missing person was easy to figure out with what Bonfire had said. Quite a few posters, some actually framed. Other than that, it looked like the standard one-person apartment. Fairly clean, no unwashed dishes or clothes on the ground. But nothing that was an obvious clue…


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Things looked a little grim on the evidence front, she might have been able to read something if she was at height, she could have even do it from orbit if necessary, but right now she wasn't in a position to do that. But there was a bit of luck with one of the neighbors that offered an opportunity to maybe find something out with bending the law.


"Look's like one of the neighbors are in" she pointed to the apartment, with a helpful open window "They may know something about their neighbour and if we're really lucky they might even have a spare key."

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Cass actually didn’t know who Dancia was. She’d only ever introduced herself as Dancia. And even when the two had talked back at the party, she’d never revealed more. It was a bit strange, and now that’d she’d somehow sensed the presence of the neighbours in some way, that only added to it. Still, this wasn’t the time for that, this was the time for action. And those neighbours were a good thing. Cass would’ve never bothered to check. But, he had to admit, it was probably more legal.


Outwards, Bonfire simply shrugged.


“Sounds like a good idea. Which ones? Let’s head up there. Who wants to introduce themselves? Depending on who they are they might not be too happy about seeing me. I’ve got a bit of a rep with some people. … Not that I’d have to tell you, chances are you knew about that already. Still, might be better if you do it? You’ve got legit journalism cred. “

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Dancia couldn't help but feel that her bluff wasn't 100% effective, obviously, she was rusty at all this secret identity. She was tempted to follow up and try to explain how she knew, but pointing that out would probably only make things worse. At some point, she guessed they'd need to have the conversation, but now there was an investigation to try and complete.


"Sounds like a plan, no one tends to look at these things anyway." she showed her press pass with her very obvious image "Let's go see what we can find out!"

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“Okay, let’s go. I’ll be just behind you. Not that anybody’s gotta know.”


With that, Bonfire’s human form more and more came to resemble his head, all the while turning translucent. And soon, the only thing that told of his presence was a slight increase in the temperature.


The door to the building was unlocked, so after a short elevator ride, Dancia was up at the apartment she’d scouted out before. From inside, she could still hear children playing, and the woman talking on her phone. Still gossiping, it seemed. After Dancia rung the bell, a few things happened. The children became louder, one of them began to cry. The woman muttered a quick curse, told whoever was on the phone she’d call back, and then opened the door. Not fully, just small enough of a gap that she could look through.


“Yes? We’re happy with our insurance, don’t need a new vacuum, and our church is good. So unless you’ve got something important, you can just back right off.”

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Dancia might be a little rusty at this, after several months away from everything, but this was something she'd done many times before and it was almost like second nature. The trick was to put the person at ease and make them feel some semblance of control, not that much different from her other job really.


"I've very glad to hear it, ma'am. I'm Dancia Devons and I'm a reporter for the Freedom Ledger." she showed her press pass allowing the woman a chance to get a good look at the thing, transparency was the key here.


"Sorry to disturb you but I'm looking into a disappearance from this place and I was wondering if you knew anything that could help the story?"


Now the main thing was to make sure the woman felt she was in control, there was more chance that she'd reveal information that way.


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The woman on the other side reacted with a fair bit of surprise. Not the “what, somebody’s missing” surprise, but more of a “why is the press here” level of surprise. Perhaps she wasn’t exactly glad about Dancia’s presence, perhaps it was something else. Perhaps Dancia was simply misreading the situation. Either way, the door opened a bit further, allowing Dancia to once again see the room she’d seen before, and for the woman to better see her.


“Disappearance? What? First I’ve heard about that. I’m sure if anything were happening I knew about it already. And since I’ve not seen any police around I’m pretty certain nothing happened. Unless you have something to prove me wrong, … Miss Devons? Do you have anything to back you up, or is this one of the capes just giving you a shot in the dark? Because last I checked, nobody disappeared. “

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Dancia had learned that sometimes the things they didn't say were just as important as those they did. But this wasn't exactly the circumstances where she could straight out call some on such things, instead, she'd have to go for subtle methods.


"It could be nothing it's true, we do sometimes get anonymous tips like this and we like to check them out. The Ledger will greatly appreciate any assistance that you could offer."


She couldn't mention money directly because right now it wasn't an official story and she didn't have access to any funds.


"I assume that a capable intelligent young woman like yourself knows everything that goes on here, being a good neigbor and all."


Even better than the vague promise of money was the actual charming of the woman, it was cheaper and might just work.

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“Appreciate, hah. So what? Do I get anything from it? A bunch of “investigative journalists”, capes and the police showing up and taking over the entire building? No thank you, we’ve already got enough things going on here. Plus, as I said, no idea what you’re even talking about. “


She turned her head back into the room real quick. “Bobby, no! Don’t touch that! “ She turned back around, as Dancia could make out a small cloud of smoke halfway into the room, up at the ceiling. Did it mean anything? Perhaps.


“So, unless you can show me something to make me change your mind, or you want to talk to my husband, who, by the way, owns this building, you’re outta luck. And if you want to do the latter, he’s currently on a flight. And I’m not paying for the cost of calling him. “

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Another option closed, another avenue to open up, it was easy to treat such things like military tactics but that easily led to conversations becoming like battles and then no one won.


"That's fair enough ma'am, and let me be completely honest with you." she relaxed ever so slightly like a weight had been lifted by being honest "Someone has potentially gone missing, that means some mother is worried about their son. If you don't want this placed mention that fine, I give you my word that this place won't be implicated in the slightest. But at least let me confirm if something has happened here.""


This pinged both her reporter and superhero senses that something more was going on here, literally in the sense department as she took a look through the wall at what little Bobby was doing.

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The woman seemed to almost tune out Dancia’s statements, as she didn’t react to them at all. She just stood there, and looked at her, same as before.


“As I’ve told you, no. If you really want to, talk about it with my husband. I am willing to provide his number, but that is as far as I’ll go. And a lot farther than I have to when some punk journalist knocks at my door. “


Inside the apartment, not much had changed from the last time Dancia had peeked into it. The younger child was sitting on the ground, building blocks in hand. The slightly older one had walked towards one of the windows, and was now standing in front of it, a few pictures and plants arranged on the windowsill.  The window was open, also different from before.


Then, she spotted a key-rack, various keys on it, all with a tag and number attached. And as she was looking at it, one of them disappeared out of thin air. She’d managed to get a quick glance at the tag, number 33.

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