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[IC] Freedom of Information

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GM

 

They soon entered a car, at which point following them turned out to be somewhat more difficult. Bonfire couldn’t quite keep up with it, so there were moments where he lost a clear view. Thankfully, with two people following it that was bearable, and between the two of them, one of the heroes always had an eye on the car, with it likely not suspecting anything.

 

At least judging by how it was driving. Calm, without sudden turns, and clearly heading in the same direction at all times. After crossing Pramas Bridge (Bonfire had been able to call it and cross slightly beforehand, giving him enough of a lead for Leviathan to catch up later on), the car continued onwards on the State Route 4 for a bit longer, only leaving it close to the airport, and heading towards one of the entrances that led towards the runways.

 

Headed into the airport
Can’t follow, too risky
Know the guards have countermeasures
Will keep an eye for them disappearing, but think they’re trapped
Meet me at these coords

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Leviathan didn't like the sound of this.  The hackers were only trapped if they weren't planning to skip town, and he'd just given them plenty of money to buy tickets if they weren't already prepared.  Had he tipped mAZ off somehow, making them so nervous that they were willing to leave Freedom City altogether?  Was it a setup from the start?  Did Ph0enix betray him for some reason? 

 

I could follow them in, he thought.  But what then?  Transform and start a fight in the middle of a transport hub full of people?  AEGIS would be after me if I caused that kind of panic.  Maybe these guys are picking someone up, not flying out.  Still, I don't like it!

 

Yet, without any good options, he saw little else to do but rejoin Bonfire and plan their next move together. 

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PC

 

Bonfire was waiting by one of the side-streets that ran into the airport. He was standing by a light, the checkpoint for vehicles entering the airport some distance away. By the time Leviathan had made his way there, Bonfire was already on his phone.

 

“Yeah. Huh. Okay, I’ll call there, thanks for your assistance.”

 

He hung up, and turned to face Leviathan. “They entered through that access points, so unless they chartered a private plane they’re stuck in there. There’s only two other ways out. Another one of these checkpoints, on the other side, the other’s through the staff entrance in the main building. And I’ve been there, getting through there … I doubt they’ll manage that. “

 

He paced around a bit, as he entered something into his phone. “The company still owes me a favour, so I’m gonna try to call that one in and get us in without alarms going off everywhere. “

 

With that said, he raised the phone to his ear.

 

“Hey, Bonfire here. Listen, I know it’s really late and a bad time to call, but I need to call in a favour…”

 

“Okay, got it. Thank you. “

 

He turned to Leviathan again. “Okay, we’re good to go. They’re allowing it, but if there’s any damage whatsoever I’ll have to cover it. And I already have one lawsuit going on, so … I guess let’s try to be careful about this one. “

 

 

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"I can help with your costs, if there are any," Leviathan said without apparent concern.  "But honestly, I don't see why we'll cause damages unless we're careless.  I don't want to jinx this, but what, exactly, can they even do to us?  Tweet angrily?  Crash your blog before we take away their computers and phones?  These are just regular humans, right?  Not even well-trained humans at peak health, far as I know.  They could have fancy tech like Solemn did--that'd be a problem.  Otherwise, this should be laughably easy.

 

"Although I do wonder what mAZ is doing here in the first place, if they aren't leaving the city..."

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 PC

 

“Much appreciated. Yeah, I doubt they have the same tech as Solemn. But I suppose there’s only one way to find out. “

 

Bonfire slowly became more and more translucent (which, with little light, was ever more obvious), soon having fully adopted his smoke-form.

 

“I think I have an idea where they went. Follow me, with the alarms seeing us as exceptions we should be able to get pretty close before they can react. They might’ve hacked into the CCTV, but I’m not sure we can do much about that one, you do stand out a bit on that. “

 

With that said, Bonfire moved forward, through the checkpoint, and into the airport proper. With only a fence guarding the area, getting it wouldn’t prove to be a problem for Leviathan either.

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Hopping a fence was less trouble than trying not to crack the concrete on the other side.  "I could shapeshift to hide until we strike," he considered.  "But...the change takes a little longer than I care to be exposed for.  The hackers might just have guns, and getting shot as a human is a lot more dangerous than when I'm 'suited up,' so to speak.  Guess I'll avoid the cameras as best I can and move fast once we're spotted."

 

On he followed. 

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GM

 

The two heroes continued through the airport. It was a large open space for the most part. The runways were a fair distance removed, with the road the two of them kept close to leading towards a large building, likely for storage and maintenance.

 

The street was lit, but keeping to the darker parts wasn’t particularly difficult, and most of the security cameras were fairly obvious and easy to avoid too. Some took a bit more care, but were doable too. Once they were close to the building, near a gate large enough for trucks, Bonfire stopped.

 

“Fairly certain they’re in there. I’m gonna give it a quick check. “

 

With that, he rose directly upwards, slowly fading into invisibility. And then appeared about 10 seconds later.

 

“Their car’s parked inside, and the lights are on. Heard some talking, but I didn’t see any of them. Looks like we’ve got them. Seems to be the place the airport stores all the cargo containers in, there’s tons of them. “

 

“There’s two main gates, this one and one on the other side, but I also saw at least two staff entrances. I can try locking them down, but I get the feeling we’ll have to act quick if we wanna catch them all. I can loop around and come at them from the other side, but you’d have to somehow get through the door or the gate over there. Or I open it for you, hopefully without alerting them, but if they run we probably can’t chase after … no idea how many there are.

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"Go around the other side," Leviathan agreed.  "I'll give you a little time to get in position, and then bust through the gate on this end.  I'll pay for the damages, don't worry, but hopefully a shocking entrance will encourage mAZ to surrender.  If they don't, I'll chase them toward you, and we'll catch as many of the hackers between us as we can.  Does that work for you?"

 

He shifted his massive bulk from foot to foot, eager to start. 

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GM

 

“Alright. Not particularly happy about it but it’s probably the best thing we can do. Don’t think we need a signal, you busting through the door should be good enough when it comes to that. Gimme a minute, then I’ll be in position. “

 

“Time to do this, then.”

With that, Bonfire once again disappeared, floating away. Everything was quiet now, as Leviathan got a better look at the gate. Large and heavy. At least he didn’t have to worry about having it slam into the opposite wall of the building. Time passed, as he got ready to bust straight through.

 

And then, one estimated minute later, he slammed into the gate, ripping a Leviathan-size piece of metal out of it and onto the ground behind. It was nice and loud, and followed by what clearly was somebody screaming. Probably because they hadn’t expected it.

 

The warehouse’s inside looked similar to others Leviathan had seen. ULDs of various sizes were stacked on the floor and on large, stable shelves. And right in front of him there was the car the hackers had escaped with. But at first glance, he couldn’t see any of the hackers.

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Full of energy and excitement, Leviathan battered his way in and got through most of his action hero speech before his eyes caught up to him.

 

"Alright, everyone's under arrest!  Surrender or face me!  You can go to jail, or to a hospital and then jail, so make your cho--" 

 

He paused, stared at the empty-of-hackers room, and came to a slow stop.  His head whipped back and forth in confusion.  "...Wh...ho...I mean...?"  Quickly, though without his previous confidence, Leviathan jogged to the car that mAZ had used.  The huge reptile lifted it up with one hand like he was looking for his keys underneath the couch. 

 

"Where the hell did they go?!"

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GM

 

Upon touching the car, Leviathan could clearly feel that it had been running only shortly before, with the engine still not having fully cooled down. It wasn’t enough to leave any serious burns on his scaly hide, but it warmed him up a fair bit. There wasn’t much else in the room, but judging by what Bonfire had said, it was almost guaranteed they were somewhere in the room.

 

There was a chance they were hiding, since the boxes were clearly large enough to allow somebody to duck behind them. Leviathan began to ponder what could’ve happened, as his nose picked up something. The smell of stress, of fear. Strong enough to suggest that it was coming from somewhere close-by, and unique enough to know that it wasn’t his own.

 

He followed the smell, which led him towards one of the largest ULD’s, stored next to one of the building’s walls. It was just about large enough for a person to be hiding inside, and Leviathan’s senses didn’t lie, somebody very stressed was inside….

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He slowly sat the car down with a frown.  Leviathan crept--a laughable concept, given his size--quietly as he could across the storage facility.  His own heartbeat made it hard for him to judge his footsteps, between his exhilaration and, now, confusion and frustration.  Whereas a moment earlier he was ready to tear this place apart if necessary and sort it all out with lots of money afterward, now he had doubts.

 

Something's not right.  They can't all be hiding in there; where did the rest go?  Unless...what if mAZ is just one person?  A duplicator could've been fooling us this whole time.  Or, I might be about to open a trap.  The hackers had to have a reason to come here in the first place.  What was it? 

 

But if this was a trap, better to spring it himself and take most of the harm rather than wait and let Bonfire get caught too.  Leviathan's misgivings kept him on his toes; he grabbed hold of the large container and tried to rip it open in one quick motion.

 

"Knock, knock!"

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GM

 

Inside the container, Leviathan could see quite an impressive setup. In an area that couldn’t even hold his entire body when transformed, an entire work desk had been set up. Two monitors connected to what, at first glance, appeared to be quite a fancy PC, a comfy chair, and a variety of gadgets, most of which he couldn’t identify at first glance.

 

And, sitting on the chair, a person. Male, fairly young, wearing a hoodie and trackpants. He wasn’t one of the men Leviathan had seen before, but the scene really told him enough. The man’s reaction also helped, having essentially frozen in fear, before letting out a massive scream at the sight of Leviathan casually ripping open his container.

 

There was a can of pepperspray tucked away between the monitors, and the man seemed to be eyeing it. Just then, Leviathan heard the sound of clattering metal, suggesting some other containers had opened…

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Leviathan's eyes widened in confusion, then narrowed as he reached a suspicion.  Could the rest of mAZ be...robots?  And this is the only real member?  Whatever's going on, it's getting weird, which is actually pretty cool!  I thought this might be boring after we sprung the trap, but it looks like I was wrong.  ...Let's see if I regret the excitement.

 

He reached toward the mystery man, but rather than grabbing him, Leviathan instead picked up the pepper spray.  He aimed it at his own face, opened his mouth, and shot it onto his tongue like a breath freshener.  Hopefully that would make his point.

 

"I'll be right back," he growled before turning away to investigate this new noise.  "Don't go anywhere; I'm faster than I look."

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GM

 

The man only flinched further when leviathan’s arm came closer. He got a bit less tense as, instead of what he likely assumed, Leviathan grabbed the pepper spray. After what followed, that changed yet again, as the hacker dug himself further into his chair, to the point where the padding was actually starting to get worn down. He nodded ever-so-slightly when Leviathan walked away. If he’d made any moves, it was likely enough that Leviathan would hear it, so he made his way towards the source of the other noises, where he could stare down a corridor towards one of the doors leading out of the building.

 

A few men, dressed in all sorts of styles, were standing in the hallway, eyes turned towards the door, where Bonfire stood, blocking the exit, hands crossed behind his (non-existent) head. “Come on guys, is this all?” Behind him, outside the building, Leviathan could spot what appeared to be a mirror image of himself, staring into the warehouse with quite a stern expression but not moving. As a few of the men turned around at the sound of leviathan appearing, and stumbled back in response, he also caught view of more setups similar to the one he’d just pried open, each equipped with the same style of PC, desk and chair setup, even if all of them seemed to be personalized to some degree.

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Yet again, this wasn't what Leviathan expected.  He craned his neck to see into the storage units and finally shrugged.  "So, this is just your base of operations?  I guess it's creative, but you couldn't just all pitch in for an apartment?  ...Whatever, it doesn't matter.  Now we've got evidence for the police, anyway.  In case anyone didn't hear me earlier, you're all under arrest for various cyber crimes.  I'm going out on a limb here and assuming that no one wants to fight back--or rather, feebly flail at me with your Cheeto-encrusted fingers.  So, unless you've got some kind of secret weapon, kindly step out of your cubicles and wait for the cops to arrive."

 

He looked from hacker to hacker for the one they met back at Club Mayhem; technically, Leviathan was probably supposed to hand the half-million dollars over to the police too, but if he could get away with taking it back, he'd rather do so.

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GM

 

Following Leviathan’s proclamation, there was some chaotic chatter, people talking amongst each other, quietly, and making sure they didn’t move. Being stared down by two Leviathans as well as Bonfire had that sort of effect. Between all of them it was difficult to catch everything.

 

Uh, uh…” “How did they find us?” “Don’t they know about the deal?” “Looks like this is it” “Maybe they don’t know?” “Well, they should.” “How many even are there?” “Must’ve been..” Nah, that can’t be” “Why would they come after us though?” “Let’s just let them deal with it

 

They chatted on for a bit more, but all of them sat on the ground and raised their arms, clearly waiting for whatever followed next. The one the two heroes had met before was in the group as well, keeping completely quiet. However, he wasn’t holding the briefcase, likely having stashed it away somewhere. Bonfire meanwhile came a bit closer, stopping just outside of melee distance of the various hackers.

 

“Huh. So, time to call in the people who’ll handle them, then?”

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Yet again, Leviathan's thoughts swung back in the other direction, now toward worry.  These ups and downs in his confidence were starting to frustrate him.  What did mAZ mean, "Don't they know about the deal?"?  Did the hackers have outside protection that was supposed to keep away heroes and law enforcement?  As best he could judge the whispered conversation, Leviathan got the impression that he wasn't merely dealing with other, more dangerous, criminals.  Did mAZ make arrangements with some shadowy government agency or another, granted freedom in exchange for their cooperation?  Were they the pets of another hero? 

 

Is this Ph0enix's game? Leviathan wondered.  Did she send us to get rid of mAZ not because they're the problem, precisely, but as a way to strike at whoever they're working with?  Or is this her trap?  Does she expect mAZ's supporters to bring down Bonfire and me?

 

He nodded tensely to Bonfire: "Yeah, call it in."  Hesitation was plain in his voice.  Now the lizard stomped over to their prisoners, loomed over them, and demanded bluntly, "What's all this about?  What do you mean?"

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GM

 

“A’ight.” Bonfire casually took his phone out of the pocket and clicked a single button. Within moments, there was a voice on speaker, asking “FCPD, what’s your Emergency”. Bonfire responded quickly. “Hey Greg, Bonfire here. We got something for your boys to pick up, we’re at the Airport. No idea, is that your jurisdiction or that of the border control?” After a short pause, the response came in. “They’ll deal with to for now while we roll out, sending them over. Do your thing and let them know where you’re at. Hanging up now, thanks for notifying us.”

 

Bonfire pocketed his phone again. “Nice guy. Looks like they’re gonna be here quicker than expected.”

 

Meanwhile, the hackers responded to Leviathan, who had most of their attention at this point on accounts of being a lizard towering over them. While some hackers were fairly intimidated, others just seemed amused. “Ha, they don’t. “ Yeah.” “This is gonna be aaaakward…”

 

“Alright, alright. Clearly y’all got in way over your head. You see, we have a little agreement with your kind, but looks like y’all didn’t get the memo. You don’t #### with us, we leave you alone. It’s been that way for ages. But here you come and mess it all up. Do you even realize what this means? Everybody’s gonna know you did it, hell, some probably do already. You two just painted the biggest target you could on your back, chances are there’s gonna be a bounty on both of you. Bonfire and Leviathan.“

 

“And I’m not just talking about hackers. That’s what you get for messing with the status quo. And I’m sure somebody’s gonna want to know more about the alien…”

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Until the last bit, Leviathan mostly looked intrigued, but then his prisoner cut to his deepest fear.  He worried from the start that his cover story might not withstand hard scrutiny.  The hackers themselves didn't worry him; he doubted that online research could do more than reveal just how little evidence there was of his "species," which didn't, by itself, prove anything other than perhaps that his ancestors were good at hiding.  If Ph0enix couldn't figure out his secret, this crew didn't have much chance either.  On the other hand, a real Cowl could cause serious problems.  Furthermore, once Leviathan's anxiety started to simmer, the anger seeped in too.  He had entertained the possibility of what mAZ suggested just moments earlier, but now that he really considered it, he felt genuine outrage to think that any other Freedom City heroes might've decided to overlook these criminals, much less come after him for doing the right thing. 

 

So, when he moved closer and leaned down toward the hacker who spoke, nose-to-nose, his big eyes were dangerous and hateful. 

 

"My kind?" he repeated slowly.  "Nnnnnoooo, I don't think so.  My kind wants you in a cell until you forget how to work a keyboard.  My kind doesn't make the deals you're talking about."  ...Ph0enix notwithstanding, he added to himself.  "You're talking about rogues and villains--AND I HUNT THEM TOO!" he roared suddenly.  "So keep talking!  Give me names, so you can see your friends in prison with you.  Wearing a mask doesn't make them my kind, and it won't save them either!"

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GM

 

“Come on, did you really think all this stuff just worked because we were good at hiding? I’m not sure if you’ve ever met with any of the stealthy buggers, because you certainly aren’t one, but they’ve got other, bigger stuff to deal with. And if that means there’s a few small fish swimming around, they don’t care. Better to just accept it as is than to fight against all of us. “

 

 

“Up until now, at least. This isn’t gonna be some small, targeted retribution. You’ve just come in here and torn apart one of the pillars that keeps this city working. Guess what’s next, because it won’t be fun for you or any of your colleagues. And if you’re the people that set it all off, guess whose gonna be hit hardest? “

 

 

The hacker seemed determined, his words clear and quick, not all that intimidated by the giant lizard staring him down.

 

 

“Your choice. Leave now and we’ll chunk it up to a bunch of newbies not knowing their place. Bring us in and you get to deal with the fallout. We won’t have to. “

 

 

Bonfire looked over at Leviathan, the hackers on the floor, his phone, and then his friend again. He approached, looking quite uncertain about the whole thing, but not saying anything yet.

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If they're not lying, then it means that Ph0enix was, Leviathan thought with the same mix of anger and dismay.  She said that mAZ was new on the scene, moving in on her operations; that can't be true if they have this kind of longstanding agreement with Freedom City's heroes.  So, this whole thing was a setup from the start.  Maybe mAZ really is her competition, but she had to know what she was sending us into.  She was probably never going to give us more information about Solemn even if she has any; I bet she's gone underground already, to hide from us until we're taken out.  Well, that's not going to happen.  Whatever happens to me, I'll bring that traitor down too.  ...But then what?  How do I get out of this situation?

 

He almost told the hackers about the original source of their trouble; letting them spread the word about Ph0enix on their own would be the simplest way of dealing with her, but Leviathan hesitated, largely out of spite.  He wanted to face Ph0enix himself, if possible. 

 

"...If you're the pillar of anything," the lizard said slowly, "then it deserves to crumble.  I've made my choice already."

 

Nonetheless, he looked shaken when he turned to Bonfire.  "If you want to go, you can," he offered solemnly.  "I can handle it from here.  You don't have to be involved any further."

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PC

 

Bonfire seemed quite determined, not stuttering or speaking quietly. “Way too late for that. This is  ride or die. I was part of the reason we got into this, and I’m gonna stay on it ‘till we’re done.”

 

 

He stretched his arms for a moment, before continuing. “Now, let’s take down this pillar. Airport Security should arrive in a bit, keep your eye on these guys. “

 

 

With that, he turned to smoke again, heading towards one of the doors. Meanwhile, the hackers looked around, having grown ever more uncertain. They didn’t say anything anymore, and soon after a group of guards entered the room through the door that Leviathan originally had. They were surprisingly well-equipped, probably ready to take down a potential metahuman.

 

 

The woman who likely was the leader began to address the two heroes. “Oh wow, this is quite the find. “ The guards moved in to start arresting the various hackers, who didn’t do anything to resist. “We’ll take it from here, but we’ll need a few statements from both of you regarding this situation. We can do it right here it you want to, but it’ll take some time so we might want to move somewhere warmer?”

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Leviathan's first thought was predictable: Can we trust these officers?  He especially wondered in light of their equipment; perhaps it was meant for him.  Maybe they worked for mAZ and were planning to take the hackers out of sight and just let them go.  Even if the guards were honest, then they were still almost certainly going to find the briefcase full of money, which could raise some problems, or at least questions.  Would mAZ already be suspicious of their new business associates from earlier in the night?  Would they tell the police?  Would they tell their special friends, those "heroes" that Leviathan desperately wanted to learn more about? 

 

"Cold doesn't bother me," he mumbled.  "Rather help you keep an eye on this crew anyway until they're locked up.  Just in case you need help.  We can talk on the way, or at the station."

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GM

 

“Oh, the station’s just the airport’s security headquarters. We’ve got the guys form the PD coming over, but for now this is in our jurisdiction. We can do it right here, then. “

 

The officer got out a notepad, scribbling down a few words. “Just so it’s been said and you are aware, these are official statements made to representatives of law enforcement. Lying or misrepresenting the situation may lead to consequences for you if you do, and what you say here will be used as evidence in the case. It is in your rights to deny answering to any question or parts of it as established in Freedom City Local Law, Article 244. “

 

Bonfire nodded, clearly this wasn’t his first rodeo.

 

“Now then, first question. How were you made aware of the suspect’s presence at the scene?”

 

Bonfire turned to whisper to Leviathan. “Okay, how open do we wanna be about this? I can carry the conversation, but just so we’re on the same page. “

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