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When Tristan Delacroix first disappeared, the initial reaction at the party was simply bewilderment.  No one panicked, thanks to the lack of apparent trauma.  Even after the young doctor failed to pop up from beneath the outdoor table, his family and coworkers weren't sure what to make of it.  But soon Alexander called the police, and then a few of his friends in local government to ensure that law enforcement was properly motivated.  AEGIS quickly took an interest too; jurisdictional protocols kept them from claiming the case for themselves without more evidence of superhuman involvement, but they nonetheless dispatched Agent Thornton, who only just closed her last case involving a Delacroix abduction.  And Thornton, smart enough to use all the assets at her disposal, put out a broadcast on the International Air Distress frequency for Miracle Girl.


That hero's contribution, sadly, came down to looking around the estate and confirming that, yep, the little dude was gone.  She didn't find any cackling villains lurking in the bushes, or ultraviolet ransom notes waiting for her eyes only; theories abounded among the regular investigators, but evidence did not.  Casey might need some help with this one.


* * *


Calls were made, the media took note, and by the time that dawn lit Delvin's upper roof--a house so frivolously large that it looked like a posh, poorly-located shopping mall, because no private residence had any business being this big--his stone driveway was full of police cruisers and black SUVs with government plates.  News vans lined the nearest public road.  Tristan wasn't quite so well-known as the older two brothers, but he'd still draw in viewers, and if he didn't, then reporters could still find something worth their time here.  They hovered just beyond the police barricades, hungry but patient.  This was Freedom City, and sooner or later, heroes were bound to show up. 

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Sea Devil wasn't at all sure what she could do to help with the case of the missing Surfacer - but she'd come at Miracle Girl's call. And brought help. "This is my friend Singularity," she croaked to Miracle Girl and the others as she introduced her companion, a pale-skinned young human woman in a dark jumpsuit. "We live in the same building. I brought her to help." Introductions done, she hopped around the yard, casting her eyes around for signs of trouble. They'd heard of, but not seen Singularity, during their previous team-up together with AEGIS - Aquaria had called her up to talk about somebody named 'Baxter.' She hadn't entirely caught what had happened when the Surfacer disappeared, but she was sure someone would explain it in a way she could understand. For now, it was time to see if there were clues that had escaped even Miracle Girl's keen eye. What a vast land this was! Dry though it was, if this land were an island it could have supported a whole colony of Deep Ones in its shadows. It was strange to think of a whole Surfacer family living here, like a quieter version of the Hunter estate. 

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Whilst Miss Grue was proud of who, and what, she was Daphne was well aware by now that her appearance could sometimes cause people to get the wrong idea. So she'd slip in by virtue of being insubstantial taking on her Grue appearance as she became substantial, giving a little wave to everyone as she'd managed to meet most of them through on various different occasions.


She'd been a little surprised to get the call from Miracle Girl, though they'd had had exciting Nancy Drew adventure together in the past.

"Hi, Guys! It true Singularity's really cool and stuff!" Daphne happened to live at the same place, though she didn't know them really well "So like what do we know about what happened here?"

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It would be a stretch to say that Casey thought of Dr. Delacroix as a 'friend'; the brilliant but awkward scientist was little more than an acquaintance, really, but during her brief interactions with him, in both her personas, she'd come to respect him and his passion for science and the environment. And to be honest, part of her was worried that she might have endangered him by getting him to promise to help the two supercriminals she and Leviathan had stopped from kidnapping him last October. Hadn't they referred to someone else, perhaps another criminal with a mind for revenge?


After quickly scanning the house and grounds for clues and chatting with the various members of law enforcement, the young heroine decided it was time to act fast; there had been no mention of any sort of ransom demands (and her gut didn't think there ever would be), and there was a previous attempt to grab him involving superpowers.


Dad always says never be too proud or too stupid to call for back-up.


Naturally her first thought was to call her best friend Sakurako, but she knew she was with her family in Emerald City right now, and time was of the essence. The next logical choice was Terrifica, because well duh! But what if more than one super-powered bad guy was involved? Casey knew Miss Grue was telepathic and amazingly versatile, plus dedicated and just a pleasure to work with, so she got the call. And what if it was some new menace? What if the doctor's work with Freedom-OCEAN had somehow drawn the ire of an undersea threat? Even if it wasn't, it certainly couldn't hurt to have some more muscle, so for these reasons and more, she reached out to Aquaria.


When the three heroines arrived, they found Miracle Girl in her familar red, white and blue costume, standing well away from the ring of reporters and law enforcement; she knew several of her friends would prefer to avoid such attention.


"Hi, thanks for coming so fast! Nice to meet you, Singularity; apparently you come highly recommended!" She peered around for a few seconds. "Technically we're waiting on a fifth...ah, she'll show up dramatically when she's good and ready; in fact, she's probably already lurking around here somewhere."

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There was a loud and indiscreet yawn behind the group of heroes. “No, Miracle Girl. Today I’m simply late.” It was Terrifica, walking her cycle up the drive. She did not look or sound like she was entirely awake, and more than a bit of a Chinese accent had crept into her voice. “My husband made certain…demands on my time last night. You know how men can be.” She took a second look at the group. “On second thought, perhaps you none of you do.” Gods, she was getting old. “At any rate, I overslept this morning. I’m still waking up and…ah.” The lower half of her face (all that was visible of it) went pink. “I’ve said too much. Please forget all of that. Let’s just get to work.” She put her cycle on its center stand. “Miracle Girl, your message said someone disappeared? Tell me everything.” She sighed. “And of course, I’ve forgotten my longcoat.” She was actually wearing it. “Wait, no I haven’t. I haven’t forgotten anything in years. Why would I…” She corralled a policeman. “I need coffee. And a donut or muffin. I haven’t the time to wait for my mind to wake up. I need a jump start.” While he was or was not busy with that, she turned back to the other heroes. “Right, go on then. I may not be awake now, but I’ll remember it when I am.”

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"Good, that's everybody," said Casey as she cheerfully clasped her hands together. "Terrifica, this is Miss Grue, Sea Devil and Singularity, and everyone, this is Terrifica; she's like a genius super-detective." Introductions quickly made, she launched into a description of the case as she knew it.


"Dr. Tristan Delacroix is a brilliant scientist who comes from a wealthy family, as you can see." She indicated the ostentatious home with a wave of her hand. "He disappeared this evening, from a room full of eyewitness who pretty much said he was there one second, and gone the next. There was a previous attempt to kidnap him last October, when two criminals with superpowers tried to abduct him from the opening of his Freedom-OCEAN facility; the attempt was thwarted by myself and Leviathan, and the criminals are now in Blackgate. However, some things they said made it sound like they weren't working alone, and that they might be trying to force him to reverse whatever process gave them their powers, which apparently have some nasty side effects. If he was taken, that seems the most likely reason, but obviously there could be others; he's rich, so he must be worth a lot, but there haven't been any ransom demands yet, so..."


She shrugged.


"So that's where we stand right now, I guess."

Edited by Heritage
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"Thorough and precise as usual, Miracle Girl," a voice said nearby.  Up walked a woman in the somber black suit of AEGIS, her curly red hair cropped short, its lowest curls barely reaching her earlobes.  For a moment she just looked at the heroes; behind her sunglasses, her expression was hard to read, but given their wide variety of talents, MG and her friends might detect a mixture of weariness, stress, and now, uncertainty.  Thornton still wouldn't turn down the help, but she knew about Sea Devil's criminal record, and didn't know as much about Miss Grue as she would prefer.  That particular alien species had a complicated reputation in Freedom City, to put it mildly.  Before approaching them, she ordered one of her fellow agents to pass along word to headquarters and request background checks for everyone, just to be safe. 


"I am Agent Thornton, of AEGIS" she then introduced herself.  "Currently this case is technically under the command of Sergeant Pines, FCPD, whom you should speak to in a moment; I assume you will want to see the location where Dr. Delacroix was last found.  As Miracle Girl said, he vanished without warning or apparent cause.  Our running theory is that he fell victim to some form of teleportation; AEGIS has already scanned the area for known energy signatures, without success.  None of our usual suspects appear to fit the profile, and so, I agree that this is probably an extension of the previous kidnapping attempt.  I have interrogated both of the prisoners in Blackstone, again without success; if you want to try yourselves, then I can arrange for clearance to the prison. 


"Unfortunately, there's more."  Her voice dropped a little lower, despite the comfortable distance between them and the reporters clamoring behind the police barricades.  "Last night, four other scientists from the Freedom Cross Institute went missing too.  All work regularly with Dr. Delacroix.  Between them, they have extensive experience with infectious diseases, dangerous chemicals, and genetic studies.  We haven't told the public, and I want to keep it that way until we know more; in this age of terrorism, the last thing we need is a city-wide panic by announcing that these talents may now be in the hands of some maniac. 


"We have fewer witnesses for those disappearances, but they appear to have happened as suddenly as Dr. Delacroix's.  Two were in the parking lot of the FCI headquarters, another was at home, and the last was on her way there, when she vanished right out of her car, causing it to crash. 


"And finally, we have reports of strange damages at the FCI headquarters.  Nothing was stolen, and all biological agents are still under secure guard, so I have made this a lower priority than the missing persons, but it may still be a lead."

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"We should go to Blackstone," Singularity murmured to Sea Devil. She'd been very quiet so far, trailing her froggy friend like a shadow and watching as things unfolded. "Somebody ought to talk to those villains and see if maybe they know any teleporters." It wasn't a particularly well-developed idea, but nobody had ever accused Jessie of being much of a detective. "And I could see my friends," she added hopefully. It had been quite a long time since she'd been back to the prison, or seen any of the people who'd been most of her contact with the outside world for several tumultuous years. 

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"Even if they don't, they must know something of why they hunted that man. We could shake the truth out of them," agreed Sea Devil. She didn't like the idea of going back to Blackstone - a place where she had far fewer good memories than Singularity did. (Really, Singularity _was_ her main good memory of Blackstone - even if they'd only seen each other in the hallways before actually getting to know each other as roomates at Project Freedom.) But she'd do it so Jessie wouldn't have to go alone, and because she knew the place better than most people who'd never been within its walls. And it was not so bad. We could show the inmates that they need not rot inside a cage. "Does AEGIS know magic?" Sea Devil croaked towards the AEGIS agent, hopping over that way once the Surfacer female had finished speaking. "In strange aeons, even distance may die." 

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"Hello, Agent Thornton," said Casey with a firm nod. "Nice to work with you again. I agree about going to Blackstone. I think I had a...well, 'connection' is probably too strong a word, but I don't know, maybe a bit of rapport?...with one of the perps; we might be able to build on that." Then she turned to look between Miss Grue and the AEGIS agent. "I'm...not sure where the law stands on using telepathy to read a criminal's mind; I'm guessing it's frowned upon and not admissible in court, but if we're looking for clues on a related case and not planning to use what we find in that woman's mind against her? I'm tempted to give it a shot."


Then she turned to her mentor. "Terrifica, something tells me there's a lot to be learned at FCI; do you want to head there right away, or join us at Blackstone?" She indicated the large manor with a nod. "Of course, a second or third set of eyes to look over the crime scene first isn't a bad idea, either, and that goes for anyone; who knows what we might have been missed?"


And lastly, she nodded at the point Aquaria brought up. "Yeah, we can't rule out anything." The young heroine looked thoughtful as she began to count off possibilties. "Magic, teleportation, invisibility, illusions...super speed, dimensional travel, stopping time...shrinking...lots of things can be used to make someone disappear."

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Daphne though for a few seconds considering the options they all had at hand. She might not be the smartest person in the room, but she had a pretty good grasp of the situation.


"The laws kind of fuzzy on telepathy, but it can always be used to find more solid information." she'd watched lots of Crime Drama's so figured she'd have a pretty good grasp on how these things worked.


And whilst the idea actually being inside a famous prison and seeing all the villains that other heroes had stopped was v. exciting, but first, she really needed to try something first.


"I think Blackstone is a really good place to gather information, but I'd like to take a look at the where we think he disappeared from. It shouldn't take long and if necessary I can use Baby to get us to Blackstone quickly. You can arrange all that for us can't you Agent?"

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Thornton looked from one hero to another, and answered their questions in turn.  "It could definitely be magic," she agreed with Sea Devil.  "But we haven't been able to thoroughly explore that possibility.  Our arcane agents operate on a scope that's a bit more cosmic than missing rich people, and my usual civilian consultant is out of town.  If you have a way to check around for signs of spells, then be my guest."


Then, to Miracle Girl and Miss Grue: "Correct, any evidence you obtain by forceful psionics won't stand up in court, least of all because we can't prove whatever you find.  Fortunately, just looking for leads has a long precedent in Freedom City.  No one will complain if that's how you crack the case--except for the prisoners, I suppose.  I'm...not sure who or what 'Baby' is, but yes, I can get you into Blackstone.  Just please remember to clearly announce yourself if you arrive by unconventional means of transport; we don't want to alarm the guards and have a messy misunderstanding.


"But first, I agree: you should all examine the crime scene, just in case.  I fear that the amount of time that has passed might limit what you can find, but we won't lose anything by trying.  Do you have further questions, or shall we go?"

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The requested coffee and muffin were starting to work, but Terrifica still yawned again. Discreetly this time. She was at least half awake, now. Any hint of China in her voice was mostly gone. Miracle Girl was proving to be quite clever for not having intellect as a superpower. Which was entirely the point of mentoring the girl to begin with. It wasn’t quite “my work here is done” yet, but she was pleased at her progress. “I agree with you, Miracle Girl. The institute has attracted my interest as well. I could use your eyes there.” She took another sip of coffee. Must. Wake. Up. “However, I don’t believe a quick look at the scene will delay us too badly. I do have one question before we go there. Do you still have that car?” It was one thing to snatch someone while they were stationary or merely on foot. It was quite another to pull off the same feat to someone in a fast moving motor vehicle. Terrifica planned on a third stop.

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"Yes," Thornton confirmed.  "The vehicle is in the police impound Downtown, not far from the FCI labs.  I'll arrange for clearance if any of you want to take a look." 


She then gestured with one hand and led the group deeper into the estate.  Behind the enormous mansion was a large brick patio that bridged the gap to a small but private beach on the Bay.  Metal garden chairs sat around tables covered by white cloth and half-finished drinks and plates, all preserved for the investigation.  Thornton took them to a table they probably could've picked out anyway, given the police tape around it.  Not much appeared to be here, but the few items were tagged for evidence, namely a spilled glass lying on the ground.  The bricks around it were slightly damp from where its ice and lingering whiskey escaped. 


"This is where it happened," Thornton said.  She turned instinctively when movement caught the corner of her eye; up walked a stout, old police officer, his face grizzled with a 5 o'clock shadow and the dark rings below his eyes.  Like most of the investigators, he had been here all night and felt much like Terrifica, without even an entertaining time to show for his fatigue.


"And this is Sergeant Pines," the AEGIS agent added. 


"You know the rules, Thornton," he said wearily.  "For now, my case."


"My consultants," she countered.  "Be nice to them until they prove that we're dealing with a metahuman, and then I'll take over." 


The two exchanged a small, rare smile, and then Sergeant Pines turned to the heroes.  "I assume you've got the general idea already.  The doctor was sitting here, and then suddenly he wasn't.  We can account for all the fingerprints in the immediate area.  No suspicious devices found on the estate.  No ransom demands.  No signs of any kind of struggle.  I'll be honest, we don't have much to go on, and this kid's family is really leaning on us to come up with answers, so if you can help, then go right ahead."

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Law enforcement of all agencies stepped back to give the heroes room to work.  They now had the attention of nearly everyone, whether AEGIS or cop or distant reporter with a long-range lens, eager for whatever shots they could get.  Most people had good--or at least predictable--motives.  Some did not.


Two police officers, twice as many journalists, and worse, one of Thornton's subordinates reported what they saw to more than just their departments.  As was common, none knew the name "Labyrinth," nor did the handlers they contacted with information.  The massive crime syndicate's rules of secrecy turned spying into a high-stakes game of Chinese Whispers, but word still moved up the chain.  By now, higher-ranking members correctly suspected what happened to Tristan Delacroix.  Labyrinth operatives started their own searches earlier this morning, but initially, heroic involvement was considered a good thing.  Why not monitor them while they did the legwork, then leap ahead at the last moment to grab their missing experiments and, if necessary, silence anyone who needed it? 


Miracle Girl, the Labyrinth expected; she had a vague connection to the missing doctor and a history of jumping to help people.  Nobody expected Sea Devil, but after the initial scare when a few spies mistakenly reported Singularity as Wander, they determined the Deep One's involvement as confusing but manageable.  Miss Grue seemed more problematic.  Grue, rogue or not, were always trouble.  And then Terrifica arrived, at which point the Center collectively soiled itself. 


They rushed to inform their shadowy master, very possibly the world's single wealthiest individual, and more-than-possibly the richest person that almost no one had ever heard of.  Back came calm, confident orders, which were filtered down the chain to a man sometimes called Mr. Teal, who lowered his expectations of taking anyone alive and quickly went to work.


But we digress.  Back to the heroes.


As soon as she approached the table where the young human last sat, Aquaria caught a faint but unsettling scent.  It reminded her of the geothermal vent that powered much of Blackstone Prison.  That smell, which she came to know over the course of her imprisonment, had a blend of natural and unnatural.  The heat itself flowed from the earth, and she may've even found such underwater vents on her own during happier days, but in Blackstone it was interwoven with smells of machinery and plastic.  Now, in this unlikely location for such a memory, Sea Devil could detect a different combination of natural-and-unnatural.  She felt sure that this smell wasn't from some human-made engine, but if a living thing spawned it, then the creature wasn't one she had ever encountered before.  Even so, it was distinctive, and she wouldn't be forgetting it anytime soon.


Much like the Deep One, Miss Grue discovered something interesting with her own enhanced senses, this one wholly hidden to normal humans.  She felt lingering emotions around the table, namely fear.  If it came from the kidnapping and not some more recent event, then it must've been pretty powerful to stick around for so long.  Whatever happened here, it frightened Dr. Delacroix. 


But then, as she searched deeper, Miss Grue uncovered something else.  She had trouble hanging onto it, and might not even want to, as the sensation was even less pleasant than before.  It caught her like nerve pain when she turned the wrong way, like a cavity pressed with frost and sugar; although it never lasted long, if she persevered, she would gradually piece together a combination of intense anger and desperation.  That wrapped around something a little deeper, the layer over an inner shard of indescribable loneliness compressed as hard as a diamond.


Meanwhile, Terrifica gave the scene a casual glance and Sherlock Holmes'd her way past every previous investigator.  She could see the wrinkle in the tablecloth where had Tristan rested his arm; she followed his movements like a road map, pictured them in her mind, and spotted inconsistencies.  She looked at the fallen glass on the ground, rolled back time to watch its path--predictable for a master of physics--and found it at odds with the position of his chair.  Not only did it not match precisely where Tristan sat based on the other evidence, it also wouldn't leave the cup where it now lay.  The differences were too subtle for AEGIS and the police, but they told Terrifica two things: first, that the chair moved slightly in the process of Dr. Delacroix's abduction--unlikely but possible for teleportation--and second, that whatever and however it moved, it did so independently of the glass.  Something happened to make him drop his drink, then his chair shifted over, and then he disappeared, all without alerting any of the other party guests.


Miracle Girl had, of course, already scanned the scene, and indeed the whole property.  No new mysteries presented themselves this time around, and her gaze began to wander.  In this way, something further away suddenly caught her attention: a few tables over, a nearly-empty glass of water appeared to be damaged.  Weak spots in the glass distorted the dawn's light, drawing her eyes to it.  This wasn't exactly a grand revelation, but it nonetheless seemed odd.  Around the glass's rim were three depressions, two side by side and the other opposite to them.  And inside the cup, strange grooves started about halfway down and continued nearly to the bottom.  Given her outdoorsy background and respectable construction experience, she pictured the marks left behind by a bulldozer's bucket-teeth as they scraped down through dirt, scooping it out. 


During all of this, Singularity might've felt a little left out.  At the very least, she didn't seem the type to take center stage--in today's particular case, all the police might have something to do with it--and as she stood back, a discovery came to her.  The others focused too much, missing the forest for the trees, but she saw a weird pattern.  When the doctor disappeared, the party was still in full swing; the guests, by and large, were in the alcohol stage, their plates light and their glasses full--well, empty now because the bar usually closes when the cops show up.  Most tables on the patio sported alcoholic cups of varying levels, sitting beside full water glasses for later use.  Yet, in two straight rows leading from Tristan's table to the edge of the patio near the beach, all such glasses were almost--but not quite--empty.  It was strange, like the sides of an aisle, as though Dionysus walked between these tables cursing every non-alcoholic drink within his arm's reach. 

Edited by Blarghy
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"It smells funny," opined Sea Devil, crouching by the table with her face-mask pulled back. "Like the volcanoes in the depths of the sea, the ones that make the black water - or the bottom of Blackstone, where they made the light." She wrinkled her snout, an impressive sight, and opened her mouth to 'sniff' the air - an even more impressive sight given the size of her open maw and the length of the tongue she occasionally protruded. "Could he be underground?" she asked, peering at the earth uncertainly. She knew how soft the earth was here - easy to dig! But there was no sign of any tunneling to her eyes. Shaking her head, she let her helmet close over her face, plunging her back into a more comforting dimness. "What do you think, Singularity? After this, we can find Blackstone's scent again.

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Terrifica didn’t like it. Usually a few subtle clues were enough to rule out more possibilities. This was only further confirming Dr. Delacroix was taken quickly without anyone noticing. True, it was specifying just how quickly (the man didn’t have the opportunity to put his drink down), but that didn’t…wait. Very fast, mimimal visual effect… “Detective? Have you checked the security tapes? Frame by frame? Teleportation is on the table, yes, but the fastest of speedsters can produce a similar effect. I don’t want to rule anything out.” The thing that tripped it for her was the chair. Some teleportation effects would move it, true, however speedsters always disturbed the air around them. Even if it was only enough to slightly move a chair. “And ask if any of the attendees noticed an unexpected puff of wind. No matter how slight.” Mischief at the FCI with nothing actually stolen and taken incredibly fast from a moving vehicle also could fit.

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Singularity was staring off at the tables with great intensity, but that could mean anything from great focus on a small detail to complete inattention, caught in the whirlpool eddies of her own mind. "Look at the water glasses on the tables," she finally said, glancing towards Terrifica and the detectives. Her voice was very quiet, as though she still hadn't decided whether speaking up at all was a good idea. "A whole line of them are empty, right there. Just those, on both sides of the aisle, every single one is just about drained, while all the other ones are just about full. That seems weird." Her furrowed brow suggested the young woman didn't know what to make of it herself. 

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Spotting the oddly-damaged glass, Casey wandered over to it, picking it up with her gloved hand as she turned it this way and than, watching the light play over it. "This is kind of weird; it almost looks like...maybe it was shot? Like those slow motion videos of ballistics tests on YouTube." The blonde heroine watched them from time to time, looking for ideas for things she might be able to do or figure out with her super-speed. She brought the glass over for Terrifica to look at it, hoping the super-genius might be able to make something of it.


"Does this look like anything to you?"

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Terrifica’s thoughts bounced from subject to subject. First thing about some kind of spatial displacement, something demonic, the Terminus (please, no), and cycling around around to a speedster. Volcanic fumes as a side effect of using said speed? Running on alcohol and/or water? Or simply rapid dehydration? Hmm, that fit better. Volcanic fumes left behind. A need for water. And…a damaged glass? Hold that for the moment. She could almost see it. The perpetrator got into the party normally enough, or without a need for the intense burst of speed required to exit unnoticed. Got close to Dr. Delacroix, and then grabbed him. His drink was left in the air to fall, and the sudden burst of air from their motion nudged the chair out of place a second later. To fuel the speed burst, the perpetrator had to drain the drinks. It wasn’t a bad hypothesis. In fact, she liked it quite a bit. And the apparent undersea dwelling nature of the perpetrator would let the damaged glass make sense. It could have held alcohol instead of water, causing the perpetrator to recoil.


The problem with this lovely hypothesis is that there was precious little to support it. Spatial distortion teleportation by a demonic or demonically powered agent could account for just as much. She frowned, and responded to Miracle Girl with that instant’s delay that by now informed the young heroine of just how much her mentor was thinking. “A scratched glass.” One could even shove aside a supernatural explanation. The perpetrator could simply be non-neurotypical with somewhat off the wall powers. “I don’t have enough data to say what it means one way or the other.” Hmm. An empowering device that ran on alcohol. Also not impossible.

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Sergeant Pines' face paled when Aquaria revealed hers, and the nearest police took long steps backward.  They didn't see a Deep One every day.  Neither did most reporters, and Thornton wanted to keep it that way; the agent swiftly but subtly moved closer to Sea Devil so that she blocked the view of distant camera operators back at the police barricade. 


"You can smell that?" Thornton asked, mildly surprised.  "I wonder if it's the lingering energy from some kind of device..."


To Terrifica, she added, "I'm afraid security footage isn't much use here.  The property does have a few cameras, but they're focused toward the road and outer perimeter.  The only one back here is down at the boathouse by the dock.  I'll pass along word anyway, but we've already checked for clear shots of the patio, and there aren't any.  As for wind, light haphazard gusts are usually funneling in from the Great Bay, so I don't think we'll have much luck there either.  Still, I'll make some calls."


"She's right," Pines said, meanwhile, about Singularity.  He looked down the row she mentioned and pointed it out to his officers.  "Those glasses are almost all empty.  Why...?"


The police fanned out and started tagging them for evidence; a few were brought to Miracle Girl and Terrifica, so they could compare to the first.  The marks were so faint that only Miracle Girl's fantastic eyes could pick them out, but they all seemed to roughly match to the first cup she found: strange, rounded grooves down the inside of the glass, and three shallow depressions on the rim.  As she studied further, Miracle Girl saw more marks in those upper dents, tiny lines crisscrossing back and forth.  She might have a hell of a time puzzling out what she was looking at, were it not for a clearer sample down by her feet.  The marks on Tristan's drink weren't permanent like these, but they still jump-started her thoughts: she was looking at very narrow, partial fingerprints embedded in the glass itself.  Now that she thought about this, the grooves inside the containers--usually four in number, side by side--were all about the size of a fingernail...


"Super-speed?" Thornton mused to Terrifica.  "I had not considered that.  It's certainly possible.  I'm not sure if that gives us more to go on, or less.  How do you catch someone who moves faster than you can even see?"

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Sea Devil hmmed at that thought, her helmet snapping back into place so that when she spoke, her voice returned to its usual artificial resonance. "You do it the way young ones hunt a fish - you set a trap for him, and then when he snares it, you catch him, and then you-!" She made a gesture with her three-fingered hands, then a weird sort of gulp that might have been a cough. "Singularity and I will be scenting Blackstone now. We will look for the smell - and shake those bad people who tried to take the man before. Good luck, my friends.


Aquaria knew that sometimes Jessie liked to be by herself when she traveled, so she let Singularity run, bounding along after her on the rooftops until they ran out of those altogether near Lonely Point, then leaping along after her on the ground. Her suit might have let her fly, but there was a certain satisfaction to be gained by sheer muscle power! She joined Singularity by the Blackstone ferry, where sure enough the guards did seem to be expecting them. This time Sea Devil did stick close to Jessie, looking down at the bay from the rail of the ferry and trying to relax. There was no use frightening Jessie with her own fears that once they went back to Blackstone, they'd never get out.

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Daphne normally cheerful face fell for a few seconds as she concentrated on reading the room psychic residue, it shouldn't be this easy to ready unless some very strong emotions happened within this room.


"He was obviously scared by the what he encountered. But there's something else here..." her voice went vaguely for a few moments before adding quietly. Whatever it was, was almost hidden by the feeling of fear, but it was there the faint traces off...


"Whoever was here it feel's so very lonely, like a deep incurable terrible loneliness."


She paused for a moment to compose herself before adding in her more normal tones.


"Oh my I sound like one of those telepaths from a sci-fi show!" she gave a playful smile


"I think we should probably catch up with the others, I hope they called ahead!"

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Thornton watched all of this impassively, aside from a faint twist of her lips at Miss Grue's sci-fi comment.  This did sound a little strange, but that wasn't what caught the agent's attention.


"The doctor was afraid?" she asked.  "If this happened so fast, then how would he have the time?  Could he have been trapped in some kind of...speed-bubble?  This is just bizarre, even for Freedom City.  And I hesitate to even speculate about this loneliness.  If someone kidnapped Dr. Delacroix for that reason, then there are easier ways to find new friends."

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Terrifica was just about done with this scene. Data collected, but not nearly enough of it to make any firm deductions. “Sea Devil is correct. One just have to be clever enough, and anyone with any power can be caught. Although I do hope that last bit remains cut out at all times.” Since the Atlantean Invasion, she had refamiliarized herself with the types of undersea denizens and thus knew exactly what Sea Devil was. Deep Ones had a reputation. Though, heroic ones would get the benefit of the doubt, especially if Miracle Girl thought they were all right. “I think I’ll go to the Freedom Cross Institute now. Miracle Girl, will you go with me?”

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