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Maybelle McQueen, Queenie

It had been a long trying night. The Moore family reunion was one of the most trying ones. Sure, the guy who made Freedom City hell in the late 80s and early 90s, but he had a family. And money. So, a labor of love of your job was. Franklin was all talk surrounded by people. He knew of Queenie's heroics. If you weren't one of the best chefs in town for impromptu large gatherings he would have went elsewhere. After the restaurant was clean and the employees gone, you took to the sky. It was clear and refreshing. When you got home, there was a light on in the kitchen. As you called out, you heard a voice you hadn't heard in a long time. "Yeah honey," your deceased husband said, sitting at the kitchen table in the work clothes you saw him last in, "don't worry about... where am I?"

 

Lynn Epstein, Grimalkin

You were alone, looking through orders, just before the store opened. Lady Liberty merchandise was flying off the shelf ever since that biopic was made. In a world full of superheroes, people had their favorites. You got a text from Gretchen, as you were just about done and the doors were open. "Who's this?" Followed by a face that you knew Instantly. It was Ren. Nanowire. Alive. "I walked in our home to find him. Said he wanted to see you. Know where you were." A quick message followed, "Is there something you want to tell me?"

 

Robert Spalding, Vita Nexus

"Son," you heard you father for the first time in a long time. It was a questioning. he saw you using your powers to dispatch a bunch of hooligans trying to rob a parts store late at night. He seemed to come from absolutely out of nowhere. "You, you have it? That explains a lot now that I think about it." Your father smiled, healthy as the day is long. A quick scan revealed that it was a person, and it was alive. But something did not match up with 'being alive'. Mechanical wasn't the term for it, but He was running on human interaction. But for all intents and purposes, this was your father.

 

Dr Dmitri Ivanovich Peshov, Comrade Frost

"Champion," you heard Hel's voice from beyond. "Do not be alarmed, I'm here to deliver to you a task. People from the realm of the dead are coming up missing. I want you to investigate. Find out who's taking them." And that's the command you were given. No other words were spoken. Your investigation lead you to many different people with seemingly returned friends and family. Though they knew nothing of being dead.Just remembering their last healthy moment before dying and showing up in their family's home.

 

Leilani Keli'i, Volcanic

Unfortunately not all people coming back were nice and/or good people. Villains, yes. But abusive and alcoholic relatives also. Some ran for cover, others had their past to deal with. Still, there were protectors looking to do good in the world. Alive or dead they weren't going to get a free walk. Still, you heard the pleas that the dead had come back to life. That something was very very wrong.

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Vita's first reaction was sheer disbelief. The man standing a ways off was a memory brought back to sharp focus, a figment all but forgotten from his past. He stood a little shorter than Vita Nexus and certainly seemed much softer in build than Vita's wiry frame, but there was no sign of the weight that Vita saw him carry the last years of his life, no dread pulled at his features... And his eyes. His smiling eyes were clear and unclouded, brown like most of his family's were. Brown like Vita's had been.

 

"...This can't be. You can't be here..." Vita whispered to himself as he closed his eyes, feeling out along the pull of the Adficio. When he opened them again, there was confusion, anxiety, concern... but no answers. Only more questions "You are truly alive again? How? When? What happened? And how..." Vita paused for a moment, torn between finding out more and the mercy of telling him he couldn't find his soul among all the conflicting energies that made up a normal person. Others held feelings for him, from memory of his passing to knowledge of the man himself, but... it vanished into him, as if there were a hole that could never be full.

 

Vita instead let his questions hang in the air, all pretense of roaming the streets searching for petty thugs forgotten in the wake of this reunion. It seemed to him his father knew that at least something was amiss, and Vita himself wanted answers. Needed answers.

Edited by Kaiser6012

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It was just like a punch to the solar plexus. More so, actually. Maybelle had a force field up these days when that happened. It hadn’t been ten full years. Not quite. More than eight. More than nine, now. When had that happened? When had so much time gone by? Her force field had flared into existence by reflex, but this gut punch wasn’t of the kind it normally dealt with. That day…it had been both the worst and best day of her life. The day he died. Steve. The only man she’d ever loved. Disbelief. Agony. A torrent of emotions ripped through Maybelle McQueen. “Steve…”

 

But…she was stronger now, than she was then. She’d fought gods and demons, or people who thought themselves such. So she breathed. Shuffled her surging emotions into some sort of order. “No. You’re not Steve. Steve is dead. He died over nine years ago in Charlotte, on the grounds of Johnson and Wales University. I know because I watched it happen.” She needed a moment. That memory still hurt, with the same force as that day. The ones after had faded, but that one was still crimson agony. “I know because I went to the funeral. The dead don’t come back to life. So, who are you? Why have you come to Freedom City?” The first time in her life she’d been genuinely 100 percent selfish. She’d struggled with the guilt and the trauma for…a long time. But she was okay now. Not good, not great, but okay. “I asked you something.” Her force field glowed brighter. “I suggest you answer.”

Edited by EternalPhoenix

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"Ah, well, this is not uncommon," Dimitri was quick to assure Leilani as they both dressed. The message from Hel had come while he was in her apartment's kitchen over a late breakfast - and he had naturally passed it onto her when he was done. "The dead rise from their graves for great many reasons. Most of them bad ones," he admitted. Leilani herself was an exception to the usual rule - but then she had not died in her time below the waves, but had instead emerged much changed. "Hel's personal intervention is unusual but she will at times take an interest in a great many things." When they were both ready to go, and at her apartment window, he kissed her. "We will finish breakfast meeting for dinner - or porheps tomorrow's breakfast," he added. "These things can take time." 

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"Yeah, you know, mentioning that the dead comin' back to life is just another Tuesday... that's not the most reassuring tact, you know?" Leilani's response was bemused, looking more like she was dressed for the beach than crime fighting but the wetsuit-like outfit was the only thing she owned that wouldn't burn even when she gave it her all. She turned to open the window as Frost went to finish pulling on his parka. The room would lose much of its ambient heat while she was gone, no doubt, though Aquaria might get some more mileage out of the warm, dry heat that she'd summoned for Dimitri's comfort as it rose through the castle before dispersing. 

 

Stepping onto the window sill without any of the fear she'd once felt at the very long drop, Leilani stepped out into open space high in the sky as she burst into flames from the toes up. Standing on the cloud of flames, her legs braced apart as she reached one hand out towards Dimitri, "Just tell me where we need to go."

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It wasn't possible; she'd seen him die.

 

Ren had been her first real love; they were two teenagers trying to figure out this world of heroes and villains, and that night they met, that night that would not end, they just clicked. The months that followed were blissful and confusing; they fought as often as they kissed, Lynn's rollercoaster of emotions driving Ren crazy sometimes, but they always worked it out. They were two children, two broken misfit toys that found each in the wreckage of their lives who somehow made it work, against all the odds.

 

Until the night Ren died.

 

"I..." She couldn't find the words, her throat clamped tight with conflicting emotions; finally the changeling closed her eyes and willed herself back into the apartment, her body collapsing in on itself in her office as she stepped out of a conjured poster upstairs. Into the living room (how ironic!) where Gretchen stood staring defiantly at a beautiful young man (him!), her arms folded tightly across her chest. Without turning to look at her lover, Gretchen spoke in a dull, flat tone that only Lynn could hear the anger in, anger and fear and hurt.

 

"So. Who is this?"

 

Lynn spoke very evenly, trying to keep from breaking down as tears welled up in her eyes; my God, he was as beautiful as he'd ever been.

 

"Gretch, this is Renichi Sonada, my first boyfriend. He died eight years ago."

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"I have come in my perfected body from beyond the Veil to warn you," said Vita's father seriously. "There is an enemy coming which means to-" 

 

-

 

"ruin everything! Everything!" Ren looked frightened in a way that even his own death hadn't put in his eyes. "Listen, you can't stay permanently in Heaven, but you and your girlfriend can both come. We can resettle you in one of the other Freedom Cities, one that's far away from all of this. You don't know what they're like, they're-" 

 

-

 

"they're killers. Worse than killers." Queenie's former fiancee's mouth was pressed tight in fear. "Worse than anything I've ever seen. Worse than anything the angels have seen. They don't just kill you, or turn you, or anything pretty like that. They wreck the whole damn world and everything they stood for, like going to Heaven and finding the angels want to eat you alive." 

 

-

 

"Ah, here we are..." As Vita Nexus and his father had spoken, the later relaying the horrific tale of the coming dimensional corruption, a fiery woman riding a burning rock and her icy companion arriving like figures from a dream. "Let us not be too hasty." 

 

"Comrade Frost and this lady of flame will be your companions in this struggle. He bears the burdens we do - but from another master." Sure enough, the cold coming from the Freedom League member was readily apparent as something hungry and draining, not too dissimilar from Vita's own abilities. "Others will join you. I wish I could go with you." He put a hand on his son's shoulder. "I love you, my boy." 

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Vita felt the cold emanating from Comrade Frost as a hole - a vacuum, threatening and maddening as a room purely without sound. The Adficio drew from within, certainly - Comrade Frost was a living being, after all, with friends and allies who respected him - but from his body there was nothing. Vita involuntarily shuddered before regaining his composure, turning back to face his father.

"...There are still many inquiries left open, father, but if what you say is true, they must wait." As Vita felt his hand on his shoulder, full of the warmth and energy his father lacked through the last years of his life, he couldn't help but become slightly choked up. "I wish I could have seen you like this more." Was all he could muster as his eyes misted over. He reached up to touch the hand that left him, but stopped just before making contact. Would feeling the cold that surrounded him be the same as he had felt when the roles were reversed - would his father feel, in his heart of hearts, that all hope had been lost in the dark of the Adficio?

He instead nodded to his father and stepped away, towards the two new figures. He bowed in respect to the two, bringing a notebook and pen out of his coat as he did so and looking to the two with eyes black and flat as the darkest night. "A pleasure to make your acquaintances. Had we time, I am sure this could be more entertaining, but if this is all true, time is something of a commodity. My name is Vita Nexus, and if you could, please... what is going on?"

Edited by Kaiser6012

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Volcanic had hung back slightly, letting the magma platform they'd ridden sink slowly back into the earth. As Vita took a step forward, Volcanic stepped back again, giving a fluid gesture to show that she was keeping up some space. Although she smiled, the obsidian plates that made up her form in this altered state didn't quite look the same as human flesh would and as most people registered flame and black rock to be sinister or even demonic, she hoped the friendliness in the crackle of her tone was clear enough, "Still trying to figure that out. Don't get too close unless you don't mind heat n' flame, gotta warn you. I know some'a the fire-callers have fire for show and all but I actually burn and don' wanna burn you, hey?"

 

She turned slightly away, spreading her hands wide more out of habit than necessity as she extended senses through the soil below, "Lot of disturbances going on. Not too surprising though."

 

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Ren looked over not at Lynn, but at Gretchen. "They said it was something you'd seen before, when they leaked over from the mundane world where they'd died. A world not of heroes, but of Feral monsters." 

 

-

 

"There is a war in the heavens," said Comrade Frost carefully, translating Hel's words for the boy as best he could, careful to keep his distance lest their too-similar powers cancel each other out with dangerous results. "Monsters have overrun one realm of the dead, and now seek to bridge the gaps into all others. The dead have, in some places, come forth to call upon champions such as us. Will you stand with us, Vita Nexus? The road ahead may be worse than death." 

 

He shot a guilty look at Volcanic as they spoke - but he already knew Leilani's character and would not think to suggest she step away. Especially not when the stakes were so high! 

 

 

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Maybelle-No, Queenie-glowed with power. “They’ll go through me first.” She was entirely unaware of it, but wow was she posing heroically. “We’ve thrown back a thousand invasions with people predicting our doom. We’ve thrown out the flippin’ Terminus.” Her face was resolute. She actually believed that Steven would come back just to warn her about this, if he’d been given the opportunity. “So you go on back to Heaven. Tell them to warn whoever’s guarding Hell’s gates to expect company. This is Prime. Here, we always win. No matter what it takes.”

Edited by EternalPhoenix

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"I didn't really think you'd give up," admitted Stephen. "There's a team forming to take the fight to the things before they can overrun another afterlife. But baby, this isn't like the other invasions. This isn't some army, this is...the end." He closed his eyes, then opened them. "But whatever happens, I know you'll want to fight it." He told her where to find the growing team, a rooftop in the Fens where even as he spoke, Volcanic, Vita Nexus, and Comrade Frost were discussing strategy. "Just make sure you win this one," Stephen told her seriously. "I know I don't have a claim on you or your life anymore. But I want to see what you make of it - and if those things win, no one will make anything anymore." 

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Vita looked from Frost, to Volcanic, to his father before speaking. "...If this is as serious as you infer, then my fate may be decided by this endeavor. I would have my fate be my charge, not that of others. You have my aid, inasmuch as I may assist." He bowed again. "The Vita Adficio, and he that bears it, is yours to count upon." He stopped to think for a second before speaking again, notebook and pen already jotting down what he had heard and felt. "Are there more we should wait upon before sallying forth? Or are we the champions of which you spoke? Should others be informed of this, or do we lack the time?"

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"Time does not allow it," admitted Frost. "We must move quickly to meet our next ally - both those who know this foe and have the power to defeat it. Would the two of you...?" He didn't try and finish the sentence, not when it was clear someone else wanted to speak first. 

 

"We will meet again, my son," said Vita Nexus's father, and indeed he was smiling, even as he slowly seemed to fade like a projected screen gradually being turned down into transparency. "I am proud of what you have done - I will be prouder still when you have finished-" and with that, he was gone on the summer wind. 

 

Having seen many such partings between loved ones, Comrade Frost took this occasion to turn to Volcanic and discreetly murmur, "Our next visit must be to one Shrike, located near Silberman's Bookstore at this address." He gave it to her, then said, "I remembered these creatures - and her name. She has fought them before, in their last incursion into Freedom City..." 

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Gretchen's face went white as her arms dropped limply to her sides; she tried very hard not to recall the events of that horrible day.

 

"Oh God."  She turned to her lover and placed a hand on her arm. "If those things are coming through again, we have to stop them."

 

For her part, Lynn was fairly convinced this really was her dear departed Ren, though part of her desperately clung to the idea that it was some trick, because that would be less painful.

 

"What do we need to do?"

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The tears were sudden. Springing to Queenie’s eyes like that. She wasn’t a crier. At least, not anymore. Still. She crossed to where Steven was and hugged him close. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. If I had stepped up right away, you wouldn’t have died. I just wanted to tell you that. Until we meet again.” She let him go, and walked to her front door. “Turn out the lights when you’re done in here, but like you said…you don’t have any hold on me any more. So don’t be here when I get back.” She shut the door behind her and leaned against for a long moment. It was him. It truly was. A small part of her wanted to forget the world. Just go back inside and be with him. But…that was the part that got him killed. She suppressed the urge, blinked the tears out of her eyes, and shot into the air. She had to get to the Fens, and quickly.

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"If you're really going to fight this, there's a party coming to you - I already told them you'd be here...I had a feeling you wouldn't run away." Ren was silent for a moment, looking back and forth between Gretchen and Lynn, before rising to his feet. As he did, he began to fade, like the dial being turned down on an ancient television. "Fight for your lives - and for everybody else's. And so I can see you again..." And then he was gone. 

 

-

 

On the Fens rooftop, Comrade Frost quickly made introductions to the other heroes upon Queenie's arrival. They were a motley crew - but from the sound of things, they were all the borders of reality had. If the afterlife can truly be called reality. "Yes, yes, you have all come to attention of Freedom League, is very nice," he said, a little distractedly. "I know you, and you, and you. Come, let us proceed to Silberman's at once! We have two final soldiers to recruit - and then, my friends, it is war." He led the way to their West End destination, riding one of Volcanic's pillars of earth and fire. 

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Volcanic was quiet as the others made their comments and introductions, her eyes glowing like embers, "Just keep your knees flexed," she instructed as a flowing gesture brought up the molten rock beneath their feet once more. From her hands flowed fire and stone as she took up position at the back of the pillar, pausing as Frost gathered the little party to deal with the recently dead before sending them towards the place he directed. Partially, she kept her attention on the group to ensure that no one fell off the unconventional conveyance. 

 

They were certainly difficult to miss as they dropped to the entrance of the book store, with Volcanic taking the time to smooth over the pavement into some semblance of smoothness. Heroes, after all, did their best to avoid tearing up the streets when they could. 

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Maybelle had flown to Silberman’s. She knew where it was, having interacted with both Lynn and Grimalkin on a few occasions. These days she (or one of her staff) made semi-regular muffin deliveries to Silberman’s. So, she’d beaten them there by several seconds. The store was, of course, locked. The others rose from the ground to find her knocking on the door. “Lynn? It’s Maybelle. I think you’re gonna want to come out for this.” She glanced over her shoulder at her fellow heroes, all of whom she was meeting for the first time today, though she knew of Comrade Frost by reputation. “It’s going to be a heck of a day.”

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Neither Lynn nor Gretchen said much after Ren faded from view; if what he said was true, there was no time to dwell on the past or what might have been. The young barista quickly filled up a Thermos with the last of the day's coffee while the changeling stuffed a bag with leftover pastries; after all, heroes needed grub, too.

 

Lynn was just stuffing the coffee and baked goods into her extra-dimensional vault when the knock on the door came; Lynn took a peek through the eyes of a statue mounted over the front door before whistling in appreciation. 


"Wow; we have quite the crowd out there."

 

"Give me a second to grab my autograph book."

 

When the door opened, it was Grimalkin and the Shrike who greeted them, both wrapped from head to toe in dark leather and wearing masks.

 

"We're ready to go."

 

"We brought snacks."

Edited by Heritage

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At Comrade Frost's direction, the hasty alliance of heroes headed for his house. "Technically is my house, anyway," he said as they arrived at the small surbuban house in Ashton. The night was dark and humid this far outside the city, the street lights on this block not seeming to function. He unlocked the door and led them all inside, flipping on the light to reveal something carved into the wall - an irregular circle surrounded by eldritch symbols that (to the knowledgeable, anyway) were Norse runes carved in unspeakable blasphemies.

 

"Gateway will deliver us to afterlife realm adjacent to that of dead Earth," said Frost, cutting his hand open with a knife he pulled from his jacket and flinging blood against the gateway - blood that spattered thick and crystallized against the blue plaster. "Once there, we destroy Feral souls, close gateway to dead Earth, and are finished." He hmmed. "Ah, do not cross through gateway to dead Earth's afterlife plane. Contagion must not be allowed to spread." 

 

Tell them the truth, Dimitri. 

 

Invisible to the others, Hel sat on her throne, hovering behind the group of Dimitri's allies. Tell them the truth - that that world is dead, and a plague world, and if your friends fail to seal it, the gods will make sure that plague is ended.

 

"Let's go!" he said, and suddenly stepped through the gateway, its surface seeming to ripple around him unwholesomely as he disappeared from view. 

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Queenie had a few…supplies from the Queen with her. It was just easier to cook her dinner while she was there and eat it when she got home. So she had a backpack stuffed with food and water. At any rate, Frost had opened the portal to a version of Hell. Apparently everything was dead there, aside from the things of voracious hunger that wanted to eat you. So…Zombie Apocalypse World, except somehow much, much worse than that. Maybelle McQueen, chef extraordinaire, was not the person for this job. The poor woman would be entirely out of her depth. Luckily, one bad day several years ago had made her the ring slinging Queenie. A professional superhero who was not at all scared by what was on the other side of that portal. So she took a deep breath, steadied her nerves, and flew through the portal.

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"Don't lick the restless undead; no problem," Volcanic drawled as she followed through the gateway, giving a little shudder at the disorienting sensation that always accompanied such transitions. The quip hopefully covered enough for the way that Volcanic staggered a bit as if suddenly drunk, or perhaps blind might be more accurate as she had to reorient the senses that connected her to the earth to this Not-earth. She made sure that her hand only made contact with Frost on her way to the side of the portal as she had no desire to leave anyone else with burns from even casual contact. Once she was well out the way, she closed her eyes and focused on setting the sense of ground and air around her to rights so she'd not be at a grave disadvantage for the rest of this little adventure. 

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The pair of magical lovers from Silberman's Books said nothing during the journey to the house in question, but once they were inside and in sight of the portal, the Shrike noticeably tensed up as memories of her previous encounter with these so-called Ferals played behind her eyes on a blood-spattered loop.

 

-You don't have to be scared.-

 

-F### you, I'm terrified. You haven't seen what they can do.-

 

-Well, you're right, but I have fought zombies before; we'll get through this, hon.-

 

Gretchen could only mutely nod as she reached out and took PixieGrim's tiny hand in her own, and they flew through the portal together.

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