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Following on from prologue 1 and 2




Liberty Park


16th September, near Midnight...


The night had a tepid feel, a coolness that hang in the air like a slimy fish. It was not pleasant. However, the park itself was as beautiful as ever, the soft ground lights casting wonderful shadows amongst the gloom. It was hard to see clearly, but this was no problem for the Bird of Arms and his magnificent ocular sensory organs. 


Spitfire, however, could not see far in the gloom, just a vague crowd of shadows he could not determine. At least, without getting dangerously close. 


For the Bird of Arms, there were about eight of them, scrabbling around on all fours for the most part, although some interspaced this with standing. Just as the Freerunners had been impressive in their skill, so to, in a different way, were the Beastly Boys. 


The sound of some sub-par rap music, loaded with heavy electric guitars, screamed through the air, to the howling and clapping and stomping of feat of the Beastly Boys. 


Just to one side, a man sat on a bench, nodding appreciatively, eating a sandwich and drinking from a thermos. He was thoroughly pleased with himself and quite without fear, despite being on the older side, maybe fifty, and not in particularly good shape. He looked, as far as Jann could see, like a burnt out hippy. Long scruffy blonde hair, a scruffy beard, head band, and grungy cheap clothes. 

Edited by Supercape
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Spitfire crept up behind a trash can and squinted, trying to discern what exactly was going on.  Having in his youth lived a less than reputable life, he was pretty good at sneaking around.  There wasn't much he could make out, and he cursed.


"Nothin' fer it.  Just gotta get closer."  Max whispered to himself.


Moving  behind a manicured row of bushes, Max began to circle inwards towards the shapes, hoping to get a better look, and also hoping not to step on an errant twig and give away his position.  He needed information, not a fight.  Not yet anyways.

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The flight from the hospital tot he park had been a short one. The air was cold, and the wind blew. It was, from Jann’s point of view, perfect flying weather. The park looked the same as it had last time he’d been there. A lot of open ground, with some foliage covering his vision. It was much better of a hunting environment than the forest.


His prey was easy to spot. They did not seem to care about subtlety, instead choosing to announce their location from far away. But judging by their movement, they would prove to be difficult enough. There were too many of them to handle at once.


And then, there was the one that Jann had been told had started it all. Their master. He did not look like a dangerous opponent, but his appearance suggested experience. And that was often more dangerous than its carrier looked like.


It was not yet an opportune moment to strike, and he had yet to be spotted. So, he stayed up in the air, waiting for an opportune moment to present itself, ready to strike at any moment.

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The Beastly Boys bayed and jumped, screamed and crawled. Some even had some play fighting that did not appear quite so playful. At least, not if one of them had to spit out a tooth. Every body laughed and roared. It was primal. At this range, Spitfire could see them more clearly, as he peeked out from a conveniently placed tree. 


The gang were by the waterside. Nobody else was around; not many dared to at this time of night, and if anybody did, they would have lost their nerve quickly. 


But one did not. 


She wore black; a woollen cap, gloves, trousers, boots, and a full sleeved crop top. Her hair was short and red, her skin pale, although alibaster. She had deep red lipstick and a ruby naval ring to match her skin. 


Two guns by her belt, and carrying a large ruck sack. 


"What the hell is this?" she asked, not too gently, not too nasty. Her eyebrows raised as she watched the Beastly Boys tear around the park. 


"Just a little fun!" smiled the old man, putting aside his drink and half-eaten sandwich. 


"What have you got for us?"


The red haired woman ignored the crazed Beastly Boys (although they did not ignore her, wolf-whistling and yelping at her), and opened up her bag for the old man to rummage in. At this range, it was hard to see what was in there, but there was a metallic glint to the contents...

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So there was another angle to it. Somebody who carried goods. Were they related to what he’d seen before? Were they related to both the withdrawal, and the previous man’s dosage of speed? And just how did they relate. The master was the one in control of it all, but where did it go from there. And how far did it reach.


Jann cared about that, but mostly he cared about fighting this master. And whoever had just shown up. Anybody who carried around weaponry open was ready for a fight. And that was what he’d come for, too. He had to be careful, guns were something that even he had issues dealing with. But this was the moment he’d been waiting for. He could not go for direct attacks, not with this many people around. But he could perfect what he’d been focusing his training on recently, and deliver attacks while flying past.  


Without knowledge of what it contained, the bag was the most dangerous. It had to be dealt with first, even before the weaponry. And Jann could do as much. With one quick move, he set into motion, dropping downwards and flying towards the two exchanging the bag at a high pace, holding out his hand to grab it and then fly off. They would be unable to match his strength, he knew that much.

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The bag got torn out of hands. It was big, a little bulky, but not too heavy. Metal clunked around inside of it. 


"Hey you! Give that back!" yelled the Red Head. But she was not just words, quick as you like, she vaulted over the bench to get some cover, her guns already in her hands. With a deft moment, she fired at Jan. 


A bright orange flare whizzed out of the pistol. This was not bullet time, but a burning bright ball of fire. It would have hit Jann too, but instead decided to hit the bag he had snatched. Jann could smell burning; and in a second the bag was starting to smoke and smoulder. 


As the Beastly Boys howled and scampered impotently below Jann, he could hear the red head...


"Oh...$£&!...it's on fire...."


And then a wave of pure ecstasy, beyond anything he had ever felt, hit him...

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They could not defend themselves. Not against him swooping in, and not against what came afterwards. They were unable to reach him, a position from which he could control the flow of battle. The only thing that could still change anything at this point was the woman. He’d need at least one more pass before she would no longer represent a threat.


Then came the ball of fire. He reacted the way he usually did, increasing his height ever so slightly, letting it pass below him. He almost managed to do so, and his instincts pushed him to use what he was holding to block the attack.


And then, nothing. Jann could not tell up from down. He could not feel any part of his body, every last sensation completely removed. His mind did not fare better, as just for a second, he could think, before it rolled over him. Everything came back, thousand-fold. His entire body, it all came back at once. He could not focus on it, not on everything, not on anything. It was as is everything he’d ever felt was nothing.


Nothing, not compared to this. What few emotions he had not been conditioned to ignore. And all the ones he’d been. It was all there, all at once. He could not deal with it. His thoughts raced, even if they were not comprehendible. The last thing that came was pain, and then, nothing….

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Max had just been about to come out the shadows himself to hopefully blind everyone there and take the bag when a literal man with wings swooped out of the sky and did it for him.  It seemed obvious he was another super, considering the armor get up.  In a matter of seconds however things went bad for the flyer, falling to the earth for some reason that Max couldn't identify, and when he did the thugs were on him kicking and punching.


Max couldn't just watch the man get beaten to death so he shook himself out of his surprise and exhaled fire while simultaneously rolling his tonge like he was rolling r's for spanish words.  A barrage of small balls of fire sped towards the unsuspecting thugs taking shots at the downed man.


"How's about you fight fair puppies?  Or do I have ta fill this park with the smell o' burnt dog?"

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The Beastly Boys were like a pack of rabid animals now, kicking, punching, and scratching Jann. They wore a raggedy patchwork mess of furs, but fortunately had neither claws nor teeth. But boots and fists and even some fingernails still hurt. 


The balls of fire streamed through the air. Spitfire thought he could see the redhead smirk as she saw them. 


Bang bang bang! they thundered into the Beastly Boys, knocking them sideways, full of smoke and smouldering fur. They were tough guys, for sure, but this was beyond toughness. A few yelps and screams and howls could be heard, and then silence, as all were out. A few with lingering flames licking their clothes. 


The man was old, but still limber enough to run, and run he did, without a word, into the trees of Liberty Park. 


The red head, however, maintained her position. 


"Best be careful with those fireballs, honey" she yelled at him. "That bag is full of explosives and magazine rounds!"


And the bag was on fire...


"Don't move a muscle. Unless you can put out fire as well as spit it..." she demanded, keeping her gun trained on Spitfire. 

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Spitfire narrowed his eyes at the woman.  The flare gun of hers would do little more than annoy him, but it could still hurt the downed man on the ground.


"I''m the one who gives out the terms of endearment round these parts darlin'."  When she mentioned the bag that was now basically a bomb about to explode, Spitfire sped to the bag and scooped it up, carrying it a short distance away from the others then, without thinking of anything not stupid to do, through himself on top of the burning bag.


"Crap crap crap crap crap this is gonna hurt!" Spitfire exclaimed, squinting his eyes shut and waiting for the blast.

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Even the red headed woman was lost for words as Spit fire heroically sacrificed himself. 


Ba---whooomph! went the bag, in a massive deafening explosion. The fire didn't bother Spitfire; the flames from beneath him licked his body harmlessly. But the force through him a good dozen feet in the air. And yes, it did hurt. 


"I said put the damn thing out, idiot!" yelled the Redhead, gun still pointed at Spitfire. "There was half a million of weapons in that bag! Half a god-damn million! You think I carry that kind of cash around as spare change? I should kick your damn ass if it wasn't already kicked!" she said angrily. 

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Spitfire felt like he was... well... on fire with pain.  Which was a new sensation for him since he didn't feel fire.  His entire body felt like a giant bruise, his ears wouldn't stop ringing and he was pretty sure he bit straight through his tongue.  Max found it a little troubling he coudn't get his legs to obey the synapses of his brain.  It might be because his brain wasn't working right.  He barely heard and understood the woman berating him and with a mouth full of blood, he smiled, shakily lifing one hand into the air and presenting to her his middle finger.


"Pipe...," Max gasped and gurgled, "...smoke it."


Then Max did the hardest thing he ever had to do in his life.  He stood up.


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Redhead fingered both her guns, and turned her head. She was sweating slightly. 


In response to the explosion, the distant sound of sirens could be heard. 


"I'll shove my pipe up your..." she stopped, shook her head. 


"Never mind. How did you and Mister Wings know about the deal tonight? Who snitched" she demanded, all the time keeping both guns trained on Spitfire. 


"Spill the beans, idiot. Or ill shoot ya. Ram some serious magnesium flair down your mouth. That's if you are lucky. If you still don't talk, I'll ram it down the other end" she threatened, as the sounds of sirens, still distant, started sounding a little less distant. 


"Speak up! I can't hear you? How did you dig tonight?"

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Spitfire grimaced and held his side.  He was pretty sure by the floaty feeling in his guts that at least a couple ribs had been broken, if not all.  Every breath was a pain that threatened to cause him to black out, but he managed a smile and spit out some blood.


"Criminals ain't known for their ability to keep secrets, but honestly had no idea what was going down here tonight, don't know tweetie bird there on the ground neither.  I just came to put a stop to these Beastly Boys and their kind."   Max heard the sirens and chuckled, even though it felt like being stabbed in the chest with each breath.  "Hear that?  They're playin' our song darlin'.  Cops'll be here soon.  Might as well go ahead skedaddle.  You and I can finish this dance another time."  


Max circled the woman slowly, making sure to try and put himself between the lady with the flare gun and the downed winged man.


"Besides, yer little flare gun there ain't gonna do much to me, even after bein' blown up."  For emphasis, Spitfire held out his hand a blew a small jet of fire on it, leaving no marks and feeling no ill effects.

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"You are immune to fire?" answered the woman, smirking. "What a coincidence!" she laughed, firing her gun straight into her face. 


After the magnesium flare died down, her face was still there, completely unmarked, except by a smile. 


"They call me Flare" she laughed. "And I guess you and me could throw fire at each other all night. But as you say, the cops are coming, and whilst I don't burn, I'm not bullet proof" she conceded. She holstered her guns at her belt. 


"So I'm just going to run. Not in the mood for the police. Lucky for you" she added, reaching down to her boot. 


She pulled out a glinting knife. 


"I'm betting you aren't stab proof..." she asked, with a raised eyebrow. "So best let me go, hot head..." she finished, turning heel and running...

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Spitfire watched the girl run off into the night and yelled after her,  "Call me!"


After she was well out of sight, Max let his bravado and his shoulders sag.  He felt like crap, his everything hurt, and he was pretty sure she would have taken him in a fight, fair or otherwise in his current blowed up state.  Max groaned and limped over to the unconscious man on the ground.


"You really botched this up, ya know that Woody?"  Max sighed and lifted the man over his shoulders.  He was a lot lighter than Max was expecting.  Which, he supposed was a good thing since it hurt to do anything.


"Cops'll want us to answer questions.  I kinda don't feel like it.  You do need to answer questions though little bird, so you're coming with me."


Max sped off into the night on a trail of fire, heading home to his trailer.  He had some first aid supplies there but this was actually the first time he could remember needing it.  Hopefully the antiseptic didn't have an expiration date.

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As Flare ran into the woods, fleet of foot (and in a similar direction to the old hippy), Spitfire tore out of Liberty Park. 


The first of the police patrol cars, its lights flashing, caught sight of him and flashed him. 


"Halt! Police!" came the cliche hail from the speaker. 


As far as Spitfire could see, the patrol car was the first on the scene. Other more distant cars could be heard, but they would be, by his judgement, at least a minute away. 


The streets outside the park were lit, although it was not full blaze. The car was nearly a hundred feet away, cruising at a snazzy 50mph. Perhaps close enough to make him out, perhaps not. But then, he was carrying a guy with wings...

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Max blew out a breath having only gone a few hundred feet and already winded.  Leading a cop in a car chase along the streets of Freedom City wasn't exactly a way to endear you as a hero to the community, no matter how time consuming explaining everything would be.  Plus he figured the medical attention the unconscious man would get from paramedics would far outstripe his own untrained hand.


Max slowed to a walk and sat the limp body on a park bench before sitting down himself next to him, putting his arms above his head, not so much as a sign of surrender, but as a way to open his lungs and get more oxygen.


"Evenin' officer!  Don't suppose you radioed your buddies to tell 'em which way the villain went did ya?  Would really make my night if y'all could catch her since she basically blew me up."  Max spit out what must have been his tenth glob of blood.  He was pretty sure internal bleeding was a factor.

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The two cops got out. Fat and thin. Both looked nervous, and held guns in sweaty palms. 


"Villain? Blew up?" said the Fat one. 


"Blew up? Villain?" said the Thin one. 


They looked at each other. Then looked at Spitfire. 


"What the hell is going on here?" they said, in unison. If nothing else, they at least thought alike. 


"Who are you?" as the Fat cop in a slow, rumbling voice. 


"And who is the winged guy?" asked the Thin cop in a piping voice. 

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Max blew out an exasperated sigh.  He had apparently not been stopped the MENSA members of Freedom City's finest.  He made sure to speak in slow and exact tones.


"Okay fellas, okay, let's take this from the top.  My name is Spitfire, you may have heard of me, maybe not, doesn't matter.  As far as the winged guy, I'm not sure who he is, I was taking him to get medical attention.  I was out here tonight to check out reports of gang activity.  Thought I'd lend a hand, ya know.  Turns out there was a high tech weapons deal going down.  Before I could act to defuse the situation, this man," Max said nodding towards the unconscious avian, "Swooped in and took the bag of high tech weapons from a woman who calls herself Flare.  She shoots at him, misses and hits the bag, bag is on fire and then all of a sudden, this guy drops out of the sky for no apparent reason.  The Beastly Boys jump on him, so I take em out.  Then looks like the bag is gonna explode since it was hit with a flare gun, so I jump on top of the bag to ensure no one else but me gets blown up.  It blows up, I'm hurt, and the lady named Flare runs off.  She's a meta of some sort, immune to fire just like me.  Anyways she runs off because she hears you folks coming.  Ran in that direction over there.  I figure I'd be stuck answering questions all night if I stuck around, so I decide to hoof it, try and get this guy some medical help, then try and pick up this Flare's trail.  However being blown up kinda takes it out of you, so I'm not able to go full tilt, and rather than lead you all on a merry chase, I decide to stop and answer questions, like an upstanding citizen.  Get all that?"


Max sat back to wait for the bevy of questions to come his way, and, of course, to repeat the story over and over again so the cops could look for holes.  Thinking about the whole process made his eyes droopy.  He was tired, he needed rest, he needed to find Flare.  She was probably out there right now, burning things or people.  It sucked sometimes, being the good guy.

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"What?" said the two cops, in unison. 


"I don't understand a goddamn word of what you just said, sir" said the Fat one, who seemed, if not brighter than his thin partner, at least less nervous. It only looked as if he was going to fire his gun sometimes. On the other hand, he was sweating more. 


"But if your friend..the..uh...winged guy, is injured, we can escort you to hospital..."


"I know CPR!" piped up the thin cop. 


"....you know jack, Jack" snapped back the fat cop at Jack, his thin partner, before continuing. 


"Get in the patrol car, we can blue light you to the ER..."

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Max thought it over, there was a chance he'd just end up in police custody if he got into that car, but the other guy was in need of medical attention.  It wouldn't be the first time he spent the night in jail, and if he had to come up with bail money he knew who he could ask.


Nodding, Spitfire stood and carried Bird of Arms to the patrol car, doing his best to set him gently in the back seat.


"Alright gentleman, let's get this guy to the hospital, on the way I'll give you a description of the Flare woman and maybe you guys put out an APB?  Just sayin' that's what I'd do if I were a cop."  Max smiled his best disarming smile.  Which probably made him look a little manic or evil with the fangs and red eyes.

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En Route to FCU Hospital


17th November, Just Past Midnight


In a Police Car


The lights flashed and the car sped. The cops may not have been smart of head but they seemed to drive competently enough. It would be a minute or two at most. 


The Thin cop pulled out the radio and blurted into it. 


"APB Alert on Flare. I mean. A red head. Got some guns. Got red guns. And a head. Or something..." he babbled, scratching his head. 


He turned to look at Spitfire and Jann helplessly. 


"Hold that. I'm passing you over..." he conceded, giving the radio control to Spitfire. 


"Give control the details...hell If I understand it...." he mumbled. 

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Max sighed and took the radio.


"Alright so listen up, short red hair, black clothes head to toe, two flare guns, belly button ring, legs that go all the way up, that sorta thing.  Medium height, pale skin, hot.  As in immune to fire.  Goes by the name Flare."


Max handed back the radio and smiled, till he rememberd something.


"Crap!  I forgot to feed the meter!"  Max reached back up and grabbed the radio again.  "Also don't impound the motorcycle at the park with the green and white flame paint job.  I'll pick it up after getting out of the hospital."

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Freedom City University Hospital


*sqwark* "Yeah...sure...listen, Jack, you want to drop your customer off at the nearest mental institute?" *sqwark* replied control. 


"No it's the Gods honest truth!" piped Jack, high-pitched. "You tell 'em, Boxy!" he said, thrusting the radio at the fat cop. 


"Control, this Boxy. To truth is, even Jesus H Christ doesn't know what the hell is happening. Goddamn crazy city. So just do the best you can. Send a couple of units over to FCU ER too, will you" he finished, hanging up the radio as they pulled in to the hospital. 


Together they hauled out Jann, to waiting nurses and medics. 


"So, now we are here, you mind telling me what ripped a whole in you?" Boxy asked Spitfire. 

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