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It was not a reaction Jann had expected. It had been some time since the last time a crowd had addressed him like this. He did not understand them. Whatever they were doing to themselves, there was no practical purpose to it. Even on the off chance they sustained themselves on their own pain like one of his tutors, there were more efficient ways.

 

He looked directly at the camera, before meeting the ganger’s eyes. He didn’t move one bit, even lowering his breathing to the point it was essentially impossible to spot. He didn’t speak at first, only responding after some time had passed. “A hunter has many ways to track his prey. “

 

He didn’t know what came next, but he was ready to fend off multiple attackers if it came down to it.

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"A hunter are you?" squarked the camera, as the three Chain Smokers whipped themselves into a trance like the flagellants of old. 

 

"You interrupted a most enjoyable evening. I shall have to be more careful next time..." mused the voice down the line. "Although I doubt you have anything on me. Legally, that is" he said with a laugh. "Nothing against the law in walking in the park, purely hypothetically, without admitting to, or denying, any such circumstance"

 

Another laugh. 

 

"But I imagine you are after the gun runner, yes? Properly breaking the law, that one. I might want to speak to her myself, seeing as my evening was ruined. Would you care to help?" he asked. 

 

"I would be most grateful. I could make you very happy...." he offered. 

 

"The Buzz! the Buzz! The BUZZZZZ!" wailed the gang members. 

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To the outside world, Jann didn’t seem to react immediately. He continued keeping up the same emotion, keeping up eye-contact with whoever was speaking at the moment, otherwise not moving at all.

 

Internally, it was a bit different. Jann was unsure what to think of the proposal. Other than what the man assumed, he did not care much for the gun runner. She was only a secondary priority at this point in time. He was after the master. And that was the man he was talking to right now.

 

But as it stood, there was no way to get close to him. Judging by the way he spoke, he was not somebody to be taken lightly. But if he could get closer to him, perhaps the opportunity to act would present itself. He just had to take the necessary precautions.

 

“What do you suggest?”

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"Let me think of a completely random place...." said the voice of Mr. Happy, quite carefully, quite casually. 

 

"Like the Paradise Casino, Southside. Maybe a room there. My favourite number is 73" chuckled the voice. 

 

"Now, I would imagine that if you are hunting a gun runner, then time is of the essence, yes? I know I wont be slowing down my activities. Not at all. Ha ha. Who knows, maybe purely by coincidence we might meet again...."

 

The voice then squarked at the Chain Sore holding the camera. 

 

"Would you like a nice big buzz? You know where to go!" suggested the voice. 

 

"The BUZZ! The BUZZ! The BUZZ! I'll do whatever you ask, Mr. Happy! Anything for the BUZZ!" whispered the sweating lips of the Chain Sore. 

 

With that determination, the three members of the gang started to race out of the hospital...

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Spitfire watched the whole exchange with a look of confusion.  These chain wielding psychos acted like a mix between a junky and a religious fanatic.  He was, however, glad to see them leave.  Spitfire knelt down to help a woman on the ground onto a nearby gurney, motioning over a nurse to help, then turned to Bird of Arms.

 

"I really don't like bad guys that think they can dictate who I will be wanting to take in or beat up.  I like ruining their preconceptions of that idea.  Still, we find Flare and she can lead us to him at the least.  I'm sure she won't take kindly to being thrown under the bus by that guy, might be we could get her on our side for taking him down, then we take her in, and we get this all wrapped up in a nice little bow and I can go home and get sleep."

 

Max started to walk towards the exit of the hospital and stopped.

 

"Crap, I forgot, my bike's at the park.  Running to Southside would take a while.  Think we need the cops on this one to give us a ride back.  Plus we probably should help get this place back in order first.  The people should probably be over their blindness by now."

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“Take them both down. No need to let either roam freely. Will require some finesse, we have to play them right. Sleep does sound good, but there is much that has to be done before then. “

 

Jann took a look at the situation around him. It didn’t look to bad, by his estimate. He’d seen much worse scenes of combat, some collateral damage could not be avoided, and as far as he cared, there was nothing that came close to a large scale issue right now.

 

“Taking their vehicle sounds good. Will be difficult to explain however, and time is important. May need to borrow one. “

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At that, Boxy turned up, rubbing his eyes. His pistol was, fortunately, holstered. 

 

"What in the hell did you do, boy? Assaulting a god-damn officer of the lahw-err!!!" he complained. "I should arrest you. I should double arrest you!" he moaned. It looked like he was still seeing after glows in his eyes. 

 

"Dude, these guys just saved the hospital" complained one tall and rather pretty nurse. "Give them a break. Hell, give them a ride!" she demanded. 

 

"You saved the damn hospital?" said a confused Boxy. "Maybe I should give you a ride...but I can't see properly. Everything glowing real pretty in my peepers..." he lamented, not confident to drive after just being blinded. 

 

"Shut your cakehole" interrupted Jack, slowly wobbling towards them, still half-blind. 

 

"You...no...you...yes...you...I can see the wings..." he explained, his finger wobbling over various people until it hit Jann. "Looks like you need a ride, and quick..."

 

He tossed the patrol car keys to Jann....

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Max's eyebrows shot up to his forehead like a rocket.  He'd never been trusted by the cops, let alone given the car keys to a cruiser before.  This was definitely odd for him, considering he was just about to be arrested before being given a ride.

 

Looking around he could see that the staff of the hospital was relatively used to chaos and all hell breaking loose.  He should have figured that considering it was a hospital, but it was nice to know that they could continue on their merry way without needing to stop to aid the civilians, besides, what was he gonna do?  They were already at the hospital.

 

"You drive then Birdie boy, but I'm definitely turning on the lights and the siren.  Don't think I'll ever get this opportunity again.  To the Carnie Mobile!  That doesn't sound good, we'll think of a name for it later."

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Jann caught the keys without any trouble. He spun them in his hand, before slowing it down, and taking a better look at them. A car, then. He’d taken a few driving lessons, and it had been pretty clear that they weren’t suited too well to his physique. But in a case like this, he could manage.

 

 

He turned his attention towards Spitfire, a slight grin on his face for the first time. “Let us hurry, then. I will get us there, and the sirens will help with that. “

 

 

It wasn’t the shortest route, and Jann technically wasn’t qualified to do just that. But he was more than skilled enough, so long as he could work around his wings, and actually fit into the vehicle properly.

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A few minutes of wailing Sirens later...

 

Paradise Casino, Southside...

 

At this time of the night (or morning, depending on ones perspective), the Paradise Casino was still running, but the casual gambler had largely left. All that remained were the drunk and the addicted, trying somehow, against all reason, to win back their losses on the basis of "my luck's gotta change sometime..."

 

"My lucks gotta change sometime..." sighed Flare into her mobile phone, deep in conversation with an intimate. She was dressed in black as before, with her red hair quite visible from the patrol car. She was stepping out of the Casino, in a hurry, a rucksack on her back. 

 

Jann and Spitfire had clearly arrived in the nick of time. 

 

"Oh shoot....my luck...." grumbled Flare as she heard and saw the sirens. She looked around, and saw her motorbike. In a split second, she made her mind up, and started running towards it, pulling out one of her fabulous guns as she did...

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Driving the car, while not easy, was doable. The streets were empty enough that it proved simple enough, and Jann managed to keep up an acceptable pace driving down the streets. As far as he understood, sirens meant that the road laws that he’d heard of did not matter, so he did not pay any attention, just moving towards the goal at the highest sustainable speed.

 

He could see Flare off in the distance. She would be able to close the distance quicker than the car, and was in an elevated position. He could not catch up with her like this, but an idea raced through his mind. One of his hands wandered towards his waist, onto one of his collapsible quarterstaffs.

 

He squatted on his seat, using his quarterstaff to push down the gas pedal. “You will want to exit the vehicle now.” He continued to drive almost straight at Flare, until he hit a knee high wall, readjusting his quarterstaff to pierce the windshield and pushing himself off of the seat at the same time, hoping to use the additional velocity of the car to propel himself directly at her.  

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Max sputtered out a curse before throwing himself out of the car.  "Next time, I'm driving!"  Max hit the pavement hard, but rolled well with the impact, coming up to a lamp post and bracing against it for support.  To someone else it may look like he face planted into the pole, but that's not what happened.  Besides, there was no marks on his face or body to prove that it had happened that way.  Max thanked his mutant thick skin for that one.

 

Max turned to see Bird of Arms launch himself out of the windshield and at Flare, accompanied by the screeching shriek of tearing metal and busting glass.

 

"I get involved with the strangest people in this gig.  And that's sayin' something considering my last gig I worked fer the circus!"

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Bird of Arms flew through the air, this time not propelled by his wings. He fell slightly short, tumbling gracefully into Flare although without the full impact he desired. 

 

"Oh for fu...flphhh..whpphhh...." complained Flare, getting a mouthful of feathered wing. She took a few steps back, clutching a bruised rib from avian foot. 

 

She raised her pistol quick as a flash, and dropped her phone, that cracked with the force. 

 

"You guys are twisting my melon!" she said, angrily. "Can't you leave a girl to do some business? You cost me a million already..."

 

Spitfire had landed gracefully, but the Patrol Car had not. Acrid smoke was pouring out of its engine, which was, improbably, still running despite the crumpled bumper and twisted bonnet. 

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Max saw that she was headed for her motorcycle and spit, shaking his head.  "Nu-uh honey, not this time.  You and I are gonna finish this dance!"  

 

With that Max sprinted for the bike, laying down fire along the way to glide on, increasing his speed.  When he got to the bike he took in a deep breath, asked forgiveness of the gods of motorcycles and all things cool, and spewed liquid virtiolic fire so hot it was white upon the bike, hoping to melt it to little more than a heap of melted metal and rubber.  He needed answers in regards to this man in the park and on the video camera, and he wasn't about to let this last lead ride off again leaving him in the lurch.

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Spitfire charged into the bike that promptly did a bit of melting, and a bit of exploding. With a little peppering of smoke. It looked rather impressive anyway. 

 

A burning wheel started rolling down the boardwalk. Little else was left, although Spitfire had burning petrol all over his body. 

 

"Come on!" complained Flare. "My money, my phone, and my bike???"

 

Her phone, although cracked, was still on. And still connected. A sound could be heard from the speaker. The connection was still on...

 

"Are you alright? What's going on? Wait...I'm nearly there...."

 

Flare started backing up the stairs, her feet nimble and light. She reached the impressive glass doors of the Casino, and took aim. 

 

"I'm not a violent person..." she tried to explain. But pulled the trigger anyway, releasing the same red-ember hued flare into the Bird of Arms, which exploded into light and heat when it hit him. 

 

 

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The feeling of being propelled through the air by measures outside of one’s control was one that Jann both adored and loathed. He hated that he had to give up control, but it allowed him to do things he would be unable to do with just his body. Often, to great effect. Much like this time, as he slammed directly into the arms dealer. It wasn’t a great hit, he had some trouble connecting thanks to the force propelling his body.

 

It was enough to strike her before she backed off. He was about to pursue, but could feel his body fight him. This night had already left some strains on him, and slowing down from high velocity had only amplified them. He was just barely able to avoid the most serious effects of her attacks, relying more on his body than his skill for it.

 

He still had his quarterstaff, which he sent to try and meet the arms dealer before she retreated further. He was aware enough of his situation to realize that pursuing right now would only place too much strain on him, be had to pace himself. And then, there was still one more thing.

 

“Reinforcements incoming, be ready!”

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Spitfire looked to the phone, which he somehow heard, and then back to the bike, then to Flare running away, then back to the bike, then grinned devillishly.

 

"Maybe yer immune to fire girlie, but not metal!"  With that Max plunged his hand into the molten remains of the bike and pulled out a fist covered in red glowing steel, dripping onto the pavement.

 

"Luuucy!  You have some 'splainin' to doooo!"

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"I'm sure I can steel myself" retorted Flare. She gave a limber turn of her body and fired another ember glow into the Casino entrance hall. This time, it exploded in mid air, releasing a massive brilliant light in the air that shone with furious incandescence. 

 

Once again, the folk of Freedom City were quite blinded, stumbling around. 

 

"I can't see!"

 

"I've gone blind!"

 

"By gosh, that was bright!"

 

They said. A British tourist was responsible for the latter statement. 

 

With that, Flare ran into the cloud of brilliant light, without any apparent ill effect. 

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And then, there was a second attack. Jann was still catching his breath, feeling the strain of the previous encounter, when the cloud flaring up a second time caught him slightly off-guard. He managed to act fast enough to avoid the blinding light, at the very least. But when it came to dodging the rest of the cloud, he didn’t react as well, and he could feel the heat surround him, making him even more uncomfortable.

 

He did his best to continue breathing at a reasonable pace, but he knew that doing any more than that in this situation would only place him in danger further. So instead, he took a moment to recover his energy, and to calculate his next manoeuvre. The backup would soon be here. And his enemy had a defendable position. It didn’t look too good, all things considered.  

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Jann was not looking too good to Max's eyes, he knew it would be hard for her to get away from them both, but if it was just him chasing her, she could lose him easily enough.  He had to get in front of her.  So dashing through the hazy cloudy of flare light and fire, Max lit the ground on fire to make it easier for him to skate on, melting the tile and setting the little entry rug ablaze.  Max was hoping the sprinklers would be set off by the smoke, at least making a run for it hard for the woman.  Max stopped short and turned back around to face Flare.  Max tapped his metal covered hand against a nearby metal railing and smiled.

 

"So you gonna show me to your room?  I mean, it is our first date, but I think you and I have made a pretty special connection.  Got any more guns up there?"

 

 

 

 

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The fiery bloom of Spitfires firewalking soon had the desired effect. The sprinkler system let loose a tirade of water to the tune of sounding alarms. 

 

Screams erupted to the north. Screams erupted to the south. Yay, to the east and west too. 

 

"My hair!" complained Flare, rolling her eyes at her previously magnificently spiked red locks, now wet and languid. She did not look like the kind of woman who really worried about her fashion. Because she was not one of those women. But she did like a sardonic quip. 

 

She took a quick look at the layout of the land and started running, straight to the restaurant to one side. 

 

"Free Money!" she yelled into the bedlam of panicked customers. They weren't many, at this time of night, but there were enough drunk, tired and desperate ones. 

 

A flare flew out of her gun, hitting a one-armed bandit that promptly exploded. A cascade of money flew out over the floor, to the yelps of glee from those around it whom, despite the sprinkler system, the fires, the fighting, were still embittered enough from having spent an evening slowly losing their money, to pause and scuttle to the growing mound of coins and fill their wet pockets...

 

 

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The sudden appearance of water was just what Jann needed. Not only did it help contain the fire, and make it much more easy to move, but it would also cool down everything. Including him. And right now, that was appreciated.

 

Still, he couldn’t do too much. He had to be careful, one wrong step could lead to a situation he did not want to find himself in. There was the situation of the backup. Where would they come from? Was it this part of the building, or was there perhaps a different entrance? Was it a getaway? Chasing her now, only for her to get away through a different exit, would just waste his energy.

 

So instead of entering the building, he instead rose directly up into the sky, positioning himself above the casinos’ roof so that he could see whatever was happening surrounding it.

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The might vision of Bird of Arms, full of avian acuity, did not miss the incoming. 

 

She was a woman, dressed in what appeared to be a white and blue spandex costume, with a flowing blue cape that fluttered as she flew through the air. Her long blond hair flowed in the wind. And in her hand, a pistol. It looked pretty cool, although not the same as Flares guns. 

 

Jann could see she was flying fast, just a bit above him, and coming down. It seemed her cape was propelling her, like artificial wings, although they fluttered rather than beat. And whilst she was travelling at a good 50mph, she was not as fast, and arguably not as skilled, as the Bird of Arms. 

 

"Hold on, I'm coming!" she yelled through the air, bringing her pistol to bear...

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Max sprinted towards the escaping gun runner, vaulting in a sideways, parkour style flip over the gathering throng of greedy people, clawing at the ground to get at the coins that exploded from the slot machine.  Max cleared them with ease and looked to the kitchen of the little restaurant, looking for anything that might slow the woman or aid in her capture.  There were a plethora of knives and other cooking instruments that could be used to lethal effect, but none of those sparked his interest.  What he did notice was a canister labeled  as liquid nitrogen which the restaurant obviously used in an ice cream desert of some sort.  Max bolted for it, smiling.

 

"Let's put this little minx on ice!"

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"Ice? What are you talking about?" replied Flare, spinning around. 

 

"Oh...." she started, stumbling over a smorgesbord of profanities. The liquid nitrogen sloshed over her feet, evaporating almost instantly. Flare instinctively put up her hands to protect herself, and in doing so fell flat on her backside, slipping in the ice below her. 

 

She turned her head to Spitfire, most agitated. 

 

"Icy dead people!" she snarled, pulling her knife from her boot, and throwing it with great skill at Spitfire...

 

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