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Ms Grant stood in the shadow of the Water Tower, dark face lit up by the light of her phone, humming as she flicked her finger over the screen. I landed on the faux-medieval building, crouched on the turret above her. Then I dropped down to a crouch in front of her, straightening up.

She flicked dark curls from her face. She had a racial ambiguity I thought was perfect for Chicago, light dark skin with dark hair gently curved, all professional but still attractive. She could have been Latina or Indian or some mix of everything, but I'd heard her Dad was black and her Mom white, a combination of Africa, Scandinavian, with a splash of Native American. Or that's what her wikipedia page said.

Yeah, a bored afternoon had turned up her wikipedia page. I guess being a state's attorney being kidnapped by the Chicago Mob made you notable enough for one. I probably have one, but I was scared to check.

Warm golden light shone down around us, a cool breeze stirring the winter stripped trees, flicking a lock of hair across Ms Grant's face.

"Hotspur," she said, sliding away her phone, "How did things go with Bohauer?"

"Could have gone worse," I said, "I know Misfit and Thunderchild are innocent now. And I know who did it."

"Who?" her nose crinkled.

"Semper Fi," I said, "Problem is I can't prove it. I was hoping you could help."

She pursed her lips in thought. "Well of course I'll help," she said, "I don't like the DPA anymore than you do, and if they're framing innocent people as an excuse to arrest them they need to be taken down. This city has enough corrupt cops already."

"Problem is they're giving her the key to the city, everyone loves her," I said, "Nobody's just going to take my word on it."

"So how do we nail her scalp to the wall?" Ms Grant said, "A confession would help, and hard evidence."

"Hard evidence is hard to come by," I said, "Not when she's got a whole federal department cleaning up her mess."

"It's not enough to prove my friends are innocent," I said, "We need to catch the guilty party."

"Damn straight," Ms Grant said, "Is there anything in particular you think I can help with?"

>finding out Semper Fi's real name would be a start
>maybe dig into Penderose's file, he's the puppet master here
>>
Previously on With Great Power Quest: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=With%20Great%20Power%20Quest
>>
sorry for the absence. I'll try to run later to make up for it
>>
>>4818800
>maybe dig into Penderose's file, he's the puppet master here

Good to see you back OP! Hope your arm is ok.
>>
>>4818800
>finding out Semper Fi's real name would be a start
I was starting to doubt you were running tonight!
>>
>>4818819
Not great, I'll need surgery if I ever want it to be reliable again, otherwise its just going to be a time bomb until the next time it pops out of the joint
>>
>>4818800
>finding out Semper Fi's real name would be a start
>>
>>4818917
>>4818850
locked in
>>
"Finding out Semper Fi's real identity is a start," I said, "I know her first name is 'Emma'. Penderose let it slip when we fought on Shark's island."

"It's not much but its something," Ms Grant said, "Based on the name and public persona she's probably former military, most likely a Marine."

"Based around Chicago too," I said, "She had to be in Chicago when the Explosion happened."

"All little puzzle pieces," she said, "Now we need to find the corners and start filling it all in."

"I'm not much for puzzles," I said, "They can wait for the retirement home."

Ms Grant smiled. "Lucky for you, I am," she said, then held up her phone to show a half-finished Sudoku puzzle. "Keeps the mind sharp. I've been told I've got the hobbies of a seventy year old. Warn me if I start offering hard candies."

"You look damn good for seventy," I said. It got a smile out of her.

"If I'm looking into Semper Fi, I'd suggest you look into Agent Penderose," she said, "Semper Fi is just a boot, Penderose is the one calling the shots."

I'd been thinking the same thing. If one was guilty it was because the other had given the order. Penderose was smarter than I'd given him credit for, this wasn't going to be an overnight success, and would take more than a good right hook.

Gangsters were simple. I just whooped the shit out of them. Government conspiracy, corruption, this is the kind of stuff made my brain hurt with frustration.

"You be careful Ms Grant," I said, "She's dangerous and crazy. She might not think much of popping your head like she did the Russian."

"I'll try not to piss off the psycho blonde with super strength," she replied, "You be careful too."

I stepped back. "Oh I'm always careful," I said, "When have I ever pissed off someone dangerous?"

Her laughter chased me as I leapt through the air.

Getting home I put thoughts of government conspiracies aside. I was greeted at my window by Mangy, the half-feral cat rubbing against my calf as I stepped down from the windowsill. Then I found Dad drunk on the couch, a beer bottle open in his hand, half a dozen empty at his feet.

There was a moment last year I believed Dad was pulling himself together. Now after breaking up with his girlfriend and finding out my secret identity, he had relapsed worse than ever. As usual he was a quiet drunk, sitting and staring at a tv screen, drinking robotically as he fought to blind out his mind. I'd never thought of him as weak before Mom died, but now I didn't know what to think of him. Bloodshot eyes turned to me as I crossed to the kitchen.

"You're home," was all he said, before going back to his drinking. Was he relieved I was safe or angry I'd gone out to begin with? We didn't talk about my situation, about the Hotspur stuff, about my powers and the fact I wasn't entirely, all together human. Maybe he didn't want to know.

It can be hard to watch someone you love risk their life, even if you know its for a good cause.

And Dad had lost a lot already.
>>
Maybe I should be kinder.

Either way I opened the fridge and started in on the leftover Popeye's, stripping the chicken to the bone, feeding Mangy a thin strip. The cat purred. It didn't quite satisfy the burning hole in my gut, but I was getting better with my powers, better at handling their toll. It took a lot of exhertion to get put in a state of crippling hunger these days, but I still had a present hunger, something to replace the fuel I'd burned.

I checked my phone to see what was up in the normal world, though the line between 'normal' and 'paranormal' were blurring everyday.

Some more para-folk arrested on the South Side. Something about a disturbance in a McDonald's. No one I knew, but still something to worry about. I had a good idea what happened to para-folk taken into custody now, and they didn't care about guilt or innocence.

I chewed down the last of the chicken, sucking the grease off my fingers.

Penderose. I checked for news of Penderose.

A few videos of him appearing on the Priscilla Takanawa show, a couple of statements to the media. He seemed to like the spotlight when it fell on him. An article on his mission to rescue sex trafficked children, with no reference to Shark, their actual rescuer.

Before joining the DPA he'd been FBI. As I understood it he was the primary, maybe even only, DPA field agent. But the DPA website said they were recruiting, with an official federal seal and everything. Money was coming in, the agency was becoming legit. He was due a promotion and all thanks to these frame jobs. Son of a bitch.

>maybe it was time to visit the DPA headquarters, get a first hand view
>better to focus solely on Penderose. Track him, figure out where he lives
>maybe I should wait for Ms Grant to gather a couple more puzzle pieces first
>>
>>4818998
>better to focus solely on Penderose. Track him, figure out where he lives

If he is expecting more people to come in, I don't think he'd keep anything incriminating in the workplace.
>>
>>4818998
>better to focus solely on Penderose. Track him, figure out where he lives
Doesn't seem like the type to shit where he eats
>>
>>4818998
>better to focus solely on Penderose. Track him, figure out where he lives
I think we need to figure out when and where he plans the frame jobs. If we can learn when their next one is and catch them in the act then he'll be fucked. Good thing we have enhanced senses.
>>
>>4818998
>>better to focus solely on Penderose. Track him, figure out where he lives
>>
>>4819106
>>4819064
>>4819033
>>4819010
locked in
>>
It was time to get more personal with Agent Penderose. Figure out where he lives, where he goes, track his patterns. He wanted to come after me, I'd go after him.

Task set.

Now all that was left was the work.
>>
I started my case after school, ghosting the DPA building waiting for Penderose to clock off. The DPA had its own office in the Near West Side. It was a modern corporate building, all glass and concrete, no doubt surviellanced out the ass. Good thing I had the eyes of a hawk, and could camp out on the roof of a nearby Denny's, munching on a melt. Even I'm hesitant to eat Denny's, but I could use the fuel.

I watched cars come in and cars go out, trying not to think about the English homework I had to catch up on, or skipping out of basketball practice.

Finally I saw the gaunt little man step out in his oversized black coat, talking with a tall older man in a gray suit. Penderose followed the older man like Wormtongue following Saruman, clearly in defference, respect, maybe even a little fear. The older guy for his part didn't seem to pay Penderose much mind. Had to be his boss, Director Miscampbell. Whatever they were saying was too far away to hear, but Penderose was animated while the director looked bored. Either way when the director got into his car, an older style BMW, he left Penderose standing in the cold, fists shoved in his pants pockets.

The buzzard like posture of the federal agent swung around, and he stalked over to the car park, getting into a much less fashionable car. He climbed in, started it up, then rumbled off, the exhaust barking with a puff of smoke. Looks like the federal agent wasn't paid well for his efforts.

I leapt to a tree, then a street light, following the car as it wound its way through the streets of the near west side up to the north, rat racing through backstreets rather than having to deal with the gridlock of the inner city. Landing on rooftops and hedges, I kept him in view with fire sharpened eyes, trying not to get too close as sunlight said goodbye and a cold night set in with a bitter hand.

A guy like Penderose was no sucker, he'd spot an obvious tail.

Eventually he pulled up in front of a three story building not too different from the one I lived in. Parked in the alley, checked his gun in his holster when he got out. The neighborhood was working class but not run down. A dog barked from a yard, a skater buzzed down the sidewalk. Quiet, average kind of place.

Keys rang in the lock as he went in.

There was no knowing which floor he lived on, but after a few minutes the light flicked on the top floor. I listened, and heard a light jazz start to play with the faint crackle of a vinyl recording.

I stared at the barred window.

What secrets were behind it? What evidence waiting to be found?

>Confront Penderose now, try shaking him down
>Wait for tomorrow when he'd be out at work, break in
>>
>>4819132
>Wait for tomorrow when he'd be out at work, break in
>>
>>4819132
>Wait for tomorrow when he'd be out at work, break in

Don't want to tip him off.
>>
>>4819132
>>Wait for tomorrow when he'd be out at work, break in
>>
Man this quest really went downhill.
>>
>>4819142
>>4819143
>>4819174
locked in
>>
Going in now wasn't going to help things. This wasn't something I'd fix with my fists. Tomorrow was a school day, he'd be out doing his job. I'd come back then, break in and see what I could find.

I took a photo of the house and made a note of the address, then booked.

I was halfway home when I saw the ash falling. For a second I thought it was snow, until it stained my shoulders, then I saw the smoke.

The harsh glow of a fire poured out of a two story flathouse, people on the street gathered, recording it on their phones, checking for signs of the fire department, wanting to help but with nothing they couold do. Some people wore masks against the choking smoke, most just stared. A woman in her pajamas wrestled with a big black guy, thrashing in his grip, face wild.

"My babies are in there!" she screamed, tears from the smoke and her own terror rolling down fat cheeks, "Somebody please, my babies!"

"Fire truck's on its way," the big guy tried to tell her, but she was too wild with panic to understand, clawing at his arm, trying to fight her way into the hot flames, a baking heat radiating afrom the bottom windows as thick vicios clouds of ash and smoke rose into the sky.

I dropped beside them.

"Where?" I said, the heat of the fire warm, its glow a sun in the middle of the street.

"Top floor," she said, "Their bedroom is in the back. Please, you have to."

"I'm on the job," I said, legs bunching under me. I fired up to the top window, smashing through the glass.

"Go Hotspur, go!" some cheered from behind me, but the cheer wasn't picked up.

>roll 3d100+15 dc 70
>>
Rolled 13 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4819244
>>
Rolled 73 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4819244
>>
>>4819312
need one more roll to avoid a critfail
>>
>>4819244
>>
Rolled 23 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4819244
>>
>>4819312
pass
>>
I'll be back tomorrow with the write-up
>>
>>4819312
Nice roll, I'm pissed I fell asleep
>>
>>4819244
I swear, this women's "babies" better be actual babies and not just her cats, there could be actual people in there that need our help while we're bumbling around looking for cats
>>
>>4819909
She does mention their bedroom. I doubt cats are going to have a dedicated bedroom.
>>
Shards of glass and splinters of wood rained down around me as I landed in a living room choked with smoke, the floorboards hot under my feet. My bodyu pulsed, the fire inside me in rthym with the crackling, gushing flames devouring the building beneath me.

My glasses, meant to keep the wind out of my eyes, did as good a job stopping the smoke from stinging them, but my mask wasn't as good keeping out the smoke, and soon I was retching, trying to clear the smoke with a wave of my arm.

I'd done a lot of crazy shit so far in my superhero life, this was the first time I'd jumped into a burning building.

The back, a bedroom. The kids. Got to stay focused. My nose was running and my throat was scratched roar, a hacking cough spilling from my lips. I squeezed my eyes, glad I had them at least, but the smoke was thick. I fought through it, stumbling, listening. I closed my eyes and extended out my hearing.

There, a harsh little cough. I ran for it, barreling half-blind through the smoke choked room.

A wall slammed into me, or I rammed into the wall, plaster cracking, dust raining down from above. I felt along until my hand hooked a doorway, and I just about whipped myself around.

Down the end of a smoke shrouded short corridor I saw a door closed, a finger paint sign. A kids bedroom if there ever was one.

Bowing forward I sprinted for it, bracing my shoulder I charged, and the door burst off its hinges with a hard thump across my side. It thumped to the ground and a kid screamed.

They were backed up against the iron barred window, a kid maybe six and another even younger, a pair of light-skinned boys still in their pjs. The little one coughed, their eyes both stung wet and watery. Wet from smoke and terror.

"Hotsp-" the older one started but it turned into a spluttering cough, smoke starting to flood into the room.

Shit.

I remembered enough from fire safety lessons, it was smoke did the killing. My chest rumbled with a cough of my own. I spat up in my mask, going to the bars on their window.

"Grab on," I said, kneeling. The six year old helped his little brother latch tiny hands to my neck, then grabbed on himself.

Me, I took an iron bar in both hands, and churning with power hauled back, teeth grit in a straining face. Something popped beneath out feet and the fire roared in response, smoke vicious and thickening.

"Come on," I snarled, drool running from my mouth.

I pulled, arms tight, surging with my own fire. The iron began to bend, then it buckled. It sprung with a relief, my body swinging back. It was a gap enough for me. I kicked out the window. A carpet of smoke rolled beneath my feet, flames beginning to chew through the floor boards, the kid hanging off my back wheezing.

Grabbing either bar, I wedged myself through with the kids. It was an empty drop to the alley beneath us, but me, I could drop from a skyscraper with just a numb shock.
>>
We hit the ground, smoke flooding through the alley. I swung the little one off my shoulders and into my arms, took the older boy by the hand. Together we ran out of the smoke choked alley, the heat of the burning flathouse baking my face.
When we emerged it was to the wail of relief of their mother. I palmed her baby boy off to her, the boy blue in the face and gasping. Me, I buckled over coughing up my lungs, wheezing.

I could take a punch better than anyone alive, but a lungful of smoke could knock me down as easily as anyone.

The mother clutched her boys close as their home burned.

"Jesus," someone in the crowd said as faintly came the howl of a fire truck.

"Thank you," the mother said, squeezing her boys, crying hard.

I sucked down cold air. From heat to winter chill felt like stepping out of a fever.

"Thank you Hotspur," she said, tears still rolling down her fat cheeks.

"No problem," I said, raising a shaking thumb.

Then a grasp on my shoulder as someone shook me. I looked up into a grinning face, a crowd of smiling, cheering faces.

"You did it man," a skinng hipster guy said, "You saved the kids."

"Uh," I said.

"You're a-" but his next words were cut off by a pop followed by a boom. A fireball rising from the building. Everyone braced back.

Down the street a big red truck blarred its siren, parting the awe struck crowd.

"Clear the street," I said, getting to my feet, "Clear off, give the fire fighters room!"

Down from the truck in his broad brimmed helmet was a familiar face. I don't forget a guy who saved my life. Chuck Haywood barked orders at his crew, then looked around. "Did those assholes switch off the gas mains?" he growled, dropping the visor of his helmet. When he saw me he laughed. "Shit, Hotspur! Good to see ya! I've still been drinking free off the last time we meet."

Last time we'd met he and his crew had saved my ass from Ooze.

"Officer Haywood," I said, ash crumbling off my shoulders, smoke-stains across my chest. A couple paramedics took hold of the mother and her boys.

He shook my hand in a strong grip, grinning big.

The fire fighter team worked quick and cool, getting everything together to put out the fire.

Chuck Haywood pulled off his helmet. "You rescue them kids?" he said. I nodded. "Course you did. Far as I figure you're due a medal or something. You can leave the rest of this here to us."

"Always happy to leave you the real work, Chuck," I said. Chuck Haywood roared with laughter. I gave the fire fighter a short salute. He waved me off as I bounded away, confident I could leave the problem in his experienced hands.

I bounded out of there, heading home.
>>
It was a good diversion I guess, helping people. Reminded me why I did this. But my lungs ached and I had less spring in my leap. Maybe I should get checked for smoke inhalation. Maybe not.

I got home with ash streaked on my cheek and a deep, cramping hunger.

Whatever good I'd done, I had tomorrow to worry about. Breaking into the home of a federal agent, on a school day. It wasn't that I was going to back out but...

Dad sat at the kitchen table nursing a cup of coffee. The kitchen had been cleaned, so had the living room. He'd even vaccuumed.

"Hey kid," he said, looking as battered as my lungs.

"Hey Dad," I said. He had the hung over rung out look of a man sober for the first time in days. Good, I thought. The more sober days he had the better.

I went for my room, a lot of homework to catch up on, but I paused at the door.

"Dad," I started. He looked up, hopeful.

>I need to call in sick for school tomorrow
>...never mind
>>
>>4820878
>I need to call in sick for school tomorrow
We need to tell him the truth
I just hope it doesn't bite us in the ass
>>
>>4820878
Don't workdays go longer than school days? Could we head there right after?

If not
>I need to call in sick for school tomorrow
>>
>>4820878
>I need to call in sick for school tomorrow
>>
>>4820917
>>4820903
>>4820897
locked in
>>
"I...I need to call in sick tomorrow," I said, knowing he wasn't going to like it. Dad had adapted to knowing about my other life about as well as Nate Robinson adapted to boxing. And I could see it as the hope dropped from his face.

"This is about the thing, right?" he said. I nodded. Then his jaw clenched in the stubborn way we shared. "Why? I deserve to know why I'm lying to your school, and what you're getting into."

"There's this investigation I'm running," I said, "I need to check something out. A couple of my friends have been framed for crimes they didn't commit, and I need to clear their names."

He winced but took the news okay. Maybe me leaving a couple of things out helped.

"If its to help your friends..." he said, "But I don't like you missing school."

I don't like you drinking yourself to death, I thought, but didn't say it. He was sober right now, no need to lash out at him if it could drive him back into a bottle.

"I'll make up for it," I promised. Then before leaving asked, "How's work?"

He winced again. "Had my shifts cut," he said, "They don't need as many people this year. Hey, maybe go knock down a building next time you fight one of those super-freaks, try to get your dad a job." The attempt at a joke was better than nothing.

"That's why I do it, to help out Chicago's struggling construction industry," I said with a tired smile. Dad snorted. I yawned, feeling like shit. "I'm going to shower, get some sleep," I said.

Dad nodded. "Get some rest, kid." Then, before I left. "I love you Eric. Feel like I don't tell you that enough. And with what you're doing I...yeah."

I paused. "I love you too Dad, and I know."

His smile was wounded. "And thanks for telling me the truth."

I smiled back. "No more secrets, right?" I said, "Goodnight Dad."

"Goodnight son."
>>
7AM and I was freezing my balls off. Penderose was an early riser, turned ou. And he had a morning exercise routine, a morning run which took him about an hour, right around dawn. I waited for him to head out to work in his beat up garbage can of a car. He took his time on it. Maybe my own impatience was just dragging out the minutes.

Dad had called in sick, telling school I had a fever. I figured I might actually catch something sitting out in this weather, icicles hanging off the windows, snow piled high in drives. One of the neighborhood kids made his rounds clearing the snow from people's drives for a couple of bucks a house, shovel slung over his shoulder, wearing cleats and puffing mist.He waddled under my hiding place in a thick jacket, scarfed up.

When Penderose finally did leave he gave the kid a curt 'fuck off' when the kid offered his services. Nice guy, Penderose.

I waited, watching the car disappear around the bend, listening to the rumble of the engine until it disappeared off the edge of my enhanced hearing.

Then I leapt to the rooftop of his house. Crouching low I made my way to the back. There was a porch out the back of the top floor. More of an open aired hutch, a place for guests to drink and look down on the shared backyard behind the house, a small square of snow with a neat box glasshouse against the wall. I dropped down onto the landing.

What were the odds he had a security system? Nothing I could see. I'd have to take my chances, bust in and look around quick.

It wasn't too difficult getting inside. A sharp bunch to the swing doors and the latch burst off, the doors swung inward.

Agent Penderose kept a neat home. Not a lot of decour suggested not a lot of house guests. He had a poster of Tombstone on the wall, a trio of cowboys glaring down. A bookcase. A computer desk. It was a two bedroom place, with a kitchenette and a bathroom. Meant to be shared but kept all to himself. He didn't have a tv. There were no family pictures anywhere, not even on the fridge door.

The only personal thing was weird. A bullet casing in a glass box.

As for evidence of his frame jobs, nothing jumped out at me.

He'd left his laptop behind, but maybe it was his home computer.

I opened his fridge out of morbid curiosity. Onions milk and not much else but fruit and green salads. Guess he was a vegan or something. A coffee machine, a toaster. Nothing screaming government conspiracy. But then he wasn't stupid enough to leave any evidence of his crimes out in the open, right?

>do a thorough sweep of his house, just to be sure
>the computer should have something, grab it and book
>>
>>4821012
>do a thorough sweep of his house, just to be sure
Steal the bullet casing
>>
>>4821012
>do a thorough sweep of his house, just to be sure

We skipped school for this, should have the whole day
>>
>>4821012
>do a thorough sweep of his house, just to be sure
use the stone vision to see the weird evil aura the items used for his immoral deeds exude
>>
>>4821070
>>4821053
>>4821029
locked in
>>
I skipped school for this, no way was I just going to swipe something and go.

Going into his bedroom, he had a neat double bed, more plump than I'd expected. Inside his closet was nothing but rack upon rack of suits, a tie rack with red and blue ties. Inside his sidetable was a little box, and in the box were enamel pins of the American flag. Dude folded his underwear and kept his socks neatly divided.

If I'd ever wondered if there was something pathological about Agent Penderose, now I had no doubt.

But what I didn't find was hard evidence of anything but a man particular about separating his colors from his whites.

Until I checked his pantry.

I don't know why I thought to check there. It was various health foods and vitamin supplements. And a big bag of white sugar, recently opened.

Weird little bit of an otherwise healthy diet. I opened the lip, then curious, reached in. Under the grains of sugar my fingers slid over soft plastic. I pulled it out, dusted it off. A small external hard drive in a plastic ziplock bag, hidden carefully in an odd place.

Huh.

I slid it into my inner coat pocket.

Then I looked back to the living room.

And an idea came to me. I put a hand to the inner pocket where I kept the stone.

>roll 3 x 1d100+15 dc 80
>>
Rolled 66 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4821118
Ah shit come on dice gods
>>
Rolled 70 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4821118
Big money no whammies
>>
Rolled 71 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4821118
I am not a patient man so I'm gonna roll again
If I get a 1 I will commit sudoku
>>
I don't think I can keep writing today

Just found out Kentaro Miura died

>>4821133
pass

I'll see how I feel in an hour, if I can get back to it
>>
>>4821135
OH FUCK
HOW DID I NOT HEAR ABOUT THIS
>>
>>4821135
What the fuck.... RIP
>>
yeah, I'll be back tomorrow

this news has cut me down
>>
>>4821135
Damn
The QM curse isn't specific to Quests I suppose
Rip
>>
>>4821135
F
Not like he could finish berserk any slower tho
>>
all right here I am

still not over Miura's death but got to move on.
>>
>>4822791
yeah please don't continue his tradition of extremely long hiatuses in his memory
>>
I closed my eyes, focused on my breathing, emptied my thoughts. I made my mind a single hot fire, burning everything away. The music without melody played in my mind as the stone grew warm against my chest. Easier than the first time, but everything got easier with practice.

Opening my eyes, I scanned Penderose's home.

It was dull, colorless. A place someone slept but not a home. A home holds the spritual prints of a person, a family. This place was dead, colorless.

Then I looked to the bullet casing in the glass box. It was thick with a dark miasma, the golden casing a bright spot in all the black. Evil.

>take the bullet casing
>leave the bullet casing
>>
>>4822805
>take the bullet casing
grant could probably trace it
>>
>>4822805
>take the bullet casing
If it's important to him it could give us a rare opportunity to learn about him and his past.
>>
>>4822805
>take the bullet casing
>>
>>4822805
>take the bullet casing

nervous about him noticing it gone, but that ship probably sailed when we took the usb
>>
We need to get this evidence processed today. Before he gets home if possible. Might need to create a distraction that keeps him from going home for a bit as well.
>>
>>4822885
>>4822877
>>4822816
>>4822809
locked in
>>
Whatever reason for the darkness surrounding the bullet, it felt too important to leave behind. If nothing else Grant could trace it, and reveal its story.

I opened the glass case and slipped the bullet out. Opening my jacket pocket, I paused. A silver glow throbbed from inside. I palmed the bullet between my knuckles and reached in. The silver glow came from the little dog carving, the one Ayesha had made for me as a Christmas gift. Its light poured over the black light throbbing from the brass casing, flooding over it.

Huh.

Rather than try to figure it out I slipped the shell in with the carved dog figurine. Questions for another time.

Now I had to worry about covering my tracks.

There was no hiding the things I was taking. Stealing. Whatever. But I could at least close up the drawers and cupboards, make as little mess as possible. With my suit on I doubt they'd pick up anything forensic, but I'm not an expert cat burglar or whatever.

Maybe if I could get this stuff done today I could get everything back before he noticed they were gone.

It would be a challenge, but maybe not impossible.

But then I heard a rattle on the front door and knew it was time to go.

Backing toward the porch, I heard Spanish come muttering through the crack in the front door, irritated grunts as a middle-aged woman, head down, stumbled in carrying a heavy vaccuum cleaner. She turned aside to close the door, not noticing me yet.

I didn't give her a chance. I laept backward, blind, out off the back porch, the rustle of tree limbs scraping around my shoulders as I burst through the tree in the backyard, landing on its highest limb.

She came to the open window, bitching about the cold. She swung it shut with a bang, but the doors creaked open. She tried to bang it shut a couple more times before giving up, getting on her phone. I winced. Yeah, I'd busted the lock off to get in.

No point sticking around, I took off over the rooftops, the hard drive a weight in my chest pocket.

There was no knowing if anything I'd scooped up was hard evidence of his crimes, it could all be useless junk, but I wouldn't know if I didn't get it checked. The bullet was the easy one, I'd hand it off to Ms Grant and she could check it. The hard drive was a trickier question. I'm no computer expert, and I doubt Penderose was dumb enough not to have a password or some kind of encryption.

Bounding over the city, the fire-burning sight began to fade, but not before I looked across it laid out beneath me. Chicago in the morning, but vines of black ran through the streets, Kudzu vines wrapping the buildings, pulsating. It was a sight unexpected and sucked the breath out of my lungs. Everywhere I turned my head more dark vines wrapped the streets and the city, caccooned homes, tight and throbbing, choking. Moving, growing. It reached out to touch the legs of passersby, it stroked the cheek of people on park benches.

Lovingly, tenderly drawing into them.
>>
And it ran on as far as I could see, from north to south, from the shore to the west. Vomit welled in the back of my mouth, brain seized with panic.

When I hit the rooftop of a 7-11 I stumbled and fell, skidding on my side with a hard cry. I lay panting, trying to suck in breath as the black vines roped and coiled beneath me.

Oh God, I thought, shaking. What had I seen?

Struggling to breathe worse than in the middle of a fire, I rolled onto my hands and knees. I put my hand to the stone in my chest, clenched my eyes shut.

Dark vines ran underneath my hands, reaching up between my fingers, wrapping my knuckles. I felt its oil touch beneath my skin.

No. Fuck no. I pulled my hands back, pulled away, scrambling back on my knees as the dark reached up to touch me. I grabbed at a vine tucking itself around my calf but my hand passed through it like smoke. My hand was smoke, the vine all to real. Tightening, squeezing.

No, no. I pulled back, stumbling up onto my feet then tripping over onto my ass.

I looked up into a dark red sky. The sun a black pit.

An eye. Blazing with darkness.

I squeezed my eyes shut, head pounding. No, no. Dizzy and sick behind my eyelids, I squeezed them tight as I could, sweat crawling down my neck as winter's chill became a steaming heat. A burning heat. Too hot, too hot. So damn hot.

Fuck no fuck no fuck no. I wanted it to go. I wanted it to stop.

No.

A silver bell rang inside my pocket.

Then a cold gasp, a shudder. I opened my eyes on a blue sky, on an empty roof top.

I wheezed, shaking with a fever.

What was that?

Evil, Dr Zamani's voice crawled into my mind, evil.

I wanted to strip down to nothing and shower myself cold. I wanted to cry.

But the hard drive weighed my jacket, and the tiny bullet casing had a weight of its own.

>first thing's first, get the bullet to Ms Grant
>figure out the hard drive, it was more important
>no, I've got to get some place and cool off after that
>>
>>4822992
>first thing's first, get the bullet to Ms Grant
All we gotta do is drop it off, seems like she's be the best bet for cracking the hard drive too but maybe not
>>
>>4822992
>Get the bullet to Mrs. Grant

Finally the nerd squad can come in handy?
Or if that's too close to our secret identity maybe Queen Rat knows a para that is an expert hacker or has expert hacking as their power?
>>
>>4822992
>figure out the hard drive, it was more important
>>
>>4822992
>first thing's first, get the bullet to Ms Grant
>>
>>4823079
>>4823021
>>4823009
locked in
>>
I pushed the imagery from my mind. However real it felt, however staining, I could figure out what it was later. For now I had a job to do.

The sky was blue and the sun was shinning, the wind cold and bitter. Whatever lingered from tapping into the stone was gone. Easy breathing, righting up, I shook myself out and fired off a text to Ms Grant.

Me - Got something for you. Free to meet?

A pause then a reply.

Grant - Meet me at the Water Tower. Half an hour.

I slid the phone away. Hopefully we'd be getting somewhere with this.

I arrived at the Water Tower early, working on my gargoyle impression on the top of the tower, a hot dog vendor with a hand cart handing out dogs to tourists down below. I could use a dog, my guts were growling.

There was still the question of the hard drive though. I was hesitant to give it to Ms Grant. Not because I didn't trust her, more I was worried about the attention she'd pull. Everyone knew she worked with me, and if she was snatched up by the DPA or someone else, we could lose everything, not to mention the real danger she'd be in.

But I also didn't know a lot of other people who could handle a job like this. It was definitely outside my wheel house.

>hand the hard drive over to Ms Grant too
>ask Queen Rat if someone in her community can help
>hit up the nerds at school, this government hacking stuff seemed their kind of thing
>>
>>4823104
>ask Queen Rat if someone in her community can help
Gotta stay off the grid with this one.
>>
>>4823104
>ask Queen Rat if someone in her community can help
>>
>>4823104
>ask Queen Rat if someone in her community can help
>>
>>4823104
>ask Queen Rat if someone in her community can help

nerds can be option 2
maybe we could pass it to them through Thunderchild
>>
Could the dark energy be what Mr. Green was talking about when he said the dark was leeching off the people after the World's fair in Chicago? Maybe it's a result of the explosion instead. Not sure. We need to follow that plot thread with his grandson James and the books.
>>
>>4823135
>>4823128
>>4823125
>>4823109
locked in
>>
Maybe Queen Rat knew a para-folk who could do me a solid.

Either way I wasn't handing it over to Ms Grant.

She arrived stepping out of an uber, coat unbuttoned to sweep in the wind. She checked her six before coming over to the Water Tower. I dropped from my perch, landing in front of her. We usually did these meetings in night time hours.

"You've got something?" she said.

"Maybe," I replied, pulling out the brass shell. I flicked it over to her. "Need you to run a serial number."

She whistled. "This is a serious bullet," she said, ".45, nothing to fuck with."

"Any bullet's serious when its coming at you," I said.

She pocketed the shell. "I'll look into it," she said, "But in the mean time I've got something for you. Emma Sorenson."

"Sorenson?" I said. Had a Nordic ring, I guess Semper Fi was a real blonde.

She handed me a file from her satchel. "Her service record. A Marine Corp reservist. Saw active service a few years back but has mostly spent her time sitting on her hands while working an office job for AT&T. Perfect resume for a psycho if I ever saw one. Working AT&T I'm surprised she didn't flunk the psych eval."

"Maybe AT&T is the exact brand of psychopath the Marines are looking for," she joked. I don't know if I got the joke exactly, but I flipped through the records. The photo of her in desert camoflague, with a cap pulled low and her blonde hair tucked back in a bun, was a lot more grim than the thousand dollar smile she flashed for the camera now.

"Grew up in Aurora," Ms Grant said, "Parents aren't super interesting. Mom was a home maker, Dad was in telecommunications. Looks like after the Chicago Explosion she was reactivated and her file pulled. Guess the government was quick to snatch up a para happy to jump when she was told."

"If it was pulled how'd you find it?" I said.

Her smile was mysterious. "I have my ways," she said.

"The only thing weird about an ordinary life is she had some kind of disciplinary problem, but I had trouble figuring out the what. Some kind of accident on base left a fellow Marine badly hurt, and she was held responsible."

"You know the name of the other Marine?" I asked.

"Caitlin Booker. Who was discharged after the incident. I'm planning to follow up on that, see if I can talk to her."

"Every puzzle piece, right?" I said. "Can I keep this?" I asked. Ms Grant nodded.

"I'll get this bullet checked," she said, "And let you know what's what with Caitlin Booker."

"In the mean time," I said, "I could use a hotdog. You mind buying?"

She rolled her eyes, pulling out her wallet. If the hotdog vendor was surprised to see us, two of Chicago's famous crimefighters, he didn't show it. We got three hotdogs Chicago-style and I had two to myself. Say this for a Chicago dog, between the pepper and tomato, they were more of a meal than the regular kind, and hit just the right spot.
>>
Burping when I was done, I cut Ms Grant the usual salute. "Keep me posted," I said, "I got something to deal with on the South Side."

"Likewise," she said with a two finger salute of her own.

I was off up into the bright blue, streets retreating under me until they became a concrete tapestry winding beneath my feet. The world whistled as I came down on a tower, hanging by a hand off a cable, before lunging off again.

Had to keep my focus, couldn't let me head get twisted by strange visions. The sky was blue, the sun was bright. No red skies or dark suns here. No strange black vines wrapping the city. Just me and the pigeons whipping through the sky.

I landed down near Queen Rat's little community center when I got a buzz on my phone.

Ivy - Hey, is Ayesha with you?

I stopped to tap back a reply.

Me - No, why?

Ivy - You aren't at school and neither is she.

Huh. It wasn't like Ayesha to skip class.

Me - You check with Malcolm?

Ivy sent back an eyeroll emoji.

Ivy - No, he totally wasn't the first person I asked. He hasn't seen her either.

Huh. That wasn't good.

Me - You guys got to school together though, right?

Ivy - You're a fucking Sherlock dude. Yes, and we were supposed to swap Chemistry notes half an hour ago.

Meaning Ayesha had done Ivy's Chemistry homework.

Ivy - She didn't show after gym. No one's seen her.

I stared at the phone. I stopped myself from asking another dumb question. Ivy was smart, she'd have done everything she could before checking with me.

Ivy - I'm scared.

I swallowed, an acid feeling rising in my throat.

Me - She might be fine.

Ivy - Eric, I'm telling you. Something isn't right.

I looked down to Queen Rat's community center, back to the phone.

>break off meeting Queen Rat to look for Ayesha
>meet with Queen Rat first, get it done
>>
>>4823237
>break off meeting Queen Rat to look for Ayesha
>>
>>4823237
>break off meeting Queen Rat to look for Ayesha
Houndmaster threatened her the first time we met.
>>
>>4823237
>break off meeting Queen Rat to look for Ayesha
fuck Eric's gonna lose his shit if something happened to her because of him
>>
>>4823237
>Look for Ayesha
>>
>>4823277
>>4823261
>>4823244
>>4823243
breaking off from the mission to find Ayesha

locked in
>>
A pulse of fear stopped me from leaping down to Queen Rat's. I looked back the way I'd come, back toward the north side of town. I put away my phone.

No chance I was going to do anything else, not if Ayesha was in danger. Even if she was skipping class it didn't explain why she hadn't told Ivy or answered her phone. I couldn't focus anyway, not with worry a backbeat to everything else I'd do.

Making my way back north I racked my brain for places to check. Her friends, hang out spots, stuff like that. In the end I decided to start at her place.

The Carvers were out. I landed on the roof, outside the porthole window looking into Ayesha's room. A window that had been cracked open. Alarm bells burst in the back of my mind. I slid my fingers into the crack and opened it all the way.

Dirty boot prints on the pink sheets. Ayesha wasn't a boots kind of girl, or a shoes inside one. I stepped carefully over the silk sheets, onto the soft carpet.

Where, I thought. I needed a clue, something.

There.

On her dresser, an opened draw.

Getting closer I hesitated. Her panty draw, and nestled on top was her phone. There was a post-it note attached, words scrawled on it. It wasn't Ayesha's handwriting.

'For Hotspur', with a number. Her phone's password.

There was something perverse about it. I picked it up from the mound of panties trying not to touch the fabric underneath. The implications of it all were nauseating, harrowing. Keying in the numbers, there was a bright red 1 next to the camera icon.

I thumbed it open. The sound of traffic played. No light until a light flicked on overhead.

It must have been the back of a van, filthy with takeout wrappers scattered around and a muddy feeling of 'unclean'. It took a moment for me to find her in the gloomy weak light. in the corner Ayesha, duct tape plastered over her lips, eyes large and wet with terror. Blood ran from her nostrils, mixing with her tears down the gray tape sealing her mouth. Duct tape bound her ankles together, forced her hands behind her back. Wearing a home knit sweater, home-knit stockings. She shook.

"Well hoss, this is what it's come to."

Bile rose in my throat, knowing the voice. Houndmaster.

"You've saved this pretty little nigger twice now, think you can make it a third time?"

I heard a click. The brutal gun of his extending out, pointing at Ayesha.

Her face closed up as the whimper rose in her throat, muffled by tape. Kicked her feet as if she could get away, tucked in the back corner. As if she could make herself so small she could wriggle through the joints in the back door or disappear behind a panel.
>>
"Naw," the hammer clicked back as he put down the gun, "This ain't a snuff video. Not yet. I'll give you a shot to save her. Come to the Gomer Motel out west. Come alone, bring the package. You bring it square, she lives. You try to fuck with me, I blow open her pretty little face, leave her pretty little brains splashed all over the bedsheets. Hell of a cleaning bill, right?"

My teeth ground together at his laugh.

"Now honey, why don't you blow him a little kiss?"

Plastic fingers reached out, peeled back the scotch tape to show a blood stained mouth, an awful moan drawing out of her made me tense up and get cold all over. He hooked a fake finger on her bottom lip, pulling it back to show her gums.

"Come on now darling, give your big strong hero a reason to come running, or I will."

"No," she sobbed, "No I won't I-"

His fist whipped her head back. She crumpled into a sobbing heap.

The camera turned around so I got a good look at Houndmaster's burn scarred mug, sharp cheek bones pointing above an evil grin.

"Don't worry," he said, "I'll get her nice and cooperative soon enough. You just keep this phone on you, Hotspur. Cause if you don't come quick you'll be getting the snuff video I promised."

It stopped on his ugly rotten toothed grin.

There was no feeling in me. Nothing but a chill that gripped my body.

With an almost mechanical effect I put in the motel he mentioned into Google Chrome.

It wasn't close. I'd be burning daylight to get there.

Her life for the stone.

>go and give him the stone
>go, but there was no way he was getting the stone
>...maybe Ayesha's life wasn't worth the stone
>>
>>4823372
>go and give him the stone
Fuck the stone, if Ayesha dies for it then it's not worth it. Plus Hotspur would immediately become a killer too.
>>
>>4823372
>go, but there was no way he was getting the stone
This quest is pure suffering. We still don't know shit about the stone but people have already died for it and people will probably die if we give it up.
>>
>>4823372
>go, but there was no way he was getting the stone
Even if we have to temporarily 'let go' of the stone to save her, but I don't think compromise on either front is an option for us
>>
>>4823372
>go, but there was no way he was getting the stone
>>
about to lock it in but now we're at a tie
>>
>>4823431
?
>>4823388
>>4823422
>>4823429
This is winning so far.
>>
>>4823372
>go, but there was no way he was getting the stone
Time to go Super Spur, and fuck him up again.
>>
File: 1579937668474.png (180 KB, 445x411)
180 KB
180 KB .png
>>4823372
>go, but there was no way he was getting the stone
Next time we get a chance we're killing him or reducing him to a near vegetable state, anyone who votes otherwise is a fucking retard.
>>
>>4823372
>>go and give him the stone
We lose the stone, we can get it back. We can't undo a dead Ayesha.
>>
>>4823372
>go, but there's no way he's getting the stone
>>
Here's what he said last time
>"Don't worry, I got plans for you," he said, "You and anyone else who gives a shit about you. I'll make what I did to Miss Shelley there look like a dream. I owe you after all, for my drones."
If this was just about the stone I'd be more willing to actually exchange it, but I don't believe that he won't just kill her anyway because it's personal for him, it's not all for the job anymore. He doesn't just want the stone, he wants us to suffer as much as possible.
>>
>>4824005
Exactly. Giving the nutter the stone is pointless, he'll just put her in a bomb room or something and kill both of us.
>>
So we’re gonna kill this guy right? Or at least kill him?
>>
>>4824848
We promised our cop buddy we wouldn't kill, she didn't mention maiming this bastard though. Just gotta leave his jaw working so he can talk.
>>
>>4824848
Nah man, I'm here for the story of Hotspur the worlds first superhero, not for the story of just another killer with "morals"
>>
>>4825299
I'm here to play as a character instead of just an archetype, I'm pretty anti-murder still though. I'm just not sure what else to do. We gotta tell Grant what's up so she can get prepared to take him in after we beat him if we're not gonna kill him.
>>
>>4825461
All his limbs are prosthetic, so we can nugget him and bring him to Grant.

Maybe put him through an MRI first to ruin any electronics we missed.
>>
You still alive Bullpen?
>>
>>4824848
We have two options, as far as I can see. One is to maim him and turn him in, maybe call Grant or something. The other is to go full edge lord route and kill him, then dump him in the sea so no one finds out. I don't think Eric is at the latter quite yet. Maybe if one of his friends dies.
>>
Hey guys, yall still want to act like pussies when it comes to putting this sick animal down?

Or will anons actually grow a spine?
>>
>>4825766
former then give to mr shark man
i think if we just turn him in after we maim him itll be spun against hotspur and he might even come back yet again
>>
I got banned
>>
with trip this time. I ate a 24 hour ban, that's why I disappeared.

I'll be back next week.
>>
>>4825778
We promised to not kill him, but bring him in so Grant can get info from him.
>>
hope to see you guys tomorrow
>>
>>4829239
Hell yeah can't wait to suffer
>>
I say we go Takamura Vs Hawk on Dogman when we catch his ass.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28ZnfoU7P18
>>
>>4823388
>>4823422
>>4823429
>>4823639
>>4823574
>>4823950
locked in
>>
There was no way in hell I was going to let him get his hands on the stone.

There was no way in hell I was going to let him hurt Ayesha.

It felt unreal standing in her bedroom, not a thing out of place but everything wrong, the still frame of his dirty teeth on her phonescreen.

Gomer Motel. I checked the address twice. Gomer Motel.

-

I came in at dusk, sunset a bloody smear on the horizon. Dark clouds churned with an appropriate flash of lightning and a dull rumble of thunder as I landed on the motel sign, fire coursing through me. The red letters on the sign had faded to a near colorless pink, covered in layers of grime.

It was a two floor motel a long time abandoned. I don't know who the fuck Gomer was but whoever hed been he wasn't around anymore. The empty pool was packed with a dirty sludge which had once been snow, the car park cracked and overgrown with weeds. Dead trees shaded the entrance with spindly limbs. A prime kind of place for urban explorers to cut a youtube video.

The only sign of life was a white van parked under the 'Gomer Motel' sign. I couldn't see any lights on in the rows of rooms, not on the first floor or the second. Ayesha was in there somewhere, and with her was Houndmaster.

Waiting, lurking.

Memories of Shelley rose up, the young women strapped to her bed, face lit by moonlight, guts cut out of her and strewn across her lap, her bedsheets, and her face became Ayesha's and my chest squeezed with pain.

No.

Not tonight. Not to Ayesha.

I put a hand over the stone in my jacket.

All of this horror, all this blood and murder and horror. All for something so small.

The phone in my pocket rang, a Weeknd track. Ayesha's phone.

"Figured you'd come," Houndmaster said, "Now be a good boy and leave the package with the front desk."

I heightened my senses, stretching them out to the furthest degree.

"I'm not doing anything until I know the girl's safe," I said, heart pounding in my ears.

He laughed. I heard it twice. First through the phone, then further out, on the edge of my hearing. I glanced down the top row of motel rooms.

"Fair," he said. There was the sound of a camera snap, then my phone pinged.

A photo of Ayesha lying on a bed, wrists bound to a head board. Blood smeared her lips, a slice of white teeth showing where her lips were parted. Her sweater had been torn. her eyes were closed. I couldn't tell if she was breathing.

I knew where he was now. Third room down from the stairs leading to the second floor.

>go straight for him, no waiting.
>lure him out with the stone
>>
>>4831551
>Grab the Stone and use its ability to enhance our senses to find Ayesha
>Go straight to her, through walls and ceilings if necessary.
>>
>>4831551
>go straight for him, no waiting.
He's afraid of us. But too stupid to take that fear seriously apparently. Let's show him just how stupid it was to fuck with us.
>>
>>4831565
We already know where she is exactly.
>>
>>4831572
He might...absolutely trapped the place and Ayesha's room, who knows if it isn't some mic system he set up down there.
>>4831577
That is assuming he isn't lying, and that isn't some other hotel room. Making sure Ayesha is there and we can save her from whatever trap he set is more important.
>>
>>4831551
>go straight for him, no waiting.
Use the stone to its fullest extent. Absolute focus on strength and speed required to get to Ayesha before he can do anything to her. Put everything we need to into the stone, damn the consequences.
>>
>>4831551
if mine >>4831565
doesn't win, I'm supporting this>>4831583
Write in specifically.
>>
>>4831583
locking this one in
>>
I swallowed, closed my eyes, and put my hand to the stone.

I needed its power now more than ever. Whatever it could do for me, strength, speed, power. Anything that could get me to her before he could...before anything could happen to her.

Ayesha. I let the fire swallow me whole.

Opening my eyes I looked down on the motel.

Dark vines climbed over the cracked, decayed building, throbbing as they enveloped building. Thorny, ugly vines of dark pulsing flesh.

The lightning cackled overhead as the rain began to hiss down. A freezing winter rain, sharp and slicing. Dense clouds growing darker.

From the room I saw a silver glow, a glow ebbing away as the dark closed in around it, squeezing in on it as if it would crush the building in its python embrace.

There.

I lunged from the top of the motel sign, a speeding missile, the night screaming around me as I cut through the hard falling rain. I slammed over the railing and onto the second floor, landing on cracked floor boards littered with junk.

The door was shut before me, a silver light shining through the windows. Ayesha. I raised a fist to drive it in.

"Shit, you're a predictable little cuss."

A click and the windows of the rooms either side burst outward, chrome figures plunging out in a flash of lightning, the thunder roaring through the abandoned motel block.

The drones knelt in broken glass, clicking and whirring as they straightened up. Reaching up behind its shoulder, the drone unslung a compact machine gun, slapping it down into a plastic hand with a click. A sharp 'snikt' and behind me the other had sprung a long blade from either wrist, its glowing screen face staring.

'Toys' I thought.

'More toys.'

I stood straight, looking from one to the other.

"You like 'em?" Houndmaster's voice crawled from the room, "The bossman wanted to thank you for trashing the last set, let them collect some valuable data, work on improvements. Me, I'm still mighty sore. They billed me for those boys."

Lightning flashed bright white across their chrome bodies, unnaturally still.

"Well," Houndmaster drawled, "Get 'im."

A finger dropped on a trigger, and gunfire opened up with a thunderous boom.

>roll 3 x 1d100 + 30 dc 80
>>
Rolled 38 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4831720
first critfail now
>>
Rolled 26 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4831720
>>
Rolled 62 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4831720
>>
>>4831744
came in with the save
>>
>>4831744
Based
>>
Bullets burst past me as I grabbed the hand railing and swung out into the rain. Cold as the rain slicing over me, rage and fear fed to the stone, I swung back in to drive my feet into the metal hide of the drone, slamming it hard into the wall. Wood cracked and dust showered down from the roof as it left a dent, pushing itself off, bringing its snub nose machine gun around.

With a side-step I dodged the gun fire. The machine gun burst out into the night, a hot rain of shell casings flicking from the gun. I slapped a hand into its head, slamming it into the wall, driving it through wood and plaster in a spray of chips.

Behind me came the metallic squeak of robotic joints. Blades flashed in a dancing ribbon. I stepped back, swinging the drone in my hand around between us, swinging it into its robotic double. They crashed into the metal rail. The head of the drone I'd slammed into the wall gave a click, not sitting on its head right, the brain box firing a spark. It pushed itself free from the other drone, and together they turned to advance on me.

The blade drone lunged in with the expertise of an Olympic fencer, blade lashing out. I ducked back, the blade slashing open the front of my jacket. Behind it the gun drone took aim with its rifle, over its double's shoulder.

Gunfire burst. I dropped into the shadow of the blade drone, using it for cover. Whatever programming these things had, they wre designed not to destroy each other. I stepped in time to the blade drone, thanking Coach Jackson for the dance lessons, bobbing and weaving to keep it in front of me. Blades thrust for my face, cut to my chest, flashing quick and unnaturally smooth as they tried to turn me into a Hotspur shish-kebab.

I drove a hard jab into its plastic face plate, cracking it and dulling the light behind the clear screen. It cut out, slicing through my jacket sleeve and into the bicep on my left arm. Then it thrust for my face. I ducked and drove my fist into its chest plate. A hard dent driven into it, the second punch crumpled it, the third popped it from its chassis. The last drove through, my fist punching through gears and wires, cutting up my hand.

I pulled out its electronic guts from the open chest cavity, and kicked it hard into the gun drone.

Knowing its double was off-line, whatever safety protocol switched off and it fired straight through the drone, bullets chewing it apart in an effort to hit me. The blade-drone danced with wild flailing limbs into the gun-drone, crashing into it. I grabbed the hand railing and swooped around again, through the rain, driving my feet into the side of the gun drone's head as it tried to untangle itself from the remains of the blade drone. It slammed into the wall, brain case buckling, and slumped.

'Toys," I thought, 'Broken toys.'

I finished it with a hard kick to the head, popping off the back of its head in a spray of circuitry and chip-board.
>>
The slash to my arm throbbed, but it was the distant throb of a dulled pain, the fire coursing through me keeping it away. Blood washed down, soaking the sleeve.

But my focus wasn't on my own hurt. I snapped my attention back to the door.

An overhand right smashed the door from its hinges.

"Shit, I had money you'd come through the window."

Lightning lit the gloom of the motel. He sat in the far corner, the brutal slab of a gun in his lap, the other hand clutching a trigger of some kind. His grin was long and evil. He wore an open flak jacket and nothing underneath but scar tissue. Whatever silver light inside him was down to the smallst flecks, pebbles at the botton of a polluted lake. The dark miasma choked the room all around him, all around me.

Everywhere except a figure lying on the bed, her clothes ripped up, her hands bound above her head. The loop of a belt lay slack around her arm.

She stirred a little, letting out a small hurt sound, eyes white under fluttering lids. Silver light danced off her body, holding back the encroching darkness. It closed my throat, the brightness of the light dancing from her.

"For a black girl she sure can't handle her heroin," he said.

I started for him.

"Easy hoss," he said, raising the trigger, "Take a gander behind you."

I looked back. Some kind of packed explosive wired the wall.

"You drop the stone and I'll let you take the pretty little negress and go," he said, "Maybe you still got time to get her to a hospital. She's full of so much smack I'm surprised she ain't dead already."

"You don't and we'll have ourselves an early fourth of July," he said, "Which will it be partner?"

"You're full of shit," I said, "You won't kill yourself."

Pointing the trigger, his smile faded into the burn scars. "Try me," he said, eyes pin prick small.

>drop the stone
>take the risk (will require a roll)
>>
>>4831847
>take the risk (will require a roll)
Fuck no. Handing over the stone isn't an option. Even though I'm starting to hate the thing. Giving whoever created and/or employs him access to this kind of power would be disastrous.
>>
>>4831847
>take the risk (will require a roll)
>>
>>4831847
>take the risk (will require a roll)
>>
This guy is ruled by fear. He inflicts as much fear as possible on his victims before killing them, he uses fear for everything. That's because he's actually the one who's afraid. Fuck this guy. If we don't fear him then he can't win.
>>
>>4831847
>drop the stone

We can try grabbing the trigger if he starts slacking.
>>
>>4831847
>take the risk (will require a roll)
>>
>>4831969
>>4831866
>>4831861
>>4831857
locked in
>>
.
>>
File: file.png (451 KB, 1306x744)
451 KB
451 KB .png
Glad to have you back QM and thanks again for running the quest, cant participate much cus my internet is funky, but I always enjoy reading it. here something Im working.
>>
I raised a hand to the stone in my chest pocket, fingering it through the cut in the fabric. It pulsed like a second heart against my chest.

I looked to Ayesha. She rolled to her side, a feeble kick at the blankets bunched at her feet, bound by her fists like a fish on a line, an awful little sound in the back of her throat. A cold prickle ran over me.

Then I looked to Houndmaster, breathing hard in his chair, trigger held in front of him pointed like a gun ready to fire. The pin-prick eyes, he had plenty of smack in his veins too. Something to cut the fear.

Closing my eyes, I let out a long breath. Fed my fear to the fire.

Then when I opened them, I moved.

>roll 3 x 1d100+30 dc 80
>>
>>4832004
that's dope
>>
>>4832005
dice+1d100+30

Lets see
>>
Rolled 13 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4832005
Let's get it
>>
Rolled 41 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4832005

>>4832018
roll 3 save us
>>
Rolled 46 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4832005
this feels like one of the worst possible rolls to critfail
>>
oof

fail

but not a critfail
>>
>>4832032
Just let us get burnt up, we were pretty close! Ayesha dying would be too much, holy shit
>>
>>4832038
RIP in peices ayesha :(
>>
>>4832045
shut
>>
Phone posting. Had a blackout and waiting for the power to come back on. No idea when. Hopefully soo .
>>
>>4832146
Gotta love the QM curse. Guess I'll go to bed then, thanks for running!
>>
Kek, thanks for doing the predictable retard route anons. We deserve to suffer a bit for this.
>>
>>4832146
hopes and prayers for your internet

>>4832154
thank god hindsight man is here to save us
>>
>>4832154
we were always gonna be walking into a trap, that's how this guy operates. I'm glad we'll have your all seeing eye to guide us for future decisions though anon
>>
it would really suck to not get a real resolution to the houndmaster thing because of one failed roll, we haven't even gotten to beat the shit out of him yet and I think we've all wanted that for a very long time. also his classic woman kidnapping move to get what he wants is now officially overdone
>>
>>4832173
but he has so many women left to kidnap
>>
>>4832156
>>4832160
Worry not, anons. If we can get qm to delay starting his sessions by a few hours, I'll be able to save us.
>>4832173
We did beat the shit out of him during our first meeting.
>>
power's back but I lost all of the update.

getting to it
>>
I lunged for the bed.

Houndmaster lunged for the motel window. With the crash of glass behind me I scooped up Ayesha, tearing her from the head board. She squirmed against me, face wrinkled up on a painful gasp. I pulled her close to my chest, bunched my shoulder, and charged the wall. Power blazed through me bright and roaring, I barely felt the thump against the wall, the crack of the plaster and the splintering of the wood inside.

But behind me came a click. Then everything was drowned out as a wall of sound slapped against my back, silent fury roaring behind me as the wall burst against my charge.

We drove into the freezing rain, the storm slicing down over us, lightning mute overhead. I was numb, numb to the freezing rain, to the pain shooting through me, to everything except Ayesha limp in my arms. Numb with terror. We hung in the air, lightning flaring through churning storm clouds, thunder on mute.

Then dropped to the cement. I felt the crunch in my legs as we rolled, sprawling out under a copse of dead trees. I shook deaf, fire whipped out of me, cold with shock. My left eye stung, the lens of my goggle shattered. Something was wrong with my legs, I couldn't get up. Pawing out I grabbed Ayesha by the side, scooping her up into my arms, trying to pull her up, trying to get myself up.

Gravity beat me. I dropped hard to my knees, holding her tight as I shivered. The cold was setting in, the rain soaking into my costume, weighing it down. And the pain too started reaching an ugly hand through the shock.

Looking down at her soft face gone all slack, rain word trickling from the corner of her mouth, for a horrifying moment I thought she was gone.

"No," I said.

"Please," I whimpered, pulling her close.

"Please," I begged, not knowing to who or what.

"Please."

Then she bucked in my arms. My heart spiked, too terrified for hope. Then a cough, and a trail of vomit ran down her cheek. I swallowed, tilted her head forward, letting the vomit trail down onto my shoulder. The groan in my ear filled me with relief and anguish and I held her so much tighter.

She was warm somehow, impossibly warm. Impossibly soft. And alive, somehow alive.

Glass crunched behind me. He stepped out, the rain cutting around his shape. A flash of lightning showed the chrome plating on his arms, the nickle plate on his gun.

And the whites of his eyes, large in the dark, staring.
>>
My ears rang with a sharp whistle. If he spoke I couldn't hear it. I set Ayesha down, stroking back her hair. The tatters of her home knit sweater soaked up the rain. Something made with care and loved, ripped apart by a feral animal. Damp coils of hair lay thick down bruised cheeks.

I looked up to him, standing there waiting. I got up, or tried to. A hot fire ran up from my side and I buckled over. Looking down a long splinter stood jutting from my gut, about as long as my hand. I reached for it without thinking, then pulled my hand back. I checked over my shoulder. A similar splinter stood out from my back, a hedgehog quill I couldn't say how deep right above the shoulder joint. My right arm shook, fingers spasming. I reached into my shattered goggle, scooping out the glass.

Bloody fingers told me I had a cut somewhere on my head.

And sore. Just sore from being slapped with the shockwave of the explosion.

The ringing started to fade, replaced with the roar of the rain and Houndmaster's muffled voice.

"-crazy son of a bitch," he said, "Looks like...fight out of you though. Be a good boy now give...package..."

My hearing rang in and out but I didn't need it to know what he was saying.

A flicker of fire ran through me. Thunder rumbled overhead. I scrapped myself off the ground, onto my feet.

"-really going to do this?" he said, "You got balls, kid."

He drew back the hammer of his gun. Ayesha coughed behind me. He raised the gun up at me.

I tensed, trying to build the fire against the pain, against my terror, against my own tired body.

I stood buckled over, struggling to breathe, freezing rain crashing over my shoulders.

But I raised up my fists.

>roll 3 x 1d100-5 dc 80
>>
Rolled 67 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

>>4832284
come on dice gods pls
>>
Rolled 34 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

>>4832284
>>
Rolled 56 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>4832284
>>
Rolled 84 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>4832284
Allah guide my hand
>>
Rolled 86 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

>>4832284
>>
>>4832298
too late

would have been great

fail

but not a critfail
>>
>>4832286
>>4832294
>>4832296
Damn

>>4832297
>>4832298
WELL NOW THE DICE ARE JUST TAUNTING US
>>
>>4832302
This shit sucks, Houndmaster is a trash villain and this quest is just nonstop depression these days. Fucking dice gods. I really wish we could influence modifiers for dice by voting for options in combat or giving write ins, just rolling dice and losing when the stakes are this high fucking blows.
>>
>>4832310
Almost like how I called the fact it was a trap, but no one votes for it.
>>
>>4832325
You still voted to go through walls and ceilings and shit, doing nothing to change how things ended up. What you voted for happened, and we didn't notice the traps. What would it have changed anyway? We'd have to enter the room to get Ayesha either way.
>>
>>4832329
Only if my vote didn't win, and I said specifically to get her out first. But no one listened because they wanted to go after the jackass.
>>
My roar was swallowed by a boom of thunder. Lightning split the night.

The flash of metal as his gun came up. The squelch of my boots as I charged forward. All my terror, my pain, bursting in a desperate attack as I lunged toward him swinging.

Muzzle flash in the night. A hard punch in the chest, driving into me, driving me back.

I buckled forward, wheezing, catching my fall. The small fire inside of me dimmed.

Did the spider weave vest catch the bullet?

My vision blurred. I bent on hands and knees.

Something cold and metallic pressed down on the back of my head.

Then drew away. Something hard drove into the side of my head. I whipped around, slipping, landing on my back. Stared up into a looming shadow, blocking out the rain. The sight of a gun on me.

"You had to make this difficult," he said.

I wheezed, struggling to talk.

He reached down, forced metal fingers through the hole in my jacket. He tugged the stone out.

I reached up with a feeble hand. I couldn't stop him.

"Huh," he said, turning the stone over, "I thought it would be fancier."

"Well," he said, aiming his gun, "Goodnight, Hotspur."

I closed my eyes, swallowed.

Then in a flash of fire I spun, driving my fist into his crotch.

The gun shot flicked off the cement where my head had been. Houndmaster stumbled back, bowing forward coughing.

He staggered back to drop on his ass. He wouldn't be down long. I didn't have it in me to fight him, I barely had it in me to get up. And there was more than the stone to worry about. I staggered to Ayesha.

"Little shit," Houndmaster hissed. I flinched at the gunshot but the bullet went wide. I scooped Ayesha up, started running for the dead trees. The next shot burst dead bark, but the storm swallowed Houndmaster's pain-filled fury as he called after me, punctuating each swear with a gun shot.

I moved my legs against the screaming pain, finding strength to move. Faster, faster. I had to move.

If she died, if she died the stone didn't matter. It had taken enough from me, it wouldn't take my friends too. I couldn't afford to lose any more people. Anymore people I loved.

Crashing through a hedge I didn't care that it stung. Breaking out onto a rain swept highway, looking for traffic still out. Headlights cut through the dark but when I raised my hand all I got was the blare of a horn as it raced past.

Please, I thought.

She could be dying.

I heaved her onto my good shoulder, stepping out into the street. Headlights coming down the road, must have been going 70 miles an hour. I raised an injured arm.

The screech of brakes rang out as the light washed over me, swallowed me up. It stopped a yard from running me down, and I saw a terrified couple in the front.

The snap of a seatbelt and the passenger stepped out into the rain.

"Are you...all right?" a nervous woman said.

I could have laughed.

"Please," I said, pushing Ayesha to her, "Help her."

Then the light and all the world and everything in it, was swallowed up by the black.
>>
>>4832334
honestly this felt sorta railroady to get the stone to the baddies for plot reasons
Sorry Bullpen I love the quest so I'll quit bitching but damn this sucked
>>
Points of light.

Darkness.

Something covered the light.

Blotting it out.

Made it points of light.

Coiled.

Something coiled in the darkness, in the gaps between the light.

A snake.

Not a snake.

Too big to be a snake.

The gaps too big.

All the world couldn't fill the gap.

Too big to be filled.

Dragon.

A dragon. Between the light.

Coiling. Choking out the light.

It moves.

It can see.

It can see.

Me.

It knows my name.
>>
File: voice in the dark.jpg (49 KB, 454x340)
49 KB
49 KB .jpg
>>
I'll be back tomorrow
>>
Well...shit
>>
>>4832372
Yep, were gonna be unmasked in a hospital, who's ready for our gang war to come to school when Penderose drops that info, by "accident"?
>>
>>4832495
Not to mention that we called in sick the day that his apartment got ransacked. Hopefully we didn't lose that hard drive when we got our shit pushed in by HM.
>>
>>4832367
Wow
Thanks for running!

Cool to see what happens when we finally fail some rolls. Plus I think we all underestimated Hound a bit after that crit success. Won't do that anymore, same for bloodworm lady.
>>
>>4832694
Those fucking low rolls, I missed my chance, I was waking up in and out of sleep, how do you kids do it?
>>
I'm pretty worried about ending up in that fuckin blacksite after this fellas. Unless the ER we end up at is filled with Hotspur fans or Grant finds out about it somehow we're sorta fucked. Or if Queen Rat has been keeping an eye out for us.
>>
>>4833762
If we have to roll for who gets to us in a hospital bed first, and we critfail for Penderson, I swear to god.
>>
I jerked awake in gloom, to the hiss of the car driving through water flooded gutters, a shot of pain firing through my belly.

The dream faded leading only a pervading sense of doom. The pain of the splinter sticking out from my stomach was more demanding. Something lay under me, breathing hard. Ayesha.

Wipers thunked fast, fighting the down pour as tinny speakers played a song it took a moment for my scrambled brain to piece together. 'Old Town Road.' Light came from the dashboard, the headlights cutting through the storm, but the rest was dark.

The driver looked back. "You're awake?" he said, "Hold on, we're almost to a hospital."

Hospital. I frowned behind my mask. Then jolted forward, grabbing the back of his chair. "Dr Ramsey," I said.

"Who?"

My hand shook as I pulled my phone from my pocket, leaving blood stains on the screen. I opened it up, finding the address. I handed it over to the woman. in the passenger seat. "H-here," I said, "Take me here. Not...not hospital, I can't..."

"O-okay Hotspur, whatever you say," the woman said. She held out the screen for her partner. He muttered something before clicking on the indicator.

I slumped back, sickness and pain roiling through me. I tried drawing on my power but it flickered weak inside me, a small candle compared to the roaring bonfire I was used to. I tried to stoke it, tried to pour in my oain and fear, but it guttered out, and I was left weak and shaking on the backseat. My eyes grew heavy, my breathing hard in my ears.

The world was slipping away again. I only hoped this time I'd wake up.

-

My life became disconnected sound and motion.

Hands pulling me from the car, white light beating down.

Something pressing down on my face. Mask, but not my mask.

Oxygen? I breathed deep. A voice urged me to keep breathing.

Metallic clinking. Green sleeves. Chemical smell.

Humming. Didn't know the song.

Nothing.

A beep.

Another beep.

A steady beep, a slow, boring beat.

Eyes cracked open. No light. Gray outside, rain still falling. Warm. Weight on my chest. Heavy sheet.

Brain scrambled. Brain.

Door opened. Nurse? Man in blue, old man. Hispanic. Latino. Whatever.

Sees me. Turns, leaves.

Close my eyes.

Dark.

Open them. Brain is less scrambled now. Something is in my arm. IV. Morphine? No pain.

Room is small, has pictures. Drawings, crude children's drawings. Finger painting, crayons. Not just pictures, the room is painted too. Not like a hospital, more like a kindergarten. The weight on my chest. A weighted blanket. The bed is a bed, not like a hospital bed. I tried to sit up but struggle. Give it a minute. Try again. The weighted blanket slides down my chest. Now a lick of pain in my side and my shoulder.
>>
Last night was a blur. Everything after the explosion. The Explosion. Which explosion? Chicago. Motel. Bursting through a wall, things stuck inside me, in the rain.

Houndmaster. Ayesha. The stone.

My brain unscrambled. It all came back together.

Stupid. Stupid to just rush in. He'd baited the trap perfect.

Lost the stone. Lost Ayesha? Not sure. Hoped not. Prayed not.

Idiot.

The door opened. A black man, familiar face. Dr Ramsey. Must be his clinic. They got us here. Good. Don't have to worry about...about...

"Hotspur, my favorite patient," he said, rolling a lollipop around his mouth, "You've been through some shit. What, did you walk into an explosion?"

I winced, finding my tongue. "Walked out of one," I said. My mask. Wasn't wearing it. Didn't matter right now. Costume was gone. I was in a hospital gown.

"Not like the movies, huh," he said, "But anyone else might not have walked away. You're healing really fast, a lot faster than you should. Last night you had two broken ribs and a cracked tibia, your right rotary cuff was shredded and you had a hairline fracture in your femur. Today, well, you're still fucked up but..."

The doctor shrugged.

"How long was I out?" I said.

"They brought you in last night," he said, "Nice couple scared out of their minds. You should be careful about moving, you might tear your stitches. You got crazy lucky, Hotspur."

"Some luck," I said. My eyes hurt. "What about...the girl?"

His frown was worrying. "We got her on a course of Naloxone," he said, "She OD'ed pretty bad. Hurts to see a baby on that junk, getting younger every year."

"She's not," I said, "Not on...forced. Guy kidnapped her, forced her on..."

My face twisted up. I squeezed a fistful of blanket. My chest rumbled.

"Will she be okay?" I choked, tears building in my eyes.

"Hey, yeah, she's going to be fine," he said, bedside voice on, "A little less bounce in her step for a couple of days but she's fine. She's in another room sleeping it out."

I sucked in a breath, trying to untie the knot in my chest. It was hard breathing, hard to settle down.

Dr Ramsey came over, checked my IV. "Get some rest kid," he said.

There wasn't much more I could do other than follow his orders.

Once he was gone I let the sound of the rain lead me off to sleep.

A flash of lightning and I woke.

Dark now. Another night. How long was I asleep this time? Dreamless at least.

I looked around. Light cut the outline of the door. Voices on the other side.

My brain cleared faster. I felt stronger. Strong enough to sit up. Maybe even to stand.

>get up and move around
>stay in bed, get some more rest
>>
>>4833972
>get up and move around
>>
>>4833972
>stay in bed, get some more rest
Just focus on listening to the voices
>>
>>4833972
>stay in bed, get some more rest
>>
>>4834009
>>4834001
locked in
>>
>>4833972
>get up and move around
Not good for the body to stay lying down too long
also we should call dad
>>
I closed my eyes instead. Moving hurt. I was always moving. Maybe it was time to learn how to stand still.

Lying in bed with the beep of my monitor, I felt for the fire inside me. Never far, it awoke with a flicker. Then, focusing, it eased through me, dulling my pain, relaxing me better than any morphine. In fact it made the needle in my arm itch.

I pulled it out, a drop of blood rising in the hole, but it scabbed over with the soothing touch of my inner fire. My jaw unclenched, I hadn't even realized it was tight. The pain in my chest eased. The pains all through me, starting to unravel with a relief not quite the same as pleasure.

The talking outside the door grew louder. Worried voices. Dr Ramsey and a nurse.

"-of care to tell the family," not Ramsey's voice, must be the nurse, "These are children, Doc. We could get in a lot of trouble."

"I promised Maddie if he turned up here I'd take care of him," Dr Ramsey said, "Now he might be a kid but he's also a superhero with a lot of scary men looking for him. We tell anyone they might turn up here."

"What about the girl then?" the nurse said, "She's not-"

"Excuse me."

Ayesha's voice was in the area between weak and gentle, but soft as a pin drop it cut through their conversation.

"You should be in bed," the nurse said, "You should-"

"Can I see him?"

They didn't have an answer. Finally Dr Ramsey said 'sure'.

The door creaked open, light spilling through, around her dark figure framed in the doorway.

She wore a hospital gown, leaned on the IV like a crutch, and wore what was left of my jacket around her shoulders. The doctor and the nurse stood uncomfortable behind her.

The wheels of her IV stand creaked as she limped in behind it, dragging her feet.

God she looked beaten up. Not just physically bruised but tired, beaten, the light of her eyes gone dim. Her hair was a ragged mess of curls, her lips dry and chaped. Each step awkward and unnatural.

I rolled onto my side, away from her, hiding my face. My guilt.

"Hotspur?" she said.

Then, in a voice tight with fear, "Eric?"

>'You've got the wrong guy.'
>'...I'm sorry Ayesha.'
>>
>>4834088
>'...I'm sorry Ayesha.'
We did this to her
>>
>>4834088
>...I'm sorry Ayesha.'
>>
>>4834105
No we didn't, houndmaster did. New objective: crush every bone he has.
>>
>>4834088
>'You've got the wrong guy.'

cmon guys
is she gonna call hotspur a liar
no way
>>
>>4834088
>'...I'm sorry Ayesha.'
>>
>>4834137
Can he be given bones to break inside him?
>>
>>4834088
>'...I'm sorry Ayesha.'
>>
>>4834105
>>4834129
>>4834148
>>4834159
locked in
>>
I do feel bad for not telling her, but I feel like Eric just wanted to preserve a relationship that's important to him without tainting it with the fact that he's Hotspur. Kind of selfish maybe, but understandable.
>>
I lay on my side, away from her. Unable to look at her. Unable to talk through the tight vice in my throat. I thought about lying, however lame it would be, however obvious and empty. I thought about a lot of things, everything that had brought us here.

"...I'm sorry," I said, "I'm sorry Ayesha."

The whimper came out of me was the sound a little boy made. Not a hero, not any kind of hero.

Weight pressed down beside me, as she lay down beside me. Her hand slid over my arm, around my chest, holding me. I grit my teeth trying to keep from crying. I had no right to cry. I didn't want her to forgive me. I wanted her to hate me.

She pressed herself closer, pulled me closer. Her cheek pressed to my neck. Warm.

Her fingers turned my face over. I looked into tired, sad eyes.

"It is you," she said.

"It's me," I said.

She brushed the hair from my face, trailing fingertips over the cut in my eyebrow.

"When he grabbed me," she said, "When he had me tied up, when he...I...I thought...I hoped...prayed...you'd save me."

"It's my fault," I started.

"Not Hotspur," she said, "You, Eric. I kept thinking...always ended up thinking...about you."

Her eyes were getting misty. "And you saved me."

She held something in her other hand. The dog figurine, taken from my jacket pocket. She closed it in her fist, body shaking, pressed her fist against my chest.

"He hurt me, Eric," she sobbed, "Hurt me. I was s-scared."

"Yeah," I said, pulling her into a hug now. Her body shaking against mine, hard sobs muffled into my chest, fingers digging into my dressing gown. She held onto me for life. I did the same, tucking her head under my chin, pulling as much of her into me as I could. Give her my warmth.

The weak flicker of fire inside me grew, burning high to a bonfire warmth. Bringing her in.

"You're okay, Ayesha," I said, "You're here."

"You're safe here," I said, meaning it but not knowing if it was true.

It was only when she was done crying she had the strength to pull away, and not with much strength either. Her eyes were red and face wet, the pillow stained with tears.

"Can I stay?" she asked, sniffing.

"Yeah," I said.

She smiled. It wasn't her usual smile but it was the first one I'd seen on her.

"Look at me crying when you're hurt worse," she said.

"I'm used to it," I said.

"Do you wish that wasn't true?"

I swallowed. "Sometimes."

Her eyes closed on her smile. She looked so tired. "Maybe this is all a bad dream," she said, "We'll wake up and it won't be real."

"All dreams are real," I said, "Good and bad. It's all real."

"Maybe we should make some good dreams then," she said, yawning, "To make up for the bad ones."

"I'm trying," I said.

"I can...help you..." she said, voice listing off, eyes too heavy to open, "Eric...I..."

But the next sound from her was soft breathing.

And tucking her closer, I soon joined her.
>>
"He shouldn't be better that fast," Doctor Ramsey muttered as I sat up in the bed.

A knot of scar tissue deformed my belly, but not as bad as it could have. It had a twin on my back, under the shoulder blade. The doctor looked irritated I was in great shape.

"Can't keep a good man down," Ms Grant said.

She'd arrived around dawn, and was the reason I was wearing my mask even if I wasn't wearing my shirt. She didn't want to know my face, for both of our safety. She was dressed down for a morning jog, in leggings and a loose hoodie. Not quite a disguise, but not her usual look.

"What happened?" she said.

"Some bullshit," I replied.

Ayesha had been taken back to her room, to give us some privacy.

"Are you good enough to get back to work?" she said.

Physically I could do a cart wheel. It was the other stuff I wasn't sure about.

"I've run down the information on the bullet and Caitlin Booker," she said. She paused, concerned. "But only if you're ready, Spur. If you need a couple more days..."

I frowned behind my mask.

>I'm ready, shoot
>I could use some time, yeah
>>
>>4834252
>I'm ready, shoot
We gotta get even more serious now that the stone is in the wrong hands.
>>
>>4834252
>I'm ready, shoot
>I need to crack some heads, and we're on a clock now.
>>
>>4834252
>I'm ready, shoot
>>
>>4834252
>I'm ready, shoot
>>
>>4834252
>I'm ready
Houndmaster has all but confirmed our identity with methods even dirtier than Penderose.
>>
locking in
>>
"I'm ready," I said, rolling my injured shoulder to prove it.

Ms Grant doesn't look convinced, but doesn't push it. Instead she pulls out her phone.

"The bullet I traced back to a raid ten years ago on a cartel bust," she said, "Coming from the gun of one Esteban Ortega. The bullet ended up in a young field agent on his first time out, one Burtward Penderose. Looks like our buddy kept the case of the bullet as a memento."

"Interesting thing about Esteban Ortega though," she said, "He died in prison. Rat poison cut into a shot of heroin. Weird thing is, Ortega never had a history of drug use. Everyone close to him said he despised drug users, and publically beat his own nephew for using. The investigation never even turned up a suspect, not that they tried all too hard."

Grim.

"As to the incident with Caitlin Booker," Ms Grant said, "I interviewed her yesterday. She was hesitant to answer my questions, and its only when I offered her the protection of the State's Attorney office she gave in. Turns out our other friend Emma Sorenson attacked her in the showers after Private Booker began preparing a case against their superior officer for harrassment. Whether Sorenson was acting under orders or not I don't know, but she left Booker with a broken jaw and she retracted her complaint. When it came to Private Sorenson's own disciplinary case it was called a 'private matter' they had 'resolved'."

"Tracks with what we know about both of them," I said. Ms Grant nodded. "But it isn't proof."

"No," she said, "It isn't."

"I found a hard drive I want to get checked out, belongs to Pendy," I said, "If there's evidence on it I'll get it to you asap."

"That'd be good," she said. "But are you sure you're okay?"

I thought about the question. Sighed. "Good as I need to be for this," I said, "The wicked don't rest, so I can't neither."

"If you need anything," she said.

"I got your number," I replied.

Dr Ramsey came back into the room to check me out. He was still annoyed I seemed better.

"Thanks for the help Doc," I said.

"Nothing to it," he said, "Just make sure its a long time before I ever see you again."

"Will be if I got a say," I said, hopping down from the bed. Ms Grant had brought me a new suit, straight from Merriweather, with some adjustments made. A slightly different cut to the jacket, pants a little less loose, adjusted for my growing frame. If Ms grant was in denial about me being a kid, Merriweather wasn't.

Before I could get changed the door swung open, Ayesha slipping in.

She must not have been ready for the sight of me with my shirt off, scars on display. She blushed and turned away quick while I pulled on the spider-weave undershirt. "Sorry for the horror show," I said, "Looking kind of messed up these days."
>>
"No, uh," she said, "You look good."

So did she. Better I mean. She looked better. A nurse had found her a change of clothes, a loose tank top and a pair of blue jeans. It left the cup of her bra showing at the corners. Uh.

But she did look better. Some food, some rest, had helped her recover from the heroin overdose. There was more color in her cheeks, the ashy quality going back to her usual golden warmth. Her hair fixed up from a tangled mane. Still not herself but closer to the Ayesha I knew. Closer than how Houndmaster had left her. I only hoped she could go back to being that Ayesha, and the scars he'd left on her weren't permanent.

"You're heading out, yeah?" she said.

"Planning to," I said, "Need to see a friend about a hard drive."

"Mind if I come with?" she said, staring out the window. I looked to her. She clutched her arm self-concious, frowning. It occurred to me our parents would be worried sick. Ms Grant had talked to Dad, but he could stand to hear from me, and I don't know if she'd sat down with the Carvers or not.

>Maybe she should go home, take her back to her parents
>Maybe she could use a distraction, take her to Queen Rat's
>>
>>4834368
>Maybe she should go home, take her back to her parents
We owe it to our dad and her parents
>>
>>4834368
>Take her to QR
But both of us should text or call our parents to let them know we're alive
>>
>>4834368
>Maybe she should go home, take her back to her parents

We can't take her to queen rat, not uninvited at least
>>
>>4834368
>Maybe she should go home, take her back to her parents
We should probably tell her who else knows. Ivy, Kay, and our dad.
>>
I'm pretty tired, think I'll stop here and leave the vote open until I get back tomorrow
>>
What about the Stone?
>>
>>4834368
This>>4834390
She needs to know who she can talk too.
>>
>>4834368
>Maybe she could use a distraction, take her to Queen Rat's
Penderose is gonna be on our ass and I don't wanna get caught with that hard drive. The sooner we get that evidence we need, the better
>>
>>4834368
>Maybe she could use a distraction, take her to Queen Rat's

Time is gold, get her with us
>>
>>4834375
>>4834381
>>4834390
>>4834695

locked in
>>
She was nervous, still worn out. Where I was going might not be safe, and I needed to move quick. She'd been through enough on my account too.

"You should rest," I said, "I'll get you home, your parents'll be worried sick."

"Your pretty lawyer friend talked to them, Ms Grant?" Ayesha said, then sighed, pressing her forehead on the window glass, "But you're right. I think I'm just trying to avoid them, the questions they'll ask. I...don't want to talk about stuff, you know?" She squeezed her arm, bit her lip.

"I know," I said, "But if you do need to talk about stuff, you can talk to me. And Ivy and Kay, they both know too."

Ayesha raised an eyebrow. "So I'm the one in the dark," she said.

"Ivy figured it out first," I said, "Kay I told because...because we were...and it wouldn't have been right, doing that with her not knowing."

Ayesha sighed again. "You're way too nice a guy, Eric," she said, then with a weak smile, "It might get you hurt one of these days."

I smiled, no energy to laugh, buttoning up my new jacket. Then I slipped the little dog figurine into the inside pocket with the hard drive.

"You lost something important because of me, didn't you?" she said, "The psycho, he wanted something other than a sick thrill."

"It's not your fault," I said, "I could have handled it better."

"So he did take something," she said.

"It's not important," I said, "At least, not as important as your life."

She closed her eyes, looking beaten again. "Sorry," she said, "Sorry, I'm so fucking useless." Then she hit herself in the face, expression all tightened up with anger and self-loathing. When she went to do it again I caught her wrist and pulled her close.

"Don't," I said, holding her tight, "Don't. It's on me, I was...I could have told you, you'd have had a chance if you'd known but I didn't because I...I'm selfish. I wanted one good thing not connected to this shit and I wanted it to be you. Ayesha, its not your fault, its not. Say it to me, okay?"

"It's not my fault," she mumbled into my shoulder.

"It's not," I said, "Let's get you home, okay? Your parents are waiting. Ivy's waiting. We'll get you home and when I'm done I'll come by and we'll talk."

"Okay," she mumbled

"Okay," I said. And to protect her against the chill, I pulled my old jacket over her shoulders. "It'll be cold out," I said. She slid her arms down the sleeves, the cuffs hanging over her wrists. I pulled my old set of goggles down over her eyes. "I'll get you home," I said, holding out my hand.

She took it. I gave it a warm squeeze. I had to admit even if it was kind of inappropriate, she looked cute.

Together we walked out of Dr Ramsey's clinic, out the back way.

-
>>
However Ayesha was feeling she wasn't so hurt she didn't yell when I jumped. Hanging from my shoulders as I leapt up into the whistling cold wind, she yelled in my ear, but the yell transformed into an excited laugh as we broke up into the cold blue sky. Chicago gleamed under us, the winter rain's passing leaving a cold frost across the city that glittered in the sun as it began a slow melt. Ayesha held on tight for life, breathing hard but still laughing.

When we came down on a roof she shivered, less from the cold and more from adrenaline, face split with a grin. It was good to see her smile.

"So cool," she said, knees shaking.

"Ready to go again?" I asked.

She latched her arms back around my shoulders. "Yip-yip!" she said.

Her laughter didn't stop until we were nearly home.

When we sailed closer it started to die.

"I'm scared," she mumbled into my collar.

"Why?"

"I don't know," she said, and started to cry.

We came down on the roof opposite her house. It took a second for the tears to stop. I picked her up and leapt down to the lawn. Set her down.

She held my hand.

Started walking backward toward her front door. "You'll come back when you're done?" she said.

"Yeah," I said, "Just let me deal with this."

"Okay," she said, "I'll be waiting."

And as I leapt off her front door opened. Her dad came running with Ivy right behind him, his belly bouncing as he jogged, but Ivy was younger and faster, and broke ahead to tackle Ayesha in a hug, kissing her cheek and squeezing her. Then Mr Carver had both girls in a hug, with Mrs Carver soon with them, the family dropped to the lawn together.

A touching scene. One I couldn't be part of.

Heading south whatever soft feelings Ayesha brought out of me hardened into a cold purpose.

I had a job to do. There was no time for anything else now.

-

Queen Rat's place, the recreation center on the South Side. Someone had spray-painted 'DIE FREAKS' on the front door. It was one of the more pleasant messages. Maybe it was German, but I doubted it. A noose had been hung from a street lamp too high to be easy to take down.

Great.

A different guy was at the front door than last time, but he still had a durag wearing gang banger look. I guess with these kinds of threats you didn't want a boyscout keeping the peace.

"Yo Spur," he said when I landed, "New threads? Looking sharp."

"Thanks," I said, "Queen Rat in?"

"Down the back," he said, and held the door open for me.
>>
The para-folk shelter wasn't too different from last time I'd been here, except busier. More people inside, not just paras but their people, family who'd chosen to go into exile alongside their changed siblings and children, kicked out of their homes by paranoid landlords unwilling to keep freak tennants. The kitchens bused food and I stepped around the ghostly Aether as she carried a pair of trays.

"Whoa," she said, circling around me, floating in her ghostly way, "Thanks for not stepping right through me." Thunderchild's girl grinned as she slid through a wall with the trays, disappearing from view.

A little boy with a lion's head bumped into my hip, being chased by a laughing four armed girl as above us another boy climbed along the cieling like a frog, bouncing to latch onto the wall. I stumbled through, nodding to a stern black woman keeping an eye on them.

"Go, go, go!"

Chanting from another room and I poked my head in to see an arm wrestling contested between a big man with bark skin and leaves for hair against a straining Pratfall, her tongue stuck out the side of her mouth in comical fashion, straining against Treebeard's grinning might. Around them a crowd cheered, as Pratfall braced her feet on the table edge, trying to haul his fist down.

"Yowzers!" she cried, bells jingling on her jester's cap.

When he brought her hand down with a hard slam she spun over with an affected "Ah!" landing on her ass on the ground.

I shook my head.

Down the end of the hall was Queen Rat's office. Standing out the front was Boomer, such an old man he was sucking on a hard candy.

"Your boss in?" I asked.

Boomer nodded.

"Can I see her?" I said.

Boomer frowned. He went in. I waited. I waited a while.

About five minutes later he stepped out, gestured for me to go in.

"Hotspur," Queen Rat said. A rat sat on her shoulder, nibbling at her hair.

She wasn't alone. There was a man with her, Native American I think. Had long black hair tied back from his face, a denim jacket and an angry, hawkish look.

And a tomahawk. A steel head tomahawk slung at his hip.

"This is an old friend of mine, Dallas," she said.

He didn't offer his hand, but gave a nod in respect.

I knew a badass when I saw one.

"Is this about the noose out the front?" I said.

"And other things," she said.

Whatever they'd been talking about it didn't seem friendly. There was a tension in the air. She called him a 'friend' but she seemed suspicious of him at best.

"I've seen you in the news," he said. He had a noble voice. "Impressive work."

"Thanks," I said.

"Misguided though," he said, "You're protecting the wrong people, fighting the wrong fight."

I frowned.

"Spare the boy, Dallas," Queen Rat said.

He smiled without much humor.

"If you don't mind, Hotspur and I need to talk," she said.

"A queen rules her kingdom," he said, "No matter how small."
>>
With another respectful nod he stepped out.

"What the fuck was that about?" I said.

Queen Rat sighed. "That is a very dangerous man you'd do well staying away from," she said, "Now how can I help you, Spur?"

I told her. She placed a finger along her lip as she listened, rats squeaking on her shoulder, sniffing at me. When I was done she sat back.

"I know someone who could help," she said, "You need Remix."

"Remix?" I said.

"She doesn't live with us," Queen Rat said, "I've offered but she's stubborn. She might not be willing to help you, but it can't hurt to ask."

"Where can I find her?" I said.

"She lives in an abandoned mall in the south-west," she said, "But like I said, she might not help you. She's...someone entirely of herself."

Whatever the fuck that meant.

"Stay a while," Queen Rat said, "Have some food, some rest."

"Maybe," I said, "But I really need to get this done. Clocks don't stop running, and time does run out."

"Go in peace then," she said, "And good luck. You're always welcome here."

"Thanks Queenie," I said with a salute.

But on my way out, at the exit I found Dallas waiting.

"We should talk," the native man said, leaning on the wall with a casual slouch.

"Should we?" I said.

"Only if you're willing."

>we can talk
>sorry, maybe another time

chunky update
>>
>>4836174
>>sorry, maybe another time
>>
>>4836174
>we can talk
>>
>>4836174
>we can talk
Let's hear him out, we've worked closely with worse people
>>
Sorry about the double post, it wasn't showing up for me for some reason
>>
>>4836174
>we can talk
>>
>>4836174
>we can talk
>>
>>4836174
>we can talk

he's too badass to turn down
>>
>>4836246
>>4836206
>>4836197
>>4836188
locked in
>>
"We can talk," I said.

He smiled and we walked outside.

"I've seen your work," he said as we walked out to the curb, standing under the noose swinging in the wind, "Heard the stories. You've done a lot of good for this city."

"Thanks," I said.

He looked up at the noose, his smile bitter. He wasn't a tall man, bordering on short with a compact, wirey sense of strength. The kind of tough found out on the plains, out heading towards the Rockies. With no effort he leapt, a straight vertical hop, landing on the street lamp. His tomahawk flashed out, and he cut the noose from the pole, wrapped it around his fist.

Leaning back, he dropped, flipping to land on his feet in a crouch.

He held up the noose in his fist. "Who do you think hanged this?" he said, "And what do you think they meant by it?"

I shrugged. He threw it over his shoulder.

"They fear us," he said. Across the street an old black woman bused a kid back inside, as fearful as Dallas claimed. "They should."

"We can be pretty scary," I said, "A lot of people have been killed."

He nodded. "A lot more people will be, if things keep going as they are."

"Not if I can help it," I said.

He smiled. "You're a firefighter, Hotspur," he said, "We need firefighters. But if those fires are being deliberately lit, we also need to catch the arsonist."

"I'm working on that too," I said.

"Are you?" something in his cold eyes made me doubt, "Do you know who the arsonist is if you met them?"

I shrugged, not sure what he meant.

He looked up to a tall, decaying flophouse. "I was a Ranger," he said, "I was there in '03 in Iraq, I was there in Afghanistan before it. I went to Syria and Libya and everywhere else they ordered. Leading the way. I served, thinking if I fought their wars, if I proved myself to be a patriot, I'd be accepted by them. My people would be accepted. They gave me medals for killing peasants and burning their poppy fields, for stealing their oil. I killed for the great war machine, but nothing changed for the reservation I was born on."

"I am Dallas Parker of the Crow Nation," he said, "And I was a fool."

I listened, there wasn't a lot to say and I doubted he'd appreciate a 'thank you for your service'.

"Do you know the history of my people?" he said.

"Not really," I said, "We're just starting on the Civil War at school."

And there I'd gone and told him I was a kid. Idiot.
>>
"The Civil War," he said, "It didn't matter who won, my people still lost. It didn't start with reservations or segregation. There was a lot of good talk. Talk about help, of civilization. To benefit the savage, bring him into their ways, talk of assimilation. But the savage is too unruly to be allowed to live free by his own laws. He must be contained. But then contained, he must be taught. He couldn't be trusted to teach his own children, so they must be taken, given the true religion, the civilized tongue. Raised by good white people hoping the red would fade from their skin if it faded from their hearts."

"Until the only red we had left to give was our blood. Fighting their wars in foreign lands, fighting our own people for a scrap of power. And when we stand up for ourselves and say no more, they send in their National Guard and their FBI, all to rule us and remind us what we are. A conquered people, lucky to have what barren land they give us."

"But it doesn't start with segregation," he said, "It starts with kind lies, hiding the anger of the people they represent. And its happening again."

He turned to me. "I read the story about the black site, the experiments," he said, "I wasn't surprised, except by my angry. I thought I was past being angry. All that happened to my old people is now happening again. History starts a new verse, but the music stays the same."

"This country was founded on the blood of my people," he said, "They didn't realize the threat until it was too late, until all they had left was the land no one else wanted."

"Peace can be another word for betrayal," he said, "I no longer believe in peace."

"Are you planning to start a war?" I asked.

He looked up and down the street. "Aren't we already in one?" he said, "My friend Queen Rat sits besieged in a city which hates her. She thinks a shelter is enough to protect our people. Shelter and the goodwill of the people. But its only time before rocks become bullets, and they burn her sanctuary down around her."

"So then what?" I asked, "What do you want to do?"

"Carve out a land we can call our own," he said, "A nation everyone must recognize. Able to defend itself. A homeland for every para-folk who wants one, where they can live free and peaceful lives without relying on the arbitrary hand of this country and the goodwill of its fickle people."

"You fight for a people who will never love you," he said, "You fight the rot thinking it can be cut out, but the rot comes from the core. It can't be fixed. We need to start over."

"Our nation will need soldiers to fight for it," he said, "Nothing is ever given. Everything has to be fought for. And there will be much blood spilled on the way."

He looked to me. "What do you think?" he asked.

>...I think you're right
>I can't get onboard with that
>>
>>4836337
>I can't get onboard with that
Paras are more similar to humans than not. Deepening the divide will just lead to pointless deaths, damage that will never heal. Mending the divide, showing everyone that we're the same as them is our responsibility as the first generation. Before it's too late.
>>
>>4836337
>I can't get onboard with that

We protect the innocent, normal or otherwise it doesn't matter
>>
>>4836337
>I can't get onboard with that
>>
>>4836337
Adding on
Right now we have few enemies. We know them and I'm working to fight them. Your plan makes the entire world our enemy.
>>
>>4836337
>I can't get onboard with that

We cannot divide ourselves more than what we already are, I've seen the good in the people, "normal" people, and if only matter of time until we can reach an understanding, time and work.
>>
>>4836380
Is only*

Typo
>>
>>4836380
>>4836370
>>4836362
>>4836349
locked in
>>
>>4836337
>I can't get onboard with that
We've seen the darkness and its everywhere. We've seen where light shines through. Hotspur is fighting that evil, not fighting wars of secession.
>>
"I can't get onboard with that," I said, "Maybe we aren't exactly the same as humans anymore, but we're more similar than not. Deepening the divide just leads to more pointless death, damage that'll never heal. Mending the divide, showing everyone we're the same as them, is our responsibility as the first generation of paras. Before its too late."

"People kill each other over a difference of skin color," Dallas said, "Do you really think they can look past what we can do, and see our common humanity? Unlike the Black African we truly are a different people, and with all we can do they'd be stupid not to fear us."

"Understand, I don't hate them," he said, "I don't even think they're wrong to fear us. But we must take our destiny in our own hands. We must make our own place in the world, instead of hoping its given to us as a reward for being 'good'."

"If they fear me or hate me it doesn't matter, I'll protect them," I said, "I'm here to protect the innocent, normal or otherwise, the rest doesn't matter to me."

"You might not realize it yet, but we have the same goals," he said, "Only I mean to protect all the innocents, born and yet to be born, and not just the ones right in front of me. On both sides."

"I don't see how making the entire world our enemy does that," I said, "Right now we have few enemies, we know them and I'm fighting them."

"We have more enemies than you realize, some of them pretending to be our friends," he said, "And if I mean to fight the world its only because its necessary to protect the innocent. Security is only given to the strong, people willing to fight for it. Not through hope. And its only once we're safe, in a land of our own, that humanity can say the same and we can co-exist in peace."

"We can reach an understanding with them, I know we can," I said, "I've seen the good in 'normal' people. It's only a matter of time until we reach an understanding. Time and work."

He laughed but there was nothing bitter or mocking in it. He smiled fondly, with a nostalgic look in his eye.

"You sound like me at eighteen," he said, "My dad tried to tell me what I'm telling you now, and I had the same arguments, the same beliefs. I was just as bullheaded and convinced of my rightness. It's only after years of wasted sacrifice I realize how wrong I was. Maybe this is a truth that has to be learned."

"Whatever you think of my plans, good luck with yours," he said.

I don't know if I could say the same.

"Thank you for hearing me out," he said, "And if you change your mind, you'll be welcome in our ranks."

I nodded before bounding off.

Something in his words worried me. There was a kind of truth there even if I didn't want to admit it, but I couldn't get behind his ideas. I felt he was asking me to put myself against humanity, my friends and family, to abandon Chicago for some great cause. I wasn't down for that. At the same time I hoped his ambitions didn't mean I'd have to fight him, but had an ugly feeling it might.
>>
It reminded me of all the loved ones I had waiting for me.

Landing near the abandoned mall, I finally took the plunge and checked my phone. There were a lot of texts, and a lot of missed calls.

The first text from Misfit made me snort.

Misfit - U ded?

but the ones from Dad panged my heart.

Dad - Are you ok son?

Dad - haven't heard from u. Are you ok?

Dad - Eric. I'm worried.

Dad - Please call back.

Dad - I'm going to call the cops.

Dad - Ok, text me before I call the cops. I'm worried.

Dad - Love you Eric. Please CALL.

I closed the messages, tapped out an 'I'm ok, back soon', and fired it off. I really should have checked in on him sooner, but I had to focus, get this done.

I looked over the abandoned shopping mall. A large empty car park struck a lonely, apocalyptic tone. It was a white building, maybe two floors but the windows were all shuttered. I leapt over to the roof, found myself on a flat top covered in dead leaves, cigarette butts and beer cans. There was a rooftop entrance with the door cracked open.

Nothing to it but to head inside.

Footsteps echoed loud in a large, abandoned building. It was filthy inside, coated with grime, trees planted in large pots for decour now standing dead, barren limbs stretching out over their dead leaves scattered across the floor. An escalator stood unmoving leading down to the first floor. It was dark in here, not a lot of light to see. Cold too.

Empty store fronts stood out like missing teeth in a smile every where I looked, discolored patches were the signs had been taken down or just faded out and left to waste away after being abandoned. I kicked a plastic bag. It swished up, rising into the dusty hair to catch a little bit of light streaming through a window, only to fall limp back to the ground.

Nothing.

Then something.

Music, just on the edge of my hearing.

Old pop music. I followed the sound around a corner. Now there was light, coming out of what used to be a Fun Zone arcade.

"Girls just want to have fu-un, girls, they want to..."

I put a hand to an old Street Fighter cabinet, checking around.

Dancing to an old stereo was a girl maybe ten, maybe twelve. She wore dirty coveralls and had dirty brown hair limp and greasy around a pale freckled face. She sang along, badly, to the old music coming from the junkyard speaker. She danced badly too.

She didn't dance alone.

And when it noticed me it stopped its awkward shuffle and turned, the glow of a blank flat-screen face falling over me.

My blood ran cold.

A long blade sprung from the drone's wrist. It took a whining step toward me, gears in its legs turning, drawing a pistol in its other hands.

"Ah!" the girl sprung back behind it, knocking over the speaker and breaking off the music, "What-what, who the fuck are you?"

"Easy Lincoln, easy," she said, hauling back on its arm. The drone, the robot, didn't seem to care.
>>
It looked different from the drones I'd fought. It's chest plate was cherry red, its limbs looked welded back together, and it moved in a jerky way, the opposite of the unnatural smoothness of the ones I'd destroyed.

But it had been cobbled together from them. I was sure of it, and some part of its memory back might remember me.

"Lincoln, heel!" the girl said.

The drobe looked down at its petite master. Slowly it lowered the pistol.

"You," she said, now to me, "Who the hell are you supposed to be, and what do you want?"

>You're Remix, right? Queen Rat told me to come
>Come on, you must have heard of Hotspur
>How did you get your hands on one of Houndmaster's drones?
>>
>>4836524
>How did you get your hands on one of Houndmaster's drones?
I'm the guy who supplied the scrap for Lincoln. I think he remembers me. He was working for a real awful guy. I'm working on taking down another awful guy and I need your help.
>>
>>4836524
>You're Remix, right? Queen Rat told me to come

find a chance to ask

>How did you get your hands on one of Houndmaster's drones?
>>
We could see if she wants to play some street fighter like we did with Grace at the hospital.
>>
>>4836531
Support
Also add, (I'm Hotspur, by the way)
>>
>>4836531
This, and identity ourself.
>>
>>4836531
+1
>>
>>4836531
locked in

(sorry had to do something)
>>
"How'd you get your hands on one of Houndmaster's drones?" I asked.

"Who?" she said.

"A bad dude," I said, "I supplied the scrap to make Lincoln here, now I'm working on taking down another bad dude, and I need you help."

"Wow mister, sounds like a whole bunch of 'not my problem'," she said with a thumbs up.

I frowned. "I'm Hotspur by the way," I said.

Her eyes widened. "The super hero? No way, now I'm all tingly down there," and she pressed her hands between her thighs for emphasis, putting on an expression entirely inappropriate, "Oh please Mr Hotspur won't you help it stop?"

My ears burned. The greasy haired girl grinned, enjoying how uncomfortable I was.

"You know you're a real-" I said.

"Cunt?" she said. Hearing the word out of a twelve year old girl was unpleasant, to say the least. "Yeah, I've been told."

"Handful," I said. I looked around the abandoned arcade, the claw machines and game booths all switched off. There was a tent pitched next to a 'Time Crisis' booth with a little pot on a portable stove, a couple of gym bags next to it. Lincoln watched me, its glowing face plate humming.

"As for Lincoln, I don't know who Houndmaster is but his bits and pieces all have Ixion Energy serial numbers on them," she said with a heavy sniff. She logged back phlegm and spat on the ground, pinching the bridge of her nose. She pulled up a pack of Mi Goreng noodles from one of her bags, tore it open and dunked it in the pot, switching it on. "The rest is all shit I've found here and there. Not that you care."

She broke a pair of takeout chopsticks.

"Thanks for ruining our dance party by the way," she said, "I just programmed a new learning function and we were testing it out."

"Sorry," I said.

There was nothing I liked about this scene. A dirty little girl with a foul mouth and an uncomfortable attitude, squatting in an abandoned mall through winter. She cracked a can of warm pop, downed a couple of painkillers. Sniffed back hard. Fighting back a cold or something.

"So tell me the problem, I'll tell you my price," she said, pulling out a mouse and laptop.

"I need this hard drive cracked," I said, pulling it out, "It has some important information on it. I think."

"You think," she said, tapping away at her screen. "Look Hotspurt, I don't do shit for free. You've got to pay up. Two grand."

"I don't got two grand," I said.

"Then you don't got a cracked hard drive."

She didn't look like she had two grand on her. She didn't look like she had a quarter. She looked like she had a cold and hadn't eaten right in months. I bet the number she threw out was a 'polite' way to say fuck off.

"I've come a long way," I said.

"I. Don't. Care," she said, rocking her head side to side, singing the words, "Two. Grand. Buddy."

>maybe we can sort something out
>I guess I can ask someone else
>>
I'll be back tomorrow
>>
>>4836622
>you're right, I guess I should be looking for someone with actual skills in this.

I know this type of little shit, I fucking was one when younger, you won't get anywhere by being nice but if you bruise their egos then you can have them dancing to any tune you want
>>
>>4836622
Aight, following this guy>>4836631
>>
>>4836622
I really don't have the money. The hard drive could contain some sensitive info for blackmail on the DPAs field agent. Plus I'd owe you a favor
>>
>>4836631
supporting this
>>
>>4836631
I don't really think she's the type to fall for something this obvious
>>
>>4836622
Definitely can't get you 2 grands, look, I know you don't care but can I help you in any other way? Food, some tech parts, something nice to wear? I never break my promises, so if there's anything you need done or look up, I can help with that, after you help cracking whatever is in here.
>>
>>4837186
>She's 10
>She has an overinflated sense of self-importance due to her smarts, which while definitely a good thing for her she uses to distance herself from others because she thinks others are worthless if they're not as smart as her

>She has a dark and edgy sense of humor that she uses to make others squirm because she enjoys it

Trust me dude, apart from having a dick I was this exact type of Shit when I was a kid, if you try to be nice then you're not going to get anywhere with her, and unless you want to take the time to put the fear of God into her like my parents did to me, then your best bet is damaging their ego until they do what you want just to prove that they can.

I will admit that I might just be protecting, but the second this character started talking I could tell exactly what flavor of little Shit she was
>>
>>4836631
locking in this write in
>>
>>4837937
Yeea
>>
"You're right," I said, "I guess I should be looking for someone with actual skills in this stuff."

"Excuse me?" Remix said, glaring up from her laptop.

"It's cool, no, I get it," I said, "This probably isn't what you're good at. You aren't smart or anything, you just got powers. I'm guessing your powers let you make stuff, but you don't really understand what you're doing right?"

I looked at her scrap built robot buddy. "Like Lincoln over here. You just kind of cobbled him together. You don't really know what you did to get him working or how he works, because I've fought the real deal and this guy is like the gimpy version. Off-brand. Built on cheat codes or something."

"Hey!" she was getting up, pride stung.

"Because you're called 'Remix', right, not 'Creator' or whatever," I started walking away, "Best you can do is take stuff's already there and make something different, but you can't make anything new. So I should look for someone who actually understands what they're doing."

Something hit my back. A packet of flavoring. The little girl's cheeks were dark pink in a furious scowl. "Fuck you," she said, "I know what the fuck I'm doing."

It didn't feel good negging a kid, even one as disagreeable as her, but it was working.

I pulled out the hard drive. "See the problem is, this has important information on it. Queen Rat said you knew your business but now I'm not so sure, and I can't risk this getting damaged because you're an amateur. No disrespect, you're good at playing lego, but this is a whole different skillset."

"Give it here," she said, lunging for it. I held it up out of reach. The greasy haired little girl snarled at me, snapping her hand. "I can bust this thing wide open."

Faking hesitance, I let her grab the hard drive. She stalked back over to the laptop and plugged it in. She hit a couple buttons, opened a program, then leaned back.

"There," she said, "It'll take about a half hour."

I don't know what I'd expected. Frantic typing, swearing. But it was just a press of a button and the computer did the rest of the work.

She dished out a bowl of noodles, not bothering to offer me anyway. If all she had to eat was packet noodles it was no wonder she was so thin and sickly. With warm pop to go with it, it wasn't any kind of way to eat. Or any way to live.

A grumpy silence came over the abandoned arcade, the only sound the fans of the computer working over time. I'd gotten what I wanted but it wasn't exactly satisfying.

>try drawing Remix into some small talk to pass the time
>keep my mouth shut, she didn't seem the type who liked questions
>>
>>4837961
Challenge her to a game of street fighter
>>
>>4837961
>try drawing Remix into some small talk to pass the time

talk to her about street fighter
>>
>>4837961
>Ask her what's going on with the usb

Maybe she'll enjoy explaining her work

>>4837235
good call bro
>>
>>4837961
>....want me to actually make you some real food?
and this>>4838004
She shall know us by our sick skills.
>>4838054
>>4837235
Yeah, you hit the nail on the head.
>>
those all work together so locking that in
>>
>>4838073
That was fast.
>>
She zipped down her coveralls, fanning herself as she waited for the computer to churn through the decryption. She wore a necklace, a pink plastic heart worn out at the egdes. It looked cheap, maybe scavenged like everything else. The kind of thing you'd get out of a prize machine

"Do you ever play these games?" I asked, running a hand over the Street Fighter booth.

She kept glaring at the computer screen, being a tough nut. Maybe I'd stung her pride a little too much.

"I'm kind of okay at Street Fighter," I said, "If you're ever interested in a match, we could go a few rounds. I could teach you a thing or three."

"You can't teach me shit," she said, "And anyway, I don't play that junk," she said, "If I'm going to fire anything up it's Time Crisis. I've been using it to improve Lincoln's targeting system."

"So you live in an arcade but you don't play any of the games?" I said, "Couldn't be me, I'd be doing nothing else."

She scowled at her computer.

"Do you eat anything but packet noodles?" I asked.

"Do you do anything but talk?" she snapped, "Anyway, I like noodles."

The packets in her bag looked pulled out of a dumpster. I guess it was safer than taking a shot on rotten food.

"Same," I said, "But you know, real noodles. Ramen, soba, maybe a pad thai or something. Crack an egg in this stuff and you'll be really cooking."

"Gee, great idea. Wait here while I pop over Farmer Tom's fence and steal a couple eggs from the chicken coop," she said. "Look, I'm breaking the fucking hard drive for you, I don't need you selling me on some halfway home shit too. Queen Rat already tried getting me to join her freaky little cult, and I'm not down for being put in a fucking foster home. I've had enough of that."

She snorted back and spat up phlegm, pulled a tissue from one of her bags and blew her nose.

"Next he'll say I need a hug but it doesn't stop at hugs," she mumbled, maybe not meaning to say it out loud.

Jesus.

She turned bright red. "What, I go with you for some 'real' food and we have a good time, we play some games, start having fun. Then you say you're a real nice guy and I'm so mature for my age, so cool and grown up. Then you'll, what, have something you want to show me in a backroom? Well I'm not stupid enough to go in any backrooms."

Jesus Christ.

"Try anything funny and I'll have Lincoln blow your head off," she said, "I've done it already, don't think I won't."

"Okay," I said, hands up. I could tear apart her robot without much trouble but that wasn't the point.

"So just stay right there," she said, glaring at the screen, "And shut the fuck up."

The friendly track didn't seem to work. Life had calloused her pretty hard. Couldn't blame her. I didn't want to imagine why a kid her age was living on the street, but it didn't take much to guess.

After an awkward silence she hit the enter key.

"Done," she said.

"What did you do?" I asked.
>>
"Just a decryption program I built," she said, "Basic hacker stuff, good for figuring out passwords by running random number and letter combinations at high speeds. A lot more light weight than the usual stuff. No need for servers or whatever, this shit is energy efficient, can run off a basic bitch corporate laptop." She was more comfortable jawing about her work. "You weren't wrong about my powers but its like, I was always into this kind of shit. Coding and junk, making stuff. After I get hit in the Explosion thought its like I can just see what I need to make a thing."

"It isn't magic or whatever, I can't make anything out of anything, I need the right parts. I can see the right parts and how they fit, But I can make do," she explained, "Software's easier than hardware though. Well....different anyway. Need less physical shit to do what I want."

She typed in something, turned the laptop over to me. "Anyway, here's your thing," she said, "Like I said I could."

There were a couple of folders. One was marked 'private', the other marked 'other'.

I opened the private one and the video file inside.

I just about dropped the computer when cartoon girls started fucking onscreen, high pitched Japanese voices squeaking. Hentai shit. I closed the video fast, glad to be wearing a mask.

Learned something new about Penderose I never wanted to know.

I went to the 'other' folder. There was a subfolder, 'Operation Fireside'.

Video files, word documents, excell spreadsheets.

I opened a video file. It was a clip of Thunderchild robbing the bank. Same as I'd seen on Bohauer's computer. I opened the next one.

Same bank, but...

Not Thunderchild but the bank manager, opening it up to let the masked bank robber in. Closing it behind them. The 'bank robber' stashed as much money in their bag as possible, identical to how Thunderchild did in the other video. Then stopped. The bank vault opened, the manager let them out. Completely staged. Video editing must have made it look like the robber had ported in and out.

Thank you for not deleting this, Penderose, you obsessive weirdo.

As for the Word documents and Excell sheets, I had no idea what they meant but I'm sure Ms grant could figure it out. Lot of notes taken, dollar figures mentioned. Names.

One was 'Miscampbell'. The director of the DPA. There were photos too. Of the tall, well built older guy I'd seen at the DPA headquarters. Of him with a blonde woman had to be Semper Fi. Talking in an office, his office I'd bet. Then kissing in it. Then doing more than kissing on his desk.

This wasn't a smoking gun. It was a smoking missile launcher.

Black mail material maybe, collecting information on his own boss while doing his dirty work.

"Oh yeah, you should know," Remix said, snapping my attention back to her. "The hard drive? Has a GPS attached to it. Pinged the second I plugged it in."

She grinned like she'd pulled a nasty joke on me.
>>
"Shit," I said. She giggled, stashing her shit in her bags.

"Me, I'm going to yeet the fuck outta here before the feds show up," she said. She chucked one of the bags to Lincoln, slung the other over her shoulder. "TTFN, Hotspur," she said, flapping her hand goodbye. The robot, it felt wrong calling it a drone, picked her up in one arm.

"You're a little asshole, you know that," I said.

"Yeah!" she laughed over Lincoln's shoulder as he started jogging away.

At least she'd left me the laptop.

>Maybe stick around, see who shows up
>Time to book too, get this info to Ms Grant
>>
>>4838141
>Time to book too, get this info to Ms Grant
Holy shit something might actually work out in our favor for once
>>
>>4838141
>"Stay safe kid!"
>Time to book too, get this info to Ms Grant
Thank god we didn't try this at home.
>>
>>4838141
>Time to book too, get this info to Ms Grant
>>
>>4838141
WAAAAIT, we need to show Penderson's partner first if the little bugger didn't shut off the GPS. Ms. Grant would have a bomb dropped on her if we brought it straight to her.
>>
>>4838164
I think the data is now on the laptop so we don't need the hard drive
>>
>>4838168
Ah, then if that is the case lets flush the thing down the toilet, let em crawl in the sewer.
>>
>>4838141
>Time to book too, get this info to Ms Grant

Remember the name of that hentai video so we can rib penderose about it later tho haha

>>4838179
>>4838164
Ask Remix to be sure, it sounds like the GPS works through the laptop rather than the USB, so as long as it isn't plugged in we should be safe. USB does seem a little too small to fit a GPS device in.
>>
its not a usb its an external hard drive with a usb port
>>
>>4838264
ooof yeah, still confirm with remix if possible but looks like we're dumping it

at least this way we can leave a note for Penderose about the private folder
>>
>>4837235
Based anon
>>
>>4838151
>>4838150
>>4838156
>>4838257
locked in
>>
>>4838270
Definitely rub him about the private folder
>>
>>4838289
rib, rib him Anon, we are 3D guys, he'd never let us rub him.
>>
Fuck hanging around to get caught by whatever bullshit Penderose brought down on me. I slid the laptop into the inside of my jacket, buttoned it up.

Lincoln sprinted up the dead escalator, picking up speed and a smoother gait as he did, with Remix tucked against his chest.

"Stay safe kid," I called. A single finger rose up over Lincoln's shoulder.

Me, I didn't have time to waste. Thirty minutes was more than enough time for the federals to swoop in.

Getting this information to Ms Grant was my first priority. Starting to run back for the roof, I pulled out my phone.

Me - Where are you now?

Grant - At the office. Why?

Me - Got the proof we need. Coming to you ASAP.

She sent me a thumbs up.

Grant worked out of City Hall. All the way on the other side of the city.

By the time I reached the roof Lincoln and Remix were gone, but I heard the loud 'whoop-whoop-whoop' of a helicopter, flying high over the abandoned car park. It had 'POLICE' in red on its white belly, a man in a helmet leaning out the side with some kind of sniper rifle. The high whine of police sirens broke, lights flashing down the roads as patrol cars started to swarm the abandoned mall.

Great. Guess he put out the high alert.

I ran for the edge of the building, and dived up, lunging out, trying to make as much distance as I could, flicking out over the cars and under the police helicopter, to clear the car park and the empty patch of praire, landing in cold slushy snow. Cars breaked hard behind me, tried to turn only to smash into each other, while overhead the helicopter veered off to follow.

If they wanted a chase I'd give them a chase.

Bring it on.

>roll 3 x 1d100+30 dc 50
>>
Rolled 76 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4838309
It's actually more likely that we'll roll a critfail than not pass the DC normally, fun fact.
>>
Rolled 79 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4838309
>>
One more, no fuck ups
>>
Rolled 8 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>>4838309
>>
>>4838321
let's go!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aZSP8c05zM
>>
>>4838330
WOOOOOO
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-h7if6kGjDc&t=306s
>>
>>4838330
This quest ost be funky, I can dig it
>>
Keep up, I thought, vaulting a chain fence, clearing the barbed wire as fire roared through me.

Ducking over a road, a cop car screamed out toward me, bumping and sliding, the driver swerving to keep up.

"Suspect is believed to be a caucasian male." My power heightened senses caught. "Dressed in a blue...uh...super hero costume. Suspect is unarmed but dangerous. Highly dangerous. All units, I repeat, all units call in."

I sprinted through a carp park, leapt onto the roof of an Applebees, and plunged up into the whistling sky, the fast 'whomp-whomp-whomp' of the helicopter after me.

Diving down into a backyard, a man looked up from his grill spooked, a woman dropping a plate of drinks.

"Sorry!" I said, grabbing their back fence and throwing myself into the air.

You'd think the cops would have better things to do, but the streets were swarming with shrieking squad cars. Not just cars, but motorbikes, bicycles, even horses. Who wouldn't laugh?

Helicopters chased me through a burned out hood. I lunged through an abandoned building's top floor window, crashing through the den of homeless junkies it had become and out the other side.

Tearing through the sky I hit the ground of a packed city street, people clearing back in shock. I ran through the front door of a corporate building, bursting through the lobby, gunning it for the opposite entrance, breaking out the other side to another street. A cop car skidded up onto the curb, a uniformed woman wrestling against her own seat belt to get out.

"Freeze!" she yelled, door popping open, but she tripped out tangled with the strap, gun dropped as she grabbed at the tangling belt.

"Smooth!" I called down, jumping up onto the roof of the car then bounding up onto the high roof of the opposite building. Pigeons scattered as I ran.

The river bridges had been blocked off or brought up and it just reminded me how dense the boys in blue were, patrol boats keeping a look out on the river.

I waved to a patrolman steering one of the police boats. To his credit he waved back with his cap.

When I hit the street a police horse reared up in front of me. I rolled under its hoves, fire pumped. Heading straight for a barricade being seat up.

"Come on, you can do better than that!" I said.

I didn't even leap, I crashed straight through it, barricade bursting away, the police scrambling back, the shocked gasp of a crowd.

"Goddamn it!" I swear it was Officer Whitman threw his nightstick after me, the stick bouncing down the gutter.

I was heading for city hall and I wasn't far now, bounding through the Loop. I hit the L track and a train blew its whistle at me. I saluted the conductor before leaping off, diving over a turnstile, clearing a flight of concrete steps and bursting out on LaSalle right across from the Stock Exchange.
>>
Ducking around the corner it was a straight shot to City Hall, the streets packed with traffic, the sidewalk choked with pedestrians. Bike cops came peddling fast around the cars and trucks packing the street, furious under their safety helmets. The brave men and women of the bicycle patrol. Terrifying.

I ran over the tops of cars, a chorus of beeping horns and shouts drowning out my laughter.

City Hall was right there, cordoned off. They'd brought out a damn tank. Did they even know why?

Pendy really had gone all out. All over a little hentai.

Taking a step off the bonnet of a chevy, I sprung for the City Hall roof, landing in its winter dead garden.

Me - You there?

Grant - What the hell is going on?

Me - Which floor?

Grant - 6th. They've got security everywhere. I've got DPA goons outside my office. Did a bomb go off?

Me - Not yet. Sit tight.

I ran for the rooftop entrance and kicked the door clean in, bursting it off its hinges. It flew down the stairs, right into the face of some suit wearing idiot coming up the other way.

Grabbing the handrail I sprung down the stair wheel, between the flights of stairs counting backwards from ten as I did. At six I grabbed a handrail, nearly ripping my arm out of its socket when I did, and flung myself over. Again I kicked in the nearest door.

City Hall, I'm inside you.

Office workers like you'd find anywhere looked up in alarm from their work, a woman pulling back behind a water cooler.

"Stop right there!" a big man in a suit stepped out of the office space, drawing back his coat to show a gun, "I'm placing you under arrest for the theft of government propert-"

Fast as a viper I ducked around him and kept moving. Moving for an office door blocked by another couple of government goons.

"Yo!"

They turned. I crashed into them, bowling them both over.

No one was dumb enough to shoot, not here. I kicked in the door, puffing hard.

Ms Grant looked up from her phone screen, eyebrow raised.

Huffing, I reached into my jacket and pulled out the hard drive, the laptop, and set them down on her desk.

"For your viewing pleasure," I said.

Behind me I could hear the chaos building, shouts from lower floors, barked orders, as Grant calmly opened the laptop, put in ear buds, and opened a file.

She watched for a long, frowning minute, nodding along.

"This is hentai," she said.

She didn't turn it off right away.

"The other folder," I snapped, as behind me the door was flooded with thrashing, furious people in uniform, guns drawn and ready to use them.

"You're under arrest!" a cop, a federal agent, and a sherrif's deputy barked, as behind them cops, deputies, and federal agents all barked and scrambled with each other to get into the room.
>>
Ms Grant opened the next file, head tilted to one side. Slowly her smile grew, and she closed the laptop.

Looking from me to the cops crowding her door, their guns drawn, she folded her hands and said, mildly, "Excuse me gentlemen, but if you'd like to come in you'll need to book an appointment."

I sagged with relief, and dropped into her chair.

Done.

It was done.

Then behind me a polite cough. "Then its a good thing I called ahead," Penderose's oily voice said as he slipped through the tangle of law enforcement to step into Ms Grant's office.

"Ms Grant, Hotspur," he said, "We have...things...to talk about."

With that a groan set in, and I slumped forward in my chair.

Goddamn it, I thought as he took the seat next to me.

"Where should we start?"

-
I'll be back next week
>>
>>4838463
Thanks for running
>>
>>4838463
Why must you cockblock us the chance to laugh at his poor taste in mediocre hentai.
>>
>>4838460
>"This is hentai," she said.

>She didn't turn it off right away.

Is this from being professional, or because she was interested in the sauce?
>>
Since I won't be running until next week now's probably a good time for some feedback, some QnA kind of stuff.

I've noticed participation has dropped off a little over time. Is that normal for a quest, or could I be doing something better/different to get people more involved?

I know some of you guys got really frustrated with the Houndmaster fight. I've been trying to run with the idea of using write-ins for fight scenes to give bonuses and minuses to the DC rolls but feel I'm not cutting through on it/being transparent enough in showing it.

If you guys have any questions about the quest I'll answer any non-spoilery ones.
>>
>>4838512
Hi Bullpen,
While I was definitely upset at the houndmaster roll, it didn't have anything to do with you - it's a quest, bad rolls happen.
That said, the reason I've been silent is because I just finished college and am moving back home. I usually catch up during the day, way after votes are already decided by the majority and choose not to vote. I'll make sure to participate in the future so you know that I am reading your quest.
>>
>>4838512
You only making updates during the night of work weeks tends to cut out players, I'm only here because got a long weekend from Memorial Day, and no other company is working.
Houndmaster was bad rolls, shit happens.
>>
>>4838512
Thanks for running!

As an east coaster sometimes your runs go late enough that I have to drop off before you're done.

Can we start next thread by asking Penderose if we can start with his taste in pornography?

Houndmaster fight was fine, there was just salt because failing rolls is pretty rare and that might have been the first time we failed 2 in a row. Plus Ayesha was there so people really didn't want to lose/really wanted revenge.

non-spoiler questions:
how many times has Penderose had sex in his whole life?

did Remix's old hideout get trashed or can we go back there and play some arcade games?

could the nerds have hacked that hard drive for us?

how into penderose's hentai would the nerds have been?

when are we gonna see more Misfit?

can Remix rewire Houndmaster's brain so he's no longer a huge jerk and we can neutralize him without killing him?

when's our next BB game?
>>
>>4838604
>how many times has Penderose had sex in his whole life?
He's pretty uninterested in sex but he's not a virgin.
>did Remix's old hideout get trashed or can we go back there and play some arcade games?
maybe
>could the nerds have hacked that hard drive for us?
yeah but it would have got them into a lot of legal trouble
>how into penderose's hentai would the nerds have been?
Ben would have saved copies, Chad would have pretended to be disgusted but saved copies, Annie would have called them both loser virgins then saved copies
>when are we gonna see more Misfit?
Soon. This is all about clearing her name after all.
>can Remix rewire Houndmaster's brain so he's no longer a huge jerk and we can neutralize him without killing him?
There's no fixing what's wrong with Houndmaster.
>when's our next BB game?
Soon. Eric's played a couple of games off screen but I'm planning on pulling it back into focus sooner rather than later.
>>
>>4838512
I think you've been starting and finishing sessions later at night recently which makes people miss out on stuff sometimes
>>
>>4838512
This quest is great for me time wise because I work weekend nightshifts...might not be so good for normal people

As for a question...

What exactly happened to the info we put out on new years?doesn't seem like many people are talking about it

Are there any super celebrities? Apart from bitches like semper fi and heroes like us, there must have been someone who was already rich or famous enough that suddenly getting powers could only be a good thing for them.

Will we ever just adopt that cat or is he just a wild child?
>>
>>4838706
>Ben would have saved copies, Chad would have pretended to be disgusted but saved copies, Annie would have called them both loser virgins then saved copies
Truly, they are best friends forever.
>>
>>4839099
>What exactly happened to the info we put out on new years?doesn't seem like many people are talking about it
more of an affect than Eric realizes yet. you'll see more fallout from that soon.

>Are there any super celebrities?
for five seconds I considered having Kanye appear as a character

but there are some rich/famous people who have powers, but aren't public with them yet

>will we ever just adopt the cat
Mangy has comfortably moved into the Miller's apartment.
>>
>>4839333
Parakanye must happen
>>
>>4839425
No one man should have all that power
>>
>>4839333
>for five seconds I considered having Kanye appear as a character
Thank you for stopping at 5 seconds
>>
>>4839333
>>4839480
Do it, it would honestly not change too much about Kanye, he's fucking kanye
>>
>>4839500
Kanye with actual powers would make him even worse, imagine his weird kids after seeing him with powers.
>>
>>4839920
Imagine not liking Kanye. Kinda cringe bro.
His dragon energy would have to be nerfed for sure
>>
>>4839935
Kanye is great, but everyone knows the dude is just batshit crazy.
>>
>>4841177
That's fair honestly.
Sidenote I have a whole new respect for Eric. Starting working out in a boxing gym and that shit is fucking brutal. Kinda fun though. Even without powers Eric is a certified badass
>>
Also I'm pretty sure Penderose is gonna threaten to reveal our identity if we release this info. Is it worth it? I think it is but it would be a real pain in the ass.
>>
>>4841291
Yeah, even without the Metor he is a pretty competent street fighter. He's harder than every other kid in his school, but that isn't saying much.
>>4841324
He can. But if he tries then his favorite hentai goes on live tv. Plus the proof he's lying.
>>
>>4842074
The problem is even if we do nail his ass with all the shit on his hard drive he can still leak our identity, there's pretty much zero doubt in his mind by now I'm sure.
>>
>>4842211
Oh he knew the last time he came to our school and threatened to deport our hot teacher who is kinda dating our dad. He doesn't have physical proof, like we do, but he might drop our name out there out of spite regardless of if he wins or not. Which is why we post it, because that way our comrades can walk the street while we haul ass to deal with the Army and the army of mobsters and gangbangers that will come too our school's front steps looking for our head.
>>
I'll be back tomorrow
>>
>>4846266
HYPE
>>
"May I sit?" Penderose said.

He looked back to the cluster of law enforcement, smiled in their faces as he closed the door on them. He didn't wait for a reply before swishing back his coat tails and taking a seat. Crossing his legs, he clasped his knee and smiled.

"Let us start with what you're hoping to achieve," he said.

"Other than finding your hentai collection?" I said.

Penderose smiled. "People have an adverse reaction to embarassment," he said, "They hate it almost more than anything else. The pornography is a psychological smokescreen. If someone were to open it they're likely not to check anything else."

"Sure its not just your fap folder?" I said.

"Hotspur," Ms Grant said. I stuck my tongue in my cheek, leaned back on Ms Grant's desk. "What do you want, Agent Penderose?" she said, "Make it quick, I have a warrant I need signed." Her smile was mild, underscoring her threat. It didn't seem to bother Penderose.

In fact his smile widened.

"You have a warrant signed, a government official is arrested, and then after years of court room drama nothing is achieved accept another scalp for your ego," he said, "Oh but this scalp will also cost you your career."

"How so?" she asked.

"For one this is a case you're unlikely to win," he said, "You know how hard it is to prosecute a police officer, even one caught red handed. A federal agent is a magnitude more difficult. Add to the fact your prosecution is based on a faulty premise."

"And what premise is that?" she said.

"That I'm a rogue agent, acting without the knowledge or approval of my superiors," he said, "It's no coincedence Director Miscampbell came from Homeland Security. He has experience in off the books tactics, and deep ties with the establishment. Powerful, influential ties. With the Joint Chiefs, with a mandate coming directly from the Oval Office. You are an assistant state's attorney, a good one, but your influence runs to the borders of Cook County, barely to Illinois as a whole, and you are not well liked by your chief, the mayor, or the governor."

"Getting into a shooting war with a new federal agency will do wonders for your employability," he said.

"Threatening my job isn't a good look," she said, though I could see he'd struck a nerve.

"No threats," he said, raising his hands, "Believe it or not Ms Grant, I actually like you. You're doing valuable work. As is our friend Hotspur. Or may I call you Eric? You've missed a lot of school, young man."

I didn't flinch. I was expecting something like that.

"I admire the ruthlessness of using a teenager as your muscle," he said, "Playing off his idealism to further your own crusade, well done." He clapped.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said, "Now do you have a point or are you just buying time?"
>>
"My point," he said, "Is that you might, 'might', put me behind bars. But the real criminals will go unpunished, the next agent will turn up executing their orders, only this time it will be without you keeping an eye on them. You'll be crucified in all those nasty backroom ways. Idealists like you are quite rare in government, Ms Grant, but people like me come ten cents to the pack."

"if you think I value my career over justice, you've misread me," she said.

"Again, I'm not here to make threats, I'm only stating the likeliness of future events," he said, "Which is why I'd like to make a deal. Didn't you wonder why I kept such incriminating evidence on my person?"

"The thought crossed my mind," she said.

"Protection," he said, "I no more wish to see the inside of a prison cell than you do an end to your career. I'm acutely aware how disposable I am to my masters, so I've gathered material to protect myself, for when the outrages of the DPA get out of hand and the public demand a severed head."

"Black mail," she said. He nodded.

"It won't be my head paraded on a spike," he said, "I've no plans to be the Ned Stark of this drama."

"Give me a reason to help, other than threats," she said.

He smiled. "What about the freedom of the paranormally inflicted citizens you've been trying to help? I can have the warrants out on the Misfit and Thunderchild recinded. I can even offer financial amelioration, compensation for their troubles. They can walk free and innocent in the eyes of the law with an official apology issued by the DPA, a case of mistaken identity."

"Why would you do that?" she said with a frown. I was frowning too.

"There's another flaw in your premise," he said, "You think we're entirely at odds, but the truth is I have questions of my own. I want to know who put together a black ops facility and organized its operation days after an unprecedented event. I want to know who had the foresight to have it ready to go and fit to purpose. There's someone in the government who had foreknowledge of the Chicago Explosion, someone who had a good idea of what would happen and had contingencies prepared. I want to know what their agenda is and why."

He leaned forward. "I hate a mystery more than anything else," he said, "And believe it or not I don't hold Semper Fi's leash. She is at best loaned out on behalf of my superiors."

"And as for evidence, all my hard drive proves is she has an attraction to older, powerful men."

His smile made my skin crawl but I couldn't argue he was wrong. I looked to Ms Grant, and saw the gears turning in her head. She was thinking about taking the deal.

>insist she take the deal
>insist she turn down the deal
>keep my mouth shut and let her decide
>>
>>4846266
Woohoo
>>
>>4848305
>keep my mouth shut and let her decide
Just be sure to bring up that Pendy here falsified evidence to capture specific paras and they ended up in a black site. It's not just about rescinding warrants, it's about his complete violation of the justice system
>>
>>4848305
>Let Grant decide, but drop a line about any connection to Ixion.
>>
>>4848305
Add what this guy said>>4848334
To mine>>4848337
>>
>>4848340
>>4848305
And question him on why that snitch line for Para's went out so quick, when it has only riled up fear in the populace. I forgot about this part.
>>
Also for me entering a deal with him requires trust, and this is the least trustworthy guy we've met. And we've interacted with a lot of criminals
>>
>>4848360
Also he has a long history of violating the spirit of law enforcement and the justice system, like when he had the guy who shot him killed in prison. He's leaving out the impact on the opinion of the public when all of this gets out about him and the DPA as a whole.
>>
>>4848305
Remember to tag all your votes or edits together.
>>4848334
>>4848337
>>4848340
>>4848350
>>4848360
>>4848373
QM doesn't count them unless its all linked.
>>
locking in
>>
>>4848438
I say as I forget to add my vote to these.
>>4848305
Plus 1ing this stuff.
>>
>>4848305
>"not good enough penderson, sweeten the deal a little, I got a guy by the alias of houndmaster stirring up trouble, he's got the thing we're all after, show me that you're worth keeping around instead of just trying my luck with the next schmuck they send here"
>>
My reasoning is that penderson is a weasel, behind all that calm collected bullshit he's terrified out of his mind.

Oh he's definitely telling the truth when he says leaking this won't change anything in the long run, his bosses will happily sweep it all under the rug, this includes him.

Think about it, when someone knows as much as penderson and gets scapegoated the government doesn't just send em to a tropical island to chill ,they fucking epstein them!

Penderson is out for #1 at all times, we can use this
>>
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>>4848454
Shit, too late, now I'm embarrassed,I was way too late
>>
>>4848454
Exactly, we don't have to threaten him with pressing charges, we have to threaten him with revealing him to his superiors
>>
"Hard to trust a man who lies through his teeth to put innocent people in jail," I said, "A guy who treats the law like toilet paper to get what he wants."

He grinned at me, not in a friendly way, but then Penderose didn't have a friendly soul.

"You're going to act all concerned about para-folk when you put out a snitch line to rile people up?" I said, "You turned neighbor on neighbor with that move."

"You give me far too much credit," he said, "The tip line is standard practice, an idea borrowed from our friends in anti-terrorism. It was Director Miscampbell's orders, my job was to sell it. For the most part its been quite the success."

Never his fault and always someone else to blame, great.

"Your little tip line sent innocent people to an operating table to be experimented on," I said.

"Now that was never my intention," he said, "I had no idea about any of that until I read it in the papers. All I knew was another agency took custody of our prisoners, and I didn't like it any more than you do."

Yeah, I thought, but not for the same reasons. Penderose was a control freak, it wasn't his morals they'd offended, just his self-importance.

"And what about Ixion Energy?" I said.

He frowned. "What about them?" he seemed genuinely taken back by the question, "All I did was what I was ordered to do, believe me."

"'Just following orders' went out of fashion at Nuremberg," Grant said, just as unimpressed.

"I'm hardly a Nazi," he said.

"If the jackboot fits," Ms Grant replied.

"It's your call," I said, "But I don't like him."

She frowned at the computer on her desk.

"I don't like him either," she said, "But I don't like a lot of people I'm forced to work with. Fine, Penderose, you have your deal."

He reached out a hand to shake but she didn't take it.

"I'll want the hard drive back," he said, "And my bullet."

"Fine, I've already made copies, and you can pick up your morbid little trophy from evidence," she said. He went a little sour at that, but took the drive without comment. He stuffed it into his coat, then went to the door.

"A pleasure as always, Ms Grant," he said, "And Eric? Good luck on the history exam. If they ask what the primary motivation of the war was, the answer is 'slavery'." His nasty grin was the last thing I saw before the door closed shut.

Asshole.

Ms Grant sighed. She pulled a bottle of scotch out of her desk drawer. She didn't bother with a glass, only uncorked it and took a swig. "This job," she said, pressing the bottle to her forehead. I couldn't help but be reminded of Dad.

"You think this is a good idea?" I said, "Penderose is a snake."

She shook her head. "No I don't, but at least now I have someone inside the DPA I can use," she said, "And he's right. We have smoke in a bucket for evidence, at least for getting anyone important locked up. With this at least we've won something."

"Play the long game," I said, recalling her own words.
>>
"Yep, but the long game is a grinding son of a bitch," she said. She stared at her desk. "Winning should feel better than this."

"Bet Misfit and Child will feel pretty good," I said. Misfit had been so cooped up she was blowing up my phone with messages at every hour. I had to hold onto that, we'd won their freedom, even if it was with a compromise.

"Are we still going after Semper Fi?" I asked.

"Oh I plan to bury those fuckers yet," she said, "But only when its bulletproof." But she sounded beaten, she looked beaten too. "Thanks for the hard work, Spur," she said, "I'll let you know how it goes."

"A'ight," I said, "you take care of yourself, Ms Grant."

"You too," she said, putting the bottle away.

A sour victory was still a victory, I had to keep that in mind.

In the mean time.

I sure as hell could eat.
>>
Night found me in the back of Luis' shop eating day old cake.

"Man, I've been worried about you," he said, serving my a coke. I chugged it down, icing encrusted fork half way through the cake open on my lap. "You just dip for half a week, the next thing I hear you got all the cops in the city on your ass tearing up the Loop. You got to slow down holmes."

I burped. "Yeah," I said, "You got any tacos?"

He grumbled as he went to microwave a few. I was so burned out I kind of felt drunk, trying to fill the burning emptiness in my gut a forkful of sugar at a time. If Smokey or D-Mark, in the store and stacking shelves, had any questions about why I'd been ushered into a backroom and was being fed a small feast, they kept their mouths shut.

As far as minding their own business, they were good people. Wish folks were a whole lot less nosey.

It was a while before Luis came back with the tacos. So long it was kind of suspicious. And when he did it was with Dad behind him.

"Sorry kid, had to call him," Luis said.

Guilt kicked me in the chest. I shot up, spilling the cake from my lap. Dad looked pummelled by a hard right of a hang over, unshaven and unwashed. But he was sober. I expected him to yell or something. Instead he grabbed me into a crushing bear hug. The relief on his face almost washed out the pain.

"Thank God," he said.

"Sorry," I said, a hot worm wriggling through me.

Luis left the tacos before giving us the backroom, alone with the surplus tennis rackets and baby formula.

Dad didn't let go for a good while. He didn't ask what happened.

"Sorry Dad," I said again, resting my head on his shoulder. "I'm really sorry."

"You aren't," he said, "Not really, or you'd promise never to do it again."

"No, I'm..."

"It's fine kid," he said, "I get what you're saying. You never meant to disappear for three days."

"Yeah," I said, "Things just got...out of hand."

"I saw the news," he said, "You know the news, right? You're on it a lot."

"Best show on tv," I said. It was a dumb kind of laugh we shared.

"Come on," he said, eyes wet through his grin, "Mrs Valdez made tamales."

And with his arm around my shoulder, we walked home.
>>
I washed up, appreciating the sting of hot water over my shoulders. I had fresh new scars distorting my body, one big one in my belly. Hooray, no more taking my shirt off for me.

I scrubbed off the filth, watching the gray water circle the drain.

I'd done what I'd said. Maybe I hadn't proved Misfit's innocence, but I'd won her freedom and Thunderchild's too. It was a win.

I had a lot to catch up on.

>pick a primary and secondary focus

>focus on tracking down Houndmaster and the Stone
>investigate the para-folk community, see what was going on
>find Mr Green's grandson like you'd promised
>focus on training, boxing and powers, to up my game
>focus on daily life, take it easy, take some time off
>focus on school, I'd missed a lot of it
>>
>>4848567
>focus on tracking down Houndmaster and the Stone
>find Mr Green's grandson like you'd promised
>>
>>4848567
>focus on daily life, take it easy, take some time off
We freaked too many out, and the slightest bit of distance we can put between us and Pendy's claims, the better, and we need to check on Ayesha and make sure no one else gets grabbed.
>find Mr Green's grandson like you'd promised
Wizard aid maybe. We can go back to visit our "Uncle" in prison to find Houndmaster, But we need light work to recoup from the FUCKING HOLE we took to the gut and shoulder.
>>
>>4848567
>find Mr Green's grandson like you'd promised

>check out how the old guys daughter is and report back to the old man

We're not quite ready to face hounaster so soon, it's tempting but we have promises and responsibilities to uphold.

Plus we should give dad a break and let him know we're not doing anything too dangerous
>>
>>4848567

>find Mr Green's grandson like you'd promised

>focus on school, I'd missed a lot of it

Need to get dad his girl back
>>
>>4848567
Wait, why isn't daily life and school the same thing?
>>
>>4848601
school means intense study to up Eric's grades, so not taking it easy
>>
>>4848567
>find Mr Green's grandson like you'd promised

why not

>investigate the para-folk community, see what was going on

OUR PEOPLE
>>
I think losing the stone is a bigger deal than we realize. I'm sorta glad to be rid of it in a way but I'm terrified about what it could be used for.
>>
Can we spread the load around to misfit and thunderchild now that they're not wanted?
>>
okay I think we can safely say 'Look for Mr Green's grandson' is the primary focus, but still don't have a consensus on secondary, going to offer a second vote off this post:

>focus on tracking down Houndmaster and the Stone
>investigate the para-folk community, see what was going on
>focus on training, boxing and powers, to up my game
>focus on daily life, take it easy, take some time off
>focus on school to increase my grades, I'd missed a lot of school
>>
>>4848729
>focus on daily life, take it easy, take some time off
>>
>>4848729
>investigate the para-folk community, see what was going on

We need to have a presence in the para community, maybe inspire someone
>>
>>4848729
>investigate the para-folk community, see what was going on
Militant groups are gonna be growing.
One thing we're missing is cool gadgets to mix up or options for utility and combat, maybe eventually remix can help us out
>>
>>4848729
>focus on daily life, take it easy, take some time off
>>
>>4848729
>investigate the para-folk community, see what was going on
>>
>>4848840
>>4848748
>>4848760
locked in
>>
I know we've been devoting zero time to our personal life recently but i think it makes sense for Eric's state of mind right now. He might need a wake up call from a concerned friend soon. Although he doesn't seem to be showing too many signs of issues with all his traumatizing heroic escapades.
>>
>>4848892
My theory is that Eric's mind got altered in the explosion.

No normal kid should be able to deal with his vigilante life as well as he has, atleast not to the point where teenage angst with girlfriend's and basketball tournaments matter to them anymore.

Eric was completely changed by the explosion, if this were some grimderp setting I'd argue that Eric isn't even Eric anymore, the real Eric died that Night and we're just the power itself believing that we're Eric

Hopefully something like that isn't the case but we WE'RE changed by the explosion
>>
I had a lot to catch up on, and a lot still left to do.

At least tonight I could sleep in my own bed and not worry about the world for a few hours.

Closing the door I found Mangy curled up on my pillow. The cat stretched out, hopping down to give my shin a bunch of love, rubbing up against my with a deep pur, drooling a little. I gave her a scratch behind the ear. The filthy cat had cleaned up being indoors with regular food, her coat white and fluffy.

A little bit of care could do a small thing a lot of good.

But even as I told myself I could forget the world for a few hours, it didn't take long for worries to set in.

Worried about the big things, but the little things too. Worried about Dad, worried about my friends. Worried about how Ayesha was doing after going through all she'd been through. Worried about Houndmaster and whatever his employers were planning with the stone.

There was a lot to worry about.

But I was tired, and even the fears of apocalypse couldn't keep me from sleep.

Anyway, it was a school day tomorrow.

-

I'd made up my mind at breakfast I needed to take a break from crime fighting. I only had so much skin to give, and with Misfit and Thunderchild unlocked they could pick up some of the slack.

Fact was I got a text from Misfit first thing.

Misfit - Yooooo! Im free! & got dollabill 2!

I smiled at the semi-literate message on my phone as Dad poured me a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch.

"So what's the plan, hero?" he asked, "School?"

We'd agreed to tell everyone I'd been in hospital with a fever, a bad one. It's what he'd told the school already when they'd called. Figured it was good enough lie as any. It was good to see Dad drinking black coffee, though I knew he had a six pack in the fridge.

"Yeah," I said, "But after I got an errand to run."

I'd also made up my mind to finally help out Mr Green from upstairs. Maybe he was nuts, cooped up and half-crazy alone with his clocks, but he was also a blind old man who could stand to see his family. See his family, blind old man. Whatever. Anyway, he didn't have a lot of years left, he was at the age where he could turn on a hair and go. And after everything I'd seen, I wasn't quick to call anyone crazy.

"Mr Green upstairs asked if I could find his grandson," I said, "James."

"It's not super stuff is it?" Dad asked.

"I don't think so," I said, but then who the hell knows?

"All right, but if you do get, I don't know, put in the hospital or sucked through a worm hole, text me first," he said, then kissed my forehead.

"I will," I said.

Grabbing my bag I headed out the door.

I figure, how many James Greens could there be in Chicago?
>>
Turns out its a lot. I scrolled through hundreds of James Greens on my phone as around me the others sat down for lunch. I'd sleep walked through Maths class, school wasn't really getting my focus right now. James D Green, James HR Green, James Green Jr. My vision became a blur of Jameses and Greens of various initials and middle names. I barely looked up as Rufus set down his lunch.

"Back from the dead," he said, "Heard you were sick. we were working on a 'Get Well Card'."

"Then we forgot," Zeke said, "Sorry. Good to have you back though."

"You good enough to ball?" Hunter said.

"Against you?" I said, "They could take my right arm I'd still leave you eating pavement."

"Yeah, but you can't afford to lose another girlfriend," Rufus said. Dane snorted his juice.

"Oooh!"

"Good one," I said.

"Hey he'll still have the left!" Hunter said, trying to pile in on the joke.

"What's left?"

Our laughter died as Ayesha's plate slid onto the table. Ivy was with her, close, attentive. Everyone went on high alert. It was no secret she'd been kidnapped, it had made an article in the paper and a thirty second spot on the news. I don't know if they knew the details though. The guys were awkward, struggling to look in her direction.

"Just a dumb joke is all," Hunter said, staring at his jell-o.

"Hey I like a dumb joke," Ayesha said with a fragile smile.

I looked to Ivy, asking with a glance, 'Is she ready to be back?'

The roll of her eyes and bitter smirk said 'try telling her that.'

"Don't do that," Ayesha said.

"Sorry, Yesha, its just-" Zeke started.

"No, not that, you," she pointed at me, "And you," pointing at Ivy. "Talking like that, like I don't get what you're saying. Face talking."

"Please," Ivy scoffed, but it just made Ayesha bristle.

"Okay, yeah, full disclosure," she said, "I'm not fine. I'm not back to normal. I don't know if I ever..." she closed her eyes, sighing, "Sorry I'm...I'm still kind of touchy."

Ivy didn't say anything, not with words anyway. Just took her shoulder and pulled her into a side hug with a loving look.

"Rip my throat out babe, I can take it," she said, "We're here for you."

"Yeah!" said Zeke, "You know we got your back."

"Always," I said. That at least made Ayesha smile, weak as it was.

"You know I see a therapist," Dane said, "From when my parents got divorced. If you think it might help I could send you his info."

"That's sweet Dane, but my parents have already sorted it out," she said.

"Always thinking of others," Ivy said, sliding her feet up onto Dane's lap, "Sweet boy. Too sweet, almost." He hid his grin. Looks like things were going well between them. Very well from Ivy's smile. Dane's too.

Good. I was glad. Really.
>>
The fork snapped in my grip. "Piece of crap," I muttered, plucking splinters out of my lasagna. Ayesha hid her growing smile, eyes getting a little bit of light back into them.

'What was so funny?' I frowned.

The way she leaned on her hand, half her smile hidden by her fingers, said 'you'.

As good as it was to see the guys I had stuff to do and not a lot of leads.

Maybe I could do this forensically. Look up details in the historical archives. Mr Green was pretty historic. I don't think 'Robert Green' would be much more helpful than 'James' though. At least I had his address.

But as much as I practiced crime fighting I wasn't exactly a detective. This might take longer than I'd hoped.

>try an online archive. I had Mr Green's name and address, maybe I could find some family history
>maybe Mrs Valdez would have an idea, she'd been living there for years
>I could just ask Mr Green for more details
>if nothing else there was always Queen Rat's people
>>
>>4848951
>maybe Mrs Valdez would have an idea, she'd been living there for years
cucked by the man with very lame powers, how will Eric ever recover
>>
>>4848951
>Ayesha tells us not to face talk to Ivy
>immediately face talks to us

hypocrite!

>maybe Mrs Valdez would have an idea, she'd been living there for years
>>
>>4848951
>try an online archive. I had Mr Green's name and address, maybe I could find some family history

Ask the nerds for help with it, Chad's a good guy and he might be able to give us basic information gathering skills

(Also ask about the hentai, we need sauce)
>>
>>4848955
As far as I know, he NEVER gets tired, that's a pretty good power to have if you know what I'm saying ;)
>>
>>4848970
please don't make me imagine dane having sex with ivy for 12 hours straight
>>
>>4848989
Bro, I know that pain.

Ivy is undisputed best girl and I want her, but that's going to have to wait until we get our shit halfway sorted

BTW ayesha is sis so don't even try it

Going back to our bitch ex is also a horrible idea (unless she grows up)
>>
>>4848997
Well if we wait too long she's gonna end up with Dane
>>
>>4848964
>>4848955
locking in Mrs Valdez
>>
>>4848951
>try an online archive. I had Mr Green's name and address, maybe I could find some family history
This should be our first resort.
>>
>>4849057
I think speaking to someone who probably at least knew of him is the best place to start
>>
>>4848997
>Ivy is undisputed best girl
disputed
semper fi best girl
>>
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>>4849079
The enlightened hatefuck enjoyer
>>
Maybe Mrs Valdez could help, she'd been living there for decades. She had to know something about Mr Green and his family.

But that was after school. For now Kaylee was walking over with Daphne and another one of the theater kids.

"And that's my signal to leave," Ivy said, slapping Ayesha's leg, "See you at home, I've got things to do."

"See you," Ayesha said.

Kaylee slid into Ivy's place. "Oh my gosh Ayesha," she said, hugging her friend close, "I'm sorry I didn't see you earlier, we had rehearsals all night!"

"It's fine Kaylee, its cool," she replied.

"You've been th-through s-so much," Kaylee said, starting to shudder, starting to cry, "When I thought...and everything you've been through...you know you can talk to me right? No judgement."

"I know, I know," Ayesha said.

Ayesha gave me a wide-eyed look over Kaylee's shoulder like 'this is all a bit too much', and it seemed Ayesha was the one giving the comfort.

"Anyway," Kaylee said, dabbing her eyes, "We all talked about it, and we're going to donate some of the ticket sales for the show to help pay for your medical bills."

"Um, its really okay," she said, "It's all bought and paid for! Surprise, we have insurance!"

I couldn't help but notice the deliberate way Kaylee didn't look at me.

"You don't have to pretend to be strong with me, Yesha," Kaylee said.

God.

At least Ayesha's story was so dramatic I got little to no attention. Jeremy started a rumor I was down with AIDS but no one bought it. Mostly I was just glad to get out of school and put my head into work.

Reuniting an old man with his kids, it could be fun.

Getting home I knocked on Mrs Valdez's door, trusting she was in.

The door opened to her beady eyes. The hairs on her top lip had grown longer, falling over her stubby teeth when she grinned.

"Rico, come in," she said, letting me into her quaint little apartment. A baby sat in a high chair, fighting his baby food with a spoon. Mrs Valdez' daughter was out.

I'd been in their apartment a couple of times. They kept the heat up in winter so I took off my hoodie.

"Would you like some food? I made rice," she said, a big pot on the stove.

"Thanks ma'am," I said as she spooned me out a bowl.

"Why the visit?" she said, "Surely a handsome young man like you could have better company than an old lady like me. I've seen some of the pretty girls you run around with."

I blushed. "Actually its about Mr Green on the top floor," I said, "Do you know anything about his family? Only he asked if I could contact his kids, but he didn't say how and I don't think he really knows. You've been here a long time..."

"Mr Green?" she said, "Robert Green was here long before we moved in. Back even before Mr Kuklinski moved in, and he was here for a very long time too. I think he used to live on the South Side back in the 60s, Mr Green that is, but that's over 50 years ago."

A building full of old people. Gray haven of the forgotten.

"You don't remember him having any guests?" I said.
>>
"Other than the nurses from the hospital? Oh I don't know," she said, "But maybe there was...let me call my daughter, she would know better."

Mrs Valdez went into the other room, leaving me with the baby. A bubble grew in the corner of the baby's mouth as he stared at me. I stared back. He was a softy, squishy little thing. The bubble popped with a burp. There wasn't much else in the room, other than a painting of Jesus with fingers raised on the wall, looking mournful under his crown of thorns. The baby had nothing to say.

The rice was good. Of course it was good, Mrs Valdez could cook.

I finished the rice before Mrs Valdez waddled back in. "Oh she say he used to have a woman come over. Daughter-in-law she thinks, named Marshey or something like that. All she knows is she calls him 'pops' the whole time, said something about a son."

"I wish I could help more," Mrs Valdez said, seeming genuinely upset.

"It's cool Mrs Valdez, you've helped plenty," I said, heading to the door.

Marshay Green was a slightly more unique name to track down.

"Say goodbye to Rico, Javy," she said, picking up the baby.

"Bye baby," I said, waving. Little Javy burped again, so grandma took him on her shoulder, started rubbing his back. Danced him in a circle in the warm little living room while outside a cold wind blew, singing a nonsense song in Spanish as she slowly made him smile. Small little affections. She stopped to wave goodbye again, grandmother and grandchild happy in each other.

I stepped out into the cold, ready to keep going, then had to stop. A grandmother burping her grandson. Just a little thing. The cold stung my face, I only noticed the tears when they dripped off my jaw. I wasn't crying, nothing like that, my eyes were just leaking. There was no great feeling of emotion of whatever.

Must be the wind stinging my eyes.

Okay, got some more info. What next?

>hit the internet, try an online search. I have more pieces to work with now
>go up and ask Mr Green for more details
>maybe Queen Rat's people could do something
>>
>>4849110
>hit the internet, try an online search. I have more pieces to work with now
>>
>>4849106
Every time Kaylee shows up, I cringe. How does she even function? I mean maybe I'm being uncharitable, but is it just me or did she blatantly turn a horrifying thing that happened to her friend into a way to virtue signal while avoiding actually doing anything to help? This is beyond being a drama queen, it's legitimately disgusting.

>>4849110
>>hit the internet, try an online search. I have more pieces to work with now
>>
>>4849110
>hit the internet, try an online search. I have more pieces to work with now
>>
>>4849110
>hit the internet

>>4849130
Bro we already broke up with her, you don't need to try so hard anymore
>>
did you guys want to rope in the nerds if you're going online?
>>
>>4849183
Wouldn't hurt I suppose
>>
getting tired, I'll be back tomorrow
>>
>>4849007
Da fuck are you talking about man, she IS with Dane right now.

That's part of the reason why we're not doing the moocha smoocha with her, just gotta wait and see if we get a chance again if they break up because NTR is shit and we won't do that to a good friend
>>
>>4849183
Yes, we really should expand our friendships beyond the future popular clique (it's obvious that we're in the group that will "rule the school" in the senior year) and instead try being friends with the weird kids, they seem like fun
>>
>>4849110
I'll second this>>4849183
Bring us the geek squad.
>>
>>4849110
>hit the internet, try an online search. I have more pieces to work with now
>>4849183
Only if we fail to find anything on our own.
>>
>>4849272
Yeah I'm not sure if they're officially together yet or what though. We gotta find a date to the dance ourselves, maybe someone who isn't in our immediate group of friends?
>>
sorry for the late start
>>
>>4850488
It happens, might not be up for much longer myself though.
>>
I figure I've got enough that an internet search isn't looking for a needle in a stack of needles. Couldn't hurt to get some help though.

I went up to our apartment and booted up the computer, logged on to discord.

There were a bunch of pings waiting, nothing specific to me. It was the nerd discord group put together to track the 'paranormal events' of Chicago. There were five memebers and I was one of them. The other was Hunter, the other three the nerds. Most of the articles had come via Dougie Hicks and his podcast or Dougie Hicks adjacent people, mostly posted by Hunter with a big exclamation point next to every tag.

'Moon Men of Mars?" said one, 'Unexplained Shadow Seen On Mars Rover Camera.'

Ben Kenobi - Did you guys hear about the skin stealer on the Gold Coast? They found a skinned body in a dumpster, but the victim was seen walking around hours later.

Padme Anniedala - Cool. Absolute bullshit, but cool.

Chadlo Ren - I'd like to see it verified but I'm siding with Annie, sounds like bullshit.

White Michael Jordan - I'm with you Ben, heard the same story off my step-dad and he's a firefighter only he said only the face was missing.

Ben Kenobi - Awesome.

I scrolled past the memes. I wasn't active on their discord server, the only message I had was the bot welcoming me.

So I started typing.

Me - Hey guys, could you lend a hand with something? I'm trying to find a relative of my upstairs neighbor.

It didn't take long for a ping.

Padme Anniedala - Is this paranormal related?

It kind of was, but I didn't know what to tell them.

Me - Kind of. Maybe. Or maybe he's just a crazy old man.

A long second.

Padme Anniedala - Hop into VC.

She appeared in the VC, then Ben, then Chad.

I had to fish out a headset before joining in.

"Hey guys," I said. I was immediately met with the sound of a controller and Ben swearing under his breath.

"What's up?" Chad said, "Need help with something?"

Then Hunter popped in. "Smells like virgin in here," he said.

"DJ Baller in the house," Ben shouted. Hunter started making these weird kind of honks. It was all in-jokes for a good five minutes.

"So you said your neighbor might be paranormal?" Annie said. I got the sense she was taking notes.

"I don't know, I do know he's old and lonely," I said, "He's looking for his grandson. He thought I was his grandson when I went up to see him."

Annie tsked.

"If we can help a sad old man find his family, we're down," Chad said for them, "It's not like we're doing anything else."

"Hey I'm racking up a body count right now," Ben said, "Ten scalps in Fortnite so far. Twenty's my record. I'm feeling hot tonight, might break it."

"Let me know if you want to go duo," Hunter said, "Any of you guys want to partner up for a trio game?"

"Maybe," Annie said.

"Sorry about those guys, they get distracted," Chad said, "What do you know about this guy?"
>>
I gave them what I had. His name, his daughter-in-law who was 'maybe' called Marshay. His address.

"Some old man, who cares," Annie said, "We should be looking into the Face Stealer, find out if they're real or another Big Bopper."

"Big Bopper?" I said.

"Yeah, Big Bopper was a fat guy thought he had powers," Chad said, "Told everyone he had the power to bounce like rubber, but he'd never actually show anyone. Complete hoaxer."

"How do you know?" I asked, "Maybe he just didn't want to show off."

Ben laughed but it was a sharp, mean laugh. "We know," said Annie with dry scorn, "Because a couple of guys from the Humanity First Militia snatched him up and threw him off a building to check. You can guess how that went."

"Splat," offered Ben.

The Humanity First Militia? That was a name to keep in the memory bank.

"Did you hear Dougie Hicks' last podcast?" Hunter said, "He says there's a para-freak cult on the South Side, they've set up shop in the sewers and they've got their own queen and everything. He said they abduct kids and indoctrinate them into their ideology. Their planning something, planning something big."

"Put it in the 'keep an eye out' folder," Annie said.

"Dougie Hicks is crazy," Chad said, "But he's not always wrong. He was right about the Shark and the pedo island."

"Fucked up," Hunter said, "Can you imagine that? Big shark dude raping and eating little kids."

There was no word for the pulse of anger ripped through me. I bit hard on the inside of my mouth, hard enough it hurt.

"You think you guys can help me?" I said.

"Sure," Chad said, typing away, "Just give me a sec."

>roll 3 x 1d100+15 dc 75
>>
Rolled 87 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4850527
>>
Rolled 68 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4850527
Woot
>>
Rolled 53 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4850527
>>
>>4850536
easy pass
>>
Damn, we should have really checked out the para community sooner, now we got retard marvel citizens forming lynch groups and a possible native American magneto on our hands.

Running around punching bad guys is amazing and important work, but we gotta help out with the paraPR
>>
>>4850527
you know what? while we're at it we should correct them on Shark.
>>
Shame about the nerds, but i cant blame them since their sources are either the mainstream media/government,or random rumors and theories.
>>
It was a bunch of goofing around. I listened to Hunter and Ben play and lose multiple rounds of Fortnite. I don't really play video games, maybe that's the weirdest thing about me. Even weirder than the crime fighting thing.

"You guys heard about the Doppleganger?" Hunter said, "There's a shape-shifter out there. DPA says they're responsible for framing those para-freaks, Thunderchild and Misfit."

"I heard they were innocent," Chad said.

"Shapeshifters?" said Annie, "Creepy. Why do they always have to be so creepy?"

"Semper Fi isn't creepy, she's fine as fuck," Hunter said.

"True that," said Ben.

"And Hotspur is cool," Chad said.

"Yeah, kind of," Annie grumbled, "Kind of stupid too though. I mean what good is he really doing 'fighting crime'. He could be making money as like a stunt person or something? A celebrity. Fighting crime is such a waste, it doesn't fix anything. There's still going to be crime there tomorrow." She laughed like it was a great joke.

"He rescued Ayesha," Hunter said, more deadly serious than I'd ever heard him, "He rescued her from a psycho. If that's all he ever does, he's cool by me."

"I mean sure," she said, "But you're missing my point."

"Whatever Annie," he said. A silent tension set in over the chat.

"Bingo," Chad said.

Bingo?

I got a DM. "Is this the guy?" he said.

It was a book cover, an old faded book cover from the 60s or 70s, pulp art of a muscular black man with a sword with a half-naked black woman clinging to his side, primordial mountains ranging behind them, under the title 'Sword of Anghar' by Robert C Green.

"I don't know," I said.

"Hold on, he's got a wikipedia page," Chad said, "'Robert Calhoun Green was born in South Chicago in the 1930s. His father and mother were originally from Alabama but relocated during the 'Great Migration''. There's a link to the Great Migration page, its pretty interesting. 'Fleeing Jim Crow and a white supremacist south, they settled in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Robert C Green had an early interest in fantasy literature, and cites Robert E Howard, Fritz Lieber and Clark Ashton Smith as inspiration. Being an early voice in the growing afro-fantasy scene, blah blah blah. Anyway, this gets interesting. Personal life section. 'Robert Green became a recluse and fell out of the public view after a fire in 1967 took the life of his wife, Aracely, and their oldest son James. Robert Green was known to insist the fire was of 'supernatural origin' and an 'attack'. The event and Green's insistence on supernatural forces being responsible was the inspiration for the Blue Oyster Cult song 'Fire of Unknown Origin'."

"Cool," Ben said.

It did sound right.

"What about his surviving family?" I said.

"Says he had two other kids," Chad said, "A son and daughter, John-Paul and Amanda. Says the daughter became a nun but the son. Hold on, maybe google can help."

Typing away, I crossed my arms and waited.
>>
"You know, Shark isn't a child killer," I said, filling the silence, "And he wasn't hurting those kids, he rescued them."

"How do you know?" Annie said, "The DPA rescued those kids."

I frowned. Explaining was more than I wanted to go into.

"The DPA are liars," I said, "They look for any reason to lock up para-folk. Didn't you see the news story about the government black ops site?"

"We read it," Ben said, "But I think its bullshit. Not that I believe the government or anything. I just think its all a bit too comic book. An evil government agency all about torturing para-people? Come on. What, do they harvest their blood for adrenochrome?" Ben chuckled.

"The only proof for the black ops site is Hotspur and a couple of other para-freaks," Annie said, "And he hates the government. A couple of reporters went to check the location he mentioned and couldn't find anything."

"He doesn't hate the government," I muttered. I just don't trust the government, and they'd given me every reason not to.

"Okay guys, got another drop," Chad said,"Wedding registry for John-Paul Green and Marshay Goggins, 1995. Following that I found a birth certificate for a 'James Green', father John-Paul, mother Marshay."

Hunter cheered. "You're a scary guy, Chaddicus," he said, "Next you're going to know my search history."

"Oh please, its nothing but hentai," Annie said, "And the creepy hentai too. I bet its mind break stuff."

"Man, all that cartoon stuff is creepy," he said.

"Y-yeah," Ben laughed.

"Do you have an address or something for the grandson?" I said.

"I have a school," he said, "Private school in the north, here."

He sent me a picture of a grinning nerd holding a science trophy from last year.

James Green. So he was a senior getting ready to graduate. Okay.

"Thanks," I said, "I owe you."

"Yeah?" Chad said like he meant to cash it in. "Do you know if Kay's got a date to the winter dance?"

The others immediately started booing.

"Dumbass, that's his ex," Hunter said.

"And she's a two faced bitch," added Annie, "Why do you want to go to a stupid dance anyway?"

"Well I've got to go, guys, thanks," I said, quick to hang up.

I tried not to think about Kaylee and focus on the information Chad had sent me. It wasn't easy. A pain in my gut told me I missed her.

Not just her but...I missed sex. I really did. It's something I hadn't expected, needing it so bad after losing it. It was enough to make me groan, shove a fist in my face. Don't think about it, just focus.

I had a school, I had a face to the name. I had what I needed.

Now I just needed to meet him.

>after school would be a good idea, wait for him out there as Eric
>maybe he'd listen to Hotspur more than some kid
>>
>>4850642
>after school would be a good idea, wait for him out there as Eric
>>
>>4850642
>after school would be a good idea, wait for him out there as Eric
>>
>>4850642
>after school would be a good idea, wait for him out there as Eric
>>
>>4850672
>>4850665
>>4850647
locked in
>>
>>4850642
>the nerds follow conspiracy theories but think a government experimenting on people with super powers is too farfetched

:/
>>
Better not to go as a super hero. I saved the photo of James Green to my phone.

I'd head to the elite private academy after I finished up school. It wasn't super far and worst came to worst I had other ways of getting around than the city bus.

But I'd be lying if I said it was the only thing on my mind, and it wasn't just thinking about Kaylee either.

Everything they'd said about this 'Humanity First Militia' wigged me out. I'd heard about the violence but it was sporadic. If it was getting organized under hate groups...

And it made me think about Dallas Parker, everything he said. If they gave him cause I worried how radical he might get. The dude was a former Army Ranger and knew his shit. I had a sense for killers now and he had that air, of a coolness underlining an ability for extraordinary violence. If a couple of idiots from the Militia crossed him, it might be the last thing they ever do, and the para-folk community didn't need the heat of stacking bodies. We were feared enough as it is.

'We'.

Funny, before the black site I'd never really thought of myself as part of the para-folk community. Maybe the costume helped separate it out. But ever since going to the ground for Thunderchild and Misfit, putting together a team with them and Grit and Pratfall, dropping in on Queen Rat and getting to know more faces, it was harder and harder to think of myself as separate. I was part of it whether I liked it or not.

It was easy to pretend otherwise, but I'm not really human any more. not in the biological sense at least. Or maybe I was, I don't know. I don't know how the science works out. If science was even the way to think about it.

Mangy wrapped her tail around my leg.

"What do you think Mange," I said, kneeling down to stroke her, "Am I still human?"

She purred into the cup of my palm. I guess to a cat a pat was a pat.

I made a mental note to check in with the others when I got a chance. It would be good to see Misfit in person again, and not just a text message. Thunderchild too. Maybe we could have lunch or something, shoot the shit. I liked my other friends, my normal ones, but for some of this they didn't get it, and it wasn't their fault.

The news of militias lynching innocent people followed me through to the next day. It wasn't something I could just forget about, but I did my best to focus on school and basketball practice.

I went one-on-one with Tim on the court, the bigger guy going offence, me forced into defence. It was hard blocking him without my powers to give the little extra spring to my jump, but that was the point. And I found the more I trained my body the better my powers worked anyway, so it was all for good.

Howie handed me a water bottle and I poured it over my head, sweating hard. Energy wasn't 100% back after crawling out my hospital bed.

"Easy there Miller," Mr Nfume said, "You sure you're good to play? You've just got out of hospital."
>>
"I'm fine sir," I said. Howie gave me a big thumb's up as I ran back out to the court. "Thanks Howie."

"Go b-ball star!" he called, hopping and waving for us.

I tried to ignore the cheerleaders stretching nearby. Kaylee stretching out her legs in those long knee high socks. I swallowed, focusing on what was right in front of me. Shooting hoops and not being knocked down by Tim.

"You got a date for the winter ball?" Rufus asked when we finished up.

"No," I said, "You?"

"There's a girl I was thinking about asking," he said, "You know Andi?" I shook my head. "She's aight. She's in Mrs Strahovski's class."

Most of the guys didn't have dates unless they already had girlfriends. Or in Tim's case, a boyfriend. That was news took us back a bit, but also, you know, whatever.

"Any jokes gets my size fifteens in their teeth," he said, giving us all the finger. Hell of a way to come out.

"Save the size fifteens for your boyfriend," Rufus joked. Tim chased him with his shoe while the rest of us laughed, Rufus scampering over benches in playful fear.

I had no time for looking for a date. I had a place to be.

"Catch you guys," I said.

"You good for the game tomorrow?" Mr Nfume asked as I was leaving.

"Should be coach," I said, heading out.

The bus took me up through a winter covered Chicago. Snow fall at night had only half melted by the afternoon, with more tonight and more tomorrow and maybe, maybe a snow day next week. We hadn't had many snow days this year.

Okay. I got out near James Green's school.

Now here was the hard part. Not just finding him, but telling him why I was there.

'Your grandpa wants you to learn magic' wasn't exactly a statement easy to believe.

School was out too, maybe he'd already gone home. I checked the picture on my phone for the students heading out the gate. All of them had the kind of private academy look made my school seem run down. Good thing was most were white or Asian with only a few brown faces, so James Green should stand out.

But I could be waiting a while.

>wait outside, got to figure out just what I'd tell him
>head into the school, maybe he was in the science room or something
>>
>>4850846
>wait outside, got to figure out just what I'd tell him
>>
>>4850815
selective bias

now if Dougie Hicks had broke the story instead of the Chicago Tribune, they'd be more willing to believe it
>>
>>4850846
>>wait outside, got to figure out just what I'd tell him
>>
>>4850846
>wait outside, got to figure out just what I'd tell him
>>
>>4850846
>wait outside, got to figure out just what I'd tell him
If we go in we could miss him entirely
>>
Gonna be hard to explain how and why we found him without seeming weird, there's not really any way around it though. Maybe leave out the magic stuff for now. Hopefully we don't look too sketchy with our long ass hair and white trash vibe.

Sidenote I think we should try to go to the dance, I don't think Eric should miss out on stuff like that if he can avoid it. Keep him grounded in reality and acting as Eric instead of letting Hotspur completely take over.
>>
>>4850945
Nah we go hard as Hotspur, neglecting friends and family. Allowing our relationships to whither and crumble, only for one of our love interests (preferably Misfit) to drag us back towards the light.

Or somthing idk

As long as we end up with Misfit I'll be totally fine with just about anything
>>
>>4850853
>>4850877
>>4850885
>>4850942
locked in
>>
>>4850992
Okay hot take time. I like Ivy most but if she's going for Dane I think Ayesha is actually best girl for Eric. I think it's been a good platonic friendship but it would be just as good with romance. She sort of seemed to hint towards wanting that when we were both at the clinic. Just throwing that out there. But yeah maybe we could take Misfit to the dance if she wont be immediately recognized by everyone as Misfit.
>>
I hung out the front gate. A school cop came out to keep an eye on me, uniformed officer with a gun at his side. I wonder how bad you had to be as a cop to get school duty, 'protecting' it from phantom school shooters that never showed up, talking kids through live shooter drills. I'd done my share of hiding behind a desk in the dark preparing for something that never happened.

Not that it was impossible. My cousin Jude's school had gone into lockdown after a senior came to school with a rifle. Luckily no one had been hurt, he'd just shot out a couple of windows before eating his own gun. Still, scary.

The cop glared at me over the heads of the academy students. I pulled out my phone, pretending to play a game.

It was about then I saw James Green step out carrying a glass box with a diorama inside. Carrying it awkwardly while chatting to a short girl with short black hair. James was taller than I'd expected, 6'2 maybe, and kind of on the pudgy side. He had a sharp fade into a loose flat top, wearing old Jordans about ten years out of date and general not quite as crisp as everyone else with hand-me-down clothing.

Guess the Greens weren't rolling in royalty checks from grandpa's stories.

"See you later Jimmy," the girl said with a sweet, big cheek smile.

"Yeah, see you Ashe," he said, "Uh, I'll get those notes to you...tomorrow?"

"Or tonight, you know, if you're free," she said, playing it cool while screaming an obvious interest. Jimmy laughed like he didn't get it. Smiling just as big.

He got about a step by me when I said, "Yo."

"Excuse me?" he turned back. The diorama was the planet earth but the coast lines were all wrong. Or at least way further inland than they were now. He looked at me like I was a stray dog. A stray dog he was worried might tear apart his toy poodle.

I smiled but it was more just baring my teeth. I'm not great at this, not without a mask.

"James Green?" I said, "Your dad's John-Paul Green?"

"Do I know you?" he said.

"No," I said, "I know your grandpa."

"Um," he looked over to the school cop.

"He lives in my building," I said, "Robert Green, he's your grandpa right? Fantasy writer from way back when?"

"What about him?" he said, "Look, I don't know why you're here or how you found me, but my Dad has a restraining order out on the old man. He's not supposed to contact us."

I didn't know any of that. I would have liked to though.

"He just wants to talk," I said.

"About what?"

"I don't know, he's an old man. I don't think he's all there any more. He's blind, stuck in a wheel chair," I said, "It couldn't hurt to go see him."

"It could hurt," he said, "It could hurt a lot. I'm sorry, did I get your name?"

"No, its Eric," I said.

"It sounds like you're trying to do a blind old man a favor, Eric, but you don't know my grandpa," he said, "Sorry but I'm not interested."

>Fair enough, I can't force you
>Come on, just hear him out
>I don't think what you want really matters here
>>
>>4851073
>Come on, just hear him out
I made the man a promise and he made it sound extremely important. You say I don't know your grandpa, but do you even know him?
>>
>>4851073
>Come on, just hear him out
He's one step away from being bedridden, and words only hurt as much as you let them. How else would he hurt you?

>>4851030
Ayesha fine but mundane. I guess Sullivan rubbed off on me, but I rather have a girl that can go on missions and fight alongside us. Instead of one who's "normal" life is in constant danger just by association.
>>
>>4851073
>Come on, just hear him out
Do I look like I'm in my comfort zone here? I came all this way for the old man. Least you could do is get out of your comfort zone too.
>>
>>4851073
>Fair enough, I can't force you
>>
>>4851148
>>4851139
>>4851102
locked in
>>
"Would it kill you to hear him out?" I said, "He's a blind old man in a wheel chair, how much could it hurt?"

"I guess he didn't tell you about the time he tried to drown me when I was four," he said.

No, I guess he left that part out.

"I don't know about all that, but I know a lonely old man when I see one," I said, "I came all the way out here for the old man," I said, "Do I look like I'm comfortable out here in the cold, surrounded by preppy assholes? Do me a solid and step out of your comfort zone too."

"With respect man, I didn't ask you to do none of that," he said. James was getting agitated, to be honest I kind of was too.

The school cop stepped over. "Problem here kids?" he said.

See I'd get it if he was just eyeballing me, but Jimmy was getting it too.

"All good officer," he said, stepping back.

"No problems here," I said.

"Maybe move your conversation along then," he said.

"Okay, okay," Jimmy said. We both walked on. "Asshole," he muttered under his breath. "You know I go here right?" he mouthed off over his shoulder, temper getting the better of him. Turning back to look though was just distraction enough he tripped over his own feet, dropped the glass box and landed full on it, crushing the planet under his chest, glass crunching under his weight. "Shit!" he said, scrambling up, hands cut up by the glass, pieces glittering on his sweater. He pulled out a tissue and wiped himself off.

"Shit, Ashe is going to kill me," he said, looking at the papier-mache Earth turned into a crumpled dish bowl.

"That was a to-scale model of Earth in 2100 following worst case scenario pathways," he said. He kicked the doomed planet. "She spent all week painting it." He hissed at his bloody hands.

Then looked at me like it was my fault.

"This is your fault," he said.

"Whatever man," I said.

"Not 'whatever'," he said, starting to get in my face, getting mad, finger coming for my chest, "I need to keep my grades up for this scholarship. If you-"

"Take two steps back," I said.

Something in my stare had him take three. I'm not a guy who loses his cool easy, but I wasn't in a good mood.

"Sorry about your project," I said, "But I gave the old man my word."

"Your word, what are you King Arthur?" he said.

I didn't see what was funny about it.

"Yo home-boy, something going down?" a new voice, an obnoxious voice, and a guy with coifed blond hair and a linebacker frame came around the corner with a couple of flunkies and a couple of cheerleaders. I raised an eyebrow at the walking cliche. "Looks like you got caught trippin'."

"Hey Blair," Jimmy couldn't look him in the eyes, and wilted at the giggle from the girls.

"What's good?" Blair said, looking to me, "This guy bothering you? Hey, if he's bothering you just say and we'll clear him out."

"Ha ha, nah, its cool," Jimmy said, looking for an escape.

"Are you bothering my home-boy?" Blair said to me. I wasn't getting this faux-friendly kind of racist thing. I didn't get what he was doing.
>>
He did look ready to throw hands though.

"Jimmy-Jam here's helping me graduate," he said, "My own personal tutor, that means he gets my protection. So skuttle back down to whatever white trash trailer park you crawled out of."

Then he pushed me hard.

"Or I'll make you."

Oh boy. My fist tightened.

"Come on Blair, it's nothing serious," Jimmy said, "You don't got to do anything."

"But I want to," he said, "Man I'm just itching. I haven't cut a knuckle in weeks. So it's either this kid or it's you. I thought you were tired of being a punching bag." Jimmy wasn't rushing to volunteer.

I could walk right through this dumbass. Where the hell was the cop now?

>walk away, this guy wasn't worth it
>you know, maybe indulge the idiot
>>
back tomorrow
>>
>>4851030
Ayesha is a platonic friend who is basically like family to us and I will fight to the ends of the earth for this!

But we might have a drunken one night stand in college that we both regret and makes things awkward between us for a week before we decide never to speak of it again and remain great friends
>>
>>4851247
>Write in

Stand there and take/dodge whatever he's got while completely ignoring him and apolizing to Jimmy for this mess, but still ask him if he could do you a favor and you'd help him on fixing his globe thing.


This guy is a pompous asshole but is still just some preppy prick, not a criminal, it's not good for a superhero to respond with violence towards normal kids just because they kinda piss us off.

Infact because of our power we are technically a lethal weapon and should never use our power on normie noncriminals if we can avoid it
>>
>>4851247
>walk away, this guy wasn't worth it
Give James his grandfather's address in case he changes his mind, though.
>>
>>4851247
this>>4851293
>Stand there and take/dodge whatever he's got while completely ignoring him and apolizing to Jimmy for this mess, but still ask him if he could do you a favor and you'd help him on fixing his globe thing.
>>
>>4851247
>you know, maybe indulge the idiot
But since the major concern here is using our powers, just beat his ass normally
>>
>>4851247
>you know, maybe indulge the idiot
>>
>>4851247
Second this>>4851355
The guy is already iffy on us. It will be harder to convince him to see his gramps if we make this dumbass eat his teeth.
>>
>>4851447
Or we could make him look like an idiot after make him trip on his own feet trying to hit Eric.
>>
>>4851247
>call for the cop
>>
>>4851762
I'm not very confident that the cop would take our side anon
>>
>>4851762
Call the cop of a rich school, the way we look, to a bully stereotype? Good joke.
>>
>>4851293
pretty sure this write in wins
>>
Blair swung for my face. I didn't waste time using my power. I dipped out of the way, keeping my focus on Jimmy Green.

"Look Jimmy," I said, "I'm sorry about your globe thing." Blair went for the body. I stepped around. "If you want I can help you put it back together." Another swipe for the head I leaned out of. He tried to follow it up with a straight jab to my face. This time I stepped around him. "I can even talk to your girl for you, straighten it all out."

Blair was getting frustrated and his friends were getting confused.

"Quit ducking, asshole," Blair said, charging with a tackle.

I stepped out of the way. He stumbled over the broken glass.

"I'd owe you a big one if you talk to the old man," I said.

I knew the punch was coming for the back of my head. I dipped forward, letting it swish over my head.

"You're crazy," James said, stunned.

"Maybe a bit."

I turned around as the next punch came swinging for my head, grabbed Blair by the wrist.

"Would you cut it out?" I said, "I'm trying to have a conversation here."

Blair choked on anger and humiliation. I let him go, then sprung back, avoiding his backhand.

"So what do you say?" I said over my shoulder to Jimmy, "It's fine to say no."

Jimmy didn't know what to make of what he'd seen. None of them did.

"Fine," he choked, "I'll drive."

A grin split my face.

"Great!" I gave him a thumbs up.

Then stepped aside to let Blair crash into the ground, trying to tackle me again. The cheerleaders giggled. When I looked one of them waved to me with a teasing shyness.

I adjusted my hoodie, giving her a nod.

"Well, let's go," I said, stepping over the bully, following Jimmy to his beat up old subaru.
>>
>>4852317
Perfect.
>>
Jimmy grew more and more nervous the closer we got to my neighborhood. I don't think it was just because it was a sketchy part of town. He'd said Grandpa Green had tried to drown him when he was a toddler. That's a hard thing to carry. He put on some music to take his mind of things and cut out any conversation. Funkadelic, I think.

'I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe, I was not offended'

I watched life crawl by outside the window. Say Hector dive for food in an alley dumpster, looking for food between a fix, rugged up in rags against the cold. Watched a couple bangers holding a corner, their own breath a mist as they stood their post, wanting to be in doors but needing to make a show of things. It made me think of the Haitian, swallowing corner after corner, putting together a crack pipe empire out of all the black street gangs of the South Side.

Which put me in mind of the other killers out there. The Outfit, the Cartel, the Russians, and everyone else. I'd given them some slack after New Years. Maybe it was time to tighten up on them again.

We pulled down my street. I checked Jimmy. His knuckles were tight on the steering wheel, breathing hard through his mouth.

"If Mom and Dad knew I was here..." he finally said. But that's all he said, not inviting a question or offering more. He sniffed on blocked nostrils.

He parked out the front of my building. Pulled out a puffer and took a belt. Asthma, okay.

Mr Green had said something about 'imperfect courage' destroying a man. Jimmy was far from the image of bravery.

"It'll be cool," I said, trying to pump up some encouragement. But I was a stranger, one he didn't particularly like. My words were flat. He listened to the end of the song, psychedelic guitars fading out.

"Let's get this done," he sighed, stepping out.
>>
The door had been left unlocked. We let ourselves in.

Mr Green's apartment was boiling hot, dust motes dancing so thick they almost set off Jimmy's asthma again. He took a hard puff. I don't think it was just the dust making him choke though. Clocks ticked all around us, a crisp little beat to the second. Shafts of light spilled around the iron bars on the window, cutting a golden path across the floor boards.

He sat far in the back, in the dark. Mr Green, wrapped in a knitted blanket, face more a fleshy skull as he stared through milky white eyes.

"Whose that?" he asked, "You the nurse?"

Jimmy swallowed, sweat crawling down his neck.

"It's Eric, from downstairs," I said, "You remember?"

"Eric," he said, head bobbing, "From downstairs. The boy with the cat and the bonfire soul."

"I found your grandson, uh," I looked to Jimmy, offering him to continue.

"Hey gramps," Jimmy said with a cough, "You wanted to see me?"

Mr Green closed his eyes, shivering despite the heat. "Is it dark outside?" he asked.

Jimmy checked. "Sun's still up," he said.

Mr Green covered his mouth with a shaking hand. "Oh God, its all so late," he said, "Maybe too late."

Jimmy frowned. "Well I'm here now," he said, "Say what you want to say, I've got a science project needs doing."

"The sun is setting," Mr Green said, "Night is coming on, and soon we'll all stand on the threshold. It stands waiting there."

"Like I said, crazy," Jimmy muttered out of the corner of his mouth.

"Our line is the Red!" Mr Green's voice rose to a raspy yell, "The Company tried to wipe us out, but we endured! Slavery, rape, all the pain of a thousand chains! But we're still here!"

"The Crystal of Mumira, yeah, I've read it," Jimmy said, "This is from his books. He's confused."

"Listen boy, listen," he said, "I wove the truth in fiction. Truth is not believed, truth is mocked, people don't want to see. But fiction can open the eye of the mind. Fiction can reveal the right hand path. All the world now walks to the left, a pathway leading down. The Company set the path and now we're all on it. Down into destruction. Down to the Dweller!"

Mr Green gripped the arms of his wheel chair, rocking back and forth. "Brother Ishmael showed me the way. I tried...tried to show your Uncle James but they came. They found him in imperfect courage and took him through the door. He became their puppet and killed his mother. I had to...fire is the way. Fire and water I-"

"You tried to drown me you psycho!" Jimmy snapped, "What are you telling me...you killed Uncle James too?"

"No I..." the old man blinked blind eyes, "No, with you. You were small. They come to children, when they're most vulnerable. You told me you, you'd seen the Tall Stranger, and he offered you his hand. He said 'come and play'. That's when I knew, knew you were the Red, and you needed to be protected. He would have mae you what he made of your uncle, my son, and I...Water, water is mother and I..."
>>
"Crazy!" Jimmy was spitting, "You tried to drown me because you think your stupid pulp stories are real, to protect me from what, my imaginary friend?"

Tears crawled down from Mr Green's blind eyes.

"I wish you could see," he said, "The world needs you Jimmy. Something is waking, something in the dark between. Soon they'll knock on the door, and someone will let them in."

A chill ran up my spine. I couldn't feel the heat. Something in what he said rang true.

"They did it before," he said, "It cost us so much to set the Dweller back to sleep. More than you know."

"Please believe me," Mr Green said, rocking in his chair, making a sound like a whipped hound, "It's happening again."

"It's too hot in here," Jimmy said, starting for the door.

"You have to lock the door, Jimmy," he said, "The world needs a Red Wizard, one who can stand, one who an see! It's happening again!"

"Wizards," Jimmy scoffed, "Magic, demons. Bullshit. I've got a science project due."

He was ready to leave.

>I believe your grandpa
>let the kid go
>>
>>4852386
>I believe your grandpa
>>
>>4852386
>I believe your grandpa
I've seen it. Something dark choking out the city and everyone in it.

Maybe we should check out those novels...
>>
>>4852386
>I believe your grandpa
>>
>>4852386
>>4852395
Second this guys bonus>>4852399
>>
>>4852386
>I believe your grandpa
>>
>>4852386
>I believe your grandpa

Company is Ixion I guess
silly corps and their demon summoning
>>
no surprises there, locked in
>>
>>4851355
Support
>>
>>4852555
Too late!
>>
"I believe your grandpa," I said, blocking the door. "I've seen it. Something dark choking out the city, and everyone in it."

"What are you, his apprentice?" Jimmy said.

"It it really so crazy?" I said, "Crazier than shark men in Lake Michigan and people leaping off roof tops?"

"That's different," Jimmy said, "The para-freak stuff, there's science behind it. We might not understand the science yet but its explanable, its materially real. This is all mad ramblings and fever dreams, spun out by a crazy old man."

"Arta," the old man croaked, "Asha khvarenah hawan."

"Now he's just babbling," Jimmy sniffed, but I kept blocking his way.

Shaking hard, Mr Green pushed himself up from the chair on fragile hands, blanket spilling down from his knees.

"Vata asman zam!"

The stifling, choking heat plunged away. The golden light cutting through the window turned a cool silver. Sweat died on my brow. The swirling dust motes fell. The old man shook, held up by his hands.

"Atar apo hvar mah!"

A wick of fire light in my chest, responding to the words. I frowned. It was like the Stone in a way, calling me out. But weaker, much, much weaker.

The old man collapsed back into his chair, wheezing hard, chest rattling.

Heat came flooding back into the room. His head lolled back, open mouthed panting like a dog run too hard.

"The words," he wheezed, "When I had more to give, I didn't need words. When my mind was fresh."

I looked to Jimmy and Jimmy looked alarmed, caught by his own shock more than me blocking the way.

"If you needed to see to believe, now you saw," the old man croaked. "Brother Ishmael, was I this stubborn?"

"Grandpa," Jimmy said, "Pops, you okay?"

Blood trickled down from Mr Green's tongue. There was a black mark there, which he showed by extending his tongue out. A black rune, pointing arrows, stamped on his tongue. Bleeding in the dark grooves turning it red and wet.

"Weaving from the body, without a focus, takes its toll," he said, "And I'm not a young man anymore."

Jimmy stepped closer, concerned for the old man. I don't know if he believed, but his skepticism had been shaken, and there was some deep part of him that might still care about the old man.

"Beware the Tall Stranger," he said, "It will come for you. They reach out over the threshold, in the soft places. They have champions here, they always do. The greedy, the selfish, the pleasing liars. Those who prize comfort over truth and...and...wealth over...over faith."
>>
"Tired," he said, "Tired. So much to teach but I'm tired. Meant to teach you younger, but your parents didn't trust...." his head rolled forward, his breathing labored.

"Pops?" Jimmy said, shaking his shoulder.

The old man smiled. "Not dying," he said, "Tired is all. Teach you yet. So much to teach, Red Wizard. Teach you creation's song."

"Be careful at night," he said, "Night is...the time of demons..." then a snored rolled from his great flaring nostrils, the bloody drool running down to stain his chest.

Jimmy didn't look good. He looked confused and more than a little scared.

"The Tall Man," he said, "I haven't thought about him since...just an imaginary friend, right?" He looked to me. "You had imaginary friends, right?"

I shrugged. "Nah, not really."

Jimmy reached forward a hand. "He...in the backyard he showed up one day. Under a sycamore tree by the swing. He stood there, sang to me and said...'come and play'. He reached out a hand, and I took his hand, and he...he whispered songs to me, then I san them too...then I was drowning, and all I could see was grandpa's hands holding me under the water."

"I don't know what any of this means," he said, "This is all bullshit, right? I'm just going crazy. Crazy runs in families. I've always been a little crazy."

"Yeah," I said, "I know exactly what you mean."

Hard to feel sane when you'd done what I'd done and seen what I'd seen.

He went to the door. Fought with the door knob until he got it open and stumbled out into the cold. I followed behind, looking back to the bleeding old man snoring in his chair.

Crazy is a good start.

I followed Jimmy down to find him panting in the gutter, wrestling with his coat to get at his puffer while wheezing bad.

"Easy," I said, "Easy."

I grabbed his shoulder as he pulled a deep puff, wheeze easing.

Night was falling.

"Who the hell are you?" he said, "Showing up at my school, pulling me down here to talk to a crazy old man. No way are you some nobody."

I squirmed.

>I'm just trying to help out the old man
>straight talk? They call me 'Hotspur'
>>
>>4852581
>straight talk? They call me 'Hotspur'
This is important shit if the magic was similar to the stones effect. We gotta go all in with this, especially now that we lost the stone.
>>
>>4852581
>straight talk? They call me 'Hotspur'
>"Welcome to the crazy club buddy, Shark may actually just be some shark hit by the Meteor fragments, I go rescue people every day and got a illicit medical record a mile long, and Semper Fi is a batshit crazy murder skank in hi heels that fucks the head of the DPA in his office, and Agent Penderson watches hentai. Ask me how I know. I dare you."
>>
>>4852581
>I'm just trying to help out the old man
>>
>>4852581
>whoever said i was a nobody?

also give him our number just in case
>>
>>4852581
>I'm just trying to help out the old man

The list can't keep growing, we can insinuate the we are relationated to this kinda stuff without showing our Super life, tell him is for him own good and that he can contact us if any troubles
>>
>>4852581
>I'm just trying to help out the old man
>>
>>4852581
I'm part of the next generation fighting your grandpa's fight. Just like you. And I'm gonna finish it.
>>
>>4852581
>>I'm just trying to help out the old man
Honestly, that and this are completely unrelated. Eric got us involved in this, not Hotspur.
>>
>>4852615
>>4852629
>>4852603
>>4852598
locked in
>>
Ok, but we did promise to help him with his girl and diorama, so either we go with him, or we follow him on the rooftop beach after that conversation and with it becoming night right now, I think that magic might have just returned to the world, and it's focused on Jimmy
>>
>>4852689
That would be wild af
>>
File: 2ncrmb.jpg (70 KB, 817x539)
70 KB
70 KB .jpg
Bullpen, reading yet another fan theory
>>
"I'm just trying to help out the old man," I said.

There was no need to drag Hotspur into this.

Jimmy didn't seem convinced. He fished out his car keys.

"Whatever, man," he said, "Look, I need a couple days to get my head straight. This is all some whatever. Don't worry about the diorama or talking to Ashe, you don't owe me anything."

"You coming back?" I said.

He stared at the gutter. "Maybe," he said.

"Take my number," I said, "The old man's looking kind of weak. If he goes south I'll call you."

"Aight," he said, giving me his own. Then, "You know, you're taking this awful calm. Like you haven't flinched once. Bleeding tongues and strange goings on, you didn't even blink."

I shrugged. "I'm a calm kind of guy," I said.

He looked up to the top floor of the building. The sun was getting low, the sky looking bloody.

"Keep an eye on him," he said, "He might be crazy, but he's still my grandpa."

"Will do," I said.

He got into the car as the shadows began to lengthen around us, deepen. Night came on with a cold rush threatening snow. Night was a time of devils. I shivered more at those words than the temperature.

My life was tough enough without adding magic to the mix.

Jimmy drove off and I was left to climb back up to home. I stopped at voices behind the door.

"-doing this to yourself," muffled but it was clear, Miss Flores. "Eric's missed so much school and his grades-"

"It's not your problem," he said.

"Eric is my student, and if his home life is getting in the way-"

"It's not your problem, Carmen. Eric, or me. Yeah, I had a relapse over new years, but I'm sober now, and Eric..."

"He's one of my kids," she said, "You don't get to tell me what-"

"But he's not your kid," he snapped, "He's my kid. He's a good kid, and I know, all right? I know I'm not doing good by him. You don't have to come over to tell-"

"I'm worried about you both," she said, "Okay? Yeah, fine, I'll admit it. I'm worried about you too. Maybe you need to hear it, huh, that someone cares about you?"

"You're not my wife," he yelled, voice cutting through the door.

"But I am in love with you, you drunk middle aged asshole!" she yelled back. I'd never heard Miss Flores yell before, not like that. Not with that kind of anger and pain. And the sobbing came after, barely held in.

"You should...leave..." Dad said.

"Fuck you," she said. I'd never heard her swear like that either.

"You should leave," he said.

"I don't want to," she said.

"I asked you to move in over Christmas, you said you didn't want to."

"And now I do," she said, "So stop trying to shut me out."

"So if you tell me to leave one more time I'll believe you, and I'll go, and you'll never see me outside the school again. Because I won't force you, I won't play with you. I'm not the kind of woman plays those games. So tell me what you want. You want me to stay, or you want me to go."
>>
"I..." he said, "I need to talk to Eric. About this. You moving in."

"You mean you hadn't already?" she said, "Wow Joe, really thinking ahead."

It was then I came in. Caught them in the kitchen. Dad by the sink, Carmen near the door. Her eyes were red from crying. She dabbed them, tried to hide she'd been crying.

"Eric," she said, forcing a smile,

"You hear all that?" Dad asked.

"Some of it," I said.

"So, what do you think?" he said. Carmen gave him a look like 'you're asking now?' while his frown deepened.

But it had less to do with her than she thought. Dad knew who I was now. He hadn't known last time he'd asked Carmen to move in. It changed things.

>its fine by me
>I'm not cool with it
>can I think about it?
>>
>>4852689
>think that magic might have just returned to the world
the magic never went away, just the magicians
>>
>>4852741
>its fine by me
Dad needs her. We sure as shit aren't here for him right now
>>
>>4852741
>its fine by me

dad needs this. we've kept it hidden well enough that he didn't know until we told him, we should be able to keep it from the Florinator.
>>
>>4852741
>its fine by me

Just don't go into my room, it's my one condition.

We can't have her snooping around our Hotspur activities or finding out that we basically sneak out for heroics every night
>>
>>4852741
>its fine by me
More than fine, may I add dad
>>
>>4852741
>its fine by me
>>
locked in
>>
Having her move in...and Miss Flores wasn't just a woman, she was my teacher. Having around the house could get uncomfortable.

But I could tell Dad needed it. Maybe some people weren't built to be alone. And Dad, Dad was really alone right now.

So I said, "It's fine by me," with a smile.

Dad's grin spread out on his face. Miss Flores looked almost like she couldn't breathe. Then when he turned and grabbed, her spinning her into a hug it was just all laughter between them, anger gone.

"Is this weekend too soon?" she said.

"You can move in tonight if you want!" he said.

I didn't look when they kissed, but I heard it. Blushing hard I hustled into my room.

This was going to change things, I only hoped it would be a good change.

Mangy raised her head from my pillow with a trilling meow.

"Hear that, you're getting another lap to sit on," I said, giving her a scratch.

I yawned. It was still early but it had been a long day. A lot to process.

Stories about demons and magic, the occult. I was just a crime fighter. Maybe I should give some of Mr Green's old books a read, see what was in them. 'Weaving the truth in fiction' or whatever he said. It was no crazier than anything else I'd been through since moving to Chicago.

Exploding stars, super powers, government conspiracies. My life was a long way from normal, and there was no going back to how things were.

I set my head on my pillow and the cat curled up by my side, stretching out.

And if I'd learned one thing after everything, my life could be a lot worse.
>>
Dark.

My eyes opened.

Night,

Fallen asleep.

Bedroom not quite there.

Corners deep.

Tried to sit up.

Couldn't.

Something there.

Tried to speak.

Couldn't.

Something in the dark.

Tall.

Crooked.

Nothing.

But something in the nothing.

Smile, white smile.

Smile like a friend.

Square teeth. Gray tongue.

Fear. Drum. Heart a drum.

Pounding. Pounding.

Can't move.

Fire.

Fire won't come.

Terror.

A hand. On my chest.

Weight pressing down.

Drum louder. Drum filling the room.

White smile, gray tongue, getting closer.

A voice.

-Don't move-

A whimper.

Me.
>>
It savors the whimper.

The terror.

The nothing leaned close to listen.

To taste.

Banging.

Upstairs.

Shouting but

So far away.

Couldn't hear.

-arta-asha-atar-druj-

Help.

Can't move.

Whimpering.

Teeth wet.

Shouting.

Fading.

Silence.

-don't breathe-

Gray tongue reaching.

Try to breathe.

Can't breathe.

Choking.

Then.

Light.

Bright white, glowing.

The nothing turned.

Hissing.

Cat. Bright white. In the door.

Ears flat, snarling.

Advancing.
>>
The nothing.

Retreating.

-leave-

Claws drawn.

-run!-

Fleeing.

White cat chasing.

Stopping at my bed.

Terror easing.

Cat leaps up.

Paw on my chest.

Breathing.

Hand.

Fingers.

Not a cat.

On my chest.

I'm asleep. Not asleep.

Caught between. Brain lets you see.

Dangerous place to be.

Sleep.

Yeah.

Sleep.
>>
Jesus Christ the tall man is scary as fuck.

Hey Bullpen you're going in a cool and creative direction with the origin of powers and the overall setting behind the scenes. I'm excited to learn more. Kudos.
>>
>>4852893
Yeah it's cool as fuck but I do hope that magic and the power we got aren't completely connected, more like side by side things

Basically I hope magic stays it's own thing and the power it's own thing with the overlap being that assholes like ixion are trying to hoard it
>>
I woke up shivering. Shivering but my blankets were coated with sweat.

The window was open.

Mangy lay curled beside me, purring hard, staring at the window. Daylight was starting to come in.

I'd had a dream but the dream was starting to go, leaving vague memories. A tall crooked shape in the room, holding me down, whispering in my ear. Something shouting in the other room.

I moved stiff limbs and slammed the window down. Shivered, feeling hollowed out. Rubbing my hands together I spread my power inside me, trying to get warm. It came weak at first, but then stronger, until it roared and my body relaxed.

The cat stared at me all innocent, like it didn't know anything about nightmares. The cat was a cat.

I scratched her ear, then went for a shower.

Still kind of brain numb.

So I didn't notice anything was wrong until I stepped into the steam and heard the shocked gasp.

Miss Flores moved quick to cover herself but all she had was her arms and the detachable shower head. I spun away from the sight of her wet body fast as I could, burning red.

I hadn't known she'd stayed the night.

"S-sorry," I stammered, ducking out of the bathroom, door closed sharp behind me. I pressed my back to it, swallowing. A gif of those two seconds played on loop in my head. "Sorry!" I called through the door.

"It's...okay!" she called back. The pipes groaned as the shower cut off. When the door opened she was wearing a bathroom, hair wrapped up in a towel, blushing her ownself. "Shower's free now," she said, slipping her way back to Dad's room.

Her room.

I'd...yeah. I'd have to get used to that.

Showering off the gif kept playing in my head so I took care of business, sighing into the hot water.

Goddamn it. Don't be a creep.

I got changed. Friday meant the weekend tomorrow. Which meant the winter ball.

But also it meant basketball tonight.

Breakfast was awkward but Miss Flores didn't mention the run in when Dad made waffles. She just didn't look me in the eye. I couldn't look her in the eye either.

not when the collar of her shirt dropped kind of...kind of low.

"Ready for the game tonight?" Dad asked.

"Huh?" I said, snapping my eyes away from where they'd been staring.

"Basketball," he said, "You ready?"

"Yeah," I said, "I guess."

"We'll be cheering you on," Miss Flores said. I should think about calling her Carmen.

Dad drank black coffee, smiling at his girl. She smiled back. It was the happiest I'd seen him all year.

"I can give you a ride to school," Miss Flores said, "If that isn't embarassing for you."

Uh.

>it's cool, I can get myself there
>sure, sounds good
>>
>>4852898
>bathroom
bathrobe

I'm going to stop here. Getting tired.

I'll be back next week.
>>
>>4852898
>it's cool, I can get myself there
Damn Eric needs a gf
>>
>>4852898
>it's cool, I can get myself there

After that we should stay away from her for a bit, she's not our new mom just our dads girl
>>
>>4852898
>>sure, sounds good
>>
>>4852898
>it's cool, I can get myself there
>>
>>4852900
Damn, good weekend though.
>>
>>4852898
>sure, sounds good
Let's try to socialize at bit, we gonna see her a lot more so may as well (if we can control our hormones)
>>
>>4852898
>sure, sounds good
We need to tell her since dad knows, she'll find out pretty soon.
>>
Why do people insist on revealing our identity to everyone and their mother?

Too many people already know, including enemies and spiteful exes!
>>
>>4852898
>it's cool, I can get myself there
>>
>>4853390
Because you dumbass, she's dating our dad and moving in, you think we can hide it from her? Penderson already knows, Houndmaster already targets our friends. Ivy knew and so did Luis, so who else besides Pendy, whom has no evidence, and Kay, is a problem? What possible reason would Ms Flores have to out us or be in any less danger by knowing?
>>