By snail mail arrives a note from Freya with the simple message "what the christ?", attatched to this article from the latest Paragon Unmasked:
FLETCHED ALLIANCE IN HOSTEL HORROR
Late last week, a totally defenseless hostel was blown to smithereens by a crew of bombers. Evidence was found at the scene, an "Explode-o-gram" packet- the company infamous for its "novelty" explosives and co- led by Fletched Alliance higher-up Kathryn Walker, Whom we covered in an earlier issue, see "CATGIRL CAPERS"- proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the perpetrators were, infact, operatives from the Fletched Alliance. Possibly hundreds of people killed! We can only ask on behalf of the city, WHY? We have reported on this group of so-called heroes before, receiving especially unfair treatment from a thuggish individual calling himself Ve- <The page is torn off from this point>
Notes: The hostel was not blown to smithereens, a relatively small section of the place was damaged.
Samantha Huntington strolled along the street, whistling tunelessly to herself, her black Psinet outfit subliminally causing people to give her a wide berth - after all, who wants to be near someone who can read your thoughts? - and making it very easy easy for her to move through the bustle of Wednesday morning Paragon City. Across the road, a dumpster-truck edged along the street, the refuse disposal engineers moving with well-practiced efficiency. She smiled to herself. 'Come on girl', she muttered, 'they're bin-men. You're getting way too PC these days.'
Turning the corner to the approach to the base, she was surprised to see a cordon of police officers around the front door. A large blue armoured truck was half on the sidewalk - 'pavement, don't get too American' - the letter P.C.P.D.B.D.U. on the side in large white letters. The flow of pedestrians slowed to a crawl around the cordon, and she had some difficulty getting closer.
"Excuse me, coming through, excuse me, get out of my way, please, oi!, kindly don't pinch my bottom, or at least give me your number first. Excuse me, please move out of the way..."
She was getting nowhere fast, so decided to go for the less subtle option. A brief mental caress of every non-policeperson in the area let them all think they had just caught a glimpse of a sack of money in a bin that was being taken toward the garbage truck. The pavement cleared faster than the blink of an eye.
Smiling to herself, Sam moved up to the police-tape, where she flashed her hero ID at the nearest officer. "Fletched Alliance member, let me through, please."
Ducking under the tape, she strode up to the detective who was talking earnestly with an underling.
"... And make sure any of the jokers that works here sees me straight away, alright?" the uniformed officer nodded assent, and moved off.
The grizzled detective turned, lost in thought, and almost stepped right into Sam.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded, blinking as he noticed that the crowd of people had moved off.
"Samantha Huntington, Fletched Alliance. Registered Hero," again she flashed her badge, "Luminescence." She relaxed her control for a moment, and a glow surrounded her, almost too faint to see in the brilliant sunshine, but visible nonetheless.
The policeman scowled, though whether at her allegiance, her hero status or her English accent, she couldn't be certain - receptive telepathy didn't come easily to her, after all.
"Right. So you're the first one here. Fine. Take a look at this." He handed her a sheaf of papers.
Sam took one glance at them, before muttering, "Bloody leet-speakers. Why don't they learn to write plain English?"
The cop's frown deepened. "What are you on about? We think it's in some kind of code. Any idea what it means?"
Sam gave him her patient look. The kind of look his mother obviously gave him when she caught him up past bed-time, for he flinched momentarily.
Sighing she looked at it again, mentally preparing herself for the task. "It's not in code. It's in English. But the letters aren't what you expect them to be. Oh. My. God. KAT! JANE!"
Turning away from the detective she thumbed her comm unit. "This is an emergency call to all Fletched Alliance members. Kat and Jane have been kidnapped. Or Kat-napped and Kheldian-napped. Please all come to the base immediately."
The policeman was standing behind her, dumbstruck. He opened his mouth to speak, but she held up a hand to cut him off. "Please just listen. Two of our members have apparently been kidnapped by Freakshow. They're due to get married soon. We're going to find them. You can either help, or get the hell out of my way." He opened his mouth once more, but again she cut him off, peremptorily. Pulling her phone out of her pocket, she dialed a number.
"Helena. Code One. FA emergency. Wake Richard."
Only after she had returned the phone to her pocket did she turn to the policeman. "Right. Tell me what you've got."
Richard Huntington III lay sprawled on his bed, half-dozing. Last night had been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for him, but he was happy.
His rest was abruptly ended by a shrieking claxon.
"Alert. Alert. Code One. Alert. Alert. Code One." The droning voice repeated the message over and over as he struggled to his feet.
"I'm awake," he muttered, and the siren and voice immediately stopped. A brilliant light flashed around him for a moment, and he was suddenly garbed in his tight-fitting black costume, cape flaring behind him.
"Report alert status. Verbal details."
Seconds later he had hurled himself out of a window, and was flying as fast as he could for the city.
Heard on a phone line: "If you would like to buy some marijuana, press the hash key..."
Kit sat up with a yelp, spraying magazines everywhere. Half a bucket of popcorn went all over the floor, knocking over her book and loosing her place.
She swung out of bed, trapping her tail under one leg as she did so. The pain caused her to hop forward, trip over a stack of books and fall flat on her face in front of the TV. She reached one hand up to fumble the off switch before levering herself upwards.
Kit staggered to the cupboard, all the way swearing to learn enough magic to turn Sam into a small hopping thing. And to find where her comm implants were, then remove them. With a rusty fork if need be.
Oh stop complaining. You weren't going to move for about a month as things were. This'll do you good.
"Oh yes. I'm feeling better already, thank you very much. Who woke you up?"
Kit started dragging her dripping armour out of the tank and fumbling it on, splashing disinfectant everywhere. The smell was overpowering, as usual.
I've been awake for ages. Seeing as you were going to wallow in self pity for the forseeable future with nothing but a TV for company, I thought I'd catch a movie. Incidentally, how long till you were planning to hit the adult channels?
"Will you shut up? There's an emergency on, and I am trying to get ready.."
No you're not. You're trying to fit your left boot on your right foot.
Uttering a few choice words she'd heard from a bunch of Hellions, Kit janked the boot off, and jammed it on her other foot.
Careful there. You've sprayed blood on the wall now.
With the armour jammed into place, she made a fifteen second detour via the shower to wash off the worst of the stench before staggering out of the door. Muttering the activating word for the rune defences on her way out, Kit then staggered down the stairs while trying to get her hair in some sort of order.
Scattering a bunch of panicked trolls before her, Kitmarch headed out of her building and into the city, cursing kidnappers and annoying aliens all the way.
Akkarin lay in wait, in the shelter of a small alcove in the rocks, hidden by it's shadows. He'd spent the last few days tracking common vampires, always getting closer to their den. Now he could smell it, no more than a hundred meters away, all he needed was one of them to give away the entrance.
He clenched and uncleanched his fist, watching as it became something more clawlike. This would be the first time he tested this new power in combat, the nerves were making him twitchy. Shapeshifting was a trademark of his father, Akkarin knew he'd need to match it if he was to defeat him some day.
Suddenly there was the sound of footsteps in the distance, still faint. Dawn was fast approaching and any vampires still out would be making a rush for home. Akkarin continued to wait until he could hear them right outside his hiding place. Suddenly Sam's emergancy broadcast called out over his comm device, completely throwing off his calm and prepared attack. Stumbling out of the rocks he swung his sword on instinct, meeting the first vampires neck with a satisfying crunch. Akkarin's clumsy attack had given the second vampire an oppurtunity to attack, which he now pressed. Akkarin ducked under the lunge and threw a small vial after the vampire, striking it's back and spraying it with holy water. The vampires screams echoed through the night as it writhed on the ground in pain. Akkarin turned away as the sun crested the horizon and made his way towards the city.
Barely taking time to recognise his surroundings he made his way for the base, but it didn't take long to realise something was wrong. Looking around Akkarin quickly realised he'd come to paris several days ago. Swearing and cursing he made his way to the apartment he'd rented to pick up his teleportation stone. He'd lost his chance to remove a den of vampires, but this was far more important.
The soundproofing at the top of the Tower was impeccable, and being hundreds of metres up was distinctly also a cushion. The tower's practically invulnerably strong foundations didn't even mildly shake. Not that any of this, however, stopped the computer console in what had become Alfred's quarters screeching madly at 2am.
Having never heard the alarm before except as a test, it took a moment for the rapidly-waking psychic to realise quite what it was. He sat bolt upright and shifted his legs off of the edge of the bed. Beside him, the warm figure stirred and mumbled something, but Alfred flashed a soft smile at Iris and sent her back to sleep, temporarily, before she would know what had happened. No need to begin stress upon her, after all, he thought.
Alfred got up, pulling on a dressing gown as he went over to the console. Pushing a button to silence the screech, he quickly gave the mental command for the computer to display the source of the alert.
It came up - a security camera and hover-bot feed of the street outside of the Tower's lobby. The damage to the skyscraper was minimal, having burned off the paint, scratched the special glass in the windows and chipped some of the chrome-steel veneer, but the road was not doing so well. Chunks of tarmac and concrete kerb lay strewn about, and the windows of the skyscraper next door were often cracked or broken for a dozen metres up. A bombing, it seemed, and an ineffective one.
Alfred set the systems to automatic, sighing at the rather ill-concieved attack attempt. He turned off the screen and went over to the wardrobe to get dressed, pulling on his 'hero suit'. Finally correctly affixing his tie, he reached over to stroke the woman's hair once and pull the bedcovers up around her. Then, he turned and left the room, shutting the door with a soft click of locking behind him and striding rapidly down the short corridor to the Lower Apartment common room and the lift down.
At this very moment, the computers ought to have notified the emergency services, he thought as the lift went down. Pulling a small, black comb out of his pocket, Alfred combed his hair with the aid of a mirror in the lift and stepped out into the lobby looking as tidy and dapper as ever. The motion sensors flicked the lights on, casting a daylight-ish colour onto the black, patterned marble floor.
Opening the door, he looked around at the small guttering fires and heard the distant sound of incoming sirens. He checked his watch. 2.09am. Not too bad...
Something fluttered down from the door, blown off by the rush of hot air from the detonations. Apparently it had been nailed there, spoiling the elegant wood - a pity, it seemed. Telekinetically, he picked up the fluttering sheet of paper and tried to read it. Some words made sense, others did not. A mental command to his reticule, however, soon provided a somewhat mangled holographic translation.
zomg we have your mogsors and your peacebringers!
we gonna break em and break em and break em some more, hero-babies. an theres nothin you can do about it. phreaks rule!
we gonna tear the lil catgirls tail off and show it to her!
an the lil kheldibaby, well, she'll gurn up reali nice. after we cut her up a littie and spray some red, of course.
see you at the funerals, lil heroes!
Alfred sighed rather deeply, his worry now built up. Freakshow, and they'd got Kat and Jane... at least they'd left the note, which could be analysed. His reticule took a still digital photograph and printed copies of the original message, keeping the other one levitated nearby for forensics purposes. He wrapped the note in a somewhat malleable telekinetic barrier and slipped it into a pocket. The copies would soon be brought down by a Tower drone, ready for the police.
A few minutes later, police arrived, and a sheaf of printed copies was handed to an officer. The original note was rapidly carted off to a forensic lab. And Alfred simply 'hit the streets', seeking the Freakshow responsible.
Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.
Alfred Bester Alfred's Catchphrase, suggested by Kit: "It's the thought that counts."
Freya jumped and bolted upright at Sam's voice blaring over her communicator, charring her bedding and most of the room in the process. This was getting annoying, she was running out of rooms to use in the building. As she heard the message repeated, she grabbed her shades and careened through the nearest window. Time to get to the base.
Landing somewhat un-gracefully on the spine of a Pantheon zombie in a flash of plasma, she darted off to the zone's gate.
Ves and Meph peered silently over the edge of the wall they crouched behind at the Arachnos forces gathering at the dock ready to unload their improved armour and weapons. Night Shifter's tip off had proved to be a good one, and both of them were in the mood for a little exercise.
Ves nudged his partner and held up a hand, lowering his fingers one by one in a countdown from five, and suddenly they lept amongst their enemies, both of them grinning madly and roaring frenzied battle cries.
Suddenly Sam's voice hit their ears, though the only part of her message either of them listened to was
"This is an emergency call to all Fletched Alliance members. Kat and Jane have been kidnapped"
Ves faltered in mid air just long enough for the troopers to fire off a few shots, several of which thudded into him. The sudden pain snapped him back to his senses.
"Meph, we better make this real quick, we're needed back in the city more than we're needed here. My family DO NOT stay kid-napped if I can do anything about it, especially Kat and Jane"
Meph nodded, "We'll just have to fight our way back to Evara, pick up the rest of our gear and head back, right after we finish with these guys" His sword a blur as he lashed out all around him at the troopers as they tried to drag the pair down through over-whelming numbers.
Ves looked around him, many of the enemy had fallen already, the dock was awash with the blood of many, including some of his own and Meph's, though their wounds were healing almost as fast as they were inflicted. He grinned nastily, thankfully they were free from the restraints of the city so the battle would be over soon, then he'd head home and see what could be done to help those he thought of as his sisters
Forensic analysis of the note has revealed that it was handled only by gloves and was written on old, cheap paper, which once had something printed on it. However, the paper has been wet since then and the only letters remaining legible are S . A I L
Kat and Jane's comms were located in Galaxy City immediately before they vanished, but 351 detected some fluctuations in their lifesigns immediately before the units were turned off, seeming to suggest a fight at that point. Jane's comm was later switched back on for a split-second at 1.55am, directly outside the base-5 minutes before the bombs detonated.
Investigations into the Zig's databases by Ultranite ((spelling?)) have revealed that several crates of their power-suppressant drugs were diverted to Independence Port and loaded onto a ship, which was last seen heading out past Talos Island.
Amy Denham's research into the possibilities of the letters printed on the paper was temporarily curtailed by the discovery of a Freak in King's Row, who inadvertently led her to the scene of another bombing-this time of a condemned warehouse in the Row containing several Skulls, most of whom escaped with only minor injuries after being dug out of the wreckage.
The Freak responsible for the hostel bombing, Rox0rF4cE, has been subdued and questioned. He was apparently hired by what he could only describe as a woman's voice-no face was shown. He was offered far more money than usual for a bombing, and told not to ask any questions on pain of death.
Stalking her target. Mary quickly closed in, grabbing the guard and quickly disposing him with a quick and subtle snap of the neck. She had been tracking the cargo van for three days now and it was becoming tiresome, every time she got close to a concrete answer she was blind sighted by a flurry of bullets and punches but not this time. Quietly she ducked and weaved through the mass of boxes that littered the wherehouse, ((is this spelt right?)) Smiling to herself she sniffed the air with gusto "Arh I love the smell of King's Row in the morning." Aproaching up ahead was a guard dressed in the Zig's uniform although things were not all that they seemed, for poking out of what one can only assume used to be an arm was a mass of metal and wires. "What are freakshow dressed like guards for?" she wondered.
Quickly following him, Mary was led into a large complex, the centre of which was flooded by light and in the centre was a Troll tied to a chair. He snarled at his captors as they merely laughed at him. From the shadows came one of the Freak/Gaurds and in his hand he held a syringe filled with a strange blue liquid, He smirked at the troll remarking "Time for your medicine." Mary tried her hardest to stifle a laugh. The Troll snarlled again as the man came closer, one of his counterparts stepped behind the Troll holding his head back with his cybernetically enchanced strenght. Intriqued, Mary watched as the Guard injected the liquid into the troll. She tried not to gasp as the Troll underwent the change, His skin tone faded back to a pale pink, his teath became smaller almost as they had grown back into his skull as did his horns. Hair quickly sprouted atop his head, thick and black. Where once there was a inhuman beast was now nothing more than some seventeen year old punk. He slumped over exhausted from the change. The Freaks laughed manically at him. "Now that its been tested, its time to report back to the boss." The Lead freak commanded, nodding towards the crates in the shadows.
Still hiding in the shadows, Mary saw something from the corner of her eye. A pair of glowing purple Eyes. Smash. Lights out.
She had been thrown across the room, now lying in a tangled mess, knocked clean out.
Her Comm made a static buzzing sound and then finally went offline.
Kat sat in the dingy cell with Jane, unconscious, laying on her lap. She closed her eyes while stroking her love's hair. Their captor clearly wasn't going for comforts. One meal of stale bread and water everyday wasn't exactly good going, and indeed she seemed quite the sadist.
It wasn't Kat's own torture that affected her so much- she'd been tortured before, she could more or less stand it. No, what really hurt was being forced to watch when Jane's turn came around; each scream like a stab through the heart. And there didn't seem to be much hope. No sign of rescue for days now, although faith was kept in their friends, they were obviously working hard... And still, she feared what would come next. They knew who kept them, and she didn't want any sort of reward or ransom- she got them here for revenge, and when they couldn't take anymore, they'd be killed.
((Mkay, this may be touchy, so I've whited it out to protect more sensitive readers. This is more story exposition, really, and reading it isn't absolutely necessary. Just felt like doing a little behind the scenes-type-stuff. Highlight to read.))
A thin smile crosses the lips of the woman in red as she drags Jane back into position, chaining her thoroughly to the wall of the chamber and cracking open a small tube of ammonia under her nostrils...
"Wha...? Oh... yeah."
Another smile. "You have something I want, young Phoenix."
"Yeah? Well, whatever it is, you can shove it up your bug-butt, 'cause I ain't giving it to you!"
A cattle-prod is drawn from the shadows, and used. A long, loud scream echoes around the room. "Such a temper... tell me, how do I access the Fletched Alliance's base?"
"Go to hell!"
Another jolt, another scream... "I can keep this up all day. Can you, Phoenix?"
"Perhaps you didn't hear me the first time. Go... to... HELL!"
The prod is used once more, held in place for several seconds this time, then hurled into a corner. "Very well, Phoenix..." The woman turns and strolls to the cell, banging on the door. "You can end this, you know... give me the method of access and you can have her back. Or would you prefer her to suffer further?"
"Don't tell her anything!"
The woman frowns and turns away again at a silence from the cell. "Very well, we shall have to progress to a more... persuasive... method." She bends and picks up a brand from a fire in the corner. "Do you want to talk now, Phoenix? No? A shame." A long, sibilant hiss, the smell of smoke and another scream, longer and louder."Such beautiful skin... or at least it was."
Another smile, wider this time, at the call of Jane's name from the cell. "Changed your mind over there?"
"No! Tell her nothing!"
Another silence from the cell, another frown, and another change of tools... a long, thin knife drawn slowly from a sheath as the woman returns to the cell and indicates an eyepatch... "One chance. Tell me, or... an eye for an eye."
A shake of the head, and the woman starts to turn away. "Such a shame... such a lack of care."
At last, a sound from the cell. "Wait!"
The woman turns back... "At last... such a shame that you had to hurt her so badly before you told me."
After the information is obtained, Jane is unchained and hurled back into the cell, landing hard against the back wall as the door is slammed shut. "I shall see you two later... I have deaths to plan."
He looked at the timer and regretted it instantly. 7 seconds usually seemed so insignificant, but right now, with everything that was happening around him, all he could think about were the things he still needed to do, the things he needed to set in motion and the things he wanted to do. He thought of them all and realised that if he'd underestimated the power of the device in his hands then they'd never happen.
A voice, came over the comm, he wasn't paying enough attention to who it was to recognise the voice, all he heard were the words. The voice started suggesting he just dropped the bomb, after that he stopped listening. Dropping this thing in an area well known to attract young heroes trying to make a name for themselves, not to mention all the petty thugs, could potentially result in countless injuries possibly even deaths. None of the people below him deserved that, not even the Trolls, letting it fall was not an option.
His eyes fell to the timer again. 3 seconds until he found out if his faith in his fathers creation was justified or not. He laughed to himself without a trace of humour, it wasn't as though he'd be complaining if he was wrong.
1 second to go, and the last thought he had before the device detonated should have been something deep and meaningful, profound even, but no, all that was on his mind was the hope that Tommy and Nyu would understand what he'd done incase he didn't come back, and that Meph had passed the computer files onto Akkarin. Files that a good friend had died getting his hands on, just one more thing that he wanted to do something about.
Suddenly time was up. He didn't hear the explosion, but by god he felt it. The force of the blast pushed his hands away from it's epicentre with enough power to almost tear his arms from his shoulders. His upper body took the majority of punishment, and even with his nanotech armour activated it was too much for him to withstand, and suddenly everything went dark.