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Ataraxy

H&V Episode 1: A City Abandoned

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Tonight's hunt was over, but the Great Hunt never stopped; and he still had energy to work off from the adrenaline of the latest kill. Rabbit had been a disappointment in terms of the actual fight; but a hunt was more than just the final confrontation, and running him down had been a good chase. Still, the clone maker had failed to prove his worth, which meant that the search would continue. He knew that somewhere out there, worthy prey awaited him, and he would not rest until he found them. To do so would be to betray everything that he had come to believe.

As he approached his home, he imagined that a great may people would be surprised to learn that the feared Apex lived in a small basement apartment in a middle class enclave of the city. The fact that nobody would expect it was the very reason that he had decided to settle there in the first place. As the saying went, to hide a tree, use a forest; and to avoid undue scrutiny into your civilian life, act like a normal civilian. His apartment, his clothing, his appearance, all of it had been tailored to make him seem like the kind of person you pass by on the street a hundred times a day and never give a second thought. 

He exchanged a silent nod with the doorman, and entered into the building lobby; quickly taking the stairs down to his front door. Before he went in he checked an app on his personal assistant that would let him know if anyone was waiting for him in his apartment; only entering once he was sure the place was secure. Once inside he hung up his coat and made a beeline for his room, opening up his closet and using his PDA to remove a panel that revealed what appeared to be a single computer chair bolted to the floor. Once he was seated, he pressed a button on the armrest and the floor a square meter around the chair began to descend into a dark chamber. As the platform came to a rest, and the closet door sealed itself, he pressed another button and a series of holographic screens popped up all around him.

Good evening sir.

"Good evening ODIN," he muttered to the AI, "Let's get to work. Mark Rabbit file 'Terminated' and move to archive."

Done.

"Pull up current prospects."

In response to his command, a dozen or so blue folder icons appeared in front of him, each labeled with a different name. After a moments deliberation, he pointed to a folder, and a file came up, it's contents read by ODIN.

Poltergeist. Real name unknown. Linked to a string of assassinations. Despite his reputation as an efficient assassin in the criminal underground, personal details are hard to come by. Powers seem to be or at least include some form of telekinesis. The fact that he has never been caught on camera despite the highly public nature of some of his kills suggests one of two possibilities. One is that he is able to utilize his telekinetic powers from incredible distances. Second option suggests that he is unable to be detected by security equipment both mundane and magical. More research needed before approaching.

Having nothing to add at this point, he dismissed the file and pulled up another.

Red Hands. Real name unknown. Despite a number of murders and other crimes to his name, he appears to strike at random. Abilities displayed to date include enhanced physical attributes, lightning manipulation, flight, and expert knowledge of hand to hand combat. Has been shown to have access to advanced technology. Seems to prefer using fists in combat, though is fully capable of using other techniques. 

"Make a note to dig deeper into his tech. There might be a clue there."

Once the note was made he dismissed the file, and called up another.

Skylord. Real Name Unknown. Hero with no known association with other heroes. Main ability appears to be flight, but subject has also demonstrated strength, reflexes, and durability far above the average. Knowledgeable in hand to hand combat, but not an expert. Has demonstrated proficiency with guns and a staff in addition to his fists. No kills to date.

"Show me a map of known sightings," once the AI did so, he contemplated the results, "Hmm. So he likes to patrol the slums..."

A yawn escaped his lips, and he realized that he was more tired than he had anticipated. Research would have to wait. Bidding farewell to ODIN, the platform rose back into his closet, and he shut it before going to sleep.

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"Maybe I should get back home now, meet my sister. She'd probably be worried sick if I stay away too long" he said to himself. He probably needed to get home anyway, as much as he loved to jog at these streets, it's not only dangerous but exhausting as well. He trotted through the streets, walking through the desolate and quiet alleyways of the streets of Palgard. Just as he was about to make a turn, he felt a gentle and demanding tap upon his shoulder. He turned to see what seems to be a young lady and if he wasn't any wiser, perhaps even younger than him looking up. He was quite shocked, he didn't hear any footsteps coming up to him. "Maybe just my tired head," he thought to himself. 

He inspected her, she was quite remarkable. She was in great shape, that much he knew, not buff but quite athletic. The Bowie knife she carried was more intriguing though, but he would excuse it on the pretense that a woman like her would need to defend herself from the unsavory kind of this town.

What he didn't expect was what she did next.

Her hand seemed to go for the blade, instantly his mind raced. His fists were clenched and he moved his right leg forward in instinct, before snapping back into reality by hearing an innocent and stuttery "Picture?". She seemed tense, almost as tense as him. Her mind was racing as fast as him, for a second he was afraid he'd have to hit a lady. He played it cool by having his left leg follow and go beside her, wrapping his hands around her shoulder and smiling for the camera, suggesting a selfie.

@SteamWarden

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Chloe watched as Steve King stepped beside her and wrapped his hands around. For a second she was confused but remembered she was holding a phone in her hand which she then proceeded to use to take a selfie. She smiled and looked at the picture for a second. The picture itself could've been a bit better as it was held at an awkward angle due to her being much smaller than the boxer but she liked it nonetheless. After putting her phone away, she stayed in her spot as she watched Steve leave, thinking to herself.

'Make a name for the ruthless Dragon. Remember, Chloe. Make a name for yourself.' She started to head through alleyway and walk home. 'Who would I have to kill to get the headlines in a couple of days? Get noticed quickly? A politician? A cop?' Then it hit her. This person would definitely make the papers and bring notice. 'A famous boxer.' She wanted to turn back around but she knew if she did it'd be known who it is in the likely chance she fails. She'd have to take him by major surprise. 

As she was walking home she heard a noise coming from behind her. Deciding not to let it bother her she kept walking. Eventually it did bother her as someone had grabbed her shoulder roughly and stopped her in her tracks. A large group of people, presumably a gang, was standing there.

"Hello lovely. What are you doing walking alone at night? Dontcha know what kind of people lurk the streets at night?" The large man was armed with a gun while the others seemed to have either blunt or sharp weapons. 

"Yeah. I do know what kind of people lurk at night. Very deadly people. Hell I'm one of them. You should be careful of who you touch at night." All the while she said this she had her hands behind her back. She was reaching under the back of jacket to the two pistols. She knew she was gonna kill someone. These guys seemed to be the someone.

"You? Deadly?! All I see on you is a knife. A very large knife that little ol' you can't use. It's gotta be bigger than those tiny hands on you. Ain't no way that---" The man was cut off as a bullet was shot into his gut before he could finish. The group of men was stunned as their leader fell to the ground, clutching his stomach. "What are you fucking idiots doing?! KILL HER!"

Chloe turned around and ran to get some ground. She was a good bit away already so she managed to get a good distance away before she turned and aimed the dual guns at the group before unloading the clips into them as they charged her. She missed many rounds as five of the seven men fell. Knowing she wasn't done, she dropped the pistols and pulled out her knife. When the two men approached, she spun downwards and stabbed one of the men in the leg while the other missed his swing with his bat. As she stood up, she kicked the injured man on the back of his knee, knocking him down a bit, before she slammed the knife into his back. She was going to go after the guy with the bat but she felt a gun on the back of her head causing her to halt.

"You have ten seconds to tell me who the fuck you think you are before I splatter your brains on the concrete." The leader managed to gather enough strength to get up and stop her. He was very pissed and very serious. He then started counting down from ten.

Chloe was so concerned that she would and afraid that she froze up. The second she heard five she snapped back into reality. "Night Dragon." Just then a massive black dragon emerged from her body and stared the leader down. It's eyes a burning red that would induce fear in even the most fearless of people. Knowing the man was scared she ducked out of the way and stabbed him in the side, making him instinctually fire his gun. The bullet hit the last man in the chest sending him down while Chloe slashed the knife from the mans side all the way to the other. She watched as the man fell dead on the ground and went back to pick up her guns. As she put the guns away she knew she had to do something before she left. She went to each and every person laying on the ground and sliced them from side to side as her father would do before she left for home.

 

Chloe walked through her front door to clean off her knife and take her clothes off to clean them of any blood that was on them. She stared at her closet and saw a certain outfit that she remembered from her youth and took it out. It was her fathers outfit from his villain days. "An ancient dragon has risen from his slumber. Those who are not careful will meet the end of their days. They will feel the bite from a dragon's tooth and be slashed open. The sight will terrify those who see and make them wonder. Has the dragon of old come back to haunt the streets. Or is it someone who wishes to make them remember." She finished her talk to herself and stabbed the bowie knife into her kitchen table, the dragon on the blade is now a black dragon instead of it's normal green dragon. 

And with that. The Night Dragon is born.

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He looked back at his mother doing his best to maintain a completely blank face which he was doing pretty good at. “You caused our family to lose our gift You disgusting piece of filth!” Jonathan watched her scold him as she had done a billion times “I’ve always hated you! And today I finally am going to get rid of you!” Jonathan paused his doing nothing, this caught him off guard. Where was he supposed to go? “You’re going to the human realm, into a particularly disguising town” well, he thought this can’t be THAT bad at least never had to see his family again, he was just going to be dropped right into the middle of a place surrounded by people his very genes were made to scare. Yeah this could actually end up going pretty bad and just like that his mother said “goodbye” and snapped her fingers and suddenly everything turned black for a single split second and then he saw a portal open 20 feet above ground and he fell through it right before it disappeared. He had landed on his back with his arms and legs at odd but not painful angles he laid there for a moment and thought. Well let’s see I’ve just been exiled from my home into the world of humans who I exist to scare. I was exiled because my parents think I caused our generation to not get “the gift” when in fact I got the gift he laid there some more and thought about what to do when he saw something flying in his direction. it looked like your classic description of a “superhero” he laughed for a second, a superhero was the first living thing he saw after being chucked into the human world. honestly he hadn’t even taken a second to analyze his surroundings. he just watched the person as they flew closer. Hello human world, you hate me but here I am whether either of us like it or not

Edited by Unicorgi

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emily by Koyorinthe beast of palgard


The night is endless, impermeable, strange: the breeding ground of all things villainous and vile.

The night is the Beast’s domain.

She watches from the darkness, the twisted wires hanging from broken-down street lamps casting circular shadows onto the pavement. The slap of feet echoes down the alleyway, nearly drowned out by the heavy crash of electric bass thumps, the pulsing beat of synthesizers trickling out from the club down the street. Neon lights glint off the man’s golden chains, his rings, the polished surface of his silver pistol as he trails off in search of prey to sink his teeth in, unaware of the real hunter lurking in the gloom aiming for his own soft neck.

The elvish ghettos reflect a kaleidoscopic world of noise and heat and the deep-reaching claws of  corruption, and it is here that the Beast begins her hunt for the night. In the myriad of the senses, sight and smell and sound: this is where she thrives. Life on the streets is where one encounters the lifeblood of the city, dark and dangerous as it is.

The target begins to move and so she jumps down the grating, boots skidding against the walls of the worn-down apartelle. Up in the sky, she can hear the telltale flap of capes flickering in the wind like storm flags, other nameless Masks soaring through the skies, fighting their own little battles across the cityscape. She flicks a button up the side of her headphones, tunes out any other unnecessary noise but for the sound of the man’s sharp breaths, the grind of his sneakers against the cement.

What follows is a chase around three city blocks: the man ducks into corner stores, pockets illicit substances as he passes by darkened stalls, even goes dumpster diving in the trash bins two buildings away from Diana D’Angelo’s home. Finally, he decides to make a move on a pair of young elves making their way back home from the central hub, and here the Beast is ready.

She twists into the haze, gets lost in it, dodging the bullets as they whizz past her and plant themselves into the brick walls, the faded posters scattered in a chaotic mosaic. The younger girl screams, and the Beast tugs her away from the spray of gas—methyl propyl ether, according to the analysis of her gas mask transmitted to her cognitive link—and whirls around to slam a boot into the man’s abdomen, his groin, a roundhouse straight into his crooked nose.

The elves take off running and are deemed safe the moment they round the corner.  The Beast takes one look at the bloodied heap on the ground and slings the body over her shoulder.

She leaves him trussed up and hanging from the ceiling like a chandelier, disappears into the night to look for a payphone.

“Mama G,” she says into the receiver, quietly holding it three feet away from her ear in case the—

“Dahling!” The woman on the other end drawls, low-pitched and nasally, “my god, I have missed you—how come you did not see me last week for my party, eh? My boys tell me you work too hard; you must live a little!”

Something aches in the Beast’s chest, but this is no time for trivial emotions. “I’m working, Mama,” is what she replies, and instantly the atmosphere sours, turns cold with audible frost. It is the one thing that can stop the matriarch from asking after her; in many ways, the woman still acts like a surrogate mother to Diana D’Angelo, even as she is the reluctant contact of the Beast.

“Ah, I see, a shame,” Mama Gatsby says mournfully, turns silent for a moment in which the Beast assumes she is taking a long draw of nicotine from her wooden pipe. “What do you need from me?”

“Your people are misbehaving. Left you one on his own doorstep as a present.”

A clucking sound resonates through the telephone line. Dio mio, these rascals. I appreciate your tip off, even though I do not appreciate your little gifts, bah! Dragging cadavers  around to present like an errant cat.” She can almost envision Mama Gatsby’s nose wrinkling, her lips curled back with spite. “Anyhow. You take care of yourself, eh? If you skip out on your Mama again, I will never forgive you.”

“Of course, Mama,” the Beast answers before she hangs up, yanks the cord straight out of the machine and pulverizes the receiver to tiny bits of metal and wires.

One down, twelve-fucking-hundred to go, she thinks, disappearing off into the dark sea of night.

 

 

Spoiler

[ fun fact: Mama Gatsby sounds like Edna Mode from the Incredibles ]

 


 

Edited by vielle

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Time Skip 4 Days

8:00 PM, sun is about to completely set

Situation: The streets of Downtown Palgard and the Slums are died red with the blood of the King Spiders, the Silver Serpents, and hundreds of bystanders who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Among the dead gangster corpses, local law enforcement and heroes spotted small black insects stuck to the back of their necks. The discovery was on the first day. The second day was when the villains discovered a specific use for the parasites: mind control. When one of the parasites are placed on the back of someone's neck where it connects to the head and allowed time (few seconds) to dig into the skin, it makes the person a mindless puppet. 

At first they weren't controlled, at least not by the villain who attached the parasite to the victim. On the third day, however, the Parasite-person (someone controlled by a parasite) began to respond to the Controller (person who forced the parasite on them). 

So now, the fourth day is ending and the gangs have chosen to force parasites on enemy gangs going beyond just the Spiders and Serpents, and also unfortunate civilians. The law enforcement, weakened from lack of resources and having their hands full with normal crimes, are unable to so much as dent this issue. 

This fourth night the King Spiders are planning to bomb Palgard General, a large hospital that is not only housing hundreds of Silver Serpents but are also attempting to devise a cure to the parasite's mind control. 

The Silver Serpents, on the other hand, have plans to eradicated the King Spiders and multiple attacks aimed at all the Spiders' main businesses and their headquarters.

Both plans, though not necessarily known by everyone (especially the hospital one) are known by many heroes and villains who are rushing to save people, take advantage of the situation, or a variety of other desires. 

At the moment, on this nights, multiple shoot offs are happening in the Slums and are slowly creeping toward the Downtown. Many among them have parasites on their necks, some among them are simply controlled civilians.

What will you do?

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Chloe was in her house getting prepared for the night. She made sure she had her father's old attire on and a lot of pistol ammunition. Tonight was gonna be a bit of a crazy, unorganized mess. She filled her jacket pocket with loads of ammunition, almost two dozen clips, a dozen for each pistol with each clip containing twelve bullets plus the one always kept in the chamber. After she finished getting prepared she walked out the front door, locked it and started heading for downtown to find someone. She knew if she found her and she was being controlled by these... bugs then she was gonna have to kill her. And that wouldn't be an easy task. As she looked around the streets, she pulled up her masked hood and put the pistols in their holsters behind her back and hid the bowie knife on her side.

 

The walk to downtown was pretty difficult seeing as she didn't want to be seen by gang members, other Masks, or even law enforcement but she eventually arrived at the apartment. Looking around the street to make sure no one was looking she buzzed the apartment number and pulled her mask down.

"Who is it? Whaddya want?" The voice on the intercom was slightly staticky. Probably from people punching it and just in general lack of maintenance.

"Aunt Sally. It's me Chloe. Let me in." Chloe stood there, hearing a quiet 'fuck' and then the buzzer going off indicating the doors unlocked which she proceeded to go through. She walked the stairs two flights and down a long hallway until she made it to a door marked 28. As she was about to knock the door opened revealing a woman in her fifties that has zero resemblance to Chloe. "Hi Aunt Sally."

"Yes hello. I will ask again cause apparently you didn't hear me the first time. Whaddya want?" The woman closed the door behind Chloe and sat down on a chair in front of a computer.

Chloe stayed standing as she leaned against the door. "I know you're retired but I need to find out who's behind this weird bug shit. I got attacked the other day by one of my friends because of these bugs." She pulled out her phone and showed Aunt Sally a picture of the bug. "I was too afraid to remove it because I don't know what it does when it gets removed by force. For all I know it could kill the person it's attached to." At this point she was heading to the fridge to find a drink.

Aunt Sally sighed after she saw the photo and turned to the computer, hitting away at the buttons. "Oh so you'll come and visit me with a question about a bug on someone's neck but you won't make a normal social visit? Yeah I was the person who gave your father his targets and any information he needed but I'm still your family." She heard a soda can open and sighed. "Yeah you're welcome to the fridge too. Make a sandwich while you're at it."

A few minutes of silence goes by before Chloe gets a text message from her phone. At first she ignored it but then it started to go off repeatedly so she pulled it out and checked it. The message was definitely not something she wanted to see as her face grew a fearful expression. "Aunt Sally when you get anything text me all you got." She ran to the window that was in front of the fire escape and opened it but she stopped for a second. "Oh and give me information on a Steve King if you can. He's a boxer." She then jumped out the window, heading down the fire escape and ran as fast as she could to Palgard General. Not caring if she got seen she ran street side instead of through the alleyways. 'You better not be hurt kid or I'll hurt you worse than you are already are.'

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Naomi Collins


Her pen scribbled chaotically on the small notebook as she tried to absorb every detail Valpedia had managed to dig up on one Ryan Alexander. The bright screen was almost assaulting her as it dried up her eyes in the dark room.

  • Fourteen years old. 
  • Black hair
  • Green eyes
  • Lives in the Upper East-side of Palgard
  • Father and siblings recently deceased
  • Killed by Royce Kronos, who was ruled innocent by a jury
  • Mother is broken and, according to reports, nearly comatose
  • Ryan is now the holder of 60% of Starr Enterprises, a multi-billion dollar company
  • Ryan is to young so day-to-day operations is being handled by the board

And on she wrote for over a half hour, filling up almost a dozen papers and cramping her hand in the process. Would've been nice if her parents could have afforded a printer. Probably could've if they didn't drink so much. Not that she could blame them. Finding your oldest daughter stabbed multiple times and dumped in a ditch tended to drive people crazy. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Naomi hadn't even been four at the time so she barely remembered anything. Only the flash of purple light which had seared the marking under her right eye. The same one she found herself continuously running her fingers over subconsciously.

Naomi shook her head and cleared the bad thoughts. She could cry over old memories and her facial scar later. Tonight she scouted and finally was able to go on her first solo mission. Having Skylord as your mentor was supposed to be fun, and it was sometimes, but the sky hero was not the easiest going person. Luckily it seemed he was busy tonight so she'd been tasked to follow up on Ryan. If she spotted Kronos trying to do anything funny, she was even allowed to beat the shit out of that motherfucker. Skylord had a very clear ban on killing though, so there was an obvious line she wasn't allowed to cross. 

But when she finally found the man who'd killed her sister and scarred her face, fuck Skylord and his rules. She was going to cut off his arm, shove it down his throat, and then reach so far up his ass she could shake the hand. While he was alive. 

After that she'd feed him to the Slum's Sewer Rats. Even feeding her sister's murderer to cannibals might not even by satisfying enough when the time came. Skylord had warned her that revenge never made anyone feel better. And, while that might be true, Naomi had never heard of it making someone feel worse. 

"Naomi," her mom called from downstairs. "Dinner's ready! We're having pizza tonight."

So the same thing they'd had every night. Not that Naomi really minded. Pizza was delicious. "Coming!" She'd excuse herself after a few slices and say she was going to the library to study or some other nonsense. Her parents had never really care in the past anyways, so the feasibility of her excuses were becoming lower and lower while the repetitions were increasing. 

Edited by Ataraxy

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Jonathan was hanging in an alleyway at the moment as a shadow. Turning into a shadow was a skill he had learned after being exiled and it most definitely came in handy even though if suprised enough he would go back to normal and the odd chance a human saw a “shadowy figure” freaked them out and it had grown into a pretty common rumor that something like a supernatural shadow had been hanging around in alleyways which occasionally caused masks to come looking, but evading them was never a problem.

Usually anyway. There was one of them (naomi) who had come particularly close at times even if none of those times Jonathan was pretty sure they weren’t looking for him. The problem was that she could phase through walls and it was pretty alarming to have a person phase right through you even if you were just a shadow, he had almost transformed right back to normal when it happened which would have been alarming for both of them.

 Then suddenly interrupting his thoughts sudden shouting on top of a rooftop alarmed him into his normal form and he tripped over a brick landing face down on the pavement. Pain shot through his leg and he heard a crack he got up and stumbled backwards doing even more damage. He sat down next to a dumpster and leaned against the wall so he couldn’t be seen from the street. He closed his eyes and sharply inhaled trying not to scream at the searing pain in his calf and he quietly cursed and looked at it, was that bone?!?! He had bones?!He had purple blood? It was impossible to get injured in the nightmare realm so he didn’t know what to do, he tried pressing his leg down. Nope wrong thing to do. He sat there breathing sharply and muttering in pain trying not to draw attention although he was pretty sure he was gonna fail, probably one of those “masks” would find him not to mention he had smashed his face right into pavement and it wasn’t doing to hot either. Yeah this night had took a sharp turn to horrible.

(Sorry for my poor grammar and writing skills, I’m writing this on my phone and it ain’t got no grammarly)

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Music

Spoiler

Sound Presence: OOC

 


Cyclone Tower

Spoiler

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Cyclone Tower Boardroom

Spoiler

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Leonard Diggins

Spoiler

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Vice Chairman, Chief of Staff, President and COO (Chief Operations Officer) of Cyclone, Inc.


The Executor of the Storm

It wasn’t usual to host a board meeting in the evening, but then this was far from being a usual evening. As he sat at the head of the table, Leonard Diggins knew that he had no choice in the matter. He was here tonight, despite his best desires, and that itself was a healthy reminder to always ensure his proper alignment: ultimately, his best desires had to be the Company’s best desires. That company was represented by the handful who would join its president in the boardroom tonight. This wasn’t the full board, because this wasn’t a typical board meeting. Leonard had determined a quorum and had called only the minimum number of required attendees, albeit with a special guest. Thus, there was no outside director, no stakeholder or shareholder who was not employed by the Company or one of its inside directors. Tonight, Leonard needed only the full-fledged members of Cyclone, Inc., so there were only seven out of ten primary seats filled.

 

Tonight would prove the President’s loyalty, integrity and commitment to Cyclone, Inc. as much as it would prove the same for every individual sat on either side of the conference table. Leonard sat at one end. The other end was vacant of occupant. The one man who was all of the Owner, Founder, Chairman and CEO was absent tonight, as he had chiefly alerted his president. So, it was up to Leonard to call this meeting, to call it to order and to call upon the gathered leaders of Cyclone who would help him see the storm through the night.

 

“Thank you all for coming, especially on such short notice. I know that most of us would much rather be in our homes with our families, braving this tornado that is not of our own hurricane. You’re tired, I’m tired, we’re tired, but here we are and here we will remain—for as long as it takes. So drink your water, sip your coffee, eat your power bars and we’ll get through this. We have to, if every single one of us in this room is still devoted to fulfilling Cyclone’s dreams of the future.”

 

Leonard let his words sink in, studying the faces before him. He had delivered the opening speech as short and sweet as they all had hoped. His words were firm but not cold; the hard truth of matter and fact. His was a disposition and a personality that these board members had since learned and, in turn, had learned to appreciate. They sat there looking from one to the other or staring at him, though the President and COO (Chief Operations Officer) needed no eyes right now. He just needed ears.

 

“As you were all briefed before arriving, and as you can tell by the empty seat, Kolvern will not be joining us due to pressing engagements. As Vice Chairman, Chief of Staff and President, I’ve been delegated to obtain immediate status reports and table discussion for resolution, before we run down the minutes. We all know that Cyclone doesn’t run this city, we’re neither its governors nor its protectors, but we also know, as much as the citizens of Palgard do, that we are bidding for the highest stakes and the greatest shares—beyond the stretches of corporate self-interest.”

 

This information was nothing new, but Leonard let another moment of reflection linger. He had felt it important to reiterate the Company’s stance, particularly given the delicate circumstances of the city. Cyclone was in a position now where it was having to weather a storm that was waging war with its own. Though perhaps that’s inaccurate. After all, Cyclone is the storm.

 

“All of that out of the way, then, let’s dive right into our agenda.”

 

He might have held up fingers then, but the list of items exceeded eight fingers and two thumbs. With that, Leonard sipped from his steaming mug and licked his lips.

 

“Our first item concerns this shitstorm that’s affecting the whole city, ourselves included. Swarms of ‘black bugs’ plaguing the streets, parasites causing ‘mind control’...”

 

He shook his head at the insanity of it all, then lifted his brows as his gaze centered on a man eating a power bar, who also happened be the Head of Research and Development and Cyclone’s CRDO (Chief Research & Development Officer).

 

“Avery? What do you have?”

 

Avery L’angelo had tried to speak with a mouthful but was met with just one cocked brow before he cleared his throat.

 

“At this point, we’re only four days in since the outbreak, but R&D is working round the clock to figure out the nature of these ‘parasites’, especially how this ‘mind control’ works. We’ll know more with more time, and with more specimens...on either end.”

 

Everyone ignored that last part, including Leonard. “What about Palgard General? Is the hospital cooperating up to par?”

 

Avery nodded. “They’re welcoming us into the morgue with open arms…” He trailed off. Everyone, including Avery, acknowledged how awkward that sentence was. “...I mean, we’re using deceased victims to study the parasite’s effects. That, in part, has shown us the definite link between the bugs and the cranial nerves of the brainstem.”

 

“And the cure? How’s progress?”

 

“I’m getting reports by the hour from the team I have stationed at the hospital, but...it’s slow-going. We need to figure out how these bugs tick in order to develop a cure, and we need more time to do either and both.”

 

Leonard sighed. “Time is one commodity that Cyclone is running short of. On the note of Palgard GeneralAlexx, how strong is our arm?”

 

Alexx Venril was the CSO (Chief Security Officer) and tonight’s special guest. The CSO did not normally sit in on board meetings, but tonight was not normal. Security was exactly what Cyclone needed. And the rest of this city. They’re not getting it from the law. Not to capacity.

 

“The Tower’s a fortress right now, at Kolvern’s behest.” Leonard had detected a tone of appreciation in the CSO’s words for that order. He agreed with it. “Meanwhile, and as everyone here knows by now, your homes and close ones are under protection. As for the hospital, I’ve dedicated the rest of our security force to guard it, working jointly with the PPD, but our ranks are officially thinned out as a result.”

 

“Can’t be helped. We need that cure and Palgard needs that cure, and if our leads are anything to go by then the criminal elements of this city know that it needs it.” He took a deep drink from his mug. The coffee burned his tongue. “Of course, though Palgard’s operating at a state of emergency, and though the Mayor’s opened the door for us to step through, those are our boots that we've planted on city hospital grounds; our guards at its doors and our researchers in its labs. Elza, based on that, how’s legal? What’s the fallout look like once this whole situation gets cleaned up?”

 

As General Counsel and CLO (Chief Legal Officer), Elza Rivley was Cyclone’s head legal advisor and primary corporate lawyer. At the question, she was quick to shake her head as though dismissing Leonard’s concerns outright. He wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that.

 

“I don’t expect any blowback. As it stands, the city government isn’t lifting a finger to push us back. Open door, indeed, and we’re keeping it open for the time being. I’m also in bed with the DA, so a lot of my reassurance is coming through that channel.”

 

Leonard wondered what everyone else had made of those words. In bed with the DA, indeed. He let some more caffeine crawl down the back of his throat and the minutes wind down. The Sales & Marketing Coordinator and CSMO (Chief Sales & Marketing Officer), Helen Diaz, briefed the board on stock impact, namely some damage taken to Cyclone warehousing and businesses as a result of the gang warfare, but it was manageable. Meanwhile, the Treasurer and CFO (Chief Financial Officer), Kevin Hawk, had helped run down the calculations of those losses while forecasting the expenses of Cyclone’s efforts to help secure the city and develop a cure. Those figures were also manageable. Everything is manageable. For now.

 

Drumming his fingers on the polished tabletop, Leonard could almost see himself reflected from the surface, and he wasn’t sure that he liked what he saw. The meeting was far from over; these were only the top points, and they had barely discussed those points. As fate would have it, he was just about to approach the Secretary and CCO (Chief Communications Officer) when Miranda Smith herself suddenly looked up from her phone and almost sprung from her chair.

 

“Turn on the TV. Palgard news. Now.”

 

There was a strange composure in Miranda’s voice that Leonard had long since learned could betray her for a woman in desperation. He didn’t hesitate to oblige, seizing the remote from the table and turning the screen on the wall opposite his seat. Everyone turned to watch, and to listen to the news reporter standing before a camera outside Palgard City Hall as police and government officials hastened about.

 

“ . . . Has it that the Silver Serpents, or the King Spiders, or really any one of the gangs running unchecked throughout the edges of the city, may be responsible for the Deputy Mayor’s disappearance. She was reported to be missing since Day 1 of this outbreak that many are calling the ‘Plague of Palgard’, but only when a witness came forward just tonight, with evidence that suggests a gang conspiracy, do we now have strong reason to believe that Deputy Mayor Selena Valderani was taken hostage and could be being held in an undisclosed location as I speak.”

It took a moment before Leonard realized that his fingertips had been drumming again. This is not good. He wouldn’t state the obvious out loud but it was worse than anyone outside of this room might know. If the Deputy Mayor herself could be kidnapped at will, then what did that mean for the Mayor, or for any other leading official? Without the leaders to keep this city in check, Palgard would become as unchecked as the slums. And the very gangs who are waging war within them.


Music

Spoiler

Sound Presence: OOC

 

 


The Voice of Reason

The camera turned away from the corner in its routine sweep of the large room, as mindless as any other machine within the chamber or beyond it. Machines, they did what they were told. Barring any artificial intelligence, any virtual sentience, even the most sophisticated computer system that had broken the quantum realm was still a lifeless, mindless drone. The greatest accomplishment of a machine wasn’t in the deed itself, but in doing the deed because someone else had made the machine do it. Many people knew this, but only some really understood it; those who made it a vested interest to work with the world of machines, and to make them work.

 

As the camera’s arm reached the center of the room, it stopped. It, like the other moving or stationary cameras, had no choice. A single finger, even from so far away and far removed from the room, had pressed a button that had caused the camera to pause in its motion. That’s all it took. One button. One press. One finger. One figure. There, in the center of the room made of steel from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, situated in stillness and silence amid dim lighting and an unyielding emptiness, was a living and breathing machine. Only, this one was a little unlike a computer or a camera. It had flesh, bone and a mind of its own, if a failing one.

 

The machine, the vessel, the person, just then lifted eyelids with a lethargy that the camera lens had focused on. The person’s lips moved, the tongue slid out, no doubt trying to quench a thirst. Then those eyes discovered that there was no water to lap at, and no means to go and look for any. The person had just then moved arms and legs to learn that those arms and legs weren’t going anywhere. Then the person began to thrash about, or fail to, to lean this way and that way, to realize that the chair was bolted to the room’s floor, and both were as solid and as hard as the heart and the mind responsible for the person's predicament.

 

“What...What the HELL is going on!? Let...let me go, damn it! LET ME OUT OF HERE! WHO ARE YOU!? WHERE ARE YOU!? ANSWER ME!”

 

There was a delay before the person, the woman, must have spent her speech. Maybe she had learned the folly in any scenario to escape, or maybe she had thought that her captor would not respond. She was wrong.

 

“I am your voice of reason. Listen to me.”

 

The voice was electronically masked, too deep to come from any human man, if it was a man and if it was human. It came from the overhead speakers to resound across the empty space of the room, to be heard by one woman who appeared more confused than originally deduced, for she began to go back on her demands to converse.

 

“SHUT UP! SHUT UP! I...am not...listening...to ANYONE! Now. Get me out of here, and I promise—I’ll personally ensure a fair trial!”

 

Her voice, it started out powerful enough. Admirably so, even. Then, toward the end, the one watching the scene unfold from behind a computer screen had noticed the unmistakable wavering in her tone.

 

“P-Please…Please…PLEASE!”

 

There it was. Panic. Fear. A moment later and the woman was weeping. Most likely, she was opening one closet after the other within her mind, piecing skeletons back together to revisit her demons. They would not help her. They would not save her.

 

“It is pointless to beg. If ever there was a time to plead for mercy, that time has passed. Now. Listen to me. I am your voice of reason.”

 

For whatever reason, the woman suddenly stopped crying and she refrained from yelling with her former hysteria. She just sat still, motionless, just like the room that was her prison, and the camera that was her god’s eye.

 

“You…are…wh-...what...what is...”

 

She hesitated, and a for a moment the observer felt a shred of doubt. Her head began to rotate, round and round and round, as though attempting to scratch an itch at the back of her neck with the back of her skull.

 

“Freeze all motor functions. I am your voice of reason.

 

Then it ceased: the doubt, the movement. The head froze. The face froze. The woman’s contorted visage, stained with rivulets of tears, had now become a graceful blanket without a single hint of emotion. Just like a machine. And, upon gazing at another machine, a computer screen with all sorts of readings and vital signs, it was clear that she wasn’t faking it. There was no deception here. She had heard the voice and had listened to reason.

 

“You are my voice of reason.”

 

There it was. Success. A god in its own right.


“Excellent. You are making progress. We shall soon proceed to Phase 2. For now, I must take my leave. Good night, Selena Valderani.”

Edited by Die Shize

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Skylights always made his job a little easier, and fortunately for him the top floor office of this particular King Spider base happened to have one. He had been watching from this vantage point all day, and his prey were none the wiser. Currently there was one man behind a desk addressing three men, high ranking members of the gang, with two more men guarding the door. Apex had been listening in, and had gathered that the Spiders were planning to attack a hospital that was treating a number of members of an enemy gang, the Silver Serpents. Apparently they were moving all their weapons stashes to this building, planning to use it as a rallying point for the attack. There were supposedly a number of similar staging areas throughout the city, but he didn't care about that. No, right now, he was here to confirm a theory.

Apex stood up, and jumped, the pull of gravity all that was needed to shatter the glass, and land on top of the man in the center of the high ranking trio. Extending two black blades from his forearm, he rose and slit the throat of the man on either side of him. Hearing movement behind him, he lashed out with a kick to the desk that sent it sliding into the man behind it, pinning him against the wall. Turning his attention to the men by the door, he flung two projectiles into their skulls with a flick of his wrist, killing each instantly. Now he turned back to the man behind the desk, who was reaching for a gun that was just a few inches out of reach. Apex slammed a fist down onto the outstretched appendage before grabbing the mans head with his other hand and slamming it into the desk. The man went still, and after taking a moment to scan the building and make sure that no backup was coming from the men below, he began to search the corpse for what he was looking for, not taking long to find it.

"Found you," he muttered as he plucked the parasite from the back of the dead man's neck, "ODIN, analyze."

Yes sir.

There was a brief pause as the AI analyzed the creature, and then came back with its findings.

As you suspected, the parasite is connected to the Unsub via a type of psychic link.

"Can we track it? Maybe jam it?"

I would require more detailed analysis of the link frequency before I would be able to do either.

"The parasites we've found aren't enough?"

What we have is but a few dozen specimens out of projected thousands. We would need a far larger number.

A moment passed in silent thought before he replied, "What about the hospital? Are they still keeping captured specimens there?"

It would appear so. Perhaps you could use the chaos of the coming attack to slip in with minimal resistance.

"My thoughts exactly," he replied, "I'll head there just as soon as I'm finished here."

Creeping down into the warehouse below, it was child's play to locate the weapons being stockpiled. It was even easier to sneak in, grab some of their own plastic explosives and a timer, and set the bomb in the middle of the stockpile. He left himself enough time to get to the roof of the building across the street before detonation. Seconds after he arrived, the building went up in an earth shattering explosion. Satisfied, he began to make his way to the hospital.

 

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