TwiLyghtSansSparkles

What Happened in Portland

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One year ago

 

When Joe woke up, he was surprised to find himself alive. That surprised him every morning. He could still hear gunfire, and explosions coming from downtown. Epics fighting each other, destroying the City. The State had called in the National guard to help deal with the situation, but most of the epics were immune to bullets. the city's power had been knocked out when SparkCloud, an electrical Epic, had destroyed the main power plant in an attempt to kill Hardwire, a technomancer Epic. It hadn't worked. But both of them were dead now. killed by other Epics.

 

Joe swung his legs out of bed, and reached out, grabbing his glasses, and putting them on. But he couldn't see. he pulled off his glasses, intending to clean them, but suddenly, he could see again, in fact, he could see with perfect clarity, without his glasses, which had cursed him throughout his Life. He blinked in Surprise, but his vision didn't go dark when he did. He squeezed his eyes shut, and continued looking at his room. He could see through his eyelids. This is a Dream, or a Fluke! Please say it is! His glasses suddenly seemed wrong to him, so he threw them aside.

 

He looked into the Bathroom, he needed to get to a mirror, and suddenly, he was in the Bathroom. Teleportation? and Perfect Vision? Storm it. He was definitely an Epic. This was no Fluke of healing. Calamity had claimed him. He was an Epic.

Edited by The Only Joe
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Finch had just gotten kicked out of his apartment again, the Landlord had kept yelling something about setting the building on fire. So as he normally did, Finch had snuck into the library to spend the night. It was usually warm enough, there were bathrooms, and the benches weren't too hard. After burning a lame magazine in the restroom, he was ready for bed.

He went over to his favorite bench by the large window on the second floor. After stacking up a pile of less lame magazines for a pillow, he went to sleep.

 

 

                   He woke up when the broken glass cut off the lobe of his right ear. Finch yelled then, gasping, looked around trying to figure out what was happening. Two large men, dripping with water, were flying around punching each other and smashing through bookshelves.Terrified Finch tried to sneak quickly to the stairs, but a woman was there. She laughed, grabbed him, and threw him out the already broken window.

 

                 Finch screamed, then he hit the wall of the building next to the library, and he bounced. He went hurtling, even faster then before, towards the ground. This time Finch was to shocked to scream. When he hit the ground he bounced again, this time towards the roof. Finally getting a hold of himself, Finch grabbed the roof.

"What, by the dark ones blistering back side, is going on!" Were those people the epics he had heard rumors about? And what had happened to him? "I don't know what is going on, but those three are going to pay!"

 

After saying this rather melodramtaic phrase, Finch hurried towards the doors downstairs. Before he got there, one of the flying men opened the door and grinned at him.

"I saw what you did there, the bouncing, I guess you're one of us aren't you. I killed the two downstairs, do I kill you too? Or are you interested in teaming me?"

Finch stared at him, then spoke.

"Sure, I'll join you. Come shake on it."

The burly man seemed puzzled, but came over anyway.

Kicking off the roof, Finch hurtled towards him and grabbed the epic's throat. The epic tried to hit him, but they were too close together. The epic looked up, and Finch felt them rising. He didn't care, he just squeezed harder.

The epic's eyes bulged, and then faded. Finch looked down. He and the corpse were falling quickly. He quickly aimed himself towards a church nearby, and then pushed off of the body. Finch hit the wall and bounced towards the ground. He managed to stop himself by grabbing a lamp post and sliding down.

Looking up towards the sky, he grinned. This was going to be too much fun.

Edited by Leftinch
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Altermind had grown up in Portland. He'd lived there all his life. The Portland he saw now was not anything like the Portland of his childhood. Epics ruled and fought everywhere, fires burned, and people were afraid.

Altermind had always been a smart kid. He had aced all of his tests throughout all of school and always kept straight A's. He had loved superheroes and comics. Batman was his favorite hero because he had relied not on powers, but gadgets to save people. Milton, as he used to be called, wanted to grow up to be like Batman. He never had been popular or handsome, though. He was a nerdy kid with scrawny arms and an ugly birthmark on his neck.

One day, Calamity answered his prayers. Milton woke up one morning and realized he thought differently. He could change what people saw, or felt, or heard, or even smelled. He could even carry objects with his mind, as long as they were close. But being an Epic took it's toll on Milton's mind as well. He slowly became less loving and more selfish. He cared for his well-being and wished to rule. He no longer used the name Milton Towren. He cast off that mantle of the past and took on the mantle of Altermind; the mental Epic of Portland.

Other Epics came and others left. Killscream, Gazerbeam, Earthmover. Not many had been in Portland their entire lives. Not many who came later survived. Altermind was one of the first Epics in Portland and one of the few who had lasted this long.

Altermind had a small zone he ruled in northwest Portland. Thoughttown, he called it. Only those of sufficent mental capacity were allowed to stay there. Altermind created a test to root out the imbeciles of the town and keep the useful ones. The ones allowed to stay were put to work in factories to produce weapons and energy that Altermind would need. He worked with a minor Epic, Scorch, to maintain peace. Scorch was a fire Epic. He could create small fireballs with nothing but his mind and hands. Scorch had just barely passed Altermind's test, but Altermind kept him because of how useful his power was.

Leftinch, can you submit a character profile in the "Question" thread so we know more about your character?

And, if anyone wants to write as Scorch, let me know. I think it'd be fun.

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Portland. The biggest city in the state. Nearly One Hundred neighborhoods. Half of a Million people lived here. Then came Calamity. Some of the Strangest Epics had come from here. GiggleStream. CarThrower. The Epic Epic.

Epics didn't choose very imaginative names really. Joe's had been chosen for him. He still didn't think of himself as SightLine But everyone else did.

Joe had left Bend a week earlier, after finishing off the Last Epic in Town, Goliath a size changer. He had come to Portland, to kill more Epics, to prove to himself, that he could remain a good person, even with his powers

 

He was having a harder time believing that now

 

He enjoyed killing them. Hunting them down, watching them fall to their deaths. This time though, he would be killing a powerful Epic. CorpseMaker. An Epic with immunity to most forms of death. But none of his powers could destroy solid matter. So that was how he would die.

It had taken a while, but he eventually tracked CorpseMaker down in a bank that had been refurbished as a 1970's supervillain Lair. How classy. Idiots. At the moment, CorpseMaker was talking to a younger man, who might have been an Epic, but might not. Joe didn't like killing vanilla's. He needed a better vantage. looking around, he found a cabinet, that he could hide behind. He teleported over. Now he was close enough to hear the conversation

"You're right of course, my powers are not as great as yours, I can't kill with a look, but I can kill!" An Epic then.

 

"You want in my little Family? Prove your worth first. Bring me the body of Altermind. Then I'll let you in." Altermind. Another Epic? Joe would have to look into that one.

 

The Younger Epic hesitated, "Ah, Altermind, he's an, uh, Illusionist. I, I don't really like fighting them, they, they make you see things, Things you-"
 

"GO KILL HIM, OR I'LL KILL YOU!" CorpseMaker was running out of patience it appeared. Time to move.

Joe peeked out from behind the cabinet, looking at the younger Epic. Need to get him out of the way first. He teleported right behind the man, and grabbed him by the neck. Before CorpseMaker or the other could react, Joe teleported to a near by window, then out of the building, then straight up. And again, and again, and again. Until they were far above the highest Skyscraper. Because of the odd way his Teleportation worked, the man was Naked. Joe hadn't had skin contact with any of his clothes. So they had stayed in the Bank.

The Epic swung a Sword at Joe's neck. So he teleported about a foot down. Where did he get a Sword from? His Power maybe? But they would have been left with his clothes if he was holding them. Wait, are they, His Arms? The Epic's arm's had transformed, into a pair of Swords. "Who the hell are you to Interfere with SwordArm! And put me down!"

 

Joe smirked, and teleported 3 feet to the right, and a foot up. They were at the same level now, and both were falling at the same speed. But Joe was used to this stuff. SwordArm wasn't. "Why do people always ask to be put down when I'm holding them above the clouds? How many Epics have you killed?"

 

"What?"

 

"How many Epics? And how many Humans?"

 

"I don't know, a lot? They keep refusing me, so I kill them. Everyone does. We're Epics!"

 

"Wrong." Joe looked down, and teleported away, Leaving the Epic to scream as he fell.
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CorpseMaker  stood in the rain, searching about. The teleporter had to be here somewhere. All he needed was a moment to see him, and he could kill him. Why did he take SwordArm? And what does he want? Whatever the reason, he had crossed CorpseMaker, and he would feel his wrath.

Through the patter of the rain, he could hear something, a high pitched scream. It was faint, though it was growing louder. CorpseMaker pivoted, trying to get a fix on the source. it seemed to be coming from, above him? He looked up into the grey sky, and saw a body. A Flight Epic? But it's getting closer. Falling? Wait, is that, SwordArm? He hurried through the rain, to where the Epic would Land. His screams were louder now, Then they were normal volume, then they ended, with a thuk. Instead of a body, there was an almighty mess. barely identifiable. And where were his clothes?

 

Something grabbed his Ankle. He whirled around, but suddenly froze. He couldn't move anything above his knee. He couldn't even breath, or see. What happened?

Then, a voice. "I know you wouldn't have died from a fall like he did. I'm not actually certain if you can die, or if you can even hear me, being inside of a wall and all. But know this. For your cards against humanity, you will die. And if you cannot die, then I shall simply leave you hear, powerless forever. All you can move are you toes, so have fun with eternity."

Edited by The Only Joe
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The first thing Nathan felt was a cold breeze, carrying the scents of pine and earth. A chill ran through him. After nine years in a steel city, he had forgotten what true, growing trees smelled like, the freshness of a sweet, earth-tinged breeze blowing through a forest. He kept his eyes closed longer than he had to, digging his toes into the spongy earth.

 

He opened them when he heard shouting. 

 

Doctor Funtimes crouched on the ground, waving her arms wildly. “Go, Mister Hamsterface! Run and be free! But don’t spit bullets at the mice ‘cause that’s rude and if you’re a rude hamster you won’t have any little mouse friends!” Mister Hamsterface, for his part, seemed taken with the idea: In the glow of Doctor Funtimes’ flashlight, Nathan saw a small brown dot amble toward a grassy hilltop.

 

He had nearly forgotten that grass was green.

 

Once Mister Hamsterface was a fair distance away, Doctor Funtimes stood and shined the flashlight on him, casting her own face into shadow. She laughed. “Your clothes are stupid.”

 

From a practical standpoint, she was right. His robe was too thin to stand up to anything more than a stiff breeze. If Fortuity had gotten his way, it wouldn’t have mattered. “I—Fortuity made me wear this.”

 

“He’s a dirty meanieface full of lame.”

 

At least they agreed on something.

 

Her shoes brushed against the grass as she approached, and she turned the flashlight into a lantern when she neared. She set it down at his feet, still smiling, and pulled her sweater over her head. “You can’t wear stupid things. You’re with me now.”

 

Relief washed over him. Every time the robe brushed against his knees, he remembered he wore a shroud. “Jeans and a T-shirt are fine.”

 

Doctor Funtimes made a face. “Ew, no. Now, let’s see here….pink tux? No….”

 

Rescuing him from a painful death warranted gratitude, among other things, but forcing him to wander the countryside in a tuxedo that resembled a preschooler’s painting was not one of them. “What if…”

 

She looked up sharply, still grinning. “Hm?”

 

No pretending he hadn’t said a word now. Nathan swallowed his fear and started over. “How about a brown pinstripe suit?”

 

She waved her hand as though swatting a mosquito. “No, that’s for raisins.”

 

He had no idea what that meant, but he guessed she wasn’t taken with the idea. “With red Cons. And a brown suede duster.”

 

Doctor Funtimes laughed and clapped her hands. “Ooh, me likey!” With a wave of her hand, his robe became a pair of tailored slacks and a pale green button-down shirt. His feet were still bare, and were it not for the cold, he wouldn’t have minded. “I need more stuff.”

 

She turned a branch into a flashlight and scampered off into the nearby wood, singing a song about water buffalo. By the second verse, she returned with something heavy and shiny draped over her shoulders. “Here,” she said, grunting with the effort as she handed it to him. “Hold this tuba.”

 

“Where’d you get a tuba?”

 

“From a log over there, silly! Now hold the tuba.”

 

He held the tuba.

 

She waved her hand again, like a conductor at an orchestra. Nathan felt the weight of the tuba decrease, shifting to his shoulders as metal became cloth. Warmth surrounded his feet as the tuba became a pair of Converse, and when the rest of the tuba was repurposed for his duster, he felt quite cozy indeed. “Thanks,” he said, inspecting his new clothes. They weren’t quite like what the Tenth Doctor had worn—the stripes were too wide and the duster a shade too dark—but he laughed anyway. “This is perfect.”  

 

“Oop, hang on a second.” Doctor Funtimes pranced over to him and took hold of his tie. She tilted her head to one side, stuck out her tongue, and waggled her fingers over the silk. White cloth became lime green so bright he thought it might glow on its own. She tucked it back into his vest. “There. Now it’s perfect.”

 

Close enough.

 

“Where are we?”

 

“Tillamook Forest. I picked it ‘cause it’s fun to say. Tillamook, Tillamook—say it! Tillamook! Tillamook, Tillamook, Tillamook….

 

“Tillamook.” She was right: it was a fun name. If his memory of Fractured States geography served, they were about an hour from Portland, Oregon. She seemed to be in a good mood, so he dared another question. “So—uh—what about Mister Hamsterface?”

 

Doctor Funtimes took both his hands in hers, brown eyes shining. “He’s free, Nathan. Free like a taco on Epics Eat Free Friday.”

 

“Um.” Nathan would have laughed, had an ordinary person said those words, but she was completely serious. Or appeared to be. He couldn’t tell if her quirks were genuine or not. “You told him not to spit bullets. Would—could he do that?”

 

She shrugged. “I dunno. If he’s eating bullets, I’m not judging.”  

 

“No, of course not.” She could transform a revolver into a hamster, bring a hat to life, and cross hundreds of miles in a second. If Fortuity was a vengeful god, she was a playful one, and her hands were warming his, her face so close he could feel her breath on his cheek.

 

He felt suddenly dizzy.

 

Why did you save me? He wanted to ask, but he didn’t dare. Most Epics became angry when questioned. If he angered her, she might shoot him. Or turn him into a newt. Or…actually, he had no idea what she might do. She might kill him, she might give him a straight answer, or she might laugh and challenge him to a pancake fight. Fortuity could see the future, and he had found her unpredictable.

 

Nathan had always known chaotic Epics existed. The stories had left no doubt. But he had known it in the way he knew sunny days were possible outside Newcago, or that steel hadn’t always been worthless. He knew those things, but knowing them didn’t help him survive the endless nights or scrounge up rent money. But now a chaotic Epic was with him in a strange forest, wearing a rainbow dress and a smile, and he had no idea why she didn’t kill him where he stood.  

 

“Thanks for the clothes.”

 

“You joined my party.”

 

“So did Mister Hamsterface.”

 

Doctor Funtimes laughed so long and hard she began to cough. “You silly,” she said when she got her wind back, “hamsters can’t party!”

 

“Oh. Right. I—I was just joking.”

 

She laughed again. “You’re silly. I like you.”

 

Nathan thought the dizziness had passed, but it overwhelmed him once more. He hadn’t heard right. He couldn’t have heard right. “What?”

 

Doctor Funtimes giggled, stood on tiptoe, and tapped his nose. “Your face is nice.” Her hands touched his cheeks, his eyes, his lips. “It feels like a face. I like your face.”

 

I like you. Newcago Epics didn’t say those words often. Not to humans, at any rate. Being liked by an Epic was more than simple favor. It was a blessing, a promise of protection for as long as one was deemed worthy. Though worthiness could change, there was usually an inciting incident of some sort, one that gave the favored human a clue as to why they were favored—and how to keep the Epic’s admiration.

 

Doctor Funtimes had given her blessing.

 

And he had no idea why.  

Edited by TwiLyghtSansSparkles
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Before Calamity: Kathy was home with her two brothers and parents when robbers broke into their house. The robbers stole what they wanted and shot their parents, killing them. After that point Nathan, being the oldest, cared for his two younger siblings Kathy and Jon.

 

Jon was barely 18 when Epics started appearing. Life in Portland became crazy as at least one new epic appeared every day to try to gain control from the local government. Nathan and Jon thought it was too crazy in Portland and left for the safety of Newcago. Kathy stayed. Portland may be having Epic problems, but it was her home.

 

Finally, the government gave up and Epics gained power in Portland. After that, things stabilized and the Epics all got their own territories.

 

One day, Kathy was in her apartment, when robbers broke in. She ran for her dresser to get her gun when they shot her. Kathy closed her eyes, but nothing happened. When Kathy opened her eyes, she saw that the robbers were as confused as she was. Looking down she saw that the metal bullet had melted before hitting her. The robbers fired again and this time Kathy saw the bullet melt as it got close. Figuring out that she was an Epic, Kathy raised her hand hoping she had an offensive power. Flame shot from her hand and burned one of the robbers. The other robbers ran away, terrified. Kathy looked at the dead body that was still on fire. "What am I going to do with this?" she thought. Quickly, she picked up the body and threw it out the window of her apartment (that was three stories up). Kathy was scared. If anyone found out that she was Epic they would kick her out maybe even try to kill her. She had heard what her friends thought of Epics not accepting their rule, but not opposing it either. Kathy decided not to use her powers unless she absolutely had to, and designed a costume to conceal her identity in case she had to use her powers.

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Altermind knew he was one of the more powerful Epics in town. Not the most powerful by far, but he had dominion over a suburb and that was more than most Epics could claim. Many were just servants of bigger ones. Not Altermind. He would submit himself to no man. He allowed others to submit themselves to him, but he served no one. 

 

He also wasn't a ruthless killer. Unless he had to be. Most of the time, he just kicked out the inferior humans in Thoughttown. He sent them out in trucks to be dropped off in strategically planned locations throughout the city to spread them out. The ones who were smart enough to stay were given jobs in factories. If they accomplished tasks he assigned, they could be given small rewards. Sometimes it would be a bonus in food. Other times a money bonus for supplies. On the rare occasion, they could earn a trip into the main city. 

 

Scorch was one of the two other Epics who lived in Thoughttown. Flashpoint was the other. Flashpoint could fly and shoot small bursts of electricity from his fingertips. Both were used as guards and law enforcement. Flashpoint was also used to gather information and occasionally power small electric devices. 

 

Altermind sat in his "throne" in his palace. His palace was what used to be a high school in the area. He had had it renovated to have more open space. Anyone who saw it saw a large building with big glass windows. That was just the hallucination Altermind put in anyone's mind who drew nearby. His throne was a comfortable office chair that he had kept from the high school days. It appeared to be large and regal. 

 

Once a day, Altermind allowed his civilians who had just got off work to submit forms to ask for petitions. The forms were reviewed by his top staff and those deemed worthy causes were allowed to approach him and ask him to help their cause. The one today was a short man with large glasses. He was an accountant at one of Altermind's electricity plants. "Mr. Harmon, what is your wish of me?"

 

"A-Altermind, your gracious, I-I would like to ask if you could light our plants better. The workers produce less when the light is less. If you could light them better, we could produce more. You are a light Epic."

 

Altermind was furious. "I am a mental illusionist, idiot! Those light-manipulating Epics are totally different and inferior. If you produce more energy, you would get more light. How did you pass the Altermind test?! Flashpoint, send Mr. Harmon here out on the next imbecile-truck," Altermind fumed. 

 

Some people were such idiots. How were they even allowed to be born? Altermind had never been able to stand those who thought they were smart but were actually dumber than a rock. He would've killed them all long ago, but he knew that he could weaken the other Epics' rule if he spread the stupidity out among their domains. 

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Gordon was just minding his own buisness, sitting on a street corner, the day CorpseMaker disappeared. He was one of the first to find out about it though. After all, that was his Buisness. Information. CorpseMaker was presumed dead. They had found a body, barely recognizable as human, on the sidewalk in front of the old Capitol One bank that he used as a Lair. They weren't sure it was him, but no one else was missing.

 

Either way, people probably wouldn't be caring about that now. Who care'd about a dead Epic? Only people like me, people who work for the Reckoners. He sold information to Epics and reckoners alike, though he occasionally gave false Info to Epics. He had gotten two killed by reckoners that way. But CorpseMaker, who had killed him? That was valuable info. No one had know his weakness. It was a mystery. One that Gordon was determined to solve. But for now, he had an appointment to meet.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Ten minutes later, a man wearing a blind fold and a small backpack rounded the corner, and stopped next to Gordon. The man looked directly at him, despite his blindfold. "Hey, Sir? Are you Joe? someone said you wanted some goods?" Might as well see if this blind man was the right man.

 

"Altermind. What do you know about his powers and weaknesses?" The man kept staring right at him. Rust but that was creepy.

 

"Altermind? He's an Illusionist Epic, uh, Mental one I think. Pretty intelligent too. He's also a telekinetic. Move things with his mind. Pretty cool to Watch I'm told." Carefully, without making any noise, Gordon sidled to the left a couple feet. The blind man's gaze followed him.

 

"What about his doings?" Does he consort with any Epics?" Most clients were a lot more cautious then this. And were more suspicious. This guy was creepy.

 

"Look man, I'm going to have to verify that you can afford this information, I don't cross powerful epics for nothing." The man stared at him, then shrugged off his backpack, and tossed it to Gordon. Gordon caught it, and knelt down to open it. It was entirely full, of cash. 100 dollar bills mostly. "What the, where did you get all this?"

 

"Is it sufficent?" This guy was either rich, an Epic, or part of a large organization.

 

"Yeah man. So, Altermind, he doesn't really hang out with any Epics, other than Scorch and Flashpoint, his right hands. He doesn't like the normal people, throws them out of his town, unless they're smart enough to pass his test. I actually passed it, about a month back." If he was a Reckoner, He wasn't with the cell that Gordon usually worked with.

 

"Does he kill vani- Humnas? or Epics?" Vani-? Vanillas? Regular people? Storms, this guy was definetly Epic. And going after Altermind.

 

An Epic. Hunting other Epics. CorpseMaker's mysterious death. At his lair, the Bank. and a Backpack full of Benjamins. "Rust and Ruin. You killed CorpseMaker? Ah I mean, not to pry into your business, your Epicness, I mean. ah, Altermind! Ah, no, he hasn't killed anyone that I know of. Human or epic. Um. You can have you money back sir, please don't hurt me." A small part of Gordon's mind noted that he was crouching and cowering. That part of his mind was ignored for now.

 

"I don't kill vanilla's. And yes, I did kill CorpseMaker, as well as his lackey, SwordArm. That was SwordArm's body in front of the bank. And thank you for your information. I will return if I need more. If anyone asks, I'm SightLine." The man turned around and walked back around the corner. Nearly five minutes later, Gordon felt safe enough to pick himself up off the ground, and hurry home.

Edited by The Only Joe
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"Hey, Scorch. You take this one. There's a problem with the truck." 

 

"What's the problem?"  

 

"Dunno. Now it's your problem." Laughing, Flashpoint tossed him the keys, ducking Scorch's fireball. "That's the tenth time I've gotten you with that joke, just so you know." 

 

Scorch threw another fireball. It was easier than thinking of a witty comeback—and far more effective, when it caught the corner of Flashpoint's cape. With a yelp, Flashpoint stomped it out, then turned to Scorch with his fists clenched and shook a finger in his face. "Altermind is going to hear about this!" 

 

"Yeah, run to Daddy. All you're good for, anyway." 

 

Flashpoint narrowed his eyes and marched back into HQ. Scorch smirked. The other half of Altermind's security team might tell the illusionist, and he might whine and wail and stomp his feet while he did it, but little would come of Flashpoint's tantrum. Thougttown's ruler didn't care so much if his two officers fought or ignored each other or sat in the corner and sang "Kumbaya," so long as his little kingdom ran the way he wanted. If worst came to worst, Altermind might call them both imbeciles, but he would never put them on one of the trucks. 

 

Speaking of….

 

What passed for Scorch's good mood dissipated. He let his lips curl into a snarl, which made the dozen or so imbeciles on the eponymous truck shrink back. That lifted his spirits a little. It was right that they should cower in fear. Only natural that they should shrink from their Epic rulers. They were weak, and he was strong. End of story. 

 

"Get in," he told a straggler, tossing a small flame as she struggled to climb aboard. It caught the edge of her pencil skirt, eliciting a yelp of terror. Scorch took his time walking to the driver's seat, savoring the smell of burning cloth. With any luck, she would be wearing a much shorter skirt before too long. But it was not to be: There was a chorus of excited cries from the flatbed of the truck, and in a few seconds her skirt was merely singed. Not an inch of length had been lost. 

 

Imbeciles. 

 

Scorch tossed his flamethrower onto the passenger's seat and started the truck, then turned to speak to the gathered dunces through what had once been glass. "You even think about jumping off 'fore we get outta Thoughttown, I'll roast you alive. Got it?" 

 

They assured him they did. 

 

He slammed the gas pedal as he put the truck in reverse, then hit the brakes just as hard, smirking as a few passengers were tossed against the railings. It was like driving with a flatbed full of bowling balls, but much more amusing. Bowling balls didn't scream in terror or yelp in pain. The girl in the burned skirt fell against the side, caught by a man old enough to be her father. She looked up at him in gratitude. 

 

Scorch loosed a small growl. If he had his way, she would be too busy trying to keep her balance to accept help from anyone. 

 

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Nathan barely slept that night.

 

It wasn’t for want of comfort. After dancing around the forest for a few minutes, chanting about how she loved his new clothes, she turned a cluster of trees into a small cottage, taking care to ensure each side was a different color and that the furniture was suitably fun. All this meant that Nathan slept in a bed painted like a zebra, with colorful blankets and a teddy bear in case he got lonely.

 

Or rather, he tried to sleep.

 

His zebra bed was soft, just the way he assured Doctor Funtimes he liked it. The blankets were warm, the room lit by the pleasant glow of a nightlight. His Newcago apartment paled in comparison, and yet he couldn’t keep his eyes closed for long. Fortuity’s minions had dressed him and strapped him down while he was asleep. Prepared for death, and blissfully unaware.

 

He had been drugged, he reminded himself. He could almost feel the sting of the syringe in his neck, rough hands on his arms as his vision clouded—

 

Nathan threw off the covers and got to his feet, greeted by the softness of a throw rug. Doctor Funtimes had insisted on it. She may have stolen him and whisked him off to a forest two thousand miles west, but at least she wanted him to be comfortable. Even so, she was still an Epic. Still willing and able to slice him open once his eyes were closed.

 

He heard her in the main area, shuffling something around, her voice never rising enough for him to make out her words. When he peered out through the cracked-open door, he saw her on the floor, skirts spread out around her knees like a flower, short dark hair shielding her face from view. A tiny wooden city had her full attention.

 

For the tenth time that night, he considered running.

 

And for the tenth time that night, he dismissed it. She had brought him to Oregon in less than a second. Escaped Fortuity’s penthouse in the blink of an eye. The only reason she stayed longer than that was to give him a sound beating before stealing his toy. If Nathan ran, she would find him, and she would not be kind. 

 

Nathan glanced down at the pajamas she had made him. Soft white flannel printed with bright racecars, just his size. His new suit and duster hung in the closet. Despite the childish design, they were the nicest pajamas he had owned in a good while.

 

“You want pancakes?” Doctor Funtimes’ voice rose enough for him to make out the words. “I will give you pancakes!” She turned a throw pillow into a bag of flour, snatched a handful, and tossed it into the air over her little city. Bits of flour became quarter-sized pancakes as they fell. “Yay!” Now she spoke for the dolls within the city. “We love you, Doctor Funtimes! You’re the best Empress ever!”

 

Nathan leaned against the wall, watching in stunned silence. An Epic fantasizing about ruling a city was nothing new. Steelheart was not the only Epic who had carved out a fiefdom for himself; merely the one Nathan knew best. But he didn’t seem to care about his subjects. Only that he had them, and that they would stay his. Public opinion had never been a concern of his, and if one of them proclaimed their love, he might laugh.

 

Or kill them.

 

Nathan went back to bed before she turned around. He lay awake until he heard her tiptoe past his door, peer inside, and tiptoe on. A few hours before dawn, he finally fell asleep. 

Edited by TwiLyghtSansSparkles
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Max hated the Epics. They had stolen his family, his house, his life. All these upstarts who thought they should rule the world just because of their few extra abilities. All of them were twisted, no matter what. Even ones like Sightline who killed other Epics killed people. They were Epics, true, but he was still twisted. He had also heard of one, Altermind, who had a strict mental exam to be allowed into his suburb.

Max hated all of them. Deathscream had killed his family. One day when Max had been at his college class, Deathscream had risen to power and taken over Max's neighborhood. He had been Max's friend, Stu, once. They had lived down the road from each other most their lives. But once Stu got his powers, they took over and he became evil. He had vocal skills that killed. Literally. When he shrieked, those within a close range died. Deathscream had broken into Max's house and caught both his parents and younger sister unaware. He screamed at them and the sound pierced their eardrums and shot into their brains. It killed them instantly. Even Bud, Max's dog had been a casualty of that day.

Max had come home that day to a broken-in house with his family lying on the floor, dead. He found Deathscream, and, while playing music through earphones, shot him. Since that day, Max swore to help people fight the Epics.

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Travis looked at the list he had been given. His employer wanted him to get pictures of some of the Epics right here in Portland. His employer could be an Epic or a Reckoner. Travis didn't know and he didn't care as long as he got paid.

 

The list had the name of all the Epics in town and had all of the names crossed off that he didn't have to take pictures of. It was still a lot of Epics he did have to take pictures of. Luckily he had a plan for getting near some of these Epics. Altermind was going to be a little difficult Travis thought, but he had a perfect plan. With a smile on his face he went towards Thoughttown.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------

 

It was just another day. Everyone on the street brought out their supplies to sell. Most people sold food, some sold random junk that could be useful, and only a few sold weapons. It was a community everyone helping out each other, and Kathy was selling bread. One of her neighbors came by and bought some bread giving her some flour in payment.

 

A neighborhood where everyone knew each other. So when a new person named Travis moved in everyone knew about. No one knew why he was there because he refused to answer any questions. Everyone's confusion was compounded when he had left after getting a room in the apartment. Why rent a room if you weren't going to stay there? That Travis was suspicious.

Edited by TwiLyghtSansSparkles
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He woke to light shining through his curtains.

 

Nathan sat bolt upright, heart pounding, threw off the blankets and dashed to his closet. He tore the shirt and suit from their hangers and dressed as quickly as he could, cursing the seemingly endless rows of buttons. The only light in the city came from Epics and searchlights, and if a searchlight was shining through his curtains, he had minutes before Enforcement was beating down his door. He should have known this would happen. Should have known Fortuity would hunt him down, even as far as Oregon—

 

Oregon.

 

Nathan stopped tucking in his shirt and considered the word. Oregon. Yes. Six states away from Newcago. It wasn’t a searchlight shining through his window, but sunlight. Real, natural sunlight. It warmed his back and made the blue curtains glow.

 

He threw them open and laughed, squinting from the glare. Once his eyes adjusted, he saw trees—real, growing trees, brown and green, with birds alighting in their branches. The sky was blue and clear, and there, directly to the west, was the sun. It shined with a purity all its own, so blindingly beautiful Nathan couldn’t keep his eye on it no matter how badly he wanted to.

 

“Na-than!” Doctor Funtimes sang his name as she knocked on his door. Without waiting for permission, she opened it, sending the smell of pancakes and sugar wafting into his room. “C’mon! Grab a pancake and let’s go! There’s a party in Portland today!”

 

--------------------------------------------

 

Portland was full of people—humans, mostly, who walked quickly as though afraid of being stopped and berated for it. People in Newcago walked much the same way. There were no Epics around, so far as Nathan could tell, but from the nearly palpable fear in the city, he knew they had to be close. “So where’s the party?”

 

Doctor Funtimes giggled. “Don’t know yet. We’ve got to find it first.”

 

She saved your life, he reminded himself. That was her party. Saving your life. “Where do we look?”

 

“Hmmm…..” She tented her eyes with her hand, although the only sunlight came from behind a thick cover of clouds. There was sun behind those clouds, not just darkness. Nathan still hadn’t wrapped his mind around that fact. “I know! Let’s hide in a building and when somebody comes in, we’ll tell ‘em they’re at the party! That’s a good idea, right?”

 

It was a terrible idea, but Epics didn’t take kindly to being told they were wrong. “Sure. Where do we hide?”

 

She chose a vacant apartment in a half-abandoned building as their first hideout. Once there, she turned a moldy, moth-eaten sofa into a colorful beanbag chair and a rickety table into a four-tier cake complete with bright frosting balloons and eight sparklers on top serving as candles. “This is going to be so much fun!” she giggled.

 

Nathan did his best to look enthused, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the apartment’s previous tenants. There was a child-sized T-shirt crumpled on the floor, made useless by mildew and moths. Breakfast dishes decayed in the sink. Whoever had lived there before had left in a hurry.

 

If Doctor Funtimes noticed, she didn’t seem to care. She beat Fortuity, Nathan told himself. If we meet whatever Epic ran this family out, she can cover us both.

 

Provided, of course, she wasn’t too busy trying to get said Epic to join her party.

 

Before long, Nathan heard the rattle of a pickup truck through the broken window. Rather than continue on, it lurched to a halt, drawing shouts of surprise from its passengers. “Two of you off,” a voice growled. “Rest of you stay on.”

 

Doctor Funtimes pranced to where he stood. “They’re here!” she giggled. “Let’s go hide!”

 

He let her drag him toward the counter and ducked when she did. Footsteps stopped by the door, and two voices discussed whether or not to go inside. Doctor Funtimes clapped her hands quietly.

 

“Here they come here they come!”

 

The door creaked open.

 

Footsteps halted. 

 

A female voice spoke. “There’s a….cake?”

 

Before her companion had a chance to reply, Doctor Funtimes jumped out from behind the counter. “Surprise! Welcome to my party!”

 

They fled screaming.

 

---------------------------------------

 

Just before he rounded a corner, Scorch caught two imbeciles fleeing the apartment building in terror. He chuckled. The sight of frightened imbeciles always cheered him.  

 

An older woman turned in her seat. Over the growl of the engine, Scorch only caught “….Epic in there?”

 

“You really think an Epic would waste time on those two?”

 

No one answered, but Scorch laughed anyway.

 

“An Epic. Scaring them. You morons.” 

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Max had grown in the past five years since he had decided to fight the Epics. He knew that there were others ways to fight rather than just hunting Epics down. He had met Mel a couple years ago and worked with her since. They, well Mel really, broke into stores and stole food and supplies while Max was a lookout-backup-cover-fire guy. They gave the supplies they stole to Reckoners and other people like them. When they had extra, they gave it to those who were starving.

Max stood, lounging against a tree on the sidewalk. The sun was just rising over the horizon, sending pink rays of light into Portland. He kept the store Mel was in in his peripheral vision while pretending to be busy on his mobile. This time it was an old grocery store. Mel would be gathering the non perishables and any other food that was good. Ten minutes, Max thought. She has ten minutes to get out of there before the owner arrives.

The pair had scoped out this store for the past week. The owner arrived every morning at 7:30 to open the store. It was a safe job. There was a perfect window that was hidden from the street and was in the shade, so less people would see Mel breaking in.

People were walking down the road, most hunched over in fear, on the way to their jobs. One man turned the corner and was running towards the store. Rust! That was the store owner. Max panicked. He ran to the window Mel had snuck in through and hissed at her, "Mel! Run!" As the man approached the door, Max fired a shot at the front's glass window. The owner yelled and hid out of sight. Max ran to the chosen meeting place for something like this happening. He hoped Mel would meet him there.

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 Mel’s heart battered at her chest so hard that she almost expected it to start sending sound waves through the still air, crashing into shelves of canned goods, toiletries, vegetables, even the weapons kept concealed under the counter. She fingered the pistol at her hip, rubbing her fingers along the cold metal for comfort. There were no Epics in the area. 

 

If there were, she would never dare steal.

 

She moved away from the window, crouched over double from force of habit. Her black sneakers barely made a noise against the wooden floor, though the plastic bags she carried over one shoulder rustled with every movement, especially as they made contact with her long hair, pulled back as it was into a tight ponytail. She grimaced. The bags would need replacing as soon as possible. For the moment, they were all she and Max had available.

 

The shop was of average size, it’s five aisles large enough to serve the locals, but not ostentatious enough to catch the attention of an Epic like Altermind or one of his Epic lackeys. The owner, Martin, was just another person trying to live his life. Max and Mel helped others whose lives had been destroyed by Epics. So it went in Portland.

 

Mel scanned the contents of the shelf. Cold soup, vegetables, canned meat...this shop was surprisingly well stocked. She started grabbing cans, grimacing every time they crackled against her plastic bags. After a minute, she moved on to the tissues, grabbing a few packets, then slung a bag of pillow cases over her shoulder. She tested the weight of her load, and pulled a face yet again.

 

“Still need to work out more,” she muttered under her breath, “the blasted things are heavy!”

 

She hurried as best she could towards the back door, which opened into a dusty storeroom filled with crates. One day she’d find a way to take one of these back with her. She dodged through the maze of wood and cement, heading for a glowing green exit sign. A clock on the far wall read 8:20. Ten minutes until the shop owner arrived, forty minutes until he opened for business. Mel hesitated. Did she really  have time to snoop around the storeroom?

 

Quickly. She carefully lowered the bags onto the floor, grateful as the ache in her arms eased for a moment. She jumped over the boxes next to her, heading for the back corner. It might just be more food, but she had a gut feeling the owner was hiding something. Something about his actions this past week tipped her off, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Regardless, she had learned to trust her instincts.

 

She leaped another set of crates, fallen haphazardly against each other, barely clearing the top of them. She puffed out a breath of relief. That had been reckless. If they’d fallen...

 

Mel suddenly tensed, her head snapped up and she stared across the room, back to the door into the shop proper. It was slightly ajar. That was careless of her.

 

The faint noise of a fist banging on glass reverberated on the periphery of her hearing. A voice. Max. The crack of a pistol.

 

Blast! She took a last glance back at the corner of the room, then turned and ran for her bags. In the past three years she had learned to trust her partner. He had never called her off on a raid before, the people simply needed them too much. It was a careful balance between desperation and paranoia, and they had never yet crossed that line. But today, something was very, very wrong. Who had he fired at? No time to think, no time to think, just move. She could think later, somewhere relatively safe.

 

She snatched up her bags, feeling the cold plastic digging sharp welts into her hands. This is ridiculous!

 

Carefully, holding the bags out away from her body to minimise their contact with anything other than air, she hurried forwards towards the storeroom door. She slipped out of it, and headed back towards the window. Just then, a jangling key made her veins freeze solid. Then her mind kicked into gear.

 

I have a gun. I can take him. No. He’s just a shopkeeper. We all have to survive. I can’t be caught. If I kill him, I’m no better than an Epic. Is....is something following him? Is that why Max fired? Was he fired at? Then ran? What now?

 

She had only a few moments before Martin came inside. Every heartbeat counted. She crossed to the window in two massive strides, threw it open, and dumped the bags outside. They clanked as they landed, the sound too loud, to obvious. She hoped Max heard and collected their haul. Then she slammed the window shut again and sprinted for the storehouse.

 

She was halfway there when the front door opened, a bullet hole smashed through it. Max. She threw herself behind the narrow end of an aisle, flattening herself against tubes of toothpaste.

 

The man who walked in was tall. Blonde. Long drooping moustache which contrasted narrow eyes that were blacker than an Epic’s heart.

 

This was not the shop owner they had been watching.

 

And he did not look impressed.

Edited by TwiLyghtSansSparkles
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"They….they didn't join?" 

 

There was no urge to point out Doctor Funtimes' statement of the obvious. If Nathan had learned one thing in four years of serving Epics, it was that they did not appreciate sarcasm. Unless, of course, it was at another's expense. "Maybe someone else will." 

 

"You did." Her brown eyes shone for a moment, then dimmed again. "Why didn't they?" 

 

It was literally join you or die, was what he didn't say. If she heard that, it was only a small leap from "I joined you so I wouldn't die" to "If they're threatened with death too, they might decide your parties aren't so bad." 

 

Doctor Funtimes sank to the floor, her skirts fluffed out around her. "I…I thought that…." She pounded her fist against the worn linoleum, transforming a nearby square into a bear trap. "They're stupid!" 

 

They're not stupid. Just scared of an Epic who hides in vacant apartments with a cake. Cakes were at the friendly end of the spectrum. At the other end were acids and bear traps. Sparks, was every Epic on the planet this dense? "Maybe if you left them fun surprises, they'd want to join you more?"

 

"I did! A whole cake!"

 

"Maybe you need to move a little slower. Give them something fun, and leave. Let them wonder who did it."

 

"But….but then they won't know it's me!"

 

Nathan forced a smile and crouched on the floor with her. "That's the fun of it! If they don't know it's you, they'll be wondering, 'Hmm, who could have possibly turned my pile of garbage into a chocolate fountain? I'll bet that person sure is fun!'"  

 

"And…and then they'll want to join my party?" 

 

There's a slim chance, but it's better than none. "Probably. So what do you say?" 

 

A huge grin spread across her face, and the bear trap became a kitten. 

 

Nathan disguised his relief as joy. "See? Now that's more like it." 

 

---------------------------------------------------

 

Scorch's truck made the rounds through Portland's neighborhoods, dropping off imbeciles in twos and threes. There was a tentative agreement with the other Epics in the city: Altermind could give them his imbeciles, but only in small quantities. Said imbeciles would be put to work, or suffer the consequences. 

 

As the number of passengers in the flatbed dwindled, Scorch noticed a pattern. The moment he lurched from the stop, the rest would turn and watch. Sometimes nothing happened. Sometimes, an imbecile or two would wander from the building they had just entered, holding a puppy or a toy car or a pop-up card. At first, Scorch thought it a joyous reunion of idiots—their families welcoming them home—but they usually just hugged and cried and dragged them inside. 

 

By the time his truck was empty, Scorch still hadn't puzzled out what it all meant. He decided to drop it. A few kittens were nothing to Altermind. He'd just make them think they were wild horses or something. 

Edited by TwiLyghtSansSparkles
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Moving his chair with his mind, Altermind sat, exhausted. The people he worked with were all morons. Even Scorch and Flashpoint were idiotic most times. He had seen their little spat from out his window. It was the same everyday, Flashpoint would play some lame joke on Scorch and Scorch would throw fireballs at Flashpoint. Flashpoint would come running into Altermind's chamber and tell Altermind. If the two Epics were so imbecilic, the Vanillas in Thoughttown must be worse off.

At least Altermind had rid himself of the worst. Every month or so, Altermind would write a new test and mandate everyone in Thoughttown to take it. Anyone wanting to come into the district had to pass the test first too. Tests were Altermind's way of keeping his suburb the smartest and therefore the most powerful. Intelligence is power. That's the motto Altermind lived by.

As sure as Altermind had predicted, Flashpoint came running in with his cape on fire. "Boss, Scorch lit my cape on fire again," Flashpoint whined.

"Idiot," Altermind muttered.

"I know, he never can come up with a witty comeback. All he does is throw fireball after fireball. What an idiot," Flashpoint was glad Altermind agreed.

Altermind sighed. "Not him. You. You are an imbecile. Both of you are. Go get a new cape and put your big boy pants on." Altermind used his mind to nudge Flashpoint towards the door. "Leave me!" Flashpoint shrieked and ran out suddenly. Altermind knew he was deathly afraid of cats. In fact, being close to cats was Flashpoint's weakness. Altermind had put an image of a cat in Flashpoint's mind, along with the sound of a meow to hurry him along.

(Max is the greatest! I forgot your profile pic was of Liesel.)

What do you want to do with the blond guy? Should Max come back?

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I'm thinking the shopkeeper is up to something, though I'm not sure if the blonde guy is helping him or against him. He honestly just walked through the front door so I let him stay. I'm completely discovery writing here, so do what you want and ill work with that, I guess? Otherwise i'll think about it and get back to you. My real answer is, I don't have a plan for him right now, I was just going to see how this develops.

Max - depends on his personality I guess. Or if something's stopping him from waiting at their rendezvous point. Your choice :).

Edit: I love Max Vandenburg, he's just a little incongruous in this setting :P

Edited by Delightful
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Scorch was unable to carry out his plan. 

 

He eased the truck into the carport, shut off the ignition, and reached for his flamethrower. The weight was familiar, but the balance was all wrong. He growled to himself, slinging it over his back without looking at it. Probably just Altermind, taking out his anger over his and Flashpoint's spat by making him think it was a squirt gun or a sack of potatoes or something. It happened with enough frequency that Scorch barely noticed anymore. 

 

On his way inside, he thought about the imbeciles. Carting them around the city was his least favorite activity by far. Flashpoint knew that, and still he made him take his job. What Scorch wouldn't give for a nice jumping cholla. Place it near Flashpoint during one of his tantrums, wait for him to flail his arms, and laugh as the lightly poisoned spines leapt onto his arm and burrowed themselves there. 

 

Storms, he missed Arizona. 

 

Scorch knew he had to report to Altermind once the imbeciles were safely carted away. This made him angry. On his way into the throne room, he whipped out his flamethrower—which Altermind had apparently made him think was some kind of water cannon—and fired, waiting for a burst of flame. 

 

Instead, pudding shot out of the barrel. 

 

Scorch growled. Altermind had never made him think anything but flame shot from his flamethrower. He might change the shape, but not the function. This was a new low, even for him. "This ain't funny, Boss." 

Edited by TwiLyghtSansSparkles
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Altermind laughed at Scorch's imbecilic attempt to use his flamethrower. Which in and of itself was idiotic, Scorch could throw fireballs, why would he need a flame thrower? Imbecile. As Scorch fired his flamethrower, Altermind made him see pudding instead. Flame really did come out, but all Scorch could see was a water cannon that squirted pudding.

--------------------------

Max arrived at the corner where he and Mel had chosen to meet up if things went bad. He saw a tall, dark-haired man standing on the corner, scanning the crowd. Definitely an Epic. Max turned around and, trying to blend in, hunched his shoulders and hurried back towards the store. Who knew what kind of trouble Mel could be in.

Once Max made it back to the window of the store, he saw that Mel had placed the bags of food and supplies outside. He grabbed them and his them in a tree. That done, he snuck back to the window and crouched underneath, listening. He pulled out one of his handguns and cocked it. Quickly pointing the gun at one of the shelves, he fired a warning shot. The shelf cracked and cans rolled all over the floor.

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Scorch tossed the flamethrower aside. "So it's you, making all those idiots see pop-up cards and kittens everywhere. And they thought it was a new Epic in town." With another growl, he turned to leave. "Stupid, by the way, making them see all that crap. Just made 'em happy." 

 

--------------------------------------

 

Nathan held his breath as Doctor Funtimes giggled. "They're rolling! Those cans are rolling!" 

 

​As cans are wont to do. "Just turn them into a fun surprise and we'll go. Remember the plan?" She had already given kittens, cards, and toys to humans who had been dropped off at various locations throughout the city, and each prank had lifted her mood a little more. This was good. A happy Epic was a less dangerous Epic. 

 

She giggled again. "I remember." With a snap of her fingers, the cans became two dozen fluffy yellow ducklings that quacked and waddled across the floor. She clapped her hands. "They're going to think it's so much fun!" 

 

"All right, let's go. Let them wonder who did it." 

 

With another giggle, she took his arm, and the shop, humans, and shop owner vanished. 

Edited by TwiLyghtSansSparkles
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"What in the blazes are you talking about, Scorch? Kittens? Cards? What?! You know my range of power doesn't reach that far, or do you not, imbecile?" Altermind was frustrated and confused. He didn't want to risk Scorch's wrath though, so when he had first come in, he made Scorch think he was sitting ten feet to the right of where he actually was.

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The truth buzzed at the back of his skull, but he couldn't yet pin it down. It was like grasping at water, the way it slid through his fingers. "You....that wasn't you?"

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"Of course not, idiot! I'm too far away to affect anyone's mind from here. Describe exactly what happened and what you saw." Altermind was curious now. Who was this Epic that made cats appear?

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Scorch watched Altermind through the corner of his eye. "I didn't see no Epic," he said warily. An Epic who could make kittens and cards appear was powerful. A powerful Epic meant Altermind's favor, and that meant less power for him. "Just the cards. They could've gotten them from anywhere."

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