TwiLyghtSansSparkles

What Happened in Portland

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It wasn't long before the purposeless Epic made his appearance.

 

His minions were the first to draw Lightwards' attention, as they bounded, galloped, flew, and slithered onto the path ahead. They were animals, many of them at a glance indistinguishable from any you'd see at a normal zoo. Wolves. Lions. Birds of prey.

 

But then there were the aberrations, centered around Chimera himself as he strode into view. On one side he alongside a wolf with falcon wings and quivering spines. On the other a huge bear gaping with snake-like fangs padded along with its master's feet. Overhead swooped some kind of hawk or eagle with thick ape-like legs, and a reptilian menace flapping with wings that called the word "dragon" to mind.

 

If Lightwards weren't walking with dinosaurs of his own, he'd have called the spectacle the most beautiful gathering of potential Warriors he'd ever seen.

 

Chimera halted in his tracks, looking over the Empire's gathering with clear anger in his expression. Human guards walked cautiously behind him, their hands on rifles they all clearly hoped they wouldn't have to use.

 

"Lightwards," the Epic's voice boomed. "One does not smash down a man's door to visit his house. Unless, that is, one is only entering to fight."

 

A threat?

 

Of course it was a threat. The animal controller had been locked in his lair for too long, too secure in his talents as the Museum quartet had been. Who knew when the last time he'd been faced with true adversaries had been.

 

Lightwards, at least, was still keen and prepared for battle. If it came to such.

 

Even so, it wouldn't do to risk an open conflict unless there wasn't another way to harness the other Epic's beasts for the Empire. So instead Lightwards merely stepped ahead, in front of the rest of his gathered Warriors and agents, and met the Epic's eyes with a firm gaze of his own.

 

"Chimera." His voice was softer than the beast master's had been, but the sound carried over the tense scene regardless. "I do not wish to fight where fighting is not necessary. And I believe you do not either."

 

I am the Emperor over this city," he boasted. He compelled a pair of raptors to bow to him as he spoke, justifying his claim. "I have claimed Portland and all that is in it. I work to destroy the pointless wretches who have been squandering their power. I work to restore meaning to this world. Why should you lock yourself away when there's such a cause to strive for? The opportunity to reshape the world in your image?"

 

The question hanging, he showed his teeth in a wide smile.

 

"Follow me, swear to me your aid, and all this world will be like a zoo to you."

 

 

 

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MV took charge of steering them away from the mad scientists, which was great because it kind of got old always being the first to suggest running away. Under her wise leadership, the two of them successfully left the conversation and fled outside of the Museum.

 

They hadn't had their blood taken and they still hadn't died! Great!

 

Wait.

 

He wanted to be inside the Museum instead of being exposed to the street. Sparks!

 

Regardless he let the more powerful Epic guide him outside, jumping a little as she hissed a whisper into his ear.

 

 "What the heck is a Mormon?"

 

How did she not know what a Mormon was?

 

"Weird people who live in Utah," he hissed back. "They all wear long underwear everywhere and have like, fifteen wives apiece I think."

 

...actually, he didn't really know what a Mormon was either.

 

Privately glad there was no one on hand to challenge his trivia, he continued to let MV drag him by the arm outside the Museum.

 

12

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Max woke up in the Reckoners' bunker, startled for a second until he remembered where he was. He got up quickly,telling Dr. Pace, the only other one awake, that he was going to meet with some of his contacts on the street. Leaving quickly, he went to walk the streets, only his pistol tucked in his pants and an extra clip in his pocket. He needed to appear inconspicuous. 

 

Reaching the downtown area, Max met with Nic, one of his contacts who still had access to a printer and had printed lots of small flyers with images of a black fist and spread them everywhere two nights before, when Max had first started this. Once Nic had shut the door, he turned to Max excitedly. "Max! You're just in time! We're ready! Everyone's meeting in ten minutes on the corner down the road." 

 

"What? What did you do?" Max began to worry. 

 

"There's an Epic on her way down here and we're going to take her down! We're starting it! We've started a rebellion!" Nic was almost shining with joy, but Max felt only dread. It had only been two days. The citizens of Portland had always been strange, but they didn't make up their minds this quickly. They'd be slaughtered. They needed to plan, not rush into this. That was why Max had gone to meet the Reckoners; they had experience with this. 

 

Nic pulled him out the door and onto the street. They reached the gathering on the corner. Max was impressed by the amount of people who had shown up, but it was still too small. Max slipped away from Nic and began to try whispering to the people, trying to get them to leave. People just shut him up and a couple slapped him, rebuking him for being weak. 

 

Max headed down a side road to watch. If this was his rebellion, he was responsible. But the fools wouldn't listen to him. Even if there were fifty of them, they couldn't take down any Epic of real power. The crowd hushed and Max watched as an Epic in a light blue dress rounded the corner. Freeze. The Epic he had seen Electro take the day before. She assumed her namesake and froze as she saw the gathering on the corner. 

 

"Down with Epics!" A voice shouted from the midst of the crowd. Others took up the chant, all of them pulling on black gloves and raising their fists above their heads. No, no, no. Max thought. This was bad, but all he had was his pistol, nothing of substance. Freeze laughed and shot the man who had first yelled with an icicle, dropping him immediately. The crowd roared in anger and swarmed for her, trampling fallen members under their feet. Freeze shot her ice as fast as she could, taking a few lives, but in the end, she couldn't keep up with the mass. 

 

The black-fisted crowd blocked Freeze from Max's view, but as they parted, shouting in triumph, Max felt conflicting feelings of dread and glory. He had done this. He had started a movement. They had taken down an Epic. Then he saw the body. Freeze's dress was torn and tattered, blood matting her blond hair to her skin. Her face was hardly recognizable. Two members of this Black Fist lifted her body up and the crowd began chanting, "Black Fist! Black Fist! Black Fist!" Max felt sick. This was a mob, not a rebellion. He had done this. He had started a gang. 

 

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Electro followed as Timeport led him to Neverthere's house. When the dog-like demons showed up, Electro fired upon a group quickly with Starscream's small missiles. He killed half of them before he heard a disturbance a couple streets over. Seeing that Timeport had the last houndmen taken care of, he stomped over to the yelling he heard. 

 

He arrived as a small group of people lifted a body above them. As he looked closer, he barely recognized it as Freeze, the Epic he had recruited for Corpsemaker. Once the crowd saw him in his mech, they went silent. Then, almost as one, they raised their fists, all of them clad in black gloves. "Demon! Epic! Listen to us! We are the Black Fist and we will crush you!" One yelled. Electro stepped out of his mech, laughing, as the others took up a chant again. 

 

These idiotic people reminded him of the gang that had killed his parents, only with less organization. The bloodlust was the same. Seeing Freeze's body from his new vantage point on the ground, he was furious. That was what had happened to his mother. Now these morons thought they could kill Epics? He'd show them what an Epic could do. 

 

Electro stood a few yards back from the crowd, Starscream looming behind him. He stood in silence, flaring his magnetic field to repulse any bullets that would come near him. "Crush me?" he said. "No." With that, Electro Scrambled all of them, his power in top form, pulsing along with his rage. They all looked confused for a second. Then they began to die. 

 

He began to blast electricity from his hands, stronger and larger than usual. Electro began to laugh as the "gang" tried to surge forward and attack him. "Idiots!" he yelled, killing the front line of men with one straight blast. "You can't kill us!" The next row fell. Electro slowly spun, decapitating the mob as they ran for him. Slowly, they began to run the other way. "No. You don't get to leave now!" Electro yelled. 

 

Electro shot down each person before they made it around the corner. He killed all of them except the last handful. Those he trapped against a wall, two jets of electricity making a V around them. "Now, you'll tell me what you've been doing." The scared, yet defiant rebels chanted one last time. Then they fell, electricity cauterizing their neck stumps. Electro yelled one last time, a scream of pure rage as he blasted all the buildings on the corner. He shattered the windows, leaving ashy marks on each building fro the jets of power he shot. Electro took a couple minutes to pick up each black glove the gang had been wearing and laid them out in a line down the road, a symbol reminiscent of the heads on a pike they did in medieval days. Rage satisfied, Electro walked back to his mech, chest heaving, and went back to meet Timeport. 

 

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Max had been about to confront Nic about his mob when a mechanized robot rounded the corner. Max recognized it from the Transformers movies and knew that this could only be an Epic. One with enough connections to traverse town in a robot. They probably worked for either Altermind or Corpsemaker. Neither was good. Nic and his crowd noticed the robot too late. A familiar figure stepped out. Blond spiky hair. Punk rock clothes. Electro. 

 

Max felt his hatred rising above his dread. This was Mel's killer. This was the man who had set him on this path to start the Black Fist. Max almost stepped out of the shadows to join Nic and take his best shot at the Epic. Fists clenched at his side, he barely managed to keep himself back. Electro was strong enough to kill these men. This mob, this gang of bloodthirsty monsters that Max had created. 

 

When Electro began killing them with ease, Max felt his eyes water. Nic was among the first to go. These were the few who had been brave enough to stand up. Though misguided and angry, they felt the same disgust at Epics that Max did. These were his brothers and sisters. Some had families. Some had elderly parents to take care of. All had those who loved them. Max felt their pain as Electro cut them down as cattle going to the slaughter. 

 

Max hid on the other side of the building, cutting off his view of the corner, as Electro began killing the escapees. When one head rolled around the corner, Max almost gagged at the sight. Cleanly cut off, there lay the face of someone's love. He had done this. He had given these people hope and now they paid in blood. Max ran down the road, away from the corner, only making a block before he had to kneel and retch. Sick at the sights, but more so with guilt, he wasn't able to keep the bile down. 

 

For minutes, Max stayed on the ground, weeping and retching, not able to control himself. When he began to regain control over his body, he sat, numb. A half hour after he had witnessed the massacre, Max began to walk back to the street corner, hoping unconvincingly for survivors. He was empty. His rage had abated in the face of so much death. It slowly ebbed back into his heart as he approached the corner, bodies littering the street. Scorch marks lined every building on the corner, glass riddling the ground. Now empty, the only movement was a line of black gloves fluttering in the breeze. Max picked them up, one by one, and began to walk back to the Reckoners. Electro would pay. Max knew he couldn't save the city from every Epic, but he would save it from one.

6

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Lightwards swept his eyes over Chi's assembled army, his expression almost a mix of awe and covetousness. The necromancer stepped forward and spoke softly, but powerfully. "I do not wish to fight where fighting is not necessary. And I believe you do not either." Chi nodded slightly. He didn't want to fight, but he was prepared to, willing to fight, to die, if necessary. As Lightwards gloated about claiming "Emperor", he forced two of his beasts, horribly brought back from their peaceful deaths beyond, to bow to him in an excessive display. What good were these dinosaurs if one only used them as tools? Slowly, anger began to fill his heart as he saw Lightwards control his warriors; animals should be free, only taking guidance, not commands. 

 

Chimera's anger was pierced by Lightwards' next words. "The opportunity to reshape the world in your image? Follow me, swear to me your aid, and all this world will be like a zoo to you," he said. That had been Chi's goal: to reshape the earth for the better. His mind began to war with itself over this "emperor's" suggestion. The man was cruel to his beasts and thought Chi wanted a zoo to keep all his animals in captivity. But, he also would give Chimera the chance to help rebuild the world.

 

"What of the humans out there?" Chi asked. This question would be the point upon which his long-held neutrality would hinge.

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Silently crouching by a leaf, the Epic known as Candyflame was concentrating. Skillfully, she sprinkled sugar on the plant, dusting it in lime green calories. Once coated, the grains melted around the leaf, caramelizing from sheer willpower. Leaving her latest creation to cool, she moved on to the next one. Though the process had become mundane ages ago, something pushed her to keep candifying these leaves. Habit, perhaps. Or maybe the sterile comfort having a blank mind, empty of all thoughts, save those relating to the task at hand.

 

Waking from her stupor, she stole a glance at her progress. A rainbow of reflected colors greeted her from the various plants in the room, surrounding her. It was… impressive. How long had she been at this, anyways? If she had fallen asleep, she hadn’t noticed. The gnawing hunger in her stomach was glaringly obvious, now, though she could have sworn she had felt perfectly fine a minute ago.

 

It was then when the Museum of Natural Awesomeness began to fall. The walls became a Jackson Pollock painting of flailing beams of light. Branches clattered as leaves collided with each other. she reached instinctively towards the nearest tree and held on with a death grip. Seconds later, though it felt like years, the museum slowed down, carefully settling on solid ground. Dazed, she released the tree. What the sparks had happened? As the adrenaline wore off, Candyflame realized something important.

 

She was exhausted.

 

Soon, lethargy overtook her. She curled up on the floor, amidst shards of broken candy, and fell asleep.

Edited by RippleGylf
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Nighthound couldn’t have chosen a better moment to hand Neverthere the gun. Just moments later Timeport appeared and gripped her arm. Laying claim to Nighthound’s woman. Maybe even worse, he lacked any finesse about it. That’s the problem with the new ones; they didn’t realize that, as fun as it might be, just brutalizing everyone wasn’t the answer.

 

Feeling how Neverthere moved the gun against his stomach stopped Nighthound from attacking Timeport himself, only giving him a condescending smile instead. Then Neverthere pulled the trigger and hit Timeport in the hip. Not the best hit but getting her to actively ally her with him instead of just being dragged along by him was worth a lot.

 

There was a sweet moment of realization on Timeport’s face before he disappeared, avoiding the second bullet Neverthere fired. Not waiting to find out if Timeport only teleported to somewhere he couldn’t see or if he disappeared completely again to avoid more harm Nighthound started running again. In his arms Neverthere squeaked an apology and buried her face into his shoulders. Ah yes, shooting him probably wasn’t something that left her untouched, even if she only worried about retaliation. How adorable. Gently, Nighthound put a hand on the back of her head and spoke soothingly, “Don’t worry, you did perfect. Just leave everything from here to me. I’ll keep you safe.”

 

A decent amount of time had passed since Timeport disappeared and there still wasn’t a sign of him. With some luck, he wouldn’t manage to find them once he was capable of following or abandoned the chase after getting shoot. Nighthound didn’t want to bet on either. Given that he managed to catch up once already, Nighthound didn’t have much hope for outrunning him, at least not while carrying Neverthere and with her in tow, moving through buildings to hide would be unreliable at best, given that just jumping through windows would risk cutting her, even ignoring the scarred whimpers she might make. Instead Nighthound headed in the direction he left his sister and the pets.

 

The explosions followed by gunshots earlier were enough to make whoever lived nearby hide in the houses, far away from the chance of getting involved. Although, seeing how desolated the streets where with broken pavement and cracked windows, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this part of the city having been abandoned already. Not that it was unusual for Portland to show signs of random destruction. No one Epic had managed to restore order over the entire city yet. For all Nighthound cared, Lightwards could take that role, he wouldn’t stay around once that point was reached.  

                                                

A short flesh of pain flamed up in Nighthound’s back and was quickly replaced with numbness. It seemed that Timeport has caught up and managed a solid hit on Nighthound’s spine. Nighthound reacted by letting himself drop as if the damage had actually cut off his movement, keeping Neverthere close to his chest with one arm. She gave a panicked scream, as Nighthound jerked around, striking behind him with the other arm. The maneuver was unexpected for a simple reason, it was impossible to do, at least this quickly, with the human anatomy. It broke both of Nighthound’s angles and his shoulder but that was insignificant damage compared to getting the drop on Timeport.

 

Surprised, the teleporter didn’t avoid the hit but he did manage to disappear before Nighthound broke his skull in with a second hit. He appeared again a couple of feet away, Not only bleeding profoundly from his hip but now also holding his should at a very unhealthy angle, most likely broken. “You see,” Nighthound started before abandoning the sentence and dashing to the side, taking a leap to get up a building.

 

When he wanted to rebound from the first wall, Timeport appeared, his face and an arm sticking out of the wall. He grabbed Nighthound’s leg, pulling him off-balance mid jump. Nighthound wasn’t so much concerned with breaking the impact, as with avoiding crushing Neverthere between him and the wall, so he bended over, meeting the wall not only with his free hand but with the top of his head, slightly cracking his skull. Uncomfortably close to a serious injury but he would be able to take endure it. At the same time he kicked forward with the leg that Timeport had grabbed, crushing both it and Timeport’s arm against the wall. Nighthound didn’t manage to hit the other Epic’s face but it was enough to get out of his grip and joist himself up to the roof.

 

Nighthound put distance between himself and the edge of the roof. With Neverthere in his arms he had some protection against him jumping into his body but Timeport teleporting into his legs would turn out nasty, given that he seemed to replace whatever he ended up in. Putting his weight on his right leg until the other one had healed fully, he softly rocked a nervous Neverthere in his arm, softly cooing her. To avoid the blood still running over his face from his head wound dripping on Neverthere, he slightly leaned his head back. He watched the mist from his wounds raise slowly into the morning sky for a short moment before his body mended itself. Nearby, he could hear the jingling of a bell carrying itself through the air. That made matters simple.

 

The calm didn’t last for long, as Timeport appeared on the roof not long afterwards. By now he wasn’t in a good shape, his broken arm dripping blood were a fractured bone protruded from it. Although, the Epic didn’t seem to mind much, if anything it made him angry. Resurrection, if the intel was right, not as efficient as a proper healing factor but much more reliable when risking grievous injuries.  

   

Overselling the damage the head wound had done to him, Nighthound took a step back with an exaggerated stagger. “You do realize the risk of both of us just straight up brawling it out, yes?” Nighthound asked. Unimpressed, Timeport teleported most of the distance between them at once. A diamond tendril ripped through the roof from bellow, separating the two Epics from each other. Leaving the rear guard to his sister, Nighthound leaped back down on the road using the wall to slow his descent enough for Neverthere. Then he ran away, letting out a “good job” in case Lucentia was close enough to hear him. Quieter he addressed Neverthere, “And with that we managed to get away.”

7

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"Hey," Cutcloud said, talking to a vanilla. He was young, maybe fourteen? Barely a toddler when Calamity would've came. The vanilla looked up at Cutcloud. She stood next to him. "Have you heard about a sequin Epic? One who wore a lot of colors?" 

"Uh, no," he said, and tried to walk away. "I wouldn't look into Epics if I were you." 

"Oh, I'm not a vanilla," Cutcloud said, blocking his path. She broke a window nearby and sent the cloud of glass to near his face. The vanilla turned around. 

"Um, I'm sorry, ma'am. Of course you know better than I do in your infinite wisdom, Oh Queen of Knowledge." 

"Better," she said. "So, what do you know about her?" 

 

"She's from the museum. You know, the floating one?" he asked. "Your Majesty." 

"Yeah, I know," Cutcloud replied. "I haven't been paying much attention to recent events. Tell me everything."  

 

"I don't know much. Her and some other Epics came and said they were in charge, after a big battle between them. I think her name is Funtimes? I'm sorry for my lack of knowledge, oh, Glorious Infinite Wise Epic." 

 

Funtimes. Now she had a name for the Epic she was going to kill. 

 

"Alright, now, have you heard of an Epic called Chess?" she asked. At the name Chess, she wanted to cry. But that would ruin her tough Epic image. She always had to be aware of how she was coming across. Slontze. 

"Wore black and white?" he asked. "Turned into a chess piece? Oh, beautiful one." 

 

"Yeah, you heard of him?" she asked. 

 

"I saw him two days ago, looking around, with a chip on his shoulder. Mad at the world. I'm sorry if that isn't the answer you wish for, oh perfect woman." 

Chess, always so angry. He missed their family. The chaos in Miami, the annexing of Chicago... these events were the reason why he hated himself. He hated everyone, but mostly himself. He'd get himself in the most reckless of situations, thinking he could escape. 

Most of the time he did. 

 

She felt the first tear drop down her face and she sat down on an empty box. The vanilla awkwardly just stood there. 

"You okay, Epic lady?" he asked. 
 

"No," she said, tears coming faster. "He was my brother." 

"Who, Chess?" She nodded, miserable. Her nose got all snotty. She hadn't cried in years. Epics got mad, not sad. They got revenge, instead of upset. 

"She killed him," she said, angry as the tears came. "He hated himself and wanted to prove a point and she killed him.

 

"I'm sorry," he said, sitting down next to her. "Don't know if that means anything. When I was seven, my only brother died. My ma and da had been dead since Calamity. He practically raised me." 

 

"My parents died in front of me. My grandparents were all killed. One pair was in Chicago. The other pair was in Miami. I've lost everyone I care about, except for Burnheart, and sometimes I feel like he doesn't care about me at all. Just using me. But it's not like I can break up with him, because that would tear the hotel apart." 

"Life really sucks, doesn't it?" he said, awkwardly patting her back. "You aren't going to kill me, are you?" 

"No," she moaned. "I'm a horrible Epic. I don't even use my powers that much." 

"Well, you scared my pants off," he said. Cutcloud sighed. 

 

"I miss Chess," she admitted. "My friend Lightbulb -- yes, that's his name--" she said when he started laughing, "just found out this morning." 

"Fresh pain is the worst. You still think it can't possibly be real." 

"I keep waiting for him to bounce back into my life, with his stupid, arrogant walk," she told him. 

"I'm sorry," he said. "Everyone's lost someone these days." 

"Yeah," she said, her tears slowing down. "Thank you. Don't tell anyone, okay? I'd lose all street cred as a tough Epic if it was known I broke down to a vanilla." 

 

"It's alright," he said. He stood up, brown skin illuminated in the light. Suddenly, Burnheart turned the corner. Cutcloud waved. 

"Who is this vanilla?" he asked her. 

"I dunno, I was just interrogating him," she said, turning back on her cruel face. She turned to the vanilla and told him, "if you ever say you were talking to me, I'll kill you, slowly." She then winked. But she turned back to Burnheart and he saw that she'd been crying. 

"Did he make you cry?" he asked, incredulous. The vanilla backed away, slowly. 

"No, he didn't." 

"Did he see you cry?" he demanded. "Did he see you've been crying? Why were you crying?" Cutcloud stepped up to Burnheart. 

"If you're going to act like a possessive jerk, I'm going to break up with you." 

"Shut it up, he's like half your age. You're really robbing the cradles now, aren't you?" Cutcloud glared at Burnheart. 

"You've got to be kidding me," she said, blocking his way to the vanilla. "You should probably go," she said, to the vanilla. He ran off. "I swear, I'll break up with you now if you don't calm down and think about what you're doing." 

He backed down and then facepalmed. 

"I'm so sorry - I didn't realize what I was doing...." he said. 

"Sorry doesn't excuse anything. Look, you can still be my friend, but I'm done with dating." Cutcloud stormed off and returned to the hotel, even more upset than when she'd started out. 

Edited by Winter Cloud
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​A collaboration between Edgedancer and I.

 

Voidgaze’s conversation with Sam was interrupted as the ground under them began to tremble and the building jerked upwards, so that’s how the museum was lifted into the sky. No actually, how did this work? Funtimes couldn’t just make things fly, could she? So it was most likely some kind of mechanism under the building. Whatever it was, Voidgaze was distracted from it, as Funtimes seemed to get ready to leave. Leaving out a startled yelp, Voidgaze hurried over to her, “Ah wait, I know you’re busy right now with stocking up for Altermind and all that but my house got damaged pretty badly when Nighthound attacked me, so I wondered if maybe you could help me repair it.”

 

Funtimes tilted her head. “That meanieface was at your house?”

 

“Well yes,” Voidgaze tilted her head to match Funtimes, “remember when I wanted an apology from him for attempting to kill me? At the same time he also broke into my house and now it’s full of holes.”

 

Holes? You--” Funtimes gasped, pressing her palms to her cheeks. “You mean that dirty meanieface turned your house into icky Swiss cheese?”

 

“It… isn’t edible, just damaged.”

 

Funtimes tilted her head further, not seeming to notice when Sam’s pug did the same thing. “You don’t eat icky things. Unless you like icky things, but you’re Blueberry. Blueberries aren’t icky.”

 

“Right, they taste wonderful, don’t they? Especially if you eat them with waffles and whipped cream. That might actually be one of my favourite foods.”

 

She gave a long gasp, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Me too me too me too! Whipped cream is amazing and it’s so good and it makes everything taste better!”

 

Voidgaze was infected by Funtimes’ cheerful manner and started bouncing around as well. “Exactly! And it’s so practical, like the perfect mix out of milk and a sheet of paper.”

 

Funtimes made a face. “Paper? Paper’s gross. Even the colorful ones. They look like they should taste like candy, but they just taste like butt.”

 

“Of course you don’t eat paper. Who would ever do that?” Voidgaze laid a hand on Funtimes’ shoulder. “You use it to cover the ground or throw it at people, preferably as paper airplanes. Did you ever make those? It took me an eternity to figure out the best way to fold them but now I’m a master airplane folder and they are super fun to throw.”

 

She gave a delighted squeal. “I love paper airplanes! Especially pink ones with pink wings and pink everything ‘cause they’re pink! How many paper airplanes can you make at once? I’ve never tried to see all how many I can make at once but it’s a lot ‘cause paper airplanes are the best!”

 

“I kind of need my paper airplanes to be white but I’m not quite sure how much I could make at once either,” Voidgaze made her tassels wiggle, “but these certainly help with folding them.”

 

Funtimes giggled in delight, bouncing up and down. “Those are amazing and paper airplanes are amazing and we should go make some right now!”

 

“Yes we… no wait, we still need to repair my house, please.”

 

“So we can make paper airplanes in it! Yes yes yes yes yes!”

 

“Sure we can… I guess.”

 

“Yay!” Funtimes joined hands with Voidgaze and Nathan, who put a hand on Sam’s shoulder as Revolution took her arm, which still cradled Suki. “Ten million paper airplanes, here we come!”

10

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CorpseMaker.JPG

 

Corpsemaker smiled, sipping his favourite coffee, at his favourite coffeeshop. 

 

The situation was made only slightly uncomfortable for the owner of the establishment by the scores of soldiers, vehicles, and mechs waiting outside.

 

Corpsemaker took another sip. "Mmmm... delicious." He looked towards to owner of the coffeeshop, who was sitting across from him. "I commend you for your service. This shall be your reward." He stood up, raising his voice. "This establishment is under my protection! Let it be known that any Epic or human that robs, intimidates, kills or damages the property of this fine barista  will face my wrath. Two guards will remain here at all times, with orders to protect and defend this place from any who displease the owner."

With that, he finished off the coffee and marched out, leaving a grateful owner and unnerved patrons behind him.

 

Collaborate and Leech flanked the doorway as he left, following him as two toy soldiers entered for their guard duty. The three Epics briskly climbed atop Corpsemaker's command vehicle- a large tank sporting a platform and an impressive throne instead of a main cannon. The Lord of the Dominion took his position on the throne, with his retinue flanking him. Behind him was ranks of blank-faced soldiers, and a number of tanks, armoured vehicles and slick mechanized walkers. They were a truly fearsome sight. 

 

Corpsemaker took a minute to drink in the glory of his position. 

"Move out!" He barked, and the convoy slowly buzzed into life.

 

Raising a radio, Corpsemaker turned it on. "Streetwise, come in Streetwise, anything to report?" Static answered him for several seconds, until...

"No sir, the streets around the armoury and ahead of you are completely clear. There is a gang headquarters up ahead though- maybe a few dozen armed men and women. Its a small compound surrounded with barricades, and a tattered flag with a red bird on it. Doesn't look like there are any Epics there."

 

Corpsemaker nodded. "Understood. Corpsemaker out." With that, he severed the connection and tucked away the radio.

"Collaborate."

"Yes, my lord."

"There is a gang compound somewhere up ahead. Take an armoured car and some vanilla soldiers to follow you. Force them to declare allegiance to me by the time I arrive, or kill every one of them."

The Epic nodded and grinned. "Yes, Corpsemaker."

 

Just as Collaborate and some soldiers drove off, separating from the convoy, a short burst of gunfire sounded from a nearby rooftop. The bullets pinged harmlessly off of Corpsemaker's chest, some blowing holes in his throne or ricocheting off the metal platform at his feet. With a basilisk's glare, he looked at the offending rooftop, seeing a dark figure furtively duck behind the rooftop lip. He clicked, and the convoy ground to a halt, toy soldiers already moving quickly forward and firing at the aggressor. They stilled at a single gesture from Corpsemaker.

 

"Tank #2!" He barked, and the vehicle directly behind his own swivelled its cannon, until it pointed directly at the rooftop. 

"Fire!"

 

There was an immense boom and rooftop exploded. A massive cloud of dust and mortar showered the streets, and people screamed. The Lord of the Dominion waited for several seconds. "Fire!"

The tank obeyed, and the building's façade disappeared in a mighty explosion. He gave the order one more time, and the entire building collapsed in on itself.

 

Suffice it to say, but the attacker was likely dead.

 

Corpsemaker surveyed the destruction. Such a waste. He thought ruefully. Still, they need to learn their lesson.

 

With that thought fresh in his mind, he pointed at the building immediately next to the pile of rubble. "Fire!" The tank obeyed, and successive blasts destroyed both neighbouring buildings. The area was completely covered in dust and rubble now, powerful shots having spread debris across the street. He nodded to himself in satisfaction, and activated the megaphone attached to his vehicles. "And thus," He began, his voice menacing and loud. "Is the fate of those who think to oppose me! Not only you, but everyone around you will die!"

 

"Move out!"

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NOOOO!

 

Timeport ignored the burning pain in his broken arm. He focused only on his target, that girl, which was now blocked by a solid column of diamond. 

 

“Good job!” Nighthound shouted to someone, possibly another Epic? I don’t care. Timeport didn’t come this far, didn’t get this bloodied, to just let Neverthere get away.

 

With a roar of rage, Timeport teleported into the column of diamond.

 

007765-glossy-black-3d-button-icon-arrow

 

...what?

 

Sidestep had to pause, had to make sure he heard Mommy right. “You’re kidding. Astoria? Land of Queen Lucentia and her retinue of immortal Epics?” 

 

Mommy’s bright face completely contrasted Sidestep’s confused look. “Yes! Queen Lucentia is here, I saw her! That means she’s not in Astoria anymore! Maybe things went kaput there...”

 

Sidestep grabbed Mommy’s shoulders, trying to maybe knock some sense into her. “You can’t be seriously thinking about this, right? You’re talking about Astoria. We’d get torn to shreds there, even with the Queen gone.” 

 

Mommy cast a long glance at the children all happily packing behind her. “But she was the one that was so uncaring about the children...”

 

“And what makes you think that that has changed with Lucentia temporarily gone?” Mommy didn’t respond, though it looked like she might be changing her mind. Phew. “Look, why don’t you think it over for a bit? You can tell the kids to unpack, and I’ll go talk to Zip to see what he wants us to do for today.” Mommy nodded reluctantly and Sidestep, relieved, turned his back to the classroom and walked down to the office. Phew, glad I was able to defuse that bomb. That could have been a disaster.

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"I have a special job for you."  Upgrade tried his best not to shiver as Corpsemaker smiled.  While he had grown accustomed to working with most of the High Epic's cronies, he was still having difficulty feeling comfortable around his new employer.  Corpsemaker's ability to kill people with a look probably had something to do with it.  "You two will work together, and we will see just how powerful Quota can become when his powers are Upgraded . . ."  Upgrade started tuning out the rest.  What people did with the power he provided them with was none of his concern.  It was easier that way.  You couldn't blame a hammer for missing the nail and punching a hole in the wall, and that's all he was; a tool being used for whatever purpose his masters supplied him with.  

 

The small meeting broke up, with each member of the team heading off to their assigned tasks.  Upgrade gaze lingered on Corpsemaker until the epic left his sight.  He couldn't decide whether his new assignment was a good or bad thing.  On one hand, sitting around Toymaker's "factory" all day watching her gleefully crank out robots was getting painfully dull.  On the other hand, while he hadn't had the 'pleasure' of sharing Quota's company yet, something told him that a man who had the power to make people feel emotionally gross probably wasn't a ray of sunshine to send time with.  Hopefully his part in performing the Upgrade would not take too long.  He'd managed to scrounge up a few books he hadn't read at the George R. White Library on one of his walks, and was looking forward to spending some time reading them.  I wonder if Toymaker could make me a iPad with Netflix.  Netflix was the best.  Too bad the internet and streaming were a thing of the past.  Maybe he could find an epic whose powers Ugraded could allow him to stream from the past?  Timeport could travel through time.  Could he somehow bring Netflix back with him?  

 

"So, Quota, shall we get on with this?  Let's get you Upgraded, and see what you can do, eh?"  

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Almost immediately upon entering the diamond, Timeport died.

 

He blinked awake in the black realm with Calamity. He didn't say a word; after the first few resurrections, Calamity had basically stopped speaking with him. He wants me to fulfill his mission. I get it. Soon the five minutes were up, and Timeport resurrected about 1 building-height above the ground. 

 

Wha--AAAAAAAAAHHH!

 

The building that he had been standing on before was rubble far beneath his feet, and there was a person standing next to it. Timeport squinted closer at the person--no longer afraid of his fall, since he could teleport 5 seconds into the future and rob his body of its momentum--and noticed the glint coming off of her arm. 

 

That must be the Diamond Queen... but what is she doing in Portland?

 

Nearing the ground, Timeport vanished for 5 seconds, then hit the ground with a soft “oomph.” He stood and looked at the Queen. They say she’s invincible, indestructible. Timeport looked down at his hands and grinned. They haven’t met me yet.

 

Slowly walking toward the Queen, Timeport spoke up. “Your Majesty, what are you doing in this wreck of a city?”

Edited by mail-mi
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Lucentia had done more than enough for her brother today, a meager good job was hardly enough gratitude. She still did him the favor of crushing the Epic pursuing him, when he was impulsive enough to teleport himself right inside her diamonds. With the fool out of the way, her brother should have no problems to actually make his getaway. The least he could contribute now was actually recruiting the harlot.

 

The diamond mass shifted, carrying the mangled and crushed body of Timeport down. Once the crystal crumbled around it, Lucentia found little more than a bloody mess. However, she had managed to keep the head in a passable condition, assuming one was willing to overlook what an ugly thing it was. For a moment she considered keeping it but a severed head hardly counted with an Epic that could resurrect… she could likely find it in her generous self to help her brother some more.

 

She send the pets a short distance away, putting manacles on the two unruly ones to make sure they wouldn’t find a chance to run away. Then she began tearing down the building. Tendrils of diamond crushing stone and furniture underneath it until nothing more but a pile of rubble was left. Being entirely honest with herself, there was somewhat of a child like joy to the destruction, ramming spears through the walls that pierced the neighboring buildings as well and twisting them around to collapse the floor. In her own kingdom rampaging just came with more problems than the short lived recreation was worth.

 

Once the work was done she layered her diamonds over the nearby buildings for quick use, in the slim chance she needed it. Thus the stage was set in a way that would make it unlikely for Timeport to appear with any kind of cover. Now all that was left was waiting. Hopefully, the little Epic would have the sense not to let her wait on his resurrection. Boredom may be more of a hassle than adding a new head to her collection was worth.

 

Fortunately it only took about five minutes until the Epic was reborn and approached her.

“Your Majesty, what are you doing in this wreck of a city?”  

Lucentia turned towards him and mustered him with a cold smile, “Hoo, could those be manners? As it may be, unless you intend to bend your knee, my business is none of your concern.” 

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There were many things Suki was used to, but disappearing from one place and reappearing in another was not one of them. 

The house Doctor brought them to was broken. It took a minute for Suki to see it, but as the white-haired human led Doctor through the house and Sam followed, Suki saw just how broken it was. A hole had been punched through the floor a little ways in, a hole so big and so holey that Suki wriggled and bucked until Sam finally set her on the floor. As much as she liked being carried by her human, a giant hole in the floor was something she had to investigate. 

The hole looked down on another floor, the room filled with a toilet and a bathtub and a sink. The room around it was filled with a bed and a dresser. Suki sniffed all around the edges of the hole, but couldn't determine anything more than what her eyes told her. She looked up at Sam, sneezed, and moved on to inspect one of the dents in the wall. 

Everything else smelled like the white-haired human. There was a little bit of the curdled fear smell, but not as much as she'd smelled on Doctor. She would have to monitor the white-haired human. Make sure she wasn't too much a danger to Sam. 

But there was a second smell, much fainter now, but still noticeable. A stronger curdled-fear smell, stronger than the white-haired human's, stronger than Doctor's. Suki didn't know who owned that smell, but she already knew she didn't like them. 

Not. 

One. 

Bit. 

She perked up her ears and listened. The white-haired human was explaining something to Doctor, who was tilting her head at a massive hole in the ceiling. 

Doctor was very good at tilting her head, Suki decided. She had to admire that. 

When the white-haired human finished explaining, Doctor gave her a smile. "So," she said, "do you want everything all boring white, or do you want something fun like polka dots?" 

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Quota hadn't had a chance to get a latte that morning. It sucked, but what could you do? Corpsemaker wanted a meeting, and there was no way in hell he'd disobey that guy. Not with that level of raw power. 

He'd been itching to use his powers since he woke. Every Epic in the compound posed a challenge, a temptation. Sure, he could mess with the vanillas—and he did, often—but Epics were more interesting. All of that fear, that rage, bottled up like a Diet Coke with a whole tube of Mentos dropped in—telling him to control himself around that was like putting a whole chocolate cake in front of the fattest kid you knew and expecting him not to stuff his face. It was just cruel. 

But there was a payoff. And that payoff came in a single word. 

Upgraded. 

The power to coat the entire city in a blanket of fear and despair would be his. So many vanillas, so many Epics….all his, even if it was just for a few seconds.

"So, Quota, shall we get on with this?  Let's get you Upgraded, and see what you can do, eh?"  

Quota grinned. "Thought you'd never ask." 

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Quota's grin did nothing to improve Upgrade's opinion of the epic.  At least Upgrading his powers won't leave me naked.  Unfortunately, being incredibly useful didn't have the same effect on snickering underlings as raw power did, and the debacle with Timeport had done quite a number on Upgrade's reputation.   Let's just get this over with.

Not bothering to reply, Upgrade reached out and placed his hand on Quota's shoulder.  His powers did not require skin to skin contact in order to work, but they did require physical contact of some kind.  As his palm connected with the fabric of Quota's sleeve, Upgrade let his power flow, and at first, nothing happened.  Using his power did not make him feel anydifferent, and he usually had to rely on external clues to tell if his powers were working.  He'd never amplified mental abilities like Quota's before, and usually the results he produced were less anticlimactic.  

Then, he felt it.  A feeling of overwhelming dread and sorrow.  Upgrade felt his pulse begin to quicken, and it soon became difficult to breathe.   I can't stay here.  I need to leave.  I need to get away...

As suddenly as it arrived, the feeling vanished, like the shadow of a passing cloud.  Upgrade belatedly realized that he had almost let go of Quota's shoulder, and firmed up his grip.  Thinking back on what he had felt, Upgrade couldn't help but shiver.  I definitely don't like this guy.  Though he still felt a little hollow and shaky, Upgrade felt his feelings bouncing back.  To his view, Quota remained unchanged, and the room remained quiet and undisturbed.

"Well," Upgrade broke the silence, more to distract himself from darker thoughts than to connect with his current company.  "Is it working?"

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It was good to be home again. Granted, it was a bit rough, what with the holes all over the place but that’s what they’re here to fix and even in this battered state, the white walls still gave her a sense of security. Soon it would be her own little castle again… and maybe Voidgaze could even get some friends to stay over. She was making some of them lately after all.

Voidgaze explained the basics of the needed repairs, trying her best not linger on how the damage actually happened, to Funtimes, who listened intently. The way she tilted her head in thought actually made Voidgaze think of the pug that was running around her bedroom and excitedly sniffing everything. She looked eyes with the animal and was just about to try and coo it over, when Funtimes asked her if she wanted polka dots on her walls.

“No thank you,” Voidgaze answered. “I like my house white. It just feels right to me that way. And why would you just turn parts of my walls into polka dots? Although they are dots, so I guess only having them in some places would make sense. Still, that seems like a weird design decision, breaking up a pattern like that. Not that it really matters; I mean I want it to stay white anyway. Um, can I maybe do something for you while you work, like preparing some food or watch a movie… no you couldn’t really do that while working, unless we maybe pull the television behind you, no that wouldn’t work with the cables, so… maybe I can keep you entertained?”

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Outside the museum... was safe. Striding out onto the shattered concrete of the Museum front filled Backtrack with a feeling of contentment. It was good to be out of the tangled jungle of the building, out of the presence of dinosaurs that were sparking everywhere and wanting to eat you, away from those two maniacs who might or might not be real scientists. (But probably weren't.)

Here, he was away from all the things that could kill him on an effortless stray whim. Or... well, except technically MV, but she probably wasn't prone to those kinds of whims. At the moment. Probably best not to put too much thought into that.

The thing that he needed to focus on was that it was safe out here. The Museum filled with ravenous dinosaurs and insane Epics was at his back, and ahead of him was the comforting sight of the lifeless gray demilitarized zone that was Portland, Oregon. For the moment he could stop worrying and just enjoy a moment of not fearing his sudden horrific death at the paws of marauding panda hordes or swarms of psychically controlled silverfish! To just bask in the knowledge that he, Backtrack, was not going to die here in this God-forsaken--


“You’re not safe here, Backtrack.”

 

AAAAAAAAGH--

All thoughts and mental processes broke down as Backtrack whipped around on the spot, his heart just about jumping out of his chest. There was a man standing in front of the Museum. A man he didn't recognize but knew his name, and thus, logically, wanted to murder him dead where he stood. He had dark skin, dark clothing, and steely dark brown eyes that drilled into Backtrack's soul and proclaimed in a harsh whisper "I want you to be dead right now."

And if Backtrack had any reason to doubt his pessimistic first impression--oh, who was he kidding, he was obviously right dead on the money there--it took only a second's glance for his powers to lock on and tell him where this man came from. The series of steps he'd taken in his life had taken him far, but recently, they'd taken him right from The Dalles.

The Dalles. Current contender for People-Who-Want-To-Murder-Backtrack Capital of the World.

A light squeal erupted from Backtrack's lips before he could stop himself. He tried his best to stiffen himself, giving a formidible face for his own protection... but he only felt his knees lock and his head start to feel faint.

"I..." he gulped. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm safe. I'm the spitting image of safe! If you think I'm not safe you're probably just projecting, pal, 'cause... ah sparks he's from The Dalles do something MV!"

Edited by Kobold King
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Blueberry's house was full of holes. Not like Swiss cheese and not like a tree full of termites, but like someone had run through and punched all the walls. Maybe for funsies. Sometimes the thought of punching walls seemed fun to her, but then she thought about how it would hurt her knuckles and it didn't seem so fun anymore. But Blueberry didn't talk about how the holes appeared, so Funtimes guessed that it wasn't fun that made them. 

And putting it back wouldn't be as fun as she'd hoped. 

Blueberry wanted it back the way it was. No polka dots. Thoughts of a house with neon plaid walls and polka dot floors were dashed from Funtimes' mind as Blueberry told her what she wanted. "I like my house white. It just feels right to me that way. And why would you just turn parts of my walls into polka dots? Although they are dots, so I guess only having them in some places would make sense."

Phooey. She didn't know what she was missing out on. 

"Still, that seems like a weird design decision, breaking up a pattern like that."

It wouldn't be weird! Funtimes nearly spoke up. It wouldn't be weird at all, it'd be amazing and exciting because every wall would be different and no matter where you looked you'd have something new to look at. 

"Not that it really matters; I mean I want it to stay white anyway. Um, can I maybe do something for you while you work, like preparing some food or watch a movie… no you couldn’t really do that while working, unless we maybe pull the television behind you, no that wouldn’t work with the cables, so… maybe I can keep you entertained?”

Entertained. Now that was a word Funtimes liked. She found herself hopping up and down, clapping her hands. "Ooh ooh ooh we could all sing campfire songs! No—Disney songs! Like this!" 

She pranced over to the nearest wall, knitting the hole together with a wave of her hand. "It's a whole new waaaaaallllll, a fantastic place to hang your keeeeyyyyyys….." 

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Upgrade's hand hit his arm, and Quota felt nothing. 

Not at first. 

Then it surged through him, an energy pouring through his veins. Power. Pure, raw power, itching at his skin almost to the point of pain, begging, pleading him to do something with it. To let it amplify Calamity's gift, send it as far as it would go. He couldn't hold back. Couldn't keep it in. 

A grin spread across his face as he let loose. 

He didn't direct it, not at first. He simply let it out, savoring the feeling of courage dampening, happiness bleeding away. He didn't know who they belonged to, and he didn't care.

But there was a city out there, a whole city filled with people that he could reach. All of them, he could reach every single one of them from where he stood, and if he couldn't, then he had to see how many he could hit before the power faded away. 

So he reached out. 

He poured out his power. 

And he felt it, flowing toward him in waves: Despair. Hopelessness. Defeat. Rippling toward him, responding to him. He demanded despair, and they complied. 

"Well?" Upgrade's voice broke through his giddiness. "Is it working?" 

Quota couldn't speak. He threw his head back and laughed. 

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Voidgaze had apparently managed to stumble across the right thing to say. At the very least Funtimes seemed overjoyed about them sticking together, cheerfully bouncing and singing over through the room.

“Oh, I know that song!” Voidgaze exclaimed. “Just give me a second."

With that she skipped over to her bed and grabbed her blanket, just as white as everything else, and spread them across the floor. Oh Calamity, please let the movie impersonation work. Voidgaze herself sat down on the blanket and invited Funtimes to sit down with her.                                                                           

Funtimes, how had just finished repairing the room with the exception of the big hole in the floor, happily jumped on the blanket, “Ooh are we going to have a picnic? I love picnics. Should I make some blueberry muffins? Uh or maybe-“
“I wasn’t thinking of a picnic actually,” Voidgaze panicked a little bit as she noticed a mix of confusion and disappointment wash over Funtimes face. “No, um, just trust me, alright?”

The sleeves of Voidgaze’s cloak pushed against the ground, lifting Voidgaze up. She used her powers to have the blanket raise up with her and support Funtimes until both of them were sitting a good distance above the ground. With her sleeves acting as support Voidgaze moved them towards the hole and down into the bath.

“It’s a whole new waaaaaallllll, a dazzling house I never knew!” Voidgaze made her best attempt at singing.

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Despite all odds and evidence to the contrary, the man from The Dalles didn't immediately whip out a gun and murder Backtrack where he stood. Instead, for a second he looked almost... amused.

“I’m not going to hurt you," the man said in a comforting tone. "I just want you to come back with me to the Dalles, where it’s safe. You’ll be protected from all the dinosaurs and crazy Epics that can get you here in Portland — that sounds nice, doesn’t it?”

...that did kind of sound nice when he put it like that. The Dalles didn't have dinosaurs or crazy murderers, except for the army of sparking pandas that had been ransacking the place when he-

It hit him like a sack of bricks. Sudden, unrelenting terror. Countless memories flashed through his mind all at once, all the deaths he'd seen before his eyes, even the ones where he'd stood centuries removed.

Lightwards killing and un-killing, killing and un-killing, keeping the cycle of bodies going.

Koschei the Deathless slitting a toddler's throat, his mind rotten from reveling in the power.

Buildings collapsing into hordes of silverfish, devouring humans and Epics alike.

Pandas rampaging through the streets, flying pigs and evil squirrels dropping out of the sky like bombs.

Scalpings, genocides, slavery, murders...he tried to comfort himself by looking into the past, but all his mind could be drawn to was all the violence, which there was way too much of since he was standing right outside the fortress of the craziest crazy Epics of them all, and it kept hammering the same awful thought into his head no matter what he tried to take solace in...

The world wasn't safe. It had never been safe. It was never gonna be safe! He was doomed! There was nowhere he could go! Anywhere he could go he'd just find more life-threatening insanity coming out of the woodwork to end the tiny terrified fragile ball of helplessness that was Steve Lawrence!

He took more steps backwards, backing into a wall. He opened his mouth but it was dry. He wanted to speak but no words came out. He looked to MV, but her face was scrunched up and her fists were balled up tight, like she was feeling the same rush of fear and helplessness as he was. The man from The Dalles... sparks, but he was actually on the ground, tears on his face from whatever the Calamity he was seeing. Backtrack, in spite of all his efforts at resistance, felt a mostly dead emotion trembling somewhere inside himself... sympathy.

This man, like Backtrack himself, had seen things.

And yet, he stood up.

And stranger still, he smiled.

"See what I mean?" he asked, voice casual and his smile steady. "Not safe."

Backtrack stood still. This guy... was he an Epic? He had to be, right? Whatever just hit them had to be the work of some horrible mind Epic, and there was no sparking way a regular old vanilla who could get killed in a second was gonna smile through something like that. Calamity, Backtrack was an Epic and there was no way he'd be smiling through it!

But still the guy was smiling. Not giving off any of the other Epic-vibes Backtrack had steadily learned to pick up on. This guy... was a smiling vanilla. The Dalles... was a place where smiling vanillas still roamed free. Where people who weren't gods were still strong and happy.

It was... bizarre. Just flat-out bizarre. Like finding an island where dodo birds still roamed free, squawking happily as they sang dodo songs and broke open coconuts or whatever it was dodos did with their time. The Dalles shouldn't have existed. But it did, and there was something almost... almost very comforting about that fact.

And yet...

Backtrack found himself beginning to speak, shakily and with fear and despair still cracking in his voice. "I..."

He swallowed.

"...I can't. Lightwards... he'd know. I don't know how, but he'd know. He'd send someone. I'd die. You don't just walk out on someone like him."

 

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Chimera seemed to be of two minds, considering Lightwards' generous proposal with both suspicion and temptation. His various vanilla minions watched him stoically, clearly prepared to follow their leader to the ends of the earth. Such loyalty. He must treat them well.

"What of the humans out there?" Chimera asked finally. His face was neutral as he asked the absurd question.

"The humans?" Lightwards repeated, raising a quizzical eyebrow in confusion. "You do know of me? To whom you are speaking? The citizens of this city and others are my highest concern."

He smiled, and gave a nod to one of his few human Warriors, who stood dully behind one of the allosaur's legs. He was a broad-bodied one, young but already with lines of stress etched across his blank face. The Warrior somehow took the full cue of what was expected of him and trod out into Chimera's view, showing not the faintest trace of emotion.

Lightwards calmly stepped forward, pacing a small circle around his Warrior as the suspicious eyes of Chimera's guards looked on. "What was your name?" he asked softly.

"Herbert Peters," the Warrior replied in a listless tone.

"What was your life before I raised you?" Lightwards pressed.

"I lived from street to street, doing work for food," the man responded, still showing no emotion. "My wife was named Sarah. My children were two daughters, Abbie and Kaitlin. We moved frequently to steer clear of Epics."

A long pause.

"...you killed all three this morning."

There was no accusation in the man's tone. No anger. No grief. Only tranquil obedience. Chimera seemed to stiffen, his minions revealing various degrees of anger or disgust at the Warrior's emotionless testimony. Lightwards' smile widened.

"And what is your life now, Herbert Peters?"

The Warrior responded in a single word. A single, perfect word. "Yours."

Lightwards slowly, carefully and in full sight of Chimera's guards, pulled up his jacket and carefully passed his only pistol to the Warrior on display. "Show me," he commanded, and took a few steps back.

The Warrior took the pistol, slowly but without a moment's hesitation pressing it to his lower jaw...

...and before Chimera or anyone else could say a word, he blew his brains out.

Blood splattered far and the body fell straight to the ground with a dull thud. Lightwards beamed in satisfaction, striding out over the pool of blood and gore spreading out over the concrete. The guards had been startled and now faced guns straight for him, but he paid them no mind.

"The humans of this city, and all others, are mine," he proclaimed loudly, meeting Chimera's icy stare. "The animals shall be yours, but Man himself shall bow to me and only me. This is how the future will unfurl. This is how humanity shall move forward. Life and death shall be in my hands, to give or to take, to treasure or to throw away. I alone shall--"

 

Then it hit him like a bullet to the head. He gasped, toppling and physically falling to the ground, crouched on all fours as a wave of memories came forcibly raging through his head.

A gunshot straight through his chest...

...falling, endlessly falling, a wicked laugh taunting his powerlessness as he crashed into the ground in a bloody heap.

...eleven bullets, and he slid against a wall and into the darkness of death...

And before any of them, haunting only his deepest nightmares, the ones that had plagued him from the start...

...a noose...

He let out an involuntary cry, struggling to blot out the images. Never had they all come rushing back to him so suddenly, so without warning. The nightmares, the past, the deaths...

He was kneeling in front of Chimera, sprawled out on his hands and knees in the gore of the man he'd just murdered. He was in a vulnerable position, a demeaning one, a weak one...

And yet he didn't care.

His hands gripped the bloody concrete until his own fingers began to bleed, his dinosaurs letting out low growls all around, agitated by his condition. His body was in a sweat, the world spun around him, and his breath came raggedly.

And Thomas Cardinal trembled.

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The display was . . . extreme. Chimera had the feeling that Lightwards didn't do anything partway. Teeth grit, Chi found himself furious at the murder, for that's what it was. It was no suicide, for there was no choice. "His life was Lightwards's"? It may be so, but not of any choice. Not of any personal sacrifice. But mind control. 

Chi sent a falcon to shoot forward to divebomb the necromancer, interrupting the melodramatic speech of destruction. The bird missed as Lightwards collapsed. It suddenly dropped out of the air as well. Then it hit. 

Like a saber through the gut, Chimera felt devastation like never before. Drawing his sabers, he used them as canes. Death. Gore. His father. Being rammed over and over and over. The cowardice in Cadmus as he failed to lift his rifle and shoot. The failure. Oh, Calamity, Cadmus had been a failure. 

Chi looked up, seeing the concern in Argo's bear eyes. Fool. This is fake. Chi didn't know what it was, but this depression had to be an Epic. It wasn't right. Chimera stood up straight, sheathed a saber, and sent his birds to distract the Epics in the necromancer's group. A cloud of feathers engulfed them for a moment. That was all Chi needed to lean forward over Lightwards's prostrate body  

With his single unsheathed saber, he gave Lightwards, "Emperor" of Portland his answer to the offer. It closely resembled severing his head. 

Edited by Mailliw73
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Candyflame jolted awake as a wave of pure terror washed over her. Frantic, she jumped to her feet, unsuccessfully searching the room for the source. After a moment’s hesitation, she went into overdrive. Rushing back and forth, she connected branches with molten sugar, adding thorns for good measure. When her pouch of sugar ran out, she picked up the crystalline shards that littered the floor. She was a panicked hummingbird, flying across the room to add more defenses to her impromptu fort. The whole room quickly became sugar-coated, bright blues and pinks showering multi-colored reflections across the work of a maddened Epic.

Out of sugar, Candyflame stood in the middle of her brightly colored mess. The tangled webs had only distracted her briefly from the terror that still loomed over her. It would not let her sit down and rest, for what if it came? She could not push away the nightmares, as she used to. Being an emotionless lump had its perks. Oh yes, she knew how the others regarded her, but apathy was what protected her. After all, hadn’t Nighthound forgotten her? Left her behind, due to her utter blandness? Who wanted a pet that wouldn’t yelp if you kicked it? She was far better off without those emotions to drag her down.

But this vice-like grip of fear would not let go. The emotion was back, and it wanted to stay.

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Corpsemaker and his convoy trundled down the road, which rapidly cleared in his wake. Scared, dirty faces peered from broken windows and torn curtains, while other buildings looked completely abandoned. The Lord of Portland surveyed his domain, his subjects and his army. His ears rung with his own voice, recorded and blaring his proclamation of dominance over the city. Within a few hours, the citizenry would know who their ruler was. 

Corpsemaker smiled smugly to himself, but gnawing doubts assailed his mind. He was a gamer, a massive fan of strategy games in particular. By seizing the majority of the map, he was making an aggressive and offensive play. In any strategy game that was a risk, but one that could pay off dividends and assure victory if he was not stretched too thinly. Was he straining his forces? The Armory was guarded, but only by a few dozen soldiers and Epics. A concerted attack there could lose him his most tactically valuable Epics, his headquarters, and his only means of replenishing his forces. But who would dare? His troops and spies were everywhere and his enemies were on the defensive. Were he in their position, he wouldn't do something so rash. But when one was in such a position of strength as Corpsemaker was- invincible, with land forces and air superiority on his side- one could afford to take risks.

Hopefully, they paid off.

None of these doubts were voiced, nor did any trace of them show on his face. Corpsemaker projected nothing if not smug arrogance, a confidence that he was not just winning this war- he had already won.

Suddenly a wave of fear smashed into him, and his smile turned into a grimace. A smothering cloud of darkness descended onto him, and flashes of his past filled his mind. "GRRR!" He growled in pain and anger, realizing quickly that this is what Quota could do when he was Upgraded. Corpsemaker banished the images, rubbing his temples. Anger slowly gave way to satisfaction, as he considered the sheer power that had just been unleashed upon the city. And that power was his to command.

Looking to his sides, he saw that his toys were, of course, unaffected, but the gangsters, humans and Epics had all been affected to some degree. Many were huddled on the ground, crying or whimpering. The convoy continued unabated, but a gesture from Corpsemaker brought it to a halt. Collaborate and Leech were also on the ground, gasping and struggling to their feet. Corpsemaker gritted his teeth- the fear still pressed down upon him, bringing back memories. Dangerous ones. "Grit your teeth and bare it, weaklings." He spat at his bodyguards. "This convoy will not be halted by your weakness. Get moving!"

The convoy began again, and slowly the Epics and humans riding in the vehicles came back to their senses. Watching how they suffered, and feeling it himself, Corpsemaker smiled grimly. The entire city would be feeling this. It was far stronger than he had expected, but bearable once one recovered from the initial shock. Quota would be well rewarded for this, although he suspected that the mere act was reward enough for the Epic.

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Neverthere finally pulled her face out of Nighthounds shoulder, a mix of sweat tears and blood had dried on it but then now wasn't the time to worry about her appearance. She'd almost missed the moment that they'd finally separated from Timeport but that tendril of diamond was unmistakable. What on earth was Lucentia doing here?

She didn't exactly seem to be on the best terms with Nighthound and he wasn't likely to have asked for her protection, or indeed to have needed it if it was just him. But then she couldn't have been in league with Timeport, she'd separated the two of them after all.

She put the thought to one side, figuring out everyones motivations could come after her body was somewhere safe. But then, where on earth could be safe? They'd found her somehow but if she just moved to another safe house who's to say they wouldn't find her again?


Nighthound slowed down to a more natural speed before finally stopping, letting her catch her breath and calm down for a moment.

"So... uh, nice to see you again?" She tried, panic still seeping into her voice but a moment later she masked it again, adopting the flirtatious smile she had used with the Epic earlier in the day. "And here I thought Prince Charming was an Epic still in northern Europe."

A moment later she realized just how dumb that sounded and her expression faltered for a second again, though due to embarrassment rather than fear this time.

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Nighthound looked down at the woman in his arms disheveled, blood smeared, panicked and failing to rebuild her façade. She was an adorable sight. Eventually he’d have to actually lure her in but for now could anyone blame him for wanting to tease her, while she was still vulnerable in front of him without the defense of her projections? Contrary to her, Nighthound loved direct confrontation; nothing made it easier to draw raw emotions from another person. From adoration to terror, what else could one wish for in a relationship?

He responded to her awkward attempt at flirting with a soft chuckle and a warm smile, “I imagine he does but rescuing fair maidens in need is a duty of every able man. Hopefully he won’t be jealous though,” Nighthound said, took Neverthere’s hand and softly brushed it with his lips. “Seeing how I not only trespassed on his domain but also got away with such a lovely princess.”

Making eye contact with his little mouse was a wonderful feeling, making his face just a little bit brighter, hiding all the things he wanted to do to her. As arousing as it was to drive her on, Nighthound shouldn’t press her too far. From the information his sister had shared with him from the meeting with Altermind, they most likely used Streetwise to find her. Frankly, that’s something he should have considered when she wanted to go spying in the Dominion but at least he could figure out a way to use it now.

“Now your Highness, I’m afraid I’m still not all that familiar with the local Epics but is there any Epic Corpsemaker could have hired with the ability to locate you?” Best to have her figure it out herself.

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An Epic Corpsemaker could have used to find her? Well there was the obvious case of Streetwise, the Epic she'd intermittently been watching to steal some of Corpsemakers intel. The best way to see what was happening in the city had always been to spy on other spies. But then how had Streetwise known to try and find her? Was he just scouting her out to try and recruit her to the Dominion. Could Timeport have mentioned her to Corpsemaker?

Or could he have found her while she was spying on the Dominion and decided to respond?

She wasn't entirely sure how Streetwise's ability worked, she'd even thought he might just be another Astral Projector, albeit one with more limits on where he could appear. But what if he left no visible clue at all as to where he was watching. He could have noticed her peeking out from one of the Dominions walls or perhaps he didn't even use vision to spy, maybe he just knew what was happening.

Either way, it seemed like he was the cause, regardless of what the motive was behind it he was one of the only Epics who could have found her, and the only one at all with a connection to Timeport. Even if he wasn't the one who tracked her down this time, the fact that she was on their radar now meant that he would be tracking her down from now on.

"Just the one." She replied, her expression habitually slipping into a vacant half-smile and tone slipping up half an octave. "Streetwise. Information Epic, capable of finding out what's going on anywhere in the city and I believe the reason that Portlands foremost museum now requires elevator access."

Her mind was rapidly cycling through options, she didn't know Streetwises exact range but from what she'd gathered the museum was somewhere he couldn't spy in anymore so it had some limitations. At the least she had to guess that her range was bigger than his, she could escape the city, blend in with the other refugees fleeing the developing turf war. But she had few places to hide outside the city, and none were as secure as the safehouses she'd setup here. She'd lose her contacts, her suppliers.

But how could she stay in the city? She didn't know of any other Epics who could make her house fly like the museum, Thoughttown was well guarded and had plenty of other Epics but the MEE had already taught her that she didn't work well with a bunch of other people. Lightwards and the Empire were a smaller group but she couldn't begin to trust a faction led by someone leading a dinosaur herd while being manipulated by an insane teleporter capable of and probably willing to turn the entire city into chocolate.

That only left...

She glanced at Nighthound one more time, she'd called him her prince charming in jest but he really had come to her rescue, presumably while on a job for his sister if her presence was anything to go by. Did he actually like her? Or was he just one of those Epics who acted nice to get a better reputation and more followers?

She could hardly stay in a city on the brink of war, with an entire faction of supervillains after her just for the sake of a cute guy with a sturdy chest could she?

Her eyes were drawn downwards to a hole in Nighthounds shirt, the blood stain had mostly dried up with the wind from their fight but it was still a shot straight through his body.

"Oh." She said, voice dropping back to her normal tone. "Um.. I'm sorry I had to, you know. Shoot you and all."

How did you apologize for shooting someone? Did he even feel pain really? And how did you segue from that into asking whether or not you should stay in the city or not.

"Oh to hell with it." She muttered before taking a deep breath. "Can I stay with you for a bit?" She asked tentatively, glancing upwards as demurely as she could manage and batting her eyelashes slightly for good measure.

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