TwiLyghtSansSparkles

What Happened in The Dalles

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This thread is now closed to Epic characters, though anyone is welcome to adopt a non-Epic player character. This is not as lame as it sounds. Being a town run by normal humans, The Dalles arguably presents more opportunities for non-Epic characters. Besides, if you join as an Epic, your character will either join one of two gangs trying to conquer the city, work for the City Guard, or be shot on sight. Your options are kind of limited there.

 

If you're set on adopting an Epic, check out the Salem thread. 

 

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Late November, two years ago 

 

 

Koschei the Deathless marched into the farmhouse, pistol in hand, purple cloak billowing behind him. Snowflakes fell, catching on his cloak and sticking in his hair, and he irritably pulled up the hood.

 

Barrett Springfield had betrayed him.

 

A hole in his stomach and a slit throat, and he had chosen a killing shot for Haze over a wound for his brother. When he ordered Haze and Headshot into the farmhouse, Koschei had been certain their mortal wounds would keep the Springfields firmly under his thumb.

 

Yet Barrett had betrayed. Two mortal wounds, and he still betrayed.

 

Koschei wished, not for the first time, that he could raise the dead. Were he graced with this gift, he would have raised Barrett a dozen times to kill him again and again.

 

He slammed the door open. “What do we have?”

 

Two vanillas knelt in the living room, hands behind their heads as Headshot held a pistol to each of their skulls. Tank had a dark-haired toddler in pink pajamas folded in his arms, who let out a wail the moment she spotted the newcomer. Koschei winced.

 

“Shut her up, will you?”

 

“Just calm down, Gloria,” her mother cooed. Her own voice was thick with tears. “Please, sweetie, just stop crying. Everything’s going to be fine.”

 

Gloria’s wail increased in volume. Tears flowed down her mother’s cheeks as her father added his voice in a desperate attempt to comfort her. The noise, the voices, the tears—it pounded at his skull, tearing through his resolve, he had to do something quickly or he would shoot them all and be down a family—

 

Koschei’s revolver was trained on the child in a heartbeat. “Shut her up or I’ll shut her up for good!”

 

Her parents fell silent. Even Gloria ceased her wailing, easing into a low, pitiful whimper.

 

“Please,” her mother pleaded. Her voice was soft now, wavering. “Please, don’t shoot her. We’ll do anything you want.”

 

Her father swallowed. “I’ll tell you where we keep the weapons. The code to the safe. Anything.”

 

Wheels turned in Koschei’s mind. His Epics had little need of weapons at the moment, though they would certainly be a boon, and Tank could simply tear the door off the safe. If this man was willing to give him the code, it meant he was breaking. He lowered his revolver. “Tell me the code.”

 

He rattled off a string of numbers, which Koschei committed to memory. “It’s in our closet. Second door down the hall. Ammo’s there, too.”

 

“Set Gloria on the floor,” he told Tank, “and see if they’re telling the truth.”

 

He returned a moment later with the safe in his arms. Koschei entered the code and opened the door to half a dozen rifles with an adequate supply of ammunition. His smile was genuine. “Thank you,” he told the father, “for telling the truth.”

 

The man relaxed slightly. “Come here, Gloria. Come here and sit with Papa.”

 

“Tank, bring Gloria to me.”

 

“You have the guns,” her mother said pleadingly. Frantically. “We gave you what you wanted, and you said you wouldn’t hurt her.”

 

Ignoring her, Koschei holstered his pistol. Tank carried a squirming, kicking Gloria to where he stood.

 

“Tilt her head back.”

 

He did so.

 

“You have the guns.” There was no demanding note in his voice. No anger. Only fear. “You said you’d leave her alone.”

 

“I said nothing of the sort.”

 

Please!” Her mother’s whisper was frantic and urgent. “We’ll do anything!”

 

Koschei paused to give the couple a smile, drawing a dagger from his belt. “I know you will.”

 

One quick slice and he slit the child’s throat.

 

Screams.

 

Pleas.

 

Koschei calmly placed his hand over the wound. The edges drew together. Blood ceased flowing onto his palm.

 

The screams fell silent.

 

“Your Gloria will live,” Koschei told the couple, sheathing his knife and taking a cloth from his pocket. He wiped the blood from his hand as he faced them. “Provided you do as I say. For what I give….”

 

He wiped the blood from her throat and withdrew a small amount of the power he had given. A short, narrow red line appeared on her throat, drawing a frantic whimper.

 

“I can also take away.”

 

Koschei regarded the couple for a long moment, struck by the contrast between them and the Springfields. Where that family had glared from the moment they were healed to the moment Koschei named the price of his gift, this couple stared. Not in outrage. Not in shock. Only terror. The woman bit her lower lip, sobbing quietly, not daring to avert her gaze from Gloria. Her husband’s eyes flickered from Koschei to his daughter. Perhaps there was a spark of anger, but it died the second Koschei touched his knife.

 

A smile curved his lips. These people were broken. Thoroughly broken.

 

And he owned them.

Edited by TwiLyghtSansSparkles
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He owned them.

 

Two years after Koschei the Deathless slit a little girl's throat, a man in pink sunglasses fell to the farmhouse floor, vomiting over the moldy carpet.

 

The man shook continuously in an effort to recover himself. A pair of twins stood in the old farmhouse doorway, staring at him with confusion and a hint of disgust.

 

For once, Backtrack didn't care what the pretty girls thought of him. He retched a few times more before he was able to stand. When he did so, he stumbled a few times, a headache pounding in his skull and the world seeming to blur before his eyes.

 

"I'm sorry you had to see that," he croaked hoarsely, trying--and failing--to crack a smile. He thought it turned out more like some sort of grimace.

 

"You'd be throwing up too if you'd seen," he informed them helplessly. "I mean..." He trailed off, well aware of how ridiculous the complaint would sound to their ears.

 

It wasn't the sight of a little girl being murdered. Backtrack had seen worse before in his visions of the past. He'd seen ancient Indian braves scalping women and children. He'd seen settlers come along and extirpate all the Indian braves. He'd seen Epics appear in the world and murder those same settler's descendants centuries later.

 

No, the blood of the past didn't bother him any more. It was that crazy slontze's brain that he had issues with. He'd thought it would be useful to not just witness the scene, but see what Koschei had been thinking at the time. To see if he had any extra information he could use.

 

He hadn't counted on Koschei's mind being so twisted. It was more than just the willingness to kill--lot's of Epics had that. It was the way the man had relished being in such genuine control of them. The way he'd smiled with genuine delight as the child's parents were thrust under his command, given the most sinister blackmail imaginable...

 

Backtrack shook himself off again, casting another look at the twins.

 

"Sorry," he repeated. "We should keep going. I don't want to go back to Portland without something to pique Lightwards' interest."

 

They'd come, ostensibly, to find out about Remington Springfield's life story. Backtrack had hoped that if he came back with info on the hunter's family, then Lightwards would be able to use it as a means of controlling the man--

 

He owned them.

 

Backtrack winced, trying to get the nasty taste of Koschei's thoughts out of his head. The man was just so twisted.

 

And the worst part? Blackmail, murder, and leverage was the whole reason Backtrack was here in the first place. A small part of him that had once been Steve Lawrence rebelled at that. He was no better than Koschei.

 

Trying to ignore this line of thought, Backtrack instead devoted his attention to the young women in front of him. Impact and MV were indeed identical, and right now their faces still had identical expressions of impatience and contempt.

 

For a moment, he wanted to speak to them. To tell them that though going to the Empire was his idea in the first place, he really couldn't be blamed for the way it had turned out. The way Lightwards had threatened to kill him, the way Nighthound had threatened to violate and murder them, the way the whole thing had culminated in the three of them being forced to jump out of an enormous floating jungle filled with dinosaurs...

 

Honestly, there was no way anyone could have predicted all of that. He started to open his mouth to say so.

 

He was interrupted, perhaps mercifully, by the sound of a large truck pulling up in the farmhouse's driveway. Frowning, Backtrack rushed to a window and peered outside.

 

There was indeed a large truck. An armored truck, with a bunch of very surly-looking men with guns pouring out of it.

 

"Right," Backtrack began jabbering, looking around the farmhouse for weapons. "We need guns, we need guns... but wait, Koschei took the guns. So we're pretty much just sparking out of luck."

 

There was a pounding on the front door.

 

"By the authority of The Dalles City Guard," a thick voice boomed from outside. "Come out with your hands in the air. If you attempt to use Epic powers, you will be terminated at once. You have one minute to comply."

 

Backtrack felt his jaw beginning to drop, sweat forming at his brow. It seemed like there had to be something he could do. Something he, small little Backtrack, still tasting the vomit in his mouth, could do to overwhelm a legion of armed men.

 

"Ladies," he said with a weak smile directed at the twins. "I think we should do what the nice policeman says."

Edited by Kobold King
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Two years post-Koschei, near Mt. Hood National Forest:

 

Will O'the Wisp smiled happily to himself, balls of light dancing around his head as he sat on the ridge overlooking a torn and broken highway. Not many travelers dared the road from Bend to The Dalles these days. He'd been following the two girls for nearly three days now, waiting to get to just the right spot. They were finally there.

 

This forested area, nearly out in the middle of nowhere, had once been the domain of a powerful High Epic named The Lizard. He had dammed up several streams, creating a vast marsh in which he had bred various reptiles, intent on world domination. Three years ago, he had vanished mysteriously, but his swamp remained. Which was just the way Will liked it.

 

His smile deepened as he gave one of his lights a push with his mind, and it bobbed off towards the little clearing just off of the highway where the girls had made their camp. As it approached, he could almost imagine what they were saying.

 

"What is that?" The tall one with the brown hair would say. She was the dominant one of the two. The other barely said anything at all.

 

She would probably answer her own question. "It looks like a floating ball of light."

He peered over the edge to look down into their camp. As he had expected, he had their undivided attention. Now for the fun part.

 

At his silent command the light started to bob, slowly, back the way it had come. The tall one stood up, pulling on her companion to follow her. Perfect. He had them. Only a very few people could resist the pull of the lights to begin with, except for Epics, and even fewer could stop following once they had started.

 

As the light bobbed off into the marsh, Will pushed it faster, until the girls were almost running to try and keep it in sight. Carefully, he began to guide it to a special place he had just found last night, where the soil grew sandy and the water table approached the surface. The girl's boots were sticking in the muddy ground, leaving pools of water in their footprints, but they took no notice. Suddenly, the ground turned sandy beneath their feet, and before they could even cry out, they were sinking rapidly into the water-saturated sand. The short one disappeared almost immediately, but the tall one began thrashing around, trying to keep her head above water.

 

Will shook his head, almost disappointed. Someone should have told her that the more she moved, the faster she would sink. Pity there wasn't anybody around who cared.

 

Will chuckled softly to himself as the last ripples stilled. The girls had been distracted so quickly and so thoroughly that they had left their packs and belonging at their campsite. Maybe these were the ones that his employer had told him to watch out for. Perhaps they had the...he checked his thoughts quickly. That was a dangerous thought. The...thing he was looking for was definitely not safe. Not safe at all. Not even to think about. He would have to be more careful.

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MV looked back in disgust as she heard the gagging sounds Backtrack made while he threw up.
God, it's just an image, what kind of man just throws up after looking at something that isn't even really there?
A small voice in the back of her mind interjected, trying to tell her that she'd very nearly done the same thing not too long ago when witnessing one of Backtrack's visions.
 

"I'm sorry you had to see that, you'd be throwing up too if you'd seen." He said when he noticed her and her sister, Impact staring at him.

He trailed off for a moment, his eyes misting over as though looking at something no one else could see, then came to again.


"Sorry. We should keep going. I don't want to go back to Portland without something to pique Lightwards' interest."

MV didn't quite no how to respond to that, she had no interest at all in going back to Portland, back to the monster who lived there, hadn't they just tried to escape from Portland?

She opened her mouth to say so, at the same time Backtrack looked as though he were about to say something too. probably to apologize again. She thought to herself with disdain.
A loud engine sounded right outside the building, Backtrack went to a window to take a look, after a brief glance a panicked look took him over, he began rushing about, muttering to himself about guns.
She was just about to slap some sense into him when there was a loud banging at the door.
Someone outside was yelling.

"Come out with your hands in the air. If you attempt to use Epic powers, you will be terminated at once. You have one minute to comply."
How dare they!? Terminated? I'd like to see them try. She glanced quickly towards her sister, seeing the same outrage in her eyes, their thoughts were never too far apart.
"Attack them or escape then?" Impact whispered low to her.

"Ladies, I think we should do what the nice policeman says." Backtrack interrupted.

MV barely spared a smile for his little joke.
Do what he says? Just some cop? Not likely, the Momentum twins feared no human police, we evaded what remained of the police in Portland even before we received our powers.
They'd need to be careful, both she and Impact couldn't be hurt by gunfire theoretically but they'd hardly invited people over to try shooting at them to test the theory, and Backtrack didn't seem to have any offensive or defensive abilities, though she supposed that if he could touch some of them and show them a vision it might confuse them a bit.
"What do you think sis? You're the best with plans." She asked Impact.
"Actually, I think maybe we should surrender, it's not like we can't escape, they might be working for someone else, I don't want to end up being hunted by another Nighthound sis, I just couldn't handle it." She shuddered slightly as she said the name, MV felt a similar shiver up her spine.
She thought it over, if these people did try to hurt them they could still protect themselves, and if they were working for another Epic it was best they seemed to be subdued, not let them know what their powers were.
"Ok" She said simply.
"We're coming out! Don't shoot!" She yelled back through the door, walking very slowly and keeping her ability at the ready to freeze any oncoming bullets.

Edited by Voidus
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Edgerunner climbed up the wall of the alley, waiting for Shank to come running in. Shank was one of Quicksilver's minor Epics. He could make it so that anything he holds has a sharp point, hence the name. Vondra had sent her out to take him out of action. She had been assigned to be on the lookout for any of Quicksilver's minions and to kill them. Shank had been the first one she'd seen. He was reckless and arrogant, like many minor Epics.

 
He had been coming out of a store he had raided when Edgerunner had spied him. She had lured him here by "accidentally" revealing herself in front of him, knowing that Quicksilver had her on his kill list. Shank had immediately sharpened and thrown some of the items he had stolen. Edgerunner dodged a sharpened apple, and a sharp candy bar when a battery sliced her arm. She swore and increased her speed. Shank, looking to prove himself to his boss, had chased after her. Unlucky for him, she could change her gravitational pull to help her move faster. 
 
She had run into the alley, making sure he saw her and then, increasing her friction, she climbed up the wall to wait. She pulled out both of her daggers and squatted on the edge of the roof, ready to fall on the Epic. Shank ran into the alley and looked around wildly. Edgerunner jumped above the man. He saw her shadow and looked up. He sent another battery flying towards her. She increased it's friction so that it stopped in midair. She doubled, then tripled her gravitational pull down. Shank stared at his frozen battery as Edgerunner slammed both knives into his back. She had lessened her gravity at the last second so that she wouldn't crush her legs. The force had still been enough ram the knives into Shank's back deep enough to kill him.
 
Edgerunner yanked her knives out and headed back to Vondra's headquarters to report. 
Edited by Mailliw73
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Quicksilver watched it all play out on the screen. It had gone precisely as he had intended. Shank had finally been useful. He turned to Surveillance

 

"Rewind it."

 

Surveillance nodded and rewound the tape.

 

"Stop. Now play it."

 

He watched as the female Epic dove down at Shank, stopping his battery and killing him with one stroke.

 

"Pause it."

 

The screen froze, showing the girl's face as she looked down at Shank's corpse. Quicksilver grinned, she was good. It was too bad Vondra had taken her already, she would have been useful. He memorized what she looked like then turned to the Slivers in the room.

 

     "Enemy Epic, code name Edgedancer. Flight abilities, though we have previous footage of her climbing up walls. Can stop projectiles, though we are currently unsure how.  We don't have any leads on a weakness, but she can be injured without it in play. 

       She has been increasingly active. Shank is the second one she's killed, after Lockpick. Her and the rest of Vondra's goons have started stepping up security measures, and have become increasingly hostile. Keep on your guard. However, Vondra has started getting a little too confident lately, so it's time we remind him he is not the only one with power. 

     We are going to obliterate a command post. I want Shatterblast and Mirror and Fritz ready to go. Event Horizon, I want you to attack an out post near the border to draw attention away. Take Aura with you. When you have confirmed they've radioed for help, have Aura send up a color flare, but make it look like an attack, not a signal." 

 

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large metal ingot. He touched it to his face and it became fluid, encasing his entire head. When it settled there wasn't even eye slits, just a silvery mask with a smooth featureless face. More liquid metal flowed from his wide sleeves, encasing his arms and forming join-less gauntlets on his hands. He looked up at his men, each one of them feeling his stare rather than seeing it.

 

"Let us go and remind them what the face of fear looks like." 

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This had been one rollercoaster of a day.

 

Backtrack slowly followed behind the twins, keeping his hands well over his head so as not to annoy the men with guns.

 

There were quite a few men with quite a few guns. Backtrack swallowed as he looked them over. These weren't the confused yokels with shotguns he'd been picturing; they had the air and weaponry of professional warriors. His power made it clear that most of the dozen soldiers had been in Afghanistan or Iraq in the past few decades.

 

What seemed to be the leader had all three Epics locked with a stern glare. "Names and species," he ordered harshly.

 

"Um, right," Backtrack replied nervously. "I'm Backtrack. I'm an Epic. This is Impact and MV. Also Epics."

 

The leader nodded as if he'd already suspected such. "You are all under the custody of The Dalles City Guard," he declared. "You will enter the back of the convoy and submit to your transportation. If you attempt to escape or harm any citizen of The Dalles, you will be terminated. If you--"

 

"Listen," Backtrack interjected pleadingly. "We haven't done anything. We're just passing through, right? We've never even been here before--"

 

"You will be silent while your instructions are being passed," the leader interrupted, his fingers seeming to twitch by his gun's trigger. "You were caught breaking and entering within The Dalles territory. We're not light on criminals around here. Not even Epics."

 

"Understandable," Backtrack interjected again. "But look, nobody even lives here. Koschei cleared it out years ago."

 

From the looks on the soldiers' faces, he'd said entirely the wrong thing.

 

"If you've never been here before," the leader said softly, his eyes dangerous, "then how do you know Koschei the Deathless hit this farmhouse?"

 

The smart thing to say, a part of him realized, would have been to explain he had an Epic power which let him see the past. Instead, he found himself saying completely the wrong thing again. 

 

"We know a lot of things," Backtrack said pompously. "We're Epics, buddy boy. We really don't even have to listen to you--"

 

"Place yourself in the convoy."

 

"We haven't even done anything, this is completely absurd--"

 

"Get in the truck or you will be terminated."

 

"...Yes sir."

 

 

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Lieutenant Mitchins watched as the prisoners loaded themselves into the back of the convoy. The Epics were remarkably well-behaved, considering. They'd never before captured Epics without at losing at least a man or so on the job. Capturing a trio without even having to fire a shot...

 

Shaking his head and shrugging off his paranoia, he pulled a radio out of his pocket and broadcast into town.

 

"Lieutenant Mitchins to the Church," he spoke into the device. "Patrol has apprehended three Epics in Sector B. Returning to Church--have Reader at the ready."

 

The soldier at the other end spoke in the affirmative, and Mitchins pocketed the radio.

 

It really was remarkable how cooperative the Epics were. The one had mouthed off to them, but they hadn't even attacked. He really wasn't sure what to make of it.

 

This was either a lucky break, or their worst mistake yet.

Edited by Kobold King
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Reader leaned back slightly in his soft chair, swishing the wine around in his goblet. Wine was expensive in the Dalles, ever since Vondra had all but closed off the city borders, but Reader had a good store of 1950's wine in his coldbox in his house a short ways away from his office, and he usually kept a bottle or two at the office for when he wanted a good drink. It was fascinating, the number of things you could get when you knew everyone's secrets. 

 

A soldier stepped into his office. It was a new one--it was a new one every day, Vondra was a bit paranoid with that--but just by looking at him, Reader already knew everything there was to know. 

 

"A call just came in from Sector B," Terry Richard Bloom said. He'd been working for Vondra for just over two months now, he'd originally gotten the job as a way to feed his starving family, but was now spending most of his earnings on drinks and his new coworker and lover, Britanic Jerald Jansink. What an ugly name, Reader thought. 

 

"And...?" Reader said, motioning for him to continue. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite read minds. He just knew things about the person, not what they were thinking at any given moment. 

 

"And they've requested that I notify you that they're bringing in 3 Epics for you to Read." 

 

"Noted." Reader shooed the soldier away. As he stepped out, Reader grinned slightly. "And, send Britanic my best regards. If you're not too drunk to remember." The soldier stiffened, then, giving a curt nod, hurried out of the room. 

 

Reader took a sip from his goblet. He took it on himself to humiliate each soldier that was sent to "guard" him. They must've been sent to him for a reason, and besides, the looks they gave him after each remark were priceless. They pleased him in a way nothing else could. 

 

3 Epics, hm? It had been a while since he'd had Epics to Read and humiliate. This is going to be fun. 

Edited by mail-mi
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Event Horizon listened as Quicksilver gave orders, then waited until Quicksilver's armor was finished before Event Horizon walked over to Aura and motioned for her to follow him.  

 

 

"This might hurt a bit," he said as he grabbed her arms and changed his pulling point to be in the direction of the outpost, and started to fall sideways.  He heard Aura start yelling at, and before she could get far, Event Horizon cut her off.  "This is the fastest way for us to get there, and it will also allow us to outrun Vondra's police force if we need to.  Take out your anger on the humans at the outpost."  He laughed as the air started to rush by them, and carefully manipulated his gravity to not flatten himself.

 

"Well, lets get this started then." Event Horizon started walking towards the outpost, hurling black holes as quickly as he could make them.  Aura followed him, deflecting bullets, and once one of the walls had being obliterated, rushed by him and into the outpost.  He followed her a step behind, tossing out more black holes whenever he saw a mortal Aura hadn't finished.

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Madras, Oregon

 

 

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The sound of the crowd was nearly deafening, even from nearly a quarter mile away. Ranger spit in disgust onto the roof of the abandoned store. He'd always hated people; that's why he'd spent so much time in the forest ranger station in Homedale after Calamity struck. But if there was one thing he loved more than he hated people, it was killing Epics. He'd deal with the crowd any day for a change to sink an arrow or a sniper bullet into the forehead of some arrogant, bloody-handed, murderous...

 

His thoughts were cut off as the receiver in his ear crackled.

 

"Paladin is in position," a female voice said. "Stay alert."

 

He nodded to himself. Their target was the hypnosis Epic known as Ringmaster, ruler of Madras.Together with his gang of minor Epics, they had pushed out the last ruler, a High Epic known as Ironmonger, nearly eighteen months ago. That titanic battle had nearly destroyed the city, and the last year and a half had not been kind to it.

 

Most of the city still stood in ruins, only a few dilapidated houses and run-down stores still standing. Most of the population was used as slave labor in the iron mines. From the information he had gathered while scouting, it appeared that during the battle for control, Ironmonger had transformed nearly every source of metal in the city into pure iron, and sunk it deep into the ground as a last, defiant act against the newcomers.

 

"Roger that, Guardian," he replied, tensing. "Torch and Bubbles are on the stand near Ringmaster. I've located Deadeye on the roof of a diner across the way. I still can't find Hammer. Keep your eyes peeled."

 

"Excellent work. Alright, let's get this party started. Ranger, prepare to eliminate the sniper on my mark. 3...2...1...Hold it!"

 

Ranger had brought his sniper's scope to focus on Deadeye, a minor Epic with a penchant for randomly sniping vanilla humans. Finger on the trigger, he paused.

 

"Paladin says that they're introducing a new Epic. Hold your fire until we can assess the new situation. I'm patching his audio through." Guardian's voice was tense. She's worried, he thought. There's too much that can go wrong with this plan.

 

But it had taken them nearly two weeks to set this assassination up, and their cover wouldn't last much longer. Soon, somebody would catch them as they hid from the mine work, and then they'd be forced into battle on their enemy's terms. They had to do this now.

 

The voice of the Ringmaster suddenly sparked in his ear, mid sentence. The man had a smooth voice that left you feeling uneasy, as if he had once been a used car salesman.

 

"...will inaugurate a new era of efficiency and prosperity for the city. Would you demonstrate, please?"

 

Ranger swung his scope around to focus on the large platform with its podium. To his surprise, he saw a large rough block of stone sitting center stage. It must have weighed more than four tons. Even Hammer must have had difficulty with that one. The new Epic stepped up to the stone and pushed his hands into it. With a loud crack, the stone fell away, revealing a Volkswagen Beetle that looked as if it had been cast out of iron. "I am the Miner!" With a roar of triumph, the new Epic pulverized the remaining bits of stone, leaving only a fine powder.

 

Ringmaster spoke again. "As you can see, we will soon have an overabundance of workers in the mines. Therefore, about half of you will be transferred to the grain fields, to provide food for our fine kingdom." A ragged cheer went up at that. The fields were work, it was true, but they were nothing compared to the drudgery of the mines.

 

"Miner, how many workers do you think you need to recover the iron deposits?" The short, bulky Epic responded, "Oh, about two hundred, I'd say. I can expose the ore easily enough, but I can't bring it all to the surface on my own."

 

A cruel smile began to spread across Ringmaster's face. "There are still workers left over, and I just can't abide unemployment. Miner, do you think that you can deal with them?"

 

Miner answered with a cruel laugh as he placed his hands on the ground. "How many do you have left over, Ringmaster?"

 

"Oh, about the first twelve rows should do it."

 

The swarthy Epic's laugh grew heartier and more cruel. "At your service," he replied. As he laughed. the first twelve rows of chairs and their occupants began to sink into the ground, as a large mine shaft began to open up underneath them.

Edited by Seonid
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MV glared at her sister before clambering into the truck, she glared at a few of the soldiers for good measure, particularly the one that was looking at her with a little too much interest as she accidentally bared too much skin as she climbed in.
Impact shot her a glare back and directed a similar glare at the soldiers before climbing in more carefully. They both stopped once they saw the leader fingering his gun again as he watched their stares.

"This is your fault, now we're stuck with this submissive attitude, and snivelly there is going to be even more worthless than he was before."
She gestured towards Backtrack but felt a twinge of pity as she did so. He had no abilities with which to fight armed men, he'd shown bravery enough just to enter that museum, and he'd even stayed once he knew about that creepy guy. Well, at least until said creepy guy took a personal interest in him, but then no one could be blamed for running from that.

Nevertheless when he followed them into the truck she joined her twin in giving him an identical sneering glance before ignoring him.

Still if she was stuck with this she might as well have some fun with it, she touched the side of the truck as it started to move and focused on it with a continuous stream of her power, stealing all of its momentum and turning it into wind, the driver seemed perplexed as he struggled to get the car to move and she was forced to stop her game before anyone grew too suspicious.

This was so not fun.

Edited by Voidus
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Quicksilver Surveyed the city below him impassively. He stood atop one of the taller buildings, waiting for Aura's signal.

 

Suddenly, there was a bright flare of color that rose near the outskirts of the city. Quicksilver smiled beneath his mask, excitement rising within him. The operation had started. His men would be moving now.

 

Fritz would get them through the check points by creating isolated Disruptions while Shatterblast would eliminate any security personal they encountered. 2 minutes in, they would have reached the rear entry point. Fritz would get them in and they would progress to the power room where they would destroy generators and cut off the power for the base. At 4 minutes Fritz would be throwing up a large disruption bubble, eliminating any possibilities of radioing for help.

 

Now it was his turn. He ran to the edge of the building and jumped off. Instantly his metal reserves reacted, swirling into action and forming frame around his body. The metal attached to his coat and stretched it taunt, forming what was essentially a wingsuit. While not as effective or maneuverable as the ones used by base jumpers, this enabled his to change his vertical fall into a diagonal dive. He flew straight towards the building, moving faster and faster as he shot through the air. At the last moment, the frame around him liquefied and flowed down his arm, transforming into a shield large enough to cover him. He smashed through the wall, his body strengthened by the armor beneath his clothes and created a small crater. He had crushed three people with his landing, killing two instantly and leaving the other badly maimed. The rest of the occupants of the corridor he had landed in were silent, frozen with terror.  Slowly, Quicksilver stood as the metal poured out of his sleeves like silver water. He laughed, 

 

"Missed me?"

 

The metal sprang to life, shooting out like snakes at those unfortunate enough to be in the hallway. Within seconds they had ripped through every person in sight, leaving bloody holes in their torsos. Not a soul had survived. Quicksilver surveyed his handiwork then casually punched the wall. It shattered, but this time there was cries of alarm. He stepped through the newly created opening, and was shot three times in the face. 

 

This accomplished nothing. As soon as the lead touched the silver mask, they liquefied and were absorbed. Quicksilver looked at the offending party.

 

"Is that all?" 

 

At this point everyone with a firearm opened up on him. They lit him up, emptying their magazines in a panicked frenzy. Inevitably, they ran out of ammo. Quicksilver looked around the room

 

"Now it's my turn."

He dashed forward as his hands became blades. He tore into them, stabbing, slicing and decapitating with ruthless efficiency. They tried to run, to flee this creature of death and destruction, but there was no escape. His hands morphed into a single, massive battleaxe which he used to bisect three guards at a time. They shifted into clawed hands as he eviscerated two unfortunate officers. Someone made it to the door, but was struck down by a tendril of silver that shot across the room.

 

Within the space of three minutes nearly everyone had died. One lone officer remained, paralyzed with fear. Quicksilver walked slowly across the room, watching the man's terror build in his eyes. He lowered his face to be level with the man and stared with his featureless visage.

 

"You are going to take a message to Vondra. Inform him that the recent assassinations have displeased me. He has let his empire go to his head, and I did this to remind his he is not singular when it comes to power. I am happy to let him keep his little kingdom, but if he takes liberties with me, he shall know suffering."

 

AS he spoke the last part, he reached down and cut off the guards hands. The man screamed, but his suffering was not over. Liquid metal flowed over the bleeding stumps and sealed the wounds. On the end of each hand there was a raised symbol of a sword slightly unsheathed.

 

"This was a lesson. Learn from your mistakes or repeat them. My response shall not change."

 

He turned away from the crying creature on the floor  he formed a massive hammer with one of the tendrils and pounded it on the floor three times, signalling his men it was time to leave. Then he left the way he had come. Fritz would have lowered the Disruption by now, so he radioed Aura.

 

"Operation completed. Exit situation."

 

He disappeared into the streets, fading into the city as he had done countless times before.

 

This had been a good day.

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"Sir, we are being attacked!" the man's voice came through the radio with terror.  "It looks like Event Horizon and possibly Aura.  Send some help now!" his voice trailed off as he presumably ran to deal with the threat.  

 

Steven stopped pacing in the command center and knelt next to the radio immediately, and replied "Backup is being sent out now."  He checked which fort the wavelength was assigned to, and yelled out commands through an intercom.  

 

"Epic trouble at Outpost Zeta.  Probable Epics: Event Horizon and Aura.  Get there as fast as you can." Steven watched as those on call quickly got ready.  They knew the drill in a situation like this, and they would take out the Epics carefully.

 

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Despite the anger she had felt at Event Horizon grabbing her with no worry, it began to fade as she walked the halls of the outpost, dealing death to those that stood in her way.  Each one she killed, she imagined to be Vondra, for his gall to give her ultimatums still left Aura angry.

 

As she turned a corner, bullets ripped out of the machine guns stationed there, and Aura flinched back, clutching her arm.  "Event Horizon," she called out calmly, but inside she raged that they had managed to hit her, "take out these soldiers,"

 

He approached her, and tossed a black hole around the corner without looking.  Screams shrieked out, and the two walked around the corner to see that it had landed just far enough away to only get part of their bodies.  Aura quickly finished off the rest with a smile on her face.  

 

They walked up the stairs the soldiers had been guarding, and looked out from the top of the outpost, as several armored cars rolled into view.  "Time to leave," Event Horizon said as he reached for her arm again.

 

"One second," Aura replied, staring at the approaching vehicles.  She concentrated, and surged her colors up high into the air, then shot them down onto the first car.  To Aura's disappointment, it didn't see to have much effect.  

 

"That should do for a signal," she said as she walked back to Event Horizon.  "Lets get back to Quicksilver."

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 "This is your fault," MV snapped to her sister. "Now we're stuck with this submissive attitude, and snivelly there is going to be even more worthless than he was before."

 

Backtrack shrank back from the remark, scowling but saying nothing. He sat back against the side of the truck, following the twins' lead and glaring at the soldiers. The truck seemed to be having difficulty getting moving, prompting a nearby guard to grumble about a guy named Arsenal. Backtrack saved the name for later, not quite sure of its significance.

 

"Having technical difficulties, huh?" he asked finally, directing the question at the head soldier. The head soldier, true to form, pointed the gun at him just as the truck jolted into motion.

 

"No speaking," he commanded harshly. "No using Epic powers. Non-compliance will result in--"

 

"Termination," Backtrack sighed. "Yes, we heard you the first dozen times or so."

 

The guard's fingers twitched, but didn't shoot him. Regardless he kept the gun leveled firmly into his face. "No talking."

 

Yes sir, Backtrack thought sullenly. It's not like I have any decent company in here anyway.

 

The twins had both shown their displeasure with him through the power of sneering glares--there really wasn't anything more withering than a pair of identical twins scowling at once. Now they were treating him like he didn't exist, which was better in some ways. Hardly ideal, though.

 

If only I knew what they were thinking, he though wistfully. If I could just figure out how to make things right with them...

 

Wait. Duh.

 

He peered about a minute into the truck's past, watching as the twins climbed into the back and took their seats. Ignoring the temptation to watch MV's skin-flashing incident on repeat a few times, he instead took a peak into the girl's mind as it was at the time. 

 

She gestured towards Backtrack but felt a twinge of pity as she did so. He had no abilities with which to fight armed men, he'd shown bravery enough just to enter that museum, and he'd even stayed once he knew about that creepy guy. Well, at least until said creepy guy took a personal interest in him, but then no one could be blamed for running from that...

 

Backtrack frowned for a moment before settling into a wide smile that put the guards on edge. Pity's kind of like attraction, he thought contentedly. She likes me...

 

He had the same grin on his face for the entire ride into town.

 

 

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

 

"Sit on this bench and await your Reading," the soldier ordered, waving Backtrack and the twins into the building. Backtrack sighed but did as he was told.

 

The building appeared to be an old church, though it seemed to have been converted into a combination memorial/office building. Soldiers seemed to swarm over the place with a hustle of activity, seeming on red alert.

 

"Don't suppose we could get books or something?" he asked the pair of soldiers assigned to guarding them. "'Cuz waiting here is gonna get old fast."

 

The soldiers merely twitched nervously, their guns still pointed at his face. "You will wait in silence until Reader is ready for you."

 

"And who precisely is Reader?"

 

"A slontze," came the soldier's distasteful reply.

 

Backtrack sighed and began counting soldiers as they ran by. He tried sparking up a conversation with the twins, but they still seemed intent on ignoring him. And the soldiers kept threatening to terminate him if he talked too much.

 

Oh well, he thought sullenly. Maybe I'll just find out why this place is a memorial...

Edited by Kobold King
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Nightfall, same day, two years ago 

 

The church was not what Koschei would call a proper cathedral. The narrow, pointed brick building entirely bereft of stained-glass windows or marble steps was separated from the somewhat distant and darkened homes by nothing more than a steeple and a small white cross. Still, it was the most church-like building near the edge of town, suiting it to his purposes. With the Epics he had recruited on his way waiting at the exits, Koschei paused to give the cross a smirk before striding through the door.  

 

The entry hall was dark, save for the light of a single lantern. Most churches met at night these days, not for fear of Epics, but so as not to spend daylight on an activity that could just as well be accomplished in darkness. Warm light spilled from lanterns and candles behind a pair of wood-paneled doors.

 

Within the sanctuary, there was music. Someone plinked away on a piano with a hundred voices raised in reverent song:

 

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed

 

Koschei scowled as he opened the door, spilling music into the hall: 

 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

 

The pianist stopped her playing; voices quieted as he passed. Worshippers paused to stare at the regal Epic who commanded their attention, who strode down the aisle in purple and gold. Their fear was palpable. Perhaps they knew what he had come to do, perhaps not—their knowledge mattered little. He had their attention and he had their fear.

 

“Can we help you, sir?”

 

That was the pastor. Koschei recognized him from a picture one of his scouts had taken. The man wore a pressed polo shirt and dark slacks, sensible shoes on his feet and grey in his hair. Koschei laughed. “Look at you. And you call yourself a minister of your god.”

 

Six—seven—eight men separated themselves from the other worshippers and stood in the aisles, drawing pistols. The pastor himself took a 9-millimeter from his holster.

 

“Epics are always welcome here,” the pastor said. His voice was so calm, so cool. “But I’m going to have to ask you to follow the rules and leave your weapons at the door.”

 

So he had seen the knife and pistol at his side. “Your ushers are armed.”

 

“They’re here to protect the others. Please, hand over your weapons.”

 

Koschei drew his pistol and quickly dispatched the nearest usher. Headshot killed three more, Koschei shot another, turned to the pastor, and saw the bullet coming a second before pain shattered his skull.

 

He plunged into fog. Thick, white fog that swirled around him, coalescing into vaguely human shapes. Koschei waited for the shapes to solidify, morphing back into the shape of a pastor standing over him, aiming a pistol.  

 

Koschei opened his eyes. “You think to be rid of me that easily?”

 

The pastor said nothing. The other ushers lay dead, their pistols claimed by the Epics who had caused their deaths, now guarding the exits. Worshippers glanced around, shuffling their feet nervously, but no one attempted an escape. The woman nearest him had tears on her cheeks that glistened in the candlelight. One man nearby had his head bowed, his lips moving in silent prayer.

 

The crack of gunfire sent pain tearing through Koschei’s middle. His hand went to his stomach, blood pouring through his fingers. The pastor waited, watched to see if the wound would stick.

 

Koschei shot him in the skull.

 

He plucked the pastor’s pistol from the floor and tucked it into his belt, pain vanishing with the wound. “Did your god protect this man, who died in his service? Did your god descend from the heavens to keep his executioner in the grave?”

 

He turned and faced his congregation. “Or is your god as dead as the man who served him?”

 

There were no shouts of anger, no verses tossed like grenades at his feet. Only the sound of weeping and the whispered prayers of a man whose head was bowed.

 

Koschei slit his throat, healing it in an instant.

 

I am your god.” He spoke not to the congregation, but to the man with blood on his neck. There was no gratitude in his eyes, nor was there fear. Only defiance. Calm, resolute defiance. “I decide when you live…and when you die.”

 

The praying man’s wound reopened, and he fell.

 

Koschei nudged the twitching body with distaste, then slit and healed the throat of the woman nearest him. He did the same for a couple across the aisle.

 

“Your lives are in my hands,” Koschei said when he reached the front. “All who acknowledge me as their god will be healed quickly and mercifully. Those who do not will be given to my Epics.” He faced his congregation, arms outstretched, blood drying on his fingers. “So bow. Bow to your god, that he may show you mercy.”

 

Glances were traded. The woman with blood on her neck gingerly touched her throat.

 

She was the first to turn her back.

 

Like a stone tossed into a pond, the effect spread from where she stood. Men and women, old and young, turned their backs to him.

 

Koschei knew this was a possibility. The likelihood of this very event was one of his many reasons for choosing the church for his declaration of war. Yet the sight of a hundred mortals turning their backs on him made him want to slit every single throat in that place and leave them to bleed.

 

But he hadn’t the time.

 

“Leave the children.”

 

Koschei slammed the nearest door, took a wild monkshood root from a pouch at his side, and chewed it. He sank to the floor, smiling as the chatter of gunfire drowned out a hundred screams. 

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Backtrack didn't open his mouth for a while. It wasn't because the guards would probably shoot him if he said anything--though that was definitely a consideration. There was a more pragmatic, visceral reason for keeping his mouth closed.

 

If he opened his mouth, he would probably throw up again. And then the guards would assume he had lethal projectile vomit or something, and then they would kill him. Besides which, he didn't want to throw up all over the memorial floor.

 

When he was finally capable of swallowing his nausea and speaking, he gave only a hoarse whisper to the twins.

 

"I know you're still mad at me," he began, "but this is important. If you see a tall blonde man wearing a circlet... run. Just turn around and run and don't look back. He's worse than Nighthound."

 

Was Koschei the Deathless still alive? He had no idea, though the moniker "Deathless" made it unlikely he'd gone down easily. With his luck, the man would probably sweep into the church any minute now, purple cloak billowing over his shoulders, The Dalles soldiers bowing and scraping before him...

 

He was interrupted from his paranoid reverie by the voice of a soldier.

 

"Reader is ready to see you now. Report to the office now or you will be terminated."

 

"Congratulations," Backtrack snapped irritably. "You're the world's most trigger-happy receptionist."

 

The guard looked particularly trigger-happy after this remark, so Backtrack hurriedly got to his feet and followed the soldier down the halls.

 

Lightwards had torn an old man to ribbons. Why hadn't he felt this sick when he saw that? Was it because he hadn't peaked into the necromancer's head? Now that he remembered the incident, he was beginning to feel a hint of nausea all over again.

 

They stopped outside the door to what seemed to be a large office. The soldiers seemed to eye the door with what could only be described as loathing. Whoever inhabited this office was not well-loved.

 

"Enter the office," a soldier barked. "Do not attempt to harm Reader. Attempting to harm Reader will result in immediate termination." He paused for a moment with an obvious grimace on his face, as if harming Reader was a personal dream of his.

 

"Right-o," Backtrack said nervously. "I'm not big on being terminated..."

 

He cautiously turned the doorknob, letting himself and the twins into Reader's office.

Edited by Kobold King
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Reader's door creaked open. Reader adopted his usual pose, wine goblet held between the middle and ring fingers of his right hand, his left arm used to support his head. He leaned to the side just slightly, so he could see his victims walk in before they could get a glimpse of him. 

 

Backtrack, also known as Steven Richmond Lawrence, stepped into the room, followed by two identical twins, Megan and Alison Pierce, also known as MV and Impact. Backtrack closed the door, then rushed around the twins and pulled out a chair for one of them, his smile returned with a glare. Steven really liked the twins, though he wasn't sure whether it was love or lust. He took a seat next to the girls, and they both scooted away from him slightly. They were both creeped out by him, though one of them was starting to pity him a bit. Unfortunately, Steven was beginning to think pity was attraction, which Reader could tell definitely wasn't.

 

Reader could use that. 

 

Reader took a sip of his wine and spent a few moments studying the three Epics. They'd been sent by one Lightwards, but who Lightwards was Reader didn't quite understand. He could tell the silence was almost painful to the three, and he reveled in their uncomfortable shifts and glances at each other. Finally, when Steven looked like he was about to break, Reader spoke. 

 

"So, Steven," he said, turning to the past-seeing Epic. "What brings you to the Dalles? And what's going on with this Lightwards down in Portland?" 

Edited by mail-mi
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MV followed Backtrack into the room at mr. Terminations suggestion.
"What's the next step in your great plan?" She whispered to Impact.

"See what happens? I didn't expect them to have an Epic talk to us, maybe we can bargain with him." Her sister replied in similarly hushed tones.
Backtrack pulled a chair out for her, she glared at him and took the seat next to it, allowing Impact to take it instead.

The man across the table stared at them while drinking his wine, eyes seeming to take in far too much detail.
The silence stretched out. Just when it seemed that Backtrack was about to say something the man spoke up.

"So, Steven" he said "What brings you to the Dalles? And what's going on with this Lightwards down in Portland?" 
Steven? MV thought in confusion. Who the hell is Steven?
She followed the mans gaze to Backtrack.

"Steven? Seriously? You look like more of a 'Phil' maybe a 'John' definitely not a Steven"
She rather liked knowing this detail of Backtracks life, when dealing with Epics, knowledge was power, any hint that might reveal a weakness had power over them.

"Anyway, if you two are done with the Misogynistic displays of ignoring the women in the room"
She had no idea what misogynistic meant, Impact probably would, but she'd heard it from some feminist Epic once.

"We're here to get as far away from a certain creepy Epic as possible, we were going to stay in Portland but a certain... event changed our minds. You seem like a useful guy, but definitely not leader material, so you take us to whichever Epic rules here and we promise not to riddle your body with sharp pointy things."

Impact groaned in the seat next to her, impatient with her sisters antics as always.

Well it's not like she was getting anything done.

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Reader looked inexplicably familiar.

 

Backtrack struggled to place him as he pulled out chairs for himself and the twins; the twins reacted with typical contempt towards his chivalry, while Reader stared at them with a quiet, uncomfortable gaze.

 

His quiet, uncomfortable gaze dominated the office for what seemed like several minutes. Reader merely sat in his chair and watched them. His stare never wavered; even when the smartly dressed man took sips from his wine goblet, those steady eyes remained fixated on the three of them.

 

Growing irritated by the silence, Backtrack filled in the boredom by peaking into the building's past again. Scenes from church history flickered around him, showing countless occasions in which Reader had thoroughly disgruntled the soldiers sent to attend him. Apparently Reader was able to get under their skin somehow, capable of angering and upsetting anyone who spoke with him for any length of time--

 

"So, Steven," Reader said amiably, breaking the silence. "What brings you to the Dalles? And what's going on with this Lightwards down in Portland?" 

 

Backtrack felt his jaw drop. Steven? His mother used to call him that, though he'd always preferred to go by Steve. How...?

 

MV looked at him with great amusement. "Steven? Seriously? You look like more of a 'Phil' maybe a 'John' definitely not a Steven."

 

Her previous policy of ignoring his existence was suddenly seeming far more appealing.

 

MV went on to accuse Reader of misogyny before demanding to see the Epic in charge. Her spunk was very lovable. Her death threats were... also lovable, but made Backtrack want to huddle into a ball and scream more than kiss her.

 

But they got him thinking. What Epic did rule here? Was it a new and relatively tame Epic like the Arsenal fellow? Or had the leadership remained unchanged since the church massacre? Was Koschei the Deathless going to come barging in here any minute, ready to slit each of their throats and demand servitude?

 

Backtrack took a deep breath and peaked into the past again. He had to see...

 

It was as it feared. Two years previously, Koschei the Deathless had stood in this office. Reader stood beside him, having some sort of conversation with the immortal Epic which Backtrack did not care to hear.

 

Koschei hadn't been in here for two years now, which was comforting. If the Deathless did rule The Dalles, he probably wouldn't make a surprise visit through that open office door.

 

Probably.

 

Resisting the urge to open his mouth and scream, Backtrack leaned back in his chair and listened to Reader and the twins carry out their conversation.

Edited by Kobold King
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"We're here to get as far away from a certain creepy Epic as possible, we were going to stay in Portland but a certain... event changed our minds. You seem like a useful guy, but definitely not leader material, so you take us to whichever Epic rules here and we promise not to riddle your body with sharp pointy things."

 

Reader almost spit out his wine. Riddle me with sharp pointy things? Lemme tell you how well that will work. But first, he turned to Steven. The man was pursing his lips, almost as if he'd wanted to talk but the girl had taken that opportunity from him. "She's in charge?" Reader said to him, leaning towards him and pointing with his thumb at MV. "Well," he leaned back in his chair, taking a more relaxed pose, "it makes sense. You've never been good at being in charge, have you Steven? Your life's work, torn down by vandals and trolls. You're just a sad little king of a sad little hill..." Reader shook his head, then turned to MV. 

 

"And Megan. Do you think that these soldiers standing at the door would just let you, quote, 'riddle my body with sharp pointy things'? They'd end you before you'd even have a chance. And you wouldn't want your blood getting all over Steven's pretty pink sunglasses, would you? No." Reader scooted his chair up closer to the desk, then reached underneath it and pulled out his half-empty bottle of wine and a single goblet. "Sit down, relax, have some wine." Reader unstopped the wine and poured a little into Megan's goblet.

 

"Let's have a chat." 

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The swarthy, black-haired Epic smiled with a show of obsequiousness. "How many do you have left over, Ringmaster?"

 

Paladin frowned to himself. The appearance of a new Epic threw a wrench into their plans. He was glad that he had whispered the quiet instructions to Guardian to delay the operation. He needed time to observe, to see how Miner could interfere with their plans.

 

"Oh, about the first twelve rows should do it." The speaker, a tall, dark-haired man in a violet suit and top hat, was an imposing man. He called himself Ringmaster, and his primary power was hypnosis. He had control of at least 4 Epics, maybe 5 now with this new character.

 

He sat in the second row, in front of the platform where RIngmaster was speaking, offset a little to the side. Torch, another of Ringmaster's Epics, stood directly in front of him. Ranger had said that Bubbles, another Epic, was off on the other side. The podium blocked his own view, however. They hadn't been able to locate Hammer, though. Something was wrong with that, but he couldn't put his finger on exactly what.

 

The new one, Miner, responded with a cruel laugh. "At your service," he replied. As he lowered his hands to the ground, Paladin suddenly realized what he was up to. This was going to be tight.

 

He tensed in his seat, preparing to jump, brow furrowed as he summoned his blade. The ground began to crack beneath his feet. The seconds felt like they lengthened into eternities. The earth began to fall away into a widening hole. His chair was beginning to tip.

 

And his sword appeared in his hand.

 

It began with a hilt, as it always did, falling into place in his outstretched hand. The blade extended to its full length. Standing upright, the slightly curved sword would come up to his chest. He sprang in a powerful leap, knocking the chairs in front of them to the ground along with their occupants. A vanilla stood in front of him, trying to escape the growing pit behind them. Paladin shoved him out of the way, knocking him backwards into the deepening mine shaft. Just a citizen, he thought as he charged towards Miner. He's not important.

 


*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

 

 

Miner looked up in shock as he saw a large, muscular man with a shining sword leaping towards him. He started to stand, but the Epic was already there, slicing down at him. The blade connected with his left arm, just above the elbow. There was a flash of white light, and an enormous force threw him backwards.

 

He shook his head, looking dazedly at the remnants of his arm. Blood was gushing from the blackened stump. Calamity! I'm bleeding out. Panic began to set in. That's a lot of blood! Too much. I'm going to die!

 

No. Focus.

 

Breathe.

 

The pain hit him. He howled, then stopped short, suddenly realizing he was still out in the open. Blood still pouring from his wound, he rolled underneath the platform, wincing at even more pain. It felt as if he had broken a few ribs, too. He had to do something about that arm. He was going to die if he didn't stop it soon. Maybe it was already too late. Was he feeling dizzy? Those spots in his eyes were just from the explosion, right?

 

He shoved his arm into the hard-packed earth, trying to stem the flow of blood. As if responding to an unconscious command, his stump sank into the dirt, which hardened into stone around it, constricting tighter and tighter around the severed limb. A stone tourniquet, he thought through an increasing fog.  I hope this works. Darkness claimed him.

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"And Megan."
How the sparks does he know my name? Ugh. Damned Telepaths.
"
 Do you think that these soldiers standing at the door would just let you, quote, 'riddle my body with sharp pointy things'? "
What would they do about it? Leer at us til we stop?
"
And you wouldn't want your blood getting all over Steven's pretty pink sunglasses, would you? No." He said, with a significant glance.
Pretty? She glanced at Backtrack. Well they are kind of cute I suppose, it's almost enough to make me like him. Almost.
He poured her a glass of wine, like she was dumb enough to drink it.

 "Sit down, relax, have some wine. Let's have a chat." He said, creepy smile still plastered on his face.
She pushed the glass to the side before fixing him with her sternest glare, unfortunately she knew she didn't really have the face for glaring, it just made her look slightly indignant and cute according to Impact.

"Fine, let's chat."
She took Impacts hand under the table, luckily her sister new the routine in cases like this, with Impact providing the needed momentum to her hands MV shifted it into the glass which flew to the wall and shattered, spilling the meager dribbles of wine the Epic had consented to share.
"But no drinks. Oh and 'Steven' the guy makes a good point. Keep the glasses." She directed her glare at him.
Or else.

She settled back, content that she'd maintained a grip over the situation. She would not let another 'incident' like Nighthound happen again. She would keep control.
Or else. Her mind echoed.

8

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2558837_78580158.jpg

 

"Fine, let's chat." Megan glanced at her sister, and suddenly Reader knew something was about to happen. He considered ducking, but the thought barely entered his head when the wine goblet he'd placed in front of her flew into the wall beside him and smashed into the wall. Of course, Reader thought. Alison creates momentum, Megan transfers it. That could be useful. "But no drinks," she continued, then turned to Steven. "Oh, and 'Steven,' the guy makes a good point. Keep the glasses." 

 

Just then, through the door, in came several guards, all with guns trained on the three Epics seated across from Reader--and they looked ready to kill. Reader held up his hand, stopping the guards. "Hold on a minute." He looked at the twins. "It's a shame, that was a nice goblet. Expensive, too. It would be...unfortunate if I had to have all these nice soldiers take you in. We wouldn't want them digging into your personal record, now would we? How many alcoholic drinks have you stolen, again?" 

5

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aWoUfkB.png

 

 

Paladin charged onto the platform. This was not how things were supposed to have gone.

 

A shadowy bullet ripped through his chest. Deadeye. Ranger was supposed to have taken care of him. But no, he'd told them all to wait. Rusting wonderful. He jumped forward, tucking his knees into a roll as the solid bullet passed through where he had been, along with the sound of a sniper shot. Torch was about 25 feet in front of him. Too close, and also too far.

 

He came out of the roll, crouching, with his sword in one hand and the other resting on the grainy wood of the platform. He needed another edge. He focused his concentration, counting the heartbeats. One, two, three.

 

And he Saw.

 

Torch suddenly became surrounded by a shadowy image. His future actions. Paladin rose, stalking forward. A cloudy fireball arced from his hands towards Paladin's head. He lazily stepped to the side, watching it sizzle past. Then he exploded in a burst of speed. Torch's eyes grew panicked, and he stepped backward.

 

Suddenly Torch's shadow-image lifted off the ground, accelerating superhumanly fast. No! You will not get away! Paladin leaped even before the now-Torch had even left, but he knew it was hopeless even so. His arms grazed the bottom of Torch's shoes, and then he tumbled to the ground. The flame Epic burst alight in the sky.

 

A shadowy bubble impacted him, throwing the cloudy image of an explosion of force. He lurched out of the way. Out of the direct path, he hoped, but he couldn't get out of the blast radius. As the now-bubble hurtled into the platform, Paladin felt himself lifted up by the force and slammed face-first into the wood.

 


*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

 

kPnhGuv.png

 

Ranger watched in morbid fascination as the chairs in front of the platform began to fall into an ever-widening hole. Suddenly, he realized that Paladin had leaped up and was charging the earth Epic. He cursed and brought his gun up. Storming Epics! Paladin had cut down the Miner and was jumping on to the platform. A shot rang out and he jumped forward into a roll.

 

Ranger frantically brought Deadeye into his sights. There he is. Calm. You can do this. He wished that the sniper Epic were within bow range. He was always more comfortable using his longbow. As Deadeye raised his rifle for another shot, Ranger pulled the trigger. The powerful rifle kicked back. One down.

 

He turned his attention back to the platform just in time to see Torch lift off. Things were going to Damnation in a handbasket quickly. With Torch in the air, the assassination had just become exponentially harder. Things hadn't gone this bad since facing Firelord himself.

Thinking of Firelord was not a good thing for his mental calm. He ejected the clip and the bullet in the chamber from the gun.

 

Bubbles had just fired an exploding bubble of force at Paladin, catching him in the blast radius. Paladin still hadn't summoned his armor, and the blast went off too close for comfort. Steady. You've still got this. His hands shook as he pulled out the specially-made bullet.

 

Bubbles was supposed to have a sort of danger sense. Something like Paladin's precognition, but much less powerful. But still, it would let her sidestep any shot he made. Or, more likely, interpose a force bubble.

 

The silvery bullet rolled in his palm. Aluminum. Expensive to have made, and even more expensive to keep it a secret. Paladin would have killed the manufacturer, he was sure, if Guardian hadn't been there to stop him. But as expensive as the bullet had been, it would prove to be worth far more if their informant had told the truth. He loaded it into the rifle, turning back to the platform. Paladin was dodging force bubbles, apparently doing his best just to stay out of the blast zone. Even from a quarter-mile out, Ranger could see the blood dripping down his face where the splintered wood had sliced open his cheek.

 

Bubbles, a thickset woman with short cut hair and a T-shirt ripped off at the sleeves, faced him, preparing another force bubble. The platform was splintered and pocked with holes where others had impacted. He slid the aluminum bullet into the chamber, replacing the clip. There wouldn't be time to load a second aluminum bullet. He had only one shot at this.

 

Fortunately, she was standing still. He pulled the trigger just as she moved forward. The aluminum took her in the shoulder instead of the head, spinning her around to lie face-down on the wood. Ranger cursed silently again as he brought her back in his sights. He fired again, hoping desperately against hope.

 

Bubbles jerked as the second bullet cut through her spine. Apparently the informant had been right. Hers had been the only weakness the man had known, but they had felt it more than worth the price. Two down.

6

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Any of her illusions of controlling the situation shattered when a troop of soldiers burst into the room, guns aimed at them. They directed a look towards the creepy guy who held up a hand to stop them.
 "Hold on a minute. It's a shame, that was a nice goblet. Expensive, too. It would be...unfortunate if I had to have all these nice soldiers take you in. We wouldn't want them digging into your personal record, now would we? How many alcoholic drinks have you stolen, again?"
MV grew outraged in an instant. We only stole when they chucked us out, and how does he even know all this? I wasn't even thinking about it...

She was still holding Impacts hand, in an instant they could blast the guns out of the mens hands, but how many soldiers did they have here? How many snipers, hidden out of sight? The level of paranoia about new Epics in town seemed incredibly high. Perhaps justifiably given what had happened to Backtrack when he'd looked into the past. But it certainly made things difficult.
She smiled sweetly at mr. Termination who led the squad.

"Ah, sorry I just remembered it's been a whole two minutes since you suggested terminating someone, thought we'd give you an opening."
She directed her gaze back to the man opposite them.

"As for your request Mr. Creepy, you should know better than to offer underage girls wine shouldn't you?"

She released Impacts hand, they'd handle this with words for the time being. If things grew dangerous she was pretty sure their powers would protect them from bullets.
They'd tested Impacts on a knife once and it had bent under the stress but it had also caused all of her clothes to fly off her, she had to either know exactly where the knife was going to hit or else spread her power over her entire body. The embarrassment of the incident had prevented either of them from testing the theory out again.

She looked back to mr. Termination.
"I don't suppose you could fetch us a couple of sodas?"
He glared at her.
"Thought not."

5

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