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Icons: Issue #1 A Day Like Any Other...

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It was a day like any other.  Traffic on the streets, pepole going about their lives, the world moving on without a single care.  Few things could ever possibly disturb this.   Atop the hundred and twenty story Alphatech Industries tower, one of those things had just come into being.   A faint blue light began to suffuse into the sky, hardly discernable against the clear blue sky, soon it would cover the city, and with it, the clock began to tick on the life of every denizen of the great American Metropolis of New York City.


----------------------Three days earlier


For Jessica Rhodes, the letter she held was uncommonly heavy.   It read like some sort of hoax, a movie plot and a bad one.  "Come to New York City, three days from now.   If you don't show, the entire city WILL die."   there was no signature, though it was handwritten, and then down at the bottom there was a postscript.   "PS, It will only be the first, should you fail."  While their was no signature, there was something unique, an Image of the Starsign, embossed upon the bottom of the page.
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Elsewhere, Triessa Elrich had also received a letter.   The contents were identical, an no spell in her reptoire could reveal any information about the author of the note.   what was even more unique was the ancient arcane Crest for her family, something only someone with lots of Arcane knowledge and power could find out.  She was left with few choices.
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Receiving letters was not something new to the twin daughters of  wealthy Senator Mortimer Astovik of California.    Their father spoiled them, and they had the finest of everything money could buy growing up.  As they matured, they came to want to make their own way in the world, and their father, proud as he could be, acceded to their wishes, though at times he can't help but want to give them gifts he thinks they might enjoy.  These letters were unlike all the others, as they both received the same letter, the words upon it identical to the other letters beckoning them to New York City, but Autumn's was cool to the touch and smelled strongly of crisp clean waters, Summer's was impossibly warm to the touch, and smelled of a roaring bonfire.  Both effects should be impossible to embody within a letter.  
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Alison had made her way to New York City, and was one of many heroes helping people in the streets, though she was abit more skittish than others, not seeking the limelight and fame, simply to do good works, and help others.  She'd managed to get a small apartment, and was living modestly.  The letter was given to her by her manager, saying it had been handed to her personally, to give to her.  She couldn't recall any distinguishing features of the person who did so, and shrugged.   Her landlord was one of the people she'd saved.  After taking the letter, she went into her apartment to read it.   The letter outwardly was addressed to her, but inside, addressed her by her other name, HOKORI.  It was slightly different as it made no mention of coming to the city, implying whoever the author was, knew she was already there.  Near the bottom was a single character in Japanese, that of "Shen"

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Daniel Ramirez was an Agent of AEGIS, one of the few with a public Hero Persona, the Columbian.   Still, he had his own private life, while he had an office at the Triskelion on a man-made Island that served as the ground-side headquarters for AEGIS in Washington DC, He also had an apartment.   Waiting for him there was a letter, much like the others.   It beckoned him to New York City, stating it would die in three days.   At the bottom of the letter, the crest he wore on his chest in his other persona, something that was a well guarded secret, was embossed on the paper.
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Tika Ump was in her own apartment in New York City, which was provided by AEGIS off the books.   She knew they had her under observation which was of course logical, but she was given free reign to explore her situation, and to be a hero in her own right, provided she continued doing no harm, and never mentioned AEGIS to anyone.  Still she was unaccustomed to receiving mail, but had in this instance.   The Letter addressed her as Elastica, telling her the same as everyone else, that in three days time, the city would be killed if she wasn't there.   This seemed illogical as she was already there, but near the bottom was the Crest of AEGIS itself, but different, tinged with the same pink that matched her hair.

Seven letters, Seven Heroes, and Three days before New York City was slated to die.   They all had choices to make.   Whether to believe an enigmatic letter sent anonymously, and head to the Big Apple as requested, or to do nothing, and let things unfold however they would.

 What I want is how your characters respond to the letters, and what they do in those three days.   At least for today and tomorrow I will be online and in chat so i can answer any questions.   Once everyone has posted, or a Week has passed, We will continue on.  Anyone who does not post within the week will be dropped from the issue, unless they PM me and let me know why they are unable to post.

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"Ooookay, super creepy."  Summer turned the letter over in her hands and sniffed it one more time.  Yup, roaring bonfire.  "Y'know I once had a guy spray a note to me back in high school?  Drakkar Noir."

"Rob Williams, I remember.  Super creepy."  Autumn said from the other room with a raised voice so her sister could hear her.  She kept appearing and disappearing from sight as she walk this way and that across the open doorway.  Her first trip she was carrying a bag.  The next a bundle of clothes, then a series of cosmetics and a hair dryer along with some toiletries.  "You still dated him too.  I warned you.  Super creepy."

"Uh, yeah, I was fifteen, he was sixteen and an amazing kisser I might add.  Still can't believe he dumped me for a senior."  She stared off in a contemplative reverie as her face scrunched up in disgust.  Her sister constantly passing by the doorway however, quickly caught her attention.  "Um, dear sister of mine?  What are you doing?"  As she walked into the room she saw her twin packing her bags.  Folding her arms, she leaned in the door frame.

"I'm packing for New York," Autumn said with a tone that sounded like it needed to amended with a 'duh'.  "If the city is going to die in three days, we need to be there to stop it."

Summer's eye widened like she just took a long suck on a sour lemon.  "Wow.  Woah, woah, woah.  No, Autumn, absolutely not.  Some weirdo sends us a letter and you're ready to just fly off to meet them in a city he claims is going to die?  They have professionals to handle this sort of stuff!  The Crimson Spider, he handles all those New York things, or the Incredible Quatro... those guys too.  Let them do their thing.  We have midterms rapidly approaching."

"I have midterms, first of all.  As I have done your last two, while you were out partying-"

Summer pointed at her defensively.  "Hey, I invited you, don't use that against me-"

"Not arguing with you," Autumn raised her hand to cut her off.  "The point is, Summer, that we were given these abilities for a reason."

"Yeah, some ass hat made eco-friendly goop that just happened to give us Mother Earth powers, the reason was poor safety standards.  He's lucky we didn't sue, Dad woulda shredded him in court."

"Summer!  Shut.  Up."  Autumn raised her voice over her sister's and her twin arced her head back in sudden surprise.  "Christ.  Stop with the jokes and avoiding the issues!  We can both hear it and see it.  The world doesn't look the same does it?  We can hear the planet, Summer.  It's hurting and it needs our help.  People need our help.  Cleaner energy, less resource consumption, and yes, stopping a baddie from leveling New York City is on that list too!  You're freaked out, I get that, believe me, I am too."

"It was science, Autumn, not magic.  We can't magically hear the pains of the world and cries of the whales simply because some dude almost killed us, wake up."

"Science, magic, what's the difference?  Whatever happened our perceptions are unlocked now and we have a duty to help the world and it's people onto a better path.  I-I don't know Summer, call it intuition, fear, confusion... but..."

"You hear the voice too?"  Summer said softly.

Autumn nodded.  "Yeah.  Summer, if we're both hearing it, it's not just a figment.  We can't just sit around here and do nothing with these gifts, because if you're hearing the same thing I am-"

"The world is pretty pissed with mankind as a whole, yeah, I've been getting that vibe."  The raven haired sister sighed, thinking about their options.

"We care, we're responsible, we've always wanted to make the world better,"  Autumn approached her sister and gently grasped her shoulders, smiling at her for encouragement.  "We've all the traits for pure heroes.  We can help, I know it."

"Um, I've not been pure since freshman homecoming, and you and Kyle?  Senior prom?  Yeah, he told everyone, so we are by far not the purest choices for saving the world."

"Jesus, Summer!  It's current year, not the days of the Aztecs!  I meant of heart.  We have pure hearts and pure intentions.  We're!  The! Good! Guys!"  She shook her head, rubbing the bridge of her nose.  "Besides, there's no such things as virgins anymore, and Kyle didn't tell everyone, I did.  On accident... and I no, I don't wanna talk about it."

"Wait, what?  No, no, I wanna hear this, what happened?"  She asked with a wry grin.

"Come to New York, help me with this, and if we survive I'll spill.  Kyle, the prom, that night, and how everyone found out.  Deal?"  Autumn folded her arms and glared at her sister.

"I'll get my bag."  Summer said gingerly.  "Oh, uhh, how are we getting to New York?  I have forty dollars to my name, and you have a hundred and twenty seven to yours."

"How do you know how much money have?"  Autumn asked.

"Because it was a hundred and sixty seven this morning, where do you think I got the forty bucks from?"  Summer dove into the closet to avoid the barrage of pillows and random clothes that were thrown her way as her sister levied a volley curses at her.

Twenty minutes later...

Autumn dialed the number on her phone as Summer nursed bloody nose from a 'accidental' wedge heel being cast in her direction as the two fought over privacy (for the millionth time in twenty years).  The small apartment they stayed in looked like a small bomb went off that designed to only target and toss clothes everywhere.  It would take them weeks to sort it all out if they didn't have their own particular style.  Despite Autumn's naturally quiet demeanor, no one could push her rage buttons like her sister could and all out spats and tantrums among the twins far from uncommon.

When the person on the other side picked up Autumn immediately perked right up and took in a deep breath.  As she slowly exhaled she smiled her best Cameron Diaz smile.  "Hi, Daddy?  It's Autumn.  Um, Summer and I need a favor..."

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-Then-

HOKORI stared at the name emblazoned on the bottom of the letter like it was a nest of scorpions, tossing it away as if it was a red-hot pan. She literally flew back against the wall of her apartment with a thud, blue eyes narrowed to slits, arms crossed in front of her face in case... Something... happened..? As the seconds ticked by, the blonde let out the breath she had been holding, studying first her hands and then the letter where it lay peacefully on the carpet. No change and no visible threat. She sucked in a breath and huffed it out again, coloring in embarrassment. Then, again, he might not have rigged it to disable or destroy her immediately, maybe not even physically. Tests. Everything was tests with her 'Father', if she generously applied the word to him. If he knew where she was, the moving company she worked at, maybe the grocery store was com...

She stamped down hard on that train of thought, clapping her cheeks and letting the rush of simulated endorphins help her focus.

If this was a letter from him, and another group of people running around who knew to connect Shen to her original designation would be nearly as bad as him knowing where she was, a very important problem arose. Her 'Father' was many things. A liar wasn't one of them. If he said the city, the *whole city*, was going to be killed in three days, someone was going to try and kill it in three days. Maybe him. Maybe someone else. And he'd be watching.

It made her wish she had been more proactive getting to know other heroic Marvels, built up the kind of relationships she'd need to bring something like this. Captain Mapleleaf had seemed nice enough that one time after the big Toronto fight... Ghost Devil had the same avoid the spotlight style she tried for in the bowery... Hell, the only one she'd met more than once was the Ground Sloth, grumpy armored tinker that he was. There was that winged kid upstate, what was his name..?

Okay, so there was a lot of 'no' in there, but 'no' was a HOKORI word. Being Alison was about 'yes'. Being 'Mega Girl' was even more about 'yes'. And if this was Shen's test, and she was already dead..? Well, fine. She'd meet it, defy it, and overcome it. She gave her apartment, the spartan used furniture, the kitchen cupboards filled with cheap, filling food, the small items she'd picked up in her travels that marked the place as hers, a once over, and smiled. Okay.

The next day's patrol time was spent checking on her stash. No change. No sign one way or the other it had been found or meddled with.

The day after that she made sure to patrol the areas outside the city, hoping that whatever was going to happen would let these good deeds live on a little past her if she died.

And the last day? Alison took off from work that day, treated herself to a bigger than normal breakfast at the local café, and sat up on the roof of the building with a bag of crumbs that she took turns tossing to the pigeons and munching on herself. Eyes on the sky. Cape and mask in a backpack at her side. Mind struggling to practice those 'focus on the now' mantras. 

 

 

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Daniel examined the letter, considering the crest in particular. In this era of Marvels, many villainous and some potentially with the power to do exactly as the letter said, threats of these kinds were taken seriously by AEGIS. But that in itself would not alter the agency's priorities and decision-making to allow him to go to New York, much as Daniel already felt he had to go. The crest however, would.

It was somewhat silly, AEGIS feeling the need to keep it a secret. It was on his costume, after all, and anyone could thus see it. Sure, so far he'd had only limited contact with other heroic Marvels, and generally in fights people weren't paying attention to it anyway, but still. Daniel's only guess about this policy was that it was linked to the whole covering-up of Project Columbia.

For political reasons, of course. A major government super-soldier project being subverted from the Hundred-Handed Conspiracy right from the start? The powers that be, some of whom were probably part of AEGIS, were touchy about embarrassment. Director Falcher wasn't one of those, but Daniel had heard the complaints about Congressional interference before.

Within a few hours, Daniel had a meeting with the Director (his status as Columbian gave him a regular speaking basis with the man himself) and had gotten him to agree to a flight north the next day. The pretext would, Daniel was told, be checking in on Tika Ump. The world had many unusual things, but a psychic villain's super-suit becoming sentient and fully aware was something very unusual, Daniel felt.

Still, here he was at the door, dressed in civilian professional wear. Tika seemed like a nice young lady, according to initial reports. She'd subdued Minotaur, so perhaps he could recruit her to assist here too?

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Jess had stared at the letter for at least five minutes after first reading it. She stood at the kitchen sink leaning onto it her back to the sink, letter in her right-hand a cup of coffee in her left. She hadn’t really re-read it but still her eyes took in what it said and was drawn back to the emblem. She noted the weight of the letter; it wasn’t the paper it was the emblem, embedded into the paper, just like the Starsign was embedded into her.

“Is something wrong, Jess,” her mother asked? Alicia Rhodes was an attractive woman in her early fifties, she had the same reddish-brown hair that her daughter had although she wore it shorter and her features were softer. She was the head trauma nurse at the local hospital but was off today and was enjoying a normal morning with her otherwise not so normal daughter.

Less than a month before their world had been flipped. Jessica, who had been a nursing student, had become a Marvel, one of the super powered humans that had been springing up more and more over the last decade. Unlike many of the Marvels, both good and bad, her powers didn’t come from an accident or a lab, or even a natural genetic mutation. They came from somewhere else and with few instructions on how to use them. The Starsign was a tool given to Jessica to help guide the human race to something better.

Jessica set the cup down without looking, “Fine mom, I need you to stay in the house for a bit.”

With her mother looking on worriedly Jessica went into the back yard and summoned the Starsign.  Clad in the Suit created by rearranging the molecules of whatever she is normally wearing, with the image of the Starsign itself hovering at her forehead visible for all to see, Jessica scanned the letter and especially the emblem for any radiation or power emanations. Nothing was apparent. She folded the letter back up and put it back into the envelop and went into her father’s workshop, found an old army surplus ammo can that contained a mix of screws and washers and dumped them onto his worktable. She put the envelop in the can and sealed it then went back inside the house.

“What is it Jessica?” Her mothers voice carried a worried lilt at the sight of her daughter in her Marvel suit.

“I don’t know mom, not yet but I’m going to find out. I’m going to be gone for a few days and I may not be in touch. And don’t go into NYC unless you hear from me first.”

 

A little more than three hours later Jessica’s jeep came out of the Lincoln Tunnel onto Manhattan Island and headed for the Soho 54 hotel.

 

 

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"The Soho 54?"  Summer quirked a brow at the towering building in front of them.  The Manhattan traffic did it's best to make as much noise as possible as she tried to speak, without actualy moving a single inch.  "This place is a dive.  You can not be serious."

"We're on a limited budget," Autumn replied haughtily.  "It's bad enough we had to ask Dad for money, and even worse we had to lie to him about a 'class trip'.  It's three and a half star accommodations, that's not so bad."

"Like I said," the raven haired attitude of the twins rolled her eyes and sighed.  "Dive."

"Three minutes' walk from Canal St. Station, Twenty-three minutes' walk from One World Trade Center and fifteen minutes' walk from Washington Square Park," smiled the leafy hued redhead at her negative counterpart as she read the details from her smartphone.  "We're not far from a lot of things to see, try and embrace the opportunity we find ourselves in, Summer.  We're in Manhattan, c'mon, try and have a little fun!"

"Yeah, sure... before some maniac comes by and blows it all to hell," Summer's monotone of sarcasm was not lost on her sister.  "Your idea sis.  You said we're here to save this place, so, let's not flitter about sight seeing and posting selfies on Instablab or Twattle.  I followed you here to save New York, and hear that juicy story... so c'mon, quit screwing around.  We need costumes."

"Wait, what?"  Autumn shook her head.  "Y-you're right, I'll give you that, we are here on serious business, but we what?"

"Costumes.  Autumn it's one thing to want to do good in the world, but we can't just show up to eco meetings and green clubs, with these powers, you're right, we can make a difference.  But we can't just be Two Broke Girls... that show's been done and neither of us can fill out a shirt like Kat Dennings.  Fact is, we need to be something he people can see and relate to.  We need to be role models we need to be... icons.  As Marvels, we can stand out and be heard where Summer and Autumn could not.  Hence, costumes.  Something that sells our brand."

Skeptically Autumn raised a brow, but sighed eventually in defeat.  "Summer, we both know this is just a reason for you to dress like a tramp, like you do every Halloween."

"Okay, point the first," Summer had a quick reply, knowing this is where her sister would choose to strike.  "Halloween's sole purpose as a holiday is so we, lovely women everywhere, can dress like sluts for one evening and not be judged.  It's a fact, ask my friend Nadya, she'll totes back me on that.  Point the second, it's not about trampy or slutty, it's about fact.  Name one marvel, hero or villain, that doesn't have an outfit of some sort to look fly as hell in, hmm?  Go ahead, I'll wait."  She crossed her arms, putting all her weight on one leg with a critically analyzing lean while she chewed her lip, waiting for-

"Okay, fine, you have a point."  Autumn shrugged in defeat.

Victory.

"Let's get checked in and we'll go get the stuff we'll need, there's gotta be a fabric shop around here or something,"  She shook her head in disbelief of what she was agreeing to.  "I'm designing them, both of them.  No arguments."

"Fine, I'm a better seamstress anyway.  You draw them up and you can help me put them all together.  We'll need some resin too, I saw this awesome YouTube video for cosplaying and making costumes... we're gonna look so bad ass."  The squee of excitement in Summer's tone didn't do much to make her sister feel at ease.

"Oh, yay," Autumn monotone and roll of the eyes set the man the counter off balance as she delivered a smile that was unintentionally impolite.  "Astovik.  We have a reservation."

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Prank, Triessa thought as she stared at the letter woodenly. Stupid prank.

Her eyes went to the crest at the bottom. She'd only seen it a few times before, on some of the really old papers in the old study. It turned out the Elrichs were kind of a big deal in the mystical mumbo-jumbo scene. Or had been, until they'd vanished. Until she'd come along. Very few people in the world knew that there were any left. Triessa only knew of a half-handful. Only one of them was confirmed to want her dead.

Wizard prank? Goddamnit.

She wanted to wad the thing up and throw it into the fire. Or maybe work a trace spell on it and see if she could find out who sent it, then remind them about the whole 'meddle not with wizards' adage that everyone seemed to keep forgetting. Triessa doubted the entire city of New York was in danger...the place had plenty of defenders...and if it WAS in danger she doubted that she could do much about it. She wasn't a 'power player' even in the Windy City. The whole thing was a transparent ruse.

But no. If there was even a chance that it was real, she couldn't sit by and do nothing. And when whoever was behind it tipped their hand...and these guys always did...she'd be ready to smack it.

Congratulations, asshole. You got my attention. You may not like how that goes for you.

Grimdark thoughts of petty vengeance circulating in her noggin, Triessa dialed up Marty. "Hey, squirt. I need you to cast a spell for me."

There was a pause, then a long-suffering sigh. "Isn't that your thing?"

"Sorry, you must have misheard. I said spell, not sass. Wave your hands at your magic demon box and get me a roundtrip flight to New York, wouldja? Economy. Like...asap. Tomorrow."

Muffled laughter on the other side of the line. Marty was a good kid who had not yet learned that someone saving your life, and mom's soul, did not actually mean you owed them forever. Triessa tried not to take advantage, but she didn't have a computer, and didn't want to short out an entire internet cafe again. In theory stripping off her spells would help avoid it...but she always felt very, very vulnerable like that.

Shit. Airplane. Is this a good idea? You can't even leave cellphones on in an airplane.

Driving to New York from Chicago in three days would be, uh...pushing it. A lot.

She'd have to risk the plane. There were ways to mitigate the danger, with preparation. The distorting effects of magic could be dampened out, or the active effects sublimated into a talisman that wouldn't disturb anything until the power in it was released. Not ideal, but it was the best she could do. The magic alternatives to airplanes for long distance travel that fast were much, much scarier than risking shorting out a cockpit and sending herself and hundreds of others to a firey fuel explosion and impact trauma-related death on the ground 5 miles below.

"Okay," Marty replied. "I got it booked. Same card as that thing from Amazon?"

Triessa cleared her throat. "Uh. How much?"

"Like three hundred. Three fifty."

Frantically the wizardess racked her brain, trying to do a quick headcount of the charges she had on that card. "Okay, yeah. Give it a try."

There was a tense moment, and then the kid said, "Okay, you're booked." He paused, then added, "Is this for another case?"

"Yeah, I...I got a letter. They need me to go. It's a bit out of my territory, but..."

"I get it," Marty said emphatically. "They need you, so you have to go. That's what you do."

Triessa felt her heart lurch a little. That's not it, she wanted to say. Some dick is fucking with me, and I need to show it the error of its ways. This is not me being a hero.

She didn't though. He deserved better than that.

"Take care of yourself," she said fondly. "Say hi to everyone for me."

"Will do. Bye."

The line closed. A second later Triessa's outdated phone beeped weakly to let her know she had mail.

She checked it, then went to her room to start throwing clothes into an overnight bag. This was probably as close to a 'vacation' as she'd be seeing anytime soon. Might as well make the most of it.

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Tika consciously blinked then affected a confused expression on her face. She might be able to feel most of the emotions humans felt, but conveying them visually didn't always come naturally or easily to her. Without the requirements for sleep and sustenance that humans required, Tika spent much of her time studying them, in real life and on the TV, learning the nuances of body language and mannerisms - along with the finer details of physical variation - and trying to emulate them, with mixed results...

She couldn't seem to get their flesh quite right, nor the proportions exact. Tika had been more than once told their was something off about her. She wished she was on.

Tika read the letter once more, a finger stretching out to thrice its regular length to trace the AEGIS logo. Her generation of unstable molecules had been developed in an AEGIS lab not all that far from the apartment they had provided her, though of course she had no memory of that. The... spark of awareness had come later, with Shadowmind.

The letter had her considering something she had not thought of before. Mortality. She was self-aware, sentient, but was she really alive? Was a city alive? Could it die, and if it could, could she? New York City was a close to home as she had. There was an infinite, wondrous variety of people and things here, and she could be nearly any of them.

She had been exposed to the selfishness of Shadowmind and her associates and she recoiled from it. Tika existed as her own being, and was learning was that meant. The people of New York deserved to exist to. And since she was already in New York, she'd be here in three days and try to stop it from dying.

Tika wasn't sure why AEGIS would send her a letter though, unless is was just to give her something personal - the only mail she had gotten before were sales flyers and take-out menus. They kept her under observation and she had to check in with them at their office occasionally, and they regularly checked in with her at the apartment they had provided her.

She would ask them! Questions were good, that was how you learned... though sometimes, humans got angry about questions you asked. She hadn't quite figured why or what kind of questions did that though. She pressed her hand between her breasts and kept pushing, the appendage merging into her torso to hold the letter inside her. With a wet sound slurp and then a small burp, her pulled her reformed hand free.

Tika mused on how she should get to the AEGIS offices today. She could walk, or take the subway - there were many interesting people on the subway. Or she could drive. Tika got up from the couch, the movement somewhat more fluid than someone with bones would be capable of and walked over to her small, wrought-iron balcony and looked down the alley to the street. Traffic looked bad and AEGIS preferred she followed the street laws when she drove. She'd fly there!

Without hesitation, Tika jumped off the balcony high into the air, flexing and contorting the unstable molecules she was composed of. Her feminine form pulled in on itself, reforming into a dark-blue-almost-black raven... mostly. She was too big for a raven, and had claws that belonged on a raptor, with feathers too glossy to be natural. She squawked. It was close enough.

She flew to the AEGIS offices, flowing back into what she considered her human form inside the underground parking lot, 'wearing' a snug dress the same colour as her raven form and pointy, bright yellow heels. She made it to reception, the receptionist giving her an odd look as she always did before being cleared to see her handler, Travis Travers.

Tika pulled her letter out of herself and handed it to him, her arm stretching halfway across his office. Travis winced, still not used to Tika Ump's peculiarities.

"What's this, Tika?" Travis asked, curiously, glancing over the letter.

"A letter. A letter sent to me," Tika stated directly, her high soprano voice sounding pleased, even if her large-eyed, sculpted features were expressionless, save for the natural curve of her lips. "Did you or AEGIS send it to me?"

"Nooo..." Travis drawled, trying to hide his concern. He tapped the edge of the letter on his palm. "What are you going to do about this?

"I will stay in New York for three days!" Tika said in brash assurance. Admittedly, she hadn't had plans to go anywhere else, she hadn't actually ever been anywhere else since becoming sentient, though she had vague not-quite-memories of being to other places when she'd been worn by Shadowmind. "I don't want it to die."

"That's... that's good, Tika. I don't either. I'll see if I can find out anything about this letter or it's warning."

"Okay!" Tika stared at him intently, or rather at what he held. "Can I have the letter back?" There was a hint of pleading in her tone. "It's my first one."

"Oh, yes! Yes, of course, Tika."

He'd barely gotten the words out before Tika snatched it back and apparently shoved it into a prominent left breast. "Thank you. I'm going now. Bye. And I'll try my bestest to stop New York from dying."

"We appreciate it," Travis muttered, unable to prevent a lingering glance at the behind of the mass of unstable molecules shaped as an overly shapely young woman. When she closed the door to his office, Travis got on the phone to the observation team, demanding to know where the letter had come from and who had delivered it.

Having decided to stop New York from dying, Tika no longer worried or dwelled on it and continued she lessons in learning how to be human, as much as she could be. She watched them in various guises and in various places at various times. Humans at night were very different than humans during the day. During the night, depending on where she went, people didn't seem to care she didn't look quite right.

Though many male humans seemed to believe she was still just an object with no self-determination and could lay hands on her whenever they wished. She had to disabuse them of that, being careful not to break the sticks they had inside them. Bones, the sticks were called bones. From what she understood, they needed these 'bones' to wrap their meat around, since their meat couldn't keep its shape on its own. Weird.

Tika spent the early hours of the next day among the animals of the Central Park zoo - she liked animals too, and didn't have to concentrate so much on what they were saying and how and why. Animals were much more direct and simple that way. Afterwards, she decided to try her hand at a very human endeavor - food.

She only had an rudimentary sense of smell and taste, but she'd watched people eating and had watched several cooking shows and competitions. Making a meal didn't seem that hard. The boy at the grocery store was very helpful in showing her what food items she would need to make a breakfast, and even had the decency to point out what things she would need to prepare and cook the meals.

Tika was bouncing from one foot to the other as she watched the pan with determined intensity, on her fourth attempt to make pancakes. She would get it right this time. She wasn't sure what she'd do after though. She could put the pancakes inside her like humans did, but then what? DId they just leave them inside there? That seemed messy.

Then there was a knock at the door.

Tika's neck stretched out and over the half wall separating her small kitchen from the living room so she could look at her apartment door without leaving the kitchen. She didn't get many people knocking at her door. Curious, her body reversed itself, changing directions without turning around, and then walked over to join her head in the living room before walking over to the door and opening it.

She looked up at the tall man in the hallway. She didn't recognize him.

"Hello," she said without the upward tilt to her inflection that would have turned it into a question, but one brow rose up, then higher still.

At first glance, the pneumatically curvaceous young woman seemed human enough, but the longer Daniel looked, the less human Tika looked. Beyond her improbable figure, her flesh was too smooth, too glossy. She didn't blink, she didn't breathe, which he could notice because he was a trained agent and she was wearing a tight, white shirt only a little paler than her odd skin over a buxom torso that didn't rise and fall. The toes of her bare feet seemed carved rather than actual individual digits.

"Miss Tika Ump?" Daniel asked, sure this was the right woman, but unable to stop from sounding doubtful.

"Miss Tika Ump. Yes, that's me," she replied earnestly. "Can I help you?"

Daniel looked either down the hallway, finding it empty, then pulled out a wallet with a badge and identification. "I'm Daniel Ramirez, with AEGIS. I'm here to check in with you."

Tika frowned, though it looked like to Daniel it took her some effort. "You're not Travis Travers. He's the one who checks in with me. I saw him yesterday and he doesn't check in with me this day of the week."

Daniel could smell something starting to burn inside the apartment. "This is a special case, Ms. Ump. Could we speak inside?"

"Oh, right, we're not supposed to talk about AEGIS. Yes, you can come inside." He was just a man and Tika didn't have anything to fear from just man. "And you can call me Tika." She waved him into her small, tidy apartment like a game show hostess. The place looked like it had come directly from an IKEA catalogue. "Is this about my letter?"

She noticed the smoke starting to come from the kitchen. "Oh! I think my pancakes are burning!"

Fire was bad for humans, she knew that much. Her legs and torso and arms stretched long and thin as she pulled herself into the kitchen, turning off the stove and opening the window to get rid of the smoke. Her head stretched back into view, her smile too wide for a human face. "I've been practicing making food. Would you like some?"

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Well, Daniel determined, this was going to be interesting. And probably gastronomically unpleasant, but every little bit helped, and we learned by our mistakes as much as our successes, right? "I'm willing to give this a try."

It turned out, with Tika maintaining the ever too large smile and a plate of... things... that it was just that bad. The pancakes were blackened, with the occasional bit of undercooking, or somehow, evenly cooked. Daniel took a breath and kept up the polite smile. "If they're blackened like this, it means you let them cook far too long. You need to pay attention to pancakes or many other foods you cook in the stove. Sometimes you get distracted, like with me at the door. It happens."

Tika looked a little sad, so he hastened to add, "AEGIS set this apartment up for you. You know how to use the Internet and smart TVs?"

"Yes! I enjoy watching the reality TV documentaries."

Daniel promptly decided he was not getting into that, not now. "You can use it to look up recipes and actual cooking videos. I think you would find it very helpful."

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Waiting for an unknown city-ending threat to descend on you to implicitly judge her fitness for life and freedom was proving very difficult, the normally pleasant distraction of the pigeons squabbling for crumbs not helping Alison's troubled thoughts. Her blue eyes restlessly scanned the skies. Nothing. Nada. Nanimo. If she was wrong about this, it would be nice to know when something wasn't going to happen... It made her tap her foot in suppressed frustration, and the failure of that gesture to produce any sound made her look down and realize she was, in fact, floating a few inches off of her chair perch. Snorting in suppressed bemusement at her inattentiveness, the blonde cyborg settled back to the roof. Still. If she was that out of it... Might as well do something with that nervous energy. She took a final handful of breadcrumbs for herself, savoring the flavored crunch before tossing the rest of it out in an arch for the birds, smiling as she chewed. The birds shoved and pecked at one another for the bread, one particularly bold specimen snatching a rather large piece out from under the beaks of two rivals.

"Get safe, stay safe, little birds," Alison laughed after swallowing her bite, repeating a simplified version of the warning she gave her landlord. At least one person in this city had an idea something might happen.

Alison reached down and pulled out a black domino mask. She had gotten it three, three-and-a-half, months ago from a girl who was planning to use it as part of a Halloween costume. It had served so far; it would serve for today. A quick, sure knot at the back of her skull secured it, and more rustling in her backpack pulled out a blue cape. This one was newer, something she'd picked up at a Renaissance Fair a few weeks ago after a fire claimed her last one.

Mega Girl went through a lot of capes actually. If it wasn't for the fact a cape was part of the symbol, the shorthand identification of 'superhero', one of the few pieces she could really afford... She might have ditched them a dozen replacements ago. Besides, it was impractical, like a pigeon's bright colors, and if she could still do the job while being impractical, she was doing something right.

Backpack stashed, she floated away from the surface of the roof. five and half feet of blonde young woman in jeans, mask, sneakers, cape, and white tanktop with her expression flitting between melancholy and determination. One patrol before the apocalypse then. A simple thought and Mega Girl spiraled into the air with a flutter of cloth, dancing through the air like it might be the last time, loops and barrel rolls and breathless hairpin turns.

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Dr. Derek LeSayge had received his letter abit later in the day than the others,  but the gist was the same.  Come to New York in three days, or the city would die.   Near the bottom of the letter was the Crest of his Alma Mater, Princeton, as well as something that shook even his mind abit more, a tiny picture of the necklace he'd given Justine.  It couldn't be coincidence.  He had his own choice to make.

For all the heroes, the three days went by quickly.  There were no major occurrences that rocked the city, everything was completely calm, in as much as it was normally.  Naturally AEGIS had teams in place, and they were well ready for anything that might happen, or at least that was what they'd thought.

With the Blue light indestinguishable at first, being so faint, it wasn't discovered until the city had been blanketed with it, and so the clock began to tick.

At precisely Noon on the third day, All the airwaves in New York, radio, television, everything, were hijacked, and after a brief moment of silence, a Sinister voice rang out.  "Citizens of New York City, You have been judged to be without any value to the world at large.   You live comfortably because of Metahuman protection, and you have  done nothing to deserve it.   You contribute nothing, and because of that, you must be purged from this world.   By now, The entire city has been blanketed with a creation of mine, the Arclight.   This creation is harmless to Metahumans, but to humans, It is quite fatal.   In the next twelve hours you will all perish."   Though the figure on the various screens was masked with a black and red helmet that revealed no features, they could all sense him smiling.

"That said, I've arranged for abit of a show for you all, a small parting gift.   I've brought some heroes from out of town to the city all for your entertainment, and possibly your salvation.  You see, Alphatech Tower is home to many wonders, and one of them just so happens to be a cure for the Arclight.   Now, don't think you can just storm the tower with your human bodies.  If I see one agent, or human near the tower, then I will simply abort the final show, and you can all spend 12 hours knowing you'll die.  Also I'd think quite hard about simply destroying the tower, as that will destroy your salvation as well.  "

"Now, for the show.  It is said one must climb mountains to attain power, to attain real knowledge.   The inside of Alphatech Headquarters has been converted into a Tower dungeon I've named Babel.  When the heroes have all gathered at the door, I will open it, briefly, to allow them to enter.  If any try to simply fly to the top outside, I will bring the tower down, and ensure the cure is destroyed.  Only my chosen heroes will be allowed inside, if any other attempt to enter, the building will self-destruct.  Inside expect to find traps, enemies, and if you make it to the top salvation for the city of New York, also lots and lots of cameras.   i did promise a show, so once you assemble your trek up the tower will be televised, Live.  Realistically, you need two hours to spread the cure over the city, so it's safe to say you've abit less than 10 hours to navigate my dungeon and save the city. Those of you who got the letter, well now you know why.   Put on a good show,  and good luck brave heroes, you're going to need it. "  

With that the screens and broadcasts all cleared and then returned to the variety that was most common.  To say the citizenry was panicked was an understatement.  the police were getting calls of rioting, looting, and mayhem within minutes, and the local heroes were on full alert, and quickly took to the streets to quell the panic.   

Attempts were made to contact the local office of AEGIS, but there was no answer, which had never happened before.   More than anything, it continued to send an All clear signal, which was most certainly not the case.

 you all know why you're here now.   

Alphatech HQ is easy to find, as now the blue light is more intense, and wrapping around the building like a forcefield.  

Once everyone's posted reactions and arrivals, we'll get started.

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The twins listened the radio broadcast, being millenials they rarely watched T.V., having Airbuds in their ears almost 24 hours a day.  With her arms folded, Summer just listened as she leaned against the wall of their hotel room.  Autumn wasn't as calm.  She paced back and forth as she listened, nervously nibbling her brightly green polished thumb nail.  As the sociopath finished his commentary Autumn  continued to pace frantically.

Summer pushed off the wall.  "Alright, well, let's go."

"What?"  Autumn paused her pacing and looked at her sister with obvious reservations in her expression.  "Summer, this guy... this guy is a lunatic.  I-I don't know if this is such a good idea anymore.  I mean... a gauntlet in a tower?  We've seen SAW, Summer, I know how this movie ends!  We're not prepared, we don't have training... Summer this isn't just stopping a mugging or something... w-we should start smaller, way smaller.  Kittens in trees, small..."

Her raven-haired sibling offered nothing but a caring smile the radiated warmth as she wrapped her sister in a hug.  "No," she said softly in her sister's ear.  She pulled away and looked her sister in the eyes.  "Because kittens in trees don't need us right now, one point four million people-,"

"One point six six five million-," Autumn corrected her.

"Shut up and take my motivational speech, okay?"  She smirked.  "Those many people do need us.  You were right, Sis, this is what we were meant for.  To help these people, the world if we can, and this guy," she pointed towards the wall of their room, in the rough direction of the Alphatech Tower.  "This guy is off his nut.  Any guy who is willing to kill this many people... we gotta stop him."

"How?"  Autumn retorted, still frustrated.  She wasn't a fighter, she was a scientist, a psychology major by interest but a woman who was infatuated with all manner of science.  "This guy is a megalomaniac and a narcissist.  He wants us to put on a show for him, his ego needs the attention, he needs the audience.  If we screw up anywhere, at any point, or don't jump through the right hoops for this guy, he'll kill us, or the whole city!  Summer, I can't have a million and a half lives worth of blood on my hands!  How do you win against a sicko like that, Summer?"

"I don't know," Summer admitted.

"See?"  She threw up her arms in frustration.

"But I know how we don't win.  We don't win if we don't bother showing up, Autumn!"  Summer shot back.  She pointed vigorously at the wall as trace amounts of rage and frustration grew in her as well.  "We've been chosen by this guy!  He's called us out.  We can't back down, if we do, he kills them anyway.  So we go, and we play his game, and we figure shit as we go."

"As we go?!  That's your plan?  'Wing it'?  Oh, sure Summer, we'll just 'wing it' and surely nothing bad will come from it."  Autumns frustration rose to a peak as her reckless sister's plan made no logical sense to her.  "We can't just guess with a guy like this.  A million people deserve more than just us 'winging it'!"

"Autumn, you are the smartest, most noble and kindest soul I know," Summer calmed and held her sister.  "You're scared.  I'm scared too.  But if anyone can figure this out, it's you.  I'll provide the witty commentary and rough up anyone who gets in our way.  But still, those people need us.  Whether we're ready or not, whether we like it not, we have over a million people who need us to get our shit together and go kick a little narcissistic ass."  She stepped back once more and looked at her.  "So, come on Regulator.  Mount up."

Autumn smiled a weak smile, wiping a few tears of frustration from her cheek.  Then she underwent a metamorphosis.  Her skin rippled, like each individual skin cell she possessed was flipping, like a coin from head to tails.  Her normally alabaster skin rippled and 'flipped' cell to a deep shade of orange, like the earthly color of clay.  Her red hair with orange and yellow highlights (like the colors of autumn leaves) grew in length and fell far below her waist and her vividly green eyes thrummed with power and illuminated into a faint glow.  "Thanks, Summer."

Summer had already done the same, her eyes a vibrant purple, a color that she'd adopted after the incident that bestowed up the sisters their powers.  Her raven hair with purple highlights grew to the same length as her twins'.  "Yeah, yeah, suit up.  The sentimentality will kill me before the Big Bad does..."

Ten minutes later, the twin heroes soared through the sky.  Well, Summer soared, Autumn frantically wobbled about from side to side like a girl who had not quite figured out how her flight power actually worked.  Her arms wobbled and she swerved back and forth, completely off balance.  At the main entrance of AlphaTech Tower Summer Solstice slammed into the ground  with a solid landing in heroic Supergirl fashion.  Autumn slowly coasted to street level, landing with a hurried stride that made her run forward several steps and she almost lost her balance and stumbled to the ground.

"Flying sucks." She fumed, mildly irritated that Summer had taken to it so easily.

Her sister laughed.  "Whatevs, this flying is legit.  So, I got fire, you got water, we both got flight... so that's wind... where's the earth power?"

"No clue," she walked to her sister, looking around for these other so called other 'heroes'.  If they were as green as the twins, she didn't hold out much hop for their survival.  "For now, let's focus on this and wait for these other heroes.  We don't know if this guy wants us in all at once or as we arrive, so let's just hold tight and pray someone knows who this clown is.  And seriously, Summer, you couldn't make us whole costumes?"

"Budget cuts, sis.  I made them out of what you bought.  Had to work with what I had..."  She smirked.

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Damn. 

Dr. Derek LeSayge stands in front of the HD TV monitor in his hotel room in Manhattan, listening to the announcement. He grabs his backpack with his helmet and makes his way to Alphatech Tower as quickly as he can.

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The mysterious bad guy's announcement put an end to Alison's half-patrol, half-aerial jog, the first barely-heard words sending her on a course down to street level in front of an electronics store. The watching crowd gave her room to touch down, gazes shifting between her and the maniac's monologue. Her expression hardened into a frown as he went on and on outlining his scenario. His letter. What. No clue if he was one of Shen's or just another one with her secret. Perfect.

The transmission ended, and all of the crowd's attention was on her, questions in eyes and beginning to bloom on lips, a storm the blonde cyborg wasn't quite ready to confront.

She shot straight up and away from their need for a reassurance she wasn't up to give, cheeks coloring in embarrassment, the implications of this trap finally hitting her. A show. This wasn't a private test. He wanted a spectacle for all to see, for whatever insane reason he had to put the entire city on a slow roast spit. And if she ran to preserve the shadows of her anonymity, the spit would turn and turn until everyone who couldn't make it out... died. She sucked in a breath to get a hold of her emotions. And another. and one more for good measure.

Okay. That didn't help at all. There was one thing that would. Something she'd need if this was a twelve hour test and she lived that long...

One awkward convivence store stop and a new fanny pack full of Paydays later, she dropped out of the sky outside of the Alphatech building with a flutter of her blue cape and the grace of someone who had learned to fly before she could walk. A few peanut crumbs stained her lips from the bars she had devoured even before arriving, gaze sweeping the area and fixing briefly on the big door. Two other heroes were already here, and she had to suppress a flinch at their, coloration and garb aside, identical appearance. Wow. Those were outfits. They had to be very good and very confident. Made her feel a little shabby despite herself.  

Floating about a foot off the ground, she waved, manner polite and earnest, "Hi? I'm Mega Girl. Did you both get a letter, too?"  

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Crap.  A name!  They forgot a name!  The sisters looked at each other as they shared that thought.  A look of awkwardness came over them as they suddenly realized Mega Girl identified herself and they didn't even think of a cool super hero name for themselves...

Oops.

"Uh, y-yes we did," Autumn approached Mega girl, untucking the letter from the waistline of what seemed to be poorly preserving her modesty.  She reached up and presented it to the blonde wonder.  "Whomever this is... they know us, our identities I mean.  Logically we can surmise that know who our friends and family are."

"I'm pretty sure it's because we post it all on social media, I mean really, you haven't taken down photos of your last three boyfriends, sis.  It's kinda awkward seeing three relationships on one wall."  Summer quipped.

She shot her sister a look that screamed 'not now' and looked back to Mega Girl.  "Sorry, that's my sister.  She's fancies herself a comedian but really is just annoying," she extended her hand up to the floating hero.  "I'm-"

"Solstice!" Summer blurted out.  Trying to keep her sister from blurting out something stupid, like their names and addresses and how to find them on Twattle.  "W-we are Solstice.  Summer Solstice, she's Autumn Solstice."  Summer hovered up like Mega Girl was doing and waited patiently as her sister shook her hand.

"Y-yeah," she gave Summer a sideways look.  "Solstice.  Twins, I'm water to her fire.  It's nice to meet you Mega Girl.  And before my sister interrupted, my point was: we need to stop this lunatic.  Did you see anyone else coming?"

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Triessa saw the address on the television of the coffee store she'd fallen into to combat her jetlag. It felt pretty surreal watching that though...the kind of thing you'd laugh at in a movie because it was so contrived. Blue light that only hurt normal people? Like, how did that even work? What about her? She wasn't a mutant or something...did just knowing magic make you immune, or was she going to get hosed by this? How the hell did you make a weapon that spared 'metahumans' when that term covered such a huge number of different kinds of things?

And then this whole deal with turning a building into a 'gauntlet.' Again, she had lots of questions. Like, how did that happen quietly? Just floor by floor, workers were told to stay home? Without the company knowing? Or was the company behind this? But why would a company slaughter most of their local customers?

None of this added up. What the fuck though, right? She'd come to New York. Might as well sign up for the whole tourist package. See the Big Apple, have a hyper-caffienated beverage, save the world or something. Buy a goddamn postcard and then forget where you put it.

She made her way out of the coffee place and ducked around to the side, where a narrow space that seemed too small to be an 'alley' separated it from the adjacent building, with juuuuuust enough room for trashcans and for a person to squeak past them if they turned sideways.

With a quick glance up and down the alleyway to verify she wasn't being watched, Triessa cast the spell she'd worked on all the way over. Words in Latin...she figured Latin was popular for magic the same reason it was popular for science; a dead language, the meaning of the words wasn't changing anymore...movements of her hands and fingers into mudras. On some level she realized it was just a kind of conditioning...associating specific mental and emotional states with specific behaviors so she could, for brief moments, exert nearly total control over her mind. Just long enough to let only the thing she wanted bubble up after she punched the universe hard enough to split its lip.

Shadows from the dim, narrow passage bent towards her, like iron filings towards a magnet. The twined and coiled around her, and then slipped back into their normal positions. In their wake though, Triessa was transformed. Taller, more buxom and yet slimmer in her midsection, with pale skin and dark violet hair and a leotardy thing that showed off her curves, and a cool flowing cloak with a hood (not a cape, damnit). Set in her forehead was a slim crystal or jewel that she thought gave her a sort of otherworldly look. A dark sort of haze streamed from her, kind of like smoke, kind of like shadows.

It all made Triessa want to go back in time to her 13 year old self and show her how 'goth' and 'angst' she'd be in another decade or two. Not that it would have helped much. Even back then, she'd known a poser when she'd seen one.

Right then. She looked at her map and took a second to work out where the building was, and where her coffee shop was. Good enough. Another spell cast and she melted away into a thick blue-black cloud that dissipated just as fast.

-------------------------------
Alphatech  Building
-------------------------------

"Did you see anyone else coming?" Autumn asked. Someone other than Mega-Girl answered though.

"No, but that doesn't mean no one else is."

Emerging from a shaded spot behind a tree was a rather striking young woman of most peculiar appearance.

She nodded at each of the others there.

"I'm Hex. Lucky holder of a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's Psycho Factory. Also, ten bucks says this is a massive publicity stunt. Calling it now."

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"There's one," Mega Girl pointed out mildly upon Hex's introduction, smiling at the twin's disjointed greeting and wiping off her face. This wasn't her first rodeo, but if the list of invitees got too much bigger, her nerves would start to come back into play. And with the twin's being so new as to not have a hero name yet... Well, her nerves would feed their nerves and their hers until they fell apart into a ball of hair trigger choices that would help no one. 

"Let's hope you're right, but my letter had entirely too much private information for me to brush this threat off as a trick," she directed at the spooky newcomer, "Guy has something serious going for him. Oh. Don't know what you missed, but... These two are Summer and Autumn Solstice. I'm Mega Girl. I lift things and hit them if they need hitting. Nice costumes, by the way. Kinda jealous."

The blonde chuckled briefly at her own pathetic joke, fading as she looked back at the doors of the tower, rubbing her knuckles with her other hand,"...I only heard part of his message. Did he say how many we're waiting for?" 

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"Girl, these took me like, sixteen hours to make," Summer said in an excited manner.  "See me after we save the city, Pixie-Cut and I'll hook you up, city saver's discount and all."

Autumn rolled her eyes.  "Maybe you should have spent thirty two hours and made us whole costumes."

"Haven't you ever seen a marvel on the news?" She asked her sister.  "This is how they dress, totally.  It distracts the enemy, keeps them off guard," she gave a wry smile and nudged Mega Girl in the side with her elbow.  "Besides, if you got, use it, am I right?"

With a sigh Autumn approached Hex.  "Forgive my sister, Hex, she is an idiot."  She turned her attention to Mega Girl, whom she was hoping really wasn't finding any of her sister's antics charming.  "No, he didn't say anything about how many we were to expect, but there are already four women here.  He obviously has a thing against the fairer sex, a deep seeded desire to inflict harm upon and establish dominance against women."

"Eh, he's probably some guy who always plays women online and in his video games because he can't relate mentally or emotionally with his own gender,"  Summer shrugged.  "He probably married his pillow case and she's recently divorced him for someone who showers frequently.  So, all we do is find him and take him out and meet a few a bros, get him laid, oh, and throw his creeper ass in jail for like a million consecutive life sentences."  She flew into a quick backwards loop and arrived right where she started, holding hands out like a game show gal.  "Easy,-peasy."

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In the shaded recesses of her hood, Hex lifted an eyebrow quizzically at Summer.

"Get him laid, huh? Not it."

Hex nodded at Mega-Girl then. "You're right that he knew too much, but that doesn't change the fact that this whole situation is deeply absurd. In my line of work, when you see something that looks impossible, it's usually because you're looking at the wrong thing. There's too much theater in this, you know? All eyes are going to be here."

"Makes me wonder where our eyes aren't supposed to be."

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Jess had spent the last three days staking out the city, not easy to do when using the Starsign and trying to be inconspicuous, but she had managed, and had come up with zero. Oh she had helped out at a couple of accidents and stopped a couple of muggings but nothing that she could connect to the letter or the copy of her symbol.

She was sitting in the hotels café using her laptop surfing the internet looking for clues and coming to the conclusion that she wasn’t a very good investigator when the adversary hijacked the airwaves.

Not going never crossed her mind. She sent a text message to her dad and her mom telling them to stay away from NYC and that she would be out of touch for the next 24 hours, Then she packed up her laptop and headed outside.

He wants a show. Not giving him one except on my terms. She thought to herself as she got into her jeep and headed downtown to the AlphaTech Tower.

The police had already blocked off the streets  leading to the tower and were busy keeping everyone out including her but she produced the letter and showed the sign and eventually convinced the authorities to let her through.

 

"Makes me wonder where our eyes aren't supposed to be." Triessa was saying as a jeep swept into the empty parking area in front of the building and a girl got out.

“Really anther woman,” exclaimed Summer! Jess wasn’t in her suit yet not wanting to play into the adversaries’ fantasy And seeing her dressed in Jeans and a T-shirt with a light jacket caused Autumn to glare at her sister. “And we couldn’t just wear our clothes,” The water twin grumbled as she crossed her arms. Summer gave a low whistle, “Now she could give Kat Denning a run for her money in the filling out the t-shirt bit.”

Jess looked up at the other women gathered and started up the broad steps to join them. “Hello, ladies, I’m Jessica and I’m guessing we are all here for the same thing?”

Spoiler

any of you could recognize Jessica as Starsign from the news where she fought the alien in upstate new york a few weeks ago

 

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Exiting the Uber ride, Dr. Derek LeSayge assessed the spectacle outside the AlphaTech Tower. All was deathly quiet here, everything bathed in the unnatural, pervasive blue light. Even from outside the building's policed perimeter several blocks away, the Arclight radiation was definitely increasing in magnitude based on a preliminary viewing. Unfortunately he couldn't approach in his civilian garb or it would violate the terms of the, uh, "super-villain's" ultimatum. (Really? The madman wants his own personal version of SURVIVOR?)

Looking around the area, he entered an abandoned alleyway, took off his outer clothes to reveal his uniform (now emblazoned with the Greek symbol for psi), donned his helmet, and -- voila! Entrez-vous, Doc Psypher!

Now he had to jog the remaining blocks to the entrance. The research scientist wonders if his biochemical experiment will ever grant him the ability to fly telekinetically -- or even teleport! "Scotty, one to beam up," he murmurs to himself.

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“Hello, ladies, I’m Jessica and I’m guessing we are all here for the same thing?”

Hex looked over at Jessica and gave her a thumbs-up.

"Free drinks for ladies in the lounge? Hell yes we are."

As Dr. Psypher came jogging over in his glowy tech-armor Hex added, "Hey look, a penis. That's new."

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"When we make it through this, I'll probably take you up on that offer, Summer," the blonde offered, half to keep the mood light, half out of genuine interest, settling into a butterfly position midair as she got comfortable. She nodded at the two newcomers, gaze shifting between the two. The woman she knew of. Okay. Wow. The man? Not so much. Still... Mega Girl buried her nerves again, firmly.

"There goes ladies night," she joked, cape fluttering in the breeze as she bobbed up and down slightly in defiance of most people's physics, "Hi. Mega Girl. Anyone know any other local heroes so they can check to see if anything else is going on while we react to our... host's sick game?"

Villains act. Heroes react. That was one of the rules Shen had taught her growing up, and it still seemed stupid to her, but again and again up to now, she could see how it came about with people and societies to protect. Evil was very liberating like that. Autumn certainly wasn't wrong in saying there was something off about the guy behind this.  

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Making his way up to the assembled group of costumed characters (since they were the only ones visible in the area, anyway), Derek was rather overwhelmed by the sheer physical presence that each of the women exuded. It wasn’t that they were just excellent specimens of female pulchritude – they certainly were! No, it was more the sense of palpable power that each individual seemed to project.

If these were the “chosen heroes”, what kind of resources and abilities did this mysterious puppeteer control to make these metahumans come running into such an obvious trap? And would he -- Doc Psypher -- be able to do his share to save this city… and possibly all of humanity?

And what of Justine?

Marshalling all his mental energies, his hands raised up, the nouveau Marvel addressed the group in his best faux-British accent. “Please don’t attack. I’m a friend. Honestly. I have been summoned to participate in this pathetic excuse for a reality TV special just like you.” Pulling out his letter from a hidden pocket, he waved it around in the air somewhat.

“You probably have never heard of me. I’m, uh, Doc Psypher. I know, I know – an unoriginal nom-de-guerre, I’ll admit, but… it’s what I’m called when I’m wearing this outlandish outfit. I, uh, I’m from New Jersey.” He shrugged his shoulders. Then he turned to Mega Girl and Starsign.

“As for the two of you, I’ve seen you both on the telly. Starsign and… Mega Girl, am I correct?” He then turns to the twins. “Um, I’m afraid I don’t know much about the two of you besides the fact that you are twins. However, there’s something about you….” He stood for a moment trying to conjure up a memory. “No, no. I’m sorry, but you two do look familiar.”

He then turned to Hex. “You, on the other hand, miss. I’m afraid I know absolutely nothing about you.”

He then gestured at the AlphaTech Tower, all business -- the Arclight growing in intensity.  “And what about that? Has anyone done any recon of the area? Does anybody know anything about that building? And what are we waiting for around here? Don’t we have a job to do?”

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"In this case less of a 'job' than a 'show,'" Hex opined. Then she belatedly added, "I'm Hex. By the way. Anyway, the nutbag behind it seemed pretty intent that we play by the rules on this...march in the front door, no cheaties and so on. As for what we're waiting for...well, we need everyone to be here. Since none of us know how many there are, I assume our gracious host will let us know when it's all ready to go."

She regarded Psypher narrowly. "Real doctor or just name decoration?"

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The helmeted hero stared at Hex for a minute before he said, "A real doctor." Then he thought about it and softened. "Well, a real doctor in real life, anyway. And you, Hex? What does your chosen sobriquet signify?"

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"Ooo. Sobriquet. Fancy."

She shook her head and made a little gesture with her right hand. "It means magic. I'm a wizard, Harry."

"The reason I was asking about your doctorness, was because I was curious about how this 'field' might work? Is it even...remotely plausible? Because it feels kind of like a bluff to me. Obviously we can't take the risk, which is why we're here, but still. Just for my own back-patting, what's your take on this?"

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Now on safer ground, the research scientist ponders the rather interesting question. "Well, unfortunately, I've not had time to do properly research the matter, so this is purely conjecture on my part. And it is always a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. However, since you ask, I have long supposed that all have us, eh, metahumans, if you will, have some sort of a genetic anomaly within us which allows us to manifest these rather extraordinary powers and abilities. If I am correct, normal humans -- baselines, for lack of a better term -- lack this mutation. It is possible that this same anomaly is what protects us and makes the rest of humanity susceptible to this madman's radiation."

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"Yeah, but what about someone who just invents cool gadgets?" Hex asked. "Or me...if I'd never picked up a book of magic, I'd have lived my whole life just like anyone else. We're not all mutants."

She shrugs. "But you're right, we don't know enough to make assumptions. Just feels off to me."

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Jess had been suing the others conversation to visually scout the local  when the mention the arclight she looked up. "Maybey I can get some answers. "

Clenching her fist she brought it up to chest level and everyone could see the symbol in her hand like a tattoo pulsing Suddenly energy blossomed around Jessica and her clothing was transformed into the suit with the emblem now floating at her forehead. She stepped away from the party and looked upwards scanning the energy field above.

Spoiler

using energy detection to see if she can gain any clues

 

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"Heya Doc!" Summer said with a sweet smile as floated about like a bored child ready to do something to get herself in trouble.

"I would imagine if the individual, despite their measure of proficiency at invention or martial combat, is still completely human," Autumn posited.  "Then they would die like anyone else.  In fact, we metahumans do emit a low spectrum diffusion frequencies that does counter minor forms of ionized or electromagnetic radiation.  It's how Summer Solstice and I channel and create the energy needed to make our powers function and the same diffusion property that negates certain forms radiation, thermal in our case.  As for your magic Hex, I couldn't say.  I'm a woman of science, you're a bit out of my purview."

"What she's trying to say," Summer chimed up, floating about like a five-foot eight fairy.  "Depending on the science involved, it's possible to saturate the air with ionized or electromagnetic  radiation, forcing electrons out of atoms which would cause a lot people without hearty staminas, namely metahumans, to get sick and die.  The blue glow we're seeing is most likely the Cherenkov effect."

Autumn looked at her sister in shock and awe, then smiled proudly.

Summer smiled back and offered her a fist.  "Bump it."  Autumn did and the sisters pulled their fists away in the universal explosive gesture and wiggled their fingers to signify raining down victory.

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Bemused by the twins' scientific perceptivity as well as their puerile antics, Doc Psypher observes, "Well, I would agree with your general assessment of this Arclight radiation, but we really should wait until we have more concrete data before we start jumping to too many conclusions."

He then adds wryly, "And I believe that, while the term you used is more popularly known in scientific circles, it should really be acknowledged as Vavilov–Cherenkov radiation because Pavel Cherenkov did detect the phenomenon in 1958 while under the supervision of Sergey Vavilov. And I also think the faint bluish light signature was dependent on the radiation being conducted through water. Still, you just might have something there. We shall see."

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From around the block came the high, cheerful meep-meep of a car horn, followed shortly by a bright pink VW Beetle with a white roof coming into view. It was a classic '72 model, but it was in pristine condition and as shiny as though it had ten coats of car wax. It also didn't seem impeded by the lack of driver as it pulled up to the curb by the gaggle of Marvels.

Spoiler

Looks a good deal like this, but shinier
 

u-g-Q139NNQ0.jpg?w=550&h=550&p=0

 

Maybe it was a trick of the eye, sunlight reflecting off the vehicle, but the headlights of the VW Beetle seemed to... blink. Then the car slumped and began to flow and shift, its pink deepening to magenta, then purple, then a dark blue. As the blob took on a humanoid shape, bits of it began to lighten again. In a moment, where the pink VW Beetle had been, there now stood a young woman curvaceous enough to give Jessica Rabbit or a life-sized Barbie Doll a run for their money and more plastic than all the Kardashians and Jenners put together.

She hardly seemed more real than any of them as well, her pale white complexion, vivid pink, waist-long hair, and dark blue bodysuit with asymmetric red striping too smooth and almost as glossy as the VW Beetle had been. A slim arm stretched out too far and deposited several coins into the parking meter with a distinctive ching.

Elastica smiled at the group as her arm snapped back to more normal dimensions. The Astoviks' faces twisted up in mirrored universal expressions of ick when Elastica's wide grin revealed multiple rows of inhumanly pointed teeth. Her other hand pulled out a folded letter from her thigh.

"Hello," Elastica said, flourishing her letter proudly, her fainter, upper-class accent sounding more genuine than Doc Psypher's. "I'm Elastica, and I'm here for the entertainment and the stopping of the dying of New York City too. It is the only place I have ever known. The officers, they tried to stop me and wouldn't let me pass until I showed them my letter."

Summer expression changed to one of enlightenment, nodding as she waved a finger in Elastica's direction. The woman's bodysuit appeared as thin and figure hugging as body paint - she didn't seem to have a belly button. "Ah, British. That explains the teeth."

"No, I'm Elastica, not British," Elastica explained, sounding puzzled. "Teeth?" She ran a tongue around her mouth, then brightened, her light lavender eyes widening in understanding. "Ah! It's the week of the shark on the channel of Discovery. The villain, he interrupted the show I was watching. Sharks are fascinating." She closed her mouth and exaggeratedly masticated on... nothing? When she smiled again with the concerted effort of someone still new at smiling, she revealed teeth as white and perfect as anything seen in a Colgate commercial. "Better?"

"Um, yes?" Summer agreed doubtfully.

Elastica stepped onto the sidewalk with a fluidity that questioned her having any bones, and eyed the tower. She had a vague notion that she'd been to several villain lairs before, but had no first hand recollections. She supposed Shadowmind had visited - or infiltrated at least - several in the time she'd been worn by her.

She turned around, glancing around the group. "There should be at least one more coming - Columbian. We met yesterday because we - it's a secret, I'm not supposed to say. I offered to give him a ride, but he said it wouldn't be appropriate. I don't understand why."

Somebody snickered.

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"I..." Hex pointed at Elastica and wagged her finger for a moment, then shook her head. "Nope. I'm noping on this. You."

She shifted the point to Starsign. "You're saying it looks like what I do? I'd assumed it was tech, but I can follow up on that. You guys entertain Malibu Dream Car here, and I'll see what I can find out."

Hex lifted her hands and fashioned her fingers into a complex series of shifting, interlocking patterns as she murmured in Latin under her breath. Violet light twisted up away from her hands, curling into circles with geometric shapes rotating within them.

 

 

Going to try to Magic up a Detect (Magic) spell, which takes a turn of prep. Then I'll use the Detect to try to analyze the radiation.

Corrected spellcasting roll for Detection, then Detection roll: 1d6+8 12 1d6+8 13

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Laughter bubbled past Mega Girl's lips, the floating blonde doubling over at the absurdity of it all. She'd grown up around violent, nonhuman monsters, and to see... something... so like and yet unlike them in a sense of cheerfulness and well-meaning benevolence... Just... Woooow. So much cognitivie dissonance it actually helped with her nerves. She drifted upward at an angle in her mirth, breathing in through her nose, heels literally almost over head before she halted her drift and corrected her orientation.

"Sorry! Sorry sorry sorry… It's just..," she broke down in laughter again, snickering as the line played over again in her mind's eye and wiping away tears of mirth despite the holy shit ton of radiation literally staining the air they, the entire island in fact, was breathing blue, "Hi. Welcome. Glad to see another helping hand. Our bad guy isn't lacking for confidence."

She floated closer to the pink-clad refugee from the uncanny valley, still smiling from residual mirth, "Nice to meet you, Elastica. I'm Mega Girl, but... Probably want to save another round of introductions for when we have everyone, right?"   

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"Which is now."

Columbian appeared from around the bend, fully suited and equipped now. "I am Columbian, and I wish we could have met under better circumstances. And I should mention Elastica is young and impressionable." Translation: anyone trying to explain that innuendo and trying to corrupt her would sincerely come to regret that. "We're under a time crunch, ladies and gentleman, so names, powers, any likely useful skill. Columbian, enhanced physical attributes and healing factor, strategy and tactics."

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Well, you have to admit that the man certainly knew how to make an entrance.

Derek stood with his arms folded, sardonically appraising the red-white-and-blue newcomer. Naturally he had heard about the Columbian. Everybody has heard about the Columbian… even he! Why this agent of AEGIS felt the need to introduce himself seemed a little overly dramatic to the college professor, but – Hey! – Derek had only recently become a costumed vigilante within the last few months. So, who was he to criticize?

“Er, um, yes. Well, Doc Psypher here. Psionics, medicine, science and technology.”

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"Jesus," Hex murmured to herself as the magical probes she sent into the shimmering 'arclight' field returned information to her. Her hands went to her temples. "Jesus shitting on the cross."

Abruptly she turned to look at the others, eyes wide. "You guys, this arclight is serious shit. It's got magic IN it, but it's all woven into other things too, and the total amount of power in it is off the charts. I've never seen anything like this. And it's not like the field of magic is a thriving and modern field of study, but there are rules and this breaks almost all of them. Whoever's doing this has access to power that...is basically godlike."

Then, belatedly, she noted the newest member of the team. "Oh. Hey. Fashionably late, eh? Nice."

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With everyone finally gathered, they noticed a change before the introductions could proceed.   In sync with that the large screen on the building across from Alphatech came to life and the broadcast started up again.  "Ahh I see all our brave heroes have assembled.  Very well.  Now that the cast is assembled, I shall draw up the curtain and let the show begin."  With that a section of the Light went out, revealing a door that rose up like a garage door.   It looked more like an armored shutter.  Inside they couldn't see much from the outside but it didn't look like any office reception area.

The clock was ticking now as he'd stated the door would only be open so long.  With the details Starsign and Hex had been able to glean, it was clear that this was anything but normal, and that the Arclight was a real threat, at least to Humanity.   Their only hope was to walk inside, and Dance to their malefactor's tune.

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