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Mutants & Masterminds: The Unlikely Prophets - Prologue: Cyan Collins - Run Free


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If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character...Would you slow down? Or speed up?

- Chuck Palahniuk

It was a new day.

Far away, Big Ben sounded out that it was seven in the morning. Much, much further away, the Order's satellite looked down upon London. Cyan Collins respected the ancient clock, even after her imperfect facelift. She respected the satellite not at all.

It was an easy run from her one-room apartment, across the buildings and into the fourth story walk-up that Esme operated out of. Esme probably had a last name, but if she did it would be news to Cyan. Esme did packages. Well, she did packages, for people who wanted cheap couriers that could beat foot traffic, and she also did 'packages,' for people who wanted not so cheap, but very discrete, couriers to ferry very discrete packages around.

She tightened her boots, and flexed her gloves, and looked out over her window. The city, to a normal person, was buildings and lamplights and street signs. To her it was an obstacle course, it was a playground, and she knew it backwards and forwards. She could run across it blindfolded.

Maybe tomorrow she'd do that. Today she'd just run.

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Gripping the window ledge to pull herself out, she slipped off, easily making the small leap as she landed softly in the gravel of the building's roof next door. Cyan had it in her mind today to break her record. There was no hurry, just the desire to know she could do better.

If she could clear that jump between Wallington's and her neighbor's, it would cut 30 seconds from going around and cutting across from the other side.

The high slits of her red dress flowed out behind her as she started off, her feet flying across the well-traveled path in her mind as they beat out the rhythm of her urban movement.

HVAC access, building vents, exposed tar, and even rooftop gardens flew by her as she ran. She gave little notice to the frequently passed, dismissing them as one would fail to notice common street signs they drove by often.

Before long, the jump approached. In previous 'runs' she had calculated out the logistics of making the jump, and in theory, she should have no problem clearing the distance, but her momentum would be slowed by the clearance of the two foot safety wall surrounding the roof, making it decidedly more difficult, and also why she was about to do it.

Pushing off with all her might, she straightened out, reducing what drag she could as she sailed over the gap, looking up at the last moment to tuck into the roll as she cleared onto the next building and bounced up into a standing position, nearly giddy with joy. The sting of the cut on her arm from an exposed nail did nothing to dampen her mood as she continued her journey, eager to see what the day held.

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"It'll be there this afternoon."

Cyan overheard a snippet of conversation as she gripped the fire escape and swung in through the open window. Esme was a small woman who only looked mousey; she was tough as nails. In the London underworld you had to be.

Esme's leg was propped up and in a cast. A nasty tumble when filling in for another courier had broken it a few weeks back. There was a chance it'd never heal right, but Esme took the positive view: at least she hadn't been killed.

"Cyan, come in. Got a bunch for you today." She waved at a messenger bag that hung on the wall. "Bunch of packages all in the city core. I'd like them out today. And Cy, this one's under the radar, all right? Don't advertise. Don't tease any Knights and don't take any risks."

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"Esme, Esme, Esme, have I ever let you down?" Cyco started, walking across the room, "Wait...on second thought...don't answer that." she added, stopping and holding up a finger.

She grabbed the bag off the wall, deftly resizing the strap to keep it nice and snug against her. It looked horribly uncomfortable, but she had been doing runs long enough, she almost forgot it was there sometimes. A quick glance at the contents gave her a package count, it was going to be a long day.

She turned back to Esme, her face turning serious as she got down to business, "How under...sans red?...Addy's?" Cyco held out her hand, waiting for the slip of paper she would memorize on the spot.

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"Addresses right here. A couple are special delivery with special instructions, so make sure you remember." Esme passed Cyan a slip of paper. "Good running."


Several packages down and Cyan stopped on a fire escape to catch her breath and drink a shake. It was then that her phone decided to ring. Checking the screen, it read "Mom."

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She loved her parents, but the religious guilt accompanied with the normal parent guilt got old really quick, and they just seemed incapable of recognizing their daughter's distraught feelings on the subject. Underground Church or not, they were going to get themselves flayed one day. Not wanting to sound like the world's worst hypocrite on defying the Order and committing illegal acts though, Cyan mostly kept her mouth shut and stuck with monosyllabic responses.

What soul-saving advice will she have today?

Cyan grimaced slightly as she tapped her earbud to answer the call, "Hey, Mom...what's up?"

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"Hi, dear, it's me. I just wanted to give you a call, see how you were."

There was a long pause. Then she started. "We had a scare, the other day. A Knight came by just before we, you know." Cyan's mother was paranoid about talking over a phone sometimes. Cyan knew exactly what she was referring to.

"When it gets like that, I just want to make sure you know, that me and your father love - "

Then the voice seemed to scramble, as if the signal was interrupted. There was silence. With a start, Cyan realized that it wasn't just silence on the phone. There was silence all around her. The city had paused.

Attempts to speak didn't seem to work. Cyan felt a tightness in her throat. And then, a new voice - the voice of the Order's economic and sociological engine, the Mathemagician - spoke.

who are you?

Then there was a song.

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To call this song 'haunting' did no justice. It seemed to stop the whole world. Nothing was frozen - the wind blew, the sun shone - but the whole planet seemed to take a collective breath.

The song lasted a few seconds. It also lasted forever. Time lost all meaning in its embrace. The song cresendoed, and built, and crashed to its climax, moving mountains with notes. It faded away, leaving Cyan feeling different. Like everything in the living room of her soul was moved six inches out of place.

why are you here?

The Mathemagician's final words hung in the air. The world started up again.

" - you, and we wanted you to know that. In case anything ever happens."

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She abruptly sat down on the fire escape, the half-eaten shake tumbling down through the iron construct while every hair on her body stood on end and her mind tried to process all that had just happened.

The Order had always been a looming figure, the perpetual threat for any who dared to move off the clearly marked path, but never before had she been directly confronted with the sheer power capable of its upper echelons.

What does the Mathmageek want with me? Isn't he suppose to know everything?...Knights!

Paranoid that this meant the Order was finally after her for keeps, she jumped up and started scanning for the familiar uniforms. "Love you too Mom...look, I'd love to talk know, but its kinda crazy right now and I need to go. I'll call ya later. Tell Dad hi for me."

Tapping the 'hand's free' again to disconnect, she double checked her bag and made sure her laces were tight, all the while scanning her surroundings...waiting...

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As Cyan looked around, a feather drifted past her field of view. Blinking, she grabbed it out of the air.

It was long and fine, and silver in color. It was unlike any feather she'd ever seen. It caught the light perfectly, and dazzled like a disco ball.

Belatedly, Cyan looked up, and gasped. Descending in, on silent silver wings, was a man. He was wearing a jean jacket and jeans, with holes in the back of the former to allow for the beating of his wings.

He landed on the railing of the fire escape. His face was supernaturally calm. He crouched, perfectly balanced. His wings retreated into his back.

"I don't have much time, Cyan Collins. The window won't be open long. Listen to me. You have one foot in our world and one foot in this one. You always have. But they made it impossible for you to be you."

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The sudden appearance of what was undeniably an Angel, after the haunting music and freaky questions had Cyan's mind completely eradicated of any sensible thought. It was all she could to keep herself from fleeing, as running was always the best policy in situations with unknown variables. Men descending from Heaven on silvery wings who knew her name definitely counted as an unknown variable.

Jesus Christ!

"Our world?...They? They who? What the heck is going on? How am I not me? Did I just die?" She blurted out, the Angel's eerie serenity failing to rub off.

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"You have not died. I would go so far, as to say that you are only just about to live."

The angel wore a very calming smile as he spoke. "This world hates the strange. But for a brief moment the hatred has slipped. The part of you that is us, far, far back in your bloodline, that has yearned to spread its wings... now can."

As the angel spoke. Cyan felt an inching in her back. "You are, of course, free. You can continue running deliveries - in fact, my glimpse of the threads of time tells me one package in your parcel will be very important today, indeed. You can continue petty thievery. But there is great need in this world. So many people in so many places, and so little time... but not for you. You have the speed of the Nephilim with you now, Cyan Collins. You would outpace lightning."

There was a tremor of sorts, on the fire escape. "My one second is ending. All that I have said has taken place within one tick of your watch. Look at it, if you still doubt. And remember this frame of mind. Because all the speed you have will be needed, and it may still not be enough."

The man tilted backwards. He fell. Cyan's watch ticked forwards one second, and he had vanished. Cyan swore she saw an impossibly fast blur arc up into the clouds, before that one second ticked through.

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Cyan idly itched at her back as she stared agape at the sky, glancing briefly down at her watch again, confirming the impossible. There was no denying it, she had just been visited by a being who the Order declared illegal and nonexistant. Not to mention telling her that she was, in part, one of them and also had the speed that was just demonstrated.

"Well, only one way to find out girl." Cyan straightened out her dress, checked her laces and the bag's strap, making sure that all was as it should be.

As the last iota of doubt left her mind, she recalled the next address on her route and reclaimed that 'frame of mind'.

Mom is gonna flip.

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The windows on the high rises shook.

The windows on the high rises shook because of the sonic boom.

The windows on the high rises shook because of the sonic boom, from her.

The angel was not wrong. It was like shifting gears on a bike. There was 'normal' time and she could ratchet it up from there to... well, she wasn't sure just how fast she could go, since the sonic boom was an accident and she didn't want to attract heat. Not like they could see her... or catch her.

In the space of minutes she'd depleted her pack of most of its contents, ran up the side of a wall, and zipped across an outdoor pool like a skipping stone. She had one delivery left and it wasn't even noon yet. The one delivery was for the building across from her current perch, where she drank a bottle of water while resting on the fire escape.

The last one she'd rested on could bear the weight of two. This one didn't seem as well designed. With a sudden jerk, one of the bolts pulled free from the wall, and instinctively time ratcheted up... and the itch in her back got worse...

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A yelp of pain escaped her lips and she could feel blood trickling down her back as her body acting on instinct she didn't even know she had. Wings ripped from her back, the silvery feathers bursting out of Cyan's red dress, nearly taking the entirety of the piece with it. Hoping to keep this from being a 'crash course' in flying, she lept from the rickety fire escape, clutching the dress to her front, grimacing against the discomfort.

Hoping dearly that no one noticed, she roughly slammed into the building's side, finding, surprisingly, that she was having no problem finding a grip on the sheer surface. Not passing up what seemed to be a slew of miracles today, Cyan quickly shimmied up the wall and crested the roof.

If the Angel can put them away, so can I.

First calming herself, then making sure she wasn't going to bleed to death, she sat down and focused on pulling the wings in. They were definitely something she wanted to explore, but here and now was sooo not the place or time.

A moment later, the sharp stinging was gone, replaced once again with the itching. An itching seemingly connected to the wings' desire to flourish and take wind.

Okay, one package left. He said one was important, maybe this is it. First gotta be not naked.

Pulling a knife from the sewn-in sheath on the inside of her boot, she cut off some of the excess lace of her leather footwear and again using the small blade, made small eyelets to thread the string through on her dress. Her back was mostly bare, revealing her tattoo, but at least the front was being held up.

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