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Mutants & Masterminds: StarGate Freedom - Prologue: Christian H. Blues

Christian H. Blues

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4:01 am, October 31st, Manhattan

"So what you think, C-H?" The stylised clock on the wall behind the bar ticked past 4 am.

"I don't know, Mr Tavish. Doesn't seem right to me somehow." The young man leaned back on his barstool, taking a deep draw on his Al Capone, savoring the taste before puffing a blueish cloud out over his head. Dark brown eyes followed the swirl of the smoke for a moment, then turned back to the ruddy-faced club owner across the bar from him. The boyish features crinkled in an abashed smile. "It's a good offer, it's just... I don't know." The young man, seemingly too young to be in a glamorous brand new upmarket club on Manhattan's Upper East Side, shook his head as though unable to find the right words. Tavish smiled and shrugged, pouring Christian another drink. The two men, one young, the other older, sat in the only pool of light in the now darkened and closed club.

"All well, all good." The Ukrainian said. "You are a good musician, Christian. I want you to play for my club, and only my club. All the rich people, they will come to my club to hear you play I think. Maybe even bigshot record people, hmm?"

Christian, better known to his small but devoted fan following as C-H Blues smiled at the bluff older man, obviously trying not to appear either too flattered or too embarassed by the praise.

"Maybe, Mr Tavish. But I'm not really looking for-" Tavish cut him off with a wave of one bejewelled hand. At the far end of the bar, two burly men with cold thuggish eyes were engaged in their own discussion in a foreign tongue, idly passing the time until their boss was done talking business with the kid. They'd started out the evening alert and professional, but now could think only of their beds and who would be in them.

"Da, yes, I know: you don't want the fame and the big time." His pale grey eyes narrowed in a slight scowl of confusion as he regarded the strange boy. "But you need to work, yes? Need a - how is that said - a 'steady gig', yes?" He leaned across the bar like an amiable bear. "This I can give to you, and good money too." He spread his hands in a faint shrug. "Not as good as record company, but better than any other club, I am thinking."

Christian smiled. "I'm sure you can, Mr Tavish." He reached out and stroked the black leather sax case on the bar. It was getting late, but it wasn't time to close the deal yet. "I'm not sure I want to be tied to anything solid yet, that's all."

"Pah!" Tavish snorted good-humoredly, though his eyes betrayed some annoyance. "Is not a damn marriage proposal, kid. Is business. If you don't like it, you serve out contract and go, yes? Tell you what, kid. I give you two month contract, not twelve. If you like work and money after two months, then we talk about twelve month. Is that fair?"

Christian's smile widened, his eyes brightening. "Oh, that's fair, Mr Tavish." He nodded, taking another puff of his cigarillo. "That's really fair. Okay, I'll take the two-month contract."

"Excellent!" Tavish boomed, reaching over the bar and chafing Christian's smooth features with his thick rough hands. "We seal agreement in vodka! I have the best: Stolychna, fresh from the Mother country." He released the young musician and turned away, rummaging in the freezer unit behind the bar. Christian's hand still stroked the saxophone case. Yes, it was time to close the deal now.

* * * * * *

He got out of the taxi as the pre-dawn light grew brighter, telling the cab driver he'd walk from there. In the dark grey dawn streets he cut a strange figure, a young man in a tailored suit, collar turned up against the chill wind that ruffled his hair as he strode down the sidewalk, whistling an old Charlie Parker tune that carried hauntingly in the gloomy atmosphere.

He stopped at a phone booth and dialled a number. After two rings he replaced the handset, then dialled a different number. This was answered immediately.

"Hello." A man's voice. Polite, educated. The voice of an accountant or business professional.

"It's me." Was all Christian said.

"Good to hear you. I take it the deal was closed successfully."

"The last details should be taken care of as we speak." Christian said absently, his dark eyes watching a stray cat nosing around the bins down an alleyway.

"Good work. The paycheck's being deposited right now. The boss says well done. And-"

"I'm thinking of going on a little trip." Christian interrupted the speaker. "Nothing big, just taking a break for a few months." Silence greeted this statement, and then another voice came on the line. This one was rougher, more expressive than the first.

"Hey, kid. If you're asking for a vaca-"

"Don't call me kid." Was all Christian said. He didn't inflect the words with any particular vehemence or emphasis, but the speaker on the other end of the line fell silent as if the words had been screamed.

"I'm bored." Christian said into that yawning silence. "I've been doing this for years and I'm bored." He wanted to say more, wanted to say how trivial and easy all of this was, but didn't. Instead he said "I killed three men tonight. Killed them in three heartbeats and then set an incendiary device that burned the evidence away. And I felt nothing beyond faint satisfaction at a job well done. I want a break."

The silence at the other end of the line continued, but Christian didn't continue to speak. He waited, patient as a tombstone. Finally, the other spoke.

"Okay. Okay. I can dig your reasoning. You're young, you need time to be young, right? Strikes me you ain't had much of that. You take the time you need. We'll be here when you get back, okay?" That last question was part statement as well, Christian knew. "You WILL be back. You can't leave for good. We're lengthening the leash, but it's still around your neck, kid." He dismissed the implied threat. To be honest, he didn't care. If he found nothing better to do, then he'd be back. If he found something better, then he'd also be back, to 'arrange matters' so that he could go and do that better thing without interference.

"Thanks." He told the other voice without irony and hung up. He walked to the end of the block and hailed another taxi. He'd go home, get some sleep, then decide what to do with his 'vacation'.

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Christian woke up at noon. For a time, he lay on his bed, considering what to do. The vacation had been an impulse, caused by his reaction to last night's deeds. He knew what he needed - creativity and music, maybe some casual sex with an easily impressed woman.

His music history classes at Julliard finally stood him in good stead as he recalled that Billie Holiday had been born in Baltimore. That was a good place to start, he decided with a smile. Start in Baltimore - in time, he'd find his way to New Orleans.

Something stirred in him, something he hadn't felt in a while: excitement. This would be something new, something different. It would be something good. He rose and headed for the shower eager to start his day for the first time in a long time.

* * * * *

The afternoon sun blazed down on him, but Christian didn't mind. B.B. King sang about loss and love on the CD player, and Christian felt good. Ahead of him, the heart of Baltimore approached; right now, the suburbs of the city framed his travel.

Red lightening snaked over the sky, distracting and immediate. Blinking, the young man shut out the distraction of the radio, taking a better grip on the wheel. It was a good move; the SUV in front of him wasn't nearly as focused, and the big vehicle drifted into the side of another car. As horns and tires screamed, the SUV over-corrected, smashing into the median that divided the multi-lane road. Cars and trucks were reacting; had it not been happening at interstate speeds, the wreck would have been much smaller; as it was, Christian was in danger of becoming a victim of this pileup.

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"Holy shit." The epithet was mildly spoken as the cool-headed young man floored the gas, boosting the convertible sports car's speed by about forty miles per hour. Now doing close to 90, dark eyes narrowed behind his Serengetti shades as he wove the car through the panicking drivers ahead of him. Tires squealed, horns blared, and metal crunched... but that was now about fifty feet behind him and receding further into the distance.

Christian sighed in muted and short-lived relief, slowing down to a more steady speed and risking a quick glance at the sky overhead. Red lightning? Why the hell is there red lightning. Then he swore again.

Four sleek, deadly-looking aircraft were sweeping overhead, firing Goddamn laser bolts?! their weapons at a pair of jet fighters who seemed woefully outmatched. A pair of explosions heralded the end of the USAF jets, and the scarab-shaped craft banked impossibly sharply before swooping low along the interstate, the scream of their engines pressing against the terrified people below, drowning out all other noise as they roared overhead. More cars and trucks swerved, more drivers panicked, and Christian cursed for the third time in as many minutes as he once more floored the accelerator. To slow down would be to risk some moron tail-ending him. His only salvation was in speed, in outrunning the panicked stampede.

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Christian sped toward Baltimore. It seemed as rapidly as he evaded one potential collision, another threatened. He needed to get off the interstate. Cursing, he took an exit, and then merged onto the slower traffic on the ramp. Here, people still gawked, but they were stopping first.

A commercial airplane flew low, too low for comfort. Two of those fighters harassed it, like a flock of ravens attacking a hawk. They peeled away, but not before the plane was forced to the ground, landing on the road. Its wings were torn off as it passed between buildings; it smashed into cars that were already occupying the road.

The world seemed to be coming to an end; thankfully, Christian wasn't a sentimental person, to be crippled by events. He began to think.

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Fact: I very much doubt that those aircraft are from 'around here'.

Christian lit up an Al Capone as he drove the convertible down a side street, turning onto another main road and looking for a shopping district. He didn't bother pulling over and gawking at the sky: what was the point? The red lightning still flared, the strange craft still buzzed overhead like lethal hornets. All around, people were stopping, looking, and pointing upwards. Christian spared them maybe two seconds of his disdain.

Fact: It's either some super-secret terrorist organisation with sci-fi tech, or it's aliens. Both of which is fucked-up weird, but hell C-H, you wanted excitement.

He clicked on the radio, hearing an announcer telling everyone to go home or seek shelter. The message repeated itself, and Christian pressed the button to start the channel scanner cycling through the broadcasts.

First things first. Got guns, got ammo. Food and medical supplies are next. His attention was momentarily diverted to the radio.

"...The attacks seem to be carried out worldwide. According to sources, the Houses of Parliament in England are currently under fire, and strange craft have been spotted over Moscow."

"Well. That settles that. It's aliens." Christian pulled into the parking lot of a giant mall. It was mostly deserted, the people having left immediately. Outside, there were people peering out of windows or standing in small clusters looking up at the lightshow in the sky. He wasn't the sort of person to argue with the evidence of his own senses. If it looked like a duck and quacked like a duck, then it was a goddamn alien invasion, and that's all there was to it. That same focus allowed him to focus on the next immediate step, rather than panic and worry about what was going to happen. He didn't know what was going to happen, and right now wasn't the time for him to bother speculating. Right now was the moment for him to get ready for whatever could happen.

He walked into a deserted Walgreens, picked out a trolley, and headed towards the first aid supplies aisle. After that, he'd hit a camping supplies store, then finally a grocery store. He'd leave bundles of notes on the counters as he left if no-one was there to sell him the stuff: he had standards. After all, he was hardly a thief.

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Christian found his shopping trip to be a profitable venture. It was early, so not a lot of people had figured out that these things might not be around tomorrow. However, some folks were thinking ahead, and as he was finishing up, a small group of five came into the store. They grabbed a cart and began to 'shop', which seemed to be grabbing large quantities of everything.

From their whispers, and from the fact that they'd pulled their SUV up to the door, he guessed they were thieves. Christian paid them no mind, once he was sure they were also content to leave him be. Whistling to himself, he left the store, looking for a drug store.

Forty minutes later, he had a car full of staples. He drove carefully out of town, avoiding other traffic and major highways. All around him, people were panicking; chaos ruled. Christian, by comparison, was calm and composed. He dug out a local map and took another look at it. He needed to make one more stop for supplies that would be hard secure. His eyes went south on the map, and he smiled. It was closer to D.C., which was a nightmare right now, but this spot was too good to pass up.

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...Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name. Oh yeah. But what's troubling you is the nature of my game...

Light glinted from the surface of the Chesapeake bay as Christian pulled off the highway into central Annapolis, turning off the Rolling Stones. Now was time to think further. The signposts for his destination were clear and easy to follow, but he wasn't about to drive up to the main gates and knock. He circled a little, looking for the right spot...

Ten minutes later and the slender youth was crouched on the roof of a five storey apartment block, a pair of binoculars raised to his eyes as he scanned the grounds of the Annapolis Naval Academy.

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He could see a handful of cadets, clustered nervously around the main area, talking. They kept a nervous eye on the sky, but not on the grounds. They were armed, but didn't appear to be doing a great job guarding the grounds. It looked like the instructors were away, and the cadets were playing, or at least slacking off.

Then his glasses caught something else. A thick column of black smoke drifted into the sky further to the south. The cadets had a wrong angle to see it, but Christian could see that something big was burning.

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Looks like trouble is coming closer. Christian mused to himself as he took the stairs down from his lookout perch three at a time. He jogged to his car and jumped in, starting her up. Time to get moving.

The two cadets on gatehouse duty were listening to the radio, trying to put together what had been happening and arguing with each other over the confused reports they were receiving, and thus didn't even notice the classic red Mustang convertible as it pulled up outside the barrier. They heard a shout from outside the guard hut and headed out. A young man sat in the car tapping his hands impatiently on the wheel to the beat of the Stones 'Honky-Tonk Woman', which was playing on his sound system. He lowered the music and peered over his shades as they stepped into view.

"Come on, come ON!" He called out, sounding a little stressed. "I'm late enough already. I'm forty minutes away, about to start my furlough, and they say "Get here in ten"? Jeezus. I need to get my shit stowed and get on duty. The Chief is gonna have my ass." The guy radiated the universal low-ranking military vibe of 'being in the shit' which the cadets readily identified with, especially at the moment.

"Okay, man." said one, reaching inside the guard hut and pressing the button to raise the barrier. "Keep it cool. There's some weird stuff happening, that's for sure. All the senior staff and regular troops got pulled out, so I guess their cancelling everyone's leave, huh?"

"Yeah, makes sense." said the guy in the car, shaking his head as he slipped the Mustang into first. "I can't believe what I'm hearin' on the radio, that's for certain. Wait, you mean you don't know the real deal here, either?"

"Nope. Just got told to hold this place down and await further." said the second cadet. "Y'know, the mushroom treatment."

"Shit." said the driver, starting the car moving as the barrier finished raising. "Well, I'll catch you guys later. Hell, they'll probably stick me on gate for being late."

The two cadets saluted, and if the return salute was maybe not totally crisp and perfect, they didn't notice. Christian smiled to himself as he drove onto guarded military soil and began looking for the armory. Alien invasion and it's long term effects aside, this day was actually shaping up to be really interesting.

Click to reveal..

Lying like a filthy weasel:

1d20=10 + 8 for Bluff = 18 total

DC 14 for Sense Motive on the guards


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The armory was easy enough to find; there were helpful signs, meant for the cadets. Christian used them, whistling softly along with Coltrane as he did. The armory was a short, squat, graceless building of brick deep in the heart of campus; Christian drove right up to it. It felt like it was going to be too easy, but then he saw that the doors were locked. And it wasn't a normal lock; it was an electronic device, designed to have a combination typed into it.

Well, this wasn't the end of his trail; he'd overcome these before. It would just take longer and entail more risk. Still, as empty as the campus was, it still wasn't enough to stop him. With a little smile, he pulled out his tools - and paused, listening.

One of those golden ships shot over the base, then banked and came back. When it zipped back, Christian saw those golden energy beams lance down. He estimated that it was firing on the open area where he'd seen the students clustering.

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Christian looked up and his lips thinned as he imagined the already frightened cadets, most no older than he, running from those aircraft. He regarded the craft scathingly before crouching by the doors of the armory and unscrewing the front plate of the electronic lock, being careful not to set off the anti-tamper wire that was just inside. While he worked, he could hear the sound of the fliers and screams, but his concentration didn't waver.

He just worked a little faster.

Click to reveal..

Disable Device

1d20=12 + 5 = 17

The lock beeped three times, a red light flashing in time with the beeping, then made an electronic buzz and clicked over to green. Christian grinned as he pocketed his tools and, looking around once more, slipped into the armory.

He worked quickly but thoroughly, locating what he required before loading the cases into the back seat of his car. A few ammo cans followed, and as he made the second trip Christian noticed the alien craft was still buzzing around the college campus, flying about 100 feet above rooftop level and strafing the hell out of anything moving. Large dark eyes regarded the flier for a long moment, then narrowed. He turned back to the armory, disappearing once more into the darkness. It didn't take him long to find what he was looking for.

He emerged once more into the twilight, carrying a long heavy case painted olive drab in one hand. Yellow lettering on the cases side was indistinct in the dim and shifting light as parts of the college went up in flames from the weapons of the flier. He opened the snaps on the case and lifted out a long, sleekly lethal device. Christian looked up at the circling, slow moving flier some 700 feet away, and grinned like a child at Christmas.

He shouldered his new toy and moved unhurriedly to a clear firing spot about 20 feet from his car. He waited, fishing out a cigarillo and placing it in his mouth with one hand as the other kept the weapon shouldered. Patience was rewarded, and the teeth gripping the end of the Al Capone were bared in a grin as the pilot of the spacecraft evidently spotted some other poor soul on the ground and began to tear up the night with those golden blasts of energy.

Christian lifted the launch tube into place firmly and flicked the 'Arm' button. A faint ping sounded, then started to repeat as he lined the sighting reticule onto the weird alien craft. The pinging noises grew closer and closer together before merging into a solid tone, and Christian grinned.

He squeezed the trigger.

The Stinger missile had armed and accelerated to Mach 2 before it hit the strafing flier, it's infrared seeker head unerringly homing the 3 kilo warhead right into the thing's engines. Christian lifted one hand to shield his eyes as the craft simply exploded in a huge coruscating fireball, only the barest fragments of wreckage coming down onto the Annapolis College grounds. He shouldered the launcher and trotted back over to his car. Taking five minutes to reload the SAM, he stowed it in the back seat and jumped into his Mustang.

His point had been made. Now it was time to get the fuck out of there.

He lit the cigarillo, though.

Click to reveal..

Ranged attack roll.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Chris drove out of Annapolis easily. The cadets had scattered, and his wasn't the only car moving away from the college. In the general shuffle, he merely drove away, putting distance between himself and the destroyed bird.

There was still that plume of smoke. Chris considered it, and when he had a high point, he pulled out his binoculars and took another look. It was a commercial airplane, downed and rammed into the side of a building. Christian could see people milling around it, and some lying on the ground, clearly injured or dead. He'd seen accidents like this before, on the news. The difference was, this time no official help was coming.

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He warred with himself for a few moments. He was one guy, in a sports car full of food, medical supplies and stolen military hardware. Somehow, he doubted that he'd be able to lend much assistance down there. Well, they would probably be interested in the food and medical supplies, but...

Somehow, he doubted they'd be getting much assistance anyway.

"Fuck." he muttered around the cigarillo, an expression of resigned disgust with himself. He knew what he should do. The cold-bloodedly 'correct' move would be to drive on. But when he slipped the Mustang in gear and tore off in a screech of tires, he was headed towards the plume of smoke that marked the downed aircraft.

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