Darkfall

This is the place to recount your superheroic deeds for all to gaze upon with astonishment and wonder.
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Belial666
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Darkfall

Postby Belial666 » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:23 am

I was walking through Exelon Plaza when my cellphone beeped.

Kitten heeled grey pumps clacking against the pavement, nose (thankfully) deadened to the usual city aromas of burned rubber, car exhaust and human sweat that had been so annoying when I first arrived, I ignored the insistent ringing as I made for the bank; people to see, work to do, money to handle and all that. Besides, didn't I habitually "forget" to charge the thing to avoid family calls?

Shit.

Terminal overstuffing had never been a problem for the kind of ergonomic briefcases I favored. That did little to stop my cursing as I frantically shoved everything aside to reach the improperly-named smartphone. Nobody in this day and age could afford to ignore that kind of impossible call. Grey gloves marred by ink from a couple of accidentally broken pens, I finally found the offending device and stared at the screen. Mockingly showing zero bars for power, SMS reminder flashing -and the beeping not the right ring for it- only an idiot would fail to check it out. So I did, and found just four letters and three exclamation marks;

DUCK!!!

Cursing my luck, I kissed pavement and shouted for everyone else to follow my example. I mostly got surprised or undecided glances - and a couple of lewd ones from two teenagers interested in what a pencil skirt might reveal in dangerous situations. Two seconds later, several ground floor windows and a sizable piece of wall exploded out of Chase Tower and adrenaline made the acrid smell of finely ground cement and burned metal sharper. Glass flying around at high speed resulted into several bystanders getting cuts before they could react, even as the concrete piece made a credible impression of an artillery shell six feet behind me. If not for the "anonymous" tip, this day would have ended badly for a certain corporate executive. As it was, I still got hit by fragments that made a mess of both my skirt and business shirt and knocked the IEM out of my left ear. That made the subsequent wailing and gnashing of teeth about half as annoying but did nothing for my phone's insistent ringing.

Cable. Back. Y R Wlcm. AV out.

Things had started well enough earlier today. No armageddon business in the morning news. No weirdo characters met during the morning jog. Some recent stock options bearing fruit and a phonecall from my boss confirming the shareholder meeting later in the day. Half an hour of preparation culminating with the choice of dark grey business casual attire and a pair of newly tuned IEMs just for said meeting. And now all of that ruined in a mere ten seconds. Dragging my clothesdamaged self through the debris and towards cover, I scanned the mass of cowering, wailing or running civilians for the projectile. Contrary to popular belief, buildings don't explode because someone cheated on the materials. Not unless the usual suspects skimped a lot more than they usually do or Hollywood is involved.

Sure enough, a human-shaped, soot-covered figure of yellow metal rose up from behind a totaled car, his trajectory altered by the impact with the wall. Vaguely oriental-looking scale mail sporting the spiked gauntlets and boots, conical helmet without faceplate and the ubiquitous katana people who've seen far too many movies associate with samurais. Goldenrod came to his feet with an obvious effort, still stunned and oblivious to the chaos around him. His actual superhero handle had little to do with George Lucas but his recent track record and relative inexperience made Aurum a big target for the tabloids. Case in point, this very situation.

Metahumans had been a fact of life for well over a decade now. During that time, O'Hare airport had been rebuilt, the Navy Pier had to be moved after the Lake Michigan incident, countless buildings had taken damage and the city had been renamed. Twice. And that was only for Chicago - now called the "New Chicago" after the aforementioned Lake Michigan incident. On the other hand, natural disaster lethality ratings were less than half, capital crimes were a good forty percent down despite the appearance of supervillains, the metahuman-assisted industry sector was growing by leaps and bounds and nobody even talked about the Second Depression anymore. For those reasons, many people sympathized with metahumans in general and superheroes in particular.

As a dark green robotic juggernaught that looked like a cross between a main battle tank and something that came from the dark side of the moon walked around Chase Tower and aimed its shoulder-mounted artillery piece in my general direction, I found that blaming superhero-sympathizers was both easy and viscerally satisfying... if futile.
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Belial666
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Re: Darkfall

Postby Belial666 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:16 pm

"You guys suck." I proclaimed as Aurum and I were trying to hide behind a statue of Mega, old Chicago's first and most prominent hero. Having been enough of a comic nut to copy the chest shield and cape motif and get unsuccessfully sued for it, a four-meter statue of him should have been enough cover. Unfortunately, Aurum's armor was bulky, highly polished and made of gold. Awesomely impractical things account for a good fifteen percent of my yearly profits.

"Not my fault, lady" he answered in a mechanical speech that disguised his true voice by making a homage to Darth Vader. "Fire breaks out in the Willis Tower and half the team is called away. Nobody expected Dreadnought to show up!" A miniature old-style periscope extended from the armor's helmet, somehow feeding him images from around the statue's right foot despite not being connected to his eyes in any way. Apart from a thin noseguard, the helmet's face was completely open - which was seven kinds of stupid and three kinds of dangerous right there. "By the way," he continued while fiddling with some gadgets in his utility belt "shouldn't you be running away screaming at the top of your voice?"

Not in the job description. I whispered, too softly for him to hear. Dreadnought, the guy in the fifteen-foot manshaped tank, was scanning the area still, shoulder artillery swinging left and right while his heavy robotic feet opened cracks in the ground with every step. After his first shot went clean through Chase Tower, hit Aurum and smashed him into the plaza outside, he'd tried to finish the job but missed; the ten-foot crater that resulted had sent everyone sane running. I'd opted to remain; my credibility would skyrocket if I could provide a first-hand account of the battle. Such as it was. Aurum's armor had survived the hit but the guy seemed strictly "V" class. At least he was smart enough to know when to lay low.

"Hey lady, are you deaf?!" "Goldenrod" shouted into my left ear. I scowled at him but refrained from punching his face through the open helmet. Sooner or later he'd notice the drawbacks of that design... and might even survive the realization. "I've been telling you to run for it while I go distract the villain but I'm not risking my ass if you're gonna waste it!"

The plaza was almost empty now and we'd been talking too loudly. When a shell exploded through the bronze statue's chest and its concrete base crumbled from the strain, I frantically jumped aside to avoid the toppling metal. Unfortunately, Aurum's gauntlet on my arm didn't let go and we both fell head over heels down several stairs, over what was left of a minivan crushed by falling debris and into the street. Shirt and skirt reduced to rags, one glove torn off entirely (not the ink-drenched one, worse luck), eyes stinging from all the dust, my other IEM broken and fortune still saw fit to have the worst superhero in the history of ever land on me. Dusty face comically stretched by surprise, horror and maybe a bit of embarassment, he supported himself on hands and knees and looked worriedly down at me, mouth flapping like a fish out of water. I could still read lips though so I gave him the answer his question warranted; I punched him in the face.

"That's for being an idiot and violating the Public Heroics Act" I half-growled. "Wait till I give in my report; showing your normal identity, civilian put in danger, engaging obviously superior force in an urban area. My boss is going to have a field day."

Shimmying out from under his Glowiness I ran around the plaza, hoping to put as much distance as I could between myself and the approaching supervillain. Pumps are not for sprinting made but being six feet tall and leggy helped. Dodging behind cars, trees and the occasional plaza decoration, I felt the shockwave of two more artillery strikes through the floor and saw Aurum's answering barrage flashing through the air; a fireball splashing harmlessly against his enemy's massive armor and an azure lightning strike cascading over the bigger battlesuit to little effect. Whatever the older comics would have you believe, energy weapons weren't automatically superior to conventional arms and in this case could do little to bridge the gap in both firepower and armor. I paused to watch as Dreadnought took careful aim and prepared to finish the fight, Aurum having nothing to hide behind and nowhere to go. I sighed in displeasure but couldn't not watch after meeting the boy. From what I'd seen of his unlined face, earnest eyes and smiling mouth, Aurum must have been a couple of years younger than me. It was that inexperience that let to this sad outcome but I regretted my earlier vehemence; whatever his failings, he'd shown both bravery and some common sense - at least during the fight.

A finger-thin, sun-bright beam of emerald light lashed out of the tiny periscope-like contraption on Aurum's helmet, bridging the gap to Dreadnought in an instant and scoring a direct hit on the bigger battlesuit's shoulder artillery. There was a secondary flash, a sizzling sound even I heard, and the cannon simply disintegrated. Its man-sized magazine fell off the battlesuit's back, spilling twelve-inch metal shells around the combatants, and its wrist-thick power feed trailed almost to the ground, spitting sparks like an arc welding machine.

I stood up from around cover in surprise. Dreadnought stood there in even more surpise. Aurum took the opportunity to launch two more fireballs and another bolt of lightning at his opponent from what looked like wrist-mounted projectors. However much I'd underestimated the kid, his maneuver only postponed the inevitable; Dreadnought's shoulder artillery had obviously been a railgun, a device far more intricate and vulnerable than the solidity of his heavy chest armor - and Aurum didn't seem to have any more disintegrating beams to throw. Ignoring the minor scorch marks, the villain in the massive combat walker furiously tried to step on his smaller opponent. He missed but the breaking pavement threw Aurum to the ground and Dreadnought caught him a split second later.

Damnit!

Why do things have to be so complicated? I could have had another boring day advising the Board of Metahuman Insurance, investigating all those claims out of Metropolis (former New York) and avoiding my family. But I got the Call and there went my excuse to avoid what was coming and still live with myself. When Dreadnought landed the first punch on a captured Aurum, I was already running. Doing nothing was not an option. As the second punch struck I discarded my pumps, one of them heeless by now. Aurum was struggling feebly but his suit didn't have enough power in all of its body to match one of the bigger guy's hands. As the other massive fist rose to bring about the inevitable conclusion, I caught the loose, wrist-thick power cable dangling from Dreadnought's back, pulled myself up with the other and slammed it into the villain's back.

Railguns are energy weapons that just happen to fire physical projectiles. The energy requirements of launching quarter ton shells at several times the speed of sound are enormous. And now I was short-circuiting that power feed, using Dreadnought as an expendable fuse.

The acrid smells of ozone, burned metal and fried electronics combined in an unpleasant mix as the massive battlesuit hissed and danced to the tune of a couple million volts. Eyes closed, I couldn't see the flashes many witnesses would later report and having lost my IEMs, I could barely hear them. After Dreadnought toppled to the ground with a deafening, bone-jarring clang, I stood up and looked down at a gaping Aurum and smiled.

"You're welcome." I said dryly. Exactly as the phonecall had.
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Belial666
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Re: Darkfall

Postby Belial666 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:18 pm

"Are you a reporter, by chance?" he said aloud right to my ear.

"You wish." I snorted. "No ms. Lane for you, buddy!"

Aurum and I were sitting on the cracked marble stairs leading to the square proper. A smoking, lifeless Dreadnought lay at our feet. As victory scenes go, it left something to be desired. For one, Exelon Plaza had been thoroughly wrecked; craters deeper than I was tall, spiderweb of cracks the size of a stadium, two blasted statues and a dozen vehicles filling the air with the suffocating stench of plastic, tin and gasoline in a slow burn. For another, the two of us were in less than mint condition. Aurum's armor was blackened and sported dents the size of basketballs, one arm had been bent enough out of shape that its joints had fused and the guy had lost his weird helmet to boot. I was shoeless, one glove gone and the other covered in ink, skirt and shirt barely modest and both IEM's a complete loss.

Aurum had found out about my hearing impairment almost immediately and opted to sit close enough to be practically in my lap. We'd been making smalltalk while waiting for his team to arrive. Or wallowing in self-pity at our stupidity; the jury was still out on that one.

"Did it hurt?"

"Excuse me?"

"The fire that left those marks" he elaborated, pointing at my gloveless hand. I, too, stared for a moment at the irregular pale spots the glove had been hiding, considering the past. In the past hour alone I had... but no. Maybe another time.

"No" I replied simply, if not entirely truthfully. Throwing the other glove at a burning semi, I finally smiled. This could have gone so much worse.

"Let's start again, shall we?" I said, rising to my feet and offering my hand, the one with just a small white spot around the base of my thumb. "I am Amara Balisha, claims investigator." Shaking Aurum's hand, I laughed at his comically gaping jaw. "Pleased to meet you."

"You... you're a banker?!" he gasped. "But..."

"You picked up a fight with a supervillain right on top of the biggest bank in Chicago. What did you expect?"

He gave me a measuring gaze. "You don't look like a banker."

"Technically, I'm not." I concurred, showing teeth. "I'm an advisor in cases of metahuman insurance. Want to adjust your viewing angle upwards?" I finished sweetly.

He jumped. I thought it was to avoid righteous wrath in the form of insurance cancellations when I noticed the winged girl. The sound I'd taken for some car exploding must have been the sonic boom of her arrival. Her mouth moved as she came closer but I didn't catch a word; "Get new IEMs" moved on top of the to-do list. Till then, I watched as Aurum got the chewing out he deserved.

"What the hell were you thinking?!"

Yep, that ought to be good. She was shouting loudly enough for me to hear now, too.

"...aking Dreadnaught in the middle of... ...retarded dimwit?"

Technically, that last bit was over the top. Then again, so was the girl herself. Wings? Check. Curves? Check. Long black wavy hair falling down her shoulders? Check. Revealing ethnic outfit? Check. Classic greek or middle-eastern features? Check. Large lavender eyes? Check. If not for being a mere five feet nothing and those wings, Diana Prince could have sued for copyright infringement.

"...the hell happened to staying undercover? Did you at least find our contact?"

That was interesting. More interesting than trying to remember which comic her outfir reminded me of. Lots of metahumans imitated comic books to great extent so comics were as much required reading as Mythology studies in my line of work. But since a yellow and grey leotard with a plunging neckline (always a must!) spiked long gloves and boots and a star motif didn't ring any bells, "Goldenrod" being there to meet someone and not to fight Dreadnaught was more important.

"...certain? We need a heavy hitter and calling that favor cost... ...you're joking, right?"

Wait a minute. This sounded like a recruitment run, not crimefighting or contract work. The company had Aurum noted as a solo hero and... No. I'd almost missed it in all the excitement but he had admitted to being part of a team. Our files needed some revision it would seem.

"...interesting. Describe the fight to me again... ...her? You're sure?"

People were beginning to return to the area in twos and threes though traffic had not been restored yet. Fires were burning in earnest now and water from broken pipes flowed out of some cracks but it didn't matter. As any cop, emergency response team, claims investigator or psychologist will tell you, tragedy attracts people. Accidents, crimes, disasters, even wars draw human attention like a moth to the flame. It is the reason at least one "CSI" series had recently entered its twenty-second round and also why fights between metahumans get so much attention that private interests had been quietly sponsoring the less violent supercriminals and indirectly arranging for them to "stumble" upon superheroes. I was also why my attention wandered at the wrong moment and didn't catch some details soon enough.

Damn.

Walking away from Aurum and his companion as quietly as I knew how, I stepped around debris and craters and through thickening smoke on my way to Chase Tower. Perhaps the company could disappear me until things quieted down. Or maybe there was a position in another continent? For the chain of events so far could not have been coincidence... and I was in deep trouble.

A sudden gust of displaced air nearly tore off me the tortured and dirty strips of cloth that once had been respectable business attire and acrid fumes were displaced by a pleasant aura of early spring with a hint of lavender. It was my time to jump as the winged girl appeared out of nowhere, planted herself firmly in my path and looked up at me with a serious expression.

"Ms Balisha?" she queried loudly enough to be audible. It was not really a question. "My name is Dawn. I am a member of a still forming team of heroes that will act out of Chicago and we need to talk."

I raised an eyebrow and waited for her to elaborate. Somehow I didn't think our business would be about my official job description.

"Evidence suggests you're a metahuman" she said, confirming my worries. "Someone pointed us in your direction earlier today." Pausing to sigh, stare at the still immobile Dreadnaught and scowl she nodded.

"And someone saw fit to do the same for the Outfit..."
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