04 Return

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Re: Return

Post by NPCs » April 19th, 2014, 4:02 pm


The name Devon Balstone was engraved on the nameplate affixed to the office door. Inside the spare decor enhanced the lines of the architecture. The collection of law books stood out on the shelves. And a first edition copy of 'The Art of War' was promptly displayed on the shelf catty-corner to them. Behind the rich oak desk, lounged a man in the black leather chair. His eyes were trained on the monitor before him while he spoke on the phone with a colleague.

Luis Richter rapped his knuckle on the door, gaining the man's attention. When he was waved in he stepped quietly to the desk and took a seat. There, he waited.

"Very good," Balstone nodded as he spoke to his caller. "Keep me apprised of the situation- adieu." He cradled the phone to its base and then looked to Richter. "The plan is proceeding as designed. How are things on your end?"

"We have them in the dark," Richter placed a folder over the desk. "Unfortunately the target has not been found."

"And yet the artists of comic books make it appear so simple." Balstone took up the folder and skimmed through the contents. "I had thought that your pet would live up to the impression."

"And thus us the difference between fact and fiction." Richter laughed under his breath.

"Indeed," Balstone placed the file in a desk drawer that he locked and then stood. "Come with me there is something that you need to see."

They left the office by an internal elevator and descended to the levels seven floors below the surface.

The walls of the hall were bare aside from the lighting above that was hidden by the crown molding. Their steps were muffled by the grey carpet beneath them. At the first door, Balstone pushed it open to reveal a workout center. One person occupied the room.

She sat on a weight machine pumping the irons to work her arms. Her blonde hair was pulled taught into a ponytail. And her pale blue eyes were focused on the emptiness in front of her. Sweat glistened from her skin and dripped from her forehead. And her breath cursed the air with every upswing.

"Fraulein," Balstone called to her.

She dropped the weights and stood. There was a cold hard look in her eyes as she turned and approached them.

Balstone smiled with pleasure. "As you can see she has recovered without one blemish."

"And what of her combatant?" Richter asked. His lip curled at the surge of memories. "That... thing."

"You would like to see her?" Balstone asked. "I thought as much." He stepped aside allowing her to pass between them.

"You should have let me kill her." She snorted and then spit into the trash can before pushing her way out the swinging doors.

"It's alive?" Richter asked.

"Oh yes, quite so," Balstone said. With a wave of his hand, he motioned towards the door.

They moved further down the hall to a window that looked into a laboratory. Inside, the form of a woman lay unconscious on a metal gurney with her body covered by a white sheet. Her head had been shaved and electrodes were attached that connected her to various machines. They served to monitor her vitals, including brain activity.

"Isn't this dangerous?" Richter asked.

"The wonders of medical technology, my friend." Balstone snickered as he slapped his colleague on the shoulder. "She is heavily and continuously sedated. There is no waking up from that unless we stop the drug." He pointed to the nurse who was replacing the saline bag and checking the feed lines. "This one is out of commission and soon we will have the other one as well."

Richter sneered. "You said the same thing about Garston and that didn't end well."

In a sift moved Balstone swung out and backhanded Richter so hard it knocked the man off balance. "You are never to mention that again!" He bellowed.

As Balstone walked away, Richter touched at his own lip to dab away the blood. "Your time is indeed coming, comrade."

Dissension among the ranks or an infiltrator?
I deliberately did not describe physical attributes for these 2 to inspire your imagination.
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Re: Return

Post by Triton » July 25th, 2014, 9:25 am

Joe Pierce stood watching the smoldering remains of the solar garden. He took a mental count of those in the area while he spoke on his phone. "Thank you Senator, and yes, I do believe this is a possible terrorist attack. I don't know how many are here. It could be one person, for all I know."

"It's a shame. Your people do good work out there." The Senator said. "I have crews out working, we'll get you switch over to receiving within the hour."

"I do appreciate it. We all do." Joe grimaced as Blaze and Pyroclastic approached.

"I hate to cut this," The Senator said. "I'm going into a meeting with the governor on this. If it is the ISR we should all be concerned."

"I agree, good luck." Pierce closed his flip-phone and turned his attention to Blaze and Pyroclastic. "They're working on it, we'll have power back in an hour or so."

"Well, that's some good news." Pyroclastic said. He held up a cup of coffee. "Courtesy of our gal Sally. She's corralling the kids in the cafeteria with some food."

"Then we should eat," Pierce said.

"And talk," Pyroclastic said. "We need to work on countermeasures. Any thoughts on who's behind this?"

"Senator Nolton suspects the ISR and so do I," Pierce said.

They crossed the lawn towards the cafeteria. A sheriff's car stopped in their path and two men got out to join them.

"Good morning sheriff," Pierce greeted him.

"Morning to you, good is relative." The old man stepped up to him an placed his hands on his hips. "Two days Pierce, I retire in two days. Tell me this is some kind of send-off prank."

"I'm afraid not," Pierce nodded towards the one-story building. "Let's eat and talk. Something tells me it's only just begun."

"The good news is that we haven't lost anyone." Blaze said.

"Not so," Pierce opened the door and held it for the others. "Eugene Cunningham was found dead at Arid Centre."

"Do you think it's connected?" Pyroclastic asked.

"At this point, I'm not ruling it out," Pierce said. They stepped in line for breakfast plates and held their conversation.

Sally greeted them with a bright smile and links of sausage for each of them. "There's juice and coffee on the table in front of the beverage station." She said.

"Sal, I don't know how you do it." Pyroclastic said. He leaned over the table to kiss her cheek. "You're amazing."

"Oh, it's just breakfast," She waved it off. "Anyone can throw it together."

"Thank you," Pierce said. "I have to agree this is amazing."

"Oh, go on with you," Sally laughed. "It's what family does for each other."

In the dining area, they chose a table near the center.

"So, what happened to Cunningham?" Pyroclastic asked.

He used his fork to cut into his pancakes and shoved a small piece into his mouth.

"They're investigating," Pierce sipped his coffee. "Baylen said she'll e-mail the results once the autopsy is in."

"It's got to be ISR," Pyroclastic said. "The question is- what's their next target?"

"What makes you think there'll be another one?" Blaze asked.

"It's how they work," Nolton said. "Three prong attacks are a classic strategy of theirs. The last time, they took out an entire family."

Pierce looked passed Nolton to a group of girls. Two of them sat with their backs to the wall. He watched them in their innocence. "Not all of them."

"How is Medic?" Pyroclastic asked. He smashed his eggs with his sausage and pancakes then shoved a morsel into his mouth.

"She's good," Pierce nodded. "I think she's finally come to terms with it. Before this started I was thinking about sending Torque and Double Fire out there to work with Sensory. DF is still technically a rookie and, I think, the experience would be good for her."

"Did I step on your plans by asking Pyroclastic to work with her?" Blaze asked.

Pierce set his cup down and sat back. "You'd go with them, right?"

"Of course," He pushed his plate forward and sat back. "So, what're we doing here? What's the plan?"

The lights flickered on, some of the kids cheered while others jeered.

"First we find Vortex and assemble a command team to find the intruders," Pierce said. He blew on his coffee to cool it.
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Re: Return

Post by Cleric » July 25th, 2014, 5:53 pm

Jon sat there for a while, as he waited for Eddie to get his equipment running. He felt a buzzing sensation from his back pocket and pulled out his phone, before stepping out of the room. “Hey Joe,” he answered. “How are things goin'?”

“Try again,” a familiar voice said.

“Red? How the hell did ya get this number?”

“Never mind that. What the hell is going on there? You've been black for a while now.”

“Avalon made her move a couple hours ago,” he answered. “Blew up the power n' got everyone in an uproar. Problem is I know she's around here somewhere; I just have no bloody idea where.”

The power suddenly turned on and Jon cocked a smile. “Looks like everythin'll be up n' runnin' soon.”

“That's nice and all, but I got myself some info you might wanna hear.”

“I'm all ears.”

“Did all kinds of digging and found out that the ISR are the ones who hired your femme fatale.”

“Damn,” Jon stated aloud. “Joe told me they might be involved. Guess now we know. I need ta' let him know.”

“Your buddy Pierce already knows,” Red said. “What you need to do now is find Avalon's cute little butt and do something.”

“What do ya think I been—Red, how do ya know Joe already knows?”

“You going to play twenty questions or you going to get your ass in gear and find her?”

“Fine, Mr. Oracle. How 'bout ya tell me where she's hidin'?”

“Actually, I think I might know.”

“What? How in God's name would-”

“Will you just shut up and listen?”

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Re: Return

Post by Double Fire » September 21st, 2014, 2:23 pm

Mandy slipped off the desk as she set the flashlight down. Watching the two scrutinize the physical aspect of Mona's system was about as boring as it could get for her. "Is there anything that I can do?" She asked.

"Oh right," Eddie looked up from the open carcass of the machine as if suddenly realizing she was still there. "Would you go to the basement and check on the power control room?" He slid his chair to her side and opened a desk drawer and gave her a key card. "This will get you in. You want the door that says, Mona."

"Right, basement, control room, Mona, got it." She slipped the card into the back pocket of her jeans and stepped out. With a nod to Cleric, she pulled open the stairwell door and headed down.

In the basement, she found it lit only by a minuscule number of exposed light bulbs. Some were out with their glass casings scattered about the floor. It set her on guard and she moved slowly forward.

She discovered the power control room door ajar, hanging from only the top hinge with only two screws keeping it up. She checked her cell phone. "Damn, still no service."

Pushing the door aside caused the hinge to give way and the door crashed to the floor. Mandy jolted back, startled by the ear piercing clash of metal on cement. Her ears rung from the noise as her heart pounded from the adrenalin rush. She paused for a moment to catch her breath. "Okay, note to self, be more careful."

Entering the Power Control Room she noticed that the various doors were closed except for one. A Plexiglas marker beside the door frame was labeled MONA - restricted access. The security panel below it hung from only a few wires. "Oh, Eddie will be pissed about this one."

She took a step towards the control panel and felt the snap and crunch of something beneath her foot. Crouching to investigate, she found a plastic knob that belonged on the panel. "Not good, this is not good."

Tossing the piece aside, she pushed some debris aside to sit on the floor. In the lotus position, she focused her thoughts on where she'd last scene, Eddie.


Still in his lab, Eddie teamed with Torque in trying to reestablish power for the computer system. He emerged from behind a console pillar and stumbled back into the wall. "Do you have to do that?"

"Sorry," Mandy's transparent form shrugged. "You need to come to the basement. Mona isn't going to work with the mess down here."

"How bad is it?" Torque asked.

"That depends on your definition of bad," Mandy said. "No cell reception is one thing but this- it's indescribable."

"Don't touch anything," Eddie said. "We're on our way."


Mandy discharged the energy for her double and took a deep breath. As she got up, she set her hand on the floor for balance and instead, came to rest on a baseball bat. The moment she touched it she was filled with a sense of rage and familiarity. She stood and then picked up the bat, staring at it. "Hollow?"
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Re: Return

Post by Cleric » September 24th, 2014, 10:16 pm

“The main buildin',” Jon said, as he stood outside the lab. “Ya sure Av-”

He quieted when Double Fire walked passed. He gave her a nod, after she acknowledged him, and waited until she was gone. “Are ya sure Avalon's holed up there?”

“Pretty sure,” Red answered.

“N' how did ya figure this out?”

“Got my first nibble from an Arms Dealer in Boston who sold her some explosives. From there, I tracked some channels that led me to an anonymous source who wants a body count at that campus of yours.”

“What? How many?”

“Enough. I picked up some blueprints and figured the main building would house enough potential targets.”

“Makes sense,” Jon said and stilled for a moment. “Ya got blueprints of the campus.”


“Red, Joe keeps this place more secret than a President's lovechild. How did-”

“After all these years, you still have to ask me these questions?”

“Aye, aye, I get it; yer Mister-bloody-Wizard. Well, considerin' all the fuss she's caused, the buildin' should be fairly empty, but I can't take a chance.”

“You going to warn your friend, Pierce?”

Jon pondered and said, “Aye; I caused enough trouble by not tellin' him in the first place. Thanks for the help; keep me posted, if anythin' else crops up.”

He hung up and pushed the quick dial for Joe, as Vortex and Torque sped passed him. They appeared to be in a hurry and, considering all that was going on, he closed the phone and followed close behind.

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Re: Return

Post by Torque » May 14th, 2015, 10:49 pm

In the basement, they entered the room to see Mandy surrounded by the destruction. Vortex looked around as he stepped through the debris to reach her. The redness on his face showed the anger that he held in. "This is frakked." He set his hands on his hips as he turned to Mandy. "Any idea who did this?"

"Not yet," she clutched the bunt end of the bat and held it out to him. "My guess is that this is what was used."

Inspecting the bat he raised a brow. "Fingerprints?"

"Ours and whoever used it," Mandy said. "Unless they used gloves."

"Any chance the camera caught it?" Torque asked.

"Mona would know," Vortex nodded towards the damaged console.

"Say no more," Torque opened the panel and lied on her back to get inside. "Tech is going to be pissed."

Mandy folded her arms with a sigh of tension. "Boss, you should know... I can't explain how or why I suspect him but I think it was Hollow."

"Let's hope your suspicions are wrong."

"Who's this Hollow?" Cleric asked.

"My boyfriend," Mandy said.

My question is why would he do this?" Vortex asked. "Freelancer or not he's one of us or he was."

He picked through the debris and became more distressed with each snapped wire, smashed circuit board, and broken connector. Giving in to his emotions, he leaned back against the wall and set his head back. Closing his eyes he focused on his breathing to calm himself.

"Good news!" Torque emerged from the panel with two objects. "Both the CPU and memory core is intact."

"Thank God," Vortex stepped away from the wall. "Torque, take care of things here I'll get Tech to start working on repairs."

"Break it to him gently." She said.

"There's no gentle way to tell him." As he stepped towards the door he paused beside Cleric. "Watch their backs, okay."

"Yer leavin' now?" Cleric asked.

"I'll be back in about five or ten minutes." With a smirk, he shrugged his shoulder. "It's just a jaunt to Arizona."

Vortex stepped into the hall. There was a flash of light and he was gone.

"Just a jaunt, eh?" he asked aloud and looked at Torque. "'n what should we do, while he's off jauntin'?"

As if on cue Torque's phone chimed in with a text message. She glanced at the call screen. "It's Triton, he wants us in his office. Let's leave this for Tech."

"Fine by me," Mandy used her foot to push aside the debris to clear a walkway. "You're telling him about Vortex leaving?"

"Yup, just texted him back." Torque looked to Cleric. "You coming?"

"Lead de way." He swept his hand towards the door.
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Re: Return

Post by Vortex » July 7th, 2015, 7:11 pm

Ejected from the swirling storm of energy, Vortex hit the ground with a side roll. He came to a stop at the foot of an Autobot and stumbled to gain his footing. The clicking sounds of metal drew his attention upwards. He stood like a statue, frozen, as he looked to the large robots gathered around. One held its cannon pointed towards him.

"No, Ratchet, don't!" Tech jumped in between them waving his arms. "This is Eddie, my brother. He's one of us. One of the good guys."

The robot pulled back his weapon and grumbled as he turned away. "I've never seen a human do that."

"Talking cars that don't transform and now this. What's this world coming to?" Another asked.

Feeling the pull as Tech tugged on his arm, Vortex snapped from his trance. "This isn't a social call... There's an emergency situation at East Coast. Mona needs you."

Tech released his arm and furrowed his brow. "What's wrong with my girl?"

"There isn't time to explain." Vortex turned his attention to the energy storm. Reaching his arm out, he flexed his fist towards the storm. The energy dispersed with a flash a light. Vortex held his arm up to shield his eyes. "That's new."

"No kidding," Tech said. "Are you on overload or something?"

"Vortex!" Doctor Joyce Baylen approached with Medic by her side. "What the hell was that?"

"One hell of a weird trip," Vortex said. He flexed his fingers, turning his hand. "It felt like I was thrown out."

"Maybe you should stay and let us run some tests." She said.

"There isn't time Doc," Vortex shook his head. "East Coast has been hit. We need Tech to get Mona back online as soon as possible."

"I don't like this," Baylen said. "That vortex of yours wasn't normal."

"I can go with them," Medic said. "I'd make sure that he gets checked out."

"So, that's risking not one but two of my crew?" Baylen asked.

"Like it or not Doc, it's the fastest way." Vortex said.

He turned away from them and flung his arm outwards, flexing his fingers again. The wind churned into a cycle that settled in a horizontal position. Static electricity built up and a bolt of purple lightning struck across the event horizon.

"Now that's normal." Vortex said.

"Show off," Tech said.

"Impressive," Ratchet said.

"We've got to go," Vortex turned back to the others. "Don't worry Doc, I'll take care of them."

"Prime, could I borrow Wrangler to help?" Tech asked.

There was a growl of skepticism from the larger of the robots. "Very well... Wrangler, go with them."

One robot changed into a four-door Jeep and revved his engine. Tech and Medic got in and they followed Vortex through the portal.
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Re: Return

Post by Cleric » August 20th, 2015, 6:37 pm

JP w/ Triton, Torque, and Double Fire

I'll tell Joe 'bout Avalon after he lets us know what's going on. Jon thought as he followed the others to Joe's office. Who knows, maybe he's got an idea what ta' do 'bout her.

When they neared the office, Jon stepped ahead to open the door for them. Always a gentleman, he mused.

Inside, Joe waited for them behind his desk, as he stared out of the window, and gestured for them to sit.

"Tell me ya got some good news," Jon said, as he took the furthest seat.

"Thank you for coming. I will be as succinct as possible." Joe turned away from the window to face them. "The problems we face today are far greater than this intruder on campus. When the power went out, I was speaking with Dr. Baylen at Arid Centre. She believes that we've been infiltrated."

Torque held up a finger. "Let me guess, the ISR... They're the only ones bold enough to do this."

"Who are they?" Mandy asked.

"The International Socialist Regime," Joe said. He moved around the desk and leaned against it. "Although they've gone by different names through time, they're almost as old and influential as the Consortium. They became the ISR back in the early nineteen hundreds when communism was on the rise."

"Lovely," Mandy sighed.

"Indeed," Joe nodded. "Right now the objective is the intruder... So far, she's managed to elude me. Either she's telepathic as well or has some form of resistance."

"What's the game plan?" Torque asked.

"I want you to team with Cleric to find her... Whoever she is, she's good and that makes her dangerous."

From outside, a flash of lightning and crash of thunder rattled the Victorian home. Joe swung around the desk, returning to the window. A lightning bolt struck the tree just beyond the glass.

"Move!" Joe rushed to the door as the tree crashed through the roof and window, glass and wood scattered everywhere.

Jon's eyes went wide, "Shite," he cursed before part of the ceiling fell on him. He was out for a moment--a couple seconds or a minute, he couldn't tell--and came to with hefty debris on his chest. "Christ, ta'day just keeps gettin' better 'n better," he said, as he began to get himself out; using the extra boost the impact gave him. "Everyone else all right!?"

"I'm clear," Mandy said from the doorway.

"I'm good," Torque called out as she emerged from under the chair she had flipped to protect herself. The sound of groans drew her towards the debris of the window. She pushed her way through the tree branches.

"Oi vey, my head." Tech groaned.

"Tech?" She threw off the shingles and broke away parts of the tree to get to him. "Where the hell did you come from?"

"Nevada, via one nasty portal jump." He clambered to his feet, leaning on her for support. "I think Vortex is having issues."

Once Jon was on his feet and dusting himself off, he looked at the new guy. "Who the hell?" he asked and then looked at the ruined room. "Joe? Joe, ya here? Ya okay?"

"I'm fine Cleric," Joe said. He stood beside Mandy by the doorway dabbing a handkerchief to his forehead. "How's Tech?"

"He's a bit banged up but I think he'll live." Torque said.

"All right, then back to business." Joe took another look around the office and shook his head. "Torque, I want you to partner with Cleric on the intruder... Tech, Mandy, come with me."

"Sounds like a plan," Jon said, as he looked to Torque. "'N speakin' of our lovely guest, I think I know where she might be. Fancy a stroll?"

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Re: Return

Post by Torque » August 29th, 2015, 9:31 am

Outside, Torque smirked as they bypassed firefighters hosing down the burning tree. Just beyond them, she saw Vortex. He was on the ground shaking his head as he spoke with an attending medic. She recognized the girl immediately.

"Hold up a moment." She rushed towards them and stopped just a few feet short. "Is he going to live?"

"I think so." Medic stood and pulled off her latex gloves. "He should be checked out though. Something's happening with his ability."

"Yeah, I saw that," Torque said. "I take it he's the connection between the tree and Tech falling through the roof?"

"Is he all right?" Vortex asked. He stumbled as he stood and took a deep breath.

Torque shrugged one shoulder. "Eh, no worse for wear."

"I should check on his." Medic picked up her bag and slung the strap over her shoulder. "Where'd he land?"

"Triton's office," Torque said. "You should check on him and DF too."

"Will do." Medic gave her a lazy salute. "C'mon Wrangler. I'll introduce you to the boss."

The Jeep Wrangler beside them transformed into a giant robot and followed behind Medic.

Torque stood in silence to stunned to say anything.

Jon was also dumbstruck as he uttered, "Well... ya, uh... *ahem*... ya don't see that every day." He stared a little longer before he turned around, as he said, "I think I'll, uh, go after the psychotic assassin hidin' in wait ta' kill us; I feel it makes more sense than what I'm seein' right now."

"Hey." Vortex snapped his fingers in front of Torque's face. "Don't you have a job to do?"

"Huh, what?" She asked. "Oh yeah, I was going to help Cleric."

"Well, he's gone. Why don't you help me instead?" Vortex asked. "We need to get back to the control room for Mona. I want to see if this intruder appears on any security footage."

"Yeah, okay, I'm with you on that." She shook her head to clear her thoughts then followed Vortex back to the basement and the control room.

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Re: Return

Post by Cleric » September 17th, 2015, 8:57 pm

“Hired Assassin, damsel in distress, an explosion in the night, sabotage from within, a bloody tree landin' on me 'n now a bloody robot-car walkin' 'bout like it's just another day on campus,” Jon spoke aloud, as he walked to the main building; oblivious that Torque had remained behind. “'N it hasn't even been twenty-four hours yet since I got here. It's a bloody good thing I never completely signed on with the Consortium. My sanity just couldn't take it, and I've seen some crap.”

When he reached the building, he entered through the cafeteria doors. He drew one of his guns and kept it pointed at the ground, as he began to make his way through the building. After two floors, there was no sign of her; as well as anyone else. “So far so good,” Jon said. “Not a lotta people, not a lotta targets.”

While he stepped cautiously through a hall, a pair of eyes watched closely from a vent above. Avalon had returned to hiding when she realized someone was coming. The intent was to give whoever it was a nasty little surprise, but the sight of Cleric made things interesting. “So the lowly Hitman finally comes out to play,” she said, with a smile, as she slithered through the vent just behind. “He's not on the list, but fun is fun.”


Jon reached the last floor and let go a heavy sigh. “Dammit Red,” he cursed, as he put his gun away. “So much for the Main Buildin'. Maybe she ran off; not enough targets to shoot-up.”

Gunfire barked from behind, as a line of bullets tore into the floor beside him. He swiped both his guns from his waist and whipped around, as he aimed them down the hall, at nothing. “Heh, I owe Red an apology,” he said and then called out, “I'm guessin' that was ta' get my attention? I doubt someone with yer skills could miss so easily.”

“It wouldn't be any fun, if I killed you outright,” Avalon's disembodied voice answered. “Things were getting dull around here.”

“What, torturin' women in a factory not “fun” enough for ya?”

There was no answer, for a moment. “What did you do?”

“Whadda ya think I did? She's safe 'n sound now; very much alive. Guess I messed up yer plans a little.”

“You stupid bastard!” she screamed, as she jumped from one of the offices and lit the hall with her two Uzis; spraying the bullets in Cleric's general direction.

Jon managed to duck around a corner, as the bullets whizzed by. “Good Lord,” he said aloud. “She must'a really hated her.”

When the firing stopped, Jon knelt from cover and opened fire as well. To his dismay—and awe—she dodged his shots, with sharp, swift movements. “What the bleedin' Hell?”

She let him fire a couple more rounds, using her powers to let his bullets fly passed her, flawlessly. “There's a reason I'm a professional and you're just a flunky with a gun,” she said, as she calmly reloaded her guns. “Being cursed like the rest of these freaks has its advantages.”

“Freaks? Yer Psionic?”

“Very much so, yes,” she answered, with a crooked grin. “I don't usually share such information, but I want to see the look in your eyes when you realize there's nothing you can do. I'm going to kill you and I'm going to make sure it hurts; for ruining everything with Laurell.”

“I think I'm startin' ta get it now,” he said, as he reloaded as well. “Yer not in this for the paycheck, are ya? Yer just in it for the killin'.”

“You know what they say. “Love the work you do.” Well, I love my job very much.”

Avalon ducked, as Jon fired over her head, and shot him in the midsection. She flinched when he stumbled backward and slunk back into cover around the corner. “A vest?” she asked, under her breath. “There were no bulges under his shirt. Maybe . . .”

“It just now occurred to me,” she hollered. “but you wouldn't happen to also be-”

“Aye,” he answered. “Somethin' I don't share too often me'self. Keeps everyone on their toes.”

“So—what? You're bulletproof?”

“Somethin' like that. 'N I'm guessin' yer super fast or something?”

“Something like that,” she answered, as she smiled. God you're stupid.

At the other end of the hall, Jon peeked around the corner. “So... two “special” killers tryin' ta' kill each other. What say we make this interestin' 'n kick it into' gear?”

“Thought you'd never ask,” she said, as she stepped out of cover and began firing down the hall.

Jon followed suit and fired both guns as fast as possible, as he was pelted with an endless stream of bullets; while Avalon bobbed and weaved by each shot. Damn she's annoyin'.

Both walked toward the other and when they neared, both dropped their guns, as Jon threw a wide swing; completely missing his target. Avalon drew her throwing knives and held them firm, as she slashed him across the chest; ripping his shirt even more and leaving three long welts. Jon threw several more punches; each dodged and parried.

This may be harder than I imagined, Avalon thought, as she continued to evade and then attack. He's an idiot, but if I can't even hurt him, I'm going to wear myself out. Guess I need to play this a little different.

With Jon's next punch thrown, Avalon let it swish passed her head, as she gripped him by the wrist and elbow.

“Wrong move, Small-Time,” she said before she hopped up and locked her legs around his neck and shoulders, as she used her leverage to bring him down and rolled him onto his back. “Time for nighty-night,” she said, as she squeezed with all her might.

“I don't -*ungh*- think so,” he managed, as her thighs were squeezing him into unconsciousness. The veins from his wrist to his bicep emitted a faint red glow, as he began to pull his arm back.

What the hell? She thought. She could see it in her mind: his intention to break her hold by simply curling his arm.

Within her thoughts, she saw his attempt fail, but he was slowly slipping from her grasp. She took note of the redness on his arm. She gritted her teeth, in frustration. Her abilities allowed her to see her opponents intended moves and then counter them. However, a Psionic's powers were always a hard read. Seeing a punch coming was one thing. A punch covered in fire—or ice—was another.

Once her mind readjusted, she could see it clearly: he was going to whip her over and slam her into the wall. Just as she started to lift off the ground, she released him of her hold and rolled backward into a low crouch.

As Jon rose to his feet, he shook his arm and rolled his shoulders, until he felt a satisfying pop. “That was close,” his said. “Ya got a helluva grip; I'll give ya that.”

“Bulletproof and super strength,” she said, as she stood. “Any more surprises?”

“Maybe one or two more,” he answered. “Wanna call it quits 'n just give yer'self up?”

“You've gotten a little cockier since we first met.”

“Lady, after the day I been havin', I just don't give a shite anymore.”

“Aw, but my day was going so good,” she said, as her sly grin became a firm purse. “And then you had to go and ruin it, by saving that God damned bitch; and after I lucked into the chance of a lifetime. If it's one thing you don't screw with, Cleric, it's a woman's revenge.”

“Just give it up, Lass. Everyone knows yer on campus. It's only a matter o' time, 'fore yer backed into a corner n' then what? What good is revenge, if yer dead?”

She sneered, as she said, “Sweet words, from a man who doesn't know crap. How about I show you what it feels like.”

“Yeah, I kinda have a line o' people wantin' revenge on me.”

“You don't get it, “Scotty.” I'm going make you wish revenge on me.”

Jon scoffed. “I doubt there's anythin' ya can do ta' make me-”

“I'll kill your family,” she cut him off.

Jon's face went deadpan, as his eyes narrowed.

“It doesn't take a shrink to know you have a bizarrely protective nature for someone who kills for money. My guess is you're a family man, hm? Wife, kids, dog, picket fence, etcetera, etcetera. Am I right?”

Jon was silent, as he gritted his teeth behind closed lips.

"I'm betting there's someone I would just love to carve into. A wife or daughter? Perhaps a son?”

He clenched his right fist, as it began to glow bright enough to show the bones in his hands.

Avalon chuckled. “You can power up all you want. You won't lay even a finger on me.”

“Oh, I know,” he said, as the glow in his fist moved all the way to his shoulder and the irises of his eyes became a fluorescent red. Without another word, he slammed the back of his arm against the wall; creating cracks reaching along the hallway. He then punched the opposing wall with equal effect.

Avalon took several steps back. “What the hell?” she thought before she read his next move; his true intent. “Oh crap,” he said aloud, as she turned to run.

Jon, with his arm a bloody mess of lacerations, raised his fist high. “Yer not that fast, love,” he said, as he brought it crashing into the floor—going through—and sending a concussive shock-wave through the hall.

The ground beneath Avalon's feet cracked and crumbled, as she and Cleric fell through the floor.


Everything was a sharp pain, as Jon came to his senses. He managed to sit up and examine the situation. All around him lay a debris field of concrete and plaster. Every inch of him was coated in white dust. He did not bother to look at his arm, as he tore off the remains of his shirt and wrapped it up.

He got to his feet and shook his head, as he took another look around and realized he was in the cafeteria. “Oh... shite,” he said aloud. “Joe is gonna be so feckin' pissed.”

He moved through the remains of the upper floors when he saw something that forced a chuckle out of him. Sitting atop an upturned table was one of Avalon's handguns. “Well, we got one of your accessories,” he said, as he picked it up with his good hand. “Now where are ya hidin' yer'self?”

As if to answer, a soft groan came from across the room. Jon followed it and found Avalon; her right side pinned under a long slab of concrete. Her right leg—poking out from the side—was bent the opposite way at the knee. Her right eye was closed, due to the stream of blood from a gash in her forehead. With her free hand, she strained to reach for a gun atop some rubble; just out of reach. She stopped when she heard the hammer of her own gun being cocked.

She looked up and glared at the dust-covered shirtless Cleric—his right arm the only sign of any injury—as he aimed at her. “You need to workout more,” she said and coughed. “Men without abs should never be without a shirt.”

Jon chuckled. “You'd be surprised how often I go through these. Gettin' shot's kind of an occupational hazard.”

“I bet,” she said and then waited a moment, before she asked, “What now, Cleric? I can't dodge you like this.”

“Aye, I know,” he said, as he stepped closer. “'N I'd be a fool not ta' kill ya right here 'n now. Ta' keep the people here safe... ta' make sure ya never make good on yer threat. By God, no one would fault me.”

“Then do it,” she said. “Don't pull some kind of “I'm better than that,” bullshit.”

“I'm definitely not better than that, lass,” he said, as he lowered the gun and let it drop to the ground. “But I don't think Joe would appreciate me killin' a defenseless girl on his property.”

“Don't be stupid. I'll just come back and finish the job.”

“Maybe,” he said, as he turned around and started to walk. “But you'd have to get out first.”

“I'll get out, Cleric,” she called after him. “And next time I won't lose. Not to you. Not to Laurell! I will kill her, right after I kill you!”

He listened to her yell at him, as he dug the cell from his pocket; raising an amazed eyebrow at its durability. “I think I need ta' take a vacation,” he said, as he punched in a number and waited for the other end to pick up. “Hey, Joe? In case ya missed the ruckus, I found her . . .”


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