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Helena retrieved the arrows that were salvageable. The team quickly departed leaving Abernathy dead in the laboratory. After they arrived back at the compound, Helena helped Michelle to get Atlan into his tank to recover. She wondered why he didn’t instantly heal like last time until she ran her hands over the tank and didn’t feel the runic symbols on it. She sucked her teeth, “Can you believe this Michelle? You’d think that he’d make it a priority to restore the magic on this tank. Now he’ll have to take his time healing.” She was about to walk away when something caught her eye. There was a patch of black across Atlan’s belly and it began to spread and grow right before her eyes. After it covered half of his belly it disappeared.
“Michelle did you see that? What the hell is going on with his skin?” Right after their conversation ended and they were going to leave, Atlan woke up and climbed out of the tank. “Ah thank you ladies but for future reference you can just put me in my bed if the injuries aren’t life threatening.”
“Wouldn’t have helped if the wounds were life threatening. You never put the runes back on the tank.”
“You’re right.” he said, turning off the lights to reveal magical symbols glowing all over the room. “I found that it was much more effective to enchant the entire room and the water supply than the tank itself. I’m hungry, let's go get something to eat.” Atlan then walked out of the room promptly. Helena turned back to Michelle, “Damn! He left before we got to ask about the black mark on him.”
Grim allowed Tiger Claw to pick him up under his good shoulder so that they could make their escape. He couldn't wait to see what the news articles were going to be saying about what had happened. "Thanks..." he breathed out as his right arm continued to dangle limply.
When they had all gotten back to the compound Grim looked to Tiger Claw for medical aid. At the very least he could help mitigate some of what healing he would have to do if he could get his arm relocated. With some effort and gritting his teeth through the pain, Grim's shoulder was reset by Tiger Claw, after which he was put in a sling and a couple of splints when it was determined he had some bone fractures. He hadn't needed to use the healing room or tanks yet so he wasn't familiar with how to use them.
Heading up into the main part of the complex to join the others, Grim realized it would be much harder to man the kitchen alone without the use of one of his hands. He brought this up when he found the rest of the group. "So that big gun kicks a lot harder than I thought it would. We're gonna need to order out a bit more, unless someone would like to volunteer to help me in the kitchen." His inflection on his statement almost seemed sinister in nature, as though he would be imparting some forbidden knowledge on those who might help him cook.
After leaving the late Abernathy’s residence, Zonian began to wonder how many bunkers she should propose to the team. Always heading straight back to base would be too predictable. After Chaos’ last message to the world and now this high profile target, there’s no way they wouldn’t have close eyes on them very soon, if not already. Each one would need supplies, equipment, and medical bays that didn’t give too much info on who they were. Location, accessibility, surveillance, entrance and exit management were all things to consider so that their main base wouldn’t be discovered.
When they arrived at their compound, Canary & Zonian headed straight to the medical bay. It wasn’t until after they dumped Atlan into his healing tank that they noticed something was off. He wasn’t healing as quickly as usual and Helena noticed the runes weren’t on the tank anymore. As typical as it was for Atlan not to communicate, this was odd. It wasn’t like Atlan to go on a mission without prepping the medical bay, especially with an opponent like Abernathy was… As Zonian was looking into this irregularity, Canary was in the middle of storming off in a fit until she noticed what Zonian had just seen. A dark patch was engulfing Atlan’s abdomen. However, before it was able to complete it, it vanished and Canary started asking questions to confirm what they had witnessed.
“I saw it too. I’m not sure what it was, but it’s definitely something we need to talk to Atlan about when he wakes up. Since that’s taking a while, let’s go change out of our gear.” When headed for the door, Atlan spoke as he made his way out of the tank. As he and Canary bickered about the runes, Zonian focused on that growing black mark and how he’s recovered after it disappeared. He had the runes on the entire room and water supply, so he should have healed like normal. However, he didn’t heal until after that patch disappeared… Was it merely preventing him from healing? Or was it absorbing what the runes were giving to grow like it did, allowing the magic to reach him only after it got its fill? This is serious. By the time she was going to say something, he had already left the room to grab food. “We’ll have to bring it up to him privately after we all eat. In fact… I have an idea. First, I’m getting out of these clothes.”
While two of the girls were dealing with Atlan, Chaos went to her room to analyze some things and Tiger Claw veered off to the side with Grim to check out his arm. There were definitely some bone fractures and the whole thing was dislocated from the shoulder. Over the years, he’s had to learn how to handle most first aid types of situations. With parents like his… it was a requirement to survive. So he managed to reset Grim’s arm and put it into a makeshift sling. He wasn’t sure if and where the healing room was set up now… So this would have to do for the time being until they caught up with the others.
Eventually, they did. In a compound that size, he wasn’t sure if it was luck, deductive skills, or both. At first he thought they’d be in the kitchen, but they were in another part of the main complex that was a couple halls down. Grim made sure to announce their arrival as they walked up.
“Don’t worry about that, Grim. You can heal quickly in the medical bay. Atlan put runes in the whole thing without telling anyone. And… we’re all going to eat out today. And to blend in, Atlan can use some disguise magic of sorts for you to appear human. It’ll be fun. That wouldn’t be too difficult, right, Atlan?” He agreed it was an easy spell.
Then it’s settled. I figured we could celebrate our victory tonight. There’s one with a full bar and large booths not far from here. We can go there unless there’s a better place in mind.” This should create a good environment to confront Atlan afterwards.
Grim looked to Tiger Claw after hearing about the reinstated runes in the med bay and shrugged a little bit, which he almost instantly regretted as he shuddered with residual pain from the dislocation. Bearing that he responded "I don't mind taking a break from manning the kitchen. Atlan, don't go too far. I'll be back in a little bit after my arm gets un-fucked." With that he turned and started to head back to the medical bay.
This was another new first for him. Being at a restaurant without attempting to steal anything from the kitchen to keep himself from starving. Probably. Several minutes later after returning to the med bay and feeling the eerily pleasant sensation of his bones resetting and becoming whole again, Grim removed the sling he'd been given and stretched, wondering just what he'd look like under Atlan's spell. He made his way back to where Atlan was and offered himself up. "Alright fish man. Make me beautiful."
Upon the spell's casting Grim's ears shrank and rounded, his skin paled and his tail disappeared. His hair was shortened substantially and bleached to fit with his equally pale skin yet when the transformation was complete his eyes still seemed to faintly glow. Chaos posited that this might be a result of how Grim's powers manifest and told him to visit her in a few minutes. When next he reconvened with the rest of the group he was wearing a new pair of glasses, and his eyes appeared normal through the lenses. "Well? How do I look?":
“Yeah yeah, I can do it.” Atlan waved his hand and changed Grim’s appearance. “I even got rid of your tail and horns. Try not to get upset though. Your natural magic can interfere with the spell if you get too emotional.”
Atlan walked toward the door. “Shall we go now? I’m hungry."Atlan continued to walk out of the door to wait for them while Helena tried to grab him to ask him about the mark.
“Damn Michelle, I'm trying to ask him about that ominous mark. Well let’s go get something to eat I guess. I know a great bar and grill not too far from here. It has great food, drinks and music.” She then walked outside and grabbed Atlan by the arm and said “Let’s go. Our spot is right up the street.”
"All part of the plan. Do you think he'd really start opening up about whatever is going on while his stomach is nagging him? It’s hard enough without that. Let’s get him comfortable first."
When Grim returned, Michelle complimented him on his finishing touch to his human look. She was glad he was having fun with it and making it his own. She then looked over and noticed Kwan in normal attire. Even in the house, he always had an assassin-type look to him. Not that there was anything wrong with that, or the way he was looking now… It just took her a second to process the change… Which was way too long to realize that she was staring…
“Everything okay?” Kwan was right next to her now, looking concerned, while everyone else was practically out the door.
“Yeah. I didn’t know you had your ears pierced. It looks good on you.” She managed to say without sounding too weird. The two of them joined the rest. Atlan was already in the driver’s seat of a Suburban. Helena already claimed shotgun. This left Chaos & Grim waiting for Michelle and Kwan to claim their seats in the very back so that they could truly get situated in the 2nd row. They all got seated before Atlan could start spamming the horn. He wasted no time pulling out of the garage.
The place ended up being only a few blocks away and they arrived when there wasn’t a wait. So, they were sat at a round table in order to accommodate their party size. Their waitress introduced herself and started with their drink and appetizer orders. Kwan ordered a glass of water. Michelle ordered a long island iced tea with her ID ready. The waitress’ eyes lit up after looking at her ID. Yes, yes. Just do your job and you’ll get your tip. She thanked Michelle and handed back the ID before continuing to the next one.
Chaos, who had been busy readying something in her workshop during the time Grim had been healing and getting his facelift, finally made her re-entry into the conversation and caught up to him just before the group started getting into the truck. “I have something for you.” She handed him a small card that had his personal information on it, in addition to some forged info to make the whole thing look official. “What’s this for?” Grim asked, noting that much of her information was accurate for him including his birth date and age. He’d given her that much during one of their “prototyping sessions” in exchange for her expertise and handiwork.
“This is an Identification card that you can use to assist in purchasing certain age restricted goods such as alcohol or tobacco products.” Grim looked at her quizzically but before he could respond she cut him off. “I have taken the liberty of leaving this information out of any official channels to maintain your anonymity in the case of your detainment by undesirable parties. You will continue to lead a life of legal non-existance.” Grim laughed a little and pocketed the ID. “I’m so glad someone’s looking out for me and my right to inebriation. And all while keeping my pretty face out of the public records. Speaking of which, don’t these usually have a photo or something?” He’d looked through enough goons’ wallets searching for leads to their bosses to know that much.
Chaos seemed to process for just a moment, staring intently at Grim’s altered face before asking him to return the card to her. She then swiped her finger over where his photo should be and a clean photo of him was near-instantly printed onto it, edited to look as though he’d gotten it taken at a DMV. “You’ve gotta teach me that trick sometime.” Grim joked as she handed the card back. The both of them filed into the car after Michelle and Kwan got situated in the back, and Grim got to learn about some road safety. Every other time he’d been in a vehicle with someone else driving they were either screaming too loudly for him to concentrate, trying to kill him or both.
After the group had arrived at the restaurant and been seated the waitress wasn’t long to start taking drink orders. When she had made the rounds to him he ordered a “Rum and Coke, more rum than coke”, and was asked for his ID. He withdrew it from his pocket and held it up for the waitress to confirm he was indeed of drinking age. Michelle - ever curious - leaned herself in just such a way as to see Grim’s date of birth. She looked confused, then surprised, and then at Grim with an expression depicting both. He caught this and responded with a simple “What?” Chaos in the meantime ordered a mocktail going by the name of Magic Fruit Punch, which was probably the most colorful thing on the menu, alcoholic or otherwise.
Helena reached into her shirt and grabbed her ID from her bra. She ordered a whiskey straight and looked at a guy right past Atlan. She flirted with her eyes and showed off cleavage to him. Atlan didn't notice at first as he ordered an entire bottle of rum. When the server left he asked. “How did you just order a drink? You’re 19.”
Helena halfway paid attention to him and just said “It’s a fake Id fish for brains.” She said as she continued to flirt with the man from the next table. Helena hadn’t forgotten about the spell Atlan put on her to make her lust after him. She wouldn’t let him go free after embarrassing her that way. She motioned for the guy to come over and he obliged. “You’re cute. How about we go have some fun later?”
Furious now at what was transpiring in front of him Atlan said “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m having fun, that’s what. Why? I’m single so I can do what I want.”
“Shoot I’m down with that lil mama. How about you come sit with me and I buy you another drink?”
“I’m good with tha-”
“You’re not going anywhere.” Atlan said, as he was visibly angry. The black spot appeared again and spread to his left arm. “I don’t know what game you’re playing but you’re going to stop.”
“Chill bro the lady clearly wants to go with me. She said she’s single.”
Atlan said “This has nothing to do with you. It’s our argument. Leave before she gets you hurt.” He said standing up and standing over him. The guy looked at Atlan and said, “I don’t know what you two have going on but stop getting others involved. Wicked ink by the way.” he said pointing to the left arm of Atlan.
After he left Atlan waved his hand over the mark and it disappeared. “What was that mark? I saw it at home when we put you in the tank?”
“It’s nothing. Let’s drink.”
After taking a peak at Grim’s ID, Michelle didn’t know if she was more surprised that it said he was older than the rest of them or more curious if that was his real birthdate. When he asked her about her obvious expression, she replied, “Is that date accurate?”
“Yes…?” he responded, not really sure why that was relevant.
“You’re 27?!” She said slightly too loud. Hushed to their table only volume, “I thought you were either younger than us or way older than us but with slow aging due to your genetics.”
“I don’t know whether to be flattered or offended.” he chuckled. “I have no reason to lie about my age, and I’m not some ‘Ancient being’ or anything like that.” He looked around at everyone else at the table. “Who does that make me older than?” He asked.
“Didn’t know and it never really came up as a topic. The only other age I don’t know is Molly’s… but everyone else is younger. It’s not a bad thing, my assumptions were just off.”
By this time, the waitress was already off putting their orders in. So, conversation wandered until Helena started flirting with a guy a couple tables over. Atlan started getting heated to the point that he threateningly stood over the guy like a bulldog standing ground against a chihuahua. Michelle didn’t know if she should laugh or tell him to take a seat. Then she also noticed the marking again. After Helena’s inquiry was put down, she added. “Atlan, I’m not going to push the markings right now, but that is a conversation we need to have, and soon.” Changing the topic to their argument, “Back to what else just transpired… You know you have zero grounds to be this territorial, especially after getting caught with your midnight snack that stayed until breakfast. Oh, look, our drinks.”
The waitress carried all of their drinks to the table on a single tray and set each one down to its rightful owner. It was interesting that Chaos ordered such a colorful virgin drink. Though she sat two at Michelle’s. One was her long island iced tea, the other looked to be a gin & tonic. Michelle tensed up at the sight, but relaxed, smiled and said to the waitress, “I’m guessing this extra drink wasn’t an accident.”
“No, it wasn’t, miss. A gentleman ordered that specifically for you. He’s right over… ummm, I guess he had to step away for a moment. I’ll let you know once I find him.”
“Thank you, but no need. I’m sure he’ll turn up after going through the trouble.” Michelle noticed Kwan excusing himself from the table for a moment with a concerned look on his face. This must’ve been awkward for him… They’ve been kind of talking lately… Nothing serious… yet… hopefully… but still, of all people to find them… As soon as the waitress left, Michelle was about to excuse herself from the table as well to confront this guy. The moment she turned around, he was right there. By right there, being just enough distance away for her not to run into him in that motion. “What the fuck, Lark.” She said to the guy with a confident smirk on his face before he briefly gave Atlan a death glare.
Grim was curious of the mark that seemed to respond to Atlan’s will as well as his emotion. When it showed on his arm again during his confrontation with Helena’s new fascination, Grim tried to get a closer look at it. He’d have the most time to contemplate after all. Unfortunately the mark held no meaning to him, something unique to Atlan’s situation and body and nothing readable like he’d hoped. His new glasses kept him from rousing suspicion from either passersby or from Atlan himself, still hiding his eye color.
Molly couldn’t agree with Michelle more about the way that Atlan was acting. “It’s unreasonable to think she wouldn’t want to break away from a womanizer like you. And yet still you keep guard over her like a dragon hoards treasure. Is that how you see her? A princess to be kept in your tower while you indulge your ‘lesser’ spoils?” She sat with crossed arms and a dead stare. “Sit down and please be quiet before someone complains and you get us thrown out.”
The waitress returned shortly after Atlan attempted to shut down the conversation and handed out drinks of which there was one too many. Grim could see the concern build on Michelle and Kwans’ faces in response to it, and it was only after Kwan had stepped away and Michelle had attempted to do the same that he noticed the man standing uncomfortably close behind Michelle. His smile never faltered as he leaned back in his seat a bit and addressed the man. “What the fuck indeed. Seven’s a crowd, and I don’t remember us inviting you to the party.” Grim noted how similarly this guy had shown up here when compared to Tiger Claw, able to keep away from even his own prying eyes only until he wanted to be noticed.
Molly looked away from her mounting argument with Atlan and jumped a little when she noticed that Lark was there. She should have been able to see someone coming, especially when she was almost directly facing them.
Without breaking his attention from Michelle, “I could always pull up a chair.”
Atlan basically disregarded everything Molly said. What does that damn robit know? What do any of them know? They have no idea what she is to me. Maybe I have been a bit unfair towards her though but why would she be so spiteful? Did I make her hate me?
Atlan’s thought was interrupted by Michelle overreacting to someone buying her a drink. “Everybody chill out. It’s just a free drink.” Atlan thought this to be amusing. What he was not expecting was who sent the drink. Lark. An old flame, friend, acquaintance, whatever Michelle was calling him. This was too good.
Atlan stood up and said, “Well, well. Look what the stalker brought in. Are you here for another embarrassment, Lark?” Atlan said, mocking him. “How’d you find her this time? Not sorcery. I made sure to conceal everyone here from magic. Actually it’s not that important. Choose a competition. Let’s do this like we used to unless you’d prefer to fight it out.” Atlan mocked further to get under his skin.
Helena sat there confused and angry at Atlan’s reaction to her flirtation. She was only trying to make him jealous. Part of her liked this strong controlling alpha male thing he had going. The other part of her was terrified of how easily it came out. She sat quietly, not giving an input as everyone else condemned his behavior. She thought to herself, am I crazy to be attracted to him more? This is the definition of toxic for both of us. As everyone began reacting to a phantom drink she watched as Atlan began to mock a man she didn’t know and she was feeling attracted to this bravado as well. To get her mind off of this she stopped and said. “Ok so who is this guy and why does Atlan have a hard on for teasing him?”
Kwan noticed Michelle tense at the extra drink. Before jumping to conclusions, he casually surveyed the area from his seat. This was unnerving, not what he did see. However, what he didn't see. There were signs of a person being nearby at a table just barely in view, but there was an emptiness those in his profession were more privy to. He didn't hesitate to look into this further to find out how many were near. Their target was Michelle, and although her reaction indicated she knew more of what was going on, he wasn't going to let them get blind sighted by a possible ambush or any other tricks.
During his recon, he was surprised by there not being any assassins outside considering the target. However he did check the car they came in and found a bug. He wasn't sure how long the tracker was there, but he was able to effectively remove it from the underbelly and disabled it. After another look around he went back inside and spotted the guy standing too close to Michelle. He wasn't sure which was worse, that he recognized him as Larkspur from the League's current hierarchy or that Michelle seemed to know him. Seeing the situation relatively under control, he surveyed the restaurant one last time before returning to the table without exuding a sound.
"As much as I'd like to teach this delusional fish a thing or two, I'm not here for such things. Michelle, I need to speak with you immediately." He then reached for her hand when Kwan stopped him at his wrist.
"Not unless we all go."
Michelle didn't even hear him approach, but was glad to see Kwan was back. "I'm not going anywhere until I finish this drink, we eat the dinner we came for, and Lark stops being an ass. He needs to speak to the others who've spoken to him and go back to his own table. This guy is an old acquaintance who pops up every now and then, you guys can call him Lark. Michelle sat back down and started to sip the drink she ordered.
"Excuse my rudeness. I'll be back."
Molly looked perturbed by the whole situation, feeling uncomfortable with such open threatening and conflict. Normally she would be behind a mask or a computer screen, but just being out in the open like this made her feel a vulnerability she wasn’t used to. “Just who is that guy? He just appeared out of nowhere and no one even mentioned him approaching. What kind of threat does he pose?”
“Not enough of one that he’d cause any more of a scene than he did already.” Grim finished off his first drink and set the glass into the center of the table. “We know he could get the drop on us, but he’s giving Michelle the space she requested. As long as Atlan can keep his murderous urges in check I think we should start thinking about what to eat.” He picked up a menu and started looking for what he wanted.
Helena smiled when Michelle introduced him as an old acquaintance who pops up every now and then. With a smirk on her face she said, “So he’s your play things then? Sounds a lot like he’s a part of a rotation Michelle.” Helena had already downed her drink and was showing signs of being tipsy. Helena was drinking before they ever left home. She kept whiskey in her room. She was in a cheerful mood. She had effectively helped to end another villain. Atlan acted like his usual self, drinking a keg and joking around with everyone. They had forgotten about the Lark incident.
“Not my type.” They ate their dinner without incident and had many laughs along the way. This was a nice little getaway from the base. Before leaving, Michelle left a well earned tip for the waitress and a little extra. On their way back, Kwan remembered Larkspur and the tracking device he found under their car. “Everyone, our vehicle was bugged. We need to sweep the base.”
Michelle was about to do a double take at what was said out of nowhere. “What? When was this?”
“I found it at the restaurant and destroyed it.” Before asking 20 questions, she thought of the time he had gotten up from the table and pieced a few things together.
They arrived at the base and they were about to rectify this oversight when the garage door closed and a figure appeared from the shadows.
The figure put his hands up and slowly walked forward “I told you I'll be back. Did you all enjoy your dinner?”
“Why and how are you here, Lark?” Michelle was visibly irritated. Didn’t they have ample security measures in place? Regardless of his skills and training, Lark shouldn’t have been able to get in here fast enough to beat them to the base.
“To prove a point and me being here is to further said point. Also, I addressed everyone this time. So, all of your conditions for our conversation are now met. This ragtag group you’re in will bring you to ruin or worse, your end, if it remains as is. That transmission on Stowe generated interest from a lot of groups out there. Yet you almost immediately construct such a compound and don’t bother to have the proper defenses. It was all too easy finding your group and entering… even more.”
Although Michelle would rather kick him out with a broken arm for his interruption earlier, she listened, quietly. She never took the time to double check the defenses, she didn’t look into everything that was shipped or imported to this place. She did what her father never would… She assumed the job was already done properly instead of going through it personally and thoroughly. She called that Chaos’ announcement was going to bite them. The League of Shadows was already past their doorstep and in the garage… If any of their targets intersect with the League… The fact that Lark was looking into them shows that the League has been wary of their actions for a while.
“When did you bug this place?”
“You haven’t figured that out yet?”
After that announcement, Damien wouldn’t have been cheap with his resources to look into the group… He most likely looked into any suspicious activity for a fresh group, since a seasoned one wouldn’t have made such a declaration. He would have looked into all potential leads to make sure they were ahead of this new group. “Before we moved in, while we still had items being brought in. Had to be towards the end of construction or immediately after. Which brings me to my next question. With as easily as you were able to get in here, you could’ve given this heads up in a note, what do you want in exchange for this courtesy or did the Head say to deliver in person?”
“You know the Demon’s Head?!”
Molly was the only one that night that continued to order non-alcoholic drinks as she figured that someone needed to make sure that the rest of the group got home in once piece, and while Grim didn’t seem like he was all too affected by the amount he was drinking she wasn’t entirely certain that he could - or should - drive. Grim either had a monstrous tolerance to drinking or there was something else going on in that infernal body of his that was keeping him from showing any of the normal signs of being drunk despite taking all his drinks stronger than they were meant to be.
Grim managed to hold his own in conversation well enough with everyone else but still displayed a lack of what others might call general knowledge. Most of what he’d learned was from either watching people, not a small percentage of whom were the scum of the earth, or media like television or the internet. He knew who some more important people were from news articles, and had heard big names like Wayne and Queen but didn’t really know geography, politics, or biological concepts.
When everyone was finally done, the outing was paid for and Kwan had explained the situation, Molly helped usher Helena into the car since she had been turning out every glass she was given. “Its highly unlikely that the compound has been infiltrated to the extent Kwan thinks it has, I’ve been performing daily scans of the facility and scrubbing the network for taps. I should have found something by now.” She thought to herself. She would get everyone home first and then perform some more scans just in case.
After arriving home and trying to head inside, they were interrupted by the same man that had butted in on their night before. Michelle immediately confronted him about what he was doing there and how he’d found them out so quickly. When he answered Molly shrank away a little knowing that her announcement was what had brought so much attention to them. She was going to get a ration of shit after this for bringing this Lark jackass down on them.
This announcement had the opposite effect on Grim. Having his privacy infringed on drove his emotions high enough to start unraveling the illusion magics around him like Atlan had warned him about. His mouth turned down a bit from a persistent smile to a toothy grimace. “You’ll have to forgive me for interrupting…” The illusion seemed to burn away from about half his face and other patches of his body letting his tail show, revealing one of his horns and his dark gray skin. “But I don’t take too kindly to being told there could be cameras in my shower.” He spoke flatly and with a barely-restrained rage behind his words. He’d never expressed anything other than psychotically joyful around his new friends before.
Atlan brought Helena into the compound and put her in her room to sleep. She was too drunk to stay awake. Atlan chuckled and kissed her forehead. When he came downstairs to find everyone, he saw Lark in their base. Atlan, who was on edge by the sight, chanted and placed a protection spell on himself. When Lark revealed that their security system was lacking Atlan laughed, relishing in this opportunity. “Well then, Who’s specialty is technology and security? The robit literally had one thing she was good at and still couldn’t do that right.”
He looked around for her. “Come now. Don’t slink to the back. Come claim your work or lack of.” He then turned his attention to Lark. “That being said, you’ve got some balls to walk into my domicile. Are you ready for your punishment? I guess nothing really even changes. Just like old times, I'm going to kick your ass.”
Answering Kwan first, "Yes, it's complicated…" Seeing Grim losing his composure in a way she's never seen before, "Grim, he hasn't placed any cameras in our showers. If there were, his head would have been freed from the rest of his body by now. Trust me on that." Before Lark had the opportunity to address her own question, Atlan rejoined the group after putting Helena to bed and made his return well known. "As much as I agree with you right now. Right now is not the time, Atlan."
"You're right. It's not. I'll tell you what I want for my generosity when you're done playing." He faded away into a shadow away from the groups' sight as he said that last bit.
And he's gone… "Fuck, we're surrounded. Chaos, can you get any energy readings on our company? How many assailants are we dealing with and how many are metas?"
Atlan’s taunting metaphorically boiled Molly’s blood, to the point that she was getting dangerously close to snapping back at him over the magical wards that he seemed to throw up willy-nilly in equally vain attempts at security for the complex. She knew she was at fault for Lark being here in the first place, but he really didn’t need to be rubbing it in since his own measures didn’t do anything to stop him either.
However between the threats on Lark to the suggestion that they were about to be met with more unwanted company she wouldn’t have gotten a word in and now there were more important things to do than start a new argument. Seams opened in her She released from her arm a legion of small drones which flew up into the air and performed a quick scan of the area surrounding them before a crackling stream of electricity arced between each one and fried it. Chaos looked mildly upset before calling out. “There are 5 metahumans in total, at least 40 non-metas in the surrounding area, and judging by the level of voltage my drones were reading before destruction it’s safe to say at least one of them is versed in electromancy.”
Grim had given Michelle a menacing look as she tried to reassure him that his privacy hadn’t been infringed upon as hard as he’d initially thought. That look slowly faded and a grin crept back onto his face as she spoke to Lark and Atlan, one which only widened when she suggested they were surrounded. “Oooh, goody. I needed a good way to destress tonight.” he said as he turned himself to look around. His eyes glowed and he scanned the area visually himself, the instants of time stretched to nearly a minute of panning to survey. Chaos’ drones made their way into the air and after just moments were sent smoking to the ground with lightning. From out of the shadows a short distance away appeared three distinct figures followed by sneering and eager gangsters, a few of which were outfitted with firearms while the rest had just about anything they could get their hands on - metal pipes, machetes, hammers, among other implements - as they advanced slowly on the Castoffs.
“Weren’t there supposed to be five of them?” Michelle asked, seeing only three people that looked even remotely like metas. As if in perfect anticipation of a boisterous boast by Atlan to just wipe the field of enemies or attempt to give chase to Lark a hand was placed on his shoulder and a general feeling of weakness washed over him before he was punched across the face with what felt equivalent to a punch from Abernathy and sent away about twenty feet. A blonde man with shoulder-length hair and a body like Dolph Lundgren cracked his knuckles and chuckled. “Wow, ya pack quite the punch, don’t ya?” he mused as he advanced on Atlan with a slow, purposeful walk. Zonian, seeing the aftermath of the punch and an enormous man who was able to move Atlan, grit her teeth and started to run up on him before something big, fast and dense smashed into her side and sent her reeling back toward the other three, who were being quickly surrounded by the chaff. When she looked at what had hit her, a man made entirely of metal was grinding his oversized fists together, making sparks which illuminated his face. “Where do you think you’re going?”
The other three metas started to encroach on Grim, Kwan and Molly. “Looks like we get to play with the three of you ourselves. Splendid.” A short black-haired woman, no taller than Helena, spoke through a gas mask and wore what looked like military fatigue pants and a tank top. She had a pair of metal gauntlets on but her palms were exposed.
“This is gonna be so much fun!” The second of the three was another young woman with dyed red hair up in pigtails and wearing sneakers, an oversized jacket, tight-fitting black jeans and a tye-dye crop top.
“Let’s take our time, really make them understand their position in the food chain before we get rid of them.” The last was a young man also sporting metallic skin, notably more lanky and taller than the women he walked alongside with. He brought his arm to his chest and it visibly widened and thinned to become a long blade.
Chaos’ “skin” split along invisible seams in several places as her body reconfigured into a more combat-focused form which she levitated off of the ground and readied for a fight. The form was notably different from her previous combat mode and looked to be heavily upgraded, or at least changed from months ago when she’d first shown it.
Grim didn’t have his guns but the excitement he felt for the ensuing fight stripped away all the rest of his disguise. His eyes glowed, his smile widened and his fists clenched with anticipation. “You wanna play? Let’s play!”
Atlan got up as the large blonde slowly walked towards him. He wiped blood from his lip and tried to materialize his wand. It wouldn't materialize and he realized the the magic in the area was being absorbed by the girl in pigtails. “Ok, I guess we're doing this the hard way then.” Atlan rushed in and took a powerful swing at the man only for him to dodge it with a sidestep then lift Atlan off the ground with an uppercut to the body. After that, he took both of his hands clasped together and brought them down as a hammer, smashing across Atlan's back and putting him face down on the ground. This man actually had a strength advantage on him, It was like fighting Abernathy all over again,
Atlan made a spring towards the girl with the pigtails. Only to be caught by his leg and thrown away. “Did you really think that it would be that easy?” He said getting Atlan on the wall. He the unleashed a flurry of punches like a boxer who had his opponent in the corner. Atlan coughed up blood saying, “You hit like a kryptonian.” Atlan stood up off the wall and began bouncing on the balls of his feet like a boxer. He kept his hands up in a boxing stance and stepped in and began throwing punches in sequence to open areas of the man's body. He had fully changed his style and began to look like he knew what he was doing. Right hook to the body. Left hook to the face. Right uppercut. He then grabbed the back of his head and knee’d him across the face. With the man off guard, Atlan slipped behind him and suplexed him. He then took his back and put him in a rear naked choke. The man struggled and pulled Atlans arm free before he could finish and Atlan gouged out his right eye with his other hand. He then took the moment and grabbed his head and quickly rotated it to the side and up. The sound of the snap was loud and almost seemed to echo across the room. Atlan stood up and spat on the man. “That’s for making me use what SHE taught me.”
The girl and pigtails screamed and blasted Atlan with energy made from the magic she had been stealing which brought him back to his knees. It wasn’t a painful blast but more a restraining force that wouldn’t allow him to move. “Can somebody do something about this annoying bitch?” He said, struggling to lift his head. At that moment there was a loud shriek and he lifted his head to see pigtails on the ground with blood pouring out of her ears. “You guys were so loud with your fighting. I’m trying to sleep. Wait, who the fuck are these guys aAtlan was floored from the hit. He spat blood on the floor from his now busted lip. He stood up and took off his shirt. He tried to materialize his wand when he discovered that the woman in pigtails was absorbing the magic from around him. He would have to do this the hard way. The blonde haired giant walked toward him like out of a movie. Atlan smiled and said “Well I guess this is going to be fun huh?” He walked toward the guy and started throwing punches with him only to get knocked back again. Again he got up but this time frustrated and went back in. His opponent punched him with an uppercut to the gut, lifting him off the ground and then clasped his hands together to smash across his back downward. He then kicked Atlan across the room.
and how did they get in?” She said, clearly awake and somehow sober.
Feeling that hit from the metal guy grinding his fight, she gathered her position. Zonian noticed the other three were already surrounded but she could still aid Atlan once she got through this guy. So she gave an almost smirk and replied to his question, “Right through you, Knuckles.” She partially extended her arm in front of her, palm up, and beckoned him forward. The metal skin on her opponent’s face visibly tensed. “My name is IRON-HAMMER!” he exclaimed before charging at her. Like before, he was fast, even on metahuman standards and despite his bulky appearance. However, she sidestepped in time to avoid the hit and got two in of her own before he countered next.
Although he was quick with his movements, she noticed he didn’t maneuver as easily when those movements needed to adjust. She started taking less blows at this point but he just wasn’t going down. This guy wasn’t an Abernathy, but he could take a hit and applying too much strength can easily backfire. Seeing the mob around where Kwan, Molly, and Grim were, she decided to use this guy to cull the herd a bit before taking him out, since Atlan was more durable and…. Oh, Helena was awake and somehow sober enough to help him. Though it seemed to get him too… Yeah, this was the opportunity. She increasingly sped up the rhythm of exchanges to get him into a tunneled focus. In doing so, she set up their footwork to go closer to the mob. After leading him close enough, a few of the outer mob guys noticed how close. Before they alerted anyone, she had “metalhead” going in for a big swing. During that moment she ducked and used his momentum along with her own strength to send him flying into the crowd. With him finally down, leaped up and swung her fist down onto his skull before he was up again. “A fitting end, Iron Hammer.”
The horde of armed guys were now focused on her. Mob mentality truly lowered any chance of reason within a crowd, but this should free up the others.
The girl with the pigtails went down due to Helena's sudden intervention. It appeared answering Helena's question was not a luxury many of them could afford at that moment. He was sure it would be answered properly after they all got through this invasion.
Kwan always kept a few weapons on him at all times, so he wasn't completely overwhelmed. However, he did not have as many as he liked against an opponent who took in and then utilized different energies, not excluding magic. As he closed in on her, trying to make the most of this opportunity that was quickly cut short. The girl absorbed more of Atlan's magic and was about to redirect it at Helena. He jabbed his knife into the girl's side as she sent a wave of magical energy in Helena's general direction. She utilized the energy from the stabbing force to then send a force back at Kwan. Who was still grazed but managed to dodge the blast for the most part from hitting anything vital. Luckily there was some sort of direction determined by her hand motions. In that moment, the girl glanced over to the metal bladed opponent fighting Grim and smiled for a moment.
When the fighting between Michelle and Iron-Hammer started Grim flung himself into action against Steel-Saber, the more lithe metallic brother. With swift motions Saber sharpened his limbs into blades and lashed out with a flurry of precise strikes. With equally risky and measured motions Grim dodged and weaved his way through the attacks and slowly closed the distance between him and Saber before throwing a punch. A tinny thud rang out and Grim dodged back away from his opponent, shaking his hand. Saber reacted to the attack but nowhere near as much as Grim's fleshier targets had in the past. He was stronger than most humans but it wasn't like he was an Atlantean or an Amazon. Saber seemed surprised at the force put behind Grim's punch but since it barely moved his head any and hadn't left any dents or marks it was time to get back on the offensive. He slashed, stabbed and advanced on Grim with speed and unrelenting pressure to push him back and try to corner him against the small army of lesser thugs.
Meanwhile Molly had become locked in combat with Shocktrooper, firing off bursts from energy emitters embedded in her hands. The beams flew around interspersed with arcs of lightning that flew back against those beams and worked their way around them to devastating effect. Being that Chaos' body was mostly metal and that more of that metal was now exposed the hefty bolts of electricity sparked and crackled against her body and ran through her systems. With just the first hit she was made disoriented and screamed out in apparent pain. Her helmet didn't betray her twisted face but Shocktrooper knew he was hurting her badly. And she was enjoying causing that agony. With another burst of light and sparks she levied a constant stream of electricity into Chaos, bringing her down to a knee and showing few signs of wanting to stop there. The thugs cheered as their heavy hitters put the Castoffs on the back foot and started pressing their advantage. They remained on the sidelines and moved out of the way of attack paths as needed, but they could see that their efforts were not in vain and were starting to pay off.
Kwan was remiss that he couldn't help his friends, but watching Michelle spike Iron-Hammer's skull into the ground like a volley ball was enough to spur him into action against the other big player in their unwilling cage match. As Grim and Molly fought and were pushed back Tiger Claw made his way over to the body of Rebound, the energy displacer who Helena had screamed at. Drawing a dagger from an under-arm holster in a reverse grip he struck down toward Rebound's throat for a concise kill. The moment the blade touched her skin it stopped and seemed to not want to move down. Rebound's eyes shot open and a wry smirk stretched across her face. “Fooled you!” She pressed her hand against Kwan's chest and a burst of force threw him upward and backward away from her. She'd been playing possum since she got screamed at and wasn't going to be taking another sonic blast from the songbird without there being dire consequences. Kwan recovered well from the attack without allowing his face to betray his surprise, landing in such a way that he could roll and spring backward to remain on his feet. He kept his eyes on Rebound and weaved his way toward her to dodge any potential backlash like the last time. When he'd closed enough distance with her he struck out again with his dagger before producing the other and making a second strike at her vital areas. Again his blades stopped as they met their marks and wouldn't move closer to her than the very edge of her skin or clothing. Again she raised her hand, pointing a finger this time. Kwan moved out of the way just in time for his shirt to get ripped by a directed force fired from that finger. Rebound laughed. “Is that all you can do? Run and be useless? Too bad for you!” Tiger Claw calmly reassessed the situation, looking around to the others. Michelle had beaten Iron-Hammer and some of the thugs had already started to funnel toward her in the wake of his defeat.
Molly was shivering from the voltage being pumped into her and her sensory information was horribly scrambled, giving her no means to aid or fight back until Shocktrooper let up. Luckily for her, that chance would come soon.
Unluckily for Grim, that chance would come soon. Grim had been fighting back as best he could with Steel-Saber, deflecting blows and dodging anything else thrown at him. When Molly started screaming he allowed his attention to slip for a moment. Steel-Saber took advantage and attacked even more swiftly than before, pushing himself to get a hit in or something. While Grim could see the blow coming the speed which he was attacked at made it difficult to judge without his full focus. He snapped back to his own fight just as Saber's blade was grazing his cheek. In another swift motion Saber's other hand had reverted to being a hand at all and was reaching out for Grim's face. His blade hand turned and swung back toward Grim's head, leaving his only direction of travel to be down. As Grim ducked he felt his head stop as steel clanged against copper. Saber had grabbed one of Grim's horns. The other hand swiftly came to his other horn and grabbed him tightly. “Shock!” Was all he needed call out as he slammed a knee into Grim's stomach, over and over and over. Grim couldn't move well and did his best to try to break free of the vice-grip he was in while trying to block his stomach. It didn't work well. “I need some- Augh!!- help here!” He blurted out between blows.
Shocktrooper smiled when she heard Saber call for her. It meant she could change targets. Chaos was relieved of her torture as Shocktrooper charged up a new burst of lightning, firing it straight at her comrade. Saber's metal body was impervious to the high-voltage stream. Grim's far less metal body was not. He yelled as his copper horns were used like the prongs of a plug, wracking his entire body from the head down with searing pain and twitching muscles. Even through it he grit his teeth and tried punching Saber's wrists to get him to let go. Saber was surprised to see Grim moving as well as he was despite the harshness of his situation. “Help isn't coming for you. I don't know how you're able to move right now…” He hit Grim in the stomach again, pushing out another agonized yelp. “But that won't last long.” Rebound started laughing at the futility of Grim's struggling, though was also puzzled by how Grim could move after taking so much electricity. Molly's systems had begun self-correcting and she could see and hear clearly again. She raised a hand and charged a blast up to fire at Shocktrooper while she was distracted but before she could let it off Rebound stepped in the way and absorbed it. She thought Kwan wasn't going to put up any good fight against her and wanted to make sure Shocktrooper's fun wasn't interrupted. She wagged a finger in front of her. “Ah ah ah! You didn't think I'd let you spoil her fun, did you?” She released a beam from her hand at increased strength to what Chaos had initially fired, blasting the ground in front of her and throwing her backward.
Tiger Claw had put together that Shocktrooper was the primary threat to him and his friends, and was also the only one he would be likely to affect. While Rebound was focused on Chaos he suppressed his presence to nothing, disappearing to the eyes of the thugs that happened to be looking at him at the time. Some of them called out to try to alert to his “going invisible” but the sounds of combat drowned most of their concerns out until it was too late. Tiger Claw brandished his dagger and moved around the battlefield quickly, finding his place behind Shocktrooper. Just as Rebound started hearing the fodder's warnings of danger and questioning just what they were talking about, Tiger Claw reappeared. In nearly the same instant, his dagger was plunged to the hilt into the back of Shocktrooper's neck just where the skull and spine meet. Her death was nearly instant. No fanfare, no noises of pain. A wet squelch, a splash, and a thud as she hit the ground.
Grim's relief was almost instant, save for the smell of singed hair. He started giggling as he watched Kwan dispatch his tormentor, letting it become an uproarious cackle. Saber looked away from him and the shock of the situation caused him to loosen enough for Grim to pry himself away from his literal iron grip. "Fuck!!" Grim backed off and kept laughing in his face as he held his stomach, body twitching as the residual energy coursed through him and arced up his horns like a Jacob's ladder. “What's wrong Tin Man…? Have you got a heart in there after all…?” Saber turned to him and with wrath on his face he struck out at Grim again. “Shut the fuck up!” Was all he could think to say, missing his attack before whirling around and charging toward Tiger Claw. Grim wouldn't be able to help in his condition he thought, and Molly was still on the ground as far as he knew. Rebound turned to see Tiger Claw standing there with knife in hand, slick with blood, and her friend laying wide-eyed, unmoving at his feat in a crumpled heap. She screamed in frustration, taking her eyes off of Chaos. “Shock! No!!” Tiger Claw stanced up to fight against the now-raging Steel-Saber. Rebound could hear something behind her as more thugs called out not to let her guard down against Chaos, but as she turned a concentrated burst zipped past her and hit Steel-Saber in the side. He was thrown off course and stumbled to the ground. When he tried to get up he could feel himself leaking. He looked at where he'd been hit and molten slag was sloughing off of him. He could feel the insane heat now, and he cried out.
Rebound was the one who was scrambled now. One comrade dead. Another severely injured. She was alone now. As Chaos charged another burst of plasma Rebound got inbetween her and Saber. She could take whatever was thrown at her. Heat, kinetics, even sound if she was prepared for it. This wouldn't be any different. She'd use their own strength against them. Chaos couldn't get a clear shot and her auxilliary sensors were still on the fritz. Tiger Claw wouldn't be able to touch her without his hits getting absorbed and used against him. He could try to suppress himself again and take her by surprise, but that didn't work even when she wasn't looking at him. Grim was having different ideas. He turned his attention to the armed thugs and smiled wickedly at them with bloodshot, glowing eyes. With a wild laugh he set upon them like a predator after its prey, looking over them and watching their movements. He could see the pattern and sequence of their attacks in how they moved, where they were, and what weapons they held.
This was his preferred combat setting: light enemies in numbers. He couldn't deal with them as quickly as most of his teammates but it was where he could revel in the combat. He hit the first few with his fists and feet, tripping a few with his tail until he could get his hands on a weapon. Then the blood started to fly. He whirled like a dervish to bludgeon, slash, and pierce his foes with the weapons he could take from them, adapting to the battle as it commenced. He settled on a pair of machetes as his spinning and sometimes acrobatic movements gave him a 360 degree view of his opponents, his sped up perceptions slowing their movements to a crawl in his eyes. When the rabble realized that fighting him head on was a gamble with death they backed off and leveled firearms on him. Grim's eyes seemed to burn brighter and his already wide smile was pushed even wider with his excitement. One of the machetes he was holding found its new home buried deep in the eye socket of the one using an automatic weapon, having been thrown before the trigger was pulled. The other machete was thrown into the chest of one with a pistol, slipping between the ribs and opening a massive wound. Grim collected the SMG and pistol as he rushed their bodies, slaying any other firearm wielding thugs with a spray of bullets. When the remaining fodder had begun running, Grim turned his attention back to Rebound. He laughed as he rushed her with guns in hand.
Rebound was now surrounded by threats on all sides, and one was advancing fast. She couldn't turn her attention to all of them. But she could absorb everything they threw at her. She stood firm, ready to take whatever they tried. Grim fired a pistol shot at her. He didn't remember how many bullets he had left, he'd forgotten to count since he was having too much fun now despite the pain in his stomach. But he wanted to test something.
Rebound absorbed the energy from the bullet, waited a moment, then quickly fired a focused blast of force at Grim. He took a grazing shot to one arm, firing on her with the other as she attacked. The second bullet hit her arm as well. It did damage. Grim, Chaos and Tiger Claw had all thought the same thing: that perhaps while she was expelling stored energy she couldn't absorb more. Chaos and Tiger Claw nodded at each other while Rebound was distracted with Grim's continued advance. Tiger Claw hid his visual presence in that moment and ran up on her. Chaos fired her blast that she had kept charged. Rebound absorbed the plasma, but waited to release. Tiger Claw hit her next, reappearing to show Grim that he'd made contact and also been absorbed. He leaped back to prepare for Grim to lay down fire but it didn't come. Rebound turned to look at Grim and put up both hands. She waited. Grim got close, stopping right in front of her and pointing his gun at her throat.
He didn't fire. This was the game now. Whoever fired first would be dead. Rebound looked up into Grim's face. His smiling, wide-eyed, hellish face. Seconds felt like minutes to the both of them. She grit her teeth and screamed in frustration, trying to get him to try something. Grim kept smiling. Then he started laughing. His face was inches from hers and he was laughing like a madman, staring her down. She looked up into his eyes intently, waiting for him. She could wait all day. And his friends weren't fast enough to catch her before he was a pile of viscera. Grim finally played his hand, and fired his pistol into her throat. The bullet stopped. Rebound smiled. “I Win!” Grim smiled. The other gun went off. Rebound wasn't smiling anymore. While she'd been focused on his face, looking for a tell, Grim had brought up his injured arm and shot up through her chest and skull as she went to release the energy she had stored. He leaped back in the same moment to ride out some of the force wave, getting thrown away a decent distance. Chaos and Tiger Claw were thrown back a bit too, though not nearly as much since they were farther away and the force was directed mostly at Grim. He hit the ground and tumbled backward. He looked up at the fountain of blood spewing from Rebound's head as she fell back dead. “Hehehehehe… I win…”
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