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Issue #1: The Day After the Day Unlike Any Other


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The Establishing Panel: A large splash of Halcyon City. It's a beautiful August day, the sun glinting off skyscraper. From up here, the reader can see the logo for the Halcyon City Herald, the corporate headquarters of Rook Security, and Frontiers Plaza, home of the world famous Final Frontier.






Second Panel: A team shot of the team – Kitsune, Leverage, Xhrin, Leshy, Persephone, the Incantrix, and Argo – standing over the defeated form of the Man-Moss, AKA Neal Tucker. Their mood varies by team member, but it's clear by many of their posture - this doesn't fully feel like a win.






Third Panel: A close up of the campus for Halcyon City University, with students young and old milling about.





Additional panels: The group going around their lives, either moving into dorms, getting textbooks, eating lunch, talking with friends, or - in the case of those not attending university - dealing with their own issues and problems.



Welcome to MASKS! I'm gonna let you all do as you want to for a little while before the ball gets rolling.


This will be an introductory issue going over the basics of the system; ideally I'd like to get everyone to at least try out the basic moves,t he flow of combat and storytelling, and see how concepts such as label shifts, conditions, team moves and so forth work.


I will assume that the team's communicators are on them at present unless they can think of a reason for them not to be. Otherwise, where you start is up to you.


Also: yes, I will be using comic conceits such as panels, captions and the like. So:



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it's night and Leshy is trying very hard not to think about the fact he is hiding in the bushes and stalking a dorm. He spotted his girlfriend, (er former girlfriend? what was their relationship status when  you disappear and only leave her cryptic notes assuring her you're not dead), during the fight at the park. the first fight. She saw him and was terrified of the monster. which...yeah fair that's about what he expected. 

He knew he should get back to the sewer and be headed back to the woods, Pooka will be grumpy he was late for dinner, but he needed to make sure she was ok. in shadows and with his skin molding and morphing to mimic the tree leaves he was nearly invisible, in his element. well at least he wouldn't horrify anyone else. from his vantage he's able to look into her dorm room. he can't see much and again is trying not to think about how he's a literal monster creeping on someone but is comforted to see she's back in the room and seemingly unharmed. Still looks shaken though, he must've really scared her.

When her back is turned he extends a tendril leaving an envelop with a note, continuing their correspondence via dead drop in the woods that he'd arranged a couple weeks after...the incident. He wished he could be there to comfort her but this note will have to do for now. sigh, how did his life get so complicated? he just wanted to study forests and bees and stuff

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The drive out to the university was a little tense. Sachiko sat in the back seat with her little brother, which would normally lead to horsing around and end with her brother in a headlock squirming and laughing as he tried ineffectually to escape. But that sort of thing wouldn't happen while Yosuke, their father, sat in the front passenger seat while their mother drove. Even in the family car, Yosuke didn't drive...he was driven. His silence was an unspoken command, and even rebellious Sachiko saw fit to obey this time.


Consulting her registration form and handout, Sachiko let her mom know which parking lot to pull into to the building her dorm was in. While the other two took boxes out of the trunk to carry them up, Yosuke got out of the car and motioned Sachiko over to him.


"So is this when you tell me how proud you are of me?" Sachiko asked. She couldn't help it. Despite her earlier resolve not to rile him up, it was just too much of a habit. Her father pressed his lips tightly together for a moment, then said, "You could have gone to any school if you'd tried as hard as you can."


"This is a good school, and it means I get to keep in touch with my friends. And...you guys, I guess. You have to take the bad with the good though."


Yosuke shook his head slightly. "Work hard. Do your best. Then I will be proud." He watched the others with the boxes, then added, "Only three boxes."


Sachiko shrugged. "A deal's a deal. You pay my tuition, and I leave my 'toys' behind. I don't need many boxes for clothes and some books and my laptop."


Her father looked away and nodded stoically. Taking that as a dismissal, Sachiko grabbed the last box and started hauling it up. Yosuko followed her. She had to move carefully to make sure that the illusion she'd crafted around her backpack didn't slip...and that the game console and bundle of discs for it didn't shift and make noise. Maybe he approved of the care she was taking...but she doubted it.


As expected, once everyone was in her room, Yosuke had her open the three boxes and turn out the contents. If he was surprised, or impressed, or pleased, at her apparent compliance he didn't show it. He just nodded again and told her that this school should not challenge her, and he expected top grades.Sachiko then assured him she would, and exchanged a more affectionate farewell with her mom. It was her brother that hugged her though, before she could stop him. Sachiko winced as she felt his hands touch the fabric of her backpack.


His eyes met hers, and she gave him a wry smile and shrug. Instead of the conspiratorial amusement he might have had just a year or two ago, he looked disappointed...but didn't say anything.


Then Sachiko was alone, for the moment, in her dorm room. She hadn't met her roommate yet, and wasn't in a hurry to. There'd be time for that later. For now she wanted to explore the campus and try to wash the awkward off with sunlight and a cool breeze.


She took her backpack off, letting the light bouncing off of it escape again, causing it to reappear to vision. Then it went under her bed. Then she headed out to see what she could see.

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Sunlight glinted off the mulsanne blue and chrome trim of the '72 Chevy Nova SS, the growling engine growing silent as the classic muscle car came to a stop in the dorm parking lot. The driver listened to the clicking of the cooling engine for a moment, registration form and orientation pamphlet in hand.


The driver side door opened and long, shapely denim-clad leg wearing a black Converse Chuck Taylor slid out, followed shortly by its pair. A young, statuesque and exotically attractive  woman stood up out of the car, a dark grey HCU t-shirt covering her curvaceous torso. Her long, silver-white hair glistened under the sun, tied back in a simple, sleek pony tail. The striking car had already drawn attention, and that attention shifted immediately to its even more striking driver.


Jo took a deep breath and reminded herself that they didn't know, couldn't know, she was Incantatrix, the new Incantatrix, couldn't see the mantle of arcane might that was newly settled upon her. The minor glamour and long black, englyphed coat was sufficient to conceal her identity Jo told herself. An instant later, Jo realized why there were so many eyes turned her way.


Riley had always been the tall one, the pretty one. Jo had been a bit on the short side, a bit on the heavyset side. The best that had ever been said about Jo was cute. Now, she was glamorous and hawt, taller and prettier than Riley had ever been, and looked considerably different. She looked like someone had taken a dozen supermodels from an equal number of ethnicities and half as many continents, threw them in a blender, strained the mess for the best bits, and made a new girl from them. Actually, Jo looked a good deal like their grandmother, the Elder Incantatrix, only younger, and not by that much. Oma had looked younger than her daughter, their mother.


Riley was the one that was supposed to be showing her around campus, but that was before Doomsayer had shown up just as Jo had driven into Halcyon City. Despite all evidence to the contrary - especially with the mantle of the Incantatrix so unexpectedly falling on her shoulders - Jo still refused to believe her sister and grandmother, Cantrip and Incantatrix were dead. Not that missing without a trace was much better.


Weaving sympathetic magic to alter all her records, Jo had intended to share a dorm room with her friend Samantha. But something had gone awry - again, it was damnably hard to control so much more eldritch power than she had ever expected to wield - and was now paired up with a girl she'd never met or heard of, Melinda, who also shared her new major in Arcane Studies. Jo believed she had mispronounced an umlaut. Samantha had a cheerleader thing she had to go to, so Jo, being a newb to Halcyon City, was moving in on her own.


Jo shaded her eyes and looked up the height of the apartment building, Crowley House it was called, on account of the majority of the residents over the years being enrolled into the Arcane Studies program. Originally, she been in the Automotive Mechanics program, but, well, she needed to learn how to control these new powers at hand, and the one who should have been teacher her was missing.


Jo reached over into the back seat, pulling out a backpack, which she slung over her shoulder, and a red toolbox. Probably not as necessary for her new degree, but she had them with her regardless, and while not as handy around a house as she was around a car, they might still be useful. The backpack and toolbox were only the first of several loads anyway. She bumped the car door closed with her hip, and as she bent over to lock the door, she surreptitiously looked around for Dante, making sure he was staying out of sight.


One more glance at the paper in her hand, then making a shy-eyed wave at the people looking her way, Jo strode into the dorm house, heading for the top floor to see what her room and room-mate were like.


This is going to be so awkward...

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Melinda had been fretting for hours now, going between outright panic and just outrage. She was supposed to have a single room. Not because she was some trust-fund baby that didn't want to share. No, she'd worked extra jobs and added a student loan on top of her scholarship to afford the extra room because she didn't want to end up crawling back in from a night as Persephone, be too tired to make it up to the garden on the roof, and end up taking enough life force from a hapless roommate to suppress their immune system and send them to the hospital for two weeks. Or give them a heart attack from shock to their system. Or just outright kill them on accident. 

She'd once discovered the foster home she was in had rats because one of the other kids broke her wrist and dislocated her shoulder - not on purpose, they'd been jumping on couches and crashed into each other hard. They fell tangled up together and thank god there'd been rats. Thank god the foster parents could afford getting them out of the vents after they started stinking, too.  

Visions swam in her head of people-sized rats laying way too still on the floor or empty bed across from hers. She stood up and shook herself. "Okay," she said aloud to herself, "I can't change this and the school won't. So. Self-control. Be careful. Maybe get a few plants in here. No big deal if they keep dying - I'm just a horrible gardener then. Karen can get a laugh from that. Right? Right."

She nodded several more times and made sure she was breathing nice and evenly before she started moving again. The new roommate would be moving into today. Lin had moved in a few days ago,  happier to back at college than in the cramped little apartment she'd rented over the summer. She made her way upstairs, through the study space the finished attic had been turned into when the school had renovated the house, and out onto the patio roof.

The school had tried to let the roof be something of any outdoor study space, but after the third broken bone from college shenanigans, the patio had been divested of furniture and the door locked. Lin had managed to get special permission to start a garden in the area under three conditions: no narcotic or hallucinogenic plants, no parties or large gatherings on the roof, and the plants grown had to tie back to her Arcane Arts major. She'd intended to grow sunflowers and daffodils, but silvermoons, phoenix ferns, nefertem drops and lesser raskovnik all worked just as well for her purposes. 

It drove Karen nuts. And a small part of Melinda like the garden all the more for that. 

The young woman fell into the routine of gardening with an audible sight and the contentment of a skill mastered from necessity years ago.

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As the fickle finger of fate would have it, however, the brewing autumn winds of Halcyon City picked up, and caught Leshy's letter upon the breeze, tearing it free from the windowsill and setting it aloft.


Leshy could either grab it out of the air - possibly risking being seen - or let it go, and go through the emotional wringer of having to write it all out again...




Outside, the campus smelt of autumn and the scent of the grapple trees around campus grown fruitful and ripe. They were a special gift from the superhero known as Green Machine - a biotech-fueled synthetic lifeform - and they felt like apples when you bit them, but tasted like grapes. They never caught on in supermarkets, but the university still took care of them.


A couple of food trucks - Dumpling Hero, Gogi Truck, and Sal's Flatbed Flatbread - were set up on grounds, next to some kind of outdoor art performance that appeared to be reinterpreting the adventures of the initial team members of Final Frontier through the music of the Beatles. There was a long, long line out the bookstore, and not far off, the Halcyon University Heralds were engaged in team practice, along with the horrible golden blob mascot known as the Champ.


Somewhere in the middle of all this, A woman bumped into Sachiko - a total stranger, who looked over Sachiko and just sneered, going "pfft."






Jonni looked at her backpack, and peeking out the side was Dante, her familiar - well, technically Dante thought of Jonni as his familiar, but that was an argument for another day.

Either Jonni had snuck him into her back, or he'd snuck in on his own; whatever had happened, the little scamp was here now, and the weird ferret-lizard hybrid that talked was going to attract attention if anyone spotted him. So naturally, his first words were:


"Hey! I'm hungry. They got anyone worth eating around here?"


Dante paused, and rephrased. "They got anyTHING worth eating?"




Up on the roof of her dorm, a gust of wind came up, and knocked over a pot that was perched just a little too high for Halcyon City's high autumn winds. There was no plant inside, and the pot was thick plastic, so no harm was done; all there was, was a little spilled dirt, and -


And as Melinda turned, she saw that the dirt had settled - with the help of a slight swirl of wind - into a spiral.


It was brown dirt, not red. And spirals were nature's most naturally occurring shape. But even so, just the sight of it was a reminder she'd rather not have had... if it had happened by sheer coincidence at all.


The pot was close enough to the side of the roof that if Melinda wanted to, she could see Jonni if she wished to.




Inside Halcyon City University's library, the Red Badge Memorial Library, a woman names Adele was carrying a load of books.


The library wasn't busy just yet, but it was filling up; enough so that if Xhrin had been out in public, xey'd be easily noticed in xer d'zir shapes. And so, Adele had done a favor for her friend and gathered up a load of interesting books - from cookbooks to comic books, from pulp adventure to political histories - and brought them to Xhrin instead.


Wherever Xhrin was, xey felt the familiar psi broadcast of Agnes, asking where to bring the books...




The downside of getting a lift to the University from her mentor was that she was the one who decided what the radio was set to. Currently the podcast that was on rotation was Serial, which was currently delving into an uncomfortable subject: whether or not Niall Collins, the hero known as Quintessence, was guilty of negligent homicide in the death of Sam Reed in the late 1990s.


That Sam was Niall's friend, and that medical examiners could not say for certain whether it was being knocked off the Colossus Building in downtown Halcyon that killed Sam or Niall catching him a little too fast in mid-air that did it, had made the whole affair emotionally difficult for everyone in, or adjacent to, the superhero community. The podcast was re-examining the evidence, and also asking the bigger question: whether or not Niall had killed Sam simply by being his friend and having a secret identity at the same time.


Out of the blue, as they pulled into the parking lot, Amanda's mentor - in her civilian guise as Natasha Nicos, AKA the Global Guardian known as Athena - turned to Amanda, her expression curious.


"Amanda, what do you think. Was there anything Quintessence could have done differently?"




In the middle of Halcyon City University's main square, there was a statue dedicated to the Red Badge.


Somewhat unexpectedly, the Red Badge wasn't a cop or a cop-themed superhero; he was a Gold Generation superhero who had been shot with a magical bullet, and had gained incredible healing powers that would heal most any wound, except the scar that the bullet had left. Like many Golden Generation heroes, he was armed with a pair of pistols and a grappling hook; he took his superhero name from the war novel of the same name, The Red Badge of Courage.


Elaine was on the university grounds, going about her business, but couldn't help but stop here, because not too long ago, the Red Badge had finally died - not a peaceful death surrounded by family, but a brutal death where the magic bullet was forcibly dug out of his chest. The bullet had been stolen away afterwards, and Elaine knew who'd done the murder and who'd done the stealing; she'd seen it in the study of her fathers, in the section dedicated to whatever magical cult they were a part of.


Not far away was an outdoor drama group performance of some kind of rock opera casting the members of the original Final Frontier as the Beatles, including a mop-topped student playing fashion icon and famous superhero Dani Dynamo; also not far away was Red Badge Memorial Library, starting to fill up with students.





Edited by Charlotte
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Leshy panics seeing his note fluttering away in the wind. Without thinking he shoots out a tendril from his body, the end forming a set of gummy jaws that snap down on the note, snatching it out of the air. He is relieved at first but then stares in horror at the alien appendage holding the note. He didn't even think about it, he just did it. as naturally as moving his arm. It was so normal for him now, was he even human anymore? 

The limb lets go of the note, releasing it to flutter away in the wind as the tendril withdraws, gummy mouth reabsorbing back into his skin.  It's actually better this way. He shouldn't be bothering her. 

Leshy crawls out of the tree and shambles over to a man hole, which he lifts and seeps down into, leaving the human world behind once more.

Edited by Ing
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"Shi-Shush!" Jo stammered with a start, barely turning the curse into an admonishment. She straightened her shoulders, but managed not to twist around to glare at her backpack. Dante's deep, smooth, oh so very British accented voice almost always surprised her. "I'm pretty sure pets aren't even allowed."


"And yet, there are making an exception for you, lovely gazelle that you are."


Jo could hear the snide smile in Dante's voice. She ground her teeth. "I told you not to sneak into my stuff."


"If I did everything you... mildly suggested, pet, my life would be terminally dull. Rather than merely routinely dull. Dreadful for the likes of I, who has languished for so long seeing to the likes of you."


"I didn't--" Belatedly, Jo pulled out her smartphone, so she could at least give the impression she was talking to someone, rather than something invisible, in her backpack, or in her head. "I didn't ask you to come."


"A grievous oversight on your part that I so graciously ameliorated. Now, as to food?"


Jo sighed. She wasn't going to win this round. "Well, I can't just take stuff from the dorm house, if they even have stuff, not with at least introducing myself, and I haven't bought any groceries yet. What do you even eat?"


"Things. Someones, in a pinch, or a pound. None of that contemptible vegan or pumpkin spice rubbish you college girls are so fond of."


"One soy pumpkin spice latte coming up," Jo threatened, and Dante made a weird chirping-hiss of displeasure. She hadn't had to pay for a single cup of coffee since she'd become the newest Incantatrix, which seemed a very odd and specific perk - It always seemed there was someone paying for hers. Jo pointed off down the side, from which came some music that was just a touch too far away to decipher. "Look, there's a couple of food trucks that way. I'll get us something, after I say hi to my room-mate and get my stuff moved in. It's not that much anyway."


Dante emitted a put upon sigh that sounded way too human. His solid orange eyes narrowed into slits as he settled deeper into Jo's back pack with the crinkle of sliding or shifting of paper. "Very well."


"You better have not turned my textbooks into a nest of something."


"You need to work on that mending spell, luv," came the dry, drowsy replied that didn't admit or refute anything.


It was Jo's turn to sigh. Mess up one time, and they never let you forgot. Besides, Pants was adorable.


Jonni strode into Crowley House as though she had every right to be there - and to all apparent records, she did - and began looking for anyone official, or her room, whichever came first.



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Elaine stood there for awhile, a carefully crafted expression on her face. Her outfit was designed, by herself down to the buttons that she had had specially made. The sling style back pack didn't detract from her overall look. That was generally the key to outfits, all of the details, down to the aforementioned buttons. It didn’t look overly gaudy or expensive just… right. She had bags for most of her outfits; all carefully color coded and hung in her closets in the basement. She was glad she was down there, in a corner room. Fire codes meant she had a window she could come and go from if she needed to slip out past whatever this place had for a curfew.


Her eyes roved over the statue, and then she walked towards the library. She couldn't spend the time to obsess about what her Dads had done that she couldn't fix...it was time to establish patterns, the kind that set her as studious and above mischief. She ignored the outdoor drama group, and the other students playing catch and so forth on the campus grounds. A faint smile toyed at her lips though, she was here. Here was not where the dad’s had had in mind, but it was where she had picked. Maybe she did get in the house they would have preferred, but surely not everyone in that building was into woowoo stuff right? Maybe if she was out from under the parental watchful and ever hopeful eye and she might not mind learning a bit more magic, at least something less…. Slanted, as much of theirs was.


The sidewalks were full of random students going this and that way. She dodged with a surefooted grace that suggested she had perhaps once had spent some time in a dance class of some kind. Perhaps that would give too much away, she thought to herself, but really grass stains were a pain to get out of this fabric. Plus she was not about to be known for the person to first get accidentally shoulder checked off a sidewalk to wipe out with this many people watching.


Placing a confident and carefully polite expression on her face, one that she did not whatsoever feel right this moment, she pushed open the door to the library and stepped inside….

Edited by Jekca
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Amanda blinked at the question, reaching up to fidget with her long, blonde braid.


"Done differently? Looking back with hindsight can be good and bad. A slower catch maybe? Stopped him being thrown off the building in the first place? Thats just my thoughts but, other that that, I really don't know"


She reaches down to grab the strap of her bag.


"What should he have done?"

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Somewhere in the middle of all this, A woman bumped into Sachiko - a total stranger, who looked over Sachiko and just sneered, going "pfft."


Another day, Sachiko might not have even noticed the woman, or her attitude. She'd have been too focused on schedules and classes and all the things she was juggling.


Today though...today she was spoiling for someone to take her troubles out on.


She looked back at the 'pfft' lady and broke into a big smile, "Hey!"


When the other woman turned towards her, expression clearly expecting some kind of argument or protest...and rather relishing the thought of it, Sachiko instead said, "I just really wanted to tell you how much I admire your shoes. They are awesome."


A little taken aback, the other woman looked down at her own shoes out of sheer instinct. And there, coiling between her feet, was a big snake drawn in vivid brown and tan and creme-colored scales, flicking its black tongue fitfully and staring up at her with yellow, vertically-slit eyes. It was hard to tell how big it was with all the coils, but it looked big.


The sudden piercing scream brought a smile to Sachiko's face, as did the woman's sudden motion; catapulting herself backwards and away so fast that she fell over backwards. By the time she was scrabbling away in a kind of crabwalk, the 'snake' had already vanished like the mirage it had been. Other people responding to her would find nothing.


Sachi turned and continued on her way, feeling a little better. It was a petty thing maybe, but feeling like she could put at least ONE pain in her ass in her place made things seem a little better.

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Seph shuddered at the sight of the spiral - natural or not, it put a pretty big damper on her serene mood. She took a deep breath and moved over to the guardrail on the roof; cleaning could wait for later. She squinted at the odd picture some new student was making on the lawn. Was she talking to her backpack? Had her backpack wriggled? She rolled her eyes. Great, one more stray cat to add to the university's prodigious count once it bolted out of whatever room the new student was moving into and got lost on the campus. It wasn't that Seph didn't like cats - kittens were the cutest little fluffballs of claws and teeth you could find - but there was a time and place for house pets and it wasn't in a dorm room. Too many got abandoned when students realized Mom or Dad or whoever weren't going to let them take them home or when the animals learned they could get much better meals from begging outside the cafeterias and could sleep farther than five feet away from their litter box if they just gave up the human that brought them here. 

God, I hope this 'Jonni Smith' doesn't show up with a menagerie in tow. Heck, at this point I just hope Jonni is a girl. Karen seemed to have it out for her and given one "administrative mistake", Seph could just see her having made room for second one. It was going to be delicate enough dealing with a roommate for the year. Having to leave the room to change regular clothes would just be guh.

She sighed and tried to turn away from her churning thoughts by bringing a small amount of order back to her world. She took a little bit of delight in sweeping the spiral away, wiped off her hands - leaving the obligatory smudge of dirt on her cheek a few moments later when moving a stray lock of hair out of the, of course - and headed back to her dorm room.  

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Night came, and as it often did, became morning again.


Leshy awoke to his dog, Pucca, licking his face affectionately. Outside of where he was sleeping were the familiar sounds of his - friends? Charges? - his band of misfit fans, arguing over a comic book.


"Look, we've been over this," said Upchuck, who only ever seemed confident and assured when it came to nerd media. "They changed the continuity when Axiom revealed his secret identity, because they're supposed to reflect real-world superheroes and since his name was Wilbur Macintosh, that's what Axoim's name has to be in the comics."


Peabody rolled his eyes. "But Vance Xander is such a cooler name! And the event they came up with to change everyone's names after their secret IDs were leaked was so bad - "


Tomboy was playing on her phone, and saw Leshy emerge. She smiled, and waved.




Jonni entered the dorm to see the head of the dorm arguing with one of its more famous residents.


Henry Stamp, AKA the superhero known as Firefox, had many different looks; a classic unthreatening teen heartthrob at one point, a distinctive fox-themed suit that channeled his pyrokinetic abilities at another; a carefully cultivated persona of rebelliousness (he had famously once proclaimed that superheroes with secret identities were being dishonest with the public.) Right now? He just looked annoyed.


"I can't get the car out of my dorm is the thing," he explained, trying to keep his temper.


"Then, Henry, we are just going to have to dismantle it into smaller pieces so that we can fit it out the window - "


"But it's my car. I own it. And I don't want anyone to take it apart. I, I don't give you permission - "


"But we, in turn, didn't give you permission to store it inside your dorm room - "


"I didn't put it inside my room!"


"Nevertheless: check your lease agreement. You are responsible for keeping your dorm room up to certain standards - "


Henry Stamp, AKA Firefox, looked like he was going to metaphorically explode. Rumors actually said that when he was overly emotional, he had a harder time summoning and controlling flame, not an easier one - but nonetheless, people were starting to take a step or two back.


As for Jonni, for once, she wasn't the center of attention.




Inside the library, things were starting to get busier. An assistant was wheeling a large and eclectic collection of books around, a number of other students were lined up to get library cards and book rooms, and just in front of her, a student was stapling up a flyer for -


Well, now.


Elaine caught sight of the flyer and blinked, because apparently - as a special trip to Halcyon City University - Claudia deConnick, famed superheroism-inspired fashion designer was going to be participating in an exhibit at Halcyon City Heroic History Museum, less than half a block off campus, that was scheduled to run for the entire semester. The exhibit was going to cover the history of 20th and 21st century superfashion, and Claudia, a famous recluse, was going to be giving daily lectures as part of it.


As Elaine studied the poster, the assistant who was wheeling the collection of books was cut off by a rude student and wound up tipping the load, sending them flying everywhere. The assistant let out a very unladylike curse.




"A gentler catch, yes. That always helps. But you're more on the right track with prevention; stopping it before it starts. And that means depriving your enemies of the target to begin with, so I suppose the deeper question..."


Athena drummed her fingers on the steering wheel, not taking her eyes off her protege.


"... should Quintessence have been friends with a civilian to begin with? Or did having a secret identity lead him into letting his guard down, and his friend paying the price?"




The woman cursed as she stood up - or presumably stood up, because Sachiko was well on her way by then. And then, she heard her exclamation:


"Where's my purse?"


No one was making a run for it; there were tons of people in the park, and whoever it was was deciding to lay low. All eyes were focusing on the woman who'd lost her purse as she started to panic.




Melinda made it to her dorm room, and set her things down, and took a step inside, and then...


... time...


... got...


... strange...


She felt the colors of the room blueshift, smelled and tasted a metallic tang in the air. It was like her visions, but this one was... off.


The background noise of the city faded to a dull, distorted roar, and then there was a ripple in space, and then Melinda watched as it took the shape of a person, and then realized why this vision felt different: this vision was coming to her.


The person before her was wearing a battered suit with a faded Final Frontier logo on it, and had a thick helmet on - but the visor in the helmet was cracked, and Melinda found herself eye to eye with one wild-eyed, unblinking pale blue eye. And the helmet had a splash of what Melinda knew, absolutely knew, was fresh blood, strewn across it.


"It worked," said the stranger, voice distorted by the helmet, as they looked at Melinda.


"It's you."

Edited by Charlotte
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"I think...I think not having friends is just as dangerous as having friends. Without them, you lose sight of what it means to not be super, of how being super affects those around you. But having friends is dangerous, especially if villians find out who they are."

Amanda looked out the window towards the football field, where she shone, where her athleticism and talent were clear.


"I don't think I could not have friends, it, just means being extremely careful."

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Pure shock and panic ran through her, all tangled up between "They look hurt!," "I don't have my mask on!" and "What if my roommate walks in?" She blinked when her brain finally caught up that they were also. . . looking for her? Or knew her? Or. . . she shook her head, snapping herself out of the half-second freeze. Visions weren't lengthy things. 

"Who are you? Why are you looking for me? What happened to you?" Information. That's what visions were for. She shot the questions out in a clipped speed, her tone not unfriendly but very business-like. She pulled the door closed behind her without looking away - the last thing she needed was Karen eavesdropping on this most unusual of "calls". 


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Having just pulled her cell out, on silent of course, after all they were in a library, Elaine snapped a quick photo of the flyer (history of 20th and 21st century superfashion, and Claudia deConnick? She might as well just get a damn year pass at this rate to the place, because she was going to end up down there that much), just in time to turn and watch the assistant  wheeling the collection of books catastrophically run into a student.


As student went one way, assistant went another, and the books went.... well flying everywhere. She couldn't help but wince, poor books, they certainly didn't deserve, nor had asked for, their short untimely lesson in bad flying. The assistant cursed as El leaned over and reached to catch a book that otherwise might end up beaning another nearby patron.

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Sachiko's reaction was...complex. On the one hand, she didn't really care about the woman's purse. On the other, it was irksome to think that someone else had hijacked her poetic justice to inflict unintentional injury to her victim. And on a third, hypothetical hand...she smiled.


A quick scan of the crowd turned up the culprit. A young man was walking away, not even looking back, with his hands stuffed in his hoodie pockets...and from the bulge, they weren't alone in there.


Hero time!


From up above something dropped into the thief's path. A female figure in a black bodysuit wearing a white and red kitsune noh mask. Orbiting her head were three ghostly silver-white orbs of light about the size of a clenched fist.


"Stop thief!" the Kitsune shouted. She held a hand out, and the hand burst into white flames. "A purse isn't worth the thrashing you'll suffer if you keep this up! Plus, you wouldn't even get to keep the purse, so...really really not worth it!"


The would-be purse snatcher yelped in surprise and veered off, trying to change directions. To no avail though; the Kitsune gestured and a clone of herself seemed to leap out of her, streaking across the turf to again get in his way.


"You can't get away," the new Kitsune said warningly. "Stand down!"


He looked around, but there already two other Kitsunes strolling up behind him and to his left. Hemming him in. Worse still, the scene had attracted attention from the crowd that had already started gathering around the shouting woman...and now they were coming over. Several at a run.


The thief dropped the purse and held his hands up. "Fine! I give up!"


"Smart move," Kitsune said. She started to reach down to pick up the purse, then paused when she saw its owner in the crowd. Stepping back, she gestured for her to come over and claim her property. "Here you go. Good thing I was in the neighborhood!"

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Leshy lumbered up to them, casually growing a stick of wood from his flora and throwing it for Pucca to fetch. 

"Hey, what are you arguing about now?" he asked reaching down to get a better look at the comic book. pausing when he sees the cover. On it the hero Axiom clashes with a monster made out of slime and teeth as it menaces a woman it holds in a clawed hand. The cover promises the surprising return of the swamp monster Obscenity and it's super villain creator Bête Noire. Leshy deduces from the panicked blurbs on the cover that the villain and it's monster have returned to capitalize on the hero Axiom's true identity becoming public by menacing his fiance. Leshy's eyes narrow in irritation beneath his matted lichen 


"oh....more super hero junk...."

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Jo wasn't the centre of attention and she wanted to keep it that way when she saw Firefox. She bit down on her lower lip to conceal a smirk and a bit of worry. Kitsune had made it sound like a fun idea at the time, but now Jo wasn't so sure, especially if she was going to be ending up sharing a dorm house with Firefox. It was a pretty sweet ride though, be a shame to muck it all up.


On the other hand, it seemed like it would be way too convenient for her to suddenly offer to help him out, knowing how to take a car apart and reassembly it - though she'd need lots of help and some extra tools to manage it. Maybe, uh, later, when Firefox wasn't so heated, and involved with what she presumed was the head of the dorm. As she was currently occupied too, Jo thought it best to introduce herself later.


The tall, young woman slipped surreptitiously around the pair, keeping her tool box close to prevent as much rattling at possible, then took the steps up to the second floor two at a time. A quick glance around the landing, looking at the small brass plaques on the doors giving room numbers, then Jo strode over to what should be her room. She shifted her tool box to her other hand, then knocked on the door.


"Hello?" Jo called through the door, her hand reaching for the knob, and beginning to twist...

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Amanda's mentor, Natasha, nodded. "Fair enough. But you're right; that means that you're going to have to always be looking out for them, a little bit more than you would if you weren't a superhero. Be careful with your identity and who you trust, always. Now..."


Natasha unlocked the car doors, and smiled - still business, but more friendly. "Get settled in; if you're needed, I'll be in touch, so keep your communicator close by. What's your first course, by the way?"




"I'm Adam Aquarius. My mother is Dani Dynamo and my father is Aaron Aquarius."


Melinda recognized the names - the oldest members of the Final Frontier, Dani Dynamo and Aaron Aquarius. But she didn't recognize the name Adam - he could be a new edition, he could not be.


"Listen - " He tried to grip her by the shoulder, but his hand passed right through. "Dammit - I'm only projecting. Listen. Your team - you can't let them break up. That's where it all goes - "


Adam Aquarius flickered in and out of existence briefly, and didn't seem to notice, he was talking so fast. " - and when they die, that's when Rook makes their move, and it's not long before they control everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, thanks to - "


Another frustrating flicker, and then Adam returned, and then flickered out again, his warnings becoming erratic.


" - cracked the xenomatter that mutated Leshy and something went wrong - "


" - you need to keep an eye on Leverage. Remember that. Because she'll - "


" - Argo gave up superheroics in protest after they - "


" - we had to evac to an unstable parallel dimension, designation XB242 - "


" - please tell me you're hearing me! The chronal slipstream's collapsing - "


And then, finally, the stillness in the air faded. And so did the voice, and projection, of someone called Adam Aquarius.




"Wow." The librarian - her nametag read Agnes - whistled at the catch. "Hell of a good arm."


She started putting the eclectic mix of books back on the cart, one of which included a LIFE photographic retrospective on the life story of Flying Freedom, which appeared to include rare photos of her variant costumes. Off Elaine's look, she looked to the poster board, and then put two and two together.


"Oh yeah, I saw the YouTube of her tearing into Axiom? I almost felt sorry for the guy, but yeah, he can not pull off those boots any more. Are you interested in super-fashion, then? Because we have quite a few books on the subject."




"Thank you," said the woman, relieved to get her purse back. "It had my birth certificate in it because I needed it for a - a thing - if I'd lost that - "


"I was gonna give it back," said the thief, unconvincingly, pinned underneath three football players and not going anywhere.


"Pff," said the woman. "Thanks. I'm glad there's some decent people on campus. Wait, are you going after a supervillain or something, like that awful moss man? Should I be running?"




"Hey - hey - " Upchuck turned the comics cover over, momentarily forgetting the argument.


"Listen, they get stuff wrong all the time. You're a hero, right? You hang out with the rest of the, uh... do you have a name yet? Whatever, they're all heroes too, right? If you were really a monster like Obscenity they'd never let you hang out with them."


"Yeah," added Tomboy. "They can think what they wanna, we know you're a good guy."


(Leshy, they are not adults but I do believe you care what these kids think, so I'm going to rule that they are shifting your labels - Freak down, Savior up. You have two options; accept this shift, or reject Influence.)







Jonni didn't hear or see anything unusual on her way up to the dorm room, and may open it - if she does, she won't see anything out of the ordinary by the time she enters.

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Amanda smiles back up at Natasha


"Dance, and I can't wait!"


She grabs her bag and hops out the car, slinging her bag over her shoulder, then looks back into the car.


"Lets hope for a normal first day! I have my comm if needed"


She turns and looks up at the building before her, and pulls a map from her pocket, quickly sussing a route to her classroom before making the trek inside.

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Seph dove for a notebook and pen as soon as the vision began spouting off intermittent information that sounded important she not forget or get wrong - even if she only had part of it. She'd gone into laser focus on getting it down and trying to figure it out as she wrote. So much so that by the time the projection finally winked completely out of existence in the room, she'd long forgotten about roommates and moving day at the dorm. 

When Jonni gave her friendly "Hello?" into the room, Seph started so badly she actually squeeked in surprise and stumbled against her desk in an instinctual grab to hide the notebook. She almost immediately got herself under control, but acting like a high-strung bunny was certainly *not* the first impression she'd hoped to make. She glanced sheepishly over at the open door and then stared for just a half-second longer than was polite at the woman standing there. She'd known she'd have a roommate. She'd known their name was Jonni Smith and wondered if Karen had managed to even get her paired up with a guy against school policy out of the RA's spite for anything that didn't fit just right to her. 

Karen had apparently bungled that last part. Jonni was very much a woman. An insanely hot, tall, ethereally looking woman and Seph's brain wasn't ready for that. Any of it. 

"Uh. Um. Sorry." Seph mumbled, furiously trying not to blush because why was she blushing? "I, uh, roommate. Right. Welcome. To the room. Just. . . doing some writing. Your bed's over there. It's, um, lofted. Like mine. Gives you more space. In the room." I'm an idiot. "I, uh, I'm just leaving now. So. So you can get settled in. Right. Okay." Where am I going to go?

She stood there, trying to stare and not stare at Jonni at the same time and trapped from being able to actually leave the room until Jonni came the rest of the way in. 

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"Thanks Agnes," Elaine said, looking uncomfortable, before deciding to move on to the part of the conversation that interested her, rather than outted her. She knelt and helped pick up the book, magazines, and other various detritus from the collision.


"And yes, I am. It's.... a lot more important that some realize. A costume malfunction at the wrong time can...well have catastrophic consequences, to one's reputation not to mention longevity and lack of injuries.... Plus... heros's need to look good too. We are long past underwear over tights nonsense.... or we should be," Elaine said as she reached for the books, closed them gently, and replaced them on the cart.


She glanced around, "It is a mad house here already. I had hoped that the library would be quieter, being on the early end of things."

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