Open RP Mary's QUEST!

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A Pittsburgh Mansion

Mary stood on the other side of the road from the gate to the luxurious Pittsburgh mansion, one of many. But this place was special. Mary's Demonic patron had visited her a few days ago with a vision, and the vision told her of an extraordinary power hidden in this mansion. But Mary had to step out of her comfort zone, no robbing uninhabited houses, she had to break into someone's actual home and take something that belonged to them. Maybe she'd even have to hurt them for it...

Her hands were shaking, but she was hoping her cigarette would calm her down a little bit. The mansion was owned by some italian big-wig, not a mafioso or anything like that, just some stock broker that got big money from the crash in 2008. When everyone else was floundering, he was snatching cash hand over fist. By all accounts, this was a bad person. But Mary still couldn't help feeling bad.

Breaking into someone's personal home was more than a violation of their rights, it was a personal experience that could leave scars that could take decades to heal. Of course, it wasn't like Mary could really understand that too well. She had her home broken into many times, but she never owned anything worth stealing. Hell, the last thief that popped in ended up drinking with her by the end of the night.

Stamping out the cigarette, Mary sighed and whispered an affirmation, "Alright, let's do this. Quick smash and grab."
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The Shrike flew.

With uncontested strength, he kicked off the parapet of the US Steel Tower, the tallest building in Pittsburgh, his form as straight as an arrow. Beneath him, the city hummed with activity, even in the dead of night. Police sirens signaled acts of violence as the city's newfound metahuman population drove the desperate and cruel to commit darker deeds. He had come here, to this city, because this was where he had been led. There were more metas here - men and women like him - than anywhere else in the nation right now, save for perhaps New York City. The superpower boom had reignited organized crime across the country. The Mafia. The Chechens. The Triads. They all had their hungry eyes on Pittsburgh.

So, he would go where he was needed - to do what other men couldn't.

Clearing the block, he landed on a rooftop across the street at a full sprint, then vanished into shadow. A police helicopter flashed a floodlight over where he'd been only seconds before - but he knew fully well that they had lost him, utterly. Pursued for a crime he did not commit - murder in the first degree. The act which had inspired his namesake - the impaling of one Arthur Orange on the speartip of an American flag precariously positioned below the government office the crook had surreptitiously operated out of, at the top floor of a skyscraper higher than any in Pittsburgh in New York City. He would never have the chance to correct the record on what had happened that fateful night - but what mattered was that a man had died, and he was to blame. Murder or no, the Shrike could still be a force for justice. He had to be.

Tonight he sought new prey. With one of his only informants in Pittsburgh dead, he was in need of reliable information on the Triads' activities in the Steel City. Them, and another party in play - the Jackals, who so far as he knew, had a much stronger foothold. There was an explosion of metahuman violence in Pittsburgh, and he had to be there first - to try and curtail it, the way that one might stop a raging inferno by a controlled burn.

Enter the man he knew only as the Stockbroker, an alias well-suited to his primary means of accumulating wealth. He had connections - meta connections. Those didn't come cheap, and the mansion, once he'd arrived, was proof enough of that. The Shrike, too, was a man of means, but they weren't flaunted like this. His passion project demanded more spartan accomodations. Only by virtue of his superhuman ability, he frequently thought, did he keep his ability to function. He rarely slept, but was as alert as a fully rested man - no, moreso. He knew acutely well that he had to eat more than most men did, but he made superb use of the nutrients - his physique was proof. So when exposed to such decadence as this -

- he merely narrowed his eyes and began his ascent, talon-tipped digits prying handholds in the exterior walls of the elaborate mansion, the climb nigh effortless.

A man like the Stockbroker would have a skylight installation, no doubt. That was his entry point. Therein - he would find his prey, and learn whether the rumors were true that he was connected in a way that might be valuable to the Shrike. To the so-called Impaler.
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America was odd.

Far unlike his native shores of Sicily. The place he was in stank of shit and rusted steel-- though he did not know what he'd expected from a city that had pit in its name. Crime seemed to run rampant, and while he had half a mind to return to Sicily when this ordeal was over, Arlecchino was here on business-- and curiosity.

America was odd, yes, but a land of opportunity. And the Shade of Agrigento was ever the opportunist. Having made his way to the shores of America as a stowaway upon a ship, he was a stranger in a strange land; and with his only connection residing within Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he made his way here, to the city of steel. Whatever that meant, in this day and age. A cursory glance over Wikipedia showed that the place had undergone something called deindustrialization, which meant it was now a pile of abandoned shit. No wonder the mayor seemed to have given up on fixing the metahuman problem.

Less of a police presence, however, meant more freedoms... and more competition, should he get up to his signature ways of burglary. Already, his sights were set upon the museums and lavish estates of Pittsburgh-- however many there could be, in an uncultured place such as this-- but for now, he was content to watch the program known as the Sopranos on the television, fully in costume and lounging upon the bed within the guest room he had been afforded by his cousin.

"Tch." The television paused, then started again. Such was the case for the past three episodes. He had almost thrown a wire through the screen. "Giancarlo, non prende un cazzo qui! Sistema quel router di merda!"

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Mary knew how they built these kinda places, this wasn't the first mansion she had broken into. This was just the first time where someone was still living there. Over the fence, stick to the bushes, cameras usually faced the grounds and the gates, they didn't watch random sections of shrubbery and walls. Slip over to the side of the house, crawlspace vents would line the side. Mary wasn't sure why people had those, but she guessed most people assumed no one was thin enough to pull one off and slip their body in.

Mary was small enough.

As she entered feet first, pushing, pulling, and sucking in, Mary watched as a dark figure practically flew to the side of the mansion from somewhere nearby and begin to climb it as though the bricks were fucking ladder rungs. A wicked grin spread over her face as she slipped into the crawlspace, someone else was hitting this place at the same time as her. That would be a fanfuckingtastic distraction for the Warlock.

Quietly, she started humming as she crawled through the crawlspace. Most people's homes had one of these, but mansions and big houses had unique ones. Most homes had their crawlspaces tiny and isolated from the main building, but mansions tended to have small ones that gradually expanded into basement storage. Of course, no rich prick was going to crawl into a crawlspace to get to his storage, so you better believe they had a connected staircase from the storage to the main floors.

And Mary was right. As she crawled, the space slowly expanded bigger and bigger until she was on her hands and knees, then crouched, then standing up straight. Smiling, she sparked her hands to give herself a little bit of light while she looked for the switch. If she made the power of her blast without speaking, it would fizzle, which wasn't a problem when that's what she wanted. Finding a switch of some kind, she flipped it without thinking.

Mary barely had time to think about how big that switch was before the floor of the basement opened up, a steel door lifted revealing a staircase down to a room full of blinking lights. Computers.

"You're not, gonna, push me around~"
"You can't, get me, down down down~"
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The Knife of Manhattan wasted no time in his ascent up the side of the mansion, evading the sweeping gaze of a rooftop security camera with practiced elegance that belied his brutish strength. Crouched low to the roof, he crept toward the promised skylight to begin his infiltration of the Stockbroker's compound in earnest.

A flick of his wrist summoned one of his feather-like blades into his hand, a smaller knife called up from a compartment in his gauntlet. With his left hand, he embedded his talons in the center of the glass, not enough to shatter it, but enough to hold it still, such that gravity would not seize it after he made his hole. Then, drawing a practiced curve around the edge, he carved his way in, ultimately discarding the glass circle that remained when he was finished.

Dropping quietly into a hallway, the Shrike kept his ears open. Giancarlo was home - he knew that much - but whether there was a mistress, or bodyguards, he could not say.

"Giancarlo, non prende un cazzo qui! Sistema quel router di merda!" a voice called from a nearby room. Italian. And summoning the Stockbroker, no less.

The Shrike stepped swiftly toward the other room, but did so in silence; his weight shifted expertly from one foot to the other, sliding across the smooth floor. There was no debris to give him away, no stick to crunch, no stone to catch on; he rolled toward the other bedroom, where he expected Giancarlo to be, like a shadow.

Stepping inward, crouched low, he closed the door behind him and locked it - then turned, face to face with the Stockbroker himself, a pudgy Italian dressed casually.

With a flash of movement, the so-called Impaler whipped his hand forward, hurling a blunt metal feather at Giancarlo's chest just as the man opened his mouth to call out. It connected with the Stockbroker's solar plexus - thud - and he opened his mouth, eyes bulging, but unable to make a sound.

In an instant, he crossed the room, now standing at his full height, where he towered over the man, hand clamped down over his mouth.


The Sicilian stared up into the expressionless avian mask as taloned fingertips threatened to dig into his cheeks; the man's voice rumbled low and gravelly, not looking to be heard behind the closed door, but authoritative. He could tell that he'd been recognized. Good. If Giancarlo knew his reputation, he'd be more likely to talk. More likely to break.

"The Chechens. The Jackals. The Triads. What do you know?"

He had endured many things, as a mercenary and gentleman thief. But the buffering of Full Leather Jacket three times over the span of a minute was something not even he could deal with. A grunt of frustration fell from his padded festival mask as he threw up his hands, moving off of the bed. Giancarlo had not heard him, evidently, that fat fucking bastard.

"You're gonna build Beansie a ramp."

The door opened as he stepped out into the hall, moving down to Giancarlo's room. The sound of Richie Aprile diffusing into the manor proper.

"I'll build a ramp up to your ass. Drive a Lionel up in there."


"Giancarlo, pigrone di merda- ti sei addormentato sulla tua ammantinuta? Apri sta cazzo di porta!" He didn't dare push inside, for fear of what he might see in a man's bedroom during the witching hour. God only knew he could take so much. "FAT! FAT BASTARD!"
There were many things Cicatrix was good for as a demonic patron. Power was definitively at the top of the list, she could be sexy if she wanted and Mary liked that, but there was one big issue with the old girl. Mary's patron was beyond fucking terrible at communicating.

Mary's vision told her of a power she needed to gather from this location. Mary was not expecting it to be literally power. In the room beneath the stockbroker's mansion was a server room that was, probably, bigger than the whole mansion itself. Massive standing AC units cooled hundreds upon hundreds of GPUs, servers, and other various computer parts that Mary was, frankly, too stupid to recognize.

There had to be enough copper down here for Mary to become a millionaire...

No! Focus! Power! That's what Mary was here for, power! Sneaking through the server room, she looked around to try and find the source of what the hell was powering all this bullshit. Mary wasn't an electrician, but you didn't steal thousands of pounds of copper wire without learning a thing or two about power and electricity. She knew this much shit had to be powered by some major bull and that just wasn't gonna be pulled from the grid in this part of town.

Then, finally, she saw it. In the middle of the massive room, concentrated from a thousand different power cables, floated a large purple crystal. It twisted and writhed as if the rock itself was feeling pain as bare copper wires were wrapped around it, sapping it of electricity. Occasionally, it arced powerfully enough that it would scorch the steel plating above or below it. Smiling, Mary knew she found what she was looking for.

Mary was gonna get that rock.
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The Shrike relaxed his grip on the Italian's face to permit his response; but what was inflicted on the man was not fear, but indignation. And confidence, the likes of which he had only ever glimpsed in the eyes of other metahumans.

Shrike had identified Giancarlo as meta-adjacent. What he did not expect was that he too possessed superpowers. In his limp right hand, something that looked like a monofilament wire seemed to seep out of his hand and pool in his palm. It grew rigid and took on form with edges - it reminded the Impaler of a hologram, purple and pulsing. A crystalline lattice that formed in Giancarlo's fingers as his eyes began to glow.

Shrike clutched the Italian's wrist and the crystal fell to the floor, as a voice called from the hallway.

"FAT! FAT BASTARD!" the voice shouted. The man from the other room.

Despite his predicament, Giancarlo was nonplussed. He smiled.

"I know you. Shrike, eh? You come into my house, and try to do this to me? Amico. You're fucked."

Behind the mask, his eyes narrowed. Intuition connected the dots.

It's a whole family of metahumans.

Quickly, with a guttaral growl, Shrike hefted the fat man off his feet and whipped the Stockbroker around, arm pinned behind his back. He yelled in protest, but it was cut off -

- as the Shrike lifted the Stockbroker up and sprinted toward the door.

With a resounding crash, he'd push through it, blasting it off its hinges and into the man behind it. A full-on two-person tackle propelled by a metahuman bruiser with inarguable strength.

He'd have to fight his way out now.

And he needed the Stockbroker alive.
It was one thing for her life to be inconvenienced by the rise of metahumans and vigilantes, but today seemed to be one of those days that sought to completely unbalance Cam’s preferences. She would have preferred more time to study her target, but the woman who had brought them to her attention had been insistent that something were done about the man quickly. She would have preferred the chance to assemble a small crew, anonymously of course, to deal with any issues that would inevitably crop up. Of course that would have required more money than she had on hand. If she had that kind of money she wouldn’t have been looking for a target.

Of course Cam also would have preferred working remotely, safe in her hotel room, or perhaps someone’s man cave, or whatever he wanted to call it. Anywhere but the actual target’s home. Her preferences seemed to be damned, though, and resoundingly slow as she slapped the tablet for what must have been the tenth time in the past minute.

”Stupid piece of shit!” She wasn’t sure if she was yelling at the target, the tablet, or just the situation in general. Any and all of them sounded appropriate. Most mafioso earned such language, and the target was no exception. The tablet had earned its profanities by giving her the bad news, and so it was just as worthy of epithets as the target. The situation, though… the situation was worthy of a lot worse.

She had hoped that simply getting close to the mansion would be enough to find what she was looking for. It was difficult enough for the government to keep their own intelligence from leaking onto personal devices, so one would think that some meathead thug would have much more lax security. Cam would think that, and did think that all the way up until she had sifted through the most pertinent data swiped from the nearby devices. Setting aside the large amounts of pornography and what she could only describe as “tasteless selfies” there was nothing of note.

It seemed that some meathead thugs learned from their history and kept their books somewhere particularly private. Cam could have cussed the entire world out in every language and still found enough venom for another round. She did not venture into her targets’ territories. She was not some vigilante who used violence and stalked about in the night. She ruined people with the stroke of a keyboard, and preferred doing so from somewhere warm and cozy with surrounding pillows and blankets.

Sometimes she had to do things the hard way, though. She shrugged on the thick jacket and mirrored ski goggles with surprising ease in the back of the van, less a costume than a disguise for the hacker as she double checked her route. She knew the cameras’ blind spots well enough, and knew her timing to sneak through them. She knew the lock on the door was operated by a fob, and had procured one the previous day with a simple pass of her phone. Cam knew the mansion from the rooftop to the basement, and that her prize lay in the latter.

What she did not know was that this particular mafioso had developed a sudden popularity. She stood in the doorway to the basement silently as the masked woman flipped a switch and the steel door revealed the access to the server room. The server room she needed to get into if she were to get copies of the no doubt shady business dealings that would see the mobster arrested. She didn’t mind that someone had beaten her there, exactly. It was more that-

”Are you going to try to stop me from getting down there?” The woman stood between Cam and her prize, which might just be a deal breaker. Cam was all for taking down dangerous, and rich, assholes any day of the week. She was not interested in getting into fistfights with La Femme Nikita. ”I can come back later or…?”

Cam went unheard, it seemed. She hadn’t exactly screamed at the woman, so perhaps her voice hadn’t carried over the din of the conditioning units below. Whatever the reason the woman descended the stairs single-mindedly, leaving Cam with little more to complain about. It was easier if she were just ignored, though she wasn’t sure how it was possible when she looked so ridiculous. As quickly as she could she trailed behind, removing the skimming device from her pocket and setting it on the server nearest the stairs so it could be retrieved on the way out.
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Another three pounding knocks on the door. Arlecchino heard some shuffling-- Giancarlo's voice, low-- and pressed the side of his head against the door, eyes narrowing as he tried to eavesdrop upon whatever conversation was occurring. Most likely his fat bastard cousin apologizing for nearly suffocating the cheap whore he had begun to take a liking to over his wife.

But such was not the case. Instead, he heard a yelp-- cut off-- and thundering footsteps that pounded towards the door.

"Ma che cazzo--"

In an instant, he backed up-- the door slamming off of its hinges and flying forward, directly towards Arlecchino. The reaction was instantaneous; his legs drew up, knees tucking against his chest as his boots slammed upon the front of the door. The force carried him back, momentum already providing a platform for him to kick off of; with a seamless backflip, Arlecchino landed on his feet across the spacious hall, cape fluttering down to veil one shoulder as his head shot up to look at the doorway-- eyes narrowed--


-- and the pitched whine of an unspooling reel of wire sounded through the air as Arlecchino threw out his open hand, a shimmer in the air shooting toward the man who held his cousin by the arm-- a nigh-invisible wire twining itself around the ankle with an audible THWP-THP-THP of winding coils. His hands gripped the shimmering wire, winding a bit of length down the side of his back for extra leverage before he rose a boot and stomped upon the body of the unspooled fili d'argento, cinching it taut and hopefully yanking the man's foot out from under him to stop the forward charge. If his wires could hold such strength back, that is.

If not, well-- improvisation was the heart of performance. He would manage.

"Ciau, ciau, mi chiamo ARLECCHINO. Sicilianu parri?"

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The man the media had called 'the Unrelenting Shrike' was indeed nigh unstoppable in his forward charge. But he had been expecting the door to collide with the man on the other side - gambling that he'd be a brick, a pyrokinetic, a technopath - someone with easily breakable bones. Instead, he was an acrobat, one who deftly avoided the brunt of the demolished door and turned the unhinged assault into a perfect evasive maneuver. Someone whose natural dexterity challenged - or perhaps outclassed - even the Shrike's agility, which found its origin in his enhanced physique.

As he charged forward, the limp Giancarlo was discarded, sent flying to the side like a rag doll. He wouldn't be getting up anytime soon - if he could clear this house out, the Shrike might come back for him. The mission parameters had changed. He wasn't hoping to abduct the man from his home, but intimidate him, force him into being a new contact. Depending on how dangerous he was, that might be off the table entirely. The Shrike targeted other metahumans specifically - they were the outside factors, the ones that law enforcement could not handle, at least not yet. He was an extreme measure to deal with something that neither the government nor civil society were equipped to fight.

In the middle of his continued sprint, and while formulating a new strategy, Shrike evaluated his opponent visually. In contrast to the black-clad vigilante's bulky, muscular form, the man called Arlecchino was more lithe, with a clear athletic bent. His garb evoked Carnivale, and reminded the Shrike of Pulcinella at first. Arlecchino's appearance was a stark contrast to the Shrike's vantablack combat fatigues, utility harness, sharp talons, and feather-adorned collar.

Times past vacationing in Italy - in another life - were recalled in his mind at the unknown man's words, but the dialect was unknown to him, even if the meaning were clear. Even as a tourist, he had a passing enough understanding of Italian to comprehend him - and to sense the danger. This man was unafraid, and that meant he was probably competent.

The Shrike was satisfied that the Stockbroker was connected to the metacriminal underworld; it only so happened that he was more connected than the Impaler had believed.

His satisfaction was short-lived. As he ran forward, he heard the high-pitched hum of something slicing through the air toward him, the glint of light that accompanied the sound the only hint as to what the projectile might be - and without his immediate apprehension, the deadly monofilament cord snaked around his ankle, pulling taut as he was mid-step with Arlecchino's trademark flourish. As the man stomped down, the Shrike was interrupted in his run as the twine retracted, pulling his leg forward and sending him crashing to the ground in an impromptu slide.

That wire -

His eyes widened behind his mask, and then narrowed to slits -

- it came from his hand.

His momentum carried him forward, half-dragged and half-sliding, as he whipped a hand forward, unleashing a trio of spinning ceramic knives, each fashioned expertly into the shape of a bird's feather, directed at the man's center of mass. Whether they struck or not, as he threw the blades, the Shrike would attempt to kip-up to his feet, attempting to recover from the nimble Sicilian's disabling strike.
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Giancarlo was cast aside like a bag of cement. Arlecchino uttered a sardonic laugh at his demise, knowing full well that the fat bastard was still breathing; he had witnessed worse. That left him to focus his attention upon the man that had used him as a plus-size bodyshield-- a man he did not know, nor did he care to know, if first impressions were anything to go off of. It seemed as if the one commonality they shared was wanting to beat the shit out of his cousin.


That, and a penchant for throwing knives.


With a twist, Arlecchino cartwheeled away from the knives into a back-handspring that kept distance between himself and his opponent-- the first deflected off of his heavily-padded gambeson, and the second slicing through a few inches deep. The third struck true, a ways along the collarbone; the Shade of Agrigento gave a pained grunt, clapping both hands together--


-- and shattering the line he'd tethered to the ankle of his aquiline adversary. The dagger was pulled out; feathered upon the end. More bird imagery. Quaint. The Sicilian stood with a cast-aside of the cape, his own gaze narrowing behind the faceless veil of his mask.

"Chi cazzo credi di essere?" He spat, still holding the dagger that'd struck him in hand-- dropping it from his fingers, and--


A faint glimmer wound about the handle of the knife held it suspended from a near-invisible wire; the same material from before. In an elaborate display of finesse, the Sicilian twirled the roped dagger about his arm-- hooking around his leg, then twisting to keep it from being wound about his ankle--


--curling the wire about the neck as he brought his arm back in a snap--


-- and unraveled the web of wire from his body with a final turn, redirecting the momentum of the dagger. The point was released rather unpredictably; though, in the end, it shot out in a straight line towards the man's head with pinpoint accuracy. Killing a man with his own weapon would be potent irony, and a source of great shame. He doubted a simpleton Yankee would be able to appreciate the sentiment.

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Mary could not of known of starting incident of the intense fight happening merely a few floors above her, but she certainly knew it was happening after a few seconds. The smashing of doors and slamming of bodies was incredibly loud on the stockbroker's beautiful hardwood floors, and Mary could only grin as she made her way closer and closer to the target of her thievery. It was a literal crystal of fucking power, how insane was that??

Reaching up to it, Mary started ripping wires and cables off of the rock without hesitation. With every fist-sized cable torn out came an arc of wild electricity that snapped and arced onto whatever server rack was closest to it, destroying the data contained within forever. While Mary was, undoubtedly, an unaware idiot, the teen behind her probably wasn't. If the hacker wanted to get anything done, she'd need to start working really fast.

Because Mary operated on a very simple formula. If (crazy = genius), then (Mary = arsonist). Tearing another cable out, Mary watched as the crystal itself arced into the ceiling with enough force to shake the ground. With every tear out, things seemed to be getting more and more dangerous. So Mary prepped herself by trying out one of her new spells. It hadn't ever worked before but, you know, just to be safe. Plus it might work this time!

She wreathed herself in energy and, with a devious giggle, Mary grasped the final half dozen cables and




The explosion was almost instantaneous. Thankfully though to Mary's infinite surprise and luck, her spell had actually worked. Of course, the entire mansion was beginning to burst into flames as the electrical discharge ripcorded its way up from the basement to the top of the house. Anything the electricity could reach and set ablaze, it certainly tried to do. It wasn't as dangerous to life and limb as an explosion caused by gas or c4 might be, but it was still incredibly damaging to the mansion itself.

The floor below the crystal had a hole in it roughly seven feet in diameter and Mary, having been blown up through the hole and into the top floor of the mansion, had a front-row seat to watch as the crystal below shattered and evaporated into nothing but dust and broken dreams. She hoped everyone else was ok as she slowly stood up in the furnished attic.
The woman wove between the servers like some kind of nocturnal animal, driven forward by some desire or knowledge that Cam found uncanny. She kept her distance, trailing behind as the room began to hum with a different sort of energy to the purr of the machines. From behind one of the towers that hid her treasures from the casual eye Cam observed as the other woman found her own prize, and gasped as she started ripping the wires free from the strange and beautiful jewel.

It was pure chaos after that. Cam didn’t know much about crystals as power sources, but nothing good ever came from ripping out cables. Everyone knew that. Everyone except for the sneaky woman who had utterly abandoned the stealth she had seemed so good at. Electricity flew through the air, strange purples and greens that might have taken the form of lightning but didn’t resemble the glow Cam was accustomed to. She could only duck, and scramble as the equipment around her burst into sparks and flames, hands over her head.

A quick glance at her watch tracked the percentage of her download, a measly 71% of the entirety of the data she had been after transferred to the storage device in the van. That left 29% of the gangster’s assets that Cam wouldn’t be able to access, that would go toward keeping him on this side of a prison cell. With destruction raining down around her, and what sounded like half of the mansion to boot, Cam had completely failed in her mission.

Miraculously she found herself at the stairs, dust thick in the air with the sharp scent of electrical fire. Blindly she reached for the device she had left as she threw her bag of tricks onto the floor in front of her. She was thrilled to have somehow avoided becoming a messy stain on the basement floor, but she was now the easiest person to blame for the explosion. She needed to escape.

Cam ascended the stairs three at a time, stretching her legs to the fullest as she raced for the exit she had come through. It seemed her luck had run out by that point, though, as the mansion had already gone up in flames on that side. Panicked, crouched below the roiling smoke around her, Cam only saw one option left.

”GODDAMIT!” She should have insisted on more time, should have arranged for a small team to infiltrate the mansion in her stead. Cam had no intention of dying, not to smoke inhalation, explosive power crystals, or angry mobsters. She might not have taken the time to handle this job as she might have others, but she had something of a backup plan in the way of the pistol she leveled in front of her and the weekly practice she took with it at the range.

The nearest exit that was least likely to have been set ablaze was several hallways and rooms away, nearly on the opposite end of the house from what Cam remembered of the blueprints. There were sure to be thugs in between Cam and her destination, and though she had never shot anyone before her hand was steady as she broke through the smoke into a clearer passageway.
The Impaler watched the man called Arlecchino inspect his serrated feather-pattern knife; the ceramic weight was perfectly balanced, just like the Shrike was. The tell-tale whine of the twine signalled another use, this time more apparent - it had been wrapped around the handle of the weapon, transforming it into something altogether more deadly. Like he was wielding a meteor hammer, the Sicilian Stringmaster deftly puppeted the blade - this time sending it hurtling toward its owner.

It would be too fast to dodge. The Shrike raised a palm over his head, whereon the knife broke glove, skin, muscle, and finally wound up in his reinforced trapezium bone, blood seeping out of the wound. He snapped his fingers shut, breaking the knife out, as it were. He felt the tip of the knife click against bone. A severe wound - to an ordinary human. To him, it would be just another scar.

It had come close to killing him. Death was always a possibility in this line of work - only reflex had saved him. But he would hold nothing back against this man now - stylish as his fighting style was.

Fate had other plans. Before their bout could continue in its present manner, the Shrike felt something rumble beneath his feet. It was only an instant - perhaps less than a second - that his danger sense kicked in, and he crossed his arms up over his head, tucking his body inward as an explosion rippled through the mansion.


He was lifted off his feet and propelled into the ceiling with a thud as the deafening blast overtook him, the remains of the floor splintering beneath him as he fell back down through the remains of the mansion onto the lower level.

Seconds passed - his vision swam, and the world rang around him. He couldn't hear shit.

A bomb?

He couldn't say. It seemed like a completely random event. There was shrapnel in his abdomen, and his ribs felt as though they'd been cracked - but he was functional. He'd had worse.

Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. The ringing in his ears subsided, but the pain did not. Exhaling, he scanned his surroundings, hoping for a miracle -

- the Stockbroker.

He was pinned, bleeding, beneath a huge stone chunk of the roof. Surrounded by busted glass and with flame encroaching on all sides, he would surely die.

The Shrike got to his feet, limping at first, then running over to his target's position where he was pinned. There was nothing to use as a lever around, so it would have to be a straight lifting effort. This was no time for caution.

"Hnnng," he grunted, claws digging into the stone at the base of the rubble that had partially buried the Stockbroker - he was lucky, it was only his legs that were under the pile, not his upper body - and ton by arduous ton, it began to shift. He lost his footing for a moment, and slipped - pain ripped through his shoulder - but then he tensed again, and started to push what remained of the ceiling off of the man, struggling to try and get him free. He might only have minutes to live in this condition - if he couldn't get away from the fire.

That wouldn't stop the Shrike. Nothing could.

At least, that was the
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The dagger wound towards its target with the shrill sound of unreeling wire-- embedding itself square into the palm of the aquiline intruder. Not the head-- damn. Arlecchino muttered a curse beneath his breath, the filament falling to the ground and retracting back towards his hand with a flourish of the wrist; within a moment, the shimmer had been reeled in fully, and the acrobat took a step forward, head tilting somewhat.

"Vaffanculo, segaiolo," He spat, giving a flick of his hand beneath the chin in an obvious gesture as he rolled his injured shoulder. "Mi hai proprio rotto--"

The ground beneath them gave a rumble. Arlecchino paused in his insult, giving a glance down to the ground-- a sinking feeling in the gut--

"... eh?--"

-- as the ground beneath them cracked open in a blossoming explosion.

His body was thrown like a sack of rocks; shrapnel tore into his ostentatious outfit, jacket and trousers rippled by the tile and concrete thrown by the cascading detonation. It wasn't enough to dismember, but surely enough to throw him back; midair, his body twisted, deftly avoiding a blast of wood shards that would have embedded themselves into his torso. Two wires shot free from either hand--


And buried themselves into the rafters of the ceiling, cinching taut and jerking his body back towards the ground-- keeping him from slamming upwards through the floor and undoubtedly saving himself from a snapped neck on impact. He rebounded back towards the now-uneven ground with a roll, clapping his hands together to shatter the lines after landing upon his feet. His shoulder ached from the exertion, but there was far worse matters to attend to; electrical discharges sounded throughout the mansion as lines caught fire, the hallway now thick with smoke and the crackle of fires from below. It took a few moments for his vision to fully clear, and when it did, he rose to his feet, only for another detonation-- a ruptured gas line-- to throw him against the far wall.

Another few moments passed with Arlecchino slumped upon the ground; only when he heard the injured cry of his cousin did he finally stir, staggering to one foot and giving a grunt of pain. From the darkness around Giancarlo and the man who'd fought him not moments prior came a series of wires-- each embedding themselves into the pillar of granite and wood that remained to be removed from around the stockbroker. They touched only the collapsed ceiling-- and when the effort totaled ten wires, there came another grunt from the darkness as Arlecchino wound them to another heavy pillar down the hall and rolled its collapsed form into the gaping crevasse of the basement floors, where the explosion had originated. The stone did not budge, at first, but inevitably rolled off the edge and disappeared into the smoke-filled oblivion beneath-- hopefully dragging the collapsed pillar of the ceiling along with it.

Onto the intruder, if he could manage.

Odd, that he would save the life of Giancarlo so readily. Odder still that he seemed just as worse for wear as either of the Italians did. The Sicilian was many things, but he was not stupid-- something was not right, here. He did not know what, and he intended to find out. Was the intruder simply a distraction? An opportunist? Or just as unlucky as he was?

Arlecchino lingered in the light of the hallway a moment longer-- smoke welling and obscuring his form, save the orange flicker that danced along the argent features of his mask--


-- before the harsh whine of a wire disrupted the silence. Placed-- ready-- but where?


One after the other, shimmering lines disappeared into smoke. Solid, tensile strength bearing loads in the hundreds of pounds, and sharp at the right velocity. A veritable web of invisible wires as one found the jacket of Giancarlo, ripping his body along the floor towards Arlecchino with the intent to safeguard him from the home invader.
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As quickly as Mary attempted to stand up, she fell right back down. Confused, she attempted to stand once more before crumpling onto the wet attic floor. Wait- wet? Before she could look down at her legs, Mary heard a terrifyingly familiar sound.

A six string guitar.

Hanging upside down from a burning rafter, invisible to all except Mary, was the form of a furry, insectoid monstrosity. The demon, Cicatrix. She was singing and playing the guitar,

“Round and round
Round we gooo~
Where it stops?
Nobody knows it!”

“Side to side baby!
Back and forth!
God above and the devil below yeeeah”

Mary gazed in horror, first at her patron, then at her legs. Her legs were mangled beyond the point of repair and pouring blood onto the floor. Looking back up at Cicatrix, the demon laughed at Mary and asked, “What’re you waiting for? Fix your legs dumbass! You’re gonna burn to death in here otherwise!”

Mary, with the color draining from her face and tears streaming down her cheek, responded, “B-but I-I dunno wha how n-no sp-spell.” And Cicatrix laughed again, mocking Mary now, “I-I b-buh wahwah! Hahhaa! Stop crying bitch! Spells this spells that- dungeons and dragons isn’t real you moron! You don’t need ‘spells’ you have MY MAGIC. I gave you that damn laser as a freebe but for everything else you gotta draw from the source of my power.”

Floating down from the rafters, Cicatrix asked, “Do you know what that is-?” And stepped on Mary’s shattered femur. As Mary screamed, Cicatrix asked again, “What is it you braindead moron?!” And pressed harder, crushing more bone. As Mary writhed and cried, Cicatrix screamed at her,


The sound that could be heard from the attic was something between the wailing of a dying animal and cracks louder than gunshots. Mary didn’t ‘heal’ her legs per se, because there was still a mental block in her head that ‘Warlocks can’t use healing spells.’ However, she was able to draw on the source of Cicatrix’s power to force new magics into her legs. Her bones snapped back into something close to the proper place and welded themselves together. They would need to be rebroken later to actually heal. Her skin, muscles and blood vessels- Mary stitched those together like rotting cloth and vinyl hoses, then welded them too.

It was pain beyond what her mind was capable of feeling, but she felt it anyway. The natural limiters that prevented pain alone from killing had been forcefully removed, Mary had never been closer to death than this moment. Standing up and looking down through the hole, Mary watched two bodies struggle and fight each other over the fat, bloated body of the Stockbroker. Screaming again, Mary fired off two beams of power, one aimed for the costumed man and another aimed at the costumed man.

All the while, Cicatrix still sang in the back of Mary’s head-

“You got your reasons
I got my walls
Still got that feelin’
But you’re too old to die young now!
Above or below the grooound~”
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Ton by arduous ton, with his arms shaking, back aching, the Shrike persisted in his relentless effort to lift the ruinous wreck that trapped Giancarlo, alias the Stockbroker. He lifted with no thought of personal reward or karmic retaliation; there was only the mission. And sure enough, bit by bit, the rubble budged. Giancarlo was in no state to move - perhaps on the edge of consciousness, perhaps not - but he had room to be extricated now. But as no good deed went unpunished, the familiar whine of Arlecchino's wire - a possible death sentence - made itself known.

Fully expecting the lash of his foe to strike, the Impaler saw instead that he meant to aid in the rescue of his family. As the Stockbroker was pulled away, the Shrike allowed his grip on the wreckage to loosen, taking a step back as it crashed to the remains of the floor.

His arms burned, but the throbbing pain subsided. Then he turned around, the expressionless black mask betraying neither surprise nor satisfied expectation that the man had aided him in saving the Stockbroker, and not struck him directly.

What would Arlecchino think of him now? Truthfully, it mattered little. He was obviously no assassin, nor a thief, though he had a reputation as a lethal killer, wanted for first degree murder. Ironically, the pair would fully be within their legal rights to kill him, here, now. That thought made him smile imperceptibly beneath his mask - an old inside joke from work.

There was the matter now of what their next steps would be.

Between them, an elaborate lattice of wire, nearly invisible to the naked eye; in truth, the Shrike could not see them, though he was aware of their presence. A cage meant to trap him, or a wall to keep him away? Experimentally, he flexed his muscles, and found that there were none affixed to his person.

He owed no explanation to Arlecchino, and had no personal quarrel with him, there was the immediate matter of Giancarlo's health. The explosion wasn't part of the plan.

The Shrike nodded sharply at the man slumped on the floor.

"He's no good to me dead."

But even as silence settled between the two fighters, a grim scream emanated from up above. A woman crying out in pain. As he raised his gaze, the Shrike's lips tightened; a collateral casualty, or - perhaps - the source of the explosion?

Bloody, disheveled, dirty Mary emerged. The Shrike did not recoil at the sight of her mangled body, held upright like a puppet, legs almost digitigrade in their twistedness; the hairs on the back of his neck stood up in warning as she opened her mouth to scream, for her eyes were full of malice.


When she raised her hand, his first thought was to evade. That would've been the safe choice, had he not been relatively pinned where he was. Instead he braced, a burgundy energy projectile propelling itself dead center into his sternum.

It was much like taking a point-blank shotgun blast. The outer layer of costume, over his breast, smoked - ripped away. The force projectile had struck instantly and in a ray, like a bolt of lightning. For his part, the Shrike was pushed backwards -

- onto his back foot. He remained standing upright.

Steam curled up from the hole the shot had made.

He rolled his head from side to side with a loud crack, crouched for a moment, then lifted off toward her, gambling that he'd clear whatever wire trap had been laid between him and the Stockbroker by ascending over it and instead rocketing toward the woman who'd possibly been the source of the explosion which had engulfteed them all earlier - though she seemed to be in the worst shape of all of them. She wasn't Italian, but was a meta. Was she being trafficked here? It would explain her instant animosity -

- but he couldn't risk her killing the Stockbroker. Not on principle, but because that man was necessary.

During the arc of his flight, he'd twist in mid-air, leaping at her headfirst in an effort to minimize the surface area she would have available to attack him with another beam - an effort to twist deftly around a subsequent projectile, whether successful or in vain, would be followed up by a devastating chokeslam into the ground, or a wall - whichever his momentum carried her into first.
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Cam had never been much of an athlete. Sure, she went to the gym on a regular basis and spent her time on the treadmill. She lifted weights on a rare occasion as well. Staying fit was one, much less panic inducing thing. Ducking through a collapsing mansion with a gun in your hand and explosion? That was entirely different.

You didn’t have to dodge falling rubble on a treadmill, or duck beneath billowing smoke and crawl on your hands and knees with a gun in your hand at the gym. Cam’s heart was racing, beating against her chest like a giant hummingbird had somehow been caught between her ribs. She knew she hadn’t gone far, a mere handful of periphery rooms torn through in her desperate attempt to escape a situation that had gotten wildly out of hand.

Screams echoed among the roar of flames and the crashing of rubble, mostly female though Cam wasn’t sure the source of the sounds were human to begin with. She did her best to steer away from the area, turning at each point decidedly away when the opportunity was ever available. Plenty of broken walls and ceilings blocked her way, though, and the roaring of the flames only grew stronger as she went.

It should have come as no surprise when she found herself on the far side of the crater blown into the house from below. She had circled halfway, past where she had intended to escape and back to the epicenter of chaos. Above, at the edge of a crumbling floor, the woman from before screamed as light tore from her hands toward clawed darkness and some kind of circus performer. The giant explosive crystal should have been clue enough, but as the shadow launched itself through the air toward the woman a thought occurred to the teen.

These were metas.

She was practically in the middle of a fight between superhumans. Cam looked down at the rattling gun in her hands, a reticent and flimsy illusion of defense against such odds. From where she crouched, behind a fallen piece of tiled flooring that reached for the gaping sky above, she was relatively hidden. Powerless, she might as well have been a mouse trapped in its hole while giants battled above her. She didn’t move, couldn’t move, but she also couldn’t tear her eyes away. She wondered if this was why Hazel was so obsessed.
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The birdlike fellow offered a nod to Giancarlo's body alongside words the Sicilian could only hope to decipher. Dead was certainly one he knew well, but his fat bastard cousin most certainly was not that-- and his opponent seemed to offer a period of neutrality, for the moment, after pushing the wreckage from Giancarlo's body. With their combined efforts, the man might live to see tomorrow. But why? Why save his cousin's life, if the bomb was his doing?

The answer, quite simply, was that it hadn't. That responsibility was owed to the girl in the rafters, screaming down at them both.

When her hands rose to point at them both, Arlecchino knew better than to be standing still; with a twist of his body, the Sicilian went head-over heels into a back handspring. By the time his hands touched the ground behind him, a bolt of energy careened into the ground where his feet had lifted off from; the force was enough to slam him backwards, forcing him into a backflip that landed into a roll to his knees, padded trousers skidding along the dusted tile as he shot a wire into the ground to stop himself.

Unshaken, Arlecchino rose to his feet, his heartbeat pounding in his chest. Life upon a wire meant he was always a single misstep from death; like a performance, every move was calculated and necessary. Retracting the wire into his hand, the Sicilian brought his hands together in a shattering clap, dispelling the web of wires that he'd set up moments prior. His former opponent had already taken off to deal with the demented finger-gun bitch, which meant Giancarlo's body was fully unattended...

... and would need to go to a hospital. Quite soon.

His strength was not that of giants-- and as such, he could not simply shoulder Giancarlo's corpulent body of lard-- but he could help his cousin to his feet, at least to get him to the garage of the mansion. Arlecchino surveyed the damage-- a punctured chest and arm, with blood soaking his leisurewear for the night. With a soft whine of unspooling wire, He wrapped a tight bundle around Giancarlo's midsection-- placing pressure upon the wound before he ducked under one arm and hoisted, giving a grunt of exertion as he rose them both to their feet. Giancarlo mumbled something in Italian that he could not parse, and the pair began their walk towards the garage-- the Sicilian practically carrying his cousin along his back.

"Ghh. Figlio di puttana... America è proprio un cagacazzo, cugino, eh?" He muttered, looking over his shoulder back to the gaping hole in the attic-- and hoping they'd both be occupied long enough to get the fuck out of here.
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