Mary sat quietly in the passenger seat of the fam's 2002 Chevy Express 3500 as her crew drove down the road. The thing still smelled like the black spraypaint they used to cover the 'summit white' color it came as. The spray paint didn't like heavy weather so they had to 'touch up' every now and then and by all demons it smelled so bad. Brian didn't seem to mind as he drove, but it was technically his van anyway so if he did mind then it'd be like admitting defeat.
Smiling, she lit the end of her Marlboro red cig and took a quick drag. It wasn't about 'enjoying' these things, it was about getting the nicotine in her system as fast as possible to stop the shakes. She was nervous, it was her first time robbing a bank after all. But she couldn't show it, her brothers were relying on her and her new abilities to carry them through this. So she blasted some SoundCloud dubstep and smoked cigarettes until her body felt like she controlled it again.
Jim-Jam was getting too old for the foster money. It wasn't his fault, everyone got older, but that didn't stop the rest of them from ripping on him about it. But ripping didn't pay the bills, and with the increased police presence in their neighborhood they weren't able to push their 'illicit substances' like they used to. Money had to be made, and none of them could hold down a job. But this, Mary thought this they could do. She played Payday 3, how hard could it be in real life?
Pulling up to the little Pittsburg of America bank, Mary pulled a ski mask over her face and looked back to her brothers in the backseat as they donned their own masks, "Remember, don' fuckin' shoot anyone! For the looove~ of shit- keep ya fat fingers off the damn triggers! Ya'll gonna turn this into some kinda big deal if we drop bodies, aiight?" The side of the van popped open as her bros gave Mary a quick thumbs up with their free hands and Mary popped out the passenger side herself. Wringing her hands, she said a quiet prayer to her patron, "Oh Great Cicatrix, keep me safe." And entered the bank as their getaway vehicle peeled outta the parking lot.
"AIIGHT BITCHES GET ON THE FUCKIN' GROUND IF YOU WANNA LIVE!!"
Mary screamed with all the power and authority her hoarse voice could muster, but no one moved immediately except the security guard in the corner who began to reach for his gun. In an instant, her fingers were moving and her mouth formed the words- "ELD-RITCH BLAST!~"And a beam of burgundy energy snapped from her hands and slammed into the guard. Faster than he could react, his body was flung into the wall and he slumped to the floor.
Suddenly, the civvies started moving a lot faster to get to the floor.
Sam had just wanted to put her fucking money in the bank. She had gotten on the bus with the rest of the cash she hadn’t needed for the renovations in her bag, She had her usual tools with her, but it was daylight, and she didn’t think she’d need them. She hadn’t even started tracking down local gangs or other “more-than-people”. She was still getting her damn scanner to register the right frequencies for the Pittsburgh police. She had just wanted to deposit her fucking money in the fucking bank.
And yet, here she was, standing outside and watching as a gang in president masks hopped out of a van and ran inside the building. She watched from across the street where she’d gotten off the bus as they ran in and a suspicious-looking colorful blast illuminated the inside of the building. Well, that was her cue.
Sam stepped back into a dark alley and pulled her hoodie up, shifting through her bag until she found her mask. She donned it in a hurry and pulled her hammer out. Then, instead of walking, she made a small spiral of hot air around herself and kicked off. She took herself just high enough to overshoot the traffic, then landed with a practiced ease outside the bank. She cracked her neck, tucked a few stray hairs back into her hood, and then pushed the door open.
She didn’t kick it open, though she certainly could have. She could have shattered the door with her hammer and made a mess of things, but she had learned long ago that less property damage was better. So she simply pushed the door open and walked inside. She stepped up right behind the small gang and looked around to see if anyone was injured. She clocked the guard, on the ground and incapacitated, and she sighed. She swung the hammer up into a proper grip and then commented offhandedly.
“You know, today wasn’t supposed to be my first day back on the job, but here we are.”
"Everyone keep calm an' nobdy's gotta get hurt- ya hear? J, start roundin' up wallets. You two, get the money outta the tellers. I'll come to the vault inna minute! I ain't hear no alarms so let's get movin'!"
Mary was taking charge, the civilians were kneeling on the ground and cooperating, and her brothers were actually listening to her without any arguments! Everything seemed to be going her way. Striding over, she checked up on the guard she blasted and smiled- he wasn't dead. In fact, he was moaning and trying to stand back up. A swift kick to the gut discouraged that thought and Mary tossed his gun to one of her brothers.
Masks on, gloves concealing fingerprints, and no shots fired. So far today was going-
“You know, today wasn’t supposed to be my first day back on the job, but here we are.”
Of course. Someone always had to interfere. Mary looked over at the woman in a mask with a weird little hammer walking through the door. Holding up her hands, she gestured for her brothers to keep moving and made as if she was going to step toward the wannabe hero. Then, before her foot hit the ground, Mary's hands flipped and she shouted-
A crackling beam of burgundy energy blasted from the palms of Mary's hands, aimed directly at the chest of the woman. The beam appeared nearly instantaneously, like lightning striking. But it wasn't entirely unpredictable, Mary knew, she was still shouting the spell's name as she did it. Smiling, she shouted at the woman, "Why don't ya take the day off then! We's ain't hurtin' nobody anyway!"
Sam cocked an eyebrow as the woman yelled “Eldritch Blast”-- wasn’t that a D&D thing?– and then barely managed to throw her hand up and create a thermal wall before the bolt collided with it, broke through it, and hit her square in the ribs. She crashed back through the door, the glass cracking and shattering with the force of which she was thrown through it. She felt all the air leave her chest and she gasped– or tried to. She couldn’t get any air in. She raised her hand and weakly hit her chest until she gasped, a long breath drawing in. She coughed, hard, but no blood came up.
She carefully stood up, and her ribs groaned in agony. At least one cracked rib then. She ignored it and checked her hands. No glass was buried in them, and her face felt clean. Her hood had managed to remain tied up, so her hair was still covered. Her mask had stayed affixed by some miracle. She shook it off and strode back into the bank, this time kicking the broken door open with an anger befitting the treatment she had just received.
“Got to admit, that was a neat trick. Hurts like hell. Hope you’re more durable than you look because I plan to return the favor.” She charged straight in, handle out and hammerhead in her palm. She was fast– really fast. Someone with good reflexes would be able to dodge her as she swung the handle for the woman’s chest.
Mary turned to her brothers and swirled her finger in the air, a less than subtle motion meaning 'wrap it up.' Jim-Jam protested immediately, "But Marrrr- M, we haven't gotten into the vault!" Mary shot him a commanding look as Markus smacked the younger kid upside the back of his head, "We ain't gettin' into the vault, look-" And pointed to the masked woman getting back up outside.
Smiling, Mary pointed at the two of them and mouthed something as their super hero kicked open the shattered glass doors. A few civilians screamed as the masked woman goaded Mary, but Mary just laughed and quipped, "Ya better calm down before someone gets-" The handle of the hammer smashed into Mary's chest. As she was forced toward the floor, Mary pushed out the words with the last of her breath-
By now, Mary knew any opponent might've figured out she had to say the words before the power came. However, Mary had a counter to that as well. As she was falling and speaking, she placed her hands directly against the other woman's stomach. Now THAT was really going to hurt. As Mary fell to the floor, air forced entirely out of her, she struggled to breathe.
One of her brothers, good lil' Jim-Jam, rushed to her side and knelt by her head, "Mary! Mary are you ok?" And Mary weakly slapped at him for saying her name while gasping for air. Finally, a few deep breaths came to her and she shouted, "Guns! Guns up! Shoot the bitch if she gets up!"
Thank god that Sam never left without the suit on under her clothes. The thing had become a second skin for her, and that second skin probably saved her life just then. It dispersed some of the force from the impact on her stomach up her chest and down her thighs. But for the most part, she took the brunt of it straight to her stomach. The woman went down, and she went up. Very high up. She hit the ceiling, which thankfully knocked the air back into her lungs.
She had just enough time before hitting the ground to throw down an air vortex that caught her and deposited her softly on the ground. She was crouched on one knee, the other raised, almost like a knight swearing fealty. In this case, though, she simply threw one of her hands up, wheezing in a breath.
They were going to shoot her if she moved. That much they had already said. If they fired at her, she’d be able to take it– that was what the suit was for– but the civilians in the bank weren’t bulletproof. She waved her hand in the air, breathing in harshly against the now certainly cracked rib. “I don’t suppose I could convince you to let the civilians go, could I? You can keep me as a hostage. But how about we let these people go.”
"Bank robbery, Pittsburgh of America. Small scale, but witnesses mentioned - well - you know."
"I'd think they'd go for something flashier."
"Not every metahuman in the city is Chromewrecker, Basilica. For every one that can topple buildings, there's a dozen that just have tasers in their thumbs."
"What did the bystanders see?"
"Flashing lights, explosions, young woman in a mask and sports gear. Stay on your toes, we don't know if there are any vigilantes involved."
Which certainly added to the problem. It was a growing situation in Pittsburgh - citizens, no doubt fed up with the inability of the city to deal with growing metahuman crime, took to the streets in costume to fight it themselves. Technically illegal, and definitely incredibly dangerous, but when the city was on the edge of turning into a warzone, any help was welcome help.
That's why she was here, wasn't it? To help. To make sure something was done, to adapt to the situation and put a handle on things in a way the public could accept. Roll the national guard in, and you have riots in the streets. Send in a sanctioned meta in costume -
And, well, you're just part of the crowd.
A low hum built in the back of her throat as she descended from the sky, mechanical wings shuddering as she slowed feet before the ground. There were people inside - she wasn't sure how many. Most of them whispering or silent, most of them on the floor. One, though, was on her feet, breathing raggedly, attempting to make some sort of plea. Her for the civilians.
There was already a mess of shattered glass by the door. Raising her hum in pitch, she swiftly pulled it to her, gathering it around her outstretched hand in a halo. Then, lowering her voice to near silence, she threw it to the girl inside.
You're not alone. If they take your deal, let me know when the floor is clear.
Mary's brother helped his big sister up as the hero took a knee and held up a hand. Mary had a quick catch of her breath as Harry nearly shot her for this, but a cooler head prevailed and Harry pulled his finger off the trigger when the hoodie girl didn't move any further. Mary stood up from her position behind the teller counter where she had been so roughly thrown and assessed the situation.
Civilians- seven. All kneeling and looking for any chance to run. Understandable. They had lost their wallets already, there wasn't much to lose now other than their lives.
Bank Staff- four. Three tellers, their booths robbed, and one unconscious security guard. Oh, Mary really hoped he got medical attention quickly, she didn't want him to have any long-lasting injuries...
The boys- four if Mary counted herself. Three guns and the power of an unstoppable Warlock such as herself.
Heroes- one. Hoodie bitch.
"Yeah, no deal." Mary snapped off-handedly. "Listen, ain't nothin' personal, but really- we's already done. You kinda fuck'd up my timetable, so I ain't robbin' the vault today. How about we's call it now an-" A voice in her ear, Brian was ready, "Aaaan- we'll meet again!" At that, Mary snapped her fingers and motioned for her boys to head toward the backdoor with what they had. Jim-Jam was definitively disappointed, but the assorted smartphones, teller cash, and credit cards would be more than enough to stave off hunger for a few months.
From her position at the other side of the counter, Mary watched their hoodie girl while she waited for her brothers to cross behind her and toward the back drive-through side exit.
There was a soft voice in her ear, and she did her best to not react. Clearly, there was a third metahuman, one that was on her side. She waited for the men to make their way out before she whispered, keeping her head down. Hopefully, this meta had as good of hears as they had a voice. “Out the back door. Should I let them leave, and reengage outside? Don't want to put the civilians in more danger than they already have been. Their leader can do some kind of energy attack.”
Then she lifted her head and looked at the young woman who had hit her, not just once, but twice. She started a concentrated wave of heat around herself. She hadn’t had to make a mirage in a long time– probably since the last time she had busted up a gang hideout– but she still remembered how. When she moved next, she would be able to split off and her image would be distorted, making it harder to hit.
“You’re not going to get far. Even if you make it out that door, there are others that will be looking for you now. You won’t make it very long. Trust me.” Sam knew how hard it was to keep your identity a secret when it came to this kind of thing. She’d been lucky enough that the cop in her hometown who had figured out who she was– before the painted mask and the choice to hide her hair– had been very supportive and worked with her. He had a metahuman family member off in some big city, and he was the one who had taught her about reflective paints and told her to get her hair under control.
This woman clearly hadn’t figured any of that out. She had a prominent tattoo on her arm that was out and visible, especially for the cameras. Sam had clocked it when she had first assessed the situation before she had been blasted out the door and knew this was likely the woman’s first time. You learn to hide identifying marks. The tattoo could be used to track her down.
Bring up the rear, make sure they leave the building. I'll cut them off.
A low hum propelled Basilica down the strip of asphalt between the bank and the McDonald's next door. She came to a halt just beyond the corner, hovering - frozen - a foot above the ground, mobile of shimmering glass dancing in the air around her outstretched hand. They definitely didn't seem to be on the level of terroristic threat. Just a few scrappy robbers trying to take advantage of the situation.
Three men - all with guns. None of them the meta, then? Or did that one keep a gun as a backup? Better safe than sorry, but also smart to treat the guns as the primary danger at the moment. Two dozen shards pointed at the fingers of half a dozen hands, ready to strike at a moment's notice.
"Drop your weapons and get on the ground," she shouted, voice rising to an echoing boom. "I don't want to hurt you, but I will use force if necessary."
Mary watched the mirage of the woman as it formed, she knew enough magic spells to see through this pitiful imitation. The hoodie bitch was clearly casting Mirror Image, and casting spells took a full action so, naturally, it was Mary's turn. Talking was a free action, so she responded first, "Yeah I don't care. All you wanna-be heroes talk the same, it's like you's in a comic book. So- ELDRITCHBLAST!" The words came fast and loud, just like the beam of crackling energy that shot from Mary's fingertips.
She aimed to the center of the mirror images, hoping to catch an arm of the real body or, if she was lucky, full head-on contact. But Mary didn't want to see if she made contact, rather, she turned and made a mad dash to the exit and the outside.
The boys didn't really react to the woman floating in the air with shards of glass shouting at them. Not that this was so normal for them that they didn't care, but that this was so crazy looking that it became all they could do to hold their guns and aim them at the woman. It wasn't until the black van pulled around the corner that one of them, the eldest, gathered up the courage to respond.
"Lady-! M told us not to shoot anybody unless we's absolutely had to! Don't make us put you in the ground!"
It would be at that moment that the 'CRACK-THOOM' of the magic spell could be heard going off inside.
The mirage had worked, sort of. It gave Sam just enough space to effectively roll out of the way of the beam. She could feel the force of it blow past her arm. She rolled back onto her feet and looked around the bank. The civilians were all crouched in corners or behind tables and chairs. The guard was still down, and people were crying. She quickly dashed up to one of the tellers and started barking orders to her.
“Trigger your alarm and get the police out here, and an ambulance for your guard. The concussive force of her blast is strong, he’s probably cracked a rib or got a concussion. Make sure he doesn’t move if he wakes up, except to elevate his legs in case he has internal bleeding. Do it now.”
She waited just long enough for the woman to pick up her phone and start dialing, and then she ran to the door. Instead of running straight out the door, she ducked low and checked around the corner before she rushed out.
Then lowered it with a sigh. She watched as the trio leaped into the car, took a mental note of what it looked like, then turned to the back entrance of the bank. Nobody had been seriously hurt - nobody had been killed. It'd be too dangerous to push them now, and a high-speed chase might put more people at risk.
Besides, she didn't want to leave the vigilante alone. Maybe if she had an actual partner, she'd be comfortable splitting, but the woman in there was just as much a civilian as the hostages were. Handle the current situation, ger with the police to track them down later.
Shifting over to the side, she lifted her hand again, glancing down the open doorway.
Mary stepped outside just in time to see her brothers peel out of the parking lot- without her. Sighing, she shook her head and slowed her walk out of the building. There was a flying woman in a suit of glass off to her right, a hoodie bitch behind her, and her brothers were out of danger. She wished they had waited for her, but she had told them to abandon her if something scary showed up.
Glass floating woman, yeah that counted.
Mary didn't start fighting again, at least not yet. She had more than a dozen escape routes planned before this heist, the car was simply #1 on her list. Her brothers got plan A, she would need to do Plan B or C or, something... Waiting until the hoodie bitch came out behind her, Mary decided this was going to be the perfect time to rant.
"Jeez what the fuck's wrong with you's? I ain't hurtin' nobody, I'm tryin' to rob a bank, a corporation! They's insured! The people who's got accounts are insured! The only people gettin' fucked are the multi-billionaires who own the bank! So why you's defending billionaires?! You's suckin' Jeff Bezo's cock or somethin'?"
While Mary meant every word she said, she was slowly walking away from the bank and toward the treeline behind the row of buildings in the area. The treeline wasn't leading to a forest, rather, it was a natural barrier around the railroad tracks. But the talking was mostly a distraction, no matter how much it was true.
Sam stepped out from the doorway, and she immediately put her hands up, holding the hammer, head facing down and handle up. She tried to make herself as nonthreatening as possible for the moment. Well, as nonthreatening as she could appear right then, holding a sledgehammer and wearing a reflective domino mask and leather jacket. Thankfully her average height and more slender-than-normal form usually made her seem unthreatening to people.
“You can’t just rob a bank. It’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for others, and it’s against the law. Listen, this doesn’t need to be a fight. Why don’t we just stop and talk? If you’re robbing a bank, you’re probably in some kind of trouble. Why don’t you tell us what’s going on, and this doesn’t have to escalate any further?”
Sam took a few small steps forward like she was worried she’d spook the young woman. She looked up at the woman floating in the sky. That must have been the voice she had heard before. Judging by how well together her outfit was, Sam had a few theories of who the woman was: a stupidly rich woman with powers or a fed. Maybe a cop, but that outfit was well put together, just like Sam’s own suit under her clothes that she hadn’t worn by itself in years.
She no longer felt worthy of the suit.
She turned her attention back to the woman, and she waited to see what the flying woman would do.
"She's right," Basilica continued, gesturing her head towards the masked girl.
Her hand lowered, glass shards falling to settle on the ground. This one didn't even have a gun out, which probably meant she was the aforementioned meta. Like the boys she'd seen escape, she seemed more scared and indignant than anything else.
M told us not to shoot anybody.
"Are you M?" Basilica took a slight step forward. "What you're doing is reckless and irresponsible. It's putting lives at risk. You might not think anybody was hurt, but the people in there aren't just going to move on."
"And - if everyone took what they wanted, things wouldn't just work out. The bank's insured, but what happens when they lose that insurance because they keep getting robbed? One time might not cause problems, but I can't make exceptions, M, because then everyone becomes the exception, and that's when everything falls apart."
Mary kept backing away, slowly, ever so slowly, as the two women in front of her spoke. They opted to lecture her over attacking, which was definitively the preferable option. The hoodie bitch seemed to act like she genuinely cared, which was a red flag in Mary's book. Worse, the other woman was saying things Mary had definitively heard before.
At the police station.
Glassy Goth was a cop, or used to be, or was something worse. No matter which way she swung, that was a major fucking problem. Mary stepped back again, getting close enough to touch the brush between Mary's back and the treeline behind that. Stopping, she shrugged her shoulders and responded, "Sounds to me that you's rather throw me in a box for rufflin' a few fuck's feathers than actually fix anything. Poor bank, whatever will those rich bankers do if they lose insurance? Approve a person of color's business loan?"
At that, Mary snapped her hands out and made a show of shouting and wiggling her fingers. She didn't actually say anything, rather, hoping that the pretense of casting a spell might've thrown the two women off. Immediately, she flung herself over the brush and started pushing through the treeline, headed for the railway tracks.
Sam wasn’t fooled by the finger-waving. Not after taking two blasts straight to the side. She had seen the way this woman actually did whatever it was she did. Eldritch Blast, or whatever she had called it. Sam had played D&D exactly once, and it had been at Alice’s bequest. Unfortunately, it had meant interacting with others, and as much as Sam could pretend she was a “real” human, she never quite enjoyed how exhausted she was after.
So she took off after the young woman with the orca tattoo, a groan of frustration as she sped ahead. She was faster than the girl, surely she’d be able to catch up to her. “M, stop! Just talk to us and maybe we can work something out for you!”
She reached the treeline and started darting around the trees. She could feel the ground trembling as they ran. M was running straight toward an oncoming train. Whether this was intentional, because she thought getting on the other side of it would get her out of range of the two women– the answer on that was no– or because she intended to hop it, Sam didn’t know. It was possible the girl couldn’t feel the earth tremble beneath her as she ran.
Basilica flinched as the girl wiggled her fingers, enough time for her to dart away, the vigilante in hot pursuit.
Lifting herself into the air again, the agent followed close behind, tilting forward to try and close the distance. They were reaching the treeline, now, and a railroad track sat just behind it - and by the growing sound, a train was rapidly approaching. Think. Think. Split second - she knew roughly where the train was. Sound was off, distorted, but - it was close. Very close. Too close for comfort. Next tick. M was running for the tracks haphazardly. Probably trying to get to the other side before they reached it.
Dumb kid. She could fly over. She'd shown she could fly over. Suicide by cop, then? Car chase off a cliff. Didn't help that her vigilante friend was darting just on the girl's heels, and would probably go barreling into the track as well. There were fractions of a second to make the choice, and there was only one choice she saw that minimized the risks of casualties.
Pushing herself, she lunged forward, grabbing the vigilante by the torso - then, in a wavering shift of the hum, she pulled herself sharply backwards and to the side.
The hoodie bitch was yelling at Mary, but Mary tried to ignore her completely. She was still being chased, so turning around and trying to talk her way out of this situation was clearly off the table. There was a freight train that passed by this route way too fast every day around this very time. Mary could hear it, Mary could feel it rumbling toward her. This was her chance, her perfect escape.
All she had to do was jump in front of the train and catch the front of it. Mary was positive her dexterity bonus was more than high enough to dodge the damage from the train, or at least take half damage. If she could take half damage, she would take no damage, that's how evasion worked! Easy! Foolproof!
The last thing Mary would hear before leaping out in front of the rumbling train was Hoodie bitch calling out her warning. Then-
'Mary, you're so fucking stupid.' Was, perhaps, Mary's final thought on this earth. Once she jumped in front of the oncoming train, time seemed to slow down considerably. In slow motion, she watched the steel plow in the front of the freight train make contact with her chest and stomach. Instantly, every bone in her chest was shattered, her diaphragm began to collapse, and blood exploded from her mouth. As the intense pain rocketed through her body, a pain so great Mary knew this would be the end of her life, time seemed to stop altogether.
Then, in the frozen moment of time, guitar chords began to echo around Mary. A gentle song of love and kindness began to play in Mary's ears and, looking to the top of the train where the driver sat, Mary saw the origin of the music. A little woman, dressed smartly in a Kaftan and a sash of insect corpses, half sang, half laughed at Mary.
"Push, your, child, in- haha- front of an oncoming train~!
"Make, your, heehee, child, suffer in pain~!"
The pain was unbearable. Despite time being removed from the equation, Mary suffered in full agony every second her Patron sang in front of her. She didn't cut the song short either, the demon sat up there in the conductor's chair and kept singing til she felt like stopping. And she didn't feel like stopping until the chorus rounded out an extra three or four times. Then, setting the guitar down, the insect demon floated out of the conductor's seat and laughed.
"Mary, you're so fucking stupid it's adorable~! Let's add on to our deal, yeah? I'll save your life here, and in return, you will do me a little favor without question. Oh, and you won't remember this deal either, sound good? Teehehehe, of course it does! You don't have a choice- unless, you wanna die?"
Mary desperately tried to shake her head, tears streaming down her face from the pain and blood, frozen in time, spouting from her mouth. "Teeehehehehheheheeeee~! A DEAL~!"
To Basilica and Sam, they would see Mary jump in front of the train, see a burst of red mist as it hit her, and then see the train keep on going. No demons, no time dilation, just blood. For Mary, she would next wake up in mind-shattering pain on the side of the train tracks near her home. She may have survived this encounter without memory of how, but she knew she would never do this again. She wouldn't even try to move for several hours, the pain too great to try anything more than just breathe and cry.