Night City(16): The Fall of Brightstar
There is a body laying on brown grass, next to a car with peeling paint.
His name is Roscoe McGrath. He used to write mystery novels, the sort that are called "techno-thrillers." Through his books, his readers lived adventures they never had the chance to experience in real life. His books were the closest thing he thought he'd ever get to real adventure, too.
Until the day he had been doing background research at the Vectronix lab. The attack was over in a blink of an eye; it was like he had been standing still while the terrorists moved around him. In less than minute, they had come in, ransacked the lab, and killed a few scientists. The sadistic bastards even tossed one poor guy into a pressurized tank. Then they were gone, leaving a handful of torque grenades to erase any evidence they might have left behind.
He had tried to run.
He had survived the explosion; he never knew how. No one else in that building had lived through the attack. But Roscoe didn't just live. He had been given powers. He could live the life of adventure he had always craved. He never knew why he was the only one to survive the attack, and he never knew why he had these fantastic powers -- flight, force field, control over the forces of light and vibration -- but he knew that he had a responsibility to use his second chance at life to make a difference. Roscoe McGrath had helped people escape from their problems, but as Brightstar he would help =solve= them. He would make a difference in the world, and he would have a great time doing it. All he had needed was a little time to get the hang of it.
He didn't get it.
'Okay,' Rosacoe thought to himself as he headed away from the waterfront. 'This is isn't working out quite like I planned. I knew not to trust the babe in white: something about that dame just isn't kosher. She might not actually be working with this Grendel character, but she's not on the level, either. Something is definitely fishy there.'
'Damn! I can't take on Grendel by myself, much less him and miss Creature Feature. I've gotta get the team -- "team", that's a joke -- and bring 'em back here before somebody gets killed. Damn! This hero business is going to take some getting used to.'
Light flared brilliantly in the night, blinding Brightstar despite his polarizing force field. Blinking against the blinding light, he could see nothing against the glare. When he closed his eyes and looked at the image burned temporarily into his retinas, he could see the reverse image of a nude woman floating in the air above him.
"Okay, this is getting ridiculous," Brightstar said to himself. "Three times in as many days? And this one's wearing even less than the demon-chick."
"RETURN THE EYE."
Brightstar was stunned by her voice. She sounded like what a symphony might sound like, if the musicians were twelve feet tall and made of lightning and rain.
"I [ahem]," Brightstar cleared his throat, trying not to whisper in the presence of this... woman?
"I, uh, don't know what you're talking about. Can you tell me more about his 'eye'?"
"THE EYE BELONGS TO THE HOST. RETURN IT."
He was having trouble breathing. His lungs were vibrating with the force of her words. He could feel his heart beating with the cadence of her speech.
"Lady, I really don't know what you're talking about."
"WE SHALL SEE."
As Grendel glares suspiciously at Glimmer, a bright flash illuminates the northern sky. A few seconds later, the sound of thunder echoes on its way out to sea.
But the sky is clear.
As the empty husk that was Roscoe McGrath falls to the earth's bosom, the entity in the sky above hesitates. It is experiencing the twinges of something alien, something it has never felt before. In all of its aeons of existence, it has known only cold certainty, ruthlessly pursuing its mission, never knowing doubt, never knowing fear.
"THE CREATURE SPOKE TRULY. ITS MIND HELD NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE EYE."
The entity stands transfixed by the paradox. Below, unnoticed, grass is burned brown by the searing light, and paint fades on automobiles fleeing the blinding apparition.
In a moment, the entity resolves the paradox; its certainty returns.
"THIS CREATURE WIELDED THE POWER OF THE EYE, BUT IT WAS NOT THE SOURCE."
Between one instant and the next, the sky is empty again, the night quiet once more. The only evidence left behind to indicate that something more than human had passed this way? Some dead grass, some peeled paint, and the costumed, mindless shell of a man who used to write techno-thrillers, a man who, for a little while, was a super-hero.
Despite appearances, Glimmer will not yet focus her full attention inside the building. She's still concerned with Grendel. She'll keep track of his actions, respiratory signs and so on.
Force field is still on. Ready to switch into intangibility at the slightest hint of an attack.
But she'll pay a little attention to the building and their surroundings, too. Grendel isn't the only threat in the area, now is he?
"i puzzle everybody, chuckles. get used to it.
"now give me a moment or two to find out what's going on with our target. and try not to attract any more attention, hmmmm?"
Glimmer turns to face the building. She raises her hands into their "sensing vibes" position.
"what can you tell me about this guy? it helps if i have something to work from."
Prism stands still for a fraction of a second; the effect is reminiscent of a startled jump, even though he doesn't move a hair. Then he turns to Arachne and bows his head fractionally. "Doctor Red... er, Arachne. Sorry." He drops his gaze briefly, then looks up again; his earlier grave mood seems replaced by one of nervous embarassment.
Krane senses something amiss in Prism's tone. There's no body language to speak of, and Prism's voice is almost commpletely inflectionless. Still, there's something...
"I just wanted to, um, apologize for the scene on the bus before. I'm still not used to, um, being like I am, and I guess it just...well, I've been thinking about some of the things you said."
Arachne raises a delicate eyebrow. The corner of her mouth twitches upward slightly. Adaptor's analytical eye quickly identifies her body language: she's enjoying this.
Prism turns and gestures at whatever team members are in the lab -- Kakker, Krane, Amanda, even Mr. Park, who has paused before returning to the kitchen -- inviting Arachne's gaze to take them in. "I mean, look at us. It's a whole different world we're living in now, and I guess I'm still a little uncomfortable in it..."
That's where the sentence is going, though Prism never completes it. As soon as Arachne's eyes move towards the rest of the team and away from Prism, the crystal man strikes with the speed of a piledriver, delivering his fastest blow to the side of Arachne's head. Without hesitation, he follows up with punishing blows as fast as possible, his glittering crystal arms moving like pistons, raining blows on the armored woman's head and torso.
The attack takes Arachne completely by surprise. The rest of Vanguard are no less shocked than the tentacled doctor, by the sheer brutality of the attack if nothing else.
Pinned by Prism's massive form, Arachne's tentacles whip wildly like decapitated snakes, razor-edged claws slashing blindly at anything within their considerable reach. There is a sudden spray of blood -- Mr. Park cries out and reels backward into Amanda's arms, his upper arm slashed to the bone. Instinctively, she presses her hand to the gaping wound, applying pressure to stop the flood of blood, the blood that leaves a bright red swath behind them as she pulls him away from the lab and toward the kitchen.
After his first blow lands, Prism starts shouting, not slowing his attack (it's not as though he has any breath to save, after all). "You're losing it, lady!" he bellows, monotonal voice loud and vibrant. "You're like a mad dog, and you're not going to take Vanguard down with you!"
He will keep striking until Arachne is unconscious or [more likely] he can strike no more. He doesn't want to kill her, though; in the unlikely event that he seems to be doing too much BODY damage, he will start pulling his punches.
If the other team members intervene on his side, he will not slow his attack, but will try to work with them. If they intervene on Arachne's side, he will not strike them, but will try to avoid their attacks/escape their grasp to continue his attacks on Arachne.
Adaptor hesitates only for the split second required for his body to change gears. Had anyone actually been watching him closely, they would see his costume strech slightly as massive amounts of chemicals are channelled to his muscles, readying them for the next few seconds. His ribs expand slightly over his heart, and his staff is in his hand and extended faster than any human eye can follow.
With a single 10 foot leap, he covers the ground between himself and Amanda, who holds the gravely injured Mr. Park. He lands lightly, on the balls of his feet, eyes twitching to follow the wildly flailing arms.
As soon as one of the arms flashes towards the trio, his staff flashes out and attempts to slap the metallic limb harmlessly to the floor [Martial Block].
Kakker looks up when his friend Prism enters the lab. He is just about to ask Prism to chat for a bit when the crystalline figure explodes into violence.
Kakker's utterly unprepared for this and watches horrified as Prism pummels the armored and fleshy parts alike. [When Kakker recovers from the effects of this Presence Attack-like occurence,] Kakker leaps to the side of the two figures and does his best to get Prism off of Arachne WITHOUT mauling anyone else in the process.
Amanda squeezes desperately on the arteries of Mr. Park. The horror in her eyes is evident while Prism *crushes* Archne with blow after blow. As Adaptor springs in front of her and the elder Korean. She drags Mr. Park into the kitchen.
"Stacy! Stacy!! Get me some clean rags! We have to stop the bleeding!" Amanda shouted.
'Dear God, please don't let Jerrod wake up to see this.' Amanda thinks. Is this _really_ a safe place? What are we going to do now?'
Amanda pulls the bleeding, but still conscious, form of Mr. Park down the hall and into the kitchen. Stacy is there at the countertop, holding a bunch of broccoli. As Amanda comes into the kitchen and cries for help, Stacy drops the broccoli and bends down to get something from under a cabinet. Although she looks like she's moving as fast as she can, her actions seem unbearably slow to Amanda.
The whole world is going in slow motion. Stacy's hair flies out behind her as she moves from behind the counter holding a first aid kit, the chocalate brown strands hanging horizontal in the air as the girl rushes to Amanda's aid. Meanwhile, Mr. Park's blood seeps between Amanda's fingers, his heartbeat impossibly slow as it relentlessly pumps out his life.
One thing is not in slow motion. The sound of Prism's crystalline fist echoes WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! like a grisly metronome from down the hall. Looking past Adaptor toward the lab, she can see on the hallway wall the shadowed sillouette of the struggling shapes, around and above them the snarling whips of Dr. Redgrave's tentacles. Sometimes she can glimpse one of the tentacles tearing slashes in the ceiling, the wall, the floor.
Time ticks slowly by, and Stacy is there. She has a cordless phone cradled between her neck and shoulder, and Amanda can hear the tinny voice of the police dispatcher on the other end as Stacy asks for an ambulance. Gentle, tan hands join her own, pressing white bandages into Mr. Park's arm, trying in vain to stop the flow of his red, red blood that pools beneath him on the floor.
Kakker pulls at Prism, trying to get him off of Doctor Redgrave, but it's like trying to pull a car off an accident victim. Fortunately, Kakker is no ordinary Good Samaritan. Equally fortunate, it becomes obvious the Prism knows what he's doing: he keeps trying to pummel the prostrate Doctor, but goes out of his way to avoid hitting his friend Kakker. In the background, Adaptor blocks the flailing tentacles, and observes.
Kakker manages to pull Prism back from Doctor Redgraves body for just a moment, though Prism struggles to return to his task. Kakker hesitates for just a moment before looking down at Arachne -- he's almost afraid of what he'll see. (Adaptor has no such trouble, but his teammates' bodies block Adaptor's view of the doctor.) But that split-second of hesitation is enough for him to miss it. Only Prism can fully see the effect of his handiwork.
The tentacles lash out like silver lightning, clawing their way down the hall away from the team and dragging Doctor Regrave with them. The effect is almost horrific, as her limp, battered body is catapulted away by these serpentine metal appendages. There is a crash of breaking glass, and Doctor Redgrave is gone (unless someone goes after her, which they theoretically could do). Only a few drops of her blood on the plush grey carpet remain.
After the crash of the broken glass, there is a brief silence. Then the heroes can hear Stacy's urgent but professional-sounding voice in the kitchen, describing Mr. Park's wound to someone.
Then the Vanguard comm badges bleep for attention. Adaptor keys his.
"you're trying to decide between my company and your mission?" Glimmer's voice emanates from the device.
"that's an easy choice: have both."
There is a pause.
"look, i've seen you at work. you're sloppy. if i let you go on this little errand alone, a whole bunch of people are gonna die, in addition to the louse you were sent to kill. i figure that, with me along, nobody dies except for the owner of this place. and from what i've gathered observing this place, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy."
There is another pause, and a faint voice can be heard in the background: "Sloppy? ... you have no idea."
"so, where do we start?" Glimmer continues. "i can tell you a little bit about his security and his escape options."
"Your offer is kind, Glimmer," replies Grendel's cultured voice, faintly, "but I work alone. Fear not: I'm certain our paths will cross again."
A new voice is added to the conversation.
"Good delaying tactic, Glimmer!" shouts Brightstar suddenly. "Now let's put this psycho away!"
There is the sound of battle for a few seconds (more than enough time for the Vanguard crew to do some stuff).
Finally, Glimmer speaks up again.
"brightstar, you've got to *trust* me. pretend what i'm going to do knocks you far, far away. then get the others and come back."
A pause, then Grendel's voice, evil, suspicious.
"You puzzle me, woman. I do not care to be puzzled. You toy with me at your peril."
"i puzzle everybody, chuckles. get used to it. now give me a moment or two to find out what's going on with our target. and try not to attract any more attention, hmmmm? what can you tell me about this guy? it helps if i have something to work from."
"Perhaps another time..." Grendel replies.
Grendel stands and looks at Glimmer for a moment, weighing his options.
"Perhaps another time..."
He -- leaps? flies? to the roof. It is less than flight, but more than simply a jump. He rises to the roof, settling on the edge, where he was when Glimmer first saw him. He looks down at Glimmer one last time, bows his head, then vanishes in a swirl of blood-red cape.
[Glimmer can tell that he doesn't teleport -- he just runs away really fast, making great use of Concealment skills. Pity: sense-god characters ruin some of the mystery of a game....]
Questions: Is Grendel running away from the mission, or just running away from Glimmer so he can complete his mission? Are there any potential victims in his path? Is Fedrico in the house? Is there anything else in the restaurant that attracts Glimmer's attention?
Adaptor leaps to the window to observe the flleeing Dr. Redgrave. He speaks swiftly but succinctly.
"Kakker, if you have any kind of tracking device, use it now! We'll need to find her later!"
Adaptor then turns back to Prism (assuming he hasn't rushed after the Doctor).
"Well, Prism, apparently, you know something we don't. Please explain..."
He clearly wants to give his new friend the benefit of the doubt, but seems intent on an explanation as well...
"brightstar," Glimmer continues over the communicator. "sorry about the ruse. i'll explain later.
"right now, i need you to get the others back here quickly but quietly. i'll do what i can until they arrive. and if he can hear me from the base, tell rasputin to start taping this broadcast.
"if we play this just right, we might get some real justice today."
Glimmer sounds confident, confident, confident.
"brightstar? are you still in range?"
Well, maybe a little less than confident.
[So Brandon, if Prism could see how much damage he had done to Arachne, how bad did it look?]
Prism breaks free [maybe] from Kakker as Arachne scuttles away down the hall. Long scratches mar several places on his gleaming body, though he seems not even to notice them. "Stop her!" he yells to anyone and everyone. "We can't let her leave the grounds..." He races after her as best he can, though the odds of his lumbering body catching up with the silvery tentacles are slim indeed.
[Prism will try to catch the good doctor, intent now on keeping her from leaving the grounds. However, as soon as he can tell that the chase is futile, he'll give up. I'll respond to Adaptor's question as soon as Prism stops running...]
Prism's motivations are more or less as he stated (well, bellowed) during his assault; he thinks that Arachne has completely lost her mind, and he wants to neutralize her (or at least get her into therapy) before she can do any more damage to the team or its members. He took the ambush route in order to avoid making plans with other team members, which might be susceptible to eavesdropping, and also because his plan (such as it was) was very hastily formed. But he figured it would be better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, so he went ahead and made the assault; now that Mr. Park is horribly wounded and Arachne may escape after all, he's beginning to doubt that it was such a good idea. (You thought I would do such a thing just to put some action into the game? Ach! I am hurt! [g])
Also, to let you know, I've just recieved some worrisome news of a family nature, and may suddenly drop out of contact for a week or so in the near future, though hopefully it won't be necessary; I'll try to at least let you know if I'll be absent from the game for any length of time. In any case, I think you have a fairly good idea of Prism's motivations and personality so far, and if something happens to Mr. Park, it wouldn't be above Prism to return to the streets to seclude himself with his guilty thoughts for a while. As I say, I hope it won't be necessary, but wanted to let you know.
Mr. Park isn't in any real danger. He may have to stay overnight in a hospital, but the little old guy in really good shape and (barring unforeseen complications), he should pull through just fine.
Krane looks on with a sort of awe. Prism is fast and brutal. Arachne's been on the edge since she appeared. Krane might have sided with her until the tentacle struck Mr. Park. He could easily have been killed by that blow. The casual disregard for human life makes his blood boil.
He's torn between aiding his comrades and helping Mr. Park. In the end, there can be only one choice. He follows Amanda into the kitchen and lends his paramedic knowledge to Stacy and Amanda.
His manner is a little unorthodox but very gentle and with any luck at all he'll be able to help stabalize Mr. Parks.
In fact, Kakker lets Prism go after his victim leaves in order to free his fist for a cannon-loudness connect with Prism's gleaming chin. "Fokkenlakk! You are one sorry son-of-a-bitch!" Kakker's pointing finger is shaking with indignation.
Kakker quickly touches his communicator, assures himself that it is there, and tears off after the...tentacled object.
Kakker is currently rather too busy himself to answer Glimmer's puzzling communiques.
As for the story, I think it would strain suspension of disbelief for Prism to catch Arachne _assuming_ she is fleeing purposefully rather than simply going somewhere Prism isn't. Kakker's intent is to catch up with her and render whatever aid he can, being wary of those diamond-cutting blades. He's tough, but is he that tough? Doesn't want to find out if he can help it.
Of course, Prism could have plenty of time to catch up with the speedsters while the above is coming to pass....
Prism breaks free [maybe] from Kakker as Arachne scuttles away down the hall. Long scratches mar several places on his gleaming body, though he seems not even to notice them. "Stop her!" he yells to anyone and everyone. "We can't let her leave the grounds..."
Kakker lets Prism go after his victim leaves in order to free his fist for a cannon-loudness connect with Prism's gleaming chin. "Fokkenlakk! You are one sorry son-of-a-bitch!" Kakker's pointing finger is shaking with indignation.
The blow is impressive, making Prism take a step backward to keep from falling over. Kakker is stronger than he looks. Still, Prism doesn't respond in kind: he races after Arachne as best he can, though the odds of his lumbering body catching up with the silvery tentacles are slim indeed. Kakker takes off after them, quickly catching up to Prism but unable to pass his bulky form in the hallway. Even so, Prism is faster than he looks, and while they are both negotiating the corridors of the base, it looks like he might have a chance of catching up to her.
The rest of the team deals with the injured Mr. Park, whose bleeding seems to be under control. At the back of the base they hear a crash of breaking glass, as Arachne's tentacles make a hasty exit.
Outside, Prism and Kakker are finding that Arachne's tentacles are quickly outpacing them over the open ground. Within seconds, the sinewy sliver appendages are dragging Dr. Redgrave's body over the brick wall at the edge of the grounds.
As Prism and Kakker leap hastily over the two-meter obstacle, they are just in time to glimpse a glistening tendril as it slithers into a sewer manhole.
Prism wastes no time in trying to chase Arachne's body through the sewer. He leaps back over the wall and heads for the base, only slightly less urgently than he left it. Kakker follows.
Once back at the base, the accusations fly, but Prism remains calm.
"Does anybody here NOT think that Redgrave was losing her mind? Jesus Christ, you've heard her talking. She sees us as the beginning of her own master race, and everybody else on the planet as so much support staff -- or slave labor. You saw what she did to Rasputin; how long do you think it would be before she decided one of us was 'malfunctioning' and had to be 'shut down?' Don't tell me you wouldn't put it past her. I was trying to keep her from hurting anybody else before we could get her restrained and into therapy; she knows more about this base than anyone else alive, and if she knew we were coming, I don't think we could have stopped her. And now she's on the loose, and if she doesn't gang up with Mesmeron to build the new master race, I'm sure she's gonna be back."
"Do what you think you have to do to me. I'm gonna try to get ready for the fallout from this, 'cause it's gonna be ugly as shit."
Prism stands near Mr. Park, obviously concerned for his well-being, but just as obviously unable to do much about it.
Glimmer stretches with her senses, but Grendel is gone. It's as though he just faded away, somewhere at the edge of her awareness. Keeping alert, just in case the crimson-cloaked psychopath returns, she turns her attention to the restaurant and the people within. Somewhere in there, she is sure that she will find Federico Engada.
Engada, the man responsible for many of her current problems. Well, not exactly. She had to take a certain amount of responsibility for where her life has gone. But he certainly hadn't made it any better. She wouldn't shed a tear for him if Grendel killed him. She doubted anyone else would, either.
But that would leave Grendel, the killer, the man largely responsible for the massacre at the prison, on the loose with one more scalp on his belt. It would also leave her without Engada. She felt that he knew something about that prison, and who it was who had pulled Grendel's strings. And there was something else tugging at her, too, something she tried not to think about, but couldn't help herself. Something about condoning cold-blooded murder...
She found him. He was sitting at a table with several other men, empty and half-empty plates of Italian food in fromnt of them. For the son of Portugese immigrants, Engada certainly liked playing the mafiosa. No women at all were in the room. Chauvinist.
Engada is standing, talking, leaning over the table, his hands palm down on the table in front of him.
"I want him DEAD. I want his blood, and the blood of anyone he's close to. I don't care how much of a mess you make, that bastard killed her and he's going to pay."
A few of the half-dozen men at the table nod. A couple smile. One, a slim young man in a suit a bit more expensive than the others, raises a hand and tilts his head. Engada glares at him. "What?"
The young man stands up slowly, and turns ever-so-slowly around until he's facing Glimmer. That's impossible, she thinks to herself. I'm twenty feet and three walls away.
"We are being watched," the young man says, and points at Glimmer from twenty feet and three walls away.
A wraithlike form eases itself through the wall. "fedrico engada?" it asks in a soft, feminine voice that nonetheless drips with disdain. "i'm here to save your miserable life."
Adaptor stands completely motionless for exactly eighteen seconds while his mind sifts through various possibilities at speeds beyond those of most computers. For all his raw cognitive ability, though, he remains (hampered? blessed?) by emotion as well as raw logic.
After seeing to it an Ambulance has been called for Mr. Park (if one hasn't already), he makes a quick phone call.
He knows it's still early in the day, but he lets the phone ring until it's answered.
A nasal voice, blurred by sleep, answers on the other end. "Someone better be dead."
"Actually, Ron, someone almost is. It's David."
"Um. Dave? What's going on? Is everything all right?"
"There's been an incident at work. One of my co-workers finally got fed up with how our boss was behaving and started hitting her. She was too fast for him and got away, though. We don't know where she fled to. I'm worried that she may attempt to enlist you against us, so I was hoping you could come over here. And we could really use your experience with these sorts of situations right now."
There's a pause before an exaggerated sigh heaves out the receiver. "I take it you're at your *DAY* job?", Ron says, voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Correct. I'm at the main office. Most of my co-workers are still here. Some visitors got hurt during the fight, as well."
There's no pause this time. "JESUS! You people are more of a menace to YOURSELVES than anyone else is ever gonna be. Ok, Ok. I'll see what I can do. Just let me get some coffee. I'll be in touch." There's an abrupt *click* as the line is hung up.
Better safe than sorry.
Adaptor turns and strides back into the lab. He will find Kakker and ask if he can aid him in trying to get the Vault open, since it seems the place where the most answers will probably be found...
You guys at the base have about ten minutes game-time to settle whatever you want settled before the ambulance -- and police, possibly even FSPD -- arrive. Get to it.
When Glimmer comes wraith-like through the wall, all of the gentlemen present stand up. Aren't they polite? :)
Engada, a heavy-set hispanic man with deep-set black eyes and a pinstriped blue suit that costs what some lawyers make in a week, recovers his senses pretty fast, all things considered.
"You!" he shouts. "I know you! You were there when that bastard killed Marguerite!"
"no, i wasn't. i was nearby, but not close enough to stop him. that time. and i wasn't close enough to stop him from killing a few hundred other women -- who your shrivelled little conscience seems to have forgotten about.
"but i am close enough to stop him this time, unless you'd rather i let grendel kill you. which, i've got to admit, isn't the worst idea i've ever heard.
"so talk to me and live. or not. i could go either way."
For several reasons, it's just as well that the expression on Glimmer's face is obscured by her force barrier.
[Glimmer will appear indifferent to the thugs, but if any of them make a serious move or if she senses an imminent attack she'll go desolid. She's got some idea of what'll happen when flesh hits her force barrier, but she's not eager to test her theory.]
Engada makes "go get her" gestures to his six cronies around the table. Four of them (thugs, by the look of them) rush her. The slim young man with the dark hair and dark sunglasses (indoors? how tacky) moves slightly away from Glimmer, putting a few more feet betweeb them.
The sixth of Engada's cronies, a rather military-appearing fellow (blonde crew-cut) in blue jeans and a black T-shirt, just stands where he is and watches. His eyes are deep, cold blue. Not that psychopath-ice-blue you might expect from someone who would kill Glimmer without even worrying about the karmic consequences, but a deep, cool, ocean blue. He takes his hands from his pockets.
So here's the situation. Glimmer would like nothing better than for the police, the FSPD, the cavalry and the Marines to be where she is. But are they coming? NooOOOooo. They're heading for the rest of the team while Glimmer plays games with Engada and Grendel.
Truly, there's never a cop around when you need one.
Krane listens to Prism's explanation.
"Well," he says, "you were perhaps a little overzealous but I agree with you overall.
"Of course now we have many other questions to deal with. What do we tell the police? Do we stay at the base even though Dr. Redgrave will almost certainly be coming back (probably for revenge).? Do we try and track her down? She's certainly proved herself dangerous."
Krane motions to Mr. Park by way of explanation.
Kakker says, "Prism, Rasputin is a machine, and I was preparing to take it apart myself. And I don't know what may have passed between you, but she never said a word about races, superior, inferior, or otherwise. She's a meritocrat, sure, and a little unhinged by her recent loss and attempts to cope, but that doesn't give you the EXCUSE TO KILL HER!! DO YOU HEAR ME?"
"So it was necessary to maul her in order to save her? Jesus, did you think to try to get someone to talk to her? And this Mesmeron's a mutant supremacist, right? He'd laugh in her chrome-and-lexan face, before he wadded her prosthetics into a ball and pitched her down the street."
Gesturing at the nearby Mr. Park, Kakker says, "Just stand clear, damn you! Get!" Kakker jabs his finger in one of the crevices newly gashed in Prism's torso to move him away.
Kakker can stop the bleeding in Mr. Park's arm is he looks like he might not make it? Who's taking care of him?
Mr. Park is being bandaged by Amanda and Stacy, with Krane giving what help he can. Stacy has already called for an ambulance, but has not yet called the police. She is just now hanging up with the ambulance company. Mr. Park is awake and alert; Amanda has managed to bandage his arm up and stop the bleeding.
[Time flies, eh?]
Meanwhile, Glimmer is being rushed by four thugs in nice suits. She goes desolid, and they go through her in a scene reminiscent of the Three Stooges.
Glimmer hangs in the air, intangible, as she waits for some nonviolent reply. Let the stooges take swipes if they want to -- they can't hurt her. Not any more.
"They can't do anything to her while she's like that," the slim young man says. "It's like she isn't even there."
Engada looks nervous. "She some kind of ghost?"
The young Hispanic man, maybe twenty years old or so, shakes his head. "I don't think so. She's breathing, and her heart's beating, but I can't see her body at all." He frowns, then adds. "She wasn't like that a minute ago."
Engada grimaces at looks at the stooges, who are still trying vainly to manhandle Glimmer.
"Okay, that's enough," Engada barks. "Sit back down, you're just making yourselves look stupid." Offended, as if they could have grabbed Glimmer if they just tried it long enough, the stooges have a seat.
Engada waves for the remaining two men (slim w/ dark hair, beefy w/ blonde crew-cut) to sit down. He remains standing. "So what do you want? You want to offer me my life, as if that's something you can give or take? I got news for you, ghost-lady. A lotta people have tried, and I'm still standing."
The young guy in the wraparound sunglasses is staring intently at Glimmer, although she can't actually see his eyes. The beefy all-American with the crew-cut smirks a little, and dangles his finger into his glass of ice water. The half-melted cubes make clink-clink noises in the glass.
[I have to assume that Powersurge is just going to keep holding Mr. Park, since I haven't heard from Konji in a while.]
Prism takes the verbal abuse from his teammates with stoic calm. He looks down whenever someone suggests that he didn't think it through enough -- Mr. Park's injury is enough to convince him of that. Kakker's comments about Rasputin just being a machine get a cool, crystal-blue stare, but Prism doesn't say anything.
Meanwhile, Amanda and Stacy, along with Krane and Adaptor, try to minister to Mr. Park and keep him comfortable. After a few minutes, the bleeding is under control and the shock of being attacked seems to have diminished.
"I'm fine," he protests. "You don't have to keep telling me that 'I'll pull through.' I have survived worse than this. I just need some stiches. Stop acting like you think I'm going to die."
Mr. Park seems offended by the amount of attention he's receiving, but he really does seem to have recovered some from the attack. On the other hand, his injury is more serious than he would like the team to believe: it will take more than a couple of stiches to repair the slash in his arm. Most of the people present before his arm was bandaged saw the exposed bone at the bottom of the cut. Judging from the deep cuts on Prism's crystal surface, he's lucky the cut didn't sever his entire arm.
A few minutes pass, and a voice comes from down the hall.
"Hey! Anybody here? Hello-ooo!"
Everyone looks expectantly down the hall, but it isn't the ambulance driver -- at least, he doesn't look like one. It's a short, slightly heavy man with long dark hair and a receding hairline. He looks (and sounds) more than a little like John Lovitz.
He walks straight to Mr. Park, who is cradled in Amanda's lap. "You okay? You gonna live?" Mr. Park nods. The man looks critically at the bandage, then stands up.
"Okay, we've only got a minute, tops, before the ambulance and the police pull up. I passed them on the way here. Which one of you is the genius who attacked Doc Redgrave?"
"Now wait just a minute --" Prism starts.
"You," the man says, looking at the gashes in Prism's otherwise smooth surface. "Of course. Okay, who here is *not* a member of the team, or is planning on quitting over this. Don't be shy, we need to know this right now, because if you spring it on us tomorrow you'll fuck everything up." He looks right in the eye of everyone present, including Stacy and Mr. Park.
Stacy points at Mr. Park. "He's not, but his granddaughter is."
[If anyone else speaks up and says they plan on quitting the team, it won't really change anything, but Ron will direct his next comments to them, rather than at the team as a group.]
"Okay, here's the plan: Doctor Redgrave has been showing stress and has been behaving erratically since the death of the team. She went and installed some experimental hardware into herself, plugged some wires into her head, and went ballistic. She attacked you --" he says, pointing at Prism, "-- because you wouldn't accept the new and improved Carlotta Redgrave as leader of the team. You --" he says, pointing at Mr. Park, "-- happened to be standing nearby and got caught by a wild slash from the obviously insane Doc Redgrave."
Ron rubs his chin.
"Okay, who here actually saw what happened? Just the part where Glassman here ambushed the crazy Doctor?"
This is apparently too much for Prism. In his smooth, unmodulated voice, he shouts, "WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY?"
Before Adaptor can respond (yeah, it's that quick, but maybe Ron was expecting it), Ron spins and pokes a finger at Prism' faceted chest. "I'm what's keeping you and this team from being tomorrow's headline, genius. I don't know if you had good reason to do what you did -- maybe you did. But unless you do what I say and shut the hell up, you can kiss Vanguard's reputation good-bye. You guys are skating on thin ice as it is."
[I'll assume one or two other people will try to interrupt him to. They get much the same treatment, but he doesn't waste as much time talking to them as he did to Prism. If someone REALLY tries to stop him or waste time arguing, he will appeal to Adaptor to "Shut this guy the hell up or I'm outta here."]
Ron spins back around. "So who actually saw the deal go down? Raise your hands." [I'll assume at least a couple of people raise their hands, including Amanda. Krane & Adaptor, maybe?]
"Okay, you [Amanda] let her [Stacy] take the old guy, sweetie. He'll be okay, you've got his bleeding stopped and the ambulance will be walking through the door any minute. Can any of you fly?" [I'll asume Amanda raises her hand again.]
"Okay, you --" he says, pointing to Amanda, "and you --" he says, pointing to one of the witnesses [but NOT Prism], "get the hell out of here. I don't care where you go, just go, right now, before the police get here. You weren't here, you didn't see anything, but you won't have to lie to anyone about it if you aren't here for them to ask you questions. GO!"
Now Ron turns to Prism. "You did not throw the first punch, got that? You got ambushed by a dangerous mad scientist, and only your quick thinking and selfless action saved this old guy and who knows who else from getting messily dismembered. I know that's bull and you know that's bull, but you'll have to work that out between you and God later. You got that?"
Ron, who has been talking almost nonstop since he came in the door, look around at whoever's left (and if Amanda and whoever else is still here, he tells them to get a move on -- and go out the back way!).
"Okay," he says, taking a breath, as the sounds of sirens start getting louder. "Any questions?"
[Feel free to add whatever extraneous comments you would make during Ron's damage-control. It probably won't change what he says, but if it does I'll let you know. If you are one of the people he sends off with Amanda, let me know. If anyone he sends off refuses to be sent (including Amanda), let me know that, too.
As soon as the stranger comes walking in the door barking at everyone, Adaptor actually (and this is noticeable because it rarely happens...) *relaxes a little*. He obviously knows this man, and falls right in step slightly behind him, adopting what any observer could tell is a protective posture.
If anyone questions Adaptor directly, he will reply that, "This man is a former member of Vanguard, and knew Doctor Redgrave before any of us. He trained me and has our best interests in mind. Please do as he suggests."
Adaptor simple nods as the little man reels off his instructions, and makes no move to go anywhere when he suggests that some of them leave; he apparently has no problem whatsoever lying through his teeth to salvage the situation.
As soon as he has a moment, or as an aside while another team member is talking to his mentor, Adaptor will quietly ask Prism if he is all right, indicating the gashes in his hide, and ask if there's anything he needs in the way of medical attention.
[Adaptor] Jim C.
Glimmer returns to the land of the solid.
"call me 'glimmer,' engada.
"and, yeah. you're the tops. you're the toughest guy in the room. with your loyal thugs here to keep it that way.
"but are they loyal to *you*? or are they loyal to the syndicate? there's a difference.
"see, suppose the syndicate said, 'engada's a weak link. he's the reason the prison deal went sour, and he's crazy-bent on revenge against grendel. so let's let grendel have him for lunch.' if the syndicate said that, and your guys were really loyal to *you*, they'd protect you. you know. keep you breathing.
"but if they were loyal to the syndicate, why, they might not be inclined to save your sorry ass. in fact, one or two of them might help do the job. always gotta look to the future, y'know."
Glimmer's addressing the stooges now. "what about it, guys? are some of you in on this? i came here to tell engada that grendel's on his way here to kill him. but maybe some of you already know that."
Kakker's guts churn violently as he becomes physically ill, his robust constitution making it audible to those nearby. He'd be embarassed if he weren't so incensed.
"You slimy worm! I thought I'd left your oily ilk behind when I left the music business. There is no way in hell I'll let you hang Dr. Redgrave out to dry while you paint this murderous brute as a hero!" Kakker is adopting an indgnately heroic stance when he incidentally destroys a few more sticks of furniture. He doesn't seem to notice until the flying items clatter against the wall.
"Excuse me," Kakker says as he calms down somewhat and smoothes his vest and trousers with his hands. "You will have to think of a more satisfactory lie, Slick. I will not stand mute while you sacrifice her."
Adaptor steps in between the two men and stands directly in front of Kakker, arms raised in an apparently supplicating gesture:
"Please listen Kakker. This man has helped save you, me, and probably all of mankind several times over during his career with Vanguard. If your ethics don't permit you to stand by and watch this go on, then leave. If Prism broke the law, then he'll answer for it later. But if Vanguard, and indeed all paranormal crimefighters ever hope to recover from the tragedies of the last several months we have to stay together here."
Kakker fumes. "God help us all if we have to repay that debt to him by helping him pillory one of our own. And very likely =I= will be the one called to bring Prism to answer if he continues on his bloody spree."
Adaptor continues, "I *did* hear the conversation Prism spoke of before. I can recite it verbatim if you wish, but suffice it to say that Dr. Redgrave was unbalanced. You may not agree with Prism's methods, but the time to argue about that is *later*. Vanguard *must* survive. Sometimes we must put aside our personal notions of honor for a moment in service to a greater good. As a scientist, I asusme you can understand the value of a utilitarian position in certain matters, even moral dilemmas like the one we all face right now."
"So I would appreciate it if you would *NOT* insult this man, or Prism, as they are people I respect, and so are you, and you are all above petty bickering. Prism has earned enough of the benefit of the doubt to at least see us through this dilemma, and this man [Adaptor indicates the long-haired stranger...] I trust with my name, my secrets, and my life. I can only ask that you place some trust in me."
"The hell with that! Isn't it unbalanced to attempt to murder your comrade for something they said? May I be saved from saying something he doesn't like! As a scientist, I would assume you are aware of the dangers of dishonesty, completely aside from any moral considerations. Shall we go for a ride in a Ford Pinto and discuss it?"
"I will trust you to explain that I will not lie to save my ass at the expense of someone else's, nor will I let others do so unopposed. Cook up a better batch of dishonesty." Kakker turns to Tommy Finneagan.
"I apologize for insulting you, sir, as well as defaming the names of loathsome creatures everywhere, and I bid you good day."
Kakker s/t/a/l/k/s/pads quietly out of the room on the thick soles of his earth shoes and visits his pickup on his way to the sewer opening.
[Good for Kakker for sticking to his guns! I wondered if anyone would chafe at Ron's spin-doctoring. I assumed someone would, but I wasn't expecting such a vitriolic response from Kakker, of all people.]
Mr. Park, Stacy, and [I assume] Amanda [please come back, Konji!] watch the heated exchange between Kakker and Ron with rapt attention. As Kakker is s/t/a/l/k/i/n/g/heading out, Mr. Park clears his throat. (Kakker can pause long enough to listen, or not, as he chooses.)
"I have no intention of lying to anyone about anything. I'm also not going anywhere unless it's in an ambulance. You can say what you like, but if anyone asks me what I saw, I will tell them what I saw. And that is the end of that." He then clamps his mouth shut and refuses to say anything more.
Ron rolls his eyes.
Stacy looks from Adaptor to (the retreating) Kakker to John Lovitz (Ron).
"I'm sure Prism did what he thought was right, and I do know Doctor Redgrave has been acting really strange lately, but... I don't think it's right for us to lie about it. Secrets have a way of coming out, and it's always much worse than if you just told the truth to begin with. Besides, if Prism was right, why should we try to hide it? And if he was wrong, well," Stacy looks pleadingly at Prism, "you *weren't* wrong... were you? *Should* we lie about what happened, Prism?"
Ron shakes his head back and forth, puts a hand across his eyes, and mutters to himself.
Prism stands unreacting through most of Kakker's verbal assault (though the chin-punch does rock him back on his heels). He doesn't even seem angry at the punch. He has only just opened his mouth to respond when the mystery man enters and runs roughshod over any existing conversation.
Prism weathers Ron's barrage with his face locked in an expression halfway between bewilderment and rage (beragement?) He responds to Adaptor's quiet inquiries about his health with a brusque, "I'm fine, thanks." Indeed, the scratches already seem to be filling up, tiny crystals forming in the deep scars.
When Ron finally winds down and asks for questions, Prism raises one icy finger to him and says, "Wait." The finger stays in place in front of Ron as Prism turns to Kakker (as he departs?). "I was not murdering her, goddammit, I was trying to knock her out so we could try to turn her back into a human being instead of the Psycho-Queen of California. Now she's gone somewhere into the Greater L.A. sewer system, and I imagine we -- or at least I -- have made an enemy for life, since whatever chance there may have been to save her, she's sure as hell gone over the edge now. Thank you for your fucking cooperation. Meantime, the only 'bloody spree' we're talking about is in the tabloid headlines you write in your spare time. I did what I thought was best, and if you want to take me in, go ahead. I don't beat the crap out of people for kicks, I have never killed anybody in my life, and I sure as hell don't plan to start now."
He turns back to Ron. "As for you, you've got the story exactly right except for one thing -- I did throw the first punch, and I'd do it again. I'm sorry anybody had to be here to see it, and I'm sure as hell sorry for what happened to Mr. Park..." Here the crystalline hero (?) throws a sorrowful glance at the Oriental gentleman. "...but I did what I thought had to be done. If you want to appoint yourself Vanguard's official spin doctor, go right ahead. Myself, I don't think there's anything left to save."
He pauses, almost as if taking a deep breath. "Adaptor, Stacy, everybody...I'm sorry it worked out this way. I hope we can meet again under better circumstances. Mr. Park, I know I can't apologize for this; all I can say is, if there's any way I can help get your daughter back to you, I will."
He turns for the door. "I don't believe in resisting arrest. If the cops ask about me, tell 'em I went after her." With that, he fades to invisibility and is gone.
Prism's heading for the sewer entrance where Arachne crawled away, and will be doing his best to find her ASAP. Slim odds, he knows, but right now, there doesn't seem to be much else constructive he can do...
After everyone who is leaving leaves, Ron looks at the ceiling, asking "Why do I put myself through this? I said 'never again', 'never again will I put myself through the ringer for these people', but no, here I am, back in the middle of it again, and they aren't listening to me, and they're all gonna get screwed and it's they're own damn fault, but do they listen to me, no, of course not, but I'm here just the same and why am I wasting my time even trying?"
Ron takes a deep breath, then turns to Adaptor.
"Good luck, guy. Let me know how it works out. No, on second thought *don't* let me know how it works out. I don't want to know." Throwing his hands in the air and shaking his head, he stomps out past the paramedics who are just now running into the building.