|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Liberty League | | Turn 4 ||
"Maybe we could bottle the bits, it'd be better than Sea Monkeys..." - Silver Dragon
Whilst Jack continues his efforts to destroy the strange creatures, Psyche begins to cast around for a mental trail to follow. "Just wait till I find you," she mutters aloud, "then you'll be sorry."
Just as she was beginning to feel it was hopeless she felt it, the faintest whisper of contact with another sentient mind - a pattern distinctly human. Homing in Psyche feels as if she's rushing down a long, dark tunnel. Building up momentum she prepares to give the mind a mental jolt - something to disrupt their own contact with the creatures. Quickly she visualises a train rushing at full throttle out of the tunnel mouth, crashing into the other mind.
And just as she begins to "Choo! Choo!" aloud in victory she feels contact with yet another mind ...some thing artificial, more akin to the monsters but different. It's kind of like Terry ...but somehow more. Worse, still yet, it notices Eleanor.
Taking over the psionic scenario the mentalist has constructed the creature abstracts the tunnel into its own mouth, devouring the train and forcing the heroine out with a shock!
Being intent on causing disruption Psyche was taken completely by surprise by the intervention of _another_ mind. The bounce back out of a closed mind was never pleasant; the slamming of doors along with feelings of rejection were often quite overwhelming, but this was different, being swallowed up & spat out again. Psyche jumped & then shuddered as the mental jolt provoked an equally strong physical reaction.
"Hey, Psyche, are you alright?" Shatterman asked as he cruised past the fourth floor of the Enjon office building. "You nearly jumped out of my grip."
"I, I think so," she replied shakily, "there's someone - something- else out there Jack, another mind & it felt..." she takes a moment to recap, "it felt a bit like Terry but stronger."
"No worries. We'll bust his butt too," says Shatterman reassuringly.
"BTW, While you were gone," Shatterman says, "I blew a few raspberries at the rockheads. It seemed to get their attention like the Doc wanted." Then, speaking to his communicator, "Shatterman to Doctor Z. We're on our way with two bad guys in pursuit."
"Good, that seems sensible. I suppose they need to see us then...." says Psyche, and with that comment she adapts the illusion to show them ahead of the creatures, enticing them to follow.
"Hey, show 'em my bum. That out to keep them riled up." Shatterman laughs at his own silliness. He is clearly having fun.
"Understood, Jack. Lure them back to the others and then break free from pursuit. Find out if the Liberty Disk is still functioning and get back to me soonest."
"Okay," says Shatterman much more confidently than he feels. He has no idea what the Doc is thinking, but that is fine since he long ago got accustomed to not understanding any of the logic sifting through the Biggest Brain on Mars.
"Hey Sexy Dragon," Shatterman says to his comm-link. "Heads up! Psyche 'n me are bringing you some more playmates. Mine seem to be cheap 12th Avenue knock-offs of the originals. How are yours?"
"Label says 'Made in Taiwan.' They're ugly but don't seem too effective at anything but landscaping," she notes. "Maybe we could bottle the bits, it'd be better than Sea Monkeys... whoops, gotta go. Keep 'em intact, 'Buns."
* * *
Martian Mancer's voice is tinged with exertion over the comm. "Dragon, 'Form, this may be the first time we've got _less_ control without Shatter, but Z opened the perimeter. Let's see if we can reflank on Gaslight and drive these sandy beasts to ground. Need a hand with your hand 'Form?"
"Not at all" a sparrow replies in the magician's ear signaling that Terry has made good his escape. "I'm just scanning for a large flat piece of wreckage to splat my younger cousins with at the moment. Dee certainly seems to be enjoying her self with that tactic."
"Here, you can have mine...." She throws the pylon at one of the beasties as a distraction, and then moves in from the side with a controlled flurry of punches.
As she had hoped the xeroxes scattered to avoid the impromptu spear. One of the creatures even swerved into the path of her righteous blow. At the last second the silicate hybrid contorted itself about her fist avoiding any real contact with her fists of fury.
Sensing an opportunity it begins to constrict itself around the arm, grappling with its whole form. Red eyes flicker in fiendish delight. Someone really should have told the bugger it's trying to arm wrestle with the one of the strongest women ever to sit foot on the soil of this proud planet...
"Don't get fresh with me, you ambulatory sandbox; we hardly know each other!" She tries to haul it in closer while her free hand swings around in a straightforward hammer-blow; it can let go, or get hit. Preferably the latter, of course....
The creature is sent sailing in a fabulous arc towards the critter already singed by Pavel. The thing from below is slow to rise but stand tall it still does. A nonplused expression moves across Dee's face ˝ primarily due to the monster's resiliency but there's also a small nagging part in the back of her mind that can picture Jack having a better go of it and gloating till about it till the next mission!
Terry touches down, perching in his avian form for a moment on the discarded pylon before gripping it with his humanoid fists and rising to his feet. There were still three of these "evil twins" left in the area. He catches the gaze of one as he sees it staring maliciously at the Martian Liberty Bell at the end of the block. Terry rears back the pylon like a Louisville Slugger and smashes his dark half square in the chest; passing through it's shattered form in his follow-through.
The young sentient would have been happier if the thing had fallen down though! He sees it still standing as it struggles to pull itself back together. A deep growl creeps out of its still forming throat in marked rebuke of his efforts.
It suddenly dawns on Terry that these beings are just the same as him. They are made of the stuff he was designed to manipulate....
"What's the matter? Thing's going to pieces bro'?"
He uses his control of the Martian soil to pull the very substance of the evil terry apart and scatter him to the winds...
...leaving nothing but jasmine blossoms in place where the beast once stood.
"Give 'em hell, Terry" is the Crimson Conjurer's gruff reply as he goes "Big Red." The assembled monsters can't help but gape as they are covered in shadow as Pavel reaches his full forty-two feet of height. His boots connect soundly with what was once a boulevard.
"IN OR OUT, SHATTY? YOU'RE PLAYIN' HOB WITH OUR PERIMETER HERE," rang the Mancer's echoing tones, only mostly compensated by Dr. Z's dynamic volume controls. At full height, the comm's were probably redundant anyway. The Mancer's form dominated the business district skyline, and he looked downward, almost gleefully searching out targets for his massive boots.
Using the still-frozen clenched fist of sand as goalposts, he attempted a sweeping kick through two sand creatures for the field goal. "GONNA SPEND THE REST OF THE DAY GETTING THIS OUT OF MY BOOTS, I BET."
Despite all his bluster, and the fact he's larger than the broad side of a barn, he effectively makes no real contact with the pair. They willingly spread themselves grain-thin before the forty-two Berlin expatriate could force them into the same shape without their consent. They quickly spring up on opposing sides of the Geriatric Giant and begin swarming up his pants leg.
Within an eye-blink they're slinging themselves with stretched limbs, off the wrinkle in the fabric of his legging, past his belt buckle, and off of his collar until they're standing on his always-broad shoulders. In unison they point their arms at his now bus sized face and blast at him, using their own bodies as ammunition. Torrents of side race across his features agonizingly. His thoughts flicker back to his time working in construction. He only hopes his face holds better than many a brick wall he saw get chewed up by a sand-blaster.
* * *
"There's no reason why it should, Mr. Heisenberg. I'm a scientist, and not a violent man by nature." Still wrapped in his force field, Zach confidently approaches the two men, abandoning his likely fruitless analysis of Heisenberg to look over the elderly gentleman he supports. "Provided, of course, that you and your comrade-in-arms end your manipulation of the silicate creatures and surrender to the authorities."
"My, my, my. You certainly are a suspicious type aren't you? If we were controlling these monstrosities do you think I'd be using them to beautify the neighborhood?"
"Not suspicious. Logical. A known criminal with probability manipulation powers, standing at the epicenter of a highly improbable attack on the city. You're connected somehow, with a 77% chance of responsibility."
"Percentages have a way of being wrong when I'm involved, son" rebukes the villain matter-of-factly. "Give my history its due. Surely this stunt is below an arch-villain of my stature. Even if I was "rusty" from my years of retirement, I could do better than this trifle."
"I am curious, however - are you consciously attempting to manipulate my perceptions, or is an automatic side effect of your indeterminate state?" Zach crosses the distance between them and moves to take his charge.
"What's that quaint clich╚? The world is what we make it?" A sly grin scales across his face.
"Most people prefer a less esoteric method than yours. And you didn't answer my question. If it's conscious, your shutting it off would go a long way towards earning my good will."
"Believe me when I say it's for your own good. A mind as reasoned and rationale as yours would suffer more than most, I'm afraid. As much as the villain in me would love to see you reduced to a babbling, gibbering thing I have need of you at the moment."
Dr. Z nods, seeing the possibility.
Dr. Z effortlessly holds the man with a single arm (well, actually from the invisible force field around his body, but there's no reason for *them* to know that!), taking in his injuries with a glance. "Now then, sir. What happened to you?"
"Moonlight took quite a blow from one of those beasties."
The frail form fails to add to more to the conversation than a moan. He seems to have sustained at least some indirect damage from the submartianian raid. His breathing his shallow and may have severe internal injuries. The ER at St. Elmo's Hospital is probably nearing capacity given the morning's chaos, Zevon could ferry the elderly man to one of the other medical institutions in New Philadelphia or to the med-bay in their own headquarters in enough time to save his life. The World's Smartest Man makes a mental note to perfect the portable micro-triage center he was working on recently. The last few had de-stabilized before expanding to full height....
"...Moonlight? Mr. Moonlight?" Dr. Z recalls in his thoughts Gaslight's tales of the villain. Taking into account those anecdotes (something about equipment and weapons powered by a silvery PE effect) and his current condition Zevon surmises that Moonlight has all the weaknesses a normal man has when gripped in time's callous hand.
"His situation is serious, so we don't have any time to fence. What happened here?" Zach is already in motion, still effortlessly holding the man steady as he strides to the hover-bike to carry the man back to Liberty League HQ.
"I met Moonlight for breakfast this morn. It seems his last stay in Defalco's Penitentiary wasn't enough to dissuade him from pursuing some last grand scheme. I was in the middle of telling him I wanted no part in the affair when those vile things bore out of the ground." Heisenberg follows closely behind Zevon.
"Shatterman to Doctor Z. We're on our way with two bad guys in pursuit."
"Understood, Jack. Lure them back to the others and then break free from pursuit. Find out if the Liberty Disk is still functioning and get back to me soonest."
Zach turns back to Heisenberg, one eyebrow cocked. "Just opted out, eh? With anyone else I'd say that timing was too unbelievable to be true, but with you I'll accept it. I can carry moonlight while piloting my hover-bike, but not both of you. We have a few minutes to hear back on the Liberty Disk or have one of our flyers get here before Mr. Moonlight's situation gets worse. Please quickly outline what you remember of his plan - it's probably connected with these events."
"I realize "the lady doth protest too much" but I assure you there's little connection. His "plan" was as doddered as he is. It's a shame really. He was never one of the greats but the man had potential. I must admit to preferring his first shtick -- convincing people you're a wolf-man AND a vampire is quite an accomplishment -- to the cockamamie death traps and laser pistols he trotted out later in his career."
"The codger had crafted his lunar energies into tiny golems that he was intent of setting loose upon our fair metropolis. I believe they were smashed to wee bits along with the rest of that greasy spoon. Another shame, really. I can recall a time when I waylaid Jack Schuster over lunch. The plebeian actually enjoyed cheese-whiz."
Zach settled the unconscious Mr. Moonlight on the ground and turned the scanner on him, looking for aspects of his energy signature. Once confirmed, he stands and starts striding to the remains of the diner. "Mr. Heisenberg, keep an eye on him for a few seconds. There's something I need to check."
He runs the scanner over the diner, looking for remnants of Moonlight's PE energy, Terry's energy signature or any combination of the two, still awaiting Jack's response on the status of the Liberty Disk. He'd leave Heisenberg behind to get Moonlight to the base White Room, but he'd rather not.
Back in Old Town, Shatterman swooped in low so the evil mud balls could follow him. Then, spotting the giant-size 'Mancer, Shatterman pulled up and said "Hold this!" and gently deposited Psyche in the 'Mancer's giant hand. "Be right back!" he yelled as he whisked over to take the pilot position on the Liberty Disk. Lifting off, Shatterman fired a blast of frothing force at an evil Terry that had the temerity to try leaping on the Disk. "No, no, no," he said chiding the sand monster. "You are supposed to stay here and get your butt kicked by my teammates."
Lifting off in the Liberty Disk, Shatterman followed the homing beacon to Dr. Z's location. Touching down gently, he waved and yelled, "Here ya go, Doc! Do you need me here? If not, I'll be heading back."
"Uhm?" Zach replies as he takes in the readings. There is are sufficient traces similar enough to Terry's bio-readings that The Good Doctor is certain the monsters were in fact here. There does, however, seem to be a faint reading that could map to a PE discharge that could potentially map back to Moonlight.
Noticing Heisenberg and Mr. Moonlight, Shatterman raises his eyebrows and looks them over. Deciding that Dr. Z won't introduce him, Shatterman sticks out his hand to Heisenberg and says "Hi! I'm Shatterman. What happened here?"
Heisenberg secures his silk glove tightly about his right hand before responding to the gesture in kind. "My, but times have changed. In my day the heroes would have greeted me with a closed fist. As to what's happening, I'm sure you've witnessed the destruction of this morning first hand. Galileo's Dinner and the surrounding establishments are no different."
"Hey," replies Shatterman with a shrug. "Disco died and then was reborn. Paradigms come and go. Uh..." Apparently Jack's train of thought derailed, so he shrugged again and changed his confused look to a simple goofy grin. "I figure if you were a bad guy, the Doc would be putting the beat-down on you. Since he's fiddling with a do-hicky instead, you must be okay."
Deciding it was time for him to get some leadership from his Fearless Leader, Shatterman turns to Dr. Z and says "Mars to Z. You wanted me here. Now what?" The waving hand manages to snap Zevon out of his reverie.
Zach presses the "record" button on the scanner, locking in the reading for analysis at the base, before looking up at Jack. "Yes, sorry. Just getting some readings, Jack. Give me a hand getting that wounded gentleman and my hover bike in the disk and you can head back to the others. There's something very strange going on, and Mr. Heisenberg is going to help me figure it out while we see to Mr. Moonlight's injuries."
The men have been loading things and people into the disk as Dr. Z spoke, and by the time he finishes they're ready to go. "Come along Mr. Heisenberg, if you want to keep being helpful."
The man nods and steps aboard.
"Hey, Doc, have you heard from Gaslight?" Shatterman asks Fearless Leader while Mr. Heisenberg loads up. "I didn't see him with the others. Think I should round him up?" Then, looking back in the direction of the Martian Mancer, Shatterman continues, "I'm sure GL has everything under control. He does that, right? Control, I mean." Then to Heisenberg, "GL is our resident floor mopper. Majorly tough dude. Gives me the heebie jeebies." Then, seeing the ever patient look on Dr. Z's face, Jack smiles as if to say _Ah, right_ and crosses his hands in front of him, fingers pointing in different directions and repeats his question about where to go using a look rather than words.
"I'm sure Gaslight has everything under control. Do a quick reconnaissance of the city to see how far these things have spread. If you find any clusters of them that are too far away from the others, get their attention and lure them back. We need to contain the damage they're causing while I determine what caused them."
"I'm on it," says Shatterman. Effortlessly he soars high into the air and sweeps into spiral search pattern, prowling the city. _Bummer_, he thinks to himself, _was kinda hoping to catch Gaslight in action. Ah, well. There are always other bad guys to watch him whomp on._
"Hey team," says Shatterman into his communicator. "Since Fearless Leader has total confidence in your abilities to handle the bogies you've got, I've been assigned recon and shepard to round up any others. Give a nice blood-curdling scream--or simple shout, I'm easy--if'n y'all needeth me."
* * *
Gaslight suppresses an urge to smile as he watches the marauding Terra-clones stumble about blindly. It was gratifying, but his ploy had been a momentary distraction at best and it would not do to succumb to unwarranted gloating at this point. Especially since he is facing four very powerful superhumans who are immune to the bulk of his primary attack methods...
For now at least, it would be best if his terramorphic opponents remained visually impaired while Gaslight considers his next action. The black-clad vigilante removes another egg-sized canister from his belt, quite similar to the flash grenade he used earlier (in fact, sufficiently identical that someone untrained in reading the notches on the base would be unable to tell them apart).
Gaslight throws the micro-grenade with unerring accuracy. It lands in the midst of his four foemen and, exploding at the instant of impact, releases a cloud of thick black vapor into the air. The cloud has the cloying moistness of a bank of fog, but, strangely, is black as pitch. Within moments, it has enveloped the four terra-critters in a shroud of darkness, a shroud that continues to expand and threatens to blanket much of the surrounding area.
Those few curiosity seekers who had managed to quell their terror sufficiently to watch the fight between the sand creatures and Gaslight now shrink back from the advancing cloud, unsure of what to make of it. Striding towards one of the local shops (a hardware store), Gaslight shouts, "Clear the street immediately! Seek cover, and do not come out until you have been advised it is safe to do so by emergency services personnel!"
Having long since mastered the art of controlling his body language and tone of voice for maximum psychological effect, Gaslight makes it clear that he will brook no dissidence and is gratified to see those few onlookers still remaining run -- not walk! -- from the area as quickly as their legs will carry them.
Arriving at his destination, thankful to discover that the shop owner has had the good sense to vacate the premises, Gaslight snatches up a small paint bucket of durable plastic. Reaching into his bag of tricks (or more accurately, his cloak and belt of tricks), he pulls out three small "packages" and quickly plants them to the base and inner walls of the bucket.
Rushing down the hardware store's central display aisle, he sweeps box after box into the paint bucket, rapidly filling it with an assortment of large nails, screws, and metal washers. Carrying his burden out into the street, Gaslight pauses in front of the small shop.
Focusing every bit of concentration he can muster with his not-inconsiderable will, he listens to the shuffling of his silicate foes, trying to pin down their positions within the bank of black fog by the sound of their movements. When he is satisfied that he has pinpointed their location, he takes a deep breath and, summoning The Machine, strides into the cloud of darkness.
Driven by The Machine, Gaslight is only vaguely conscious of what happens next. His every sense is strained to its limit, as The Machine falls back on decades of Cottonfist's spatial awareness training to guide him through the blackness. The burden of the heavy bucket impairs his movement as he attempts to glide past the nearest terra-attackers, but The Machine has made adjustments for even this, and the combination of Gaslight's highly trained evasion skills and the cover of darkness serve him well. Still, he is vaguely aware of hard physical contact. Was he struck? Is he injured?
Gaslight "comes to" a moment later, finding himself standing at the outmost edge of the cloud of black mist when The Machine finally relinquishes control of his body to his conscious mind. He is bereft of the bucket, and immediately sprints towards his downed van.
Interposing the vehicle between himself and the terra-critters, Gaslight kneels for maximum cover and draws his electronic touchpad from his belt once more. Hoping that he had succeeded in placing the bucket in the midst of his four attackers, and praying despite his atheism that all the innocent bystanders had indeed withdrawn to cover as they had appeared to have done, he punches in a sequence of numbers on the touchpad.
An instant later, the three "packages" he had attached to the walls of The paint bucket -- three shaped charges of plastique -- explode, violently spraying a cloud of shrapnel in every direction...
Gaslight waits for a tense moment. He stands ready for any possibility as he notes the raging screams coming from within the shroud. His conscious mind trying to figure out the next best possible attack even as he concedes he may have to give trust to the Machine's offensive capabilities.
Tentacle-like pseudo-pods lash out from the darkness. A bestial head emerges from the fog bank bellowing in a mix of pain and anger. Its eyes spark a vivid red and the crimson glints off of the saliva about rows upon rows of jagged teeth. Ridges form blade-like across its spine and scales appear about its gritty epidermis. It breathes in deeply and then stares in Gaslight's general direction. The elephantine thing lurches forward blindly guided only by scent.
It reaches underneath the up-ended van and tosses it aside with ease. Gaslight stands proudly in place, ready to move at the instant the behemoth commits to the attack. Face to face with The Dark Defender it raises a large maul...and then falls limply to the ground.
Standing resolute the vigilante brushes a copious amount of slaver from his lapel.
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