Interlude: Armsmaster (obselete)
6 months ago
Armsmaster made his way into the hospital lobby. He’d been on patrol when the call came in that there was an attack going on, and now he was here not much more than four minutes later. The people in the lobby were still looking surprised, but he couldn’t detect any immediate threats. His helmet UI noted that most of them were under the influence of a recent adrenaline surge, but not directly afraid of something right now. After a quick scan of the room, his eyes fell on Panacea, the Dallon girl. Her powers allowed her to heal anyone she touched, except for people with brain injuries, another of those weird quirks that he had quickly gotten used to. Some people saw weird visions behind other capes, some people didn’t sleep, and some people had an irresistible urge to call themselves something crude like “clockblocker”.
The girl seemed to be alright, though panicked, but he made his way over to her to make sure. When she recognized him, she seemed to calm down, obviously secure in the knowledge that he was there to protect her.
“Is everything alright?” He asked, that was what you were supposed to ask after all.
“I… yeah, uhm… I don’t think anybody got hurt.” She replied, fidgeting about with her fingers. It was quite a distracting movement, but armsmaster could get over it. She was only about 16 years old or something, he shouldn’t expect her to behave professionally after being attacked. Still, it was quite bothersome.
“Do you know what happened?”
“It was Oni Lee, he” Armsmaster’s arm flew towards his halberd, if that assassin was still around, he needed to be able to react within 0,43 seconds, roughly the time the ABB cape needed to teleport in and out again. If he was able to strike within that time-frame, he would hit the real body.
“he’s gone now, so there’s no need for…” Panacea continued, after she got over the shock of seeing him immediately draw his weapon. The people around them had backed away, not wanting anything to do with whatever could make someone like armsmaster go for his weapon.
“As I was about to say, he teleported in with a few broken bones and some gashes from what I think were teeth or something. He told me to either heal him, or he would start killing other people in the lobby.” She said. The story seemed to check out, no-one had been wounded even though there was some blood on the floor, and Panacea was skilled enough to heal people in the time between the alarm being raised and him walking into the hospital. Plus, he noticed a small scattering of ash on the ground, now spread around by footsteps. He should write a detection algorithm, immediately notifying him of any possible Oni Lee presence.
“You said he was wounded, can you describe what kind of wounds exactly? The information could help in apprehending him.” He replied, setting his helmet to transcription mode with an eye movement.
“As I said, he seemed to have been bitten by something. At first I thought it was a dog, but it was much too large for that. The broken bones and bruising seemed to be from being thrown around by something strong.”
“Hmm… Nothing immediately comes to mind. The only brute in the area with fangs is Lung, and he isn’t savage enough to attack his lieutenant for no reason. Did you see any burns or scorch marks?”
“I… No, I didn’t see any scorch marks or anything like that. But, I was about to leave when the attack happened, can I go home now?”
Armsmaster thought about it, on one hand, he’d like to know more about a possible new cape that could stand up to the likes of Oni Lee. On the other hand, Battery always told him that people hated it when he forced them to stick around just when they were about to go home. Then, an idea came up in his head.
“Sure, do you want me to give you a ride?”
“I… Yes please”, Panacea replied, she seemed to be slightly annoyed at something, but Armsmaster couldn’t figure out what that could be, the ABB cape was gone after all, and only he was around right now.
Armsmaster turned up the gas, his traffic analysis program giving him information on how fast, and where, to go for optimal speed. Panacea’s hands were clenched tightly around his waist, and the girl seemed to be rather panicked. Maybe it was the speed. A quick eye gesture activated the sound dampening and communication system he had built into the spare helmet panacea was wearing.
“It’s perfectly safe, I’m tapped into all the local traffic camera’s to make sure we don’t crash into anything, and if someone makes an irresponsible movement, the vertical booster will make sure we don’t hit them.” He said to calm down the healer’s fears.
“How fast are we even going? I can barely see anything back here?” She replied, still with a small tremor in her voice. Armsmaster wondered why, he’d explained that this was perfectly safe hadn’t he? Maybe it was something else…
“Don’t worry, this counts as a work ride so we won’t get held up by traffic cops”, that’d assuage her fears.
It seemed to have worked, the girl didn’t have any further questions, and he could focus on the delicate sequence needed to activate the afterburners and pick up more speed. Was it really necessary to go this fast while bringing the girl home? Not really, but it was a good excuse. Normally, every time he could pick up some speed, his mind had been filled with worries about possible upcoming fights, wounded civilians. Now, now he could enjoy the wind howling against his helmet and visor. Still, something didn’t quite feel right. He wondered why. Was it the fact that he’d been too late, even though nothing bad had happened to the civilians? Or was It that there was a new cape in town that could appearently give Oni Lee a run for his money? Neither of those seemed to fit his feelings.
He figured it out when Panacea shifted her grip, the girls arms locking even tighter around his waist. He’d dreamt about this once, only it hadn’t been the New Wave cape sitting on the back of his motorbike, it had been his daughter, his little girl. That whole chain of events, him finding out about her existence, meeting her, the fight with her mother, the PR department, eventually even Alexandria, his then direct superior. Still, it wouldn’t do him any good to dwell on that right now.
He turned on the brakes, kinetic energy quickly siphoned off into a breaching weapon he’d installed on the front of his bike. The weapon would allow him to quickly enter right through the wall when he arrived, but it wasn’t quite necessary here. After all, they had arrived at the Dallon household, not some supervillain lair. He stepped of the bike, and gave panacea some help in getting of, the girl was quite short, and had a hard time reaching the ground from the back of the bike, a place he’d originally designed to transport unconscious adult supervillains, not teenage healer girls.
“Are you sure you told me everything you remember about your encounter with Oni Lee?” He asked, while Panacea handed him his helmet back.
“Yeah, I think so, although… I remember some liver damage, he should really lay of the sake, but I’m not quite sure how relevant that information is.”
“Thank you, I do have one final question.” He said, the girl looking dejected.
“What is it then?”
“Well, I’m not quite sure how to phrase this, but… Do you know what would be a good birthday present for a girl turning fourteen?”
The girl seemed shocked, a look of what he thought was incredulity appeared on her face. Was it really that weird a question to ask? Panacea, Amy, was about sixteen years old, she’d had her fourteenth birthday, so she would know the answer to this wouldn’t she?
“… Is there a new ward or something I haven’t heard about? Velocity, Triumph and Kid Win are definitely guys, and I’m pretty sure Vista is about eleven?”
“I’m not asking for one of the wards, it’s for my daughter actually.”
That seemed to have brought Panacea into some sort of error state, like a common consumer OS. He grabbed her by the shoulder, and shook her a little. “Are you alright?”
“uhhh… yeah… I guess… well… I guess you can’t really go wrong with the Maggie Hold books… Anyway, I need to go lie down now.” She replied, quickly getting herself back together and letting herself into the house. Colin was barely able to blurt out a “Thank you” before the door slammed closed behind her.
1 month ago
Armsmaster smiled. It had taken a three month long sting operation, four false arrests, the co-operation of the police force, the dockworkers association, the local schools, and New wave, but they’d been succesfull. He surveyed the events before him.
On one side, the Merchants, drug addicts of the worst kind, they had made kindergarteners look desperately for a fix. They were led by skidmark, and he had the parahumans Squealer, Mush, Flush and Snot. The ridiculousness of their names roughly equivalent to their level of stupidity.
On the other side was the Empire Eighty-Eight. A gang of Neo-Nazi’s, desperately looking to promote their ideology the only way they could, through violence. Not all of them were present, notable was the absence of their leader, Kaiser. Still, that it was a semi-fair fight actually worked in his favour. The capes present were Hookwolf, Stormtiger, Cricket, Victor, Othala, The Boulder and Botanica. Their immediate focus was Othala, When captured, they would be able to pressure her into healing people, at the very least at end-bringer fights, in return for a more lenient sentence. Arresting the others was a small bonus in addition to lowering death rates at end-bringer fights.
The operation had been simple, yet complicated. After inserting agents into both gangs, they started leaking in false information. Part of this was small messages in Winslow high-school, that this merchant insulted that empire cape. Then, they manufactured tension around the docks. The head of the dockworkers association had been very helpful, and had made fake requests for protection from the merchants. This had then been leaked to the Empire, who were angry that what they thought of as a “white” region was going to fall to Skidmark. This all while one of Lungs advisors had been telling him to stay out of it, so that he could strike when the other gangs were weak from fighting each other. Of course, once that happened, the protectorate could focus all its energy on taking him down, no longer spreading its attention over multiple gangs.
They’d planned every aspect of the operation so that the fight would happen here, right where he’d installed some repurposed stealth tech from a tinker in LA. Behind him stood his protectorate, Miss Militia, Battery, Assault and Dauntless. To his right were the wards, led by Velocity, who was about to graduate to the protectorate, and followed by Triumph, Gallant, Aegis, Kid Win and Vista. On his left stood Lady Photon, together with the rest of New Wave and most of their children, except for Panacea, who stood with the PRT squads ready come in and clean up after the fight.
Now the waiting game began, they’d wait until the enemy capes were busy fighting each other, and everyone would go straight for his or her assigned target. Lady Photon and Laserdream would blast down whatever vehicle Squealer had made, Brandish and Manpower would batter down Mush, Velocity had large amounts of cloth to throw on Snot, his slimy exterior stopping him from doing anything after the cloth had glued to him. Miss Militia would snipe down Flush, while Aegis would go straight for Skidmark, taking down both shakers. Shielder would block people from Othala’s reach, Flashbang would disrupt Cricket, and Manpower would go straight for Stormtiger. Glory Girl said she could take the telekinetic Boulder, which left Dauntless for Victor, an easy battle for him. The tree-covered Botanica would be handled by Kid Win, whose new gun would be able to go straight through the wood, striking the cape below. Himself, he’d go for Hookwolf, leaving Gallant, Triumph, Assault and Battery ready to assist wherever they were needed. Vista would ensure they all got to their targets before they knew what hit them.
“NOW”, he shouted, the fight just escalated another step, all the empire capes looking at one of Flush’s impromptu suction zone’s. He ran forwards and jumped, trusting that Vista would send him to his target. Which she did. He landed right behind Hookwolf, who was flying towards him, thrown back by one of Skidmark’s zones. He changed his halbert-head to a specially prepared Spear mode, and braced it into the ground, Hookwolf impaling himself on it handily. Now to see if his plan had worked. He activated his device, immediately magnetizing all the metal around the spear tip. It seemed to work, but it wasn’t strong enough. Hookwolf managed to untangle himself from the spear, although his movements did seem to be more sluggish, resisting some invisible magnetic force.
“Race traitor” The madman roared, the sound somehow making its way out of the middle of the mass of blades., while he stepped forward and tried to hit Armsmaster by striking in more places than Armsmaster could defend at once.
Armsmaster was busy parrying, imbuing his enemy with more magnetic force with every blocked hit. It was only a matter of time before the murderer in front of him was completely disabled, either his body clumped together, or showing the weakness of his human form, if he wasn’t all blades under there. The battle went on for about a minute, when they both disengaged, a large builder flying right at the location they had been fighting.
“It seems like even your own people hate your ass” Armsmaster taunted, trying to get the cape to overcommit on a single strike.
“Look at your own people.” He replied, jumping up into the air to strike at Armsmaster from above.
That was what he had been waiting for. He turned around his Halberd/Spear, and activated the Net launcher placed on the bottom, while rolling to the side. A Metal net flung around Hookwolf, his now magnetic core increasing the hold it had over him. Armsmaster looked around. Most of the Merchants were down, although he couldn’t see Skidmark and Squealer, only a burning monster of a truck. On the empire side however…
Dauntless had quickly taken down Victor, who had been imbued with a mover power that couldn’t outrun his Arclance. Then, evidently, he’d tried helping his teammates. Glory Girl was still in shock, having been tased right through her force-field. Cricket had escaped after the lance had made one of flashbang’s flashbangs explode early, and Othala was nowhere to be seen, Shielder being busy helping manpower, assault and battery holding of Stormtiger.
Everytime… every… single… time…
Dauntless was strong, and would only get stronger. But he thought that that meant he didn’t even have to try. Armsmaster had sent him against Victor because, quite frankly, there was absolutely nothing to steal. The guy almost never went into the gym, didn’t train with his lance outside of making sure his blasts could be nonlethal because “It’ll change by the time I’ve mastered it anyway”, and was an all-around cocky arrogant lazy self-assured way too popular for his own good Asswipe.
Still, it wouldn’t do to admonish him for his behaviour right now. Storm-Tiger had built up a serious amount of air behind Shielders shield, and someone could get seriously hurt.
“I suggest you surrender Stormtiger, you’re drastically outnumbered, and you’re no Lung.” He said, walking towards the cape.
“Surrender? Seems to me that its you guys who are afraid of me, not the other way around.”
“Don’t be stupid and put away that massive air pressure. Even if you manage to kill or maim some of us, that would only ensure you’d be put down or send straight into the birdcage.”
“Are you afraid of me Armsmaster, it’s not often I see you threatening death on your enemies. Come on, its just a little pressurized air”.’
Just a little… Behind Shielders forcefields, now joined by those of Lady Photon and Laserdream, the Empire cape had build up a massive amount of pressure, more then he would’ve been capable of in the open air.
“Shielder, open a small gap in the top, he’s somehow creating extra pressure out of nowhere. He might have air generation powers in addition to his control.” He whispered to the teenager besides him. Still, something didn’t sit right with him, why wasn’t Stormtiger attacking. More of his allies were finishing the process of securing their enemy, and making their way here to help out.
He turned around, and saw his reinforced net lying on the ground, shred to pieces. Was Hookwolf stronger then he’d shown, or… Othala.
At that moment, Stormtiger blasted his air downwards, the force driving him upwards through the gap that Shielder had made after Armsmasters advice.
“Well, I guess he has mover capabilities too.” Armsmaster said, barely concealing his displeasure at the order of events. Still, they’d captured three empire capes and three of the powered merchants.
“Don’t bother chasing Stormtiger, we need to secure the prisoners we have.” He said, at no-one and everyone.
Then, he heard a message that warmed his heart. The cops and a PRT squad had intercepted a dazed cricket and managed to foam her to the ground. Make that four empire capes.
About half an hour later, after the disabled villains were loaded up in vans and escorted to the PRT headquarter for imprisonment, the press arrived. Time to inform the city of how hard work, patience, and above all teamwork, had presented them with this victory.
Except the camera crew had already gone to Dauntless for an interview.
“So Dauntless, can you tell us what happened here?”
“Empire and Merchants had a fight, and we busted him and took them down. It’s all in a days work protecting the city ma’am.”
“But still, I heard you captured six capes, that must have taken no small amount of effort.”
“No big deal really, also, our heroics managed to take seven supervillains of the street today!”
Armsmaster was pissed. He had come together with the police chief and the mayor, as well as several other players like the head of the Dockworkers union, to decide on a PR statement to use. They would stress the value of co-operation and communication between the people of the city, and praise the hard workers that had made this possible. Didn’t Dauntless understand? Not everyone got better and had success without even trying. It was infuriating, they had spend weeks planning this out, they’d arrested seven capes and about thirty gang members who ran the moment they arrived, and now Dauntless was saying it was “No big deal”?
Still, it probably wouldn’t do to get angry in front of the camera. He made sure the wards were okay, (Kid Win was ecstatic, having taken down the Arborokinetic on his own. Velocity was grossed out by Snot’s well, snot.) and made his way back to the base, where he quickly filed the preliminary paperwork, changed into his civilian outfit, and got ready to go home. Tinkering could wait for later, tonight, it was time for pizza, ice-cream and TV, Dragon had send him an old science-fiction series from Aleph about space-travel, it was called Star-Trek, and was quite interesting, especially that alien with the ears, Spock. That was a good character.
Of course, Colin’s entire plan was ruined when he arrived at his civilian home. Someone was sitting on his doorstep, her back to the door. She seemed to be sleeping. She was wearing a winter coat that was too small for her, and she had jeans of which he couldn’t see whether they were old and torn from wear and tear, or just sold that way. Probably sold that way, Kids were weird like that. From below the hood of the hoodie she wore beneath her jacket, he could see she had mid-length blonde hair, with a few multi-coloured tips. Then he noticed the checkered scarf she was wearing. A scarf that he had personally commissioned and send last Christmas. But that would mean… What was Sely doing here? She should be halfway across the country…
He walked up slowly, and knelt down, putting a hand on her shoulder, gently waking her up.
“Sely, what are you doing here?”
Sely looked up slowly, still sleepy and cold, she’d been sitting there for a while. It wasn’t that late, but then she wouldn’t know when he was usually home from work. In fact, it’d been pure coincidence he actually decided to use his home today, instead of just sleeping in his workshop while tinkering.
And… Was that a bruise around her eye? Colin couldn’t get a good look at it, because within seconds his daughter had her hands tightly around his middle, and he could hear her crying. Not quite sure what to do in this situation, he decided on returning the hug, only to feel Sely whince in his arms after he touched one of her ribs.
“Sely, what happened to you?”
“it’s… It’s mom’s new boyfriend, David. He…”
Colin, no, Armsmaster, felt a fire stir within him. How dare that man touch his daughter, he would personally go over there and he would… he would…
No, that could wait, first, he needed to take care of his little girl. He’d never planned on having her, her mother hadn’t even told him about her existence; he had to find that out for himself. When he tried contacting her, the woman had threatened to release his secret identity as a deadbeat father to the press if he didn’t back off, consequences for her be damned. He’d been willing to accept that, but Glenn chambers, the then local PR guy, that had stopped him by getting Alexandria involved. Alexandria had convinced him that having a family meant having a weakness that villains could exploit, that it meant not giving his all to protecting the people. He’d believed it then, sacrificed his fatherhood in return for moments like that afternoon, victories against the things that couldn’t bear to stand in the light. But now, all the lives he saved didn’t quite seem worth it, not when someone was abusing his daughter.
He gently took her arm, and moved her to his car, setting her down in the shotgun seat, a position usually claimed by Assault on civilian outings. In the meantime, he grabbed his phone, sending a message to Panacea.
‘Where are you? Emergency situation, Daughter wounded.’
He was already on his way to the main road when he got a reply.
‘Seraph memorial hospital, meet me in lobby. Does she know?’
He only send a single word back, ‘no’, and made his way to the hospital. During the drive, he tried to get more information out of Sely, what exactly had happened to her? Why was she here in the middle of winter?
Eventually, he’d figured out that her mother’s new boyfriend had abused her, because he was angry about her grades. After Sely had gotten a D for math, he’d gone mad and grabbed a bat. After he left her, she’d stolen the guy’s credit-card and some cash from his jacket, and made her way to Brockton Bay with a combination of busses, trains, and taxis. After arriving at his doorstep (the return address on his presents), she’d fallen asleep while waiting for him to come home. She was cold, starting to get sick, and had two-day old bruises all over her, plus a broken rib. Being in the warmth of his car helped with the cold, but not with the rest of her condition. Still, they’d be in the hospital in a couple more minutes.
Once they’d entered the lobby of the hospital, he saw Panacea, healing people who came in. Seraph memorial, named after the independent hero that died defending it against the slaughterhouse, was rather small. It mostly served as a rather extensive first aid station, with long-term care being done in different hospitals in the city. The slaughterhouse had blown up half the building on their visit, and public opinion was that closing the remaining part would mean letting Jack Slash win. Thus, what remained was a hospital small enough for Panacea to heal everyone who needed her attention, and still have energy left to attend to people just coming in.
Panacea was walking towards them, and took a look at Sely, after which she took a puzzling glance towards Colin.
“Hey, I guess you’re here to get checked out.” She said, looking at Sely.
“I… uhm.. yes… but, do you have healing magic?”
Panacea chuckled, obviously amused at the idea that Armsmasters daughter believed parahuman abilities to be magic. “Well, it’s not magic, but I can take care of you. Come on, lets make sure you’re all right, just follow me.” She replied, guiding Sely to a small doctor’s office, and gesturing for Colin to stay behind.
Strange, Panacea had been treating people right here in the lobby, why would she bring Sely to a private room? Was it to create a larger distance between her and Colin, to make sure that no-one figured out that he was Armsmaster? Or was it because she’d obviously been abused by someone physically much stronger than her? Did Panacea think that he had abused her? No, that didn’t sit right. Still, this gave him some time to do what he needed to do. He walked outside to the parking lot, and called Annabelle, Sely’s mother and his one-time groupie.
“Annabelle Pierce speaking, who’s there?”
“Hello Annabelle, it’s been a while. It’s Colin, how are you.”
“Oh, Colin, it’s been a while indeed. Well, I’m fine really, nothing bad’s been happening.”
“Good to hear you’re allright. By the way, how’s Sely doing? Is she doing well in school and everything?”
That gave her cause to think. He wondered how she would answer, would she tell the truth, that everything wasn’t actually fine, or would she lie, give some sort of fake answer that Sely was right there. The answer was neither
“Look Colin, I already told you, I don’t want your lifestyle influencing Sely. How my daughter is doing is simply none of your business. We’ve been over this already. I can tolerate you sending presents for her birthday and Christmas, but if you try to get in contact with her again I WILL go to the press, and your career WILL be ruined, you understand that? Do you really think you can still be to dog if everyone thinks you’re a deadbeat father that can’t use a condom?”
She’d started out speaking calmly, but quickly became louder and louder. And really, the condom thing? She’d been the crazy groupie that had, as far as he knew, used a needle on it first. At the time, she’d been dangerously obsessed with having Parahuman babies. Shortly after, she’d suddenly changed opinion and wanted to keep her unborn baby away from any possible capes for fear of supervillain reprisals or something.
“Look Annabelle, it won’t be long until Sely is fifteen, you should really let her choose whether or not she wants to talk to her father.”
That made the woman even angrier.
“Look Colin, Sely wants nothing to do with you, and if you ever call me again, I will SUE YOU!!”
“Look, if Sely didn’t want anything to do with me, then could you please tell me why I found her sleeping on my doorstep this morning? Could you please explain to me why I have a cold, scared, wounded girl on my doorstep if she wants nothing to do with me?”
That shut her up, which meant it was time to continue.
“Now listen very closely Annabelle. I know that what she told me is true, and I know what your new boyfriend did to her. So know this, If I ever find out that that you let her be in the same room as that man, if I ever find out that you let her get hurt like this ever again, then I swear I will grab my gear and come over there to put a stop to it. I don’t care aoubt my reputation, I don’t care about my rank, I don’t care about whether or not they put me into the fucking birdcage once I’m done. You are going to keep her safe or I will destroy you. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
The line was silent for a while, until she meekly replied with a single word: “Yes.” Good, Armsmaster thought, hanging up the phone after one final message.
“I’m sending her home by plane, I’ll text you with the time you’ll have to pick her up. Good night.”
Armsmaster looked at his files, then at the news report on the screen. Ever since the massive raid last month, the remaining merchants had lain low. Mush had broken out, but the other two crackheads were still secured. Still, they’d done some research into it, and appearantly, the merchants had some sort of minor tinker around these days. The drugs they were dealing were… strange. The hallucinations had gotten more specific, with people getting weird urges to spend all their money at Fugly Bob’s. The speed somehow actually increasing people’s speed to a superhuman degree. Worse, reports had come in that they were selling the new stuff to different places in America. At first, he hadn’t been too worried about this. There were other people better equipped to intercept drug trades, even if they were tinkertech drugs. After all, they also had debilitating effects, and a slightly powered crackhead was still a crackhead. But, as it turned out, the tinker was still experimenting, and had started selling specialized stuff to other supervillains. This lead to the news report.
Last night, a veritable gang of seniors raided and trashed a computer and hardware store in the town of Westlake. Their outing was stopped by local hero Rodeo, who used his power to safely take in the perpetraters. According to a press release by the local PRT office, the criminals were under the influence of a special drug that made believe they were twenty again, provided by local supervillain Halluca, who leads the local drug dealers. Reportedly, the elders were walking through the streets, harassing people in the middle of the night, before somehow making their way into the store, where they destroyed most of the merchandise and caused a small fire. Further investigation is still pending.
This was just one of several such happenings across the country, usually in places with low to non-existent protectorate presence. If the new merchant tinker was experimenting, he was uncharacteristically smart for doing it in these small backwater towns.
Still, this worried him. He’d have to keep an eye on the situation in Westlake, after all, that’s where Sely lived. He didn’t want her to get caught up in some crazy parahuman drug related trouble.