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Max_Writer

Superworld: The Gentleman Robber Session Three

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Monday, February 9, 2015

(After playing the original Superworld scenario “The Gentleman Robber” Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with Logan Scott, James Brown, and Joey Scott).

Protean had been out of the limelight for the last week. He had arranged with Bob, the old vagrant who lived in the sewers not far from Edward, to store his other bodies there not far from where he lived. Both Bob and Chili Pepper had been there when he arrived with one of his bodies under his arm to ask permission to store the spare ones there. They were fine with it.

He put a burn barrel into a niche that no one was using and then positioned his other bodies so they looked like they were gathering warmth around the fire. He ended up moving three bodies into position. One was concrete, another was dirt, and the last was asphalt.

He also spent a lot of time meditating and trying to get more in touch with his inner self, especially after seeing that horrible thing that Convoker had conjured and he’d been forced to destroy. He discovered a new art that he’d forgotten that allowed him to locate things up to 100 kilometers away, or at least know what direction the thing he wanted to find was.

He had been keeping up with the news, thanks to the old television set that Bob had hooked up to the local cable network in his own niche. He saw the Gentleman had hit another jewelry store on Friday, October 3, 2014. He saw the next day that a meteor had crashed near I-77 north of Charlotte and some kind of dragon man had stepped out. Arclight, Vanguard, and an unnamed super lady had also been seen on the scene. All three had left together.

He went that day to check out the meteor but found no actual debris, only a crater about 10 feet across in a farmer’s field. He could see the highway from the crater and noticed that there was an imprint of a person in the fetal position.

Snap, he thought.

He had hoped for some meteor fragments.

The beeper that Absolem’s Riddle had given him had gone crazy on the following Thursday, Oct. 9. Trying to meditate, he ignored it for the most part, but finally looked at the numerous messages that had been going back and forth. The thing that stuck out was a cross street on the east side that the other heroes were planning on meeting at. He decided to trek across town to meet with them.

* * *

As Tera, Arclight, and Edward flew into the air, Arclight’s cell phone beeped. He looked around and then answered it.

“Hey, I’m flying!” he said. “Wait. What? Right now? A movie? Well, commercials are just little movies! Okay! Yeah yeah!”

He tucked the cell phone away.

“I gotta go guys!” he said.

He quickly landed and set Edward down.

“Gotta go!” he said. “Gotta go!”

He flew off into the air again.

Edward looked at Tera and then he scurried off to the nearest sewer entrance and disappeared.

Tera looked around, now alone.

“I should probably get other people,” she said.

She quickly flew back to the house and skulked in the shadows as the police searched the place, put up police tape, and did their investigations.

* * *

It was about 8 p.m. when the police finally left the Gentleman’s house. They had questioned both Tinker and Wild Spirit extensively and had shared the information on the renter of the house and the owner of the SUV out front. The vehicle had been towed to the police impound. He had shared with them that he was called Tinker and they had asked if he was a member of FORCE, which he denied. Wild Spirit also put in a good word for him, noting that he was another of the super heroes established in Charlotte.

None of the police offered to give him a ride. Wild Spirit thanked Tinker, turned back into a crane, and flew away.

He started walking home, wondering if the daughter was under the Gentleman’s power as his x-wife probably was when she signed the paperwork to give him sole custody of their child. He had only walked a block or two towards where they had originally met when something dropped down out of the sky and landed solidly next to him.

“Boo,” Tera said.

“****!” Tinker cried, jumping. “God!”

He put his head in his hands.

“So, the other two guys bailed,” Tera said.

“What!?!” Tinker gasped.

She had startled him quite badly.

“I was wondering if you’d like to come see if you can help,” Tera went on. “What happened to the other two?”

“Who?” Tinker said. “Who?”

“The other girls?”

“Oh, they’re just gone.”

“So, I guess it’s just you and me. You want your locator back?”

“Yes, please.”

Tinker had not moved from the spot where he’d stood when she’d startled him. He took the locator and saw that it still worked.

“Okay,” he finally said as he started walking again. “So, everybody’s taken off. Is there anybody else we can try to get in touch with?”

“Not that I know of,” she replied.

“That’s right,” he said. “Well, God. Can just the two of us take these guys on?”

“You’re smart, right?” she asked.

“I like to think so, yeah,” he said.

“Can you make something that makes it so they can’t do that?”

“Something that they can’t … poof away or something that they can’t manipulate us?

“Both?”

“Um … I know that … um … God … what’s her name. Amazon. She … what is that?”

They both heard the sound of heavy footsteps coming down the street. Whoever it was, the person must have been very heavy. As they approached the crossroad some blocks from the Gentleman’s house, the noise got louder and, coming down the perpendicular street and looking at signs came Protean. He held a pager in his hand and looked back from it to the street signs as he walked.

“Isn’t … isn’t that that guy?” Tinker asked Tera. “Protean?”

* * *

Protean was looking for the streets the pager message from over an hour before had indicated when he spotted a very large woman with scales and wings standing on a corner. She had large horns on her head and scales covered her strategically. She was at least seven and a half feet tall. Next to her was a man in a leather suit with metal connected to it like armor over his arms, torso, and legs. The leather also formed a hood that covered most of his head, though left his mouth and nose exposed. There were goggles over his eyes. Protean didn’t recognize either of them.

“Hey!” the man with the goggles called. “Hey!”

“Excuse me, stranger,” Protean said as he approached. “Am I at the right cross?”

“What?”

Protean asked if he was at the streets that intersected where they stood.

“So … you got that message too?” the man with goggles said.

“Yeah, but I couldn’t respond immediately,” Protean said. “I was in a deep place.”

“Oh. Um. Well, that’s unfortunately turned into a cluster so we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do next.”

“I feel like I recognize your voice, fellow.”

“Oh ****!”

Tinker took off his mask.

“Oh, yes,” Protean said. “Tinkerbell. That’s right.”

“No!” Tinker said. “Just Tinker.”

“Ah, Tinker,” Protean said

“Tinker,” Tinker said.

“Tinker,” Protean said again. “Who’s your gargoyle friend?”

“Gargoyle?” Tera said.

“Gargirl,” Protean said. “Gargoyle?”

“If anything, I’d say something dragon-esque is what I keep hearing,” she said. “I’m Tera. Hi.”

“I don’t believe we’ve met. I am Protean! I am the Protean.”

He struck a heroic pose.

“THE Protean?” she said.

“Uh-huh, the one and only,” he said.

She’d heard of him on the news before she’d been abducted.

“I thought you’d be taller,” she said.

“I can’t get much taller than this,” he said. “Where do you come from … Gargirl?”

“Tera,” she said. “But, I actually am from Charlotte. But then all this abduction stuff happened and I’ve got this stuff going on.”

“Abductions?” he said. “Sounds pretty serious.”

“We found her in a crater,” Tinker said.

“Stupid aliens,” Tera said.

“Ah,” Protean said. “I came across that crater myself.”

“So, now that you’re acquainted with each other …” Tinker said.

“And now that we have three people …” Tera said.

“Yeah,” Tinker said. He looked at Protean. “So, do you know anything about the Gentleman?”

“I’ve never come face to face with the Gentleman,” Protean said.

“He’s an ass,” Tinker said.

“Ah,” Protean said.

“We gotta kick his ass,” Tera said.

Tinker filled Protean in on everything that had happened since he’d been in contact with the Gentleman and everything that had happened to them that day. He noted that they’d found him, he took control of everybody, it didn’t go as planned, they traced him to his house, then things didn’t go as planned again, and he managed to jump again. He noted that his daughter could teleport and he used her to get out of the situations after he had everybody under his control. However, they had a general direction of where he was because he still had the tracer on him and Tinker had a device that could track it.

“Well, we can’t let this Gentleman just waltz … around, blink around wherever he pleases,” Protean said.

Tinker looked at him.

“He knows his name, right?” he said to Tera.

“We must take the Gentleman down,” Protean said.

“What a guy,” Tera said.

They discussed the Gentleman’s powers and Tinker pointed out they knew his power affected everyone in a certain radius. However, they didn’t know the actual distance. Protean noted he had encountered those kinds of mental powers before and they could even take his mind. Tinker told him they’d tried bismuth wafers. He pulled the thing off his neck and showed it to him. He also mentioned some of the other methods they had researched online: aluminum foil hats if they were electrically grounded and not touching the skin; Faraday cages; air ionizers; avoiding fluoride; orgonite - stacked layers of fiberglass and steel wool; and the bismuth wafer. That last was useless.

Tera asked if Tinker could make something to put off the Gentleman’s powers but he noted that he had to know more about those powers first. Otherwise, he’d just be guessing at what the Gentleman did.

He thought it was too soon to go after the Gentleman. He figured the man would be ready for them, especially if it was just the three of them. Protean wondered if they could construct an orgonite body that he could inhabit and move that wouldn’t allow him to be controlled mentally. Tinker noted it was layers of fiberglass and steel wool and Protean realized he would not be able to make a body of two different elements at a time. If Tinker made the body first, he might be able to make it work though.

Tinker said that they would need to figure out how much it would cost. Protean noted that as an agent of FORCE, there might be friends in the police department who might help him buy the items. Tinker said whichever direction they went, he felt the need to get started replicating the Gentleman’s powers of persuasion.

A car drove by. The driver honked the horn.

“Hey, get a job!” the man inside yelled at them.

“Maybe we should get off the street,” Tinker said.

“Was that guy drinking?” Tera asked. “What does he see over here?”

“Let’s go back to my place,” Tinker said. “I have some stuff there that I can work with.”

It took them about an hour on foot to reach his apartment building, which was a two-story building with a porch that ran along the front of the second floor. There were about 10 apartments in the building and Tinker led them up to the second floor where he let them into his small apartment. It had a living room connected to a small kitchen. A hallway led back to a single bathroom and two bedrooms. The place was cluttered with bits and pieces of equipment: motherboards, computer parts, wiring, appliances that had been opened up and the guts removed, half-assembled devices, and the like.

Tera’s wings scraped the door as she entered. She had to be careful of the ceiling fan and crouched so her head didn’t scrape the ceiling.

“The ceiling’s so much lower than that other girl’s house,” she said.

She sat down on the couch. When Protean sat on one of the kitchen chairs, it shattered under his weight and he crashed to the floor. Below, someone banged on the ceiling.

“****,” Tinker said. “Uh … is there another body that you have? Can you find something lighter.”

“Perhaps there’s something in here I can borrow for a body,” Protean said. “Otherwise, I would have to go to my retreat, which I would rather not do.”

He was unsure if the broken chair would be enough to make one. Tinker noted that if he left a chair or two, he could use the rest of them.

“Hm,” Protean said. “A wooden body. Hm.”

He smashed the four wooden chairs around the table and Tinker shook his head. Then the eyes on his steel body went dark and the wood rose up to form a man about the same height. The various pieces of wood moved to form almost a skeleton with a human-like head, though it was very thin, all made of varnished wood. The chairs had not had the mass for him to make a solid body like he was used to, but it was serviceable. He returned to his steel body and walked down the hall, noting he was going to tuck it into a closet. The door on the right in the hallway led to a tiny laundry room where the hot water heater was located so he went in there and closed the door. Then he projected himself to the wooden body once again.

“That’s pretty cool,” Tinker said, admiring the wooden, skeletal thing.

“Wood feels pretty good,” Protean said.

Tinker noted that he needed to make something that mimicked mind control. Tera asked him why and he explained that he wanted to craft something that they could practice against, using it on each other.

“Oh, okay,” Tera said. “That sounds dangerous.”

“Have you seen that part in Harry Potter where they make all the students do stuff?” Tinker said.

“What’s Harry Potter?” Tera said.

“Harry …” Tinker said.

“I don’t believe I’ve seen that movie,” Protean said.

“Never mind,” Tinker said.

He sighed.

He told them that if he could replicate the effects of the Gentleman’s mind control he could see how easy it would be to resist. Then they would create other devices to see which ones counteracted the effects of the mind control. Tera agreed that it sounded like a good idea. Tinker noted that, from what he could tell, the Gentleman’s powers were not focused but affected everyone around him. Then he remembered when Wild Spirit went to the back door, she was the only one affected. Protean wondered if it could have been a pheromone, but Tinker pointed out that it affected people outside of the building during the jewelry store robbery. He noted that the man had started outside, however.

Tinker got a little frustrated at what they were trying to figure out.

“It’s a bizarre world,” Protean said. “Perhaps instead of playing his game, we just stop it and create a device that would make him fall asleep or become unconscious so perhaps his powers wouldn’t work.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Tera said. “We could just pick up a tranquilizer gun.”

Tinker said he could make a device that would put people in the area asleep - anyone who could hear it. He was also confused about how the Gentleman knew that Wild Spirit was the cat. Protean suggested they make multiple devices, which was what Tinker wanted to do, but he felt if it was mind control, he might know who was around. Protean suggested if they went in without thinking, with a clear mind, he might not be able to do anything. Tinker realized that he had seen no indication that the Gentleman could actually read minds, however. He remembered that Wild Spirit had started to tell the man about their plan before he had gotten distracted by other chaos going on in the jewelry store.

Protean wondered if there was a way for him to pick up on people’s whereabouts or emotions. Tinker pointed out that the people that the Gentleman didn’t know were there also wanted to help him out. Tera noted that it could be an aura that he projected and suggested making something that would block that. She also asked about his daughter. She said Arclight had told them she was 16.

Tinker was in favor of working against emotion control because it seemed like a lot of what was happening was based on that. He also wanted to make something that would mimic the effects of emotion control to a limited extent. Then he planned to make something to counteract the effects of said control.

He told them it was going to take a little while to construct it. Protean sat on the floor.

“I am already in my circle of peace in my mind,” he said.

“Meh,” Tera said.

While he was working, Protean sat down in the lotus position and meditated. Tera tried to figure out which of the dozen or so remote controls actually worked on the television and the cable box. Tinker had to turn it on for her and show her which remote worked for what. When she asked for food, he pointed her in the direction of the tiny kitchen. She didn’t find anything substantial, but did find a few snacks that would tide her over for a while. She turned on NCIS.

“I did not want to do fear, because I see what you do when you’re afraid or angry of stuff,” he told Tera. “I don’t want you catching the apartment on fire.”

Tera just looked at him.

“She doesn’t like aliens,” Tinker said to Protean.

“She doesn’t like …” Protean said.

“****ing aliens!” Tera said.

“Any mention of aliens,” Tinker said.

“I thought you were an alien,” Protean said to the woman. “Gargirl. I mean, didn’t you crash on the Earth?”

“Do I look like a gargoyle … wood man?” Tera said.

“Yes, I think I’ve seen your kind up on the very tall buildings and banks in this city,” Protean said.

“I have not seen a gargoyle as live as this!” Tera said.

“All right, now that you guys are getting along, I’m going to go in the other room and start making stuff,” Tinker said.

“Well, neither have I,” Protean said to Tera as the man left. “But I keep an open mind. I have to in the state that I’m in. I have a very open mind.”

Tera gave him a questioning look.

Tinker made use of an old NES Zapper: one of the Nintendo beam guns. It took him several hours to complete the device, which simply consisted of the orange and gray plastic gun that a slider had been attached to the right side of the handle near the top. There were four positions for the slider and he had marked on three of the settings: Love, Sadness, and Revulsion. He thought about using a battery pack to power it but, in the end, decided to attach a simple cord from an old hair dryer to the thing so he could plug it into the wall.

It was around midnight when he finished and came back out into the living room.

“I think I have something that we can work with,” he said.

“Cool,” Tera said, turning off the television. She pointed to Protean. “Test it on him.”

“Sure, test it on me,” Protean said.

“I’m not a fan of that stuff,” Tera said.

“You guys are allowed to try it on me,” Tinker said.

“I’m actually curious to see if my meditations can prevent it,” Protean said.

“I guess,” Tera said.

“This is why I want to try it on everyone,” Tinker said. He looked at Protean. “You seem to have a lot of control over your own mind.”

“Yeah, but for now I’m going to leave it open just to see if your device works,” Protean said.

“Yeah, so … just for the sake of me knowing if this works right off the bat, I’m not going to tell you what emotion I’m setting this too,” Tinker said.

“Sure,” Protean said. “Fair enough.”

“I want you to just kind of clear your mind and be as neutral as possible,” Tinker said.

He slid the slider to “sadness.” Then he aimed at Protean and pulled the trigger. Nothing apparently happened: there was no beam or noise.

However, Protean suddenly dropped his head into his hands.

“Where’s my body!?!” he cried out. “I miss my body! I want to sleep! I want to eat something!”

“Wow, this is depressing,” Tera said.

He cried into his hands for about 12 seconds. Then he looked up.

“Oh,” he said. “I don’t know what became of me.”

“All right,” Tinker said.

He looked at Tera and set the device for “love.” He pointed it at her and pulled the trigger. She suddenly closed her eyes tightly and put her hand to her forehead.

“Oh my God!” she said. “What does that gun do because my head is killing me!”

“Really?” Tinker asked.

“Do you have any kind of Ibuprofen here?” she asked.

She covered her eyes. The migraine had struck her solidly as soon as the man had pulled the trigger.

“So, that didn’t work on her,” Tinker said. “What did you do?”

“Uh … I don’t know,” Tera said. “But this is killing me.”

She left the room, heading for the bathroom. He called that he thought there was some Ibuprofen in there.

Protean wanted him to try the thing on him again, this time after he had put himself into a meditative state, so that he could try to resist it. After a few moments, Tinker pointed the NES Zapper at the man and pointed the trigger. He had set it for “love.”

Protean stood up and walked over to Tinker, hugging the man warmly.

“That’s a really nice device you made,” he told the man. “I’m really impressed with the way you did so. Get inside this hug.”

“That’s almost exactly what everybody was doing with the Gentleman,” Tinker said.

Protean felt like himself after only a very short while.

“That device is very strong indeed,” Protean said.

“All right, now you need to try it on me,” Tinker said.

He pointed out the settings that he had made on the device. Protean set the device for “revulsion.” He pointed it at Tinker and pulled the trigger. Tinker immediately felt violently ill as he looked at Protean, sickened at the very sight of him. Then he vomited on the floor.

“Oh God!” Protean said.

The man looked up at Protean after vomiting and, at the very sight of him, felt overwhelmingly ill again. He vomited more.

“What is going on!?!” Tera said, coming out of the bathroom.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Protean said to the man. “Do you … uh … do you have any towels?”

“I think I’m done eating,” Tera said, stumbling to the couch, her migraine still terribly painful.

“Oh, Jesus,” Tinker said.

Protean went to the bathroom to get some towels.

“Oh, my carpet,” Tinker said.

They cleaned up the vomit and Tinker opened the window to air out the apartment a little. It was cold out there but at least the smell dissipated fairly quickly.

“All right,” Tinker said. “That was cool. Let’s not do that one again. I’m going to try to resist it this time.”

“All right,” Protean said. “I’ll give you a different one.”

“Thank you,” Tinker said. “Yeah, let’s … uh … I’m going to take that one off.”

Protean set the device for “Sadness” and pointed it at Tinker. He pulled the trigger. Nothing seemed to happen. Tinker didn’t feel anything.

“How do you feel?” Protean asked.

“I feel fine,” Tinker said. “You didn’t set it … I’m not puking, so I know it’s not that. I’m not sad and I don’t want to hug you.”

“Are you sure?” Protean asked.

“Pretty sure,” Tinker said.

“Okay.”

“I think I’m good.”

“I set it to sadness.”

“Oh, you did.”

“Yeah.”

“All right.”

“Do we have enough to make some kind of resistance?” Tera asked. “Because we’ve got to catch him fast before he jumps again.”

“So, when you didn’t want to feel the emotion, you were able to combat it,” Protean said.

“Uh-huh,” Tinker said.

“And when I didn’t want to feel the emotion, I became overwhelmed with emotion,” Protean said.

“And even though you were … you were not resisting,” Tinker said to Tera.

“I kinda was,” Tera said. “I’m not really a fan of this.”

“Oh,” Protean said.

“But for the sake of figuring this out,” Tinker said.

“Maybe if I set it,” Tera said.

“Both of us dropped our guard for science,” Protean said. “You’re not willing to drop your guard for science.”

“Not the biggest fan of science,” Tera said.

“If I let you set it … if I let you shoot me with this once …” Tinker said.

“Can I just shoot myself with it?” Tera asked.

Tinker thought a moment.

“Sure,” he said. “Let’s try that.”

He set the device for “love” and then put a piece of duct tape over the slider, hiding where it was set. He handed it to Tera and she put it to her temple and pulled the trigger, trying not to resist what happened. She was suddenly overwhelmed with an amazing love for herself. She grinned widely.

“Have you even seen how well I dance?” she asked Tinker.

“So …” he replied.

“Everybody thinks Alyssa’s better than me, but it’s just because she sleeps with the director and that’s why she gets to go and have the lead roles,” Tera said. “Everybody knows I’m the best dancer.”

“Alyssa?” Tinker said. “What?”

“Uh … from the dance company I’m with,” Tera said.

“So, you like to dance,” Protean said.

“Wait,” Tera said. “I won’t be able to … well no, I could still dance. It would be weird, I guess, ‘cause the way I look, but …”

“I think it worked,” Tinker whispered to Protean.

“… I think it could work still,” Tera went on.

“I think so,” Protean said to Tinker.

“All right,” Tinker said.

Tera tossed Tinker the gun.

“So, now should we try to create the device to combat it?” Protean asked.

“Yeah,” Tinker said to him. “I think … I’m just throwing this out there … since you were susceptible both times … we test the method of combating this device on you.”

“Fair enough,” Protean said. “I’m game.”

“Does this place have a roof where you can stand on it?” Tera asked.

“A roof for standing?” Tinker asked.

“Well you know …” Tera said.

“Are your gargoyle instincts calling?” Protean asked.

“No,” Tera said, giving him a cold glare. “This is too small to dance in.”

“Oh, I see, I see,” Protean said.

“It’s dark outside,” Tinker said. “You can do what you want. I’m not your keeper.”

“I’ll be back in a little bit,” she said, leaving the apartment.

They soon heard her on the roof above. It was quite loud.

Tinker got to work on putting together something that would block the emotion control. It took him an hour or so. He took an old set of behind the neck headphones and ripped out the cord that usually connected it to the video game or computer. Then he filled the device with an intricate and tiny technology that should bolster a person’s ability to resist mind control or emotion control. He hadn’t thought about powering it yet, so he simply connected a few feet of orange outdoor extension cord to it so he could plug it into the wall, at least temporarily. The whole thing was pretty delicate.

He finished the device in only an hour, about the same time that Tera came back in from outside.

“Protean, I’m just going to put this on you,” Tinker said, putting the device over the wooden man’s head.

He plugged the heavy orange cord into the wall. Then he set the emotion control gun for love and pointed it at Protean, pulling the trigger. The lights dimmed for a moment but nothing else happened.

“How do you feel?” Tinker asked the other man.

“Sort of the same,” Protean said.

“Yeah?” Tinker said.

“I’m just waiting for something to come,” Protean said.

“You want a … you want a hug?”

“I’m feeling pretty normal.”

Tinker turned the switch to sadness and then shot it at Protean again. The other man didn’t feel anything.

“You good?” Tinker asked. “You fine?”

“Yeah,” Protean said.

“This is awesome!” Tinker said.

“Now he’s useless against us,” Tera said.

Tinker told them they had something that they thought worked. He had to make a battery for it.

“I’m going to call this a success,” Tinker said.

“Yeah,” Protean agreed. “For one of us to be able to approach the Gentleman without being controlled …”

“Yeah,” Tinker said.

“But then we would have to incapacitate him somehow,” Protean said.

“From what I’ve seen, he doesn’t look like a very muscular or even fit person.”

They discussed how to get close enough to the Gentleman to incapacitate him. It was 1 a.m. by then and Tinker said the others could go to sleep as he wanted to think about it for a while.

“I don’t sleep,” Protean said. “But I will meditate.”

Tinker allowed Tera to use the bed in his room to get some sleep. He said he could sleep on the couch if he needed to.

He got to work on the battery, pulling some parts from the emotion control gun that he’d made. He made a battery pack about the size of a cell phone with a short cord that led to the device. It would only power the device for about three uses, however. That took him a couple of more hours to finish. Then he did some research online about teleporting and learned that the teleporter could only transport someone willing to go and that the person doing the teleporting had to either have line of sight to teleport or be familiar with the area to be teleported into. He finished everything around 3 a.m.

He woke Tera and they talked. Tinker was unsure how long the effects of the Gentleman’s power lasted but assumed that Sparkle was under his power. He theorized if they could take him out soon after he appeared but before she came to rescue him, she would potentially fall out of his affective influence. Protean pointed out that she could be his partner. Tinker noted that he didn’t have much to work with to deal with the teleporting.

He told them his idea and asked that whomever went in would actually follow the plan for a change. He suggested that whoever wore the device would take out the Gentleman as quickly as possible.

“I could just grab him and fly him up,” Tera said.

“That’s true,” Tinker said.

“And they try to choke him while we’re flying,” Tera said.

They decided that they wanted the man unconscious so that he could be questioned later. Tinker further wanted the Gentleman taken out and then removed from the area quickly. He feared Sparkle would show up and teleport the man away if they were not careful. They discussed tracking him down and Tera said she thought they would be sleeping by then.

“Do we want to take him on our terms, or do we want to go to his second safe house, or wherever we believe he is?” Tinker asked.

“I think that’d still be on our terms because we’re dictating the time of attack,” Tera said.

“I don’t know about you but I would still be on edge if I were him,” Tinker said, glancing at the clock. “I wouldn’t be asleep right now. I’d be holed up somewhere with everything ready to go again. If I were him.”

They only had the one device to resist the Gentleman. Protean was for them going for the man as soon as possible since they had a beacon on him. Tera thought the man would be asleep. Tinker noted that they couldn’t all go after him and whomever went after him would have to be able to hold their own. Protean suggested using the steel body and, when Tinker asked if he could knock the man out without killing him, he said he could. They discussed who should go in. Protean noted that he had several bodies including the concrete body, the asphalt body, and the dirt body. Tera told them that if she was flying, she was pretty quiet. Tinker was not confident in his ability to take someone out.

“Assuming that I do knock him out, I can’t get him out of there quicker than his girlfriend, perhaps, could−” Protean said.

“Daughter,” Tera said.

“−Daughter could blink him out,” Protean went on. “So perhaps if this fella, or this chica, this Gargirl …”

“I could just grab him and take him away from her,” Tera said.

“Yeah, I knock him out and you fly him away,” Protean said.

“Exactly,” Tera said.

“Then we can take care of the daughter,” Protean said.

“What we need to be sure of is that he can’t speak,” Tinker said. “As soon as he opens his mouth and calls his daughter, she’s going to be right there, taking him away. That’s how he got away last time.”

“I’ll make sure to hit him in the face,” Tera said.

“So, however this happens, he can’t say anything,” Tinker said. “Because when he was at the jewelry store, he said ‘Time to go’ and she was there and they were gone.”

He noted that they needed to worry about being heard and him being heard. He said they needed to do it quickly and quietly. Protean asked if they were taking him to the authorities once they got him.

“Probably to the super jail,” Tera said.

They knew a super jail just north of the city near the Henderson Circle area had been constructed when Mechanical Fusion had been Charlotte’s resident superhero from the 1970s until 1998. It was used to hold super villains until they could be processed and tried before potentially sent to the super prison somewhere in the United States. Villains like Bloodslash, Copperhawk, and Darkpunch had been kept there from time to time.

Tinker took out his tracking device and found that the signal was coming from the northeast.

“So, we want to get him to the jail quick,” he said to Tera. “You think you can do that?”

“I would think so,” she said. “Especially if he’s unconscious.”

“Meanwhile, we can take care of his daughter,” Protean said.

They decided Protean would wear the device and clothing, as well as sneakers to quiet him as much as possible. He asked if Tinker had any sneakers but the man’s feet were too small. Protean noted he might have friends in the sewers from whom he could get sneakers from.

“If they haven’t boiled them,” he said.

“Boil sneakers,” Tinker said. “I’ve never heard of that. I usually hear that happening with boots. Like, leather boots.”

“Yeah, but times are rough,” Protean said.

“They’re dumb,” Tera said.

Tinker noted he would have to watch from the outside so that the girl didn’t try to ruin things. He said he had a laser pistol and pulled out the chrome, clean-looking gun with the wide barrel that had glass over it. There appeared to be parts on it that could be attached to other things as well.

Tinker suggested that Protean take a few cans of soup to trade with the people in the sewers for clothing and shoes. Protean’s eyes dimmed and then the steel Protean walked out of the laundry room. Tinker moved the wooden Protean to a corner. The steel Protean looked under the sink for a plastic bag and took several cans of food.

“Where shall we meet up?” he asked.

Tinker suggested the same crossroads they’d met at the night before. They discussed the plan one more time: Protean would wear the headband in and beat the Gentleman into unconsciousness, then Tera would swoop down, snatch him up, and take him to jail. She was willing to go in at the same time but they pointed out she would not have the same defense the device offered. They settled on a signal from Protean to tell them when Tera would come in.

They parted, Protean heading for the west side of town where the little community was in the sewer he knew about. He asked Bob about getting clothes.

“Yeah, yeah,” Bob said, rubbing his chin and thinking a moment. “All right. C’mon!”

He led Protean to another maintenance area that looked like it hadn’t been used by anyone but vagrants in some time.

“This is Boots,” he said.

Boots was a 40-year-old man who was starting to bald, but was still mostly clean-shaven. He was dressed in an ill-fitting blue suit and tie. His clothing was dirty and grungy looking.

“Boots, I’m in need of your services,” Protean said. “I need some boots.”

Boots cleared his throat noisily.

“You need some boots, huh?” he said.

“Yeah,” Protean said.

“C’mon,” Boots said.

He led the super hero to another niche that had been dug out of the sewer wall. Within were hundreds of pairs of boots and shoes, clothing hanging on the walls, and even hats scattered about.

“He’s kind of a pack rat,” Bob whispered to Protean.

“That’s a good thing sometimes,” Protean said.

Boots reached into a pile of shoes and pulled out an actual Brannock foot measuring device, a flattened piece of metal turned up at either end with sliders to measure the width of feet. He had Protean put each foot down on the device and noted the results on a ragged slip of paper.

“He used to be a shoe salesman,” Bob told Protean when Boots walked to a pile of shoes and started to root through it. “Then his wife left him. I don’t know. I don’t know what his real name is.”

“Boots, I don’t have any money, but I’ve got just this collection of canned foods,” Protean said.

“Oh! Yeah! Yeah, yeah!” Boots said.

He looked through the bag and seemed quite delighted.

“Ooo!” he said. “Chicken noodle is my favorite! Don’t like tomato that much.”

Boots got him a pair of boots that fit him as well as a shirt and pair of pants. All of the clothing was rugged and ragged looking, but all of it seemed to be in good enough shape.

“I think that’s all I need, Boots,” he said. “Thank you very much.”

“Well, thank you,” Boots said. “For your patronage.”

“You’re a good man, Boots,” Protean said. “I’ll know where to send people if they ever need boots.”

“Yeah, send ‘em on!” Boots said. “I got all kinds of shoes here. I got some tap shoes back there.”’

“Oh, well I might know a tap dancer.”

He returned to the three bodies that were still in the sewers and tested each of them. The dirt body proved to be the least noisy. He decided to use that one for his confrontation with the Gentleman. He dressed himself and then headed back for the corner east of downtown.

It was about 5:30 a.m. before he met the other two. It was still dark out and sunrise wouldn’t be for another couple of hours.

“Jeese, it’s hard to tell, sometimes, who you are,” Tinker said when he saw Protean.

Tinker told them the tracker indicated the Gentleman was north by northeast. Tera would scout out the area and find him and then return to get Protean. Tera flew into the air heading north. A few miles away she was able to triangulate on a warehouse amid several other warehouses, all of which appeared to be abandoned. The building was dark, made of tin or some kind of corrugated metal, and there were windows near the top, as well as a skylight. Large, metal doors that appeared to slide upwards were on either end of the building, with a smaller door to one side. The building was surrounded by a small yard. A chain link fence went around that with barbed wire around the top, though the fence had fallen or rusted away in places. The gates on either end appeared to be simply gone.

She returned to the others and told them of the location, and the three headed that direction, arriving around 7 a.m. The sky to the east was just starting to turn purple with the promise of the coming dawn.

“You guys hang tight,” Protean said to the other two. “I’m going to try to do this as quickly and quietly as possible. I’m just going to knock the guy out and give the signal.”

“You’re going to whistle?” Tinker said.

“Try to make as loud a noise as you can,” Tera said.

“I could whistle or I could just outright yell,” Protean said.

“Yelling might be louder,” Tera said.

“All right,” Protean said.

“Because you’ll be in the building; we won’t.”

“All right. Well, then I’ll just knock him out and I’ll yell and I’ll make for an exit with the guy’s body.”

“How quick can you move somebody?” Tinker asked Protean.

“I’m pretty strong and I’m pretty light on my feet,” Protean said.

“So you think can get him under the skylight as soon as you have him out?” Tinker asked.

He noted that he had a lock picking device and, when Protean asked him how it worked, he told him that it was like a Swiss army knife with several different key types that could shift and mold ever so slightly. The keys would slide in and adjust to almost any door. He offered to let Protean use it to get into the place and the man took it. They discussed his entry and he decided to enter through the side entrance. There appeared to be many breaks in the fence for him to creep through.

They discussed where Tera would be flying and how long she could stay in the air. She noted that she could fly pretty much indefinitely.

Protean noted that he would need help if the daughter was there. He said when Tera swept down and took the Gentleman, he and Tinker would have to deal with the woman. Protean suggested that Gargirl lift Tinker into the air and he come into the place with her. Then she could take the Gentleman and he could help Protean to deal with the girl. Tinker was unsure about the drop through the glass at the top of the warehouse, though he was willing to do so if need be.

Protean asked if they wanted to knock the girl out as well and Tinker said they should do it as quickly as they could. When Tera asked what would happen if they couldn’t knock him out fast enough, Tinker said for him to make the signal anyway. They would rush in to try to help. Protean said he’d yell as loud as he could as the signal.

Protean left them, creeping through a hole in the fence as quietly as he could. Tera picked up Tinker and they took to the air to circle until they were signaled.

* * *

Protean reached the side door and used the small lock picking device. He fiddled with it and a moment later was able to turn the device and the knob, allowing him entrance. He pushed the door open and there was the sound of metal falling. He looked behind the door to see several empty paint cans lying on the ground. They had been piled up behind the door to act as an alarm.

I need to do this quickly, he thought.

He stepped over the cans and saw that the doorway opened into a short hall. The wall to the left was obviously the exterior wall of the building. There were two doors in the wooden wall to the right and another door at the end of the short corridor. He moved to the nearest door on his right and opened it.

The room within had probably once been an office. A desk stood on the other side of the room, covered in dust. On it were several small, leather bags. A window looked into the rest of the warehouse. Across from the desk was a ratty-looking couch with a man laying on it. He wore jeans and a t-shirt, as well as an unbuttoned plaid shirt, but had the mustache and goatee of the Gentleman. Work boots sat on the floor next to the couch. He was just sitting up as if he had heard the door open. His eyes went wide.

Protean rushed the Gentleman and shoved him down, putting a hand on his chest and holding him. For a moment, the Gentleman looked scared, and then he seemed to relax.

“Now son, we don’t have to do this,” he said calmly.

Protean raised back his other fist and a look of surprise and horror went across the Gentleman’s face. Then Protean punched him solidly. It was a decent blow but didn’t knock the man out like he had hoped.

“No son, you don’t have to do this!” the Gentleman said. “We’re friends!”

Protean punched the man in the face again but it wasn’t a solid blow. He punched him again but the blow was not solid either.

“Sparkle!” the Gentleman screamed. “Get in here! Your daddy’s in trouble!”

* * *

Tera thought she heard yelling from the warehouse. Being reckless, she dived towards the glass skylight in the center of the roof, crashing through with Tinker under her. He flung up his arms to protect his face and the glass didn’t cut through his leather and metal armor. He looked down in time to see the floor rushing towards him and then heard a snap as Tera flung her wings open and stopped inches above the floor before they landed gently. A great deal of dust was blown up from the ground.

In the corner of the room behind them was a small building that obviously housed offices. There were windows in the side and possibly a small shelf under one of them. In another corner was an old Ford pickup truck, parked with its back to the wall. Tera also saw several paint cans tied to the handles of the two large, rollup doors on either end of the building.

* * *

“Go back to sleep!” Protean said, punching the Gentleman in the face again.

“Sparkle!” the Gentleman screamed. “There’s this … dirt guy!”

He tried to break free of Protean’s grip without success.

* * *

Tinker looked around and then headed for the small offices building, trying to look in the windows. He spotted the shadow of a man on a couch, beating on someone.

“They’re in here!” he yelled.

Tera ran for the window.

* * *

“Go back to sleep!” Protean said to the Gentleman. “It’s better for you!”

He punched the Gentleman in the face again. The man continued screaming.

Protean covered the Gentleman’s mouth.

“I can’t knock this guy out!” he said.

Tera crashed through the window and rushed the couch, punching at the Gentleman’s head. The man saw it coming and moved his head to the side; Tera’s fist crashed through the cushion and the body of the couch with the rending of wood and cloth. The Gentleman screamed under Protean’s fist and seemed to concentrate a moment.

Tera stumbled back a step, a blinding headache tearing through her skull.

Behind her, Tinker realized that the Gentleman was in that room and everything that he’d ever thought about the man was wrong. The Gentleman was the most awesome person who ever lived. The other two were trying to beat him up but it was all just a misunderstanding. It wasn’t right.

“No!” he shouted. “No!”

He ran to the window, reaching in and grabbing Tera’s wing.

In a flash of light and glitter, Sparkle appeared on the other side of the room.

“Daddy!” she cried.

“We’re not trying to kill him!” Protean yelled.

He punched the man in the head again without knocking him out. Then Tera, holding her head, stumbled across the room and opened her mouth, blasting the woman with fire breath. The blast lit the girl on fire and she screamed. She dropped to the ground and rolled over and over, trying to put the blue fire out.

In Protean’s grip, his mouth still covered, the Gentleman started screaming and jerking side to side violently. The man glared at him but nothing seemed to happen.

Tinker climbed into the room, pushing past Tera. He made his way to the head of the couch, his laser gun in his hand. He pistol whipped Tera in the head, but the blow bounced off one of her horns. The woman flinched in terrible pain, the blow sending her migraine into overload. She stumbled to the side, screaming.

Protean pulled his arm back to punch the Gentleman again. He brought it down onto the man’s face solidly. However, the man still didn’t stop struggling against him. Tera tried to beat the man again but in the close quarters, she didn’t land a solid hit.

“Help me!” the Gentleman said to Tinker. “Please help me!”

Then he focused on Tera again and glared at her. Her migraine got much more intense. Then Tinker shot her with his laser pistol. The device made no sound as the laser light struck the girl. It left a blackened spot on the woman but didn’t seem to hurt her.

Sparkle stood back up, her clothes badly burnt.

Protean punched the Gentleman in the head again, this time hurting him pretty badly. Tera rushed across the room and swung at Sparkle, who dodged out of the way of the blow.

“Get away from me!” she shouted.

She raised up one hand and sparkles flew from it directly into Tera’s eyes. The woman resisted the attack, however, blinking. Her migraine was still hurting terribly and the dazzling sparkles in her eyes made it worse.

The Gentleman, meanwhile, stared at Protean. The hero was suddenly overcome with rage and anger towards Tera. He hated the woman and wanted to hurt her. Then Tinker tried to pull the Gentleman free of Protean without luck. Protean, overwhelmed with anger, gripped the Gentleman tightly and swung him around like a weapon, slamming him into Tera’s back even as she breathed fire on Sparkle again. The Gentleman went limp and Tera screamed as her migraine went terribly worse. Sparkle fell to the ground and tried to put the flames out again.

“What the ****!?!” Tinker yelled as Protean dropped the Gentleman.

He fired his laser at Protean. The blast blew a hole through Protean’s abdomen, narrowly missing Tera. The dirt man swayed for a moment and then the dirt fell to the ground in a heap.

“****!” Tinker said. “Hurt my gent …”

As Sparkle rolled around on the ground, Tera punched at her, trying to stun her without luck. She tried to do so again, finally stunning the girl.

Arms made of wood suddenly grew up from the floor under Tera as Protean in his astral form awoke from the terrible blast that Tinker had given him. Tera tried to pick up the Gentleman as the arms grabbed at her legs and Protean’s shoulders and head rose up as wood as well. Tinker shot Tera again but the laser beam didn’t seem to hurt the girl at all.

“Get the **** away from him!” he shouted.

As Tera tore free of the arms holding her down, Protean’s eyes went dark. Above her, the wood of the ceiling stretched outward as it formed Protean. He fell onto her, spread eagle, and gripped her about the head and then started punching her in the face. Meanwhile, Sparkle shook her head and looked around angrily. Tinker grabbed at the Gentleman but was unable to get a good grip on the man.

Tera swung back with both arms and smashed the wooden Protean to pieces. Then she tried to grab at the Gentleman again as Sparkle stood up. Tinker grabbed at the man as well and managed to get him under the arms. He dragged the man out of the office through the window.

Tera turned towards Sparkle.

“If you do anything, I’m going to burn you!” she said. “So just give yourself up.”

Flames licked at the woman’s lips.

“Leave my daddy alone!” Sparkle shouted at Tinker as the man pulled the Gentleman out of the window.

Sparkle glared at the girl and suddenly sparkling glitter swirled up around her. Tera breathed fire on her and she vanished in a puff of fire and smoke. Tera turned towards the window.

Outside in the main warehouse, Sparkle appeared in a flash of sparkles, fire, and smoke. She collapsed to the ground, unconscious and apparently on fire. Then Tera came out of the broken office window and rushed to the burning woman, putting her out.

The Gentleman shook his head. He was coming back around.

Tera reached over and punched him in the face, stunning him again. Tinker also shook his head, starting to come out of the Gentleman’s emotion control.

“Get him out of here!” Tinker said. “Get him out of here!”

Tera grabbed the Gentleman.

“Should I take the girl too?” she asked.

“Nah,” Tinker said.

Tera took off with the Gentleman, heading north towards where the Charlotte super jail was located. When the Gentleman started to come around again, she punched him in the head again. After what felt like a long time, she spotted the super jail and landed at the front door. The sign over the door declared that it was the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Criminal Exotics Holding Facility.

* * *

Tinker went to the offices and quickly sifted through the dirt pile on the floor. He found his mental resistance device and pocketed it. It still appeared to be in intact and undamaged. He went back out into the warehouse and carried Sparkle to the pickup truck that was parked on one side. He hotwired the vehicle, placed her into the cab, opened up the main doors to the warehouse, and drove away.

* * *

The receptionist at the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Criminal Exotics Holding Facility was surprised to see Tera.

“Hey, this is the Gentleman guy,” she said.

The man behind the counter in a guard’s uniform hit a button and several alarms started to sound. A few moments later, a half dozen men in riot gear showed up in the foyer.

“It’s the Gentleman!” the man behind the desk said. “He’s that guy that controls minds!”

“Okay,” one of them said.

One of the riot guards took out a small medical kit, opened it up, and removed a syringe. He gave the Gentleman an injection and they dragged the man into the jail.

“Who the hell are you?” the guard at the front desk asked. “Weren’t you helping him at the last jewelry store robbery?”

“Because he mind-controlled me,” Tera said. “I actually got out of it this time.”

“Who are you?” the guard asked.

“Gargirl spotted over Charlotte!” FOX and Friends blared over the television at the guard’s desk. “So, what do you think of this new Gargirl?”

“Ew, she needs a makeover!” one of the female hosts said vacuously.

A blurry photo of Tera appeared on the screen.

“Tera, not Gargirl,” Tera said.

“Tera?” the guard said.

“I don’t have a superhero name,” she said.

“Okay, you gotta answer some questions,” the guard said.

He told her to wait in the lobby and within 15 minutes police arrived to talk to Tera and get a statement from the girl. She told them what happened, downplaying her burning of Sparkle as much as she could.

* * *

Tinker arrived at the Presbyterian Hospital emergency room and pulled his hood over his face to hide his identity. He ran in and told them that he had brought someone in with severe burns. EMTs, doctors, and nurses got a gurney and got the girl into the building as quickly as possible.

“Who are you?” someone asked.

“I’m Tinker,” he said.

“Okay.”

“This is Tricia Bordeaux. She’s an accomplice of the Gentleman.”

“Oh yeah, I saw them on the news,” a nurse said.

“She’s been severely burnt.”

“Wait, she has super powers? She’s an exotic?”

“Yes.”

“What does she do?”

“She teleports.”

“Okay.”

Someone put in a call to the police as the EMTs got the girl into the burn ward as quickly as possible.

* * *

It was a while before Protean regained consciousness. He had been badly injured when Tera had torn him apart but found that he had not drifted in the astral plane. He was still in the area of the warehouse. He floated around and saw that everyone was gone but noticed the leather bags on the desk. He created a wooden body from the floor and grabbed the stolen gems. Then he left the warehouse, heading downtown.

He made his way to the police department and handed in the jewelry to police there. He gave a statement to police and was told that police had found bags of money at the scene, though not as much as they expected.

* * *

Tinker met with police at the hospital and also gave a statement on what had happened. He learned from them that when Sparkle woke up, she had seemed very confused. She asked about her father but told police she was very confused as to why she loved her father. The officer told Tinker she had told him she had never gotten along with her father until recently. She said the last three months had been a blur for the girl, she claimed. She was unsure why they’d come to North Carolina and talked about how little she liked her high school, mostly. Tinker told him about the Gentleman’s powers: while under his control, a person did what he wanted, though he remembered it afterwards. He told police that she had no control while under his powers.

“So, you think she was controlled by him?” the officer asked him.

“Yeah, that’s what we believe happened,” Tinker said.

Tinker was interviewed by police as well and told them everything he knew about the Gentleman.

He played down Tera’s burning of the girl.

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