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Richard "Rich" Cheswick

"I don't want people to hurt."

0 · 106 views · located in Fort Blackburn

a character in “Tales from Fort Blackburn”, as played by Hammocker

Description

Real Name: Richard Cheswick

Nickname/Codename/Alias: Rich, "Corona"

Allegiance: The Mavericks

Gender: Male

Age: 26

Appearance:
Out of costume: Richard is taller than average, standing at 6' 5". His face is oval-shaped, with somewhat hard edges at his cheeks and jawbones. He has a regular haircut tapered semi-short, and his hair is dark brown, almost black, in color. Generally he will wear jeans and plain, single colored shirts, sometimes accompanied by a jacket or sweater.

In-costume: Richard wears slim full body ballistic armor, fitting close enough to his skin to appear relatively sleek while not hindering his movement. His costume is mostly bright yellow and white with some gold at the rims emphasizing the main colors. He wears a simple domino mask comforming to a similar color pattern with white as the primary color and gold at the rims. The only instance of black on his costume is in his chest insignia: an actual corona, a black circle surrounded by white rays.

Personality: There is absolutely no doubt that Richard is strongly grounded in his ethical principles. He has no qualms with putting himself in harm's way for the sake of others, believes wholeheartedly that people are more good than bad, and will avoid killing or even causing serious injury at all costs outside of dire situations. Richard can and will back up his words with actions on every occasion that the necessity to do so presents itself. Often he can be too kind and gentle for his own good, leading to conflicts with other Mavericks, and even to being taken advantage of by those who would abuse Richard's good nature.

While Richard's public image is one of chivalry and heroism, if one were to speak with Richard on more casual subjects, one would find him to be excessively blunt, even rude. Though he does not mean anything by being candid, his demeanor can be jarring to those hearing it for the first time. Even with his excessive curtness, however, Richard can still be distinguished as a kindhearted person.


Personal History: Richard was born to a middle class family, and was the younger of two siblings. His older sister was barely a part of his life, as she and Richard's family had mutually disowned each other years before Richard's birth. Until she was mentioned by his visiting aunt, Richard was not even aware that he had a sister.

Richard's father was a drunk for the vast majority of Richard's childhood. While no physical abuse ever took place, his father tended to verbally abuse any person that fell into his line of sight while inebriated. Often, his chosen target would end up being his son Richard frequently hid in a dark closet to avoid any possibility of falling victim to his father's habit, leading to a lingering fear of tight spaces and darkness. From then on, Richard decided never to be like his father in any way.

Richard's first experience with photokinesis involved him staring idly at a ceiling lamp at age twelve. The light emanating from the bulb began to flicker and Richard looked away, causing the flickering to stop. He returned his gaze to it, and surely enough, the flickering continued. With some focus, Richard was able to 'flatten' the light against the ceiling, spreading it out. The light returned to normal, however, as soon as his focus broke. From there, Richard began privately experimenting with his ability, at first reluctantly, even fearfully, but later with a fascination that drove him to practice until he was able to create nearly solid constructs out of light from his environment.

Just after Richard turned fourteen, his mother was laid off from her work, and the family plummeted towards the poverty line. When they were forced to sell their house and move into a smaller apartment, Richard realized the urgency of the situation. As soon as he could, he applied for a work permit, and started on a part-time job in addition to his schoolwork. With the new responsibility on top of his recently manifested learning disabilities, Richard fell behind in school during this period. Often he worked more frequently than he was expected to, earning him a solid reputation as an employee, giving him an appreciation for menial labor, and slowly grinding away any natural enthusiasm Richard's manner might have once held His father managed to overcome his alcoholism enough to aid in the effort to keep his family afloat around the same time.

One of the only classes that Richard excelled in during school was mathematics, which led into an interest in building construction and architecture, particularly carpentry. Richard took a gap year after high school to work full time as an apprentice carpenter which turned into a second gap year of the same job which then ended up in Richard bypassing college altogether to focus on his career as a carpenter.

Richard was first inspired to take up the identity of Corona by The Mavericks, and did not wait long to join their ranks. While his ideology does not always mesh well with his allies, Richard has proven himself a capable, if at times too gentle, vigilante.

Powers, Weapons, Ect.: Richard is capable of photokinesis, allowing him to control and create constructs from any light in his surrounding area. He is not the strongest man out there, but he is capable of holding his own in hand-to-hand combat.

Weaknesses: Richard has a tendency to see the world in black and white (but mostly white), in terms of ethics. He may lump even minor acts violating his moral code with more severe transgressions, and as such will treat two people committing either act as equal to the other. His natural gentleness can be taken advantage of relatively easily. Negative emotions such as sadness, anger, anxiety, and fear adversely effect the strength of his photokinesis.

Any additional information we should know: Richard has a 47,XYY karyotype. The extra Y chromosome may have played a part in his development of photokinetic abilities. Suffers from claustrophobia as a result of childhood trauma. Owns two ferrets, one called Gilligan and another called Skipper. Strict vegetarian.

So begins...

Richard "Rich" Cheswick's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dylan Nelson Character Portrait: Zenith and Nadir le Fay Character Portrait: Jessica "Jay" Park Character Portrait: Richard "Rich" Cheswick Character Portrait: Friedrich Kravitz Character Portrait: Judd Santos-Malone Character Portrait: Alexander "Alex" Sanderson Character Portrait: Alice Meadows
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#, as written by TCoS
Judd Santos-Malone's restaurant was one of the more popular eateries in northeastern Fort Blackburn. Chattering crowds were a near-ubiquitous presence during opening hours, and it was not uncommon for lines to stretch straight out the front door and onto the pavement. So it felt a bit odd when, at half past seven in the morning, Alice opened the door to a Cachaça Cafe that was dimly lit, weirdly quiet, and completely devoid of patrons.
After taking a second to marvel at the contrast, she walked briskly past the empty receptionist's desk and made a sharp left into a narrow corridor. Sure enough, a faint glow spilled from the contours of the last door. This was the room in which the Mavericks usually convened—private and pleasantly spacious, with a big circular table that Alice was particularly fond of. It was all very Arthurian; Knights of the Round Table, they were, with Rich as their Arthur and Judd as their Merlin…

There was already a small gathering of people inside when Alice pushed open the door. "Good morning, friends," she said, a cheerful lilt to her tone that shouldn't have had the right to exist at seven in the morning. "Is everyone here yet?"

It was a little half past seven in the morning, when the voice of an overtly cheerful young woman calling out when she entered the room made Dylan raise his head up from where he was using his arms to rest on, and glared at the woman. It was his outright opinion that no ordinary person in their right mind would be this happy to be up this early, but he then remembered that the Mavericks were not your usual run-of-the-mill group of concerned citizens. Dylan knew full well he was going to feel it in the morning when he had to wake up to get to the meeting. If it was any other time and place and as long as not being a Maverick, he would have throttled the person who set this whole thing up. “Well I’m here.” He nodded to the woman when she asked the question if every Maverick was present for the meeting that was going to take place.

“Present and accounted for.” Alex groggily managed, his head laying upon the table as he tried not to succumb to a lack of sleep. Alex was used to sleeping in until noon, so when his phone blared and demanded he rise at 6:20 in the morning, he barely managed to stumble out the door with his pants on correctly. Conversely, Jay, who was beside Alex as usual, didn’t appear to be the least bit fazed by the early waking. She nodded when Alice asked of her presence, and gently pulled Alex’s head off the table by the back of his shirt collar, despite his meek protest.

"Hi." Fritz said quickly as Alice sauntered in. He had been averting the eyes of the other Mavericks and twitching his legs and fingers incessantly since he first sat down. He should have been sleeping this early, should have been groggy and sluggish, yet every muscle in his body screamed at him get up and move. Maybe it was just his adrenal gland overreacting to the unusual interruption of his sleep schedule, or maybe he was just nervous over being asked to attend one of the Mavericks' meetings, but Fritz knew that if the meeting did not go by fast then he might just burst from the excess energy.

Groaning in unison, the twins struggled to sit up and examine their surroundings. The party they'd thrown, while a success, left them with killer hangovers. One too many glasses of wine, not enough bread and water. Nadir picked up their phone, squinting against the bright screen to check their messages. The top three were from their Maverick coworkers wondering why they weren't at Judd's place for the meeting. They swore loudly, scrambling to get dressed and leave. In the car, Zenith and Nadir took turns steering and fixing their appearances so as to look presentable for their friends. Taking a second to stop and pick up pints of ice cream as a peace offering, the pair rushed to Judd's place. The wall clock inside stated that the time was 7:48, clicking in a very disapproving manner. They debated on making a flashy entrance, but decided against it as Rich probably wouldn't be too pleased with that. Instead they opted on quietly sweeping the room, leaving each member their respective pints and a spoon to enjoy them with and retired to a corner of the room to observe.

At his seat, Richard rested his chin in his palm, eyes occasionally flitting here and there to observe his allies. The news of an electrokinetic had replaced his ordinary morning state of peace with the constant buzzing of unwanted mentation. From what he had heard, Illicit drugs struck Richard as being especially cruel, often creating vicious cycles in users that would be profitable for the dealer, but Pink in particular not only would harm the user, but could easily cause the user to harm those around them. The more people hurt, the more horrible the transgression, as far as Richard was concerned. Nipping the drug's supply in the bud would be preferable.

He regarded the twins with a glance as they hurried in, carrying cartons of some sort, but paid them little heed. Even fifteen minutes late, at least they had showed up. Richard had been ready to start the meeting without them, and he could see no possible benefit from any of their team being absent.

”Now, with everyone accounted for, let's start the meeting.” He said, casting his gaze across the table, and meeting the eyes of each Maverick in turn. “What we know-” His tone remained level as he continued. “There is a street drug that causes sudden manic episodes, bolsters a user's power, and turns its users' mouths bright pink. There have been at least five users placed under arrest because of episodes brought on by this drug. Three of these were members of The Tigers. One of these is an electrokinetic who could have caused much more damage if Alex and Jessica had not intervened. We can gather from this information that The Tigers and likely other gangs have acquired and are perhaps the suppliers of this drug. In any case, what needs to happen is that whoever is supplying needs to be tracked down and stopped before anyone else is hurt.” Richard turned his impartial gaze to Alice. “Alice, I believe you can fill us in on some more details on the substance. You have the floor.”

Alice, who'd been delightedly examining her newly acquired pint of strawberry ice cream, blinked and looked up when her name was called.

"Ah, yes. Thank you, Richard," she said, putting down the carton and shrugging off her knapsack. "Thanks to the wonderful Jay"—she tossed a grin at the ex-Ranger, who was currently trying to pry Alex's dozing head off the table—"I was able to run a few tests. What we're dealing with is a very powerful, very fast-acting steroid and stimulant combined in one. Near immediate effects, lasting from around…hmm. An hour or so, I'd say. Two at most." After a bit of rummaging, she pulled out a battered notebook from her bag and flipped through a few pages. "Notably, the drug grants about a 10 to 20 percent boost. Non-discriminatory, meaning that both normal people and meta-humans will experience the same effects." She paused, gathering her thoughts. "It's similar to LSD, in some ways. Hallucinations, heightened sensory experience, severe fluctuations in emotion, altered sense of time. On the other hand, it's both highly unstable and highly addictive.

"But onto more practical matters," she continued, once again reaching into her bag. "How to track the drug? Well, with the help of a very special insect—"

The moth on her shoulder fluttered its wings proudly. Alice rolled her eyes, but couldn't quite suppress a smile. Bloody egoist.

"Not you, you twit," she said, and then held up a small object. Disc-shaped and ringed with air holes, the device also sported a transparent cover that revealed the movements of five parasitic wasps. "Meet Paris, who'll be helping us with our problem from now on. They've memorized the scent of Pink, and I've trained them to swarm in its presence. Like so..."

She placed the disc on the table for everyone to see. Sure enough, the five wasps had congregated to the center of the device. Alice waited for everyone to have caught a glimpse before removing yet another object from her knapsack: a plastic bag that held a small, pink cube.

"As you can see, they're very sensitive. We can take them along on patrols and such; I've made enough for everyone, as well as some that can be distributed to the police as well."

“So wait,” Alex interjected, now alert enough to attack the pint of ice cream that had been presented to him, “we each get our own batch of tracker hornets?” The prospect of playing God - or more accurately, Ladybird - with a horde of wasps sounded like an interesting idea on paper, but not everyone had a telekinetic mind linked with insects. “How do we know when they find Pink? And more importantly, how do we know they ain’t gonna sting us?”

“The man’s got a point.” Dylan agreed, as the notion of possibly being stung by one of Ladybird’s wasps wouldn‘t make him a happy camper. He looked down at the pint of ice cream that the Le Fay twins left for him; it was mint chocolate chip, which was his favorite flavor of the dessert. How the two had known what type of ice cream Dylan enjoyed, he would never know. “And another question. What happens if we manage to lose the wasp or they get killed?” Dylan wanted to know because if a wasp would sting him, he wouldn’t be opposed to vaporizing it.

Alice tilted her head quizzically. "Well, they'll mostly be staying inside the cases, so I don't believe they would be terribly bothersome to keep track of…oh, and you needn't worry about stinging. My Paris wasps aren't like yellow-jackets or paper wasps, you see; they're stinger-less.

"As for knowing when they find Pink," she continued, nodding at Alex, "they'll cluster at the center when they smell it. I know you can't tell at the moment, but if nothing's the matter then they'll just move about randomly."

"Ah okay, we won’t be lettin’ ‘em out of the containers then, gotcha.” Alex noted, polishing off more ice cream. He appreciated Alice’s assistance, but he wasn’t exactly intending to let her winged pals buzz around half the city.

From the back of the room, Zenith and Nadir cleared their throats, though only the elder brother spoke, as his counterpart was busy with a spoon in his mouth. "Excusez-nous, but what do we do once we 'ave found Pink? We 'ave not established a plan for this." Nadir "mmmed" in agreement, passing the pint of ice cream and spoon to his brother, though he deigned not to add anything.

“We’re tracking the drug as a means to an end.” Jessica answered the twins, having barely touched her pint of butter pecan. Her mind was too focused on the task at hand to bother. “Our first order of business is to locate suppliers. Once we interrogate dealers about their supply lines, we can begin to take apart this drug ring.”

“Oh, can I do the interrogating?” Alex chimed in, giving Jessica an almost expectant glance. Jessica sighed. He really did enjoy his Scarecrow act, didn’t he?

“Yes, Alex, you can do most of the interrogations.” She permitted. Alex gave a slight grin. “You’re the best.”

"Find the loose cable, follow it to the source." Dylan stated, more to himself than anything. He turned and spoke to Jay. "Where are we meeting for tonight?"

"Same as last night." She replied, barely facing the newbie. "Abandoned apartment complex on the end of Wright Street."

Richard took a moment to look around the table at each of the Mavericks, offering a chance for any final thoughts. When met with silence, he spoke again at last, "Then that's that. We find where this drug is coming from, and once we know, we shut it down. If you find anything, you let the rest of us know as soon as possible. I think we all know what's expected of us, so let's call our meeting to a close. If you have any questions still, though, feel free to ask me or Jessica." He turned to face the broad man who had remained nearby the table, silently observing, for the entirety of the meeting. "Thank you again, Judd, for allowing us to use your private room."

As his name was spoken, Judd's face lit up. The small formality Richard had made a tradition of never failed to brighten his mood. "It's my pleasure." He cast a warm gaze across the group gathered around the table. "It's good seeing you all again." His eyes fell on Dylan briefly and he added more quietly. "Nice to know that there's still new blood coming in."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zenith and Nadir le Fay Character Portrait: Richard "Rich" Cheswick Character Portrait: Alice Meadows Character Portrait: Lou Willard
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#, as written by TCoS
Corona stepped over the steel rods of the long-abandoned train tracks, signifying entry to the more seedy part of Blackburn. While the sight of oncoming decay might have induced unease in most visitors, all Richard could feel was an underlying pang of sadness. So many lives just scraping to live another day, praying that their next step did not happen to be into someone's line of fire. Of course, worrying for the well-being of the residents of the area was not what Corona had come to do. He approached the already gathered group of daytime Mavericks, gazing across the three.

"Excellent, looks like we're all here." He turned his attentions first to the one female of the group. "Ladybird, you'll be looking for traces of Pink in the northwest."

The sun glinted cheerfully off of Ladybird's visor as she nodded. "Yes, sir!"

He turned his attention to the twins, as close together as they ever were. No use trying to separate them. Their morale seemed at its best when they stuck together anyway. "Doppelganger, you'll be scoping out the south."

Snapping to attention, the twins gave a crisp salute. "You can count on us!"

"I'm going to head to the northeast area to search." He shifted on his feet, ready to head off. "If you find anything suspicious, report in. Backup is never far away. Any questions?"

Nadir held up their walkie talkie and waved at Rich while Zenith blew him a kiss as they turned to depart. They took a moment to orient themselves off the sun, then headed to their designated section.

"Suppose that means no, then," Ladybird said, stifling a laugh. "And suppose I ought to head off as well. Cheerio!" She flicked a friendly wave at Corona before setting off northwest, her pace a leisurely jog. At some unspoken command, a hazy cloud of insects swirled into brief existence, before promptly rising upwards to dissolve into the sky.

***

Within the next hour or so, Richard had made his way through a reasonable amount of the eastern portion of the district. His search of the residential area had come up fruitless thus far, and the lack of any meaningful stimulus was beginning to wear on Richard. Very few people were out on the street aside from the occasional bum, sitting against a crumbling apartment building. More than a few times, Richard could swear that a distant scream reached his ears, but never once was he certain that he had really heard the sound. Despite the sense of unease in the back of his head, Corona held himself with dignity as he searched the area.

His face tightened with slight frustration as he came to rail tracks once again, still without seeing his hornets making any consistent movements. Corona had made his way so far east that he had come to the area's trainyard. Taking in a heavy breath, he caught the slight seabreeze drifting in from even further east.

A crashing sound followed by someone barking an incoherent command caught Corona's attention. Subdued excitement coursed through Corona, and he hurried towards the source of the ruckus.

The noise emanating from the trainyard became clear as he approached, slipping behind a tipped over train cart for cover. Peering out to the clearing, Corona spotted thugs unpacking crates from a truck's load. Thugs in Tiger colors, no less. Not too many, but enough to pose a threat were he to be discovered. Corona pulled out the packet of hornets, and could not help but give a half-smile. The hornets were clustered together towards the center of their countainer. Stowing the hornets once again, Corona took out his communicator and tuned it the Doppelganger's frequency. He spoke in a hushed tone into the device. "Corona here. I've spotted some Tigers. Come in."

***

An hour passed uneventfully for the twins, though not due to a lack of effort on their part. Every little noise and bump raised their hopes that something interesting was about to happen. Alas, it always turned out to be a bum startling himself awake with a particularly loud bout of gas, or a dog knocking over a barrel to lick the disgusting insides, or some such. Finally driven to making their own entertainment, Zenith and Nadir crouched over a rail, cheering and making bets on which of the two beetles they'd found would knock the other one off the perch. So far, the bigger, meaner orange one seemed to be holding his own pretty well. A muffled noise caught Nadir's attention, however, and he turned away from the fight to investigate. Zenith immediately quieted down as well, having sensed his brother's interest.

"...some Tigers. Come in," they managed to catch. Exchanging excited grins, the pair fixed their costumes, pulling their hair down into its normal veil-like state and plopping their caps onto their heads. Clustering around the radio, Nadir depressed the talk button.

"We 'ear you, Corona. What is the situation?"

A slight wash of relief went through Corona at the rapid response. Nothing wrong on their end at all, it seemed. "I've found some Tiger goons at the trainyard on the far east side of the district. They're unloading some Pink. I think I'm going to need some backup," he explained in the same cautious tone.

"Oooh. We shall be there tout de suite!" Holstering his walkie talkie, Nadir and Zenith played a quick game of rock paper scissors to decide whether or not to use their shotguns. Nadir won, so the guns would stay holstered, to Zenith's slight disappointment. Moving at a brisk jog, the Twins followed the tracks towards the east side, where Rich told them he'd be. It'd slipped their minds to ask about how many goons exactly he'd found, but they figured they'd worry about it when the time came. If it really came down to the wire, they'd use the guns. Rich wouldn't even be able to argue, because they'd remembered to load them with beanbag rounds this time. Well, they hoped that's what they'd loaded. They didn't want a repeat of last time's ass chewing.

Ten minutes of solid jogging later, and they made it near enough to see Rich crouched down behind an overturned train car, listening in to the operation some Tiger goons were carrying out. They quickly dashed over to him, crouching down to get a briefing.

"What is the situation, chef?"

Richard glanced from the group unpacking to to the sun before glancing about himself. Thoughts raced through his head as he worked out what the best method of dealing with the situation would be. On one hand, the Tigers might just turn out to be cowardly enough to simply run if Corona made his presence known, and at the same time, no one would have to get hurt. On the other hand, if they were going to be aggressive and stand their ground, having the jump on them would increase the odds in his favor. As he pondered, however, his train of thought was interrupted by the rapid arrival of Zenith and Nadir.

Slightly startled by the sudden appearance of the duo, Corona spoke quickly. "There you are. Like I said, there are Tigers prowling." He turned to peer around the car and at the thugs once again. "It's looking like there are about ten or twelve of them in total. I don't see any major firearms, but you never know." Corona glanced from one twin to the other. "We need to get them away from their cargo either way."

Poking his head slightly around the train car, Zenith examined the goons. He couldn't see any firearms, so Corona's story checked out pretty well, but that didn't mean they weren't armed. They could always be metas. He scanned the rest of the area, looking for hidden spotters or snipers. Nadir crept around to the other side to see what he could find over there. Unfortunately, there was nothing particularly interesting. Their curiosity sated, Zenith turned to Rich.

"Okay, chef, it's your show. 'Ow would you like to run it? We don't see any look outs or snipers. That group should be the main group." The large painted eye stared at Rich, patiently waiting for some brilliant scheme from their glorious leader.

Corona never got the chance to enlighten them, however, because at that moment the radio crackled back to life.

"Ladybird speaking! Northwest side is clear. Any luck on your end?"

Corona's eyes strayed towards the sudden muffled sound of Alice's voice before he put his mouth to it once more. "This is Corona. I've got Doppelganger here with me. We've found some Tigers unloading some crates. I'm pretty sure it's Pink that's in them. If you can, make your way over here. We're at the trainyard on the east side of the district."

There was a pause, then a simple "Roger that, sir!" before the communicator fell silent once more.

Corona looked back at the twins. "I think I'm gonna try something. If the Tigers try to kill me instead of running away, get in there and help me. If they do flee, well, everything is taken care of." He glanced out at the group, hesitant and unsure, yet optimistic. "Hopefully they'll do what's best for the both of us," he muttered under his breath.

"Comprendre, Monsieur!" Zenith and Nadir unholstered their shotguns and checked to see if there was a round in the chamber, which there was. They nodded to Corona, crouched and ready for action.

Drawing in a deep breath, Corona stalked out from the cover of the car. He casually pulled several rays of sunlight from their natural positions and formed them into a singular, dense mass, ready to burst out. "Hey!" he called, drawing their attentions. As soon as their eyes were on him, he sent the light past them before letting it go. Noiselessly, all of the packed light burst out of form, dancing rapidly in what resembled a fireworks display from a much too close distance. The light petered out and found its way back to its original positions almost as soon as it had been released, but Corona hardly seemed deterred. "If you're all smart, you'll leave now. Believe me, I don't want to put another one of those in your eyes, but I will."

For a few strained seconds, there was nothing but silence. Then something in the atmosphere shifted—a sly spread of not-quite grins, a slow unsheathing of claws, as expressions darkened and hands strayed sideways. The crates sprawled on the ground, forgotten.

"Will you, now," drawled the Tiger on the far right. She had an oily voice, the kind that slithered through the ears and dribbled down the spine and made one feel dirty all over. "Well, see here now, sunshine. If I've done my arithmetic right, we currently outnumber you ten to one. And running away from odds like that…" A crooked smile. "Now, that wouldn't be very smart, would it?"

She took a threatening half-step forward, silver knives unfolding from her hands. All around her were fellow Tigers mirroring her actions. They poised, tense, ready to strike—

"Oh, for the love of crap. Put that away, Slim."

The woman scowled, tension bleeding from her posture. "What the hell, Green?"

The one who'd spoken—Green, apparently—gave Slim a half-hearted scowl in return. "Are you deaf as well as blind? Put that goddamned thing down. We're leaving." He adjusted his spectacles, eyes warily scanning the train car from which Corona had emerged.

A pause as the rest of the Tigers considered Green's demand.

"What about the Pink?" one of the other thugs asked roughly. "We can't just leave it here, everyone knows Godzilla don't charge cheap, and we'll have to go all the way back to…" He trailed off abruptly, wincing under the combined weight of nine withering glares.

"You," Green said delicately, "have just surpassed the earthworm with regard to sheer lack of intelligence. Congratulations, neanderthal." He turned his irritated gaze toward Corona. "We'll be taking our leave then, Maverick. Have fun sleuthing."

With that sarcastic parting comment, Green turned tail and left. After a grudging pause, his fellow Tigers reluctantly slunk after him. They afforded Corona many a snarl and threatening gesture of weapons before finally vanishing among the ghostly shapes of the abandoned rail yard.

Godzilla. The word stuck out in Richard's mind after hearing the Tigers exchanging among themselves. No doubt an important name to remember. Corona waited for a few moments after the group had gone before calling to the twins. "They've gone. You can come over here now." He approached the crates, and pulled out his hornets once more. Sure enough, the hornets were practically tripping over each other to get to the center of the container.

Stepping out from behind the train car, Zenith and Nadir holstered their weapons, appearently communicating silently. They took a moment to arrange their hair, then replaced their hats. This encounter with the Tigers took a genuinely spooky turn, though they got some juicy information. A few names, plenty of merchandise to examine, and perhaps a good case to pursue. They approached the crates the Tigers had been moving and removed their gloves, ready to do some investigation.

"Do you mind, Chef?" they asked, fingers wiggling in anticipation of examining the refuse the Tigers had left behind.

Corona dipped his head slightly and gestured toward the crates. "Go right ahead," he said.

Exchanging a quick game of rock paper scissors to see who got to go first, they kept tying in excitement. Finally the twins dove in, examining the various imprints left on the topmost crate. Many men and women had handled these, not all affiliated with the Tigers directly, but from what they gleaned everyone warranted questioning.

"This is good stuff, Chef. With enough time, we believe we can get much useful information from these." Prying off the lid of one of the crates, the twins sifted through the contents, though it didn't yield much more of interest. The sheer volume of the drug, however, was astounding. Turning to examine the rest of the environment, the twins scoured the local area for anything else the Tigers might have left behind. Nothing turned up, though. They were pretty thorough for simple goons. Maybe the lieutenant that had been with them ran a tighter ship than they'd given the Tigers credit for. That could be dangerous. They finally gave up and returned to the crates. Zenith picked up the lid and tucked it under his arm.

"We are done with this area. What would you like to do with the drugs, Corona?"

Looking from Zenith to the crates, Corona considered before speaking. "We'll have to destroy them," he said finally. "And we'll take a sample to bring back for Alice to examine." He stowed the hornets once again before digging into another pocket on his suit and pulling out a plastic bag. Avoiding excessive contact with the substance, he pinched some of it into the container and sealed it up.

A faint drone of insects announced the belated arrival of their last teammate as she hurried into view. Speak of the devil, indeed.

"Corona, Doppelgänger, is everything alright?" Ladybird inquired, a bit breathlessly. She slowed to a halt and leaned against a train car, glancing from her teammates to the empty rail yard beyond. "Oh, dear. I am quite late, aren't I?"

Corona waved a dismissive hand at Ladybird's comment. "No need to worry; everything's taken care of," he assured her. "We've dealt with the Tigers and the drugs. And-" Corona held out the sample of Pink. "-we've taken a bit of it for analysis."

Ladybird all but skipped forward to accept the plastic bag. The apologetic curve of her mouth brightened into a genuine smile as she examined the bag. Shade's sample had been useful, but there was only so much one could do with the trace amounts painstakingly isolated from blood. This? This was pure, raw—perfect for some real chemical analysis.

"Brilliant!" she enthused. "I'll take this for safekeeping, then. Shall we clean up and head out?"

"Let's do just that." Corona said with a nod. "At this rate, we'll have this drug under control in no time."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sara Jung Character Portrait: Jess Almquist Character Portrait: Richard "Rich" Cheswick
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Sara perked up when her blood sugar returned to a normal level. She  continued stuffing herself with jam with barely enough bread under it.  Meanwhile, Jess was flipping through her notes. “I got us a lunch appointment with the Maverick spokesperson.”

Sara swallowed her last bite. “Ah, good, more food. Where are we going?”

“We’re meeting at Parker’s Place. I didn’t make any reservation, of course, so we can still choose.” Jess knew to avoid leaving evidence of being anywhere.

“Okay, there’s lots of good places around there. And plenty of time to play  with my improved costume and my new toy first... Well done.” A few moments later she was dangling upside down in a doorframe. “What do you  think?”

“Three out of five, too much of a showoff.” Jessica grinned.

Sara rotated and lowered herself to the floor. “One out of five, too snarky.”

“Hey!” Jess protested. “At least give me a point for making and getting you all that stuff.”

Sarasvati sighed. Being upside down right after breakfast hadn’t been such a good  idea as it had seemed at first. “Fine, I’ll put my regular clothes back on then.”

“Speaking of which,” Jess hid behind her notepad rather than looking up from it,  “do you have to change right in front of me all the time?”

“Absolutely. Seeing me put on disguises is the main part of your job. Why, is there a  problem?” She noticed that although she shook her head and mumbled something that sounded like “no problem”, Jess looked uncomfortable. Why  was this thing a problem now? That was something to worry about later. Right now, she had to think about what to say to the Mavericks. Unless... “Funny, you’ve started telling me what to wear, who to work  with, where not to run around in my underwear in my own home... You’ll  really need to prove your worth if you want to continue like that. So  you’ll be doing the talking this afternoon. Good luck!” Sara walked out  of the kitchen, leaving behind a suddenly very nervous Jess.

Back in her bedroom, Sara nodded at herself in the mirror. It was a good  idea to let Jess do all the explaining, her assistant was much less  likely to say anything the Mavericks would not like, with their fancy morality. Time to pick a suit, maybe bring some locks to show off with,  what else?


* * *


Sara gave Jess a gentle push in the direction of a man who looked like he was waiting for someone. Jess got the hint. “Richard?” She extended her hand. “I’m Jess Almquist, Jung Security. And this is...”

Sara simply said “Sarasvati Jung”. Adding “owner of Jung Security” seemed a bit pointless. She put on her poker face small smile and held out her hand for a handshake too.

Richard stood straight and tall as the two women approached him. He gave a warm smile to the two. "Hello, ladies. Good to meet the both of you." he said, a welcoming chime to his voice. In turn, he firmly shook both of their hands, looking them in the eye and carefully observing their expressions. "Shall we sit down? I'd prefer to have this conversation in a more comfortable position." he offered, tipping his head towards the door of the establishment.

“Of  course” Sara agreed. Already moving in the direction of the door, she  explained “Usually I’m in charge, but to cooperate with you is Jess’  idea, so I will let her explain. The food is on me, of course.”

“Right” Jess said, as soon as all three of them were seated. “We have recently  begun investigating Pink as a side project. It has come to our attention  that your organization also wants to stop the sale of that... drug.”  She hesitated for a moment. “If it were up to us, we would prefer no hard drugs were sold in Fort Blackburn, but usually not enough people  care enough to do something effective about them. So here we are. Perhaps our combined skills could make a difference for once?” Jess  paused while a waiter handed them menus. After the waiter was thanked  and gone, she suggested “You probably have questions.”

Richard listened intently as Jess spoke, shoulders back and his mouth a neutral line. The two had a straightforward enough reason for seeking him out, he supposed. He saw no reason to reject any help for the Mavericks' endeavours. Once she was finished, he sat up and nodded, "I do. I'm curious, why are you so concerned with hard drugs specifically?" he asked, "If you're comfortable with telling me, of course; I don't mean to pry."

Jess involuntarily copied Richard’s posture and sat up more straight. She  had expected a more distrustful question, but then again she was used to  Sara. “As compared to soft drugs, it’s simply because the difference in  the amount of harm they do. Priorities. Compared to other crimes, it’s  because addiction puts another person in control of the life of the  addict. It’s much more evil than, for example, theft, because it often  takes away the freedom of the victim forever. But you’re right, we do have personal reasons. We’d very much like to get back at someone...  who... I’m sorry, I’m not really comfortable with explaining that.”

Sara took over for a moment. “She means someone who is out of reach, someone  who creates new drugs and gives them to young people who have not used  any before. We can’t get to him, but putting people like him out of  business would be almost as good. Besides, metahuman ability enhancing  drugs are a threat to my own business.”

Jess nodded. “Yes, that. There is an emotional side to it, but what matters  is to stop Pink. I hope we can establish enough trust to share plans. I mean, certainly you wouldn’t tell any two strangers who simply show up and claim they want what you want? And we need to get a better  understanding of the way you fight crime, too.”

“Maybe it’s time to explain how we can be useful...” Sara added, “...or to  order something to eat” as she noticed the waiter approaching.

The way that Sara explained their motivations piqued an interest in Richard's mind as well as a slight uneasy sensation within the pit of Richard's stomach. They seemed to have a reasonable enough reason for targeting Pink, but Richard felt uncomfortable hearing of a desire for some kind of vengeance. Still, he could not turn down any help. This drug was proving difficult enough to take out as it was, and the Mavericks needed all the help that they could get.

Once their orders were placed and the waiter out of earshot, Richard replied, "I would appreciate knowing what you're both capable of before proceeding with any agreement."

Jess felt relieved the subject was no longer related to her past. Cheerfully  and without any stammering she explained “Certainly. First of all,  there are the things we are normally paid for by companies that want us  to verify and improve their security measures. Everything up from strategic analysis, observation, social engineering, down to hacking, lock picking and safe cracking. It’s amazing what Sara can do, and I’m trying to learn too. And then there are some neat tricks Sara can do.”

Taking her cue, Sara with one hand removed a few different locks from her  handbag, while the nail polish crumbled off the nails of her other hand. Pushing a fingernail into each lock, one at a time, she showed she  could spin the cylinders. Last, she showed Richard a combination lock.  Her nails seemed to melt into the thin spaces between the discs, which  turned to the combination that opened the lock. “I can do handcuffs  too,” she remarked, “but those tend to draw attention when you take them  out in public. I don’t want that kind of attention, because of the trouble I would be in if a gang found out I can do this kind of things.”

Jess was getting in a sales pitch mood. “If you need a door opened, we can  do it. If you need information, we can get it. And if you need someone  to be lied to, we can do that too.”

“Jess!” Sara laughed, breaking the fake smile she had used to hide her  thoughts, “You just said you wanted to establish trust. Don’t tell him we are liars!”

“Er, right.” Jess looked at her hands, slightly embarrassed. “What I meant  is, we’re good with disguises and acting, tricking people into revealing information, and such. It’s all part of the day job.”

“The main difference with paid work is that getting caught will be a  problem. So we need to have a say in how you use the intel we would give you.” Sara displayed a genuine serious face.

"Exactly how much of a say are you asking for?" Richard asked, raising his brow. Additional information or not, Richard preferred to have full autonomy over the actions of his group.

“How does one quantify that?” Sara wondered aloud. “Let me put it in different words... If I had already told you some things about someone, and you did something that showed him you knew things you weren’t supposed to right at the moment I was about to break into his office, I wouldn’t like that very much. So we can either work mostly on our own and give you all information only after we are satisfied we have followed all leads related to a target, or we could cooperate more closely in such a way that I can be sure you’re not accidentally putting our lives at risk.”

Richard paused a moment to consider both suggestions, resting his chin in his palm as he did so. "I think the latter would be for the best for everyone." he finally said with a nod. "It seems like the fairest agreement, so long as no one else is put at risk." A small voice in the back of Richard's mind questioned whether this agreement was truly a good idea, but he quickly quashed the doubt. "Do we have a deal then?" he asked.

Sara looked at Jess next to her. “Well?”

Jess beamed. “We’ll have lots of details to figure out, but we can make those up as we go along. You won’t regret choosing to really work with us. We can be much more useful than just being a source of information. I have some ideas... You’ll see!”

“That sounds like a yes to me” Sara smirked.

Richard smiles at Jess'  enthusiasm. "Then it's settled." he said simply. "Now is there anything else you'd like to tell me about yourselves?" As he spoke, he glanced sideways at the waiter who was now bringing them their meal. "Or anything you'd like to ask me?" he asked, returning to his original warm intonation.